Thursday, January 4, 2018

A fire on Sunday night in the seven-storey carpark for the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England destroyed almost all the vehicles parked inside and led to cancellation of the final evening of the Liverpool International Horse Show and evacuation of nearby blocks of flats. The blaze reportedly started with a parked Range Rover Discovery.

Investigators with the fire brigade stated that they believe the fire began with an accidental engine fire in the Range Rover at about 4.30 pm. The first call was made at 4.42 and firefighters arrived eight minutes after that. Ultimately twelve engines and 85 firefighters were involved in combatting the blaze. Aerial appliances were used and also three high-volume pumps. Fed by the fuel in vehicles parked inside, the temperature of the fire in the carpark is believed to have reached as high as 1,000°C. It was too hot to be extinguished with water from hydrants, so a high-volume pump was used to draw water from the River Mersey, and two more were brought from other fire brigades in the region.

The carpark has seven storeys and a capacity of 1,600 vehicles, and approximately 1,300 were parked in it when the fire broke out. According to Dan Stephens, chief fire officer for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, almost all of them were destroyed, with the exception of a few parked on the top level and at corners. “With these very high temperatures, you were never going to put the fire out without the whole building taking hold. The speed at which the fire spreads means you simply aren’t going to put it out,” said Stephens.

The carpark itself was severely damaged; according to Joe Anderson, the mayor of Liverpool. It is not in danger of collapsing but will have to be demolished, which will be difficult with the many burned-out cars still inside it, Anderson told the BBC.

According to Stephens, there were no serious injuries: one woman injured her hand, and two people were treated for smoke inhalation. A spokesman for the Echo Arena also stated that all animals were safe. All horses were successfully evacuated from the carpark and then removed from the stables after smoke spread to them. Six dogs were also rescued unharmed, two on a lower level in the early stages of the fire and four that had been left in a car on the top level, freed by firefighters on Monday after the fire was put out.

The final evening of the four-day Liverpool International Horse Show had been scheduled to begin at 7.30, and had to be cancelled. Many attendees were stranded in the city on New Year’s Eve night. Merseyside police directed people to the Pullman Hotel, where Red Cross assistance was available, and the Liverpool City Council set up an assistance centre at the Lifestyles Gym. A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers has said that insurance companies will “move very quickly” to reimburse owners whose vehicles were destroyed.

Nearby blocks of flats were evacuated because of the smoke. Eyewitnesses reported hearing what they at first thought were firecrackers, then “multiple explosions”, “bangs and popping”, “the bangs of car windows exploding”. People reported leaving everything in their cars, including their cellphones, and running for their lives.

Mayor Anderson tweeted that cuts to fire services over the last two years made it significantly harder to fight the fire and might have caused it not to be controllable. He also suggested that fire safety in multi-storey carparks had not been sufficiently considered and that installing sprinklers in them might help stop future fires before they become unmanageable, in a letter to Nick Hurd, a member of Parliament.

Thursday, October 13, 2005Clashes between gunmen and police have broken out in the capital of the southern Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria where Chechen rebels claimed responsibility for the insurgency.

The fighting in Nalchik started after a coordinated set of attacks were carried out against city security forces and police stations. The airport and government buildings were also targeted. The strike is believed to have come from anywhere between 60 to 500 insurgents. The insurgents used heavy arms fire, coupled with explosions at the outset, that lasted five hours. A police station has been captured and hostages taken.

According to reports from Russian press sources, 61 of the gunmen have been killed and 17 have been captured, and there may be dozens of civilian casualties. Seven policemen were also killed. Several government buildings throughout the city are on fire and some schools have been involved and evacuated accordingly.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered the army to seal off the city and shoot any insurgent who tries to escape. Officials in the city are saying the situation is slowly returning to normal.

Monday, December 11, 2006

On December 7, BBC News reported a story about Dr James Anderson, a teacher in the Computer Science department at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. In the report it was stated that Anderson had “solved a very important problem” that was 1200 years old, the problem of division by zero. According to the BBC, Anderson had created a new number, that he had named “nullity”, that lay outside of the real number line. Anderson terms this number a “transreal number”, and denotes it with the Greek letter ? {\displaystyle \Phi } . He had taught this number to pupils at Highdown School, in Emmer Green, Reading.

