Macho man likes to speed

wreck.jpgForget all that talk about women drivers… A study from Neuchâtel University involving researchers from Zurich and Heidelberg has demonstrated something many people knew deep down: young men are mostly responsible for driving accidents due to excessive speed! A team at the university’s institute for work psychology tested 83 male guinea pigs. These testosterone fuelled volunteers were placed inside a driving simulator, and their reaction to male-associated, female-associated or neutral words was assessed. Those who drove in the male environment were twice as fast as those in the female version, and significantly speedier than those in the neutral zone. Future prevention campaigns could, according to the study’s authors, dissociate masculinity from speed. Images of one Michael Schumacher driving sedately spring to mind…

Swatch boss seeks creative prop from Clooney

arnold2.jpgSwatch chairman Nicolas G. Hayek says Hollywood star George Clooney will sit on the board of a new company that is to develop clean energy systems in Switzerland. Hayek, who will be chairman of the company, said he had hesitated between Clooney and former US vice-president Al Gore for a board seat but plumped for Clooney because of a possible Gore run for the White House (Gore seems to have ruled it out now he has pocketed the Nobel Peace Prize). Clooney is already tied to the Swatch Group as an ambassador for its Omega brand. He is also the face of Nespresso. Fribourg-based power company Groupe E is also involved in the clean energy project.

Swiss elections: baring (nearly) all not enough…

arnold1.jpgThe Swiss elections took place on Sunday with the “victory” of the rightwing People’s Party. There was unfortunately one group of candidates that failed to make an impact on voters even if their campaign was one of the most talked about in recent memory. Seven budding politicians (including Christian Democrat Mirjam Arnold – see above) accepted an offer from retailer Migros to strip down and model underwear. Strangely enough, the idea of seeing pollies in their undies might have generated some interest from voters and added some much needed sex appeal to the election campaign, but it seems it didn’t generate any votes. Migros has yet to say if its underwear sales were boosted…

Another day, another election in Switzerland

mouton.jpgIt looks like Switzerland’s electoral scene has undergone a slight change. Latest results from the federal elections – held once every four years – show that the rightwing People’s Party has reinforced its position as the country’s most influential party after running a controversial campaign, while the Greens have also posted gains. The centre-left Social Democrats have on the other hand taken a beating, especially in the German-speaking part of the country. One of the day’s consolation prizes for the Social Democrats was the election of the country’s first naturalised African parliamentarian, Ricardo Lumengo. The People’s Party president, Ueli Maurer, immediately suggested turfing out the three oldest members of the cabinet, although he avoided mentioning his boss’ name – justice minister Christoph Blocher who is already beyond the official retirement age. Some analysts and editorialists are saying its now time for the People’s Party to put up or shut up, ie make some concrete proposals other than bans. Others are warning though that the populist movement might find it hard to leave its comfort zone and get out of opposition mode.

Climate concerns

storm.jpgThe Swiss are apparently the most worried people in the world about global warming according to a poll carried out by the Nielsen Company in 47 countries. To counter climate change, 68 per cent of those polled said they would buy local products, while nearly half said they would choose products with the least packaging. Given their concern, the Swiss might take on board the proposal made in Bern by the head of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the other Nobel Peace Prize winner this year whose name isn’t Al Gore). Rajendra Pachauri called on the Swiss to take a leading role in the fight against climate change as they had the financial and human resources to make a difference.

Gotta have chocolate

choc1.jpgIf that craving for your favourite Swiss chocolate sometimes feels like it is coming from deep in your gut, there is a good reason for it. A small study in the Journal of Proteome Research links the type of bacteria living in people’s digestive system to a desire for chocolate. Everyone has a vast community of microbes in their guts. But people who crave daily chocolate show signs of having different colonies of bacteria than people who are immune to chocolate’s allure. The research was carried out at Nestlé’s Research Centre near Lausanne and Imperial College London.

And if you are still craving some chocolate, here’s a video to help satisfy that desire:

Defusing a ticking time bomb

kivusee.jpgSwiss researchers have come to the help of the Rwanda‘s government. Methane and carbon dioxide deep in Lake Kivu threaten local populations with a potentially lethal gas eruption. If these gases were destabilised by an earthquake or a volcanic eruption, people could be poisoned, much in the same way it happened at Cameroon’s Lake Nyos (1,800 deaths). The Rwandan authorities want to make use of the methane to generate electricity, a vital commodity in the region. But they need to know if they can extract from the lake’s depths safely. Scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology are advising the Rwandan government and the company that wants to siphon the gas on best how to cause the least disturbances possible.