Made in Slovenia

14 Feb 2020, 20:22 PM

Slovenia luxury fashion designer Matea Benedetti spent the Oscar week in Los Angeles. At a Red Carpet Green Dress Pre-Oscars gala on February 6, Benedetti presented her creation designed to introduce for the first time a newly developed luxurious organic textile by Tencel™, which according to the manufacturer Lenzing is fully biodegradable and can return to nature in 8 to 12 weeks.

Red Carpet Green Dress is a global initiative showcasing sustainable fashion on the red carpet at the Oscars, established in 2009 by Amis Cameron, the partner of the director James Cameron (of The Terminator, Terminator 2, Aliens, Titanic, Avatar, and so on)

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Slovenian designer Matea Benedetti (centre) with film director James Cameron (left) and vice-president of the Lenzing global market, Harold Weghorst  

13 Feb 2020, 16:19 PM

STA, 13 February 2020 - Slovenian researchers were a part of an international team that has made a breakthrough discovery in thyroid gland research. Together with researchers from the UK and Germany, they have determined the entire structure of human thyroglobulin, the protein precursor of thyroid hormones, for the first time.

The results of the study into the protein that is essential for the growth and development of thyroid hormones will have a significant impact on the treatment of thyroid gland disorders, the Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS) said in a press release on Thursday.

Using cryo-electron microscopy, the researchers from the IJS and the Centre of Excellence for Integrated Approaches in Chemistry and Biology of Proteins, Dušan Turk, Ajda Taler-Verčič and Miha Renko, cooperated with researchers from Cambridge, Berlin and Bristol to identify the full-length structure of thyroglobulin for the first time.

The results of their study were presented in the scientific journal Nature.

Thyroglobulin is the protein that is used to create the T3 and T4 hormones in the thyroid gland. The two hormones regulate energy consumption of human cells and aside from thyroglobulin they are the only molecules in the human body that contain iodine.

Iodine is thus a key element for proper development and functioning of the human organism and thyroglobulin enables its storage for periods when the body is not receiving it in sufficient quantities.

The functioning of the thyroid gland is well researched, which helps control functional disorders, but up until now it was not clear how hormones are actually created in the gland.

Human thyroglobulin is a giant molecule consisting of two chains of 2,768 and 5,536 amino acids, respectively.

The structure of thyroglobulin determined by cryo-electron microscopy has revealed that the molecule has only seven spots where hormones are created.

Each molecule is formed from two amino acids called tyrosine. The newly created hormones are extracted by enzymes, protease, through decomposition of thyroglobulin into amino acids.

The article on the full-length structure of thyroglobulin is a result of almost twenty-year work and a revolution in cryo-electron microscopy, IJS said in the press release.

10 Feb 2020, 13:40 PM

STA, 7 February 2020 - Two women from Koroška region have set a new world record in endurance crocheting. They managed to crochet for 28 hours non-stop, beating the previous record by a full four hours.

 Anita Kac and Jadranka Smiljić started crocheting at 8am on Thursday and persisted until midday on Friday, having gone through 4.5 kilo or roughly 13 kilometres of wool, Zdravko Kac, the husband of one of the crocheters, told the STA.

Kac, who has been doing crochet for over 40 years, was working on hats, scarves, headbands and a blanket, while Smiljić, who turned 40 on Thursday, tackled the coat-of-arms of Slovenj Gradec municipality.

But due to the complexity of the design and fatigue, she abandoned the coat-of-arms in the middle of the night to tackle simpler projects.

Their record is not official yet, with the Guinness Book of World Records expected to take about a month to examine all the evidence of their endeavour.

The previous record is held by an Englishwoman, Natalie Morrison, who crocheted non-stop for 24 hours in 2019 to raise funds for charity.

05 Feb 2020, 15:21 PM

STA, 4 February 2020 - The University of Maribor and its Medical Centre (UKC) have teamed up with partners from abroad to launch an EU-funded project to provide an AI-assisted post-treatment support to cancer patients.

The project Persist is the first such large European project at UKC Maribor and the first such cooperation between the centre and university.

