Researchers produce ultrathin superconducting films

Ivan Bozovic, Brookhaven Lab

U.S. researchers have developed ultrathin films that when sandwiched together form a superconductor, an advance that could lead to a new class of fast, power-saving electronics. The films can be used at relatively high temperatures for superconductors, making them easier to handle and produce.

“What we have done is we have put together two materials, neither of which is a superconductor, and we found their interface — where they touch — is superconducting,” said physicist Ivan Bozovic. “This superconducting layer is extremely thin. It is thinner than 1 nanometer, which is 1 billionth of a meter.”

The superconductors used in a magnetic resonance imaging or MRI machine, for example, must be cooled with liquid helium to keep them at 4 on the Kelvin scale, or near absolute zero minus 452.47 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 269.15 degrees Celsius).

The superconducting film developed by scientists at Brookhaven, however, work at temperatures of 50 Kelvin or minus 369.67 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 223.15 degrees Celsius)…

At 50 Kelvin, the superconducting film is close to the point where it could be cooled inexpensively by liquid nitrogen, which cools to 77 Kelvin or minus 321.07 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 196.15 degrees Celsius).

It brings us one step closer to producing mass-scale superconducting electronics,” he said.

Amazing work. People have to comprehend that it’s work at the level of basic research that makes developments like this possible.

China sets maximum permissible levels of melamine in milk

Milking station – Hohhot, Inner Mongolia
AFP/Getty Images

The Chinese Health Ministry announced new limits set by the government on the amount of the industrial chemical melamine to be permitted in dairy products, but it refused to provide updated statistics on the number of people who have died or fallen ill from ingesting melamine-tainted dairy products.

The announcement of the new limits is the latest move by the government to try to rebuild consumer confidence after it was revealed last month that at least three babies had died and 53,000 children had fallen ill from drinking milk products tainted with melamine.

Government officials say the melamine was added to milk products by suppliers to artificially boost protein count in milk that had been diluted. Babies and children who regularly drink the tainted milk can develop kidney stones after several months.

I’ve followed this cautionary tale from the outset and the history is what you might expect in a developing nation. Unscrupulous vendors add melamine to raw milk to be sold to producers of milk-based products at higher prices. There’s always some greedy bastard ready to make a buck at the expense of consumers.

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Naked Brit evades police in Tokyo palace moat – for a while

A bald, naked man who said he was a British tourist went swimming in the moat of Japan’s Imperial Palace, climbing the palace wall, throwing rocks and splashing water at police before being taken into custody.

Television footage showed the tall man getting out of the water at one point, chasing police with a rock and a plastic construction site pole.

He then went back to the murky water and swam across to the other side of the moat, climbing up the 8-meter stone wall of the palace.

He was caught by two policemen, after a chase that lasted for an hour and a half.

Why do people get so loonie on vacation?

Chef killed his lover, had a bit of his thigh for a snack

Prosecutors say a British chef allegedly killed his gay lover, sliced off part of the dead man’s thigh, cooked it with fresh herbs and tried to eat it. The cannibalism allegations against Anthony Morley, a chef from Leeds, England, highlighted testimony in a murder trial at Leeds Crown Court, The Times of London reported.

Police said they discovered the naked body of 33-year-old Damian Oldfield, an advertising salesman, in Morley’s bed in April, saying it had been stabbed many times. Downstairs in the kitchen, police reported finding six pieces of cooked human flesh on a chopping board and another piece in the trash that had been cooked with herbs and olive oil and chewed by the killer, the newspaper said…

Prosecutors, however, said forensic tests revealed the two men had sex before Morley allegedly slit Oldfield’s throat from behind and then stabbed him repeatedly with two knives. They also contend DNA tests prove the cooked flesh belonged to Oldfield and Morley’s saliva was found on the half-eaten piece.

He forgot the fava beans and a good Chianti.

Join us in Afghanistan – you get into NATO

Romanian lemmings on parade
AP Photo by Vadim Ghirda

The United States called on southeastern Europe, including aspiring NATO members, to send more troops to fight the insurgency in Afghanistan.

“As the situation on the ground in Iraq continues to improve, I urge you to consider sending your military forces to Afghanistan,” Gates told a meeting of the Southeastern Europe Defense Ministerial, a group of 12 countries that includes Italy, Turkey, Ukraine, Romania and Macedonia…

Next year, as the Pentagon starts to shift focus to Afghanistan from Iraq, U.S. officials worry NATO allies will see that as an excuse not to meet pledges to commit more resources.

