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How one Philadelphia entrepreneur is helping Greece through the ‘Thessaly Valley Project’

Manos Sifakis

Manos Sifakis left Greece to study at one of the most prestigious technical universities in the world— the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in the UK— also known as the MIT of Europe. He left his farming community in Larissa, in central Greece, thinking very well that he’d return to his family, his friends and his way of life after studies to start his own computer business. Conditions in Greece forced him to change his plans and head to the United States, where he took up residence in Philadelphia and started customedialabs in 2000.

Fast forward fifteen years— the company is a leader in the digital marketing space with major Fortune 500 clients like ING, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson and Exxon Mobil having been serviced out of the company’s offices in suburban Philadelphia and— Sifakis’ hometown of Larissa, 200 miles north of Athens.

In Philadelphia, customedialabs has 12 employees in operations, client services and client management, while his Greece office has 40 employees ranging from the creative team, various software engineers, user experience architects and quality assurance.

For Sifakis, there’s no better way to “support” Greece than by supporting and empowering its human capital.

“We could easily staff our office here in the United States with developers, designers and all the positions we need to do the work for our clients,” Sifakis told The Pappas Post.

“But why not staff these positions with able-bodied, talented people in Greece? This is my way of helping— not with charity, but by employing 40 Greeks and supporting 40 Greek families struggling through this crisis and offering these people employment, professional development and dignity— which they deserve. These people can dream again, and for me, that’s a big thing.”

And work isn’t all Sifakis is offering them. He focuses a lot of offering professional development for the people who work for him in Greece. Many have gotten their start with customedialabs and have moved on to big Silicon Valley and European tech companies. Sifakis gave them the opportunity to interface for the first time with a global audience, essentially building their portfolio and resumes.

His work has been noticed globally. CNN recently called the 39-year-old entrepreneur “part of the Greek renaissance.”

From a business perspective, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sifakis could have done what hundreds— if not thousands of other US companies have done— and outsource their tech work to cheap subcontractors in Southeast Asia. He could get the work done for a fraction of the cost that he is paying now by employing cheaper and just as talented Indian or Pakistani developers and make more profits.

“It’s not always about the size of the profits,” Sifakis said.

“For me, knowing that in a very small way, we are helping stop the brain drain from continuing, that is a big enough profit for me. For me, this is philanthropreneurism— using my skills and resources to empower others, not just to give hand-outs.”

It’s a model he hopes will spread to his business-owner colleagues in the United States. While he applauds the efforts of numerous organizations he has supported in their efforts to help Greece through the crisis, he also suggested his model as a quick and easy solution that could help hundreds— if not thousands of Greek families.

“Think of all the Greek-owned or Greek led companies in the United States and how each of them could help 5, 10, 20 families with employment. For me, it hasn’t been easy as a small business to build this model and navigate the Greek bureaucracy, but the end result makes it all worth it.”

Sifakis offered his expertise to other business-owners seeking similar alternatives and even is developing a plan that he calls The Thessaly Valley project to bring tech and digital innovation jobs to his hometown of Larissa.

Gregory Pappas

http://kali-ellada.blogspot.gr/

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On the Trail of an Ancient Mystery

Solving the Riddles of an Early Astronomical Calculator

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A riddle for the ages may be a small step closer to a solution: Who made the famed Antikythera Mechanism, the astronomical calculator that was raised from an ancient shipwreck near Crete in 1901?

The complex clocklike assembly of bronze gears and display dials predates other known examples of similar technology by more than 1,000 years. It accurately predicted lunar and solar eclipses, as well as solar, lunar and planetary positions.

For good measure, the mechanism also tracked the dates of the Olympic Games. Although it was not programmable in the modern sense, some have called it the first analog computer.

Archaeologists and historians have long debated where the device was built, and by whom. Given its sophistication, some experts believe it must have been influenced, at least, by one of a small pantheon of legendary Greek scientists — perhaps Archimedes, Hipparchus or Posidonius.

