Friday, September 30, 2016

My Tutoring Hours/Horas de Tutoría 2016-2017

Profesor Carlos Martín, Ph. D.
gaebler@us.es

These are my tutoring hours this academic year from October 3rd until the last day of classes, May 23rd 2017:
  • lunes, 12.00-13.00
    Escuela Superior de Ingenieros (See map below) 
    Despacho del Instituto de Idiomas, Entreplanta 1ª      954 487 395
  • martes, 17.00-18.00 (previa cita)
    Escuela Superior de Ingenieros 
  • miércoles10.30-11.30 + 12.30-13.30 (previa cita) Instituto de Idiomas, Avda. Reina Mercedes, s/n        954 551 157
  • jueves, 12.00-13.00 17.00-18.00 (previa cita) 
    Escuela Superior de Ingenieros
    Despacho del Instituto de Idiomas, Entreplanta 1ª      954 487 395
PLEASE, SWITCH OFF YOUR TELEPHONE IN CLASS AND DURING EXAMS! Thank you.

If you miss a class and want to find out what the homework is, text or email one of your classmates or set up a Whatsapp group to stay in touch.


The IdI office at the ESI is located in the Entreplanta 1ª corridor, next to the Alumni Association and opposite the Engineers Without Frontiers office:



Saturday, September 24, 2016

Real Life Through Virtual Reality

Real Life Through the Lens

Virtual reality isn’t just about entertainment — it’s also about helping people understand the world around them. By Heather Millar








Real Life Through the Lens
Illustration by Phil Foster

I’m standing in the lab of Professor Jeremy Bailenson, the founding director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University. The 20-by-20 room is state-of-the-art: A “haptic” floor of aeronautic metal will vibrate and move to simulate the physical world. Speakers all around the room will immerse me in surround sound. A ring of cameras will track my every move. I put on a headset that fills my whole field of vision. It’s connected to a supercomputer that, reacting to my movements, will redraw my virtual environment 75 times a second.

In this program, I’m a superhero who flies. When I put my arms above my head in a classic Superman pose, I shoot off the ground. The floor rumbles, simulating the feeling of taking off in an airplane. My heart skips a beat. “Wow!” I exclaim involuntarily. When I move my arms to the right or left, I fly in that direction. As I get the hang of navigation, I zoom around an imaginary city. This is what I imagined during all those years of childhood cartoons.

When I take the virtual-reality headset off a few minutes later, I feel awesome. Invincible, really. Ready to take on the world. When can I do it again?

Sooner rather than later, it seems. In late March, Facebook released the Oculus Rift headset, an immersive virtual-reality setup intended for mass-market use priced at $599 — or about $1,500 with a bundled computer. The first 30 Rift games have gone on sale, with another 100 to follow by the end of the year. On the cheaper end of the spectrum, Google Cardboard headsets are $15, and many virtual--reality apps are free to download.

As with all new, paradigm-shifting technology — radio, TV, internet, social media, smartphones — there are lots of grandiose predictions of how this will change everything. Commentators muse upon what piles of cash it may generate and what dangers it may pose to traditional media.

In this respect, virtual reality may indeed be different. Studies in Bailenson’s lab have shown that virtual reality can feel so real, it actually may have an impact nearly as profound as reality itself.

“We have demonstrated for over a decade that virtual reality is a powerful tool to promote empathy, by having one walk a mile in the shoes of another, virtually,” says Bailenson.

A whole series of studies in the Stanford lab have shown that if you can create a person’s doppelgänger — a virtual twin — in virtual reality, you can change that person’s behavior. People who fly like superheroes, as I did, seem to be more helpful afterward. And these effects hold true in many contexts. For instance: If you show a doppelgänger slowly losing weight as it exercises, the person who’s had that virtual-reality experience will actually work out more in the following week. If you show the doppelgänger growing older in virtual reality, the person who’s seen that will save more money for retirement. If a person cuts down an old, grown redwood tree in virtual reality — feeling the vibration of the chain saw and the crash of the sequoia as it falls — that person is more likely to conserve paper in the future. If virtual reality presents the doppelgänger as slightly more attractive, the person who experienced that will become more socially confident.

“When virtual reality is done well, the brain treats these virtual experiences in manners similar to real ones,” explains Bailenson, whose Ph.D. was actually in cognitive psychology.

