Pact needed to save biofuels

Posted in General on June 3, 2008 by BLOT -- blog leaders of tomorrow

“Nobody understands how $11 to $12 billion a year of subsidies in 2006 and protective tariff policies have had the effect of diverting 100 million tonnes of cereals from human consumption, mostly to satisfy a thirst for fuel for vehicles,” said FAO head Jacques Diouf, opening the summit at the body’s Rome headquarters.

The United States and Europe are promoting biofuels, which divert foodstuffs such as maize, sugar and palm oil into liquid fuel for motor vehicles.

Under U.S. plans, about a quarter of the U.S. maize crop will be channeled into ethanol production by 2022 and the European Union is aiming for as much as 10 percent of road transport fuel to be biofuel by 2020.

The former U.N. special investigator on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, called for a halt to such policies. His predecessor, Jean Ziegler, once branded the use of farmland to make fuel a “crime against humanity”.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Shafer played down the significance of biofuels, saying they contributed only around 3 percent of the sharp food price rises which have put an extra 100 million people at risk of hunger — far less than the 30 percent claimed by campaign groups.

Opponents say biofuels not only push up food prices, but also cause deforestation as rain forests in countries such as Indonesia are cleared for plantation, threatening biodiversity and cancelling any benefit in reducing greenhouse gases.

But President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva launched a fierce defense of Brazil’s booming sugar cane-based ethanol industry.

“We must clear away smokescreens raised by powerful lobbies who try to blame ethanol production for the recent inflation in food prices,” he said.

“It offends me to see fingers pointed against clean energy from biofuels, fingers soiled with oil and coal.”


Sachin’s view of IPL

Posted in Sports on June 2, 2008 by BLOT -- blog leaders of tomorrow

India batsman Sachin Tendulkar was all praise for the Indian Premier League after the inaugural season drew to a close on Sunday.

Tendulkar’s Mumbai Indians failed to make the semi-finals of the IPL despite a stirring comeback after a string of early losses, in which the ‘little master’ did not feature because of a groin injury.

But Tendulkar said he was pleased to have been involved in the IPL’s first season, which was won by Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals after a dramatic final against the Chennai Super Kings.

“I’m very happy to have been a part of the inaugural edition of the IPL. It has been a huge success,” Tendulkar told CNN’s Talk Asia programme.

“People all over the world are talking about it and I don’t mean just enthusiasts of the game.

“In Test cricket, the game gets a little boring for the casual spectator because there isn’t much excitement.

“In one-day cricket too there are phases where little action happens.

“But that’s not the case with the IPL. It’s so full of excitement.”

Tendulkar believes criticism from purists that Twenty20 ‘dumbs down’ the game is short-sighted.

He said: “I don’t think it’s dumbing down the game. There was the same criticism to one-day cricket when it started but, over the years, it has proved very successful.

“I think the IPL is a good way to globalise the game.”

There were several calls for Tendulkar to retire at the end of the World Cup in the Caribbean, but the 35-year-old batsman believes he still had plenty to give.

Tamil language

Posted in history & literature with tags on May 31, 2008 by BLOT -- blog leaders of tomorrow

Tamil people (also called Tamils or Tamilians) are a Dravidian language speaking people from the Indian subcontinent with a recorded history going back more than two millennia. The oldest Tamil communities are those of southern India and north-eastern Sri Lanka. There are also a number of Tamil emigrant communities scattered around the world, especially in central Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore, Pakistan and Mauritius with more recent emigrants found in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States, and Europe. There are an estimated 77 million Tamils around the world.

The art and architecture of the Tamil people encompass some of the greatest contributions of India to the art world. The music, the temple architecture and the stylised sculptures favoured by the Tamil people are still being learnt and practiced. The classical language of Tamil, one of the oldest languages in India, has the oldest extant literature amongst other Dravidian languages.

Unlike many ethnic groups, Tamils were not governed by a single political entity during most of their history; Tamilakam, the traditional name for the Tamil lands, was politically united for only a brief period, between the 9th and 12th centuries, under the Chola Empire. The Tamil identity is primarily linguistic, although in recent times the definition has been broadened to include emigrants of Tamil descent who maintain Tamil cultural traditions, even if they no longer regularly speak the language. Tamils are ethnically, linguistically and culturally related to the other Dravidian peoples of the Indian subcontinent.

Tamils have strong feelings towards the Tamil language, which is often venerated in literature as “Tamil̲an̲n̲ai“, “the Tamil mother”. It has historically been, and to large extent still is, central to the Tamil identity. Like the other languages of South India, it is a Dravidian language, unrelated to the Indo-European languages of northern India. The language has been far less influenced by Sanskrit than the other Dravidian languages, and preserves many features of Proto-Dravidian, though modern-day spoken Tamil in Tamil Nadu, freely uses loanwords from Sanskrit and English. Tamil literature is of considerable antiquity, and was recognised as a classical language by the government of India.


