Dec 12 2013

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Nov 22 2013


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WE HAD JOGGED a hundred feet, and already the man beside me was straining. But his face showed triumph— triumph over the impossible. Sixteen years ago in Fremont, Nebraska, a seed truck crushed Roger Charter’s legs. Both were amputated above the knee. For more than a decade the onetime star athlete fought for a normal life with traditional wood­en legs. But the hopelessness of it ate away at his spirit.


Now, thanks to that resilient spirit and new limbs made possible by the miracles of ad­vanced materials, Roger Charter (opposite) is the first such amputee ever to run. “My old wooden legs weighed 15 pounds apiece and hurt my stumps—I’d clomp two blocks and have to sit and rest,” said Mr. Charter, today a dispatcher for the Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha. “My new legs weigh half as much and flex like real.”


Those high-tech legs comprise a tidy little inventory of advanced materials: knees and ankles of light titanium alloys born of the space age, shins of a powerful composite of carbon fi­bers pressed into a matrix of resin, sockets of a flexible but strong new polyethylene to fit com­fortably on the residual limbs.


And the feet? “The most difficult part,” acknowledged John Sabolich, president of a prosthetics firm in Oklahoma City and a pio­neering designer in advanced materials. “The human arch is like a complex leaf spring, almost impossible to duplicate. Fortunately a new plastic provided the springiness.”Like Roger Charter, all of us will find our future shaped in part by profound changes taking place in the stuff things are made of.


Plastics, so versatile that the same sub­stance that makes your garbage bags also armors U. S. Army tanks, have surpassed metals in volume sold. For tomorrow manu­facturers are talking about synthetic fibers—cousins of the plastics—bringing us sweaters that change color with the turn of a dial and suits that change their cut at fashion’s whim.


Composites, pound for pound the strongest of all materials, have moved beyond pricey tennis rackets and golf clubs into the sinews of aircraft and missiles and now enter mass pro­duction. Ceramics, everyone’s dream mate­rial but a nightmare to work with, soon will bring cleaner-running auto engines in the fight against air pollution and global warming.


What about steel and other alloys, shoul­dered aside by the flashy synthetics? They are countering with new blends to recapture old markets. Even staid concrete is blossoming. There’s a materials scientist out there who is casting cement coil springs, and another who built a concrete hang glider.


The people concocting these materials will tell you they are working a revolution for cash loans for bad credit.

“For the first time in history,” observed Merton Flemings of the Massachusetts Insti­tute of Technology, “we can design materials precisely to fit our needs, molecule by mole­cule, atom by atom.”


They get help from incredibly sophisticated tools. New microscopes reveal atoms nestled in their lattices almost as clearly as we see eggs in a carton. Lasers lay down atoms on surfaces so artfully as to endow them with entirely new properties: Insulators become conductors, metals become glasses. Magnetic cannons fir­ing ion beams harden metals and ceramics against corrosives. Fulfilling an age-old dream, computer graphics enable materials scientists to study a complex molecule on a screen, rotate its shining galaxy of atoms, and select where to place an additional atom for a desired effect.


Yesterday materials makers were mainly metallurgists. Today they must also be chem­ists, ceramists, engineers, and physicists. In their labs you often see them staring at the wall; follow their gaze and you see a copy of the periodic table, that cryptic tabulation of the elements they so cleverly manipulate.


Little to their liking, these scientists find themselves caught up in global competition. Japan, the Soviet Union, the major European countries, China—all are locked in the cru­cial struggle to develop new materials and processes. At present the United States leads in research but often lags in commercializa­tion. And the stakes are high.


“Materials are the building blocks of the future,” observed Rudy Pariser, former research director for the Du Pont Company. “Today’s advanced material is tomorrow’s commodity.”

“Tomorrow” can be a long time. On aver­age, a decade elapses between test tube and marketplace for a new material, with exhaus­tive testing in between. Many deplore this slowness. But haste can be costly. I heard some of the horror stories: How Britain’s Rolls-Royce Ltd., switching from metal jet-engine blades to light compos­ites, went bust because the blades had not received a rigorous “goose test” to determine the effect of bird impacts — and they shattered.


How U. S. Liberty ships, welded together by the hundreds during World War II, often sank with tragic loss of life because defective steel lost its toughness in the icy North Atlantic, permitting small cracks to explode into catastrophic rents.


THE USUAL CAUTION flew out the win­dow, though, with the recent uproar over superconductors. Even in the arcane world of physics, superconductivity stands as a marvel: a state of matter in which electricity flows forever without resistance. No current is lost, no heat generated in superconductivity.


It does not come easily. Superconductors lose electrical resistance only when subjected to intense cold. Traditionally this has required immersion in liquid helium at 4 Kelvin (-452°F). This makes superconductivity cumbersome and vastly expensive, sharply limiting its uses. (We encounter it most fre­quently in the costly medical process known as magnetic resonance imaging.)

