Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Seven DIY fitness tests

The plank
To assess core stability

You’ve probably heard of core stability (the strength and function of the deep stabilising muscles of the trunk) – but do you have any? “The Plank is a position you will find difficult to hold if your core stability is poor, because you need to activate these muscles to keep the spine supported and the body in a straight line,” says physiotherapist Sarah Connors.

How to do it Lie on your front with your forearms on the floor, elbows directly under shoulders, fists clasped. Tighten your core muscles, then press down through your forearms and lift your body on to the toes. Your head, neck, back and legs should form a straight line (like a plank of wood). Look at the floor. Time how long you can hold the position, maintaining good form.

What it means Below 30 seconds – needs work; 30-60 seconds – average; 60+ – good (“The longer the better,” says Connors).


Wet footprint
To assess foot-strike pattern

You often hear how important it is to have the right trainers to suit your foot type and gait pattern – but how do you know what that is? You can get a basic picture with this test, as the shape of your footprint indicates whether you have particularly high or low arches, associated with different foot-strike patterns.

How to do it You’ll need a sheet of cardboard, or a slab of concrete or slate to walk across. Dunk your feet in water, then walk across the surface. Compare the foot’s silhouette to the descriptions below.

What it means Toe prints plus heel but little in between – high arches, associated with excessive supination, or underpronation (feet roll outwards as you run); entire foot – low or flat arches, associated with overpronation (feet roll in); toes, forefoot plus heel, joined by a broad band – normal or “neutral” foot-strike.

To assess upper-body strength

A full push-up entails lifting roughly two-thirds of your body weight. Technically, the test measures muscular endurance rather than pure strength.

How to do it Assume a push-up position – hands wider than shoulder-distance, body in a straight line, head in line with spine. Lower the chest by bending the elbows, then straighten and repeat as often as you can in a minute. If you can’t do a full push-up, do the test on your knees.

What it means Men: 30+ – excellent; 25-29 – good; 20-24 – not bad; 19 or below – needs work. Women: 25+ – excellent; 20-24 – good; 15-19 – not bad; 14 or below – needs work.

To assess balance

Lack of balance plays a significant role in contributing to falls in later life – and balance deteriorates with age unless challenged.

How to do it Fix a sheet of A4 paper to the floor and balance on it with one bare foot. If you can stand for 60 seconds, try closing your eyes. Still not wobbling? Try hopping on the spot 10 times. Repeat with other foot.

What it means “If you have trouble completing this exercise, or you continually miss the paper, your balance and ‘motor control’ are not as good as they could be,” says physical therapist Peggy Brill. This test doubles as a balance-enhancer.

To assess cardiovascular capacity

Kenneth Cooper – the man credited with inventing aerobics – developed his test in 1968, but it is still used as a measure of cardiovascular fitness. It involves running or walking for 12 minutes, maintaining a steady pace.

How to do it Use a flat, measurable route or a treadmill. After a five-minute warm-up, set a stopwatch and run or walk as fast as you can. Record the distance and compare it to the values below.

What it means 1.46 miles or above – excellent; 1.33-1.45 miles – good; 1.32-1.26 miles – fair; 1.25 or below – poor.

Vertical jump
To assess explosive power (the ability to exert a force quickly)

How to do it Stand facing a clear wall space. Keeping feet flat, raise your arm and mark the highest spot where your fingertips touch the wall. Leap up, arms overhead, and touch the highest point you can. Subtract your standing height from your jumping height in cm.

What it means Men: 61-70cm – very good; 51-60cm – good; 41-50cm – average; 40cm or less – below average. Women: 51-60cm – very good; 41-50cm – good; 31-40cm – average; 30cm or less – below average.

Wall list
To assess leg strength/endurance

This test – in which you sit on an invisible chair against a wall until your thighs feel as if they are about to combust – gives a good idea of lower body strength.

How to do it Lean your back against the wall and shuffle your feet forward. Slide down until your knees and hips are at a right angle and start your stopwatch.