Virtual reality can also transport people to realities that aren’t readily accessible, creating a deeper understanding of issues that are difficult to communicate.
For instance, one study in Bailenson’s lab took on the issue of ocean acidification: the problem that greenhouse gas emissions are changing the pH of the seas, making them more acidic, and devastating ecosystems like coral reefs. This is, of course, a complicated topic. Researchers found that if you showed people a video, they didn’t identify with the issue nearly as much as if you gave them a virtual-reality experience of a coral reef changing from a vibrant ecosystem into a damaged, acidified one.

“The virtual-reality platform allows someone who has never even been in the ocean to experience what ocean acidification can do to marine life. We are visual creatures, and visual examples can be very striking,” says Kristy Kroeker, an assistant professor of ecology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who helped with the coral-reef study.

Bailenson likes to emphasize that how we use this virtual-reality technology is really up to us. “People can do anything in virtual reality,” he says. “While it’s great to do things you couldn’t do in the physical world, we should avoid the types of experiences you wouldn’t do in the physical world.”

I’m trying not to worry too much about the more negative scenarios. I’m just waiting for my next chance to be a superhero and save the world.

American Way Magazine, August 2016

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week -fab four, fab film!

Culled from more than 100 hours of rare news footage, fan material and the Beatles’ own personal archive, this documentary by Ron Howard about the early years of the band works on two levels. Firstly, it’s a meticulously researched account of an unprecedented global phenomenon. But perhaps more importantly, it places us right there, in the audience of tearful teenagers, for some of the gigs that changed music history. It conveys the thrill of discovery and kinship that electrified a generation. It turns us into giddy fans. A triumph of deft editing and extraordinary access, this is likely to be the most important music documentary of the year. The best music film I've seen since Buena Vista Social Club. Unmissable! You will feel as if you had been there!


Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Benefits of Reading

According to writer and philosopher Alain de Botton and those at The School of Life, books are valuable because they expand our knowledge and understanding, validate our feelings and actions, and inspire our lives.

If you’re one of the non-book readers that says, “I watch the news, I read stuff on the Internet, I scan a magazine article once in a while, so I don’t need no stinking books!”, maybe I can change your mind with these 10 psychologically beneficial reasons to start the habit.

1) Reading saves you time

Sometimes it may seem like reading is wasting time, but it’s actually the ultimate time saver because it gives us access to a range of emotions and experiences that it would take years and years to experience in person. Reading is the best reality simulator because it takes us through so many more situations than we will ever have time to see for ourselves.

Reading also acts as a time machine. By picking up and opening a book we can hear great people and writers from the past speaking to us, mind-to-mind, and heart-to-heart.

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.” ~William Styron

2) Reading gives us opportunities to experience other cultures and places

Reading reveals aspects about the lives of people in other places like India or Ireland, giving us insight into many ethnicities, cultures, lifestyles, etc. By reading, we become more aware of different places and the customs of those places.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~Dr. Seuss

3) Reading builds compassion

Reading books takes us into another person’s world and allows us to see through his/her eyes. Books give us truths about human beings – their behaviors, their emotions, how they interact – that’s hard to get any other way other than reading about it. Not only that, authors can relate their experiences, feelings, and knowledge about these things because it goes into what they write.

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours” ~Alan Bennet

4) Reading improves creativity

Reading about the diversity of life and exposing ourselves to new ideas and more information helps to bring out the creative side of our brain as it absorbs new ideas and ways of thinking.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” ~Stephen King

5) Reading helps reduce feelings of loneliness

We often can’t say what’s really on our minds, but in books we amazingly find descriptions of what we think about. In the best books, it’s as if the writer knows us better than we know ourselves, finding the words to describe the delicate, weird, and unique goings on inside of us, which helps with feelings of being the only one that thinks like that. And being entertained through reading can help us forget about our own troubles for a while.

“We read to know we’re not alone.” ~William Nicholson

6) Reading cures boredom

If we’re feeling bored, all we have to do is pick up a book and start reading. What is bound to happen is that we’ll become interested in the book’s subject and stop being bored. Think about it, if we’re bored anyway, we might as well be reading a good book, right?

“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.” ~Jane Smiley

7) Reading prepares us for the future

Many books are about life’s challenges and ways of dealing with it and the people around us. They’re a tool to help us live and die with a little bit more wisdom, graciousness, and sanity. More often than not, reading a book has made the future of a person.

