Monday, 5 January 2009

Why the end of the lightbulb is a dark day for us all

Stuart Jeffries
The Guardian, Monday 5 January 2009

Let its cool glass bottom caress your palm. Feels good, doesn't it? Now wrap your fingers around its hips and push the head firmly into the fixture. Then turn it anti-clockwise (gently, mind) until you can turn no more (or was it clockwise?). If you've got a bayonet cap, ignore the last sentence and consult a qualified electrician.
Now, because you didn't turn off the power (you really should have), feel cool glass turn warm, become hot, and then really hurt. Even now the argon in the bulb is minimising energy evaporation from the gorgeous glow of tungsten filament. And - look! - the light approximates a continuous spectrum. Now remove your burning hand.
Finally, you feel my pain. This month, 75W and 100W bulbs begin to disappear from sale as we switch to environmentally friendly, but dimmer, colder, uglier, often more expensive, eco-bulbs. From Bantry Bay to Bucharest, European ceilings today bear witness to a mass hanging signifying the end of the incandescent bulb. One by one those doomed lights will, as Churchill foresaw (he was actually on about something else), go off all over Europe.
Meanwhile, eco-triumphalists will witter smugly about how the ban will save - what was it again? - 30m tonnes of CO2 yearly, which is nearly half the 2006 greenhouse emissions of Sweden. How dreary. Personally, I don't care about either half of Sweden's 2006 greenhouse emissions.
I've gone too far, haven't I? But then, as Ingo Maurer, the German designer of light installations once said, the lightbulb is "the perfect union of technology and poetry". Like steam trains and space hoppers (which were, unreliable researchers tell me, modelled on lightbulbs), these pendulous pear-like fruits of the Industrial Revolution must die as ugly design extends its endless remit.
Two questions remain. How many scientists did it take to invent a lightbulb? Only one, you reply, namely Thomas Edison. Yeah? What about the 19th-century Britons, such as Joseph Wilson Swan who devised the carbon fibre filament or Sir Humphry Davy who experimented with platinum filaments and carbon arc lamps? Researchers estimate that 22 scientists were involved in the lightbulb's evolution.
What will future cartoonists draw above thinkers' heads to show they've had a eureka moment? No idea. I wonder what cartoonists used before lightbulbs were invented. Did they show Archimedes running naked from his bath above a thinker's hyperactive cranium? It seems unlikely. We'll have to invent something new.

China New Energy throws in the towel on public listing

If the likes of Clive Garston at Halliwells are right – and he is certainly in the majority camp – some small-cap companies might think that having a public listing that is not generating any investor interest is more trouble than it is worth.
The first such group to throw in the public listing towel is China New Energy, which has come to the conc-lusion that being listed on the PLUS index is simply a waste of time. "The directors believe that, in the current environment, any benefits of the listing are outweighed by the costs involved whilst there were no dealings in the company's shares in the past year," it announced in a statement to the stock exchange on Friday morning.
The company, which will carry on trading privately, was established as an investment vehicle in the renewable energy sector in China. Today, the group provides turnkey technology for China's bioethanol market. Investors now have 10 working days to object to the move, but since none of them bought or sold a single share in the whole of last year, it would be a surprise if anyone complains about the move by a company that reckons it gains no benefit whatsoever from being listed.

New flight paths for Heathrow will bring jets’ roar to millions

Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent

Hundreds of thousands of homes will be exposed to more aircraft noise from planned new flight paths that will allow 60,000 more aircraft a year to use Heathrow’s existing runways.
The flight paths will be phased in, the first as early as next year, and will affect people living up to 30 miles (48km) from the airport.
The Government is expected within the next two weeks to approve plans for a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow, to open by 2020. But ministers are also preparing to authorise more intensive use of the airport’s existing runways.
The Times has learnt that this expansion will require a complete redesign of the flight paths of approaching aircraft.