The BBC report provoked many reactions from mathematicians and others.

In reaction to the story, Mark C. Chu-Carroll, a computer scientist and researcher, posted a web log entry describing Anderson as an “idiot math teacher”, and describing the BBC’s story as “absolutely infuriating” and a story that “does an excellent job of demonstrating what total innumerate idiots reporters are”. Chu-Carroll stated that there was, in fact, no actual problem to be solved in the first place. “There is no number that meaningfully expresses the concept of what it means to divide by zero.”, he wrote, stating that all that Anderson had done was “assign a name to the concept of ‘not a number'”, something which was “not new” in that the IEEE floating-point standard, which describes how computers represent floating-point numbers, had included a concept of “not a number”, termed “NaN“, since 1985. Chu-Carroll further continued:

“Basically, he’s defined a non-solution to a non-problem. And by teaching it to his students, he’s doing them a great disservice. They’re going to leave his class believing that he’s a great genius who’s solved a supposed fundamental problem of math, and believing in this silly nullity thing as a valid mathematical concept.
“It’s not like there isn’t already enough stuff in basic math for kids to learn; there’s no excuse for taking advantage of a passive audience to shove this nonsense down their throats as an exercise in self-aggrandizement.
“To make matters worse, this idiot is a computer science professor! No one who’s studied CS should be able to get away with believing that re-inventing the concept of NaN is something noteworthy or profound; and no one who’s studied CS should think that defining meaningless values can somehow magically make invalid computations produce meaningful results. I’m ashamed for my field.”

There have been a wide range of other reactions from other people to the BBC news story. Comments range from the humorous and the ironic, such as the B1FF-style observation that “DIVIDION[sic] BY ZERO IS IMPOSSIBLE BECAUSE MY CALCULATOR SAYS SO AND IT IS THE TRUTH” and the Chuck Norris Fact that “Only Chuck Norris can divide by zero.” (to which another reader replied “Chuck Norris just looks at zero, and it divides itself.”); through vigourous defences of Dr Anderson, with several people quoting the lyrics to Ira Gershwin‘s song “They All Laughed (At Christopher Columbus)”; to detailed mathematical discussions of Anderson’s proposed axioms of transfinite numbers.

Several readers have commented that they consider this to have damaged the reputation of the Computer Science department, and even the reputation of the University of Reading as a whole. “By publishing his childish nonsense the BBC actively harms the reputation of Reading University.” wrote one reader. “Looking forward to seeing Reading University maths application plummit.” wrote another. “Ignore all research papers from the University of Reading.” wrote a third. “I’m not sure why you refer to Reading as a ‘university’. This is a place the BBC reports as closing down its physics department because it’s too hard. Lecturers at Reading should stick to folk dancing and knitting, leaving academic subjects to grown ups.” wrote a fourth. Steve Kramarsky lamented that Dr Anderson is not from the “University of ‘Rithmetic“.

Several readers criticised the journalists at the BBC who ran the story for not apparently contacting any mathematicians about Dr Anderson’s idea. “Journalists are meant to check facts, not just accept whatever they are told by a self-interested third party and publish it without question.” wrote one reader on the BBC’s web site. However, on Slashdot another reader countered “The report is from Berkshire local news. Berkshire! Do you really expect a local news team to have a maths specialist? Finding a newsworthy story in Berkshire probably isn’t that easy, so local journalists have to cover any piece of fluff that comes up. Your attitude to the journalist should be sympathy, not scorn.”

Ben Goldacre, author of the Bad Science column in The Guardian, wrote on his web log that “what is odd is a reporter, editor, producer, newsroom, team, cameraman, soundman, TV channel, web editor, web copy writer, and so on, all thinking it’s a good idea to cover a brilliant new scientific breakthrough whilst clearly knowing nothing about the context. Maths isn’t that hard, you could even make a call to a mathematician about it.”, continuing that “it’s all very well for the BBC to think they’re being balanced and clever getting Dr Anderson back in to answer queries about his theory on Tuesday, but that rather skips the issue, and shines the spotlight quite unfairly on him (he looks like a very alright bloke to me).”.