What it means Men: 76 seconds or more – very good; 58-75 seconds – average; 57-30 – below average; 29 or below – poor. Women: 46 seconds or more – very good; 36-45 seconds – average; 35-20 seconds – below average; 19 or below – poor.

These tests are suitable only for those in good health. If in doubt, see a doctor.

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Everyone knows what time is. We can practically feel it ticking away, marching on in the same direction with horrifying regularity. Time has enslaved the Western world and become our most precious commodity. Turn it over to the physicists however, and it begins to morph, twist and even crumble away. So what is time exactly?

To many people throughout history time would have been synonymous with the rhythms of nature; the passing of the seasons and the cycles of the celestial bodies. If this idea seems naive today, it’s not only because modern clocks are infinitely more accurate time keepers than the celestial bodies ever were. It’s also because we’ve come to think of time as something universal, something that would keep marching on even if all clocks, celestial or man-made, were to stop. The notion of an absolute time, one that’s measurable and the same for all observers, was expressed most succinctly by Newton: “absolute, true and mathematical time, of itself, and from its own nature, flows equably without relation to anything external.”

Einstein’s time

Newton’s absolute time may feel like an accurate description of the beast that rules our daily lives, but in science the notion was shattered in 1905 by Einstein’s special theory of relativity. “Einstein showed that there isn’t a universal time,” explains Davies. “Your time and my time get out of step with each other if we move differently.” In other words, the duration of time between two events can vary depending on how fast you are moving in the period between the events.

a diagram of the mirrorsImagine two observers, one on a train and one stationary. The traveller sends a pulse of light from a torch vertically up. The traveller’s view is shown on the left: the pulse travels vertically up. The stationary observer’s view is shown on the right: the position of the torch and train ceiling at the start and end of the pulse’s journey are shown in black and blue respectively. The pulse travels diagonally.

At the root of this strange time warping effect lies Einstein’s postulate that the speed of light should be the same for all observers, no matter how fast they are moving. Imagine two observers, one travelling on a train and the other stationary by the side of the tracks. As the two pass each other the traveller emits a pulse of light from a torch shining vertically up. The two observers will disagree on the distance the pulse has travelled when it hits the ceiling of the train, because the stationary observer perceives not just the vertical motion of the pulse, but also the horizontal motion of the train.

Since both observers measure the same speed of light, and since speed is distance per time, this implies that they must also disagree on the time it took the pulse to travel that distance. Time is relative to the observer, or as the physicist Kip Thorne prefers to put it, time is “personal”. (For a more detailed description, read the Plus article What’s so special about special relativity?.)

We don’t notice this time dilation in daily life, but it’s not so small as to be unmeasurable. “If I fly from Phoenix to London and back again, and then compare my clock with that left in the office, they will be out of step with each other by a few billionths of a second,” says Davies. That’s a tiny amount for humans, but it’s well within the measuring capability of modern clocks.

In fact, time dilation has a real impact on the global positioning system (GPS), which many of us have come to rely on for navigating around the world. “The system works with orbiting satellites that are moving very fast,” explains Davies. “If you didn’t factor in this time distorting effect of motion, then your GPS would very quickly begin to accumulate errors so that in an hour or two you’d be lost. So this is a real effect, not just some sort of mad mathematician’s nightmare.”

diagramAn artist’s impression of the Sun warping spacetime and the Cassini space probe testing relativity by measuring how signals are delayed by the warping. Image courtesy NASA.

But motion isn’t the only thing that can distort time. In his general theory of relativity, published in 1916, Einstein showed that gravity too can slow time. Rather than thinking of gravity as an invisible force that wafts across the ether, Einstein thought of it as the effect of massive bodies distorting the very fabric of space. A famous analogy is that of a bowling ball sitting on a trampoline, which creates a dip that a nearby marble will roll into. According to general relativity, massive objects like stars and planets warp space in a similar way, and thus “attract” other bodies that pass nearby. However, Einstein realised that time and space are inextricably linked in what he called spacetime, so the warping effect of gravity does not just effect space, but also time.