Since its discovery in 1911, scientists have searched for materials that would “go super­conductive” at higher temperatures. They made little progress until 1986, when physi­cists Georg Bednorz and Alex Milner in Zurich cooled a black ceramic pellet and saw it lose resistance at 30K. Many compare the signifi­cance of their Nobel Prize-winning achieve­ment to the development three decades earlier of the famed transistor.


Scientists rushed to their laboratories, spurred by the new discovery. Their goal was a material that would super conduct at a tem­perature above 77K—still cold, but the point at which nitrogen liquefies. Nitrogen is easier to handle than liquid helium and could reduce costs to one-tenth.

The Bednorz-Muller ceramic contained the rare earth lanthanum—not your everyday conductor —along with barium, copper, and oxygen. Experiments that followed success­fully replaced lanthanum with yttrium, then bismuth, and then thallium, and steadily increased the critical temperature. The historic leap—to 90K —came with an yttrium compound.


It triggered a scientific Mount St. Helens. Around the world TV cameras focused on coin-size magnets magically floating above superconducting ceramic disks amid mists of liquid nitrogen. Scientists regaled the press with visions of miniaturized superconducting motors, massive underground magnets stor­ing electricity to power entire cities, transmis­sion lines carrying current without loss of an electron, and, most exciting of all, magneti­cally levitated trains whispering across the land at 300 miles an hour.


How far off are such dramatic applications? Impressive progress is being made, but the obstacles are daunting. The crumbly ceramics of high-temperature superconductors lack the flexibility of metallic wires. They balk at car­rying heavy current loads: Exceed the critical current point, and they cease to superconduct. Solutions lag because scientists do not yet understand the basic physics involved—how high-temperature superconductors work.


The fact that they do work, however, has stimulated prodigious efforts to harness them.

One of the most intriguing artifacts to date is a small superconducting generator made in England. Its fist-size coil carries ceramic wire fabricated by Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in Runcorn. Though years from commer­cialization, it generates small amounts of power—and encouragement.


Simpler superconducting devices are also being developed, mainly for use in passive electronics systems such as communications receivers and amplifiers.”We were already in the ceramics business when the new superconductors came on the scene,” said Richard Cass of HiTc Super­conco in New Hope, Pennsylvania. “Radar receivers with our superconducting compo­nents give a signal at least 50 times stronger than copper; half a dozen of them are already being tested by the Army.”


IN WHAT GUISE will high-temperature superconductors first serve us consumers?

“Possibly in your TV antenna,” said Mr. Cass. “A component the size of a golf ball gives vastly better reception than conven­tional metal. Companies are developing liquid-nitrogen coolers the size of a cigarette pack. The two could fit inside your TV. Allow three years for the superconducting element.”


The advantages that superconductors offer in electronics are not lost on the U. S. military. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Strategic Defense Initiative Office have strong pro­grams for applications research. DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, funds 37 separate projects at a total cost of 30 million dollars a year. The appeal is strongest in space defense, where launch costs of $10,000 a pound inspire miniaturization.

“We’re going to need tremendous com­putational power in space,” said Harold Weinstock, who coordinates the Air Force program. “A Cray 2 computer is not large—no bigger than a few file cabinets. But there’s the monstrous cooling system, with its huge power requirements. Superconductors could slash its size and reduce the power need drastically.”

Computer circuitry itself offers an obvious market for superconductors. Here the current would be carried by thin films, just as films of gold and other conductors form the nerve sys­tems of today’s chips. Film experiments held high priority when I visited IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in New York.


“We’re working with all three of the ceramic superconductors,” said IBM’s Robert Laibowitz in his lab. “They can carry millions of amps per square centimeter—enough to operate many electronic devices. “But it’s hard to reproduce the films reli­ably. Further, the heat required to make superconducting films is too much for the sili­con chips they attach to. It could take years to work things out, but we’re making progress.”


So important is this technology to national competitiveness that a presidential advisory committee has urged special collaboration between business, universities, and govern­ment. IBM has joined forces with two other research leviathans, AT&T Bell Laboratories and MIT. A similar consortium links Du Pont, Hewlett-Packard, and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.


The effort to tame high-temperature super­conductors ferments worldwide. I saw inten­sive programs in Britain, France, and West Germany. All three are dwarfed by Japan’s.

Japanese scientists have filed more patent applications for superconductors than the rest of the world combined. More than 600 have flowed from Sumitomo Electric, Japan’s lead­ing manufacturer of electric wires and cables. While U. S. consortia are still organizing, a Japanese consortium headed by the renowned physicist Shoji Tanaka counts more than 90 scientists in elaborate new facilities.


What about the ultimate goal, a material that superconducts at room temperature? No need then for awkward liquid nitrogen. Many believe that if such a substance exists, its dis­covery awaits understanding of how high-temperature superconductivity works.


ODDLY it was ceramics, today’s headline material, that gave birth to materials science some 13,000 years ago. Villagers in Japan discovered that if you cooked a clay vessel, it hardened into an en­tirely new substance—ceramic pottery—and retained its hardness ever after. Unknowingly these early ceramists caused atoms in the clay to lock tightly together, in what chemists call covalent and ionic bonding.