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” ~Margaret Fuller

8) Reading engages the mind

Reading uses our brain. While reading we’re forced to reason out many things that we’re not familiar with, using more of our grey matter. Plus, reading improves vocabulary. While reading books, especially challenging ones, we’ll find many new words we wouldn’t see, hear, or use otherwise.

Reading also improves concentration and focus because with books we focus on what we’re reading for longer periods of time compared to magazines or Internet posts that only have bits of information. And since we have to concentrate when reading, like a muscle, we’ll get better at it. Similarly, reading helps stretch memory muscles so it also improves memory. Research shows if you don’t use your memory, you lose it.

“Think before you speak. Read before you think.” ~Fran Lebowitz

9) Reading increases self-confidence

The more we read, the more we learn. With more knowledge, our self-esteem builds.  Strong self-esteem helps with self-confidence. It’s a chain reaction. And being well read, people will look to us for answers, which makes ourselves feel smarter.

“A word after a word after a word is power.” ~Margaret Atwood

10) Reading always gives us something to talk about


Reading books keeps us out of embarrassing situations where we don’t have anything to talk about. We can chat about the latest Stephen King book we’ve read or discuss the stuff we’re learning in the business or psychology books we’re reading. The possibilities of sharing become endless.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Practise your English in Spanish Bars


10 bares de Madrid para aprender idiomas

Practica una lengua extranjera mientras haces nuevos amigos


¡Ya no hay excusa! Cada día de la semana tienes una cita en algún local de la capital donde poder hablar inglés, francés, alemán o japonés mientras te tomas una caña. No necesitas un nivel mínimo y es mucho más divertido que ir a la academia. ¡Dónde va a parar!
En una ciudad tan cosmopolita como Madrid no es de extrañar que se haya impuesto la moda de los bares de idiomas para practicar conversación en grupos reducidos. El inglés sigue siendo la lengua más hablada, aunque cada vez hay más opciones. Echa un vistazo a los locales que te proponemos y planea una noche diferente mientras cenas o te tomas una copa haciendo amigos en un ambiente distendido. GUÍA DEL OCIO

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Gay Top Athletes: The Ultimate Taboo?_survey


In recent years, some top British, German, Australian and American gay sportsmen have come out of the closet.

Would it be possible for a homosexual footballer or basketball player to become openly gay and visible in your country?

Give this question some thought and post your comment (anonymous or not) in English or in Spanish below.


Related articles:


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Humans of New York

Humans of New York (HONY) is a photoblog and a bestselling book featuring street portraits and interviews collected in New York City. Started in November 2010 by photographer Brandon Stanton, over 6,000 portraits have been gathered thus far. Humans of New York has developed a large following through social media, and has over 13.7 million followers on Facebook and over 3.3 million followers on Instagram as of July 2015.

Stanton, who grew up outside of Atlanta and attended the University of Georgia, came to New York after a three-year stint as a bond trader in Chicago. Having started his career as a bond trader in the year 2008, Brandon Stanton decided to pursue his passion of photography professionally after he lost his job in 2010. He started to take candid portraits on streets which became a hit on his Facebook page. Stanton is most known for his photoblog Humans of New York, started in 2010. This is the human behind Humans of New York:

