But he expects the investment to pay for itself in five years: the liquid helium he needs to run experiments at temperatures near absolute zero had doubled in price over the past decade to $12.50 per litre. Because of the increased costs, Friedman had to shut off a second piece of equipment, a helium-run dilution refrigerator that a student had relied on. The rising cost has forced many other scientists to make difficult decisions, too. Every time the price of helium goes up, I get more calls. Each time its another kick in the pants, says Greg Labbe, director of cryogenic services at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Labbe runs one of the most sophisticated university helium-recovery systems in the United States, capable of capturing and condensing 90% of helium that dissipates in his labs. It also tracks helium levels on an hourly basis in storage containers to detect leaks. Cold calculation The US reserve, which stores crude helium recovered from natural-gas fields, will now begin to auction off more and more of its store each year to pay off the debt incurred by stockpiling the gas over decades. In doing so, it will cease to be a player in the market that it has dominated since the 1920s, when national security concerns over airship technology prompted its creation. Although extending the life of the reserve has prevented a helium cliff, experts say that the price of the gas may increase by up to 50% as US supplies dwindle. There are few private suppliers in the United States because the national reserve crowded out competitors, and it will take years for other countries, including Qatar and Russia, to slowly ramp up their helium production. In the very long term, helium is a non-renewable resource because it is so light that, once released, it escapes from Earths atmosphere. Although gas-capture systems that allow very little helium to escape have been around for a long time, few US scientists adopted them when helium was cheaper. Now, such systems are becoming more common in academia.
Diplomats from the permanent Security Council members – China, Russia, the United States, France and Britain – had been haggling over the details of a resolution to back the American-Russian accord announced on September 14 in Geneva to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons. Assad agreed to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons amid an international outcry over a sarin gas strike in the suburbs of Damascus last month – the world’s deadliest chemical attack in 25 years. Washington has blamed Assad’s forces for the attack, which it said killed more than 1400 people, and President Barack Obama threatened a US military strike in response. Russia and Assad have blamed the attack on rebels battling to overthrow him in a civil war that, according to the United Nations, has left more than 100,000 people dead. TOUGH NEGOTIATIONS In a speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Obama sought to persuade world leaders to apply pressure on Damascus with a resolution that included tough consequences should Assad not surrender his chemical weapons stockpiles in a verifiable way. But by putting the Syria crisis back in the hands of the UN Security Council where Russia has the ability to block punitive action, the chances of US military action appeared to recede even further. Obama faces tough opposition from a sceptical Congress and a war-wary public on the wisdom of intervening military in Syria. With rebel forces plagued by divisions, the Friends of Syria – a bloc of mainly Western and Gulf Arab countries plus Turkey -followed up Thursday’s announcement of the draft resolution with a pledge to boost aid to the opposition. Weapons shipments to the rebels have been inadequate to shift the military balance in their favour. US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that Syria “will implode before any side would claim a military victory” and that all sides needed to move rapidly to put a political solution in place to end the conflict. A senior US official said earlier that the United States and China – another permanent Security Council member – strongly agreed on the need to quickly adopt a binding resolution on eradicating Syria’s chemical arsenal, a remark that appeared aimed at putting pressure on Russia to accept the measure. Russia at first appeared unswayed. Kerry met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for about an hour on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.
Smiling Iranian president makes direct offer of ‘peace and friendship’ to the United States in his first English message since election
It will be the most high-level diplomatic meeting between the countries since Obama took office in 2008. In his speech, Obama stopped short of offering concessions such as a softening of sanctions crippling Iran’s economy. United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, left, Secretary of State John Kerry, second from right, and National Advisor Susan Rice, right, listen while U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the 68th session of the General Assembly For his part, Rouhani said in his speech that Iran was prepared to work on a framework for managing differences with the United States and that he hoped Obama would show the political will to resist ‘warmongering pressure groups’ on the nuclear issue. At the same time, he denounced sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the West as a violation of human rights. ‘These sanctions are violent, pure and simple,’ he said. ‘Sanctions beyond any and all rhetoric, cause belligerence, warmongering and human suffering.’ In spite of his Holocaust comments, Rouhani leveled a barrage of criticism clearly directed against Israel – without mentioning it by name – denouncing the ‘brutal repression of the Palestinian people.’ A senior Obama administration official said in reaction to Rouhani’s speech that he had not been as strident as Ahmadinejad but the message was not a surprise. ‘It’s not surprising the Iranian leader would criticize sanctions,’ he said. While Obama and Rouhani had exchanged courteous letters ahead of the U.N. meeting, all signs point to a tough road ahead as their two countries seek to engage diplomatically. Both men face the risk of domestic criticism if they are perceived to have given too much ground to the other side. Obama had been open to a meeting with Rouhani at the United Nations, but after discussions between aides at a ‘working level,’ the Iranians were not ready to have an encounter at the presidential level, U.S. officials said. HopefuL: Campaigners from the global advocacy group Avaaz, dressed as Presidents Obama and Rouhani, demand the two leaders negotiate a ceasefire to the Syrian crisis during the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday There had been feverish speculation that Obama and Rouhani might greet each other in passing at a U.N.-hosted luncheon but the Iranian president skipped it. The official reason was because alcohol was served with the meal, according to Press TV, Iran’s English-language broadcaster.