Today ceramics are riding a resurgence of interest that some call the New Stone Age. Partisans point out that compared with steel, ceramics can be harder, lighter, stiffer, and more resistant to heat and corrosion. They can. But go back again to that ancient pottery: Drop it and it shatters. Today’s ceramics behave somewhat the same.


“The problem is brittleness,” explained Victor Zackay, a materials specialist with Tel­edyne Corporation. “Companies have spent billions of dollars to develop useful ceramic devices, and in most cases they have failed because of brittleness. Metals, because of their crystalline structure, can deform under stress instead of fracturing, and still do their job. Stress ceramics, and their atomic bonding prevents the crystalline planes from sliding over each other—deforming. Instead a crack opens, and the object fails catastrophically.


“Before ceramics are accepted as reliable, they must be made so they can fail gracefully. This will not be easy. But ceramics offer far too many advantages to discourage trying.”

The driving dream is the ceramic engine. “Ceramic engine parts offer enormous ad­vantages over metals,” said Richard Alliegro of the Norton Company, a Massachusetts research and development firm that already markets ceramic ball bearings. “Engines would run more efficiently if they could run hotter. But metal would melt; instead we in­stall costly radiators to get rid of that valuable heat. With ceramics we can harness the heat—and get rid of the bulky radiator.”


M OST EXPERTS AGREE that the greatest advances are being made in Japan. Here, where pottery began, govern­ment and industry have poured money into ceramics development.

The Japanese also have kindled intense grass-roots interest, known as ceramic fever. The fever traces in part to the relentless drive of the Kyocera Corporation, the leading mak­er of ceramic packages for computer chips.


“We saw a need to stimulate public accep­tance of ceramics to help drive industry,” said Ryusho Nagai, Kyocera’s director of interna­tional affairs. “We began producing consum­er items — ceramic scissors, ballpoint pens, sushi knives. Meanwhile MITI, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, built the Fine Ceramics Center. The fever spread.”With Kyocera chairman Kazuo Inamori, I admired ceramic products gracing the lobby of his Kyoto headquarters: scissors made of zirconium oxide, so hard as to rarely need sharpening; ceramic prostheses—skullcaps, elbows, hip joints, knees. We paused at turbo­charger rotors being built for an experimental Isuzu diesel. They were made of silicon ni­tride, increasingly the ceramic of choice.

“We minimize brittleness by quality con­trol,” said Mr. Inamori. “By a precise mix of our ceramic powders, in clean rooms kept free of contamination.”


Mr. Nagai and I toured a Kyocera plant just outside the sacred imperial city. Ball mills pul­verized powders of aluminum oxide and sili­con nitride to the fineness of particles in cigarette smoke. Products cooked inside squat furnaces, aglow like Shinto shrines. Techni­cians processed sheets of sapphire— alumi­num oxide ceramic —that would become tooth implants and microchip wafers. I stroked a slab bigger than my notebook.


To see ceramic auto parts in action, photog­rapher Chuck O’Rear and I followed the beacon of snow-sheathed Mount Fuji to Yoka­hama, to Isuzu’s Ceramic Research Institute.

Institute director Hideo Kawamura ges­tured, and technicians raised the hood of a low sedan emblazoned with the name Ceramic (page 769). Nothing fancy, I thought on seeing the metallic-looking diesel engine. But wait! The radiator was missing, the engine tiny. This car was using its heat, not rejecting it.


“We’ve put 5,000 kilometers on it at high speed, up to 150 kilometers an hour,” said Mr. Kawamura. “Our tests indicate a ceramic engine will last five times as long as metal.”

I spun the Ceramic around Isuzu’s test track, and it handled nicely. But it gave trou­ble starting. “Ceramic engineering is very dif­ficult,” acknowledged Mr. Kawamura.


Another Japanese partnership has staked a bold claim on the ceramic frontier. Each month NGK, the huge manufacturing com­pany, casts 8,000 turbocharger rotors that give pep and power to new Nissan Cedrics and Fair Ladys — appealing inducements to buyers in the land of ceramic fever. But there is a down­side: The rotors require costly individual spin testing for flaws, and the bulk price of ceramic powders hovers about $150 a pound.


The U. S. government effort, like Japan’s, has focused on the ceramic auto engine. To me it seemed quite skimpily funded; R & D for ceramic car parts received only 11.3 million dollars for fiscal 1989. A similar program develops ceramics for diesel truck engines.


Both are run by the Department of Energy.

The auto engine that emerges from the DOE program will be different from the one in your car. Instead of being powered by pistons, it will use a ceramic gas turbine strikingly simi­lar to a jet aircraft’s propulsion system.


“Ceramic car engines will run at 2500°F,” said Saunders Kramer, manager of the DOE program. “So far the rotors and other ceramic parts test well to 2200° and then fail rapidly. We need better ceramic powders to remove flaws and eliminate additives used in sinter­ing—the baking process.”