"This is the first time that we've pooled the expertise that is abundant in Maribor in such a way," UKC Maribor director general Vojko Flis told reporters on Tuesday.

Technological solutions to build an innovative system to support doctors in post-cancer handling of patients are being developed by the Maribor Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

As part of a pilot project carried out by UKC Maribor and three other European hospitals, the Maribor hospital will monitor 40 patients cured of breast and colon cancer with the help of a smart watch.

The watch also will allow patients to communicate with psychologists and will record data on their state of health as well as their moods and how they feel through the way they communicate in text and pictures.

Based on the data collected, new models of health data analyses will be developed which will serve in further handling of patients after cancer treatment.

The partners will also develop a mass data platform that will bring together both components and combine them with digital recordings on patients used in hospitals.

Involving 13 institutions from ten countries, the project Persist will run until February 2023. Valued at over EUR 5 million, it is fully funded by the EU under the Horizon 2020 programme.

EUR 700,000 of the sum is allocated to partners from Slovenia, including the Maribor Faculty of Arts, which provides support in the field of psychology.

Oncologists hope the project will allow them to better monitor their patients so as to help them better to rehabilitate.

"We can treat cancer. Once the patient ends treatment, they must be returned into society. I believe we can get important data there how to help on the path of that rehabilitation," said Maja Ravnik, the head of the UKC Maribor oncology department.

In Slovenia, cancer has become the leading cause of death in men and the second leading cause of death in women, show official data released on World Cancer Day.

As many as 15,072 people got newly diagnosed with cancer in 2016, which means a new cancer diagnosis every 35 minutes.

29 Jan 2020, 13:41 PM

The other week we presented a review of recent scientific research and discoveries that were made in Slovenia, so this week we thought we’d point to some of the work on the humanities that you can find online.

The Faculty of Arts at the University of Ljubljana (Filozofska fakulteta Univerze v Ljubljani) currently publishes 15 academic journals, and makes each edition freely available as a PDF. These include Acta Neophilologica (promoting scholarly articles on English and American literature, on other literatures written in English as well as on German and Romance literatures), Documenta Praehistorica (a yearly journal of archaeological interdisciplinary scientific research), Keria (covering all fields of Greek and Latin studies), The Musicological Annual (with publishing papers from various fields of musicology and ethnomusicology), Slovenščina 2.0: empirical, applied and interdisciplinary research (presenting theoretical and interdisciplinary research on the Slovene language, and perhaps most interesting to readers of TSN) and Verba Hispanica (on linguistics and literature in Spanish). The full list is here, and although not every article is published in English there’s plenty to explore if you’re looking for some insight into what’s happening at this part of the University.

Publishing in English at the University of Ljubljana

Beyond journals the Faculty also publishes books. Again, not everything is in English – this is the University of Ljubljana – but there’s plenty to browse and PDF versions are available for free.

To give some taste of the variety, there’s 101 ENGLISH TIPS: A Quick Guide to Avoiding “Slovenglish” (plus volume 2) in the English Language & Literature section, Sounds of Attraction: Yugoslav and Post-Yugoslav Popular Music in Ethnology & Cultural Anthropology, and Dictionary of Modern Slovene: Problems and Solutions in Translation Studies, Among the Slavs in Slavistics, with the full list of publications here.

23 Jan 2020, 16:56 PM

The news that Slovenia is #21 on Bloomberg’s 2020 Innovation Index, with its rise over the last 12 months due to strong patent performance, is a reminder that there’s a lot more to the country than tourism and cultural heritage. Perhaps to the surprise of visitors who only make it to Bled and Ljubljana Old Town, Slovenia is a modern country with a broad-based economy, its position strengthened by the  many research projects its scientists are involved in.

In case you missed them the first time round, here’s a brief review of some of the developments and discoveries we’ve noted on TSN over the last year or so.

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Source: YouTube

Renewable energy, better batteries and cleaner oceans

A Slovene team has developed a tandem solar cell that transforms solar energy into electricity in the most efficient manner seen to date, an important step towards photovoltaics becoming more competitive in power production.

