Serendipity involved in discovery of brilliant new blue pigment

Me, I’m a blue person. I just prefer blue to other colours. I do, though, have a hankering for purple of Roman Emperors. Just a hankering mark you, nothing in my wardrobe of this colour. I do have weeks when it’s no blue – as happened on our recently holiday.

New blue pigmentEnough about me. What about this new blue pigment. Discovered accidentally by researchers at Oregon State University [OSU] in the USA. Here’s what the University say about the discovery,

OSU chemist Mas Subramanian and his team were experimenting with new materials that could be used in electronics applications and they mixed manganese oxide – which is black in color – with other chemicals and heated them in a furnace to nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. One of their samples turned out to be a vivid blue. Oregon State graduate student Andrew Smith initially made these samples to study their electrical properties.

It turns out this new blue pigment is,

… formed by a unique crystal structure that allows the manganese ions to absorb red and green wavelengths of light, while only reflecting blue. The vibrant blue is so durable, and its compounds are so stable – even in oil and water – that the color does not fade.

These characteristics make the new pigment versatile for a variety of commercial products. Used in paints, for example, they can help keep buildings cool by reflecting infrared light. Better yet, Subramanian said, none of the pigment’s ingredients are toxic.

The new blue pigment is called ‘YInMn blue’. Methinks they need a better name than that. Can’t see me going into a shop and saying I’m looking for a shirt in YInMn blue. The Daily Mail article on the discovery goes into some of the science involved.

A useful piece of technology

Yesterday I had difficulty in emailing a large file. Ok for me to send, but not Ok for the people to whom I sent the email attachment. Apologies if you know all about what follows.

Speaking to one of the intended recipients, she suggested using WeTransfer. I sort of knew about this simple free application, but haven’t needed to use it. I did now.

All you need to do is enter the email address of the person to whom you want to have access to the file, your own email address, the file you want them to have access to, and a short message. The application notifies you that the recipient has downloaded the file. Simple.


Insight on global Internet trends in Mary Meeker’s 2016 technology report

Mary Meeker is a highly regarded technology analyst.  She produces an annual review of global Internet and technology trends derived from analysing huge volumes of data.

Below is the 2016 edition of Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report covers today’s Internet growth.  It’s a slide pack of over 200 pages. The Washington Post covers the report with “The 15 most important slides in Mary Meeker’s Internet trends report“.

Fun mapping your name to a location

The last mention here of the fun to be had with the Name Profiler was back in January 2008. The academics who created that website, which profiles how your family have moved around the UK, based purely on your surname, have produced an updated version. This is from their press release,

The new website, Namedpredicts where lovers met (or could potentially meet) using surnames – you could even use it to see if it can correctly guess where you met your Valentine!

The website, invites users to enter two surnames. It then generates a ‘heat map’ of the geographic concentrations of the two names overlaid on top of one another, thus identifying areas where the couple most probably met.

Go on, have a go. It’s a bit of fun.

Experienced a painless upgrade to Windows 10

In the past, like many I’ve experienced issues when upgrading to newer version of Microsoft operating systems. This experience goes way back. Please don’t ask how long.

Last week I listened to a friend whom I consider has reputable IT knowledge and skills. His view was don’t hang about, upgrade to Windows 10.

Windows 10

We’ve have four computers, two laptops running Windows 8.1, one desktop running Windows 7, and one  laptop banished to the back of the cupboard running Windows XP. My experience is of trouble free upgrade to Windows 10 of one of our Windows 8.1 laptops yesterday evening. Perhaps less than two hours from start to finish. Hopefully, the remaining two upgrades will be as painless [not bothering with the XP machine].

My photography horror story, and a sort of camera quiz: UPDATED

I’m reasonably happy with my current camera, a Sony Cyber-shot RX100, which I’ve had for a few years now. This model has been upgraded three times since I bought mine. It’s now an Rx-100 IV. My model has halved in price from the time of my purchase. Such is the increasing pace of technological development.

Camera collectionBefore I arrived at my current camera I had an earlier version Sony Cyber-shot. I dropped the camera a number of times. Eventually it was pretty much kaput. I sold it on EBay as something in need of repair.

Before that I’ve had a succession of cameras. Some have been expensive. All have been overtaken by technological innovation, some more so than others. Not too long ago I bought an SLR with interchangeable lenses, and found it too big to lug around. It gets used occasionally. I’m basically a happy snapper who tries hard with composition.

Here’s my collection of now mostly unused cameras. See if you can identify them. It’s a sort of quiz. I’ll post an update to this blog listing them all. [Click on image to enlarge]

UPDATE: Quiz Answer: The cameras are,

  • Left hand group: Fuji Finepix 6900Z, Olympus XA2, and Pentax Espio 115
  • Centre group: Sony α500, Sony Cyber-shot RX-100, Canon IXUS
  • Right hand group: Sony standard lens, Tamron wide angle lens

Will new Hovercraft bring about a resurgence in their use?

IoW HovercraftRecently we enjoyed a day trip to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Taking the fast catamaran from Portsmouth to Ryde – a journey of 22 minutes – we were overtaken by a hovercraft. This service from Portsmouth (Southsea) to Ryde takes just 8 minutes. It also has the benefit of arriving onshore, rather than at the end of Ryde Pier, which is a 10 minute walk from pier head to esplanade.