How long before ceramic engines hit U. S. highways? “We have millions of test miles to go before we prove them,” said Arvid Pasto of GTE, the electronics giant. “We’ve reduced parts failures to one in a million. The goal is one in a billion. I see commercialization in the late 1990s.” Asserts Saunders Kramer of DOE: “We’ll have automotive gas turbines on the road by the year 2000—at worst.”


Some experts wonder if the Japanese will maintain their costly commitment. “They’ve invested 20 years and billions of yen,” observed Sylvia Johnson, a ceramist at SRI International. “Some day they must decide how long they want to continue losing money. I’ve found them to be divided.”


Two advanced ceramics, both developed by Corning Incorporated, already play roles in our daily lives. One is the catalytic converter in your car’s exhaust system— a triumph of ce­ramic fabrication. The other is Corning Ware, a basic feature in 70 percent of U.S. kitchens.

Ceramics find increasing use as thin coat­ings on objects made of conventional materi­als. When next you visit your hardware store, look at the drill bits—the ones with the high price tags. These are coated with titanium nitride, a ceramic that extends the cutting life fivefold over steel. Many experts see in coat­ings a way to escape ceramics’ vexing prob­lems of brittleness and shaping.

The expertise of U. S. ceramics makers is growing. The Carborundum Company, a U. S. subsidiary of British Petroleum, is build­ing a plant in West Germany to manufacture silicon carbide seal rings for European autos. GTE turns out tens of thousands of small ceramic cutting tools daily. At Norton, Jack Lucek conducted me through the process that converts silicon nitride powder into gleaming black ball bearings.


Could these intriguing spheres defy the ceramics’ age-old curse of brittleness? “Try and break them,” suggested Mr. Lucek. I took two the size of marbles to a black­smith shop in Maryland. Smithies Peter Aus­tin and Dana Dameron locked tongs around one, then bludgeoned it mercilessly with a sledgehammer. Not a nick marred the ball bearing. But the steel plate beneath wore deep dimples from the blows. The tingling wonder we felt—was it a touch of ceramic fever?


FOR A NEW MATERIAL to succeed, it usu­ally must be able to muscle aside a metal or glass; after all, they got there first. The masters of this have been the syn­thetic plastics, a family of materials that didn’t exist a century ago.


In 1907 Belgian immigrant Leo Baekeland invented Bakelite, a hard synthetic substance for making billiard balls and wire insulation. But Baekeland did not completely understand the complex chemistry he exploited.


That triumph fell to Du Pont chemist Wal­lace H. Carothers. In the 1930s he combined carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen—the basic ingredients of you and me — into long molecular chains. Neoprene and nylon were the results—the first wholly synthetic mate­rials ever made by a knowing manipulation of molecular structure. They launched the mate­rials revolution that now reshapes our world.


“Our building units,” explained Du Pont’s Dr. Pariser, “are simple carbon-based mole­cules known as monomers, derived from oil, natural gas, and coal. With the help of cata­lysts we connect monomers into long molecu­lar chains known as polymers. The shape of a chain helps determine a polymer’s properties.


“With Kevlar, an aramid fiber, the mole­cules lie straight, giving strength and stiffness. In synthetic rubber they’re a tangle; stretch them straight and they try to curl up again like rubber bands, giving springiness.”Competition is keen in every area of materi­als development. But nowhere is it as fierce as in the group of polymers called plastics.


Today 60,000 different plastics vie for a place in the market. Each week six or so new ones arrive at Underwriters Laboratories out­side Chicago, where rigid testing for flam­mability and other properties qualifies plastics for components of UL-listed products.


Key targets, naturally, are Detroit’s auto assembly lines, which feed so heavily on metals and glass. At GE’s Application Devel­opment Center in suburban Southfield, a dis­play of plastic car parts—fenders, bumpers, control panels—peered like safari trophies from a lobby wall.


“One of our best known successes is plastic headlamps,” said Adgild Hop, the center’s di­rector. “Most Ford models use our integrated Lexan units.” He referred to GE’s renowned see-through plastic that also gives bulletproof protection to the Pontiff in his Popemobile. More recent breakthroughs for the auto indus­try are thermoplastic bumpers and fenders.


But the plastics people admit to problems. Plastics can cost a dollar or two a pound, while metals cost pennies. And in the cutthroat auto business a difference of pennies makes deci­sions. Further, plastic parts don’t always work as one-for-one replacements for metal.


EACH YEAR U. S. companies make 30 million tons of plastics—half the ton­nage of the nation’s wheat crop. Thirty percent goes into packaging—the myr­iad bags, bottles, and boxes that find niches in every environment from freezer to micro­wave. Far too many of these find a final niche in landfills or on the roadside.


Are the manufacturers responding? They are, along with a score of concerned state legislatures. The major debate is not whether to act, but how: Should plastics be re­quired to be degradable, like paper? Or should they be recyclable, like steel and aluminum?


