Xmas present I absolutely don’t want – but, find fascinating

❝ Designed for home or office, the new Ember Mug does more than simply keep your coffee hot. Our smart mug allows you to set an exact drinking temperature, so your coffee is never too hot, or too cold. Depending on the size, your beverage will maintain its chosen warmth for 80 to 90 minutes.

I can think of several fixated folks I worked with over the years who probably own one of these. After a number of years as retiree, I pretty much know just how long to nuke my coffee to bring it back to proper temperature. No batteries needed for any of my favorite coffee mugs. Just walk to the kitchen and back.

Man sets flat on fire drying underpants and socks in microwave


Our apartment dweller should have attended

A man had to be led from his flat after a fire started when he tried to dry his underpants and socks in the microwave.

Firefighters were called to the blaze on Market Street in Weymouth, Dorset, after concerned neighbours heard a fire alarm…Residents from the block of flats led the man to safety from his second floor apartment following the fire at 10.45pm yesterday.

The flames were quickly put out by two firefighters wearing breathing apparatus.

A Dorset Fire and Rescue spokeswoman said: “The fire involved two pairs of underpants and two pairs of socks which the occupant had tried to dry by placing in the microwave.

The fire safety message here is to stop doing stupid things with devices which can ignite your underwear.

Microwaves utilized to convert used motor oil into fuel

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?]

What might we achieve with lossless light?


The lower image shows light flowing around an obstacle

Light readily bounces off obstacles in its path. Some of these reflections are captured by our eyes, thus participating in the visual perception of the objects around us. In contrast to this usual behavior of light, MIT researchers have implemented for the first time a one-way structure in which microwave light flows losslessly around obstacles or defects. This concept, when used in lightwave circuits, might one day reduce their internal connections to simple one-way conduits with much improved capacity and efficiency.

The laws of nature that govern the world around us allow for the propagation of light in both directions. If a light beam is observed propagating in a particular direction, one can also shine a light beam to propagate in the opposite (backward) direction. “The very fact that reflected beams are allowed to exist, combined with the fact that light at least partially reflects from most objects it encounters, makes optical reflections ubiquitous in nature,” said MIT physics Professor Marin Soljačić, the senior author of the study.

In a dramatic departure from this common phenomenon, a team made up of MIT physicists…have implemented and experimentally tested so-called topological photonic crystals that completely prohibit the existence of any lightwave back-reflections. The results, published in the 8th October 2009 edition of Nature, show the first experimental observation of the fascinating new phenomena and capabilities associated with microwave light propagating in this uniquely designed waveguide (a tunnel or “road” for guiding light).

Through the application of an external magnetic field, this specially designed waveguide induces unusual restrictions to the propagation of the light inside it. “We have now found a way to make light travel without bouncing back…”

The possibilities are infinite.

Cell phones achieve primacy over air conditioners

What would you give up first, air conditioning or your cell phone?

In tough economic times with people looking to cut costs many Americans said a cell phone or computer are must-have items and regard a clothes dryers, air conditioner and microwave as less of a necessity, according to survey by the Pew Research Center. “A relative newcomer in the everyday lives of most Americans, the cell phone is among a handful of newer gadgets that have held their own on the necessity scale from 2006 to 2009”.

The number of people who said microwaves were a necessity for their homes fell 21 percentage points in 2009 from 2006. Air conditioners dropped 16 points while dishwashers slumped 14 points, the poll showed.

Job losses, the months-long recession, and tight access to credit have convinced U.S. consumers to reduce their spending in the past year on anything they consider unnecessary or a luxury…

But as tech gadgets increasingly find a place in homes, cell phones, flat screen TVs and Apple’s iPod are now part of the must-have category, according to the survey of 1,003 adults.

No surprise to me. Americans are still in love with cars. What kind of car – or pickup – may be changing; but, the flexibility, mobility, enabled by those 4-wheel fuel-suckers still rules.

Company launches using giant microwaves to lock carbon in charcoal


Carbonscape’s first sample

Giant microwave ovens that can “cook” wood into charcoal could become our best tool in the fight against global warming, according to a leading British climate scientist.

Chris Turney, a professor of geography at the University of Exeter, said that by burying the charcoal produced from microwaved wood, the carbon dioxide absorbed by a tree as it grows can remain safely locked away for thousands of years. The technique could take out billions of tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year.

Fast-growing trees such as pine could be “farmed” to act specifically as carbon traps — microwaved, buried and replaced with a fresh crop to do the same thing again.

{I’d suggest hybrid poplar would do a better job]

Turney has built a 5m-long prototype of his microwave, which fixes a tonne of CO2 for $65. He plans to launch his company, Carbonscape, in the UK this month to build the next generation of the machine, which he hopes will process more wood and cut costs further.

Continue reading

Assembly line chicken ain’t necessarily cooked chicken

The federal government has announced that 32 people in 12 states were sickened with salmonella poisoning after eating precooked, frozen chicken dinners. The problem? Many of the people who got sick apparently did not follow the instructions for preparing the meal, which called for heating it in an oven. Those who got sick popped their meals in microwaves instead.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the dishes included breaded or pre-browned chicken breasts, some of them stuffed with vegetables or sold as “chicken Kiev” and “chicken cordon bleu.” The appearance of the food led people to assume that the chicken breasts were thoroughly cooked, even though they were still raw or undercooked inside. The agency said that some of the sicknesses occurred in Minnesota, but would not identify the 11 other states involved in the outbreak.

The issue is that people think it’s cooked and it just needs to be heated up,” Carlota Medus, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health, told the New York Times last year. “Microwave cooking for something that has to be cooked isn’t always a good idea.”

Bon appétit.