Archive for March 2011
It has been estimated that over 8 billion US gallons of used motor oil are produced every year by the world’s cars and trucks. While some of that is re-refined into new oil or burned in furnaces for heat, neither of those processes are entirely environmentally-innocuous. In other cases, it is simply discarded. Today, however, researchers from the University of Cambridge announced the development of a process that uses microwaves to convert waste oil into vehicle fuel.
Scientists have already been using a process known as pyrolysis for recycling oil. It involves heating the oil to a high temperature in the absence of oxygen, and causes the oil to break down into a mixture of gases, liquids, and solids. While the gases and liquids can be converted to fuel, the Cambridge scientists state that traditional pyrolysis doesn’t heat the oil very evenly, making the fuel conversion process difficult and impractical.
What they did, however, was to add a microwave-absorbent material to samples of waste oil, before subjecting it to pyrolysis by heating it with microwaves. The addition of the material caused the oil to heat more evenly, allowing almost 90 percent of it to easily be converted into a mixture of conventional gasoline and diesel.
Another step forward presented this week at the meeting of the American Chemical Society. Great news.
[I actually know someone who is a member of that body. I must ask him if he attended?]
When it comes to display technologies nothing says “cool” like a transparent display. While we’ve seen a number of prototypes, such as TDK’s flexible OLED display, pop up at trade shows in the last couple of years, Samsung has announced it has already started mass production of a 22-inch transparent LCD panel.
Because they rely on ambient light instead of the usual back lighting, the transparent panels consume 90 percent less electricity than conventional LCD panels. But despite the fact the new panels are starting to roll off the Samsung production lines, it will probably still be a while before transparent panels make it onto our desktops…
No doubt reflecting the expected high price of the transparent panels – and possibly while the boffins at Samsung rack their brains for possible everyday home and office applications – Samsung is touting the possibilities for the panels for use in advertising in shop windows and outdoor billboards. It also says corporations and schools could put the panels to use as an interactive communication device…
Just the kind of tech that I believe will be easy to commercialize. Americans aren’t especially familiar with the ubiquitous LCD screen/panels facing every form of transportation around the world – from foot traffic to underground waiting platforms – but, it seems an obvious step to replace fully transparent glass with nothing more than a single painted or glowing sign with something that offers the capacity for motion and slide shows.
Britain’s most senior family judge has overturned a man’s attempts to stop his children emigrating to Australia with their mother – saything they can keep in touch by Skype.
Sir Nicholas Wall, President of the High Court Family Division, refused to block plans by the man’s former lover to start a new life on the other side of the world saying it was in her two young children’s “best interests”.
He heard how the woman, who cannot be identified, had become “isolated, trapped and depressed” in Britain and that the children were keen to go with her.
But the children’s father argued that their departure would destroy the “embryonic” relationship he has with them.
Whilst accepting that the man’s objections “came from the heart”, Sir Nicholas said it would be “plainly wrong” to block the woman’s chance of a new life.
Although he “did not minimise” the man’s objections, he added that the age of instant online communication including Skype – the voice and video call software – meant that the children’s move did not mean the end of the relationship with their father…
Har! Modern reality offers an alternative direction to jurisprudence.
I wonder what other decisions might be affected in this manner?
The Fukushima Daiichi disaster is focusing attention on a problem that has bedeviled Washington policymakers since the dawn of the nuclear age — what to do with used nuclear fuel.
[Any regular reader of this blog knows what my answer be. The rest of y'all should read on.]
Currently, spent fuel — depleted to the extent it can no longer effectively sustain a chain reaction — is stored in large pools of water, allowing the fuel to slowly cool and preventing the release of radiation.
But events in Japan, where two of the six spent fuel pools at the Fukushima Daiichi facility were compromised, have raised questions about practices at the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors, which rely on a combination of pools and dry casks to store used fuel.
[CNN is progressing. First mention I recall of dry casks.]
Currently, there is no maximum time fuel can remain in spent fuel pools, the NRC said Wednesday. As a result, critics say, nuclear plants have made fuel pools the de facto method of storing fuel, crowding pools with dangerous levels of fuel, industry critics say.
As of January 2010, an estimated 63,000 metric tons of spent fuel was in storage at U.S. power plants or storage facilities, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission…
“Spent fuel pools are considered ‘safety significant’ systems, so they meet a lot of the same standards that the reactor itself would have to meet,” said Greg Jaczko, chairman of the NRC. “For example, the spent fuel pools themselves are required to withstand the natural phenomena like earthquakes and tsunamis that could impact the reactor itself…”
A nuclear industry representative said the “lack of a national strategy” on waste storage is exacerbating the problem, since it does not know whether to place spent fuel in permanent, on-site containers, or containers suitable for transport.
The Yucca Mountain storage fiasco will raise it’s ugly head once again. I thought it was dead and buried, literally, after  geologic faults were revealed and  they had been known for years and covered up by site reports filled with lies.
