The Anonymous Widower

A Reader’s Comment On The Times Web Site

This made be laugh.

We run an AirBnB and have been asked whether we have smart meters installed “as they’re known to cause cancer”. Made my day that did.

There are certainly some weird ideas about!

September 12, 2020 Posted by | World | , | 1 Comment

The Diamond Light Source And COVID-19

Deep in the Oxfordshire countryside on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, there is this large building.

It is around twenty-eight metres across and is houses the Diamond Light Source.

When you are in a war, military commanders call up their largest and most powerful weapons, when they are up against it.

Think about Barnes Wallis‘s weapons of the Second World War; the bouncing bomb and the ten-tonne Grand Slam bomb.

The Diamond Light Source is described on its web site like this.

Diamond Light Source is the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.

Another section on their web site details the cost.

Diamond’s construction was funded by its two shareholders, the UK Government through the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which has contributed 86% of the investment, and the Wellcome Trust charity, which has a 14% stake in the facility.

Diamond’s construction is taking place in phases. Phase I cost £263 million and included the synchrotron machine itself, the surrounding buildings and the first seven experimental stations or beamlines. This phase was completed on time, on budget and to specifications in January 2007. Phase II funding of £120 million for a further 15 beamlines and a detector development programme was confirmed in October 2004 and completed in 2012. Diamond can potentially host up to 40 beamlines so there will be continual construction within the main building.

In the first year of operations (2007/8) Diamond’s operational costs were £23 million, in 2012/13, with 22 beamlines the operational costs were £40 million. As we enhance the facility by adding new beamlines the operational costs will increase. However, the more beamlines we have, the more cost effective we become, as the cost of running the machine is shared by a growing number of experimental stations.

It looks like capital costs were nearly £400 million, with yearly running costs of £40 million.

Earlier in the week, The Times detailed the work that Diamond was doing with British scientists and Chinese samples from Wuhan to find out the structure of the the COVID-19. The article said this.

A beam of light in an Oxfordshire laboratory that is ten billion times brighter than the Sun has been illuminating an object ten billion times smaller than a pinhead (Tom Whipple writes). In the shadows it produces may lie clues to defeating coronavirus.

The Diamond Light Source at the Harwell campus near Didcot is one of the most sophisticated microscopes in the world. Gwyndaf Evans, the principal beamline scientist, said that over the past three weeks there had been one goal — looking for ways to thwart coronavirus.

And I thought, Gwndaf Evans was a successful Welsh rally-car driver.

The Diamond Light Source web sire has a page for the Public on its research into coronavirus.

Read this page and certainly the last section, which is entitled What Is The Scientific World Concentrating On With The Current Outbreak of COVID-19?, where this is said.

The COVID-19 outbreak is at a critical stage, the WHO suggests that China, through tough and effective containment has bought other countries more time. This is the third bat-derived coronavirus to cause outbreaks of human disease in less than 20 years, and the most serious. 

The response to COVID-19 has been remarkable: first reports of an unknown pneumonia were on 31st December 2019 and by 11th January, six virus sequences were made available. Structural biologists moved extraordinarily quickly, getting synthetic genes made immediately, rushing to pick them up the day they were finished, and in less than a month, on 5th Feb the first structure, of the main protease was released by the PDB, from Zihe Rao and Haitao Yang’s team at ShanghaiTech. By then these coordinates had already been distributed by the team to 300 groups. In addition by this point, the protein had been used for in vitro assays and a collection of licenced drugs with potential antiviral activity had been identified and made available publicly.

Indeed by now, 35 clinical trials have been started, with the first just closed, so the first results should start to emerge quickly. However, these are re-purposed compounds, the route to tailor-made molecules will be longer but scientists across the world are working to find these.

I am heartened by what I have read today and feel that we are making progress towards at least winning a battle against COVID-19.

COVID-19 Only Research Other User Operations Suspended

This is the headline on one of the latest news pages on the Diamond Light Source web site, where this is said.

Given the rapid spread of COVID-19 Diamond Light Source wishes to minimise travel and the number of people on site, and we have in the first instance taken the decision to suspend user operations from our facilities until 28th April. A further extension of that period might become necessary, and we will keep users informed during the coming weeks.