How to sleep in the Spanish heat

By CAROLINA GARCÍA
Ciudad Real, central Spain, July 17, 11pm: outside it’s 32.8ºC, according to the AEMET Spanish state meteorological agency. At that temperature the bed sheets cling, pajamas are too heavy, and cool air is notable by its absence. It’s impossible to sleep. Your first reaction is to turn on the air con, if you have it. But often it’s not worth the cost to have it running the whole night, so you decide to turn it off again.
But is it possible to sleep coolly in the Spanish summer without air conditioning? Tradition says yes. Ancient Egyptians used to moisten their bedclothes to sleep better and combat heat waves, which pose a serious risk to public health. According to the results of a scientific study carried out by the Spanish National Research Council, mortality rates for those aged over 75 increase 20.1 percent for each degree that the maximum daily temperature rises above 36ºC.
1. Be creative. Come up with methods to stop hot air from entering the room. For instance, point a fan toward the windows, or place a bowl full of ice or very cold water in front of the fan to cool the air further. A damp sheet placed over the window also helps.Our ancestors have passed down to us a long legacy of tricks for staying cool. You can sleep under cotton sheets, for example, which aid perspiration. At the same time you can also put your sheets in the fridge or freezer inside a plastic bag for a few minutes before sleeping – they won’t stay cool the whole night, but it will be long enough for you to fall asleep – or fill a hot water bottle with cold water to cool down your bed. Here are a few more suggestions.
2. Wear light pajamas. That’s the advice from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), though you can also sleep naked if you like. It’s a question of preference. According to a study by the Association of American Cotton Producers Cotton USA carried out in the UK, 57 percent of people who sleep naked are happier in their relationship with their partner.
3. Apply compresses dipped in lukewarm water on parts of the body most sensitive to heat, such as the neck, elbows, ankles and the backs of the knees. The contact with cool water has a refrigerating effect that triggers a narrowing of the blood vessels, heating up the skin. In turn, the heat cools you down as a result of the difference in the surrounding temperature, explains the CDC.
5. Shower in warm water to reduce your body temperature. This is a good tip for feeling fresh and clean. Many people say that, even though the shock of a cold shower produces an instant feeling of coolness, it reactivates your body and energy consumption, which makes you feel the heat more quickly afterwards than if you had showed in warm water, explains the Biological Health Institute. Also, be sure to keep your feet cool as heat enters the body here. Washing them before you turn in for the night or sleeping with them outside the bed are two good tips.
4. Sleep alone. It’s the best thing to stay cool. Sleeping alongside someone else increases your body temperature and makes the bedclothes cling, explains dormir.org.es, a website devoted to sleep problems. What’s more, doing so at floor level will make you even cooler as hot air tends to rise.
6. Eat salad for dinner. Avoid big meals and hot dishes such as stews, soups and roast chicken. These force the body to produce more heat in order to digest them. A yoghurt, salad or that Spanish summer favorite, cold gazpacho, are perfect for summer nights. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water, the WHO says: the body uses it to get rid of heat.
7. Turn off all lights and electronic gadgets completely. Putting them on standby is not enough: they go on using energy and giving off heat, according to the International Energy Agency – between five and 10 percent of what they would use when switched on. Also: replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, which produce the same amount of light but use a fifth of the energy and give off less heat, according to the emergencies center in Arlington, Virginia.
Lastly, if you are able to sleep out in the open air, do so. Set up a camp on the roof or head out into the country to sleep close to a place next to water (the moisture in the air has a cooling effect), turning a night of stifling heat into one of adventure.
englishedition@elpais.es

Friday, July 29, 2016

Another summer swimming among scum and rubbish

Rubbish appears in and out of the water on beaches along the Costa del Sol due to anti-social habits and a lack of adequate sewage treatment