“Gravity slows time, so that it runs a little bit slower in the basement of your house than it does on the roof,” says Davies. “It’s a tiny effect, but it can be measured, even on distances that are that small. But if you want a seriously big time warp from gravity, you have to go where there’s a very big gravitational field. If you had a clock on the surface of a neutron star, for example, it would tick at about 70% of the rate of a clock on Earth. The ultimate time warp is at the surface of a black hole, where in a sense time stands still relative to our time. If you went there, you wouldn’t notice anything peculiar about time, but if you compared clocks between the two locations, they’d be enormously out of step.”

Einstein drew an interesting conclusion from his results about the nature of time. In a letter to the family of a recently deceased friend, Michele Besso, Einstein wrote, “… for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.” Since time is relative to the observer, it is impossible to divide it up into past, present and future in a way that is universally meaningful. In some sense, past, present and future are all there at once.

“This notion is sometimes called block time, but I like to call it the timescape because it’s a bit like a landscape,” says Davies. “If you look at a map, the whole of the landscape is there before you, all at once. If you add time as the fourth dimension on this map, then all of time is there at once too. The fact that nothing in physics singles out a particular ‘now’ is a mystery.”

Incidentally, there is nothing in Einstein’s theory that prohibits time travel, be it into the future or into the past. But this is a can of worms we won’t open here, as you can read about it in Kip Thorne’s Plus article Is time travel allowed? (or read Davies’ book How to build a time machine).

The arrow of time

Thinking of past and future brings us to another problem that has foxed scientists and philosophers: why time should have a direction at all. In every day life it’s pretty apparent that it does. If you look at a movie that’s being played backwards, you know it immediately because most things have a distinct time direction attached to them: an arrow of time. For example, eggs can easily turn into omlettes but not the other way around, and milk and coffee mix in your cup but never separate out again.

Listen to the interview with Davies in our podcast!

The most dramatic example is the history of the entire Universe, which, as scientists believe, started with the Big Bang around thirteen billion years ago and has been continually expanding ever since. When we look at that history, which includes our own, it’s pretty clear which way the arrow of time is pointing.

“But the mystery is that the laws of physics show no preference for forward time or backward time,” says Davies. For example, if you can make an object move one way by applying a force, then, as Newton’s second law of motion tells you, you can make it retrace its path by applying the same force in the opposite direction. So when you watch a movie of this process you wouldn’t be able to tell if it’s being played forwards or backwards, as both are equally possible.

“So the problem is how to account for the asymmetry of time in daily life when the laws that govern all the atoms that make up everything around us are symmetric in time,” says Davies. Much has been made of this problem, which affects Einstein’s physics just as it did Newton’s classical description of the world.

Hand of cardsOrder or disorder?

But the answer isn’t all that difficult to find. Most processes we feel are irreversible in time are those that (for whatever reason) start out in some very special, highly ordered state — Davies uses a pack of cards as an example. When you first open up a new pack the cards will be ordered according to suit and numerical value. When you shuffle them for a while they will become disordered, so it seems that, as time passes, things will always move from order to disorder. “We might think that this is very strange because there is nothing in the act of shuffling that chooses a direction in time, yet we see a distinct arrow,” says Davies.

However, there is nothing in the laws of physics that prevents the act of shuffling from producing a perfectly ordered set of cards. It’s just that the ordered state is only one of a total of around 8 × 1067 possible states, so the chance that we come across it while shuffling the cards is vanishingly small. So small that it would never happen even within several lifetimes of shuffling.