Your average plastic container will linger on the roadside perhaps two centuries before those tight polymer molecules break down. How to hasten this? Research takes three approaches: biodegradability, in which a nat­ural additive such as cornstarch gives bacte­ria a toehold; chemical degradation, in which additives cause the plastic to crumble away; and photodegradability, in which the sun’s ultraviolet light attacks the molecules.


But degradability can weaken plastics. And environmentalists question the effects of de­cay residues. Degradability also could conflict with recycling, now gaining momentum.

To foster recycling, which now recaptures less than one percent of all plastics, nine states have laws requiring a deposit on plastic bot­tles. States are also weighing mandatory col­lection of plastics, now law in Rhode Island.


Recycling gets a boost with a joint venture by Du Pont and Waste Management, Inc. Next spring Du Pont will open the first two of five planned recycling plants, with trucks delivering an initial 30 million pounds a year.

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Nov 14 2013

A champion of research

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HE HAS BEEN A FRIEND to some of the most celebrated scientists of our day: Jane Goodall, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Louis S. B. Leakey, Dian Fossey. At crucial moments in their careers, he recognized the promise of their work and spoke out for funding their projects.

As Chairman of the Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration for the past 14 years, he has guided 50 million dollars in grants to more than 2,500 scientists. Under his leadership the committee’s annual budget has grown to more than five million dollars.

He has served the Society both as President (1967-1976) and Chairman of the Board of Trustees (1976-1987) and has left a legacy of competence and integrity on all our activities. Now, after 57 years of dedicated service, Dr. Melvin M. Payne has stepped down as the research committee’s chairman.

“When I first met Mel in 1963, I stood very much in awe of this man,” said Jane Goodall (with Payne, above left, in 1989), whose study of wild chimpanzees was launched gold by a Society grant in 1961. “I didn’t begin to appreciate the twinkle in his eyes until he spent a few days with me watching the chimpanzees” (above right, with Leonard C. Carmichael, left, and T. Dale Stewart, right, both members of the research committee).

Mel’s enthusiasm for research began early in his career. In 1934 and 1935 he helped organize the field camps outside Rapid City, South Dakota, for the historic balloon flights of Explorer I and Explorer II.

“Our reputation as a grant-making organization in science has grown tremendously since that time,” he explained. “Now, more than ever, the Society is putting great emphasis on environmental matters. This, it seems to me, calls for new blood, new energy. We’ll get that from our new chairman.”

Dr. Barry C. Bishop, I am pleased to say, has agreed to accept this role. A geographer who has conducted research in the Arctic, the Antarctic, and the Himalaya, where he scaled Mount Everest, Barry has served as vice chairman of the committee since 1984. Last year he organized the highly successful symposium “Earth ’88: Changing Geographic Perspectives.”

Barry, I know, will bring the same dedication and inspiration to his work that Mel demonstrated so well. And Mel, as the board’s chairman emeritus, will continue to give us the benefit of his valuable insights. We’re going to need all the wisdom and courage we can muster in the challenging years ahead.

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Oct 22 2013

Isolation Protects a Land of Beauty

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The sides of the mashhufs are made from two layers of light planking joined by thin struts. Wood for the planks is imported from Malaysia and Indonesia. Stouter wood from Iraq goes into the ribbing and thwarts. The finished mashhuf is covered with a layer of bitumen, which bubbles from natural wells in central Iraq. Water buffalo like the pitch, and sometimes nibble it off the boats.


Fewer war canoes are made now. They were always custom built and expensive. To­day the price tag is more than $200. You have to know good payday lender to help you with financial aid or show you the consolidation plans – so I was thinking can i consolidate my student loans to simplify my repayments and be able to afford the tag. Tarradas like Sayyid Sarwat’s are distinctive not only for their size, but for the rows of broad iron nailheads that decorate the inside planking. The nails are made by a small local colony of Subba, a religious sect that also makes silver ornaments for the tourist trade.


Tourism in the marshes? Once the idea seemed incredible, but the Iraqi Government has established two small guest facilities on the fringes. The marshes are vast, however, and such limited development will not de­stroy them or the way of life of the Ma`dan.

As our time in the marsh drew toward an end, Nik Wheeler and I relished each of its beauties more intensely: dark clouds of geese from Siberia, flocks of pelicans that turned the lagoon into an agitated sea of white feathers, the tiny, brilliantly colored king­fisher called the “sheikh’s daughter.”


Our tarrada plunged at last into the reed corridors toward the village of Sayyid Sarwat. We saw the sayyid’s stout figure in his door­way. As usual, he hurried to the water’s edge, arms wide, calling, “Welcome! Welcome! Come and rest. Bring food, tea, coffee! Bring pillows and mattresses!”


He wanted details of our trip. “Things are better now, eh?” How had his tarrada be­haved? Now, he bellowed cheerfully, we must stay with him a week and relax.

But our time was up.

I thanked the sayyid and warmly embraced Amara, Ajrum, and the others. Nik and I rowed across the waterway to the dirt road and found a car to take us back to Baghdad.

My journey had been doubly rewarding. The marshes, the Garden of Eden of local tradition and my own paradise, remained in­tact. More important, the lives of its people have changed—for the better.