From reading comments on his own web log as well as elsewhere, Goldacre concluded that he thought that “a lot of people might feel it’s reporter Ben Moore, and the rest of his doubtless extensive team, the people who drove the story, who we’d want to see answering the questions from the mathematicians.”.

Andrej Bauer, a professional mathematician from Slovenia writing on the Bad Science web log, stated that “whoever reported on this failed to call a university professor to check whether it was really new. Any university professor would have told this reporter that there are many ways of dealing with division by zero, and that Mr. Anderson’s was just one of known ones.”

Ollie Williams, one of the BBC Radio Berkshire reporters who wrote the BBC story, initially stated that “It seems odd to me that his theory would get as far as television if it’s so easily blown out of the water by visitors to our site, so there must be something more to it.” and directly responded to criticisms of BBC journalism on several points on his web log.

He pointed out that people should remember that his target audience was local people in Berkshire with no mathematical knowledge, and that he was “not writing for a global audience of mathematicians”. “Some people have had a go at Dr Anderson for using simplified terminology too,” he continued, “but he knows we’re playing to a mainstream audience, and at the time we filmed him, he was showing his theory to a class of schoolchildren. Those circumstances were never going to breed an in-depth half-hour scientific discussion, and none of our regular readers would want that.”.

On the matter of fact checking, he replied that “if you only want us to report scientific news once it’s appeared, peer-reviewed, in a recognised journal, it’s going to be very dry, and it probably won’t be news.”, adding that “It’s not for the BBC to become a journal of mathematics — that’s the job of journals of mathematics. It’s for the BBC to provide lively science reporting that engages and involves people. And if you look at the original page, you’ll find a list as long as your arm of engaged and involved people.”.

Williams pointed out that “We did not present Dr Anderson’s theory as gospel, although with hindsight it could have been made clearer that this is very much a theory and by no means universally accepted. But we certainly weren’t shouting a mathematical revolution from the rooftops. Dr Anderson has, in one or two places, been chastised for coming to the media with his theory instead of his peers — a sure sign of a quack, boffin and/or crank according to one blogger. Actually, one of our reporters happened to meet him during a demonstration against the closure of the university’s physics department a couple of weeks ago, got chatting, and discovered Dr Anderson reckoned he was onto something. He certainly didn’t break the door down looking for media coverage.”.

Some commentators, at the BBC web page and at Slashdot, have attempted serious mathematical descriptions of what Anderson has done, and subjected it to analysis. One description was that Anderson has taken the field of real numbers and given it complete closure so that all six of the common arithmetic operators were surjective functions, resulting in “an object which is barely a commutative ring (with operators with tons of funky corner cases)” and no actual gain “in terms of new theorems or strong relation statements from the extra axioms he has to tack on”.

Jamie Sawyer, a mathematics undergraduate at the University of Warwick writing in the Warwick Maths Society discussion forum, describes what Anderson has done as deciding that R ? { ? ? , + ? } {\displaystyle \mathbb {R} \cup \lbrace -\infty ,+\infty \rbrace } , the so-called extended real number line, is “not good enough […] because of the wonderful issue of what 0 0 {\displaystyle {\frac {0}{0}}} is equal to” and therefore creating a number system R ? { ? ? , ? , + ? } {\displaystyle \mathbb {R} \cup \lbrace -\infty ,\Phi ,+\infty \rbrace } .

Andrej Bauer stated that Anderson’s axioms of transreal arithmetic “are far from being original. First, you can adjoin + ? {\displaystyle +\infty } and ? ? {\displaystyle -\infty } to obtain something called the extended real line. Then you can adjoin a bottom element to represent an undefined value. This is all standard and quite old. In fact, it is well known in domain theory, which deals with how to represent things we compute with, that adjoining just bottom to the reals is not a good idea. It is better to adjoin many so-called partial elements, which denote approximations to reals. Bottom is then just the trivial approximation which means something like ‘any real’ or ‘undefined real’.”