However, it is still possible to run sessions remotely but only with samples connected with work associated with combating COVID-19 either through an already approved BAG or through the rapid access application.

Is Diamond concentrating all its immense muscle on COVID-19?

Conclusion

It looks like to get results you need teams of brilliant collaborating scientists and lots of money.

And all backed up by sophisticated tools, like the Diamond Light Source!

Is the world planning a bigger one?

Surely, as each of these viruses seems to get more deadly and more difficult to combat we will need it.

 

March 22, 2020 Posted by | Health, World | , , , | 2 Comments

The Crick Institute In The Evening Light

I took these pictures of the Crick Institute in the evening light tonight.

The colour of the stone comes through and matches that of the nearby St. Pancras station.

May 13, 2019 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Is Cambridge Going To Save The World From Global Warming?

Watch this video!

And then visit Superdielectrics web site.

It does appear to be a  bunch of mad scientists in Cambridge, who’ve come up with the bizarre idea of using the material in soft contact lenses as an energy storage medium.

Link Up With Rolls-Royce

And then there’s this press release on the Rolls-Royce-Royce web site, which is entitled Rolls-Royce Links Up With UK-based Superdielectrics To Explore Potential Of Very High Energy Storage Technology.

Conclusion

I have been observing technology since the 1960s.

This is either one of those scientific curiosities , like cold fusion, that appear from time-to-time and then disappear into the scientific archives or a game-changer

I suspect we’ll know in a couple of years.

But even if it is isn’t the solution to affordable and massive energy storage,, that will save the world, I believe that one of the teams of men and women in white coats, somewhere in the world will crack the problem.

 

May 2, 2019 Posted by | Energy Storage | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tomorrow’s World To Return For One-Off Show

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is the first paragraph.

Science and technology show Tomorrow’s World is set to return for the first time in 15 years.

The edition will be shown on BBC4 on November 22nd.

I shall be watching, just as I often did in the 1960s

November 3, 2018 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Is The Sun The Future Of Energy?

I get up early and usually watch the BBC Breakfast programme.

On Sunday, this usually includes the short version of the BBC News on-line program Click.

Sometimes, it is rather wacky, but today they reported on something that will effect us all; solar power.

If you’d like to watch the short version of Click, it’s here on the BBC web site.

They have two segments that show the improvements coming in solar energy.

  • In the first, the program shows how Oxford University are using better materials to improve the efficiency of panels.
  • In the second, the program talked to a Swiss company called Insolight, who have developed a replacement panel that moves to focus the sun’s energy on highly-efficient tiny solar cells, which gives an efficiency of 36%.

Never underestimate the ingenuity of scientists and engineers to create a more efficient world.

October 2, 2016 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

The Diamond Light Source

The headline of Ibuprofen ‘disables’ Ebola virus, drew me to this article on the BBC’s web site. This is said.

The painkiller ibuprofen and the cancer drug toremifene can disable the Ebola virus, say researchers.

Scientists used the UK’s national synchrotron facility – Diamond Light Source – to analyse the virus in incredible detail.

They revealed the two drugs could bind to the crucial part of Ebola that the virus needs to infect cells.

It may be only a starting point, but it looks like a success for the Diamond Light Source. I am indebted to Wikipedia for this description of the Diamond Light Source.

Diamond Light Source (“Diamond”) is the UK’s national synchrotron science facility located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. Its purpose is to produce intense beams of light whose special characteristics are useful in many areas of scientific research. In particular it can be used to investigate the structure and properties of a wide range of materials from proteins (to provide information for designing new and better drugs), and engineering components (such as a fan blade from an aero-engine) to conservation of archeological artifacts (for example Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose.

This is a UK-funded and based facility, I hope that, after Brexit, this type of scientific machine, which cost £260million will still be able to be funded.

 

 

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Health, World | , | Leave a comment

Something To Bragg About!

A few days ago, someone asked me about the overhead wires of a railway and the pantographs, that pick up the 25,000 Volts AC current.

I can’t remember what their question was, but I said it is a difficult problem, as a train like a Virgin Class 390 Pendelino might be travelling at 125 mph in bad weather, so maintaining contact with a constant pressure between the pantograph and the overhead wire isn’t easy.