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Sep 11 2013

Lift Your Mojo

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This nutritional combination will boost testosterone levels. Zinc is found in shellfish, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils and poultry. Foods high in vitamin B6 include tuna, avocado and chickpeas. Cold pressed oils are also very healthy.


Too much of the sweet stuff in your diet impacts production of a protein called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), which regulates the effects of testosterone in your body.


It’s worth losing those few extra pounds because a BMI increase of five points can cause a drop in testosterone equivalent to10 years of ageing, says the fournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.


A University of Utah study found that men experience a huge testosterone boost (of up to 20%) when their team wins , Watch out though, the reverse can be true when they lose.


As you move into the second phase of a relationship, it’s the chemicals that fire the reward system of your brain which create a sense of psychological and sexual fulfilment and happiness.


Butterflies in your stomach, obsessive thoughts, increased desire-these are all functions of a specific part of the brain and the chemicals it produces. They are clear indicators that you’ve passed through the lust stage and you’re starting to get closer to the old-fashioned idea of romance.


“We’ve used an MRI scanner to study images of people’s brains when they are looking at pictures of their partners,” explains Dr Fisher. “Attraction goes hand-in-hand with increased activity in the ventral teg mental area of the brain.”


This is where the body makes the products that turn into dopamine and nor epinephrine.


Dopamine is a stimulant- it’s what gives you the ability to walk all night or to talk till dawn. It also primes your sex drive in a different way to testosterone: more consistent and longer-lasting. “Norepinephrine ups the brain’s ability to store and recall new stimuli, helping you remember every detail of your early days together,” say Fisher.

One thing to be aware of next time a relationship goes from o-6omph in a matter of meetings: you, as a man, fall in love faster. “Men are more influenced by these brain chemicals,” says Fisher.

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Aug 17 2013

A Swan-watchers’ Bonanza

Published by under Travel

Our Canadian collaborator, Dr. William W. H. Gunn, says that the switch from aquat­ic feeding to field foraging started more than ten years ago in the marshes and river deltas of Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. The swans are now using these areas mostly for roosting. During the day they blanket nearby harvested fields. Here, swan-watchers have recorded more than a hundred individual neckbands in a day during spring migration.


Through increased field observations, it has become evident that whistlers are not adversely affected by this shift of feeding habits. For the past two springs, well over half of our total estimated 60,000 eastern population seem to have funneled through this southernmost tip of Canada.


But whistling swans still show a preference for aquatic food when available. Birds arriv­ing at Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Ref­uge in North Carolina in winter have in­creased from 5,000 to almost 20,000 in the past five years, and some of our Maryland neckbands have been resighted there. Matta­muskeet Lake supports abundant aquatic vegetation, but danger Turks in these appar­ently attractive waters. Ingestion of lead shot, accumulated on the bottom from years of hunting, killed nearly 1,000 swans in the win­ter of 1973-74. There is new debt consolidation for payday loans which can help you anyway.


We are discovering how the swans make use of the vitally important network of na­tional, state, provincial, and private wildlife refuges in the United States and Canada, and how they are adapting to habitat disturbances in their Arctic breeding grounds, notably in the northern Alaskan oil fields. Above all, perhaps, we are learning how bettes to live in harmony with these magnificent native waterfowl.

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Jul 02 2013

Have the emerging markets finally emerged?

Published by under Business

The emergence of the likes of China, India, Russia and Brazil has been well documented in recent years, but the best could be yet to come.

The United States remains the world’s largest economy but Asia and the emerging markets are catching up fast. According to Citi Investment Research, by 2050 the two biggest global economies will be India and China, and both will be more than twice the size of the US economy.

Current annual rates of economic growth

Balance of power returns to the East

Asia accounted for the majority of the world’s output in 18 of the last 20 centuries. Western nations emerged as the dominant economic superpowers following the industrial revolution.

Power is gradually returning to the East. The catalyst was China’s ascension to the World Trade Organisation in 2001, which helped accelerate economic growth to an average of 10.9% a year in the following decade. In four years China grew from providing 7% of the world’s exports to a staggering 21%. As wages rise in emerging nations a virtuous cycle is created as increasingly wealthy consumers spend more, stimulating further economic growth. But the economic growth is hampered with the flow of wrong information as in . Because it is the best option to cover from the frauds.

Companies and economies are in good shape. Much has happened in the last decade, a lot of it painful. The problems of indebted Western nations are well documented, but emerging nations have managed their economies prudently.

China’s debt is expected to decrease in the coming years, and in common with many other emerging nations, it has been saving for a rainy day, building up significant capital reserves which now stand at $3.2 trillion. Taiwan’s central bank foreign reserves are close to $400 billion, South Korea’s over $300 billion and India’s well over $200 billion. By contrast the US currently has just $46.3 billion of reserves.

Many companies are in robust health. Net debt to equity (the value of company assets) has fallen from a peak of over 60% in 1998 to almost 10% this year. This has helped many Asian companies withstand the financial crisis; they aren’t reliant on banks for funding, although there are many secure payday loans lenders and they are now well placed to prosper from further economic growth.