So the apparent asymmetry of time is really just an asymmetry of chance. Systems of many components — like a cup full of milk and coffee particles or a bowl full of egg particles — evolve from order to disorder not because the reverse is impossible, but because it’s highly unlikely. This, in a nutshell, is the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the entropy (a measure of the disorder) in a closed physical system never decreases. It’s a statistical principle, rather than a fundamental law describing the behaviour of individual atoms. The apparent arrow of time emerges as a property of the macroscopic system, but it’s not there in the laws that govern the individual particle interactions. As the physicist John Wheeler put it, “If you ask an atom about the arrow of time, it will laugh in your face.”

This also applies to the whole Universe. “The Universe started out very smooth and expanding uniformly,” says Davies. From a gravitational view point the Big Bang was a low entropy state and the Universe has been increasing its entropy ever since, hence the arrow of time. The question now is why the Universe started in the way it did. “Why our Universe went bang in such an ordered state is still a mystery,” says Davies. “There is no agreed answer to that, partly because there is no agreed model of cosmology. We all think the Universe began with a Big Bang and we know it’s expanding. What we don’t know is if the Big Bang is the ultimate origin of time or whether there was a time before that.” (Read the Plus article What happened before the Big Bang? for more on this subject.)

Time disappears

One thing we have neglected to say so far is that Einstein’s theory, which describes the macroscopic world so admirably well, doesn’t work for the microscopic world. To describe the world at atomic and subatomic scales, we need to turn to quantum mechanics, a theory that’s fundamentally different from Einstein’s. Reconciling the two, creating a theory of quantum gravity, is the holy grail of modern physics.

When Schrödinger and Heisenberg formulated quantum mechanics in the 1920s, they ignored Einstein’s work and treated time in Newton’s spirit, as an absolute that is ticking away in the background. This already gives us a clue as to why the two theories might be so hard to reconcile. The status of time in quantum mechanics has also created profound problems within the theory itself and has lead to “decades of muddle and subtlety,” as Davies puts it.

We won’t go into this muddle here, but we’ll note the conundrum that unfolds when you try to apply quantum mechanics to the Universe as a whole (a rather controversial approach not all physicists agree with). “If you try to write down a quantum mechanical description of the whole Universe, you find that the time parameter actually drops out [of the equations], it’s not there at all,” says Davies. Time is replaced by correlations. “For example, you might have a correlation between the size of the Universe and the value of some [physical] field. We would describe this by saying ‘as the Universe evolves over time and gets bigger, so this field changes in value’. We use that language, but actually all you’re talking about is a correlation [between physical quantities] and time can be removed completely.”

Some people have interpreted this to say that time doesn’t exist at all, but Davies disagrees. “I think time exists just as telephones do. It’s a real thing and we can measure it. But it does suggest that the way it enters into our description of the world is different from other quantities we’re used to.”

One possibility is that time, and also space, are emergent properties of the Universe, which are not part of the bottom level of reality. “It may be that for the extreme conditions at the Big Bang a description in terms of other variables is more appropriate. When we see the world with a well-defined space and time [or spacetime as Einstein put it] this may just be some particular state of the Universe that has emerged out of the Big Bang.” Davies uses a block of rubber as an example: it’s got its very own physical properties, its elasticity for example, but these properties aren’t there at the atomic level. They are a result of the atoms and the laws that govern them combining in one particular way. Similarly, the Universe, as it cooled down from the Big Bang, may have just happened to give rise to spacetime. Perhaps, if it had cooled down in another way, spacetime wouldn’t have come up.

rubber ducksRubber ducks have emergent properties.

But if space and time aren’t fundamental, what are the fundamental properties of the Universe? There is no theory that people agree on. “We can invent words to describe them and people have, but these things are not anything we are going to encounter in daily life. So we’re just resorting to [mathematical descriptions]. But even if one day we manage to explain time and space in terms of something else, that only pushes the question to another level, because you then have to explain [the something else].”

So it seems that we’re no closer to understanding what time is than Newton was — perhaps we understand it even less. But then, perhaps the job of the scientist isn’t to fully explain the Universe, but merely to describe it. “You postulate a theory, usually in the form of mathematical equations, and then you test it against reality,” says Davies. “If it does work, you don’t argue where those equations come from. It’s just your best attempt to describe the world.”

