Nuclear fusion power - made in Chelsea

24 Oct 2014

Richard Dinan

The Sceptic Tank loves to hear about actors, presenters, and other public figures who use their high profiles to push for action on climate change. Take Leonardo DiCaprio, who, as the latest box fresh United Nations Peace Envoy stood up in front of world leaders to demand action on climate change, or Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, who successfully took up the fight against overfishing.

Then there is Dame Vivienne Westwood battling for a climate revolution or Sir Paul McCartney leading the charge against fracking and joining forces with his daughter Stella to back the Meat Free Monday Campaign. Even former Apprentice contestant Syed Ahmed claims to have developed the most energy efficient handryer on the planet. The list goes on.

So just imagine our delight to learn this week that blond bombshell and Made in Chelsea star Richard Dinan has embarked on one of the most challenging quests facing the scientific world - supplying clean power from nuclear fusion technology.

The lack of a university degree has not stopped Dinan, who has apparently tutored himself in nuclear physics. How he found the time while running his own business and appearing on the E4 reality drama show remains unknown. But any gaps in his knowledge will certainly be filled in by the team of plucky scientists from Applied Fusion Systems that he has reportedly recruited to help deliver on his nuclear vision.

What's more, once Dinan has cracked the small matter of generating nuclear fusion power, he plans to start printing out the necessary components with his 3D printing business - cutting edge or what?

The promise of nuclear fusion often seems too good to be true - a low carbon, safe abundant source of power, but scientists have joked for at least 30 years that the necessary commercial breakthrough is 30 years away and always will be. However, Dinan and his team are more optimistic, pointing to recent breakthroughs from Lockheed Martin, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), and the Joint European Torus (JET) experiment.

Dinan says he can't think of a more "exciting prospect than working in the engine room of a star". Neither can we, Richard. Neither can we.

Next week: Spencer Matthews and the giant geo-engineering space mirrors.

Take two bottles into the shower? No, I'll take a tree

17 Oct 2014


The Tank has long given up taking two bottles into the shower. We just want to wash what's left of our hair and go. And then have the empty shampoo bottle turn into a tree.

It such an obvious final step, we're simply flabbergasted hair care brands spend all that time advertising glossiness, strength, and a wet, shiny nose (You're using that dog shampoo again - Ed) when they could be emphasising the potential to create your own arboretum with discarded bottles and the dirt from your bathroom tiles.

Fortunately, Taiwanese company O'right has blazed a trail for an industry that trades on images of flaxen-haired beauties performing ablutions in forest-bound waterfalls, but falls markedly short on providing said forests for said beauties to bathe in.

O'right - or should that be O'riiiiiiight - says its commendably straight to the point 'Tree in the Bottle' shampoo features a first of its kind biodegradable bottle made from a plastic-like starch, which in turn is processed from fruit, plant, and vegetable waste. More importantly, each bottle comes preloaded with tree seeds in a plug at the bottom - in a matter of months, the bottle will biodegrade and the seeds inside will sprout into a tree.

"Most people probably don't expect... their empty shampoo bottle to grow into a tree!" says the company with notable restraint. But then its advertising also confusingly insists, "What she is expecting is also the expectation of the river." No, us neither. And if all that's insufficiently odd for you, O'right also has a shampoo made from recycled coffee grounds collected from Starbucks and other coffee shops.

Clearly, there's something in the water in Taiwan. Perhaps it's all that weird green shampoo.

Manchester United's latest Spanish signing could be its most important yet

03 Oct 2014


Poor Manchester United fans. Forced to watch from the side-lines as rivals Liverpool and Manchester City take on Europe's finest in the Champions League, sputtering out prawn sandwiches as their ludicrously expensive team contrives to lose to Leicester City and MK Dons, and battling with the road works on the M6 that add another 90 minutes to the drive back down to Surrey.

But perhaps things are now looking up. United's latest Spanish signing is Abengoa - no, not the classy yet resilient centre half the team is crying out for, but a technology company better known for green energy and biofuels. The firm has been brought in as the club's first Official Sustainable Technology Partner and is now promising to give a boost to the team's already impressive green credentials. The Tank reckons this is also a first for English football, but we haven't actually checked - what do you think we are, a journalist or something?