Its purpose has been debated, too. It has been described as, among other things, an eclipse predictor, an astrological forecasting system and an astronomical teaching device.

Now a new analysis of the dial used to predict eclipses, which is set on the back of the mechanism, provides yet another clue to one of history’s most intriguing puzzles. Christián C. Carman, a science historian at the National University of Quilmes in Argentina, and James Evans, a physicist at the University of Puget Sound in Washington, suggest that the calendar of the mysterious device began in 205 B.C., just seven years after Archimedes died.

The mechanism was most likely housed in a wooden box and operated by a hand crank. The device itself bears inscriptions on the front and back. In the 1970s, the engravings were estimated to date from 87 B.C. But more recently, scientists examining the forms of the Greek letters in the inscriptions dated the mechanism to 150 to 100 B.C.

Writing this month in the journal Archive for History of Exact Sciences, Dr. Carman and Dr. Evans took a different tack. Starting with the ways the device’s eclipse patterns fit Babylonian eclipse records, the two scientists used a process of elimination to reach a conclusion that the “epoch date,” or starting point, of the Antikythera Mechanism’s calendar was 50 years to a century earlier than had been generally believed.

The finding supports the idea, scientists said, that the mechanism’s eclipse prediction strategy was not based on Greek trigonometry, which did not exist at the time, but on Babylonian arithmetical methods borrowed by the Greeks.

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Over the years scientists have speculated that the mechanism might have been somehow linked to Archimedes, one of history’s most famous mathematicians and inventors. In 2008, a group of researchers reported that language inscribed on the device suggested it had been manufactured in Corinth or in Syracuse, where Archimedes lived.

But Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier in 212 B.C., while the commercial grain ship carrying the mechanism is believed to have sunk sometime between 85 and 60 B.C. The new finding suggests the device may have been old at the time of the shipwreck, but the connection to Archimedes now seems even less likely.

An inscription on a small dial used to date the Olympic Games refers to an athletic competition that was held in Rhodes, according to research by Paul Iversen, a Greek scholar at Case Western Reserve University.

“If we were all taking bets about where it was made, I think I would bet what most people would bet, in Rhodes,” said Alexander Jones, a specialist in the history of ancient mathematical sciences at New York University.

Dr. Evans said he remained cautious about attempting to identify the maker at all.

“We know so little about ancient Greek astronomy,” he said. “Only small fragments of work have survived. It’s probably safer not to try to hang it on any one particular famous person.”

Since new information began to emerge about the Antikythera Mechanism in 2006, it has been the source of several books, replicas and computer simulations, even a Lego model. A growing research community of Greek scholars, archaeologists, astronomers and historians is chasing its secrets.

Last fall, an expedition led by Woods Hole and Greek government scientists began the first systematic, scientific investigation of the site of the shipwreck where the mechanism was found. The dive was shortened to just five days because of bad weather, but the scientists plan to return next spring.

http://www.nytimes.com/

A Cretan scientist among 24 Top Greek minds in the world

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Cretan scientist Manolis Dermitzakis is in the World’s most influential scientific minds for 2014, as published by Thomson Reuters.
Manolis Dermitzakis is currently a Louis-Jeantet Professor of Genetics in the Department of Genetic Medicine and Development of the University of Geneva Medical School.

He obtained his B.Sc. in 1995 and M.Sc. in 1997 in Biology from the University of Crete (Greece) (with Prof. Lefteri Zouros) and his PhD in 2001 from the Pennsylvania State University in the US (with Prof. Andrew Clark), studying the evolutionary biology and population genetics of regulatory DNA in mammals and Drosophila.

His post-doctoral work was at the University of Geneva Medical School, focusing on comparative genome analysis and the functional characterization of conserved non-genic elements.

He previously was an Investigator and Senior Investigator at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute since April 2004.

His current research focuses on the genetic basis of regulatory variation and gene expression variation in the human genome (see also http://www.sanger.ac.uk/humgen/genevar), the processes that govern non-coding DNA evolution.