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May 23 2013

A global vision

Published by under Business

This new launch takes a tried-and­ tested approach and applies it globally.

Standard Life



All businesses start the same way: with a product or idea, and someone with vision to bring it to life. A product and the people behind it are two of a business’s most valuable assets. Get the right mix and the results can be spectacular. If you don’t have enough money to finance your idea, use title loan calculator to check how much you can apply for. Smaller companies tend to be nimble and dynamic, often coming up with a product to fill a niche in the market. If successful, growth can be rapid, but some will inevitably struggle. What is happening in the wider economy is less important because conquering an untapped segment of the market means growth is sustainable.

Technological advancements over the past 30 years, such as the internet, have enabled many smaller firms to level the playing field with established rivals. Take Rightmove, for example. Founded in 2000 it is now the UK’s largest estate agency service with an 82% share of the online property search market. The company floated in 2006 at £4 a share and today shares change hands for over £11 each. Investing with the right fund manager is important as smaller companies are higher risk.


Harry Nimmo has crafted a formidable reputation managing the SLI UK Smaller Companies Fund (which has reached capacity, and is no longer seeking new investments). Since launch in 1997 that fund has returned an impressive 463.3%, compared to 175.2% for the average fund in the sector, although past performance is not a guide to the future. Now Harry Nimmo is going global.


When the late Lord Weinstock, the former Chief Executive of GEC, became disillusioned with his wealth managers, he set up his own family office to look after his interests. It was named ‘Troy’ after his Derby-winning racehorse and has evolved into an accomplished fund management business.


The Troy philosophy is if you can reduce losses during downturns, you don’t have to regain as much when markets recover as the graph to the right illustrates. Like all stock market investments, however, their funds will fall in value as well as rise so you could get back less than you invest.


The manager of the Troy Trojan Income Fund, Francis Brooke, often lets cash build up if he believes he will be experienced team in the US, home to 50% of the global smaller company universe. This is why we were particularly excited to hear of the new SLI Global Smaller Companies Fund which is designed to capture the increasing array of opportunities Harry Nimmo is finding globally, including in higher risk emerging markets. The fund really represents a natural extension to a tried and tested approach.

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Feb 21 2013

Overlooked Oakland on the Rise

Published by under Uncategorized

Over the past two decades Oakland used its large share of prime waterfront to in­stall efficient containerized-cargo handling equipment. With its convenient rail and highway connections, Oakland prospered in the highly competitive world of Pacific Basin trade and far surpassed San Francisco as the bay area’s busiest port.

“We were hungrier and more aggressive than San Francisco,” city manager David Self told me in Oakland’s old, ornate city hall. “I can see us becoming the West Coast trade center. We have the hardware at the port, and we’re now beginning to cultivate some of the cultural and international trade aspects that the port is bringing.”

The city is banking on its newfound pros­perity to revitalize the downtown area. On Self’s wall hangs a drawing of a 130-block area showing plans for a new convention center, hotel, international trade center, and renovations of Victorian houses into shops and restaurants.

Self talked of the problems of a city whose population had dropped from 370,000 to 340,000 over the past 20 years and also consider loan consolidation plans. Learn more about payday loan consolidation. We joked about the comment by author Gertrude Stein, who once wrote of Oakland: “There is no there there.”

“We have our negatives,” he said. “We’ve had a history of people attractive to the news media—Huey Newton, the Black Panthers, Sonny Barger and his Hell’s Angels.

“Our population, which is 45 percent black, has begun growing again—and we now have some very active neighborhood organizations.”

But Oakland may have to start looking over its shoulder and northward up the shore to Richmond. That city has embarked on a massive waterfront redevelopment project that already includes some of the most modern container-handling facilities in the world—with room for more.

Lance Burris, Richmond’s former direc­tor of economic development, thinks it’s ironic that his city’s fortunes have been tied to the Japanese—first during World War II, now through trade. “The city bought 22 mil­lion dollars’ worth of real estate along the waterfront. Most of it was vacant—the site of the old Kaiser shipyards. That’s where Liberty ships and Victory ships that helped defeat the Japanese were built.

“The basin is where our country’s future is,” Burris said. “The Japanese lost the war, but now we’re bringing in their Hondas.”

When I drove through the redevelopment site, I saw that some old buildings still stood, their windows broken, their yards sprouted with weeds. Vast areas were freshly bull­dozed. Richmond’s waterfront plan calls for 200,000 square feet of commercial space, 3,500 condominiums and rental units, a 2,000-berth marina, park, and esplanade, woven together by trails and paths.

Tourism Outstrips City’s Industry

Despite what she sees happening at the ports across the bay, Dianne Feinstein, San Francisco’s brisk, plain-speaking mayor, remains optimistic.

“Oakland did ace us out of a lot of busi­ness,” she told me. “Where there were once about 60,000 blue-collar jobs on our docks, there are now 10,000. Bringing back mari­time business to the port is a high priority.

