The latest addition to my Wired articles.
Here’s the Cadbury take on what’s inside Highlights: http://bit.ly/rsxNCJ.
I’ve added a new Chemhistory article to my website. This time it’s Aluminium.
Despite urgings by Government ministers to stay away, thousands of ordinary people lined the route taken by the hearse carrying the body of the last known British chemist, 81-year old Joanna Dalton, who died at her home in Manchester. Many more attended the church and cemetery where she was buried, and this led to unpleasant scenes when Eco-police moved in to remove banned items that were being openly flaunted.
Some of the mourners had brought with them mementos of the products that were once the mainstays of the notorious chemical industry, which blighted these islands before being banned in the 2050s. Police confiscated CDs, headache cures, PVC toys, plastic bottles, perfumes, polyester clothing, and Lycra garments, which those arrested claimed to have discovered in the homes of elderly relatives.
We suspect that many of the items, and especially the ibuprofen tablets and CDs, had been brought into the country by the growing number of chemical smugglers,’ said the Chief Eco-Constable of Manchester, adding that some were clearly of Chinese origin.
Interviewed by our reporter, one old lady tried to justify what she had done: “In the old days people led cleaner, healthier, pain-free lives, and they could openly buy perfumes, shampoos, plastic goods, and even paint. I just wanted to pay my respects to the last of the chemists who for a brief time liberated Britons from lives of dirt, pain and drudgery.
Growing opposition to siting wind farms near homes and in national parks has led to a sharp decline in this form of energy, especially in Europe, but a new form of power cable now means that they can be sited in remote places, even on uninhabited islands, and yet the power they generate can be delivered to cities hundreds of miles away without transmission losses. The cables are made from a new flexible ceramic which means that current flowing along them generates no heat because it meets no resistance.
The zero-resistance material is made from a mixture of metal oxides and special graphene polymer. It was first made in 2025 by a group of chemists working at the University of Beijing who discovered a metal oxide superconductor that worked at 30 °C. Although this ceramic material was brittle and unsuited to forming wires, further research showed that by adding small amounts of a boron compound and modified graphene to the material it became flexible and without losing its superconductivity.
The University of Beijing patented the process for making the wires and are now set to reap royalties of more than $10 million a year from the USA alone. Production of Supercond cables began at a plant in Phoenix, Arizona, last year and is already turning out a million miles a year and exporting half of their output it to other countries in the Americas. A plant is also nearing completion in Denmark and this will provide cable for Europe where opposition to wind farms has been particularly vocal. Now there are plans to build wind farms in the north of Scandinavia as well as on remove Scottish islands and Supercond cables from these to the rest of Europe should enable wind energy to provide the long-hoped for 25% contribution to Europe’s energy needs.
I’m adding articles from my early writing career to my website. This one is from the 1985 Christmas issue of New Scientist.
It’s all about Arsenic.