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August 22, 1647. Denis Papin and the pressure cooker

Innovation / -

papin e la pentola a pessione
© Andreas von Einsiedel/Corbis

French physicist and inventor and an intensely modern man who lived three centuries ago, he is considered one of the forerunners of the modern steam engine and in particular, the pressure cooker: he made ​​a particular digester that allowed food to be cooked correctly, quickly and with limited use of gas.

Denis Papin (1647-1712) enjoyed multifaceted celebrity as a French physician, mathematician, physicist and inventor. Born in Blois, he graduated in medicine. At 24-years of age he became the assistant to Christian Huygens, the great Dutch astronomer.
Under his direction, he devoted himself to research in physics and introduced several improvements in pneumatic machinery. In 1680, because of his Calvinist faith, he fled to England (King Louis XIV had deprived Calvinists of all civil and religious rights), where he was welcomed and protected by the physicist Robert Boyle, who joined him in his research into pneumatics and recommended his admission to the Royal Society.
In London he presented various inventions that assured him international fame, among which the application of steam pressure to operate machines. In 1688 he was invited to Germany where he obtained the post of professor of mathematics at Marburg. In 1707 he returned to London, where the great Isaac Newton was a rising star, and where Papin lived in isolation and poverty in his final years.
The operation of the Papin pot
Papin had observed that steam that is released upon heating of water has a very large volume, 1700 times higher than that of liquid water; so that if water is then heated in a closed vessel, pressure is formed and reaches a temperature well above 100°C (that of water boiling in the open air). Foods cooked in a closed pot then cook better, faster and with less energy consumption.
Papin built what he called a "digester" (, an airtight container, which is heated from the outside, in which food would be placed; the device was equipped with a valve allowing the venting of the steam when pressure was too high: in fact, when the temperature exceeds 100°C, the pressure is so high that there is a risk of an explosion.
To prevent this risk, Papin therefore equipped the pot with a safety valve constituted by a hole in the lid, kept closed by a weighted lever: when the internal pressure exceeds the surface pressure on the valve system, the valve opens,  smoothly releasing  the steam out and maintaining the inner pressure at a safe level.
When, in 1679, he invented the pressure cooker, Papin filed a patent with the words: "The 'digester' makes digestible many quantities of foods, including the toughest meats."

The invention was inspired by the desire to allow the poorest citizens to extract something nutritious by cooking bones, remnants of the slaughtering process, as evidenced by the title of the book: "The process for cooking bones and any kind of meat with less time and less expense," published in 1679. 
Conclusions - A grateful thought
It would take a long time for the pressure cooker to assume the look of one we would find in today’s hardware stores ( The first "modern" pressure cooker was given it its present shape, with a safety valve in 1950. When the pressure cooker is used successfully – enabling us to cook well, quickly and with limited use of gas  for our spaghetti and other dishes -  remember to take a moment of appreciation for Denis Papin, who died in exile in London and in misery. Until then, foods were cooked in boiling water, requiring a lot of time and a lot of heat and cooking ... and they were not even all that tasty!

VIVA: the first Italian mark of sustainability for wine to be promoted by a national government

Sustainability / -

img rif marchio viva vini sostenibili

The 'VIVA' mark of the Ministry for the Environment identifies Italian wines that have been produced based on sustainability criteria. It is the first of its kind in the world to be promoted by a national government.

The Italian Government is putting its name, or rather its mark, on sustainable wines. This is the task for VIVA Sustainable Wine, the mark given by the Italian Ministry for the Environment to wines produced in Italy that respect both people and the environment. Of the myriad of initiatives of this kind around the world, VIVA is the first to be directly promoted by a national government.

To develop and test the evaluation system took three years of experimental work, coordinated by the technicians of the Ministry and scientifically supported by three university research centers: Agroinnova, Competence Center of the University of Turin; Opera, Research Centre for Sustainability in Agriculture at the University of the Sacred Heart; and the Biomass Research Centre of the University of Perugia. Launched in July 2011, the project passed the testing phase in September 2014, in which several Italian wine producers collaborated, such as: F.lli Gancia & Co, Masi Agricola, Marchesi Antinori, Mastroberardino, Michele Chiarlo, Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio, Planeta, Tasca d’Almerita, Venica&Venica, Cantina Vignaioli del Morellino di Scansano, Principi di Porcia, Vicobarone, Vinosia, Donnachiara, and Cantine Riunite & CIV. Officially presented at Vinitaly 2014, in recent months the VIVA project entered its operational phase. Any winery from the Alps to Sicily may submit their production processes for evaluation by third parties and then send the results to the ministerial technical staff at VIVA. The wines that pass the final exam will receive the Ministry for the Environment star.

