Wednesday, October 6, 2010
GRAPHENE: Part 2
Two Russians now at the University of Manchester, Andre Geim (left) and Konstantin Novoselov (below), won the Nobel Prize for discovering graphene (above), the two dimensional version of buckyballs. Nearly two years ago I reported on this carbon form in my blog.
Can you imagine winning a Nobel prize for just using plastic adhesive tape as your tool? Professor Geim certainly believes that science can be fun, as in 2000 he won an Ig Nobel Prize for levitating a frog.
I just realized that after a week in Japan, I have yet to ride in a car. One plane (to get here from Honolulu), one ship (Akita to Hokkaido), two busses, and ten trains. I will need to catch three more trains tomorrow. The Green Car Japan Rail Pass for one week was about $480. The total cost of Tokyo-Akita, Tomokomai to Otaru, Otaru to Sapporo, Sapport to Wakkanai and back, and Sapporo to Tokyo would have been about $1000. Plus there is that added opportunity to use the card at any time you want to go anywhere on JR and sit in their Green (first class) section. For example, as a lark, four of us last year decided at lunchtime in Tokyo to go to Niigata for dinner. Left at 4PM, and had two hours of cocktails, enjoyed a two hour dinner and returned back, through another two hour post-dinner drink period to Tokyo by 10PM. Why is this significant? Well, the distance to Niigata and back is only slightly less than from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and the total cost of the train ticket would have been $340. But the Japan Railpass made this all free. We had to bring our own drinks, although limited service is available. However, this pass needs to be purchased BEFORE you depart for Japan.
Consider also getting a Suica card in a vending machine. It is generally good for Japan Railway (JR) and most subways in most cities. Purchase at one of those vending machines outside the station. Just wave the card at the special spot on entry and exit. The value left is shown. You can add additional sums at those machines using the same card. A typical short subway trip costs about $2. However, a typical short taxi ride is closer to $30 in Tokyo, and not much cheaper anywhere else.
My splurge meal today was lunch, for breakfast was free and I ate my dinner watching TV in my room. As I've had too much Japanese food, and just had American and French, I thought I'd try Italian. The concierge sent me to Ristorante Terzina. This was not your typical spaghetti and meatballs place. I would call it boutique Italian, but the decor and serving style was French. Silverware was changed at each course.
In Spiegelau glasses came a Marne Brune Nibbiolo D'Alba (red) and a Fontana Candida Luna Mater (white). Both were mediocre.
First course was a passion fruit sherbert with asparagus, a nice counterpoint of sweet, sour and salty. The roll was cinnamon. Strange. They sweep the crumbs off the table here.
Than came the pumpkin soup with whipped cream and what tasted like crushed almond roca. Good.
The third course was a carpaccio (Italian sashimi) of halibut with micro escarole. I then was served a Ferrari max brut sparkling wine. Quite good.
The fourth was "home made" pasta--a cross section about a fourth that of standard linguini--perfectly al dente with sausage and tomato. Excellent!
The fourth wine was a San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti. Nice body and smooth for a chianti.
The fifth course was Hokkaido duck with a salty ginger sauce and assorted Japanese vegetables (right). Okay, except that the plate should have been sizzling and skin crispy.
Then a peach and lavender sorbet with chiso topping. Interesting.
For dessert, tiramisu with a capuchino. This was not your lady fingers version.
Then came an assortment of chocolates: shoyu, miso, pistachio, and sesame flavored. Unusual, but a perfect way to end a terrific Japanese-Italian fusion meal. For the price (it was not that expensive), this might have been the best lunch I've ever had.
The Dow Jones Industrials zoomed 193 to 10,945, now up 5% for the year. Will 11,000 be reached this week? Or will 9000 be in range before the month is over? October has on occasion been disastrous (1929, 1987, 2001, 2008). Job numbers are particularly weak, so why is the market moving up? World markets all increased, gold +$1/toz to $1243, another all-time high, and crude oil is at $82.54/barrel. Gold bullion for December delivery is also at a record high of $1278/toz.
Two Atlantic storms are not doing much, while that moist disturbance in the West Pacific is moving towards Hong Kong.