Commentators have pointed out that in the field of mathematical analysis, 0 0 {\displaystyle {\frac {0}{0}}} (which Anderson has defined axiomatically to be ? {\displaystyle \Phi } ) is the limit of several functions, each of which tends to a different value at its limit:

  • lim x ? 0 x 0 {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {x}{0}}} has two different limits, depending from whether x {\displaystyle x} approaches zero from a positive or from a negative direction.
  • lim x ? 0 0 x {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {0}{x}}} also has two different limits. (This is the argument that commentators gave. In fact, 0 x {\displaystyle {\frac {0}{x}}} has the value 0 {\displaystyle 0} for all x ? 0 {\displaystyle x\neq 0} , and thus only one limit. It is simply discontinuous for x = 0 {\displaystyle x=0} . However, that limit is different to the two limits for lim x ? 0 x 0 {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {x}{0}}} , supporting the commentators’ main point that the values of the various limits are all different.)
  • Whilst sin ? 0 = 0 {\displaystyle \sin 0=0} , the limit lim x ? 0 sin ? x x {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {\sin x}{x}}} can be shown to be 1, by expanding the sine function as an infinite Taylor series, dividing the series by x {\displaystyle x} , and then taking the limit of the result, which is 1.
  • Whilst 1 ? cos ? 0 = 0 {\displaystyle 1-\cos 0=0} , the limit lim x ? 0 1 ? cos ? x x {\displaystyle \lim _{x\to 0}{\frac {1-\cos x}{x}}} can be shown to be 0, by expanding the cosine function as an infinite Taylor series, dividing the series subtracted from 1 by x {\displaystyle x} , and then taking the limit of the result, which is 0.

Commentators have also noted l’Hôpital’s rule.

It has been pointed out that Anderson’s set of transreal numbers is not, unlike the set of real numbers, a mathematical field. Simon Tatham, author of PuTTY, stated that Anderson’s system “doesn’t even think about the field axioms: addition is no longer invertible, multiplication isn’t invertible on nullity or infinity (or zero, but that’s expected!). So if you’re working in the transreals or transrationals, you can’t do simple algebraic transformations such as cancelling x {\displaystyle x} and ? x {\displaystyle -x} when both occur in the same expression, because that transformation becomes invalid if x {\displaystyle x} is nullity or infinity. So even the simplest exercises of ordinary algebra spew off a constant stream of ‘unless x is nullity’ special cases which you have to deal with separately — in much the same way that the occasional division spews off an ‘unless x is zero’ special case, only much more often.”

Tatham stated that “It’s telling that this monstrosity has been dreamed up by a computer scientist: persistent error indicators and universal absorbing states can often be good computer science, but he’s stepped way outside his field of competence if he thinks that that also makes them good maths.”, continuing that Anderson has “also totally missed the point when he tries to compute things like 0 0 {\displaystyle 0^{0}} using his arithmetic. The reason why things like that are generally considered to be ill-defined is not because of a lack of facile ‘proofs’ showing them to have one value or another; it’s because of a surfeit of such ‘proofs’ all of which disagree! Adding another one does not (as he appears to believe) solve any problem at all.” (In other words: 0 0 {\displaystyle 0^{0}} is what is known in mathematical analysis as an indeterminate form.)

To many observers, it appears that Anderson has done nothing more than re-invent the idea of “NaN“, a special value that computers have been using in floating-point calculations to represent undefined results for over two decades. In the various international standards for computing, including the IEEE floating-point standard and IBM’s standard for decimal arithmetic, a division of any non-zero number by zero results in one of two special infinity values, “+Inf” or “-Inf”, the sign of the infinity determined by the signs of the two operands (Negative zero exists in floating-point representations.); and a division of zero by zero results in NaN.

Anderson himself denies that he has re-invented NaN, and in fact claims that there are problems with NaN that are not shared by nullity. According to Anderson, “mathematical arithmetic is sociologically invalid” and IEEE floating-point arithmetic, with NaN, is also faulty. In one of his papers on a “perspex machine” dealing with “The Axioms of Transreal Arithmetic” (Jamie Sawyer writes that he has “worries about something which appears to be named after a plastic” — “Perspex” being a trade name for polymethyl methacrylate in the U.K..) Anderson writes:

We cannot accept an arithmetic in which a number is not equal to itself (NaN != NaN), or in which there are three kinds of numbers: plain numbers, silent numbers, and signalling numbers; because, on writing such a number down, in daily discourse, we can not always distinguish which kind of number it is and, even if we adopt some notational convention to make the distinction clear, we cannot know how the signalling numbers are to be used in the absence of having the whole program and computer that computed them available. So whilst IEEE floating-point arithmetic is an improvement on real arithmetic, in so far as it is total, not partial, both arithmetics are invalid models of arithmetic.