Whether it’s fundamental, emergent, or just a set of correlations in disguise, the fact is that something we call time manifests itself undeniably and we all know about it. As a friend of mine put it, “If you want to know what time is, just look at my face.”

Check out the full article here.

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The popular dietary components may not do any good, and may actually harm.


To anyone who feels guilty for not gorging on antioxidants—actually, make that “antioxidants!,” which seems to be how grocery manufacturers think of them—redemption is nigh. For years the media, food labels, dietitians, and even scientists who should know better have bombarded us with advice to load up on antioxidants: compounds found (mostly) in fruits and vegetables that mop up free radicals, which are highly reactive clusters of atoms that have been fingered as the evildoers responsible for aging and for illnesses from cancer to heart disease.

Not so fast. First, studies piled up showing that taking antioxidants—even such common and seemingly innocuous ones as beta carotene and vitamins C and E—as supplements was not beneficial to health and might even be dangerous, though the reason for the danger wasn’t clear. (One always pays attention when a study concludes with a phrase like “seems to increase overall mortality.”) Now the research is challenging an even more fundamental tenet of the antioxidant craze. Many of the free radicals that are neutralized by antioxidants perform valuable functions in the body. The most important: fighting toxins (white blood cells churn out free radicals by the battalion to fight bacterial infection) and fighting cancer. Maybe it’s not such a fabulous idea to flood the body with something that neutralizes these warriors of the immune system. Or as British chemist and science writer David Bradley noted in his blog,Reactive Reports, “It’s always struck me as odd that you would want to ingest extra antioxidants anyway, given that oxidising agents are at the front-line of immune defence against pathogens and cancer cells … Suffice to say that taking antioxidant supplements … may not necessarily be good for your health if you already have health problems,” especially cancer or an infection.

Photos: Drugs that changed lives, for better or worse

Breakthroughs and Breakdown

The first hints that the bandwagon was crashing came from the hundreds of studies that have tried to assess the health effects of antioxidant supplements. The results have not been pretty. In 2008 the Cochrane Collaboration, an international consortium of scientists who assess medical research,scrutinized 67 studies with nearly 400,000 participants. The goal: to determine whether antioxidant supplements reduce mortality in either healthy people or in people with cardiovascular, neurological, rheumatoid, renal, endocrine, or other diseases. Conclusion: “We found no evidence to support antioxidant supplements for primary or secondary prevention, [and] Vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin E may increase mortality.” In analyses of antioxidant supplements andLou Gehrig’s diseaseAlzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment, and lung cancer, the Cochrane scientists’ verdict was the same: no, no, no, and no. And each analysis had an alarming refrain about increasing overall mortality.

It’s not clear why antioxidants in supplement form might be so dangerous. One idea holds that at high doses they become pro-oxidants, stimulating the harmful DNA- and cell-damaging reactions they’re supposed to prevent. But a more likely explanation is that we are seeing the human version of what scientists are finding in studies of lab animals: antioxidants interfere with immune-system cells that fight infection and cancer.

For those who got to this party late, free radicals are generated by normal metabolism, though dietary fat and iron-rich foods such as red meat generate more of them. Free radicals can damage proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and DNA—the biological stuff we’re made of. They also harm the cells that line blood vessels, enabling tumor cells to enter the bloodstream and metastasize. All this destruction, explains Jeffrey Blumberg, director of the Antioxidants Research Lab at Tufts University, “is believed to initiate, promote, or stimulate the progression of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer,” as well as normal aging. “The hypothesis that emerged is that if you prevent the damage, you prevent the disease.”