Sustainability all round
Air, Water, Vineyard, Territory: these are the four elements of wine sustainability considered by VIVA - Sustainable Wine. Behind each is a rigorously scientific core, inspired by the most advanced international environmental regulations. "The Air indicator has been created based on ISO Carbon Footprint standards - explains Pieter Ravaglia, VIVA representative for the Ministry for the Environment - for Water, the Water Footprint Assessment Manual was used as point of reference, for Vineyard, six environmental regulations were closely followed that include the OIV International Wine Organization guidelines, EEC directives and legislative decrees, while for Territory size, the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines were used as a basis, an international leader in the analysis of environmental impact, especially businesses". Combined, these four indicators provide a highly accurate assessment of the sustainability of the entire production process of a winery, ranging from greenhouse gas emissions to the use of water and soil, the use of plant protection products in keeping with the landscape, from the transportation of the bottles to the treatment of workers. "Sustainability is a very broad term that includes many aspects - explains Ettore Capri, Professor at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and Director of the Research Center for Sustainable Development in Agriculture. Today in the world there are many marks that denote that a wine has been sustainably produced, but VIVA is definitely one of the most comprehensive, if not the most complete".

The first sustainable wine promoted by a national government
In the vastness of the global vineyard, sustainable wine is something that has been around for decades. The first to start were the most recent of the wine-producing regions to arrive, such as California, which launched its sustainable viticulture project back in 1992. Over the following years New Zealand, South Africa and Chile were added. All experiences were of a high level and considered as benchmarks around the world. The project of the Italian Ministry for the Environment has naturally departed based on these learnings, but with the ambition to distinguish itself: the VIVA mark is the first ever to be promoted directly by a national government, that of the Italian Republic.

Good for the environment and the palate
Drinking wine is first and foremost a pleasure, so the first characteristic of any wine is to be good. But it is on taste alone that many experiments in the area of sustainable viticulture have failed. "In recent years, many manufacturers have put on the market wines labeled as sustainable or self-defined as environmentally-friendly - says Professor Capri - but unfortunately many are not able to attain a high standard in organoleptic qualities". The disappointment of consumers has fueled a certain mistrust in "ecological" wines. One of the project’s goals is precisely to dispel this prejudice, and ensure quality and sustainability. And it seems that the challenge has been won: "Among the many tests performed on wines having the VIVA mark, there are also those on taste. A team of experts coordinated by Eugenio Pomarici has carried out a test with tasters, both with the label shown and with it hidden - explains Ettore Capri - The response we have received so far has been very positive, especially among younger consumers. The sustainable wines are really seen as the best, even in organoleptic terms".

The VIVA mark - Sustainable Wine was presented during the workshop on Sustainability intensive agriculture and the food industry held on November 27, 2014 in Milan by Lab Expo, the Expo Milano 2015 project and Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation that promotes scientific research linked to the theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.

The World's Crops are Being Depleted of Nutrients - Iron and Zinc are Suffering from too Much CO2

Sustainability / -

ferro e zinco
© Eric Meola/Corbis

According to a study projected for the year 2050, climate change is making our crops less nutritious. Harvard scientists revealed that the rise in CO2 levels will deplete the nutritional value of corn, wheat, soybeans and rice; all staple foods for millions of people.

Because of climate change and rising temperatures, as well as decreasing quantities, the harvests could be suffering from  changes in nutrient content.
The agricultural fields cultivated in the presence of a high concentration of CO2, produce harvests poor in zinc and iron. These same conditions are  forecast for the year 2050 and are contributing significantly to aggravate the problem of malnutrition in the world. This threat to agriculture also exists in Europe, the Continent is not immune from the problem of food security. Europe is the world's largest producer of wheat, the second most harvested grain in the world after rice, but it is a crop that that is particularly susceptible to suffering from heat stroke.
The discovery was made by a group of Harvard University researchers led by Samuel Myers and published in May in the journal Nature in a study entitled “Increasing CO2 Threatens Human Nutrition”. The study reveals that the worst and most concrete effects of climate change are on human health.
Today, of the over two billion people in the world who are suffering from malnutrition,  due to lack of zinc and iron in their diet, there are 63 million  who fall victim to premature deaths.  A further reduction of these nutrients in the crops, therefore, could exacerbate the problem, especially when you consider that in 2050 the world’s population will increase by another two billion from the current seven billion people.
Similar research had been carried out previously on greenhouse gases and artificial environments , but they were criticized because they were considered unrealistic. These new studies, however, have been conducted in open spaces bringing the concentration of greenhouse gases (CO2) in the fields from the current 400 parts per million (ppm) to a level between 546 and 586 ppm. The harvests of wheat, rice, corn and other grains and legumes all recorded a reduction of iron and zinc of between 5.1 and 9.3 percent compared to levels seen in normal conditions.
According to Myers, governments, organizations and foundations must join forces and capabilities to safeguard the species of wheat and rice that can better adapt to high levels of CO2. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [link can then Article on beans] are already running programs for this purpose, although with some difficulty. We need to  better understand how agriculture can better maintain high levels of nutrients within the food we grow, to overcome these challenges.

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