Our “national strategy” has always been deformed by a Cold War mentality which presumed a spy ring would steal uranium from any breeder reactor and build a bomb big enough to destroy Foggy Bottom. So breeder reactors are outlawed on a power generation scale. The rest of the world uses breeder reactors to recycle 95% of their spent fuel.
Congress still thinks recycling anything is a mortal sin.
Three inmates and their loved ones were charged with attempting to smuggle drugs into a New Jersey jail on the pages of a children’s coloring book…
The drug, Subozone, normally used to treat heroin addiction but itself classified as a controlled dangerous substance, was dissolved into a paste and then painted into the coloring book, said Cape May County Sheriff Gary Schaffer. Pages with “To Daddy” scribbled on top were sent to the prisoners at the jail in Cape May, New Jersey.
Charged in the case were prisoners Zachary Hirsch, Charles Markham and Paul Scipione. Also charged were Markham’s mother, Debbie Longo, of West Wildwood, New Jersey, and Katelyn Mosbach, of Trevose, Pennsylvania, who was still being sought.
The New Jersey drug bust was the second one this month involving Suboxone smuggling behind bars.
Authorities at a prison in Carbon County, Pennsylvania earlier this month arrested 11 people in what they said was a scheme to hide the drug beneath postage stamps on letters mailed to inmates from family members.
Hey, with nothing but time on their hands would you expect a slammer full of junkies to be inventive about anything other than getting drugs inside?
Two vegans whose 11-month-old baby daughter died from vitamin deficiency after drinking only its mother’s milk have gone on trial in northern France, charged with child neglect.
Sergipe and Joel Le Moaligou, who eat no animal products, called the emergency services in March, 2008, when their baby Louise appeared listless.
By the time the ambulance arrived at their home in Saint-Maulvis, north of Paris, she was already dead.
Louise weighed just 12lb, compared to an average 17.5lb for a child her age, and was deathly pale.
An autopsy showed that Louise was suffering from a vitamin A and B12 deficiency, which experts say increases a child’s sensitivity to infections
French prosecutors allege the vitamin deficiency may have been linked to the mother’s diet, and say that the couple also failed to follow medical advice to hospitalise the baby, who was suffering from bronchitis…
“They preferred applying clay or cabbage poultices whose recipes they found in their books. These are people who read the wrong thing at the wrong time,” said Mr Daquo.
The parents are still vegan and “are completely aware of the mistake they made,” said the father’s lawyer, Patrick Quenel. If convicted, the couple could face up to 30 years in prison.
Religious nutballs commit this sort of stupidity upon their families all the time. Because this particular couples’ motivation was the “purity” of the nutritional program they chose doesn’t excuse the death of their child.
A spidery crater named for a French composer features in the very first picture MESSENGER took from orbit around Mercury, taken March 29 and released March 30.
Debussy Crater had been known since before MESSENGER’s arrival, thanks to its brilliant appearance in Earth-based radar images of Mercury. But no spacecraft had seen Debussy in visible light until MESSENGER made a flyby on its way into orbit.
The new shot of the 80-kilometer-wide crater is a composite of three out of eight images taken through different light filters. Combining images taken at multiple wavelengths can reveal changes across Mercury’s surface, since different minerals reflect light in unique ways. A black-and-white version of this Mercury picture was released on March 29.
RTFA – go to the NatGeo site and click through each photo and description. Delightful.
Tim Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission
It isn’t often that the government launches a major program that achieves its main goals at a tiny fraction of its estimated costs. That’s the story of TARP — the Troubled Assets Relief Program. Created in October 2008 at the height of the financial crisis, it helped stabilize the economy, using only $410 billion of its authorized $700 billion. And most of that will be repaid. The Congressional Budget Office, which once projected TARP’s ultimate cost at $356 billion, now says $19 billion. This could go lower…
One lesson of the financial crisis is this: When the entire financial system succumbs to panic, only the government is powerful enough to prevent a complete collapse. Panics signify the triumph of fear. TARP was part of the process by which fear was overcome. It wasn’t the only part, but it was an essential part. Without TARP, we’d be worse off today. No one can say whether unemployment would be 11 percent or 14 percent; it certainly wouldn’t be 8.9 percent.
That benefited all Americans. TARP, says Douglas Elliott of the Brookings Institution, “is the best large federal program to be despised by the public.”
The source of outrage is no secret. Bankers are blamed for the crisis and reviled. The bank bailout — TARP’s first and most important purpose — was instantly unpopular. Most Americans, says Elliott, “believe that taxpayers spent $700 billion and got nothing in return…”
… As it was, TARP invested $245 billion in banks (and about $165 billion into the other programs). The extra capital helped restore trust. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve increased its lending; the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. guaranteed $350 billion of bank borrowings. Banks resumed dealing with each other because they regained confidence that commitments would be honored.