“I want to make sure that everybody understands that the increases in U.S. forces are not seen as replacements for NATO contributions. They’re reinforcement,” Gates told reporters traveling with him this week.

Gates is talking to the Southeastern Europe Defense Group. Don’t you love Generals managing troops in a foreign land who call it “defense”?

These clowns run diplomacy like Al Capone ran Chicago.

Judge orders 17 Chinese Muslims released from Guantanamo Bay

For the first time, a federal judge has ordered the Bush administration to release prisoners held at the U.S. military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ruling that 17 Chinese Muslims must be brought to his courtroom by the end of the week so that they can be set free.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina said that the government’s authority to hold the men had “ceased” and that they were entitled to be released…

The 17 are Uighurs who fled persecution in the far western reaches of China. U.S. authorities, fearing what Chinese officials would do, have refused to send them back to China, and no other country has been willing to take them.

The judge’s order came more than six years after the men were sent to Guantanamo and more than four years after the Pentagon cleared most of them to be released. The Supreme Court ruled four months ago that judges can order the release of prisoners wrongly held at Guantanamo.

“This is a historic day for the United States,” said Emi MacLean, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Finally, we are beginning the process of taking responsibility for our mistakes and fixing them.”

The schmucks working for George W. Bush are trying to halt their release.

Can you imagine being someone proven innocent of a crime, the courts of the land acknowledge you’re being held illegally, you have been in the slammer for years beyond proof of your innocence – and still the government of the Home of the Brave and Land of the Free wishes to keep you locked up?

Because you’re an embarrassment to their lies and deceit?

Thanks, K B

Cold remedy labels finally warn: Not for small children

Hoping to head off more severe government restrictions, manufacturers of pediatric cough and cold medicines have announced that they would voluntarily change their products’ labels to say that they should not be used in children under the age of 4.

In addition, for products containing certain antihistamines, new language will be added to the products’ labels warning parents not to use the products to sedate or make a child sleepy. While many parents believe that getting a sick child to sleep is the best medicine for them, using sedatives to achieve this purpose is not recommended by medical experts, who say sedatives can worsen sickness-induced breathing problems.

Safety experts at the Food and Drug Administration recommended a year ago that the agency consider banning over-the-counter cough and cold medicines in children under the age of 6, and an expert advisory panel concurred.

I’ve been blogging about this for a spell. It’s overdue and, Yes, the government still should go ahead with toughening regulations.

Portuguese bank lets you bet on Obama vs. McCain

A Portuguese online bank has unveiled a novel interest rate deal by letting clients bet on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.

Banco Best’s customers will be awarded interest on their 60-day deposits on the basis of whether they bet correctly on the winner of the November 4 U.S. election between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain.

If they pick the winner, they will be rewarded with interest of 8 percent, applied retroactively from November 4 to the day they opened the account. If their bet is wrong, they will get just 2 percent interest.

Banco Best will offer up to 10 million euros of the so-called McCain/Obama Deposit, which can be subscribed to online at any time until November 3.

American banking chains just say, “Show me the money.”

Konarka starts cranking out “Power Plastic”

Thin-film solar startup Konarka has opened its new manufacturing plant in New Bedford, Mass., which will have a production capacity of 1 gigawatt per year. The 250,000-square-foot plant was previously an advanced printing facility for Polaroid, so Konarka has retrofitted much of the old printing equipment for solar fabrication and hired the technology and process engineering teams from Polaroid.

The printing press is already humming and commercial production of Lowell, Mass.-based Konarka’s branded organic photovoltaic “Power Plastic” will begin in earnest in the first quarter of 2009, the company tells us. Konarka’s special sauce lies with its organic solar panels, which it says are able to absorb a much wider spectrum of light than other thin films, allowing for higher efficiencies and even indoor applications…

Between the market crash and the projected end of the silicon shortage it could be harder for thin-film players to get project financing for big, expensive manufacturing plants, potentially giving those like Konarka and Nanosolar who have now gotten their plants up and running an important lead.

I know this area well. In fact, I wasted a morning in that same plant – back in the day – trying to sell computerized systems to Polaroid management who didn’t see any need to change the way they did anything.

Nice to see folks getting back to work. Terrific seeing the plant doors open to new technology, a valuable addition to the American industrial base.