That was music to the ears of food manufacturers, especially as research suggested that some antioxidants are better than others at quenching different free radicals. Beta carotene, for instance, slays superoxide dismutase, but vitamin E is relatively impotent against it. On the other hand, vitamin E makes LDL (“bad” cholesterol) more resistant to oxidation, which should be good for health: oxidized LDL is more likely to form plaque deposits that clog arterial walls. The different functions of different antioxidants opened the door to marketers pushing supplements for each one, as well as otherwise-unhealthy foods fortified with a cornucopia of antioxidants (Chocolatey Peanut Butter FiberPlus Antioxidants, anyone?).

In addition to the alarming findings from studies of people who take antioxidant supplements, new research is casting doubt on the benefits even more directly:

•    A paper to appear in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that antioxidants might impair fertility. When scientists led by developmental biologist Nava Dekel of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science applied antioxidants to the ovaries of female mice, ovulation levels plummeted: follicles released very few eggs. That suggested that ovulation might require the free radicals that antioxidants neutralize. Further experiments confirmed it: a type of free radical called reactive oxygen species is produced in response to luteinizing hormone, the physiological trigger for ovulation. That suggests that luteinizing hormone triggers ovulation through an intermediary—namely, reactive oxygen species. If reactive oxygen species are being mopped up by antioxidants, there’s no ovulation.

•   A 2010 study in lab rats found that two popular antioxidants, quercetin (found in black and green tea, red onion, and other plant foods) and ferulic acid (in apples, artichokes, wheat, and other plants), aggravated and possibly triggered kidney cancer. As the scientists put it in theJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, “It is time to reevaluate the tumorigenic detrimental effect of” antioxidants.

•   Finally, a new study in lab mice finds that a natural protein that boosts antioxidant levels in the blood may actually promote atherosclerosis, or clogging of the arteries. The study, in the January issue of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, offers clues about why taking antioxidants has not been shown to improve heart health. The protein Nrf2 indeed boosts antioxidants, but in the study it also raised blood-cholesterol levels, as well as cholesterol content in the liver—both of which are excellent ways to get atherosclerosis.

In 2009, 108 new food products with antioxidants touted on the label reached store shelves in the United States, according to the market-research firm Mintel. That compares with 16 in 2005 and 82 in 2007. “Buyer beware” doesn’t begin to cover it.


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UK-based Cella Energy[1] has developed a synthetic fuel that could lead to US$1.50 per gallon gasoline. Apart from promising a future transportation fuel with a stable price regardless of oil prices, the fuel is hydrogen based and produces no carbon emissions when burned. The technology is based on complex hydrides, and has been developed over a four year top secret program at the prestigious Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford. Early indications are that the fuel can be used in existing internal combustion engined vehicles without engine modification.

According to Stephen Voller CEO at Cella Energy, the technology was developed using advanced materials science, taking high energy materials and encapsulating them using a nanostructuring technique called coaxial electrospraying.


“We have developed new micro-beads that can be used in an existing gasoline or petrol vehicle to replace oil-based fuels,” said Voller. “Early indications are that the micro-beads can be used in existing vehicles without engine modification.”

“The materials are hydrogen-based, and so when used produce no carbon emissions at the point of use, in a similar way to electric vehicles”, said Voller.

The technology has been developed over a four-year top secret programme at the prestigious Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford, UK.

The development team is led by Professor Stephen Bennington in collaboration with scientists from University College London and Oxford University.

Professor Bennington, Chief Scientific Officer at Cella Energy said, “our technology is based on materials called complex hydrides that contain hydrogen. When encapsulated using our unique patented process, they are safer to handle than regular gasoline.”

1. ^ Cella Energy (www.cellaenergy.com)

Excerpted from Breakthrough promises $1.50 per gallon synthetic gasoline with no carbon emissions


Readability — An Arc90 Laboratory Experiment http://lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability
Follow us on Twitter »Readability version 1.7.1


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“Get it done Automagically” haha

My itunes is so unorganised and all over to place and like most I can’t be bothered spending the time to do it myself. I have over 200GB of music which would take a lifetime to sort and clean.

Check it out.