FRANCISCO JIMÉNEZ / IGNACIO LILLO | SUR in English, 29.07.16  

Another summer swimming among scum and rubbish
Rubbish left on the beach in Pedregalejo. (Fernando González)
The Costa del Sol is a tourist destination par excellence. It attracts millions of visitors every year, mainly due to its beaches . However, at any point along Malaga’s 161 kilometres of coastline, if people were asked whether they have ever encountered scum or something even more unpleasant in the sea while swimming, the beaches would be filled with upraised hands.
This summer is no exception, and it is really negative for the Costa del Sol brand. This endemic problem is the result of the anti-social behaviour of those who flush wet-wipes, sanitary pads, cotton buds and condoms down the lavatory without realising, or caring, that this type of rubbish blocks the sewage pipes. These items are normally removed, but when there is heavy rain or when the population increases in the summer the pipes can’t always cope; they overflow and release all their contents, including solid waste. Once that happens, the currents move the floating rubbish around for months.
Some people also have a habit of throwing used frying oil down the sink or the toilet. Approximately eight out of every ten litres end up down the drain. In the best of cases, if the oil is channelled to a treatment plant, 10 per cent of the fats end their journey in the sea. What happens in places where the waste is not treated is easy to deduce.
“Many people still think anything can be thrown down the toilet, you just flush the loo and that’s that, but even though there are numerous treatment plants in this province, there are still some places where the waste isn’t treated, and then the sea currents spread it all along the coast,” warns Jorge Gil, who works for Acosol, the company which manages water supplies on the western Costa del Sol.
Pablo Temboury, the director of industrial facilities at Emasa, the water company for Malaga city, places special emphasis on the damage caused by wet wipes. “They are advertised as being biodegradable, but they’re not. Anyone can test that at home, by leaving one in a glass of water for several days. They will see that it just stays there, because it is cotton. Toilet paper is different, it changes consistency,” he says.
Guadalhorce river
Some people’s behaviour leaves much to be desired, but so does the attitude of the authorities when it comes to sorting out once and for all something which has been a major problem for tourism on the Costa del Sol for four decades.
In the inland region of Malaga province there are still about 30 small municipalities whose sewage ends up in rivers or streams with no previous filtering, but there are two black spots in particular. The most visible is Nerja, which still holds the unfortunate distinction of being the only large coastal town where the sewage is not treated. In 2014 work began on the construction of a sewage plant, but there have been several delays and now it is due to come into operation in mid-2017. When fully operative, it will treat the sewage of the 125,000 people who reside in the area in the summer.
There is a second black spot of which fewer people are aware because it is not by the sea, but it is just as damaging for the environment, if not more so: the Guadalhorce river, which has become the dump for the waste generated by 100,000 people, before it flows into the sea.
Two treatment plants were planned for this area over a decade ago but have never been built: one for Coín, Pizarra and Álora, and another to treat much of the sewage from the metropolitan area, including Alhaurín el Grande and Cártama.
Juan Jesús Martín, a biologist at the Aula del Mar, makes it clear: “Untreated waste from numerous rural areas goes into the Guadalhorce river. That contravenes European regulations and affects not only tourism but also marine life, especially plastic residues and wet wipes, because they don’t dissolve,” he explains.
In addition to the seemingly never-ending task of providing effective sewage treatment for the whole province, there is a need to expand the capacity of the collectors to ensure that they can cope at peak periods and, above all, to improve the marine outfalls, most of which have deteriorated due to storms and the passage of time and some of which are almost 40 years old.
These are the pipes which take the sewage out to the point at which it is released into the sea, sufficiently far away from the coast. The distance is usually between 850 metres and two kilometres. More important than the distance, however, is the fact that the treated waste has to be correctly diluted by the salt water, a process which depends on the type of treatment process and the depth of the underwater pipes (the further down, the better the dilution).
Another problem altogether is the scum, because there are several factors which cause this including the characteristics of the Alboran Sea, which is enclosed and makes it difficult for its waters to be refreshed.
“It is difficult to tackle the problem of the scum because we don’t know exactly what causes it. The only thing we have been able to ascertain is that it is mainly formed by sand. Whether it is due to a lack of waste treatment, ships, used oil or even swimmers themselves is difficult to determine,” says Antolín de Benito, of Axaragua, the company responsible for the water in La Axarquía region. Sometimes, the cause is natural, from the action of waves on the fine sand and sediment on the sea bed, but hydrocarbons from ships have also been detected and, of course, contamination from sewage.
Juan Jesús Martín explains that there is a human cause, which is when people throw used frying oil down the drain, because ten per cent of this escapes treatment. “From about 12 or one o’clock the fats emulsify because the water temperature rises close to the shore,” he says.
There is another problem, too. As José Carlos Báez, biologist and researcher at the Oceanography Centre in Malaga explains, there are large areas of the Mediterranean where plastic accumulates and enters the food chain of turtles and tuna. This then passes into the human food chain and is a cause of cancer.
“Plastic in the sea is a serious problem, but we don’t take any notice of it unless it affects us directly,” he says.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Coñazo de Brexit_by Forges


5 Ways to Disconnect (Technologically) This Summer

You're on holiday! Isn't it time to take a break from all the workday routine? Then why don't you forget about your computer and your cell phone and enjoy the sun? Here are five suggestions for disconnecting, as much as possible, from technology:

  1. Leave everything organized at work. If you can wind up all pending matters, the office won't bother you during your vacation. Learn how to delegate responsibility among your colleagues. As the saying goes, "You can do the same for me some time."
  2. Turn off your cell phone at lunchtime. Yes, those people who sit down with you at the table are family. Use your vacation to calmly converse with them. Any phone calls or WhatsApp messages can surely wait a little longer.
  3. E-mails can wait. There is no need to check your incoming box every five minutes. Give yourself a break and enjoy your rest. Consulting your e-mails once a day will be sufficient.
  4. Leave your device in the hotel. There are few things more pleasant than enjoying a day in the country or at the beach without worrying about the phone, the tablet or the computer.
  5. Be reunited with paper. Read a book again, leaf through a newspaper. You don't need electronic devices to enjoy a good story. And what about bringing back that custom of sending postcards? It's a more romantic way to use the "social networks".