The move to renewable energy will require new kinds of devices to store the power produced, and, Slovenian researchers are working on batteries that could end the need to mine certain minerals outside of Europe, as well as on aluminium batteries that have a greater capacity that current ones, and also contain less damaging and more readily available materials.

However, no matter what developments there are in terms of renewables, climate change is already having an impact on the environment. One sign of this is the proliferation of jellyfish blooms in the Adriatic and elsewhere. Such infestations are inspiring researchers to look for new ways to use an oversupply of jellyfish – as food, as fertilizer, and, in Slovene/Israeli project, as a way to remove microplastics from the oceans. To achieve this the project is developing a filter that makes use of jellyfish mucus to trap the tiny pieces of pollution.

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AI, quantum computers and a new form of matter

Of course, the future will be dominated by computers that are becoming ever faster, smaller and smarter, and here Slovenia also plays a part. For one, UNESCO is sponsoring a global AI research centre that will be based in Ljubljana. For another the Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI - Institut "Jozef Stefan”) and a team from Switzerland have confirmed the existence of two kinds of atypical anyon quasiparticles in a special kind of quantum magnet, Ruthenium(III) chloride – said to be a key step towards the creation of a topological quantum computer. The JSI is the country’s leading research centre, and last year researchers working there discovered an entirely new kind of matter based on “electron jamming”, one that as yet cannot be understood with existing physics.

Wikimedia Doc James CC-by-SA-4.0 Two_doses_of_iv_ketamine.jpg

Source: Wikimedia Doc James CC-by-SA-4.0

Ketamine, stem cells and gene-editing

Turning to the life sciences, researchers at the Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine, the biomedical centre Celica and the National Institute of Chemistry, discovered a new molecular mechanism of action in ketamine that has potential for the development of fast-acting antidepressants. While a team involving Slovenians also published a ground-breaking cell differentiation paper that could help revolutionise personalised regenerative medicine and the use of stem cells. Another cutting edge cell technology is the CRISPR gene-editing technique, with researchers at the JSI working on new applications for this.

youtube olm human fish proteus.JPG

Source: YouTube

The mysteries of the human fish, dolphin and honey bee

Another medical discovery, one that draws on one of the country’s most famous animals, is the decoding of the olm’s genome, with this creature perhaps better known as the “human fish” or proteus. Among the olm’s remarkable attributes are the ability to live up to 100 years, to survive (and thrive) for long periods without food, to overeat with damage to its organs, and regenerate lost limbs.

Moving from the karst to the coast, a team based in Piran watched the dolphins in the bay and learned that they share the area based on time, not space. Finally, the humble bumble bee, one of the world’s most important pollinators and another icon of Slovenia (in the form of the Carniolan Grey), has also attracted the attention of the Jožef Stefan Institute. A team there has applied machine learning to help understand the sounds the bees make, and the importance of temperature for their colonies.

You can find more discoveries, inventions and achievements in our section Made in Slovenia.

22 Jan 2020, 18:35 PM

The National Institute of Chemistry reported last week that it has acquired a new European project, NAIMA (Na-ion materials as essential components to manufacture robust battery cells for non-automotive applications), in which it will participate as a partner in the development of new sodium-ion batteries.

The NAIMA project aims to demonstrate the cost efficiency and robustness of sodium-ion batteries and prove them to be one of the best alternatives to the current lithium-based systems of energy storage. The new energy storage solutions would address the current problems of lithium-ion batteries, mostly produced in Asia, and allow for the localization of the entire chain of production. The main problems with lithium-ion batteries are in the scarcity of materials and sometimes safety, when flammable electrolytes are used in high energy density appliances.

The new EU-funded NAIMA project was kickstarted in Amiens, France and awarded a Horizon2020 programme grant of almost €8 million by the European Commission. The duration of the programme will be 36 months, having started December 1, 2019.

The project will test six prototypes of Na-ion batteries in three different business scenarios. These scenarios will provide concrete evidence of the technology's competitiveness in three real-world settings – renewable production, industry and households.