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1. Cordero a la cruz  (wood-fired Suffolk lamb) from Porteno, $42

One of the most eagerly awaited openings of 2010, Porteno was also the most eagerly awaited opening of 2009. Yes, folks, it took a while. And it still takes a while, to get a table – reservations are only for six or more and the place packs out early. But the rewards are there, crucified on the open grill for all to see.  Those Bodega boys, Ben and Elvis – along with Elvis’ dad, Adan – serve up the sizzlingest asado-grilled meats this side of Buenos Aires. Every day, whole suckling pigs and pure-bred Suffolk lambs cook merrily away for six to eight hours over the open barbecue pit. The pork is great, but the lamb is outrageous. The skin is crunchy, salty and gorgeous, the  meat is soft, sweet, and smoky, and the whole thing comes without embellishment or ceremony, plonked simply on a wooden board. Put in an order as soon as you get there, because they always run out – and they can’t exactly throw another one on the barbie and get it out the same night. Ask for warmed plates to eat it from, too, or it will cool too quickly. While there, have some fun with Argentinian wines as well.

Porteno, 358 Cleveland Street Surry Hills,  8399 1440

2. Prosciutto, stracchino and rocket piadina at La Piadina ($14)

It’s nowhere near the beach, there’s barely room to swing a kitten, and there’s not much variety. But La Piadina is one of the nicest places to eat in Bondi. It’s all about the piadina, the flat, unleavened bread of Italy’s Emilia Romagna region. Damiano and Fausto Zizioli roll out the circles of dough until parchment-thin, lay them on the hotplate and strew them with anything from mortadella to soft ‘nduja salami to Nutella, before folding them in half. My fave is the classic combo of sliced-to-order prosciutto San Daniele, light Stracchino cream and lightly bitter, softly wilted rocket leaves ($12) which merges into a scorchy, toasty, steamy combination of crispness and melting softness. Only one thing would make it more civilized: an icy cold Moretti or tinkling Campari. Done.

La Piadina. 108 Glenayr Avenue, Bondi Phone 9300 0160

3. Chocolate Forest Floor from Sepia (Part of $140 degustation)

Where do I start? A smooth sour cherry sorbet sits on a bed of dark chocolate twigs, crystallised fennel fronds and cherry brandy jellies, on a ‘ground’ of chocolate soil crumb, aniseed praline and green tea moss, over a ‘sub-soil’ of lavender custard, praline and chestnut cream, and soft chocolate mousse. It’s like walking through a woodlands glade, snapping twigs underfoot – only in your mouth.

Sepia, Darling Park, 201 Sussex Street, Sydney, Phone 9283 1990

4. Rich and noble lobster congee at Rockpool (Part of $145 four course dining menu)

In its 23 years, Rockpool has had its share of ups and downs, twist and turns, and the odd change of direction. But right now, it’s in a very good space, thanks to the synergy between Neil Perry and his gifted head chef, Phil Wood. Here they take rice congee, one of the humblest dishes in the Cantonese repertoire, and give it a complete makeover, lifting it effortlessly into the big time. With its combination of fresh local lobster, lobster stock, crunchy fried bread stick (yuo tiao), crisp-fried garlic, star anise-scented peanuts, and chilli oil, this is one of the true highpoints of a four-course tasting menu loaded with wows.

Rockpool, 107-109 George Street, The Rocks,  9252 1888

5. Pappardelle and boar ragu from Manly Pavilion $22

There are many variations of spag bol around town, but this is one of the most powerful combinations of pasta and ragu there is. Chef Jonathan Barthelmess learned a thing or two about Italian cooking during his days with Stefano Manfredi at Coast. He also learned not to do things by halves, so when he makes this rustic, stick to your ribs pasta dish, he starts by getting in a whole young wild boar to make the ragu, and, naturally, makes his own silky egg pasta from scratch. This gloriously restored thirties bathers pavilion also comes with spectacular water views right through to the heads. They’re going to have one huge summer.

