x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Life in perspective

On the week when Sheikh Ahmed was returned home to be buried, there were also floods, subatomic experiments, diplomacy and a shisha skyline. A review of the week gone by.

The death of Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed was announced when his body was recovered from a lake in Morocco four days after a glider crash. Sheikh Ahmed, 41, was a younger brother of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi. Three days of mourning were announced for Sheikh Ahmed, who was managing director of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. Funeral prayers were held at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, with flags flown at half staff. The sheikh was described as both "humble and charming" by the chairman of the UAE Red Crescent Authority and "a great leader" by Hazza al Qahtani, the director of the Foreign Aid Co-ordination Office. The Moroccan government has said it will conduct a full inquiry into the accident.

Scientists succeeding in creating a series of mini "big bangs" similar to the original explosion believed to have created the universe 13.7 billion years ago. The series of experiments at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva involved smashing subatomic particles together, close to the speed of light. The energy released was calculated at 7 TeV, or seven million, million volts. The LHC will one day be able to produce an energy double that, as part of the search for dark matter and the elusive Higgs boson, that it is thought gives matter its mass.

Female suicide bombers known as the "black widows" were blamed for explosions on the Moscow Metro that killed at least 51 people and left over 100 badly wounded. Russian security sources said that militant Islamist groups in the North Caucasus region were behind the attack, with reports that there could be another two dozen potential bombers still in the capital. Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, later called on the security forces to "scrape from the sewers" those responsible for the attacks.

An Iranian nuclear scientist, who went missing last year under mysterious circumstances, was reported to have defected to the United States. American media reports claimed that Shahram Amiri, who worked for Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, had contacted the CIA after going missing last June while on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Last December, Tehran accused Saudi Arabia of handing over the scientist to the Americans. Several weeks after his disappearance, America, Britain and France revealed the existence of a previously unknown uranium enrichment facility.

Dhow owners in Dubai stopped sailings between the UAE and Somalia after pirates seized seven of their vessels in four days. At least 97 Indian crew were taken hostage along with the wooden ships, which carry everything from livestock to televisions and cars. The wooden ships are taken not for ransom, but to use as "mother ships" to launch attacks on bigger vessels. The dhow owners say seizures have reached record levels in recent weeks and hope the embargo will force Somalian businessmen to put pressure on the pirates.

The world's hottest chilli has been discovered growing at a market town in rural England. Scientists say that the Infinity chilli is hotter than the Bhut Jolokia chilli, which is used by the Indian armed forces to immobilise terrorist suspects. Tests carried out at the University of Warwick show that the Infinity, created by crossing existing chillies in a greenhouse, measures 1,067,286 on the Scoville Scale. The Bhut Jolokia measures 1,041,427, compared to a typical jalapeño at around 5,000. Woody Woods, who grows the chilli for his Fire Foods company in Grantham says: "It is like eating red-hot coal."

Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, took his own custom-built lectern on an official visit to the United States. The wooden stand was said to have been designed to ensure that the 168cm president did not look too short when he addressed a gathering at Columbia University. Mr Sarkozy was embarrassed last year when it was revealed that he had stood on a footstool next to President Obama during commemorations for the D-Day Landings in Normandy. A French diplomatic source said: "The president was to make sure that he was completely comfortable when making this important speech."

A daring robbery in Paris saw a gang tunnel into the vault of a bank and break open almost 200 private safes. Described as "the crime of the century" in French newspapers, the robbery involved digging through a neighbouring cellar before using pickaxes and a flame-thrower to break down the 80cm-thick vault walls. It took nine hours to empty the private safe deposit boxes, producing a haul of cash, jewellery and other valuable estimated to be worth 25 million euro (Dh124 million).

Some of the worst floods for two centuries devastated communities in the tiny US state of Rhode Island. Around 15 inches of rain fell in three days, leaving thousands of homes and businesses under water and forcing the closure of Interstate 95, the main east coast motorway connecting New York and Boston. President Obama had already declared a state of emergency two weeks ago, after an earlier storm.

The skyline of the London Olympic Games in 2012 will be dominated by a giant shisha pipe. Unveiled by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, the official title of the 120-metre tower, designer by Anish Kapoor, is ArcelorMittal Orbit after Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian billionaire, who has donated 1,400 tonnes of steel for the project. Art critics have already compared the tower to a shisha pipe because it features a winding loop rising up a central tube. According to the mayor: "Some may choose to think of it as a Colossus of Stratford, some eyes may detect a giant treble clef, a helter-skelter, a supersized mutant trombone. Some may even see the world's biggest-ever representation of a shisha pipe and call it the Hubble Bubble." jlangton@thenational.ae