I was reading something else and found this article on the Rail Engineer web site. Research has been going on at the City University to develop a sensor that monitors the forces at the pantograph head. As you can imagine it is a particularly harsh environment and the engineers have bean using a technology called a Fibre Bragg Grating (FBG) developed in the 1990s, based on the work by the Nobel Prize-winning scientists William Lawrence Bragg and his  father; William Henry Bragg.

I won’t paraphrase the article, but it is a must read. Where it will all lead to I don’t know, but I will repeat this last paragraph.

In the long term, the FBG sensor system offers the ability to detect contact forces from the entire service fleet if combined with GPS and suitable telemetry. This offers the potential of continuous real-time monitoring of the entire overhead line network. Then the Braggs’ work on X-ray diffraction of crystals a hundred years ago could well have made overhead line dewirements also a thing of the past.

Just imagine what it would mean to the operators of our increasingly electrified rail network, if delays caused by trains bringing down the overhead wires were to be reduced.

I’ve met people at Cambridge University for whom William Lawrence Bragg was their tutor and they have described him as a quiet man, who was superb in getting brilliant work out of the students, he tutored.

This tale illustrates why we must do more and more research and often that the solution to a difficult problem is unexpected, but brilliant.

 

 

August 17, 2015 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Sixty-Eight Today

At the date and time of my birth in 1947, thousands of people were being slaughtered in India and Pakistan. Only the area has moved slightly, but all across the world people are fighting over warped ideologies and religions. In a very long list, I’d include places like Belfast, Ferguson and Johannesburg.

It is so pointless. And one of the reasons, why I have no religious beliefs. The main reason, is probably that two branches of my family felt that coming to England was preferable to staying put and being annihilated, because they were the wrong and more successful religion. I can personally understand, wh we have a migrant problem.

I like to think I try to follow the best humanist principles common to most of the world’s great religions. Or at least those they tend to adhere to, when they are not mistreating those who disagree on the nature of God. She would not be amused!

I also believe in and follow the established rules of mathematics, medicine and science!

In the last few weeks, I  have been meaning to write something critical of the so-called Islamic State or as I prefer the Ultimate Men Behaving Badly Tendency.

Compared to others in the past they are certainly up there with the Nazis on the treatment of their opponents and minorities, but at least the Nazis preserved most art, even if they nicked it for themselves.

I doubt I’ll ever see a totally peaceful world, as in my view the only thing that will stop it, is when people see religion to be the way to exploit them, that I believe it is and science, engineering and medicine solves or mitigates the real problems we all face in this world, like war, poverty, hunger, disease and natural disasters, like floods, extreme weather and and earthquakes.

August 16, 2015 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

Lottery Grants To Museums And Heritage

This article on the BBC web site details the grants to various museums and heritage organisations.

I am pleased that one local to me; the Geffyre Museum is getting a grant.

The Geffrye Museum in London, which specialises in the history of the English domestic interior, is being given £11m.

The funding will allow the development of a new entrance from Hoxton station, accessible spaces for the collections, library and archive, new learning facilities and a new cafe.

The second entrance from Hoxton station is to be welcomed and I hope they make sure that the cafe serves gluten-free offerings.

One thing I feel strongly about is that all lottery-funded attractions, should have good access for those like me, who can’t or don’t drive.

Obviously some on today’s list like the Geffryre and Science Museums and Lincoln Cathedral are accessible by rail, but this isn’t always the case.

Jodrell Bank is a place, I would like to visit, but on looking up travel  information on their web site, it has to be a taxi from the nearest stations. That is just not good enough and a real pity considering that Jodrell Bank lies virtually alongside the rail line between Manchester and Crewe.

Jodrell Bank And The Manchester-Crewe Railway

Jodrell Bank And The Manchester-Crewe Railway

A station would be expensive, but I’m certain that many European countries would have provided something better than expecting visitors to take a taxi, especially as the nearest station at Goostrey is only served by one train an hour. It would be interesting to see what would happen, if the service was twice an hour and there was a free shuttle bus to Jodrell Bank.

In my view anything that makes science more accessible and also puts Jodrell Bank on a sound financial footing is to be welcomed.

May 20, 2015 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , | 2 Comments