Anyway, according to a United statement, Abengoa will "identify, advise and implement sustainable ways in which Manchester United can save resources and reduce waste", ultimately helping the club "enhance and develop its sustainable business practices". Rumours that it could also offer advice to Louis Van Gaal on how to sustainably integrate six attacking players into a team without compromising defensive capabilities were left unconfirmed.

Now the Tank could query Utd's priorities - after all, this is a club that has seen fit to enlist official tyre, paint, and global noodle partners before Abengoa came on board.

But even during its well-documented travails, Man Utd remains one of the biggest draws in a competition whose matches attract an average global audience of 12.3 million people.

No wonder Abengoa's chief executive, Manuel Sánchez Ortega, talks of "an excellent opportunity to show the world of football and its millions of supporters, including the next generation of sports fans, the principle of responsible and sustainable management of our energy and environment".

Ortega certainly talks a good game - no word if he's any good in defence, though.

All together now: 'Three lions made of waste...'

14 Aug 2014

Artist Faith Bebbington puts the finishing touches to one of the lions

The Tank is always impressed by initiatives that turn rubbish into something more useful. The torn-up tyres that cushion children's play grounds. The fishing nets ground up into carpets. The production team at Masterchef. Heroes all.

For many, the most apposite application of this alchemist's touch may well be Roy Hodgson, although in the Tank's opinion, the beleaguered England football manager is more adept at turning silk purses into sow's ears, rather than the other way round.

Still, fans of irony - or the ironically erroneous modern usage of irony - will find something to cheer at the lastest move by the Football Association, which in its great wisdom has unveiled two lions made of reclaimed Wembley waste in the national stadium's corporate area.

Artist Faith Bebbington used cardboard, plastic cups, and even broken plastic seats to demonstrate how these materials can be re-purposed. "I loved the challenge of using a load of rubbish to make something lovely," she told "I feel really proud and I just want plenty of people to see them."

Leaving aside the question of whether Bebbington could do it on a wet Wednesday night at Stoke, what's in it for the FA?

Well, Wembley has been a "zero waste to landfill" venue since 2010, recycling up to 86 per cent of event day waste, and sending the rest to a waste-to-energy plant. More importantly the two lions complete a fearsome triumvirate with the recycled stainless steel lion created by artist Michael Turner currently guarding the stadium entrance.

So that's three "rubbish" lions coming hot on the heels of England's limp World Cup performance. Hmmm - The Tank can't help but wonder if the FA's zeal for upcycling could one day turn England's football team into something more effective.

Smog suffocated my marriage

02 May 2014


Back in its youth, The Tank once received a break-up phonecall from an irate lady. "But we've never even met," we insisted. "I know," came the reply, "but you're on the list for a peremptory warning in case we ever do." Still, got her phone number though - that 1471 works like a charm.

Of course, we've settled down since those heady days, and now have a water-tight pre-nup that ensures ownership of each and every one of the chocolate digestives in the flat should Mrs Tank ever feel the need to trade us in for a newer model.

But while the document covers most of the standard causes of family break-up - poor dishwasher stacking, laughable attempts at DIY, constructing forts out of the recycling - the legal eagles at Lawyers-R-Us who penned it seem to have overlooked the latest cause of marital disharmony: smog.

Yes, smog - not the brains behind the classic Dress Sexy at my Funeral - but toxic airborne particulates many of which can currently be found clogging up Chinese cities.

The effect has been most famously documented in Beijing, where one denizen is facing divorce because of poor air quality.

State media reports that the wife of a man named Wang, took their infant son away from the city to the southern resort island of Hainan to escape the fug after he developed health problems. Amazingly, she didn't enjoy life on a tropical island - or living without Wang - but she did find that she ended up fighting with her husband whenever they met.

Fed up with the situation, Wang has now filed for divorce in a Beijing court. "Smog 'buried' my son's health, and it has 'buried' my marriage," he was quoted as saying.

The Tank would like to tell everyone involved to take a good, long look at themselves; but given the state of the haze in Beijing we're not sure that's actually possible.

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