He has authored and co-authored more than 80 papers in peer-reviewed journals and many of them in journals such as Nature, Science and Nature Genetics.

His papers have attracted more than 8500 citations and his H-index is 32. His research is supported by the Louis-Jeantet Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, the Swiss National Science Foundation, the European Commission and the NIH.

He is also the recipient of an ERC starting grant. He has been invited to give talks and keynote lectures in the most prestigious genetics meeting in the world and is the organizer of multiple training courses including the Wellcome Trust HapMap course and organizer of the Leena Peltonen School of Human Genomics.

He has served as an analysis co-chair in the pilot phase of the ENCODE (ENCyclopedia Of Dna Elements) consortium and member of the analysis group of the Mouse Genome Sequencing Consortium and the International HapMap project.

He had a leading analysis role in the extension of the HapMap (aka HapMap3 project) and is a member of the analysis group of the 1000 genomes project.

He currently serves in the Board of Reviewing Editors of Science, and he is a Senior Editor in PLoS Genetics.

Thomson Reuters published the list with the World’s most influential scientific minds for 2014.

The highly cited researchers were determined by analyzing at citation data over the last 11 years to identify those who published the highest impact work (2002—2012 and 2012—2013).

These individuals are influencing the future direction of their fields, and of the world.

They are the authors of multiple hot papers, the publishers of research and experiments that fellow scientists find groundbreaking and influential. 3.200 researchers are in the list and 24 of them are Greeks.

http://chaniapost.eu/

Greek Centre to be a generational bridge between the past and the future

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By: Elly Agrotis Symons

Last Tuesday, the foundation benefactors of the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture came together in the shell of the new building to celebrate the achievement of this great milestone in the Greek Community. Building on the example set by our forefathers more than a century ago, the dream of what can be achieved by unity and vision has become a reality. The message has spread within the Greek Community and the goodwill generated is driving the project to completion. It was an amazing night where everyone in the room was proud of the vision and hard work of the Greek Community of Melbourne who have set the groundwork for the next one hundred years of the Community.

The GCCC will be the genesis of a new ‘Melbourne Hellenism’ that will be the envy of other Greek Diaspora communities and that we now have the exciting opportunity to create. We face a challenge to engage our younger generation in a meaningful way. They are separated geographically and temporally from their ancestral culture but will hopefully connect with it from their hearts through our efforts. We are the generational bridge between the past and the future and much rests on our efforts now.

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We need creativity, passion and dedication to succeed and we are fortunate to have this. The exciting wealth of talent in our community is a testament to our parents and the sacrifices they made. Our personal family stories are indeed the collective story of Greek immigration to Australia and our childhood experiences have powerfully informed and shaped us. We are up to the challenge of securing the future of the Hellenic heritage. Indeed it is our duty to ensure that Greeks and Non-Greeks alike experience the contribution our culture has made to the world.

The challenge, however, is to ensure its relevance to third and fourth generations. We need a modern interpretation of Hellenism and we need to find creative means of expression and communication.

Importantly, there is a strong sense of unification and with that lies the goodwill to engage and importantly, re-engage, both our widespread and diverse Greek community and indeed, a wider audience.

I encourage each and every one of you who is able, to make a contribution to the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture. Grandparents and parents could make donations in the names of their children and grandchildren as christening, birthday and graduation presents as a symbolic gesture of respect for their heritage.

Our parents who made that fateful decision to travel to the far-flung Antipodean country we have come to love and call home did not factor the loss of their culture into their decision making.

The Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture is our gift to them and our children.

Elly is proud of her Greek and Cypriot heritage and is dedicated to promoting a modern Hellenism for her three sons and future generations. She holds degrees in Business, Archaeology and Psychology and is an active supporter of the new Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture and the Greek Community’s Seminars committee. Elly is an Ambassador for the Classics Gallery at the Potter Museum and on the Classics Chair Committee at the University of Melbourne.

http://greekcommunity.com.au/

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