In yesterday’s online BBC magazine there’s an article asking ‘What happened to passenger hovercraft?’. It reported on possibly the only scheduled passenger hovercraft service in the world, noting why the Southsea to Ryde service remains,

The Hovertravel service between Southsea and Ryde survives because hovercraft are best suited to short routes like those across the Solent, says Robin Paine, co-author of On a Cushion of Air, a history of hovercraft. “There is also a need because the tide at Ryde goes out half a mile – hence the reason for Ryde Pier to accommodate conventional ferries, whereas the hovercraft can deliver people straight into Ryde.”

Interestingly, the article mentioned that two new hovercraft will be in service in 2016, giving a welcome boost to travel by hovercraft, as the article concludes,

“We will be a shop window for any existing or potential ferry operator who wants to be fast and frequent like us,” says Loretta Lale, Hovertravel’s commercial manager. “Our service has always attracted global interest and when the world sees what a 21st Century hovercraft can do we anticipate considerable interest.”

There’s an image gallery – HERE – of the progress in building the new craft.

A miscellany of interesting articles

A few articles curated by your truly, from a foreign and historical perspective.

New Yorker magazine: House of Secrets – Who owns London’s most expensive mansion?: Witanhurst, London’s largest private house, was built between 1913 and 1920 on an eleven-acre plot in Highgate, a wealthy hilltop neighborhood north of the city center. First owned by Arthur Crosfield, an English soap magnate ……..

History Today: Living in a material world: While it rightly condemns ISIS’ brutal destruction of the Middle East’s rich architectural heritage, is the West neglecting its own, more subtle cultural vandalism?

The Atlantic: Was Dickens a Thief: A new novel portrays the young writer of The Pickwick Papers as a conniving founder of modern mass culture.

The American Conservative: The Disastrous Economics of Scottish Independence: The SNP’s huge electoral gains do not change the monetary math that would collapse an autonomous Scotland.

History Today: Britain: apart from or a part of Europe?: The ‘Historians for Britain’ campaign believes that Britain’s unique history sets it apart from the rest of Europe.

About that token thingy in the article on my steam fix

Perhaps, just perhaps, you’re a curious soul who wondered the purpose of the token mentioned in a number of the photos in the previous article.

The Mid Hants Railway – The Watercress Line – website describes the use of tokens in signalling systems. Jeez, I was left confused. I needed a simpler explanation of the use of tokens. I’ve tried my best to find one. This best I can do, after reading over-complicated explanations in forums and such, is suggest Wikipedia’s good description HERE.

Single track railways can have trains in operation going in opposite directions, so long as they can pass each other on loop lines, or more normally at stations. A system to control access to the single line track is needed to avoid collision. At a basic level, a semaphore signal or traffic light signal controls train movement. A more secure system is needed to avoid mistakes. One such system is the use of tokens passed from the signalman to the train driver permitting access to the single track. This is part of Wikipedia’s description of the use of tokens,

Each single-line section is provided with a pair of token instruments, one at the signal box at each end. A supply of identical tokens is stored in the instruments, which are connected by telegraph lines. A token can be removed from one instrument only if both signalmen co-operate in agreeing to the release. Once a token has been removed, another cannot be removed until the token which is “out” is replaced in either instrument. By this means, it can be ensured that at any one time, only one token is available to be issued to a driver. Tokens belonging to adjacent sections have different configurations to prevent them being inserted into the wrong instrument.

Where the single line section is part of a through route, then it is likely that each passing train would require to surrender and collect a token at each token station. Key tokens are usually placed in a leather pouch attached to a hoop, enabling a fireman to put his arm through the hoop held up by the signalman.

Hope that’s clear. Here are some photo’s of the system in use at Mid Hants. Images of the key tokens can be seen HERE. The image inside the Arlesford signal box – courtesy of Mid Hants Railway – shows a token instrument on the left in red.

Passing the token7a-Inspecting the tokenArlesford Signal Box and Token Machine

Little advance in the development of Army lorries from 1908 to 1928

I’m probably mangling a quotation of some famous person – though I know not whom; ‘You should learn something new everyday’.  It was in this vein that I listened to road transport historian Roy Larkin talk at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum, Deepcut about the Early Development of Army Motor Lorries.

The kernel of his talk was that the development of Army motor lorries only advanced to a small degree between 1908 and 1928. This while technological developments in most other spheres took major steps forward. Mental Floss lists 12 such advances.

Roy Larkin described how the government, in the lead up to WWI, instigated a scheme of standard design of lorries for which the owners were paid an annual fee keeping them in good order, which enabled them to be purchased by the Army in a national emergency i.e. war.

At the outbreak of WW1, the Army had 900 lorries and 90,000 horses, and at the end of the war it had 56,500 lorries and 898,000 horses. Why so. Lorries were unreliable, spares provision poor, not suited the Belgian pave road surfaces, limited to the same speed as horse transport, affected by bomb damaged roads, and unable to get close to the front where movement was via trenches. Horses were simply more adaptable to the conditions.

After the war the price of new lorries was undercut by the large supply of reconditioned ex-army lorries. So, while technological developments advanced elsewhere in warfare, it wasn’t so with army lorries. Here are some images of lorries from the period, which show remarkable little change over the years.