New carbon materials will be developed at the Department of Materials Chemistry of the National Institute of Chemistry for use in prototype anodes of Na-ion batteries.

Related: Slovenian Researchers Developing Ocean-Cleaning Microplastic Filter Based on Jellyfish Mucus (Video)

22 Jan 2020, 15:20 PM

Euronews reports that Slovenian researchers at the National Institute of Biology (Nacionalni inštitut za Biologijo), working in cooperation with a team from Israel, are developing a way to remove microplastic particles from the oceans – using jellyfish mucus. The gelatinous mucus, which the jellyfish secrete when under stress, is being used to develop a TRL 5-6 prototype microplastics filter that could, if successful, could be one approach to reduce sea pollution.

Slovenia is especially well-suited for such work, as the Adriatic often suffers from “jellyfish blooms”, destructive invasions of these simple yet fascinating creatures, caused by climate change and overfishing.

The work, which is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 initiative, is part of the broader GoJelly project, which is also examining the use of jellyfish, caught or farmed, in agricultural fertilisers – due to the high levels of phosphate, nitrogen and potassium they contain – and as a food, with jellyfish already consumed in parts of Asia (see the related papers “Mediterranean jellyfish as novel food: effects of thermal processing on antioxidant, phenolic, and protein contents” and “The attitudes of Italian consumers towards jellyfish as novel food”).

You can learn more about the various GoJelly projects here, while you can monitor jellyfish blooms in the Adriatic here.

21 Jan 2020, 14:59 PM

BTS, also known as Bangtan Boys, is a Korean boy band of enormous global popularity, second on the list of the IFPI best-selling artists in 2018, just after Drake and in front of, well, everyone else.

With their latest music video release, ahead of the upcoming new album, BTS have made a sharp and bold break with the usual K-pop style of music, and especially video, by leaving the stage to the Slovenian MN Dance Company from Nova Gorica, which choreographed a dance film to a version of the group’s new song, Black Swan, with an orchestral background. The location of the film appears to be at the abandoned Hawthorne Mall in California.

On its fourth day of release the video is already approaching 22 million views and seems to have been very well received by the group’s fans. Even the band members themselves appeared surprised by artistic quality of the final product when they saw it for the first time just before its release.

The dancers in the video, as well as the choreography, are from a relatively small dance company from Nova Gorica, Slovenia. MN Dance Company, as it is called, was established in 2008 by the artistic directors Michal Rynia and Nastja Bremec Rynia, who are also responsible for the group’s distinctive choreographic style and its global presence.

At the company’s website we read that “lately, the company has been creating pieces for Slovene National Theatre Nova Gorica, Opera and Ballet Ljubljana, Cankarjev dom Ljubljana, Opera Graz,  Theatre Rotterdam, CODARTS Rotterdam Dance Academy, International Storytelling Festival Austria, DAP Festival Italy…” and as we’ve just learned, BTS latest music video as well.

For more on NM Dance Company, Please click here.  

Related: 레드벨벳 in Slovenia (Video)

20 Jan 2020, 13:57 PM

Slovenia rose 10 places to #21 in Bloomberg’s 2020 Innovation Index, between Australia and Canada, with this year’s list headed by Germany, ending South Korea’s six-year run at the top, the Asian nation now at #2, with Singapore at #3.

 The index is based on dozens of criteria under seven broad headings: R&D intensity, manufacturing value-added, productivity, high-tech density, tertiary efficiency (enrollment in tertiary education, percentage of the workforce with degree and the number of STEM graduates), researcher concentration and patent activity. It’s this last category where Slovenia excelled in the last 12 months, enabling it to leap ahead of such countries and territories as Canada (22), Iceland (23), Luxembourg (31), Estonia (36) and Hong Kong (39).

Notably, Slovenia is the highest ranked of the former communist or socialist states – with the next being the Czech Republic at 24, although note that China, operating under a self-proclaimed system of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, is at 5. Slovenia is also the only member of the former Yugoslavia to appear in the top 60. More details on the list can be found here, while the top 21 are listed below.

