Posts Tagged ‘Kobe Bryant’

Periodic table gets a new element

June 11, 2009

The ubiquitous periodic table will soon have a new addition – the “super-heavy” element 112.

More than a decade after experiments first produced a single atom of the element, a team of German scientists has been credited with its discovery.

The team, led by Sigurd Hofmann at the Centre for Heavy Ion Research, must propose a name for their find, before it can be formally added to the table.

Scientists continue the race to discover more super-heavy elements.

Professor Hofmann began his quest to add to the periodic table in 1976.

The fusion experiments he and his colleagues carried out at the centre have already revealed the existence of elements with atomic numbers 107-111.

These are known as “super-heavy elements” – their numbers represent the number of protons which, together with neutrons, give the atom the vast majority of its mass.

To create element 112, Professor Hofmann’s team used a 120m-long particle accelerator to fire a beam of charged zinc atoms (or zinc ions) at lead atoms. Nuclei of the two elements merged, or fused, to form the nucleus of the new element.

These very large and heavy nuclei are also very unstable. They begin to fall apart or “decay” very soon after being formed – within a few milliseconds, in this case.

This releases energy, which scientists can measure to find out the size of the decaying nucleus.

But such experiments produce very few successful fusions, and scientists need increasingly powerful accelerators to run experiments for longer and find the elusive, unstable elements.

This is why it took such a long time for element 112 to be officially recognised by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).

Its discovery had to be independently verified, and so far only four atoms have ever been observed.

IUPAC temporarily named the element ununbium, as “ununbi” is derived from the figures “one one two” in Latin; but Professor Hofmann’s team now has the task of proposing its official name.

He is currently keeping the shortlist under wraps.


San Francisco to Toughen a Strict Recycling Law

June 11, 2009

BERKELEY, Calif. — San Francisco, which already boasts one of the most aggressive recycling programs in the country, has raised the ante, vowing to levy fines of up to $1,000 on those unwilling to separate their Kung Pao chicken leftovers from their newspapers.

The Board of Supervisors passed new recycling and mandatory composting rules on Tuesday in a 9-to-2 vote. The city already diverts 72 percent of the 2.1 million tons of waste its residents produce each year away from landfills and into recycling and composting programs. The new ordinance will help the city toward its goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2020, said Jared Blumenfeld, director of the city’s Department of the Environment.

Under the new ordinance, residents will be issued three mandatory garbage bins: a black one for trash, a blue one for recyclables and a green one for compost.

Garbage collectors who spot orange peels or aluminum soda cans in a black trash bin will leave a note reminding the owner how to separate his trash properly. Anyone found repeatedly flouting recycling protocol will be issued fines of $100 for small businesses and single-family homes and up to $1,000 for large businesses and multiunit buildings. The city has put a moratorium on all fines until 2011 while residents learn the ropes.

Article here.

Obama Offers Farmers $50 Million to Go Organic

May 19, 2009

Organic farming just got gubernatorial. The US Department of Agriculture just announced funding for a new organics initiative–and Obama’s going to give $50 million in funding for farmers to make the switch to organic. Farmers will now be able to apply for funds that will aid them in making the transition to organic. And even though $50 million isn’t a whole hell of a lot in the $787 billion stimulus scheme of things, it’s nonetheless a nice boost for the organic industry–here’s how it’ll help.

While the funding itself is a positive move indeed, the publicity and credibility the move lends organic farming are indispensable. The Obamas have already thrown local farming into the limelight with the White House garden, but now it’s official: the government deems organic farming worthy of funding directly. Which is encouraging. The funds will support non-organic farmers as they learn skills like natural nutrient management, crop rotation, and pesticide-free pest control.

However, a few problems with the move remain: first, there’s a fairly tight deadline on the application for funds–May 29th is the cutoff. Not a lot of time for non-organic farmers pondering making the switch to take the plunge. Second, as I said before, $50 million isn’t enough–it’s a nice public pat on the back for the practice, as opposed to throwing some real support behind it. It could also be seen as a move designed to appease those small and organic farmers concerned with some new controversial farming laws.

But, a nice public pat on the back is better than getting ignored, right? And $50 million could go a long ways in getting more farms on the organic track.

For more details, check out the USDA press release