Posted in Sports on May 29, 2008 by BLOT -- blog leaders of tomorrow

The Shane Warne led Jaipur team, which has sprung as a surprise package in the Indian Premier League would want to continue their splendid run against Delhi in the first semi final in Mumbai at the Wankhede.

The two teams, which finished first and fourth respectively in the preliminary phase of the Twenty20 league, are more or less evenly matched, at least on paper to produce a rivetting cricket match in front of a packed Wankhede gallary.

The team that hold its own in a battle of nerves would go through to the finals and play the winners of the second semi final to be played between Mohali and Chennai on Saturday.

Japiur and Delhi go into the semis with a 1-1 win loss record against each other in the league stages. While Jaipur won 11 of their 14 matches, Delhi managed seven wins, with one game getting washed out due to rain.

Both these teams would be hoping their top orders continue to come out all guns blazing like they have done all of the last month and a half.


Posted in Sports on May 28, 2008 by BLOT -- blog leaders of tomorrow

Force India’s billionaire co-owner Vijay Mallya has conceded to being “shattered” and close to tears after seeing his dreams of Monaco glory cruelly wrecked.

Adrian Sutil was on course to score the team’s first points when running fourth with only 10 minutes of the two-hour race to run around the streets of Monte Carlo on Sunday.

But the young German was rear-ended by reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen, who lost control of his Ferrari on a damp part of the circuit emerging out of the tunnel.

Sutil was later seen in floods of tears inside the team garage, and although Raikkonen apologised, the shunt has potentially cost Force India around £5million in points bonuses.

“I was close to tears too – so were many of us actually because we were obviously shattered,” remarked Mallya.

“I’ve had a lot of SMS (text) messages and phone calls from supporters in India, all of whom were highly emotional.

“We were so looking forward to a spectacular result, which was not to be.

“Kimi just rear-ended him. It wasn’t as if it was an overtaking manoeuvre.

“Something drastic must have happened, because you wouldn’t expect a world champion to run into somebody.

“It was sad for us, that moment was a very emotional moment. But such things happen in racing, that’s what I’ve been telling everyone.

“F1 wouldn’t be F1 if it wasn’t as unpredictable as it is, but we’ll get over it, and take away a lot of positives.”

One of those is Mallya believes Sutil has proved he is worthy of his race seat following a poor start to the season.

“Adrian has a lot of ability and talent, and we’re glad and proud to have him in our team,” added Mallya.

“Some people started questioning my decision to keep him when he didn’t finish a few races at the start of the season, but I think he has more than redeemed himself.”

Mallya is hoping the tide of good fortune will soon turn the way of his team, as he said: “We don’t want to base our earning points on exceptional circumstances.

“The team has to be good and competitive, and that’s what we’re driving for.

Phoenix on way to Mars

Posted in Research on April 29, 2008 by BLOT -- blog leaders of tomorrow

Phoenix is a robotic spacecraft on a space exploration mission on Mars under the Mars Scout Program. The scientists conducting the mission will use instruments aboard the Phoenix lander to search for environments suitable for microbial life on Mars, and to research the history of water there. The multi-agency program is headed by the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, under the direction of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The program is a partnership of universities in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, the Philippines, Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom, NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, and other aerospace companies.

Phoenix is the sixth successful landing on Mars, out of twelve total international attempts (the sixth successful landing of seven American attempts). It is the third successful static lander and the first since Viking 2

Nanostructures raise solar cell efficiency

Posted in Sci-Fi on April 10, 2008 by BLOT -- blog leaders of tomorrow

researchers are working to develop new devices that could lead to big gains in thin-film solar cell efficiency by increasing both the number of photons thin-film solar cells absorb and the number of excited electrons the same devices collect.

Past approach

In the past, engineers have tried to add quantum wells to thin-film solar cell devices by stacking several quantum-well layers to achieve a high probability of absorption of low-energy photons.

This approach, however, can be counter productive because electron-hole pairs get stuck in the quantum wells, making it impossible for them to generate current for the device.

From the outside, the new optimized devices behave just like traditional thin-film solar cells. But inside, nanostructures enable the solar cells to circumvent an important trade-off that has stymied past attempts to incorporate quantum wells into thin-film solar cells in order to boost device efficiency.

Quantum wells can increase solar cell efficiency by raising photon absorption by lowering the energy band gap.

Thanks to nanostructures that scatter and channel light, University of California, San Diego, electrical engineers are working toward thin-film “single junction” solar cells with the potential for nearly 45 per cent sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiencies.

“The most recent estimate of the maximum power conversion efficiency — under normal illumination conditions — that one can expect with our new thin-film solar cell approach is approximately 45 per cent.

This is a very large improvement over the 31 per cent maximum theoretical efficiency for today’s solar cells with classic p-n junctions,” said Edward Yu, the Principal Investigator.

The UC San Diego engineers are using nanoparticles to scatter incoming light into paths within the quantum well region — paths that run parallel to the p-n junction. This gives photons more time to be absorbed without having to stack the quantum wells to a thickness that makes it hard for electrons and holes to escape, according to a University of California, San Diego