Life's A Beach

What is it about that magical mix of sun, sea and sand that keeps us coming back for more? Jane Szita tests the waters.

Summertime means that many, if not most, of us will be heading for the beach to recharge our batteries. Whether we go to Spain or to the Seychelles, Brighton or Bondi, Kerala or Cape Town, the experience will be remarkably consistent as we relive treasured seaside memories, childhood adventures, teenage romances and perfect moments spent alone on deserted shores. An annual dose of beach culture has become a fixed feature in our calendar, but what lies behind our mass migration to the seaside? What explains the beach’s appeal, across generations and cultures?

ROMAN BEACH BUMS. Traditionally, the beach was seen as a hostile zone, and the dangerous workplace of fishermen. Island cultures, from the ancient Minoans to the modern Balinese, often shunned the beach, seeing it as the home of monsters and demons. It took a highly urbanized people, the Romans, to invent beach culture as we know it today –even down to the bikini, which is depicted in ancient mosaics. Wealthy Romans escaped the summer heat by flocking to the bay of Naples, where they swam by day and partied by night. The top resort, Baiae, was the Rio of its day. “Baiae, the golden shore of blessed Venus, the bewitching gift of proud nature!” was how the Roman poet Martial described it. The more sober Roman thinker and writer Seneca the Younger dismissed it as a “resort of vice”. Even today, the beach retains this ambiguity: natural and wholesome on the one hand, indulgent and naughty on the other.

IT’S GOOD FOR YOU. In cool climates, it was the pursuit of health that started a craze for sea bathing, in 18th-century England. At first, such jaunts were confined to the rich, but the Industrial Revolution soon created a new class of factory workers, keen to escape briefly each year to the beach resorts that now mushroomed around the coast. The beach became synonymous with health, relaxation and leisure, “nature’s most potent antidepressant”, as Lena Lencek and Gideon Bosker call it in The Beach: The History of Paradise on Earth.


This is no empty claim. Sea air is rich in particles known as negative ions, which increase our ability to absorb oxygen, refreshing mind and body. They also help to balance our levels of serotonin, the “feel-good” brain chemical. In addition, just listening to the sea crashing onto the shore seems to alter brainwave patterns in an effect remarkably similar to meditation, lowering blood pressure, slowing the pulse rate, and reducing anxiety.

SOCIAL STRIPPING. Nevertheless, health alone hardly explains the beach’s key place in modern life. More powerful is the beach’s role as a social liberator. The sand is a blank canvas, washed clean by the tide each day, where we can paint whatever reality we want. We escape the city, shops, the normal rules of dress, eating and so on. We leave formality for a self-regulating world of freedom where work is impossible. The beach forces us to do nothing –and we don’t even have to feel guilty about it.


The beach is also a great leveller. You find anyone and everyone there, stripped of all the trappings of power, money and social status. The atmosphere is unique: people are at leisure, not hurrying, not competing (unless in terms of pure physical beauty, or possibly, swimwear), playing, and relaxing. There are no authority figures, unless you count deckchair attendants or lifeguards, so beach culture organizes itself, and it does so beautifully and peacefully –the reason why sociologists have flocked to study our behaviour on the shore.

EDEN ON EARTH. One of them, Orvar Lofgren, professor of European Ethnography at Lund University, Sweden, sees the modern beach holiday as the ultimate search for Utopia. According to him, the beach is “a cultural laboratory where people are free to experiment with new aspects of their identities, their social relations, or their interaction with nature, and also use the important cultural skills of daydreaming and mind travelling.”
The beach, it seems, is a modern Eden –a kind of paradise lost in the everyday world of corporations and commerce. Though it is used to sell a range of products, most of which have nothing to do with it, the beach is a refreshingly brand-free zone. No wonder then, that we not only keep coming back, but even try to take it with us. Some cities, like Paris, have built artificial beaches to relieve the stress of the urban summer. Japan’s Seagaia on Kyushu Island is a 700-hectare indoor paradise that maintains tropical beach conditions all year round. And, if all else fails, we can wear our surf brands and flip-flops in the city, eat beach-style barbecued food, drink fresh juice cocktails, and indulge our imagination –until it’s time to hit the beach once more.
HOLLAND HERALD, August 2005