The points at which aircraft turn to enter their final approach, either from the east or west, will be moved eight miles farther from the airport. Aircraft will already be as low as 4,000ft (1,200 metres) when they reach these points.
Longer landing paths are needed to accommodate “mixed mode”, under which the two runways are used for both take-offs and landings. At the moment one runway is used for landings and the other for take-offs, with the roles switched each day at 3pm to give residents half a day’s respite from the worst noise.
Aircraft will take different routes from the holding stacks to the new turning points, meaning there will be winners and losers in terms of noise.
Residents in many parts of inner London will no longer have aircraft passing within earshot, but millions of people in outer London and the Home Counties will either be exposed to aircraft noise for the first time or find many more aircraft flying directly overhead. The main losers will be those living close to the new turning points, which will be over Reading to the west and Dartford and Woolwich to the east.
Noise levels will also increase in Watford, Amersham, Camberley, High Wycombe, Barking, Rainham, Ilford, Leytonstone, Walthamstow, Barnet, Carshalton and Beckenham. People in Hampstead, Highgate, Islington, Hackney, Mile End, Stratford, Harrow, Ruislip and Henley will no longer hear any Heathrow-bound air traffic.
The Government did not make clear in its consultation document on Heathrow expansion, published in November 2007, that so many people would experience a significant change in aircraft noise. It is possible to work out the changes only by comparing two small-scale maps on pages 53 and 78 of the document.
A report mentioned in a footnote contains more details and states that the extra flights would require “major airspace changes”. The report, by National Air Traffic Services, says that the changes to Heathrow’s flight paths would be so extensive that aircraft departing from Gatwick would have to be rerouted.
John Stewart, chairman of ClearSkies, which represents people living under Heathrow flight paths, accused the Government of expanding the airport by by stealth. “The Department for Transport [DfT] has buried the bad news about new flight paths which will disturb millions of people living in outer London and the Home Counties,” he said.
“It would be the biggest change to flight paths since Heathrow opened over 60 years ago, but it is being done by stealth. Most people who will be affected have no idea what is in store for them.
“The DfT continues to sell the introduction of mixed mode as little more than a technical change.”
Martin Salter, Labour MP for Reading West, said: “Mixed mode will have a significant impact on many people who are not exposed to much aircraft noise at present. We need a better Heathrow, not a bigger Heathrow.”

Satellite will show how the earth "breathes"

A satellite that will measure how the earth "breathes out" greenhouse gases is to be launched into space this month.

By Danielle Demetriou in Tokyo Last Updated: 2:35AM GMT 05 Jan 2009

The Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT) has been created in Japan to monitor emissions from around the planet from space and it is hoped the data it provides will help in the fight against global warming.
The orbiting satellite will track the emission of carbon dioxide and methane, gases that contribute heavily to the greenhouse effect.
Dubbed Ibuki - Japanese for "breath" - the satellite will record greenhouse gas emissions in 56,000 locations across the globe while orbiting the planet once every three days at an altitude of 666km.
While there are currently around 280 observations points around the world monitoring greenhouse gas emissions, the new satellite will offer scientists a non-terrestrial perspective of global emissions for the first time.
Takashi Hamazaki, satellite project manager of the satellite at Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said: "Ground observation points at present [ ] are not evenly distributed, so we can by no means say we are observing the entire globe.
"By comparison, GOSAT will have 56,000 observation points and will be able to acquire data covering the entire globe every three days. We think this will improve the accuracy of global warming predictions."
The absorption of carbon dioxide by the planet's plants and its photosynthesis into oxygen forms part of the cycle of "breathing" which scientists will be able to monitor, along with greenhouse gases emitted by deforestation, factories and the burning of natural fuels.
The denser the gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, the more infrared rays of light are absorbed, enabling the satellite to determine their concentration via the strength of the light emitted.
The data from the satellite will be updated every three days and analysed by researchers at the Environment Ministry and the National Institute for Environmental Studies, before being distributed freely to scientists around the globe.
"I'd like to watch the earth breathing," said Mr Hamazaki. "I'd like to make a visual model of the Earth and its various ecosystems' inhalation and exhalation of CO2 and methane." The project, which costs an estimated £259 million (34.6 billion yen), will be launched into space from Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan on Jan 21.