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£5m Oxford Circus Diagonal Crossing

Inspired by the world famous diagonal Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, also known as the busiest crossing in the world, now Oxford Circus has its own diagonal crossing. Boris raised the meaning of “Oxford Circus” to a whole new level by striking a gong this morning to mark the opening of the diagonal crossing.

The original Shibuya diagonal crossing in Tokyo.

So, they have one diagonal, we have two, and we have Boris striking a gong. London – Tokyo, 1-0. But is it worth 5million pounds of taxpayers money? Meaning, 5million / 60million ~ 8 pence per person? Definitely! I would sure pay 8 pence to see Boris strike a gong again.

Dripless teapots: here’s my handle, here’s my superhydrophobic spout

Why do teapots dribble? French scientists say it’s all about the simple subject of surface wettability

Pouring tea from a teapot

The teapot dribble effect could be made a thing of the past, say French scientists, who it has to be said come from a country of coffee drinkers. Photograph: Graham Turner

For those who hate tea stains on their pristine linen tablecloth, succour is at hand: scientists in France have solved the perennial puzzle of the dribbling teapot. Fluids experts at the University of Lyon have produced a four-page report [pdf] that claims to offer a solution, and as often can be the case with long-unresolved problems, it is a simple one.

“Surface wettability is an unexpected key factor in controlling flow separation and dripping, the latter being completely suppressed in the limit of superhydrophobic substrates,” the report explains. “This unforeseen coupling is rationalised in terms of a novel hydro-capillary adhesion framework, which couples inertial flows to surface wettability effects. This description of flow separation successfully captures the observed dependence on the various experimental parameters – wettability, flow velocity, solid surface edge curvature. As a further illustration of this coupling, a real-time control of dripping is demonstrated using electro-wetting for contact angle actuation.”

This scientific jargon boils down to the fact that tea tends to stick to the inside of the spout as it is poured. The flow of tea then begins to stop-start, causing a dribble effect. The team, led by Cyril Duez, say the use of “superhydrophobic surfaces” – essentially water-repelling linings – on the inside of the spout can avoid dripping and “thus beat the ‘teapot effect'”.

The scientists are not the first to bend their minds towards the problem. This year the retailer Debenhams claimed to have designed a dribble-free teapot with a “multi-faceted solution” that involved a larger spout, “tea bag baffle” and redesigned lid. As far back as 1998 the British inventor Damini Kumarb was hawking her solution – the D-pot – around the BBC and other media groups. Her solution was a groove under the spout.

The latest intensive research appears to be the first to tackle the dribbling problem from an explicitly scientific perspective. The Lyon team’s verdict: marry a superhydrophobic surface with the more traditional method of using a sharp edge at the end of the spout, creating a drip- and hassle-free pot.

What about other brew-time dilemmas? In 2003 the Royal Society of Chemistry released guidance on how to make the perfect cup of tea [pdf], and in 1998 researchers from the University of Bristol published a scientific formula for dunking a biscuit.

Long may science’s dalliance with snack-based problems continue.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/blog/2009/oct/29/teapot-drips-solution

Deforestation and the true cost of Europe’s cheap meat
Cheap meat has become a way of life in much of Europe, but the full price is being paid across Latin America as vast soya plantations and their attendant chemicals lead to poisonings and violence. From the Ecologist, part of the Guardian Environment Network

Cheap meat has become a way of life in much of Europe, but the full price is being paid across Latin America as vast soya plantations and their attendant chemicals lead to poisonings and violence

Much of the cheap meat and dairy produce sold in supermarkets across Europe is arriving as a result of serious human rights abuses and environmental damage in one of Latin America’s most impoverished countries, according to a new film launched in conjunction with the Ecologist Film Unit.

An investigation in Paraguay has discovered that vast plantations of soy, principally grown for use in intensively-farmed animal feed, are responsible for a catalogue of social and ecological problems, including the forced eviction of rural communities, landlessness, poverty, excessive use of pesticides, deforestation and rising food insecurity.

The film, Killing Fields: the battle to feed factory farms – produced by a coalition of pressure groups including Friends of the Earth, Food and Water Watch and with European coordination by Via Campesina, – documents the experiences of some of those caught up in Paraguay’s growing conflict over soy farming and reveals, for the first time, how intensive animal farming across the EU, including the UK, is fuelling the problem.

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US Chamber of Commerce falls victim to ‘fraud’over climate hoax

Environmental activists held spoof press conference announcing U-turn in the organisation’s stance on climate legislation

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2009/oct/19/chamber-commerce-climate-hoax

It looked – at first – eerily like a routine news event. A man in a nondescript dark suit standing at a podium in one of the smaller meeting rooms on the 13th floor of the National Press Club. But then suddenly it wasn’t.

“There is only one way to do business and that is to pass a climate bill quickly so this December President Obama can go to Copenhagen and negotiate with a strong position,” said the speaker – who said he represented the US Chamber of Commerce.

The statement represented a complete repudiation of the Chamber’s earlier opposition to climate change legislation. The hard line had triggered walk-outs from Apple and a handful of other high-profile companies in the past few weeks. The companies are trying to press the business organisation to support the bill by the senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer that is to be debated by the Senate next week.

Or maybe not. Barely 20 minutes into the Q&A section of the press conference, an agitated spokesman for the Chamber burst into the room, screaming that the event was a hoax.

In today’s instant news era, that wasn’t quite soon enough. Several green organisations tweeted or blogged on the about-face. Reuters news agency put out a straight news story about the Chamber’s apparent U-turn, and the Washington Post and New York Times put the story on their news sites (both later removed the stories from their websites). CNBC actually sought – and got – comment from analysts. It also broke its programming to have a reporter read out the fake press release.

The spoof got under way with a press release inviting journalists to a morning news conference. Most reporters overlooked the misspelling of the Chamber president’s name.

The phony spokesman said the Chamber was not happy with the bill before the Senate and would push for a carbon tax – not the greenest of positions. But he added: “If cap and trade is all we can get we have to take it so at least we can have something to put in President Obama’s hands when he goes to Copenhagen.”

He went out even further on a limb when he called clean coal “a hoax”, saying the money would be better spent on solar energy research. “Clean technology has not only not been proven. It basically doesn’t exist,” he said.

It was about that time, the real Chamber spokesman burst into the room – and had a mild shoving match at the podium. “What happened today was a fraud and I believe illegal,” Eric Wohlschlegel said. The spokesman said he learned of the hoax when a reporter came to the Chamber office looking for the press conference. Wohlschlegel said he immediately leaped into a taxi.

The spoof appears to be the work of the Avaaz Action Factory, which put a post on its website promising to “make this the worst Monday ever for the anti-climate PR machine at the US chamber of commerce”.

And while a number of reporters still pressed Wohlschlegel for signs of a shift in the Chamber’s position, he soon set them straight. The Chamber was as opposed to climate change legislation as ever.