In fact, the standard convention for distinguishing the two types of NaNs when writing them down can be seen in ISO/IEC 10967, another international standard for how computers deal with numbers, which uses “qNaN” for non-signalling (“quiet”) NaNs and “sNaN” for signalling NaNs. Anderson continues:

[NaN’s] semantics are not defined, except by a long list of special cases in the IEEE standard.

“In other words,” writes Scott Lamb, a BSc. in Computer Science from the University of Idaho, “they are defined, but he doesn’t like the definition.”.

The main difference between nullity and NaN, according to both Anderson and commentators, is that nullity compares equal to nullity, whereas NaN does not compare equal to NaN. Commentators have pointed out that in very short order this difference leads to contradictory results. They stated that it requires only a few lines of proof, for example, to demonstrate that in Anderson’s system of “transreal arithmetic” both 1 = 2 {\displaystyle 1=2} and 1 ? 2 {\displaystyle 1\neq 2} , after which, in one commentator’s words, one can “prove anything that you like”. In aiming to provide a complete system of arithmetic, by adding extra axioms defining the results of the division of zero by zero and of the consequent operations on that result, half as many again as the number of axioms of real-number arithmetic, Anderson has produced a self-contradictory system of arithmetic, in accordance with Gödel’s incompleteness theorems.

One reader-submitted comment appended to the BBC news article read “Step 1. Create solution 2. Create problem 3. PROFIT!”, an allusion to the business plan employed by the underpants gnomes of the comedy television series South Park. In fact, Anderson does plan to profit from nullity, having registered on the 27th of July, 2006 a private limited company named Transreal Computing Ltd, whose mission statement is “to develop hardware and software to bring you fast and safe computation that does not fail on division by zero” and to “promote education and training in transreal computing”. The company is currently “in the research and development phase prior to trading in hardware and software”.

In a presentation given to potential investors in his company at the ANGLE plc showcase on the 28th of November, 2006, held at the University of Reading, Anderson stated his aims for the company as being:

To investors, Anderson makes the following promises:

  • “I will help you develop a curriculum for transreal arithmetic if you want me to.”
  • “I will help you unify QED and gravitation if you want me to.”
  • “I will build a transreal supercomputer.”

He asks potential investors:

  • “How much would you pay to know that the engine in your ship, car, aeroplane, or heart pacemaker won’t just stop dead?”
  • “How much would you pay to know that your Government’s computer controlled military hardware won’t just stop or misfire?”

The current models of computer arithmetic are, in fact, already designed to allow programmers to write programs that will continue in the event of a division by zero. The IEEE’s Frequently Asked Questions document for the floating-point standard gives this reply to the question “Why doesn’t division by zero (or overflow, or underflow) stop the program or trigger an error?”:

“The [IEEE] 754 model encourages robust programs. It is intended not only for numerical analysts but also for spreadsheet users, database systems, or even coffee pots. The propagation rules for NaNs and infinities allow inconsequential exceptions to vanish. Similarly, gradual underflow maintains error properties over a precision’s range.
“When exceptional situations need attention, they can be examined immediately via traps or at a convenient time via status flags. Traps can be used to stop a program, but unrecoverable situations are extremely rare. Simply stopping a program is not an option for embedded systems or network agents. More often, traps log diagnostic information or substitute valid results.”