“But tourism is now our number one in­dustry,” she added. “Last year we had more than 3.5 million visitors.”

The largest new waterfront development is Pier 39, a collection of 150 restaurants and shops and a marina close by a much older competitor, Fisherman’s Wharf.

“Pier 39 is the first big waterfront rede­velopment this city was able to get off the ground, the first that replaces our rotting pier sheds with something that opens up the water for people to enjoy,” Mayor Feinstein said. “I want it to succeed. There’s plenty of room for shipping and tourism in San Fran­cisco. All exciting port cities have both.”

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Nov 22 2012

Unexpected Encounter

Published by under Travel

On the way out from the central desert we had an unexpected encounter which, brief as it was, had important consequences for me. It happened on the eighth day after leaving the Sip Wells. We were still deep in the Kalahari, moving slowly through a difficult tract of country into which the rains as yet had been unable to break. Since it was already late in the year, the plight of the desert was frightening. Almost all the grass was gone and only the broken-off stubble of another season left here and there, so thin, bleached and translucent that its shadow was little more than a darker form of the sunlight. The trees, most of them leafless, stood exposed against the penetrating light like bone in an X-ray plate. The little leaf there was looked burnt out and ready to crumble to ash on touch. Under such poor cover the deep sand was more conspicuous than ever, saffron at dawn and dusk, and sulphur in between. There was no shade anywhere solid enough to cool its burning sur­face. What there was, seemed scribbled on it by the pointed thorns like script on some Dead Sea scroll.

There was no game. Yet the animals had been that way and clearly found it wanting. They had dug all over the surface with hoof and claw for the roots and tubers on which their lives depend until the rains come, leaving large holes and trenches behind. Vast areas looked as if a bitter battle had been fought over them, and there was always a moment at the climax of the day when the sunstroke racking the earth produced the hallucination that one was moving across the pockmarked surface of some yellow wasteland of the moon. Even the birds were rare and in­conspicuous, except for a vulture always dangling over the death-bed scene like a spider suspended from the blue on a silky thread of air. The few birds we saw no longer sang, and darted about their business with a desperate look.


What we did see in plenty, though, were snakes. In all the years I have known the Kala­hari I have never seen so many nor any as splendid. I expect it was because there was little grass or leaf to hide them. The hotter and more barren the desert became, the more we saw of them. How right they looked in that desolate setting! There were horned little vipers as still as petrified wood and bright as ceiling light fixtures against a setting sun. There were heavy puff-adders coiled like slave-bangles made of a metal with a sullen glow, and large golden cobras pulling stitches of glistening twist through their torn cover of sand. Above all there were black mam­bas alert, shining and unafraid sitting upright in the sun. There was one even who clearly had been bird-nesting in vain and swung nonchalantly by the tail over our heads from the branch of a tree.


The farther we went in this way, the more we ourselves became affected by the desperation of the land. Though we carried enough food and water for our needs, the thirst, hunger and fear of the earth became our own. What made things worse was that the formidable thunder clouds which came storming over the horizon in the early afternoons seemed powerless to break through the iron-ring of drought around us. We would watch them grow until they stood over us like atomic explosions in the South Pacific. Their shadows would tumble from a far silver crest in folds of purple over our smarting senses, the darkened distances glitter with the flashes of their lightning, the earth shake with thunder and the wide desert suddenly shrink small into a posture of submission at their feet. Nothing, we thought, could now prevent it raining. Once even we saw the rain drops tumbling out of the base of the greatest of all the piles of digital camera. They came swarming down towards us like bees out of a startled hive, but before they could reach us the heat rising upwards from the earth evaporated them. Then as always the wind got up, spinning violently in the Dervish dust before charging upwards to shatter the great formations of cloud. We would watch them decline, torn and forlorn in the red of an apocalyptic sunset, and creep with the despair of the earth at heart into our beds on the sand. Before sleeping I would often think that my countrymen, of whom so many perished trying to cross the desert, named it well when they called it simply ‘The Great Thirstland’.

Kalahari Gemsbokke

Then, on the morning of the eighth day after leaving the Sip Wells, the sun rose faster and angrier than usual. There seemed to be no period of transition even, short as it is in these latitudes at that time of year. At one minute it was dark and cool, the next blindingly light and hot.

By noon we were all searching for somewhere to rest our vehicles and ourselves. When a flag of green with silver stars and strips showed up, I was prepared for it to be a mirage, an illusion of the day, but nevertheless steered for it. Slowly stars and strips diminished, the green increased and finally there stood, like a miracle before un­believers, a number of camel-thorn trees in leaf. They were giants of their kind, cunning and very old, and what added to the wonder of finding them there was the knowledge that they were growing in a part of the desert which was not typical camel-thorn country at all. Usually they grow in great numbers in their own favourite sands much farther away to the south, where they give vast areas of the desert an astonishingly park­like appearance. But here there was only this lone outpost, the survivor perhaps of a great colony when the desert was kinder to trees than it is today.

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