Manly Pavilion, West Esplanade,  Manly Cove, 9949 9011

6. The Lucio from Lucio Pizzeria, $18

The debate raged on long after the(sydney)magazine ran my list of 10 best pizze earlier this year, with everybody having very strong opinions as to which pizza was great, which was tragic, and how much of an idiot I was to choose this or that one or miss out on this or that one. To quote Kevin Rudd, ‘I don’t, frankly, give a damn’, and so cast my vote for best pizza to Lucio Pizzeria, its Naples-born pizzaiolo, Lucio de Falco and its raring-to-go, wood-fired oven, originally built by David Cowdrill of Pizza Mario. His pizze can sometimes be a little oily in the middle, but they smell and taste very close to the ones I loved in Naples – which were also often a little oily in the middle. The crust is always bubbly, not over-burdened, and supple enough to be folden and eaten in the hands.  The big order here is the Lucio, one half a traditional Margherita pizza topped with mozzarella, basil and tomato while the other is a folded -over calzone filled with ham and ricotta. Great for people who can’t decide what to order.

Lucio Pizzeria, Republic 2 Courtyard 248 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst, 9332 3766

7. Schnitzel Holstein from Ad Lib $29

When Dietmar Sawyere announced that he was going to open a simple French bistro, everyone wondered what the twist was going to be. The twist is there is no twist. His steak tartare is steak tartare, unreconstructed and un-messed–about-with. The same goes for the onion soup gratinee, the classic duck leg confit and the old-fashioned  chocolate mousse, brought to the table and served from a large bowl.  One of the stars on the menu is this clever, classic schnitzel Holstein ($27), with its golden, finely crumbed organic chicken escalope topped with a perfect fried egg (runny yolk) and buttery drizzle of anchovies and capers.

Ad Lib, 1047 Pacific Highway Pymble,  9988 0120. Also at 21 Bay Street, Double Bay, 9988 0120

8. Ginger-infused game consommé, beef tendon, savoy cabbage roll, black fungi, chives, from est. $41

Peter Doyle’s cooking isn’t flashy, or look-at-me, or dependent on high tech whiz-bangery. It’s all about getting the most flavour possible out of the best produce available. Case in point is this refined, aromatic consommé, with its gelatinous beef tendon, tiny cabbage roll and lightly crunchy black fungus, with every mouthful tasting intense but fresh.

est., Level 1, establishment, 252 George Street, 9240 3010

9. Sticky rice and salted duck egg cakes from Universal, $23

Surely this is the quintessential Sydney dining experience: you’re sitting in a courtyard, sun going down, cocktails shaken, walls aglow. Smart staff bring a zeitgeisty wine list and a spice-laden global snatch-and-grab menu that’s a great mix of the casual and the serious, from Spanish-influenced spiced duck sausage with seared scallops and morcilla; fragrant Korean-ish pork and kimchi consommé; or Japanese-inspired sansho venison tataki. All this and you’d expect a chopsticked, bare-tabled, mod-Asian, attitude, but Universal has the most exquisitely pressed-and-ironed tablecloths in town; a beautiful riposte to those who think they have to ditch tablecloths in order to be modern. This is modern. Top dish this year was this Thai-influenced dish of snappy, crackly, poppy, golden rice balls ($23), drowned in a mouth-tingling, wine-mugging, sour, sweet, hot, fragrant dressing.

Universal, Republic 2 Courtyard, Palmer Street, Darlinghurst . 9331 0709

10. Orange granita and sweetened cream from North Bondi Italian Food, $14

Happiness is sitting out on the front deck of NBIF (some things just don’t acronym well) on a summer’s day with a platter of multi-tasking chef/co-owner Robert Marchetti’s own freshly sliced salumi and some bread and maybe a salad or two, then following up with one of the most refreshing summer desserts ever invented. Think tangy orange granita on top and rich, creamy vanilla-scented zabaglione cream below. Tirami su is dead in the water.

North Bondi Italian Food, 118-120 Ramsgate Avenue North Bondi. 9300 4400


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