Simon Tatham stated that there is a basic problem with Anderson’s ideas, and thus with the idea of building a transreal supercomputer: “It’s a category error. The Anderson transrationals and transreals are theoretical algebraic structures, capable of representing arbitrarily big and arbitrarily precise numbers. So the question of their error-propagation semantics is totally meaningless: you don’t use them for down-and-dirty error-prone real computation, you use them for proving theorems. If you want to use this sort of thing in a computer, you have to think up some concrete representation of Anderson transfoos in bits and bytes, which will (if only by the limits of available memory) be unable to encompass the entire range of the structure. And the point at which you make this transition from theoretical abstract algebra to concrete bits and bytes is precisely where you should also be putting in error handling, because it’s where errors start to become possible. We define our theoretical algebraic structures to obey lots of axioms (like the field axioms, and total ordering) which make it possible to reason about them efficiently in the proving of theorems. We define our practical number representations in a computer to make it easy to detect errors. The Anderson transfoos are a consequence of fundamentally confusing the one with the other, and that by itself ought to be sufficient reason to hurl them aside with great force.”

Geomerics, a start-up company specializing in simulation software for physics and lighting and funded by ANGLE plc, had been asked to look into Anderson’s work by an unnamed client. Rich Wareham, a Senior Research and Development Engineer at Geomerics and a MEng. from the University of Cambridge, stated that Anderson’s system “might be a more interesting set of axioms for dealing with arithmetic exceptions but it isn’t the first attempt at just defining away the problem. Indeed it doesn’t fundamentally change anything. The reason computer programs crash when they divide by zero is not that the hardware can produce no result, merely that the programmer has not dealt with NaNs as they propagate through. Not dealing with nullities will similarly lead to program crashes.”

“Do the Anderson transrational semantics give any advantage over the IEEE ones?”, Wareham asked, answering “Well one assumes they have been thought out to be useful in themselves rather than to just propagate errors but I’m not sure that seeing a nullity pop out of your code would lead you to do anything other than what would happen if a NaN or Inf popped out, namely signal an error.”.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Last weekend, an eight-year-old boy died after falling into the River Wharfe in North Yorkshire, England. The river is known for its depth and strong undercurrent. The accident took place on Aaron Page’s birthday, following celebrations with over twenty family members.

Page made his way to the river near Skipton around 3pm BST (1400 UTC) on Saturday; his brother, aged thirteen, was the first to call for assistance after spotting Aaron in the water. Emergency services subsequently assisted in searching for Aaron; the body was recovered at approximately 6:25 pm the same day. Members of the ambulance service failed to resuscitate him, pronouncing him dead at the scene.

No matter how safe a river seems sometimes there are inherent dangers.

“This was a happy family day out to celebrate a birthday at a local beauty spot […] and unfortunately this young boy has got into difficulty in an area of water,” stated Inspector Kevin Franks of North Yorkshire Police. “Despite efforts from members of the public and some quite sterling efforts from the emergency services and everyone else there, sadly we’ve been unable to bring him out alive.”

Inspector Mike Woodhall of Harrogate police cautioned; “[n]o matter how safe a river seems sometimes there are inherent dangers.”

Friday, November 30, 2012

Qatari non-profit organization Gulf Organization for Research and Development (GORD) launched a low emissions car at the 2012 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 18) in Doha. The car was designed and developed in Qatar.

Revealed during a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Centre, the car in addition to an internal combustion engine, includes an automotive thermoelectric generator designed to capture waste heat to produce hydrogen. GORD expects the heat waste collecting system to be compatible with any gasoline or compressed natural gas car.

GORD chairman Dr Al-Horr summarised the key concepts of the invention in a statement saying, “Our car produces electricity at no cost by capturing thermal waste energy, reducing costs and eliminating the need for an external source of electricity. Also, bulky compressed-hydrogen cylinders are a thing of the past, as our concept accomplishes the production of hydrogen by using water through fuel cells integrated within the car.”

Most of the energy in Qatari vehicle comes from the the car’s gasoline tank, supplemented by a thin film photo-voltaic panel on the roof. Normally in a combustion engine, chemical energy stored in a fuel, such as gasoline, is converted into heat energy through combustion. This heat energy is then converted into mechanical energy, manifested as an increase in pressure in the combustion chamber due to the kinetic energy of the combustion gases. The kinetic energy of these combustion gases are then converted into work; because of the inefficiencies in converting chemical energy into useful work, internal combustion engines have a theoretical maximum effiecincy of 37% (with what is achievable in day to day applications being about half of this). Of the chemical energy in the consumed fuel used by an internal combustion engine 40% is dissipated as waste heat. However, the Qatari vehicle uses a thermoelectric generator to convert this waste heat into electricity. Such generators are used in space vehicles, and produce electricity when thermoelectric materials are subjected to a temperature gradient, the greater the gradient the greater the amount of electrcity produced. In the GORD vehicle the electricity produced is used to electrolyse potable water to produce hydrogen which can be introduced into the vehicle’s existing fuel system.