  1. Germany
  2. South Korea
  3. Singapore
  4. Switzerland
  5. Sweden
  6. Israel
  7. Finland
  8. Denmark
  9. US
  10. France
  11. Austria
  12. Japan
  13. Netherlands
  14. Belgium
  15. China
  16. Ireland
  17. Norway
  18. UK
  19. Italy
  20. Australia
  21. Slovenia
16 Jan 2020, 08:35 AM

STA, 15 January 2020 - Photographer Stojan Kerbler, and ballet dancer and choreographer Milko Šparemblek have been declared the winners of this year's Prešeren Prizes, Slovenia's top accolades for lifetime accomplishments in the arts.

 Kerbler, 81, is being honoured for his body of photographic work, "a magnificent fresco of the life of the Haloze people", a "value of national importance that professional and lay public can agree on", the Prešeren Fund Committee said in announcing the winners on Wednesday.

Wikimedia - Srecko Trstenjak CC-by-4.0 1024px-Stojan-Kerbler-portret.jpg

Stojan Kerbler. Wikimedia - Srecko Trstenjak CC-by-4.0

"Unpretentiously, with his modesty, love and responsibility for the fellow human being, Kerbler has set high standards of pure black-and-white analogous photography, establishing a reference point for humanistic photographic sensibility and aesthetics even for generations to come," said the committee.

Kerbler, who hails from Ptuj, has never sought his motifs around the globe, never photographed excess situations. Rather, he has caught in the lens the unforgettable, warm images of the inevitable flow of everyday life, winning acclaim at home and abroad for his 'spectacle de la vie quotidienne'.

At 91 years of age, Šparemblek is the oldest still working choreographer in the world. Spanning seven decades, his oeuvre comprises more than 150 ballet, opera and theatrical productions for 45 theatres worldwide, heard the winners-announcing event at the Ljubljana opera house.

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Milko Šparemblek. Screenshot

"Milko Šparemblek is a charismatic man and artist who leads us as creators and viewers reliably and joyfully from the labyrinths of the world into the embrace of our own hearts," said the committee in the justification.

Šparemblek, who was born in Koroška in the north of Slovenia, but lives in Croatia's Zagreb, where he graduated in comparative literature and completed a ballet high school before pursuing further education in Paris and New York, is seen as one in a generation of artists of global renown whose work has led to a change in thinking about dance in modern times.

In their first reactions to the honour for the STA, Kerbler said that he understood the prize as recognition for classic auteur photography and Slovenian photography in general, while Šparemblek said winning the Prešeren Prize meant "you are being recognised, remembered, not forgotten".

The Prešeren Fund Prizes for achievements in the past three years go to graphic designer Nejc Prah, actress Nina Ivanišin, composer and accordionist Luka Juhart, film director Rok Biček, translator Suzana Koncut and costume designer Alan Hranitelj.

Ivanišin, a member of the ensemble of the SNG Drama Ljubljana theatre, is being honoured for her roles of female heroines Antigone, Francka, Nežka and Agata Schwarzkobler and for her freelance projects, and Koncut for her translations of French fiction and theory over the past three years.

Juhart won the recognition for achievements in the past three years, including his composition Unleashed, and Biček for The Family, his monumental 2017 feature-length documentary about a dysfunctional family of people with special needs that he followed for more than a decade.

Prah won over the jurors with the visual image of the 33rd Graphic Biennial, promotional material for a series of experimental concerts and his independent exhibition, while Hranitelj is being honoured for Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj, a 2019 exhibition showcasing some of his major costumes from his career.

"Each year, the prizes provide an opportunity to show what our arts and culture are capable of. We definitely reach all the way to the starts," Culture Minister Zoran Poznič said in his address to the winners-announcing event.

Coming with a prize money of EUR 21,000 for lifetime achievement and EUR 7,000 for individual accomplishments, the prizes will be presented on 7 February, the eve of Culture Day, a national holiday commemorating the death of Romantic poet France Prešeren (1800-1849).

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