The researchers showed that the heat waste collection engine caused a decrease in the car’s emissions, including a decrease of carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide emissions by more than 50%, the fuel efficiency increasing by 20%. On its website, GORD said that the heat waste collector engine is universal, “Any car can be adapted to accommodate the system as it doesn’t alter any electro-mechanical systems”.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005File:Katrina damage.jpg

Thirty people died in the Gulf of Mexico resort of Biloxi when Hurricane Katrina demolished a water-side apartment block, Harrison County emergency operations center spokesman Jim Pollard told AP. However, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has yet to confirm the news.

At least another twenty have died across the rest of Harrison County; this number is expected to rise. The Governor of the state of Mississippi has asked people to stay away from the area for several days. The towns of Biloxi and Gulfport took the brunt of the hurricane’s 140mph+ winds after it veered away from New Orleans as it made landfall.

Three more people have been killed by falling trees and at least two died in traffic accidents resulting from the hurricane. Hundreds of people have been rescued by boat and helicopter from the roofs of houses cut off by flood water.

The hurricane has caused a storm-surge — the force of the winds has piled the waters of the Gulf of Mexico against the coastline, causing widespread flooding reaching at least a mile inland in places.

A levee on the Lake Pontchartrain canal has broken in two places, causing massive flooding. Some parts of New Orleans are now under 20 feet of water. Flooding seems to have reduced to increasing at a rate of one inch an hour and Army Corps of Engineers are on the scene of the breaks. At aproximately 10:00 PM Central city officials confirmed that a major floodpump has failed, which could result in an additional nine feet of floodwaters.

The western part of New Orleans has been flooded after a two-block long stretch of the 17th Street Levee gave way on Monday afternoon. Much of the city lies below sea level and depends on flood defences to keep it safe. One hospital — that has 1,000 patients inside — has been surrounded by the water. The vice-president of the center has described seeing whitecaps on the waves of the water in a street outside.

A water main pipe has failed, meaning that tap water has been contaminated with flood water, and is no longer safe to drink.

The mayor of the city has described seeing “bodies floating in the water.”

Some 10,000 people remain in the Superdome stadium, despite the electricity supply failing leaving the indoor stadium in darkness. The coverings of the concrete roof of the structure have been stripped away by the wind.

Electricity supplies to 1.3 million people across the south eastern parts of the US have been damaged, and it could be months before power is restored to all affected.

Two oil rigs have broken free of their moorings in the Gulf of Mexico, and a third drifted into a bridge in Mobile Bay, Alabama.

Katrina has now been downgraded to tropical storm status as it moves northwards across the US, and wind speeds have dropped to 60mph. The current death toll does not include the 11 killed in Florida when Katrina struck there last week.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Rick Morelli is running for the NDP in the Ontario provincial election, in the Vaughan riding. Wikinews’ Nick Moreau interviewed him regarding his values, his experience, and his campaign.

Stay tuned for further interviews; every candidate from every party is eligible, and will be contacted. Expect interviews from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party members, Ontario Greens, as well as members from the Family Coalition, Freedom, Communist, Libertarian, and Confederation of Regions parties, as well as independents.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A three-day United Nations (UN) summit, bringing together leaders from 181 countries, has wrapped up with a pledge by all attending countries to address the global food shortage crisis. Key actions cited include doubling the world’s food production by 2030, providing resources for farmers in poor countries and increasing humanitarian aid in times of crisis.

Protests and violent riots have resulted in parts of the world in recent months due to increasing unaffordability, and sometimes unavailability, of food. It is estimated that 862 million people, or just over one eighth of the world’s population, are malnourished.

According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, up to US$20 billion will be required annually to avert crises in the most hard-hit areas. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has put the figure closer to US$30 billion. Pledges made just at the summit amounted to more than US$5 billion, according to the UN.

Despite the largely positively-received outcome of the summit, held in Rome, Italy, there were some who felt that the proceedings could have gone better. Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) pointed to the fact that they were not invited to partake in the discussions. Food and hunger policy adviser Magda Kropiwnicka of ActionAid commented on the strength of the final pledge: “There were no quantifiable financial commitments. Apart from the existing UN Food and Agriculture Organisation funds, no money has been given to address the key problem of boosting capacity.”

While most delegates agreed that biofuels have been one of the causes of the food crisis, no actions were agreed upon to address this hot topic. Biofuels have been increasingly in demand in recent years, meaning that many crops that would have previously been used for food are now being used as fuel.

The impact that biofuels has goes further than simply increasing the demand of food crops. As fuel prices increase, so do the costs of fertilisers, farm vehicle use and the transport of foods. All of this adds up to a large increase in the cost of food.

Some UN officials say that biofuel use has caused up to 30% of the global food price inflation of late. The United States estimates that figure to be closer to just 3%. The Globe and Mail newspaper indicates that some estimates go as high as 60%. The only consensus that could be reached on biofuels is that they provide both “challenges and opportunities”, and need to be looked into further for a conclusive analysis on their impact on food production.

Other factors increasing food prices are increased consumption of meat and dairy products in developing nations like China and India. Argentina noted that subsidies granted to farmers from the US, the European Union and other Western countries have also been a major player in the increase.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE), one of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies, announced Tuesday that it is in talks with a consortium of Canadian pension funds to explore the possible sale of the company.

If successful in their bid, the consortium would take the publicly-traded company private, which would mean an end to the trading of BCE shares on the Toronto (TSX: BCE), New York (NYSE: BCE) and the Swiss (SWX: BCE) stock exchanges. BCE is one of the most widely held stocks in Canada.

BCE revealed that the potential takeover group includes the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, and Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board. Each of the pension funds involved have signed non-disclosure and standstill agreements with BCE. It was also revealed that New York-based private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) would join the Canadian-led consortium as a minority partner.

“We are pleased to be a partner with this consortium of leading Canadian institutional fund managers and look forward to working closely together in this transaction.” said Henry Kravis, co-founding member of KKR. “Our experience in large, complex transactions of comparable size will be of significant value to this process,” continued Kravis.

BCE is also leaving the door open to rival bids, “taking into consideration the need to meet all legislative and regulatory requirements, including ensuring the Company remains Canadian to meet existing foreign ownership restrictions,” the company stated. In addition, BCE may retain the status quo if it does not receive a bid that it feels would enhance shareholder value.

One other pension fund that has expressed interest is the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP). “We are pleased that this process is not exclusive and we will continue to review our options, including leading an alternative Canadian consortium,” said Jim Leech, Senior Vice-President, Teachers’ Private Capital. OTPP is currently BCE’s largest single shareholder, with an approximate ownership stake of 5.3 percent.

BCE, as Bell Canada, has been in business for 127 years. It provides phone service, satellite television, Internet access, wireless services, and other technologies to residential and business customers.

If analyst estimates are accurate, the sale of BCE could be worth about CA$32 billion or roughly $40 per share. On Tuesday, BCE shares were up CA$2.34 to close at $38.60 on the TSX, and up US$2.03 to close at $34.10 on the NYSE.

Friday, July 22, 2005

A small single-engine ultralight aircraft has crashed on a lawn between the Reichstag building, the seat of the German parliament, and the Bundeskanzleramt, the seat of the chancellor, in Berlin. The aircraft crashed at approximately 2000CET. Amateur footage aired by the ARD shows the plane rapidly descending before crashing on the lawn and bursting into flames. Witnesses at the scene were inconclusive about the heading of the plane. Some stated that it was targeting the Reichstag while others said that the pilot tried to steer away from it. He was killed in the crash. People near the scene attempted to fight the fire with hand-held extinguishers, however the aircraft was mostly destroyed by the time the emergency services arrived.

The German authorities have ruled out terrorism. Police are saying that the pilot’s wife has been missing since Monday and they had suspected that he might have something to do with the disappearance. It is possible that he might have committed suicide to avoid prosecution.