Tag Archives: Science

Barbados should be into Butanol, not Ethanol, to power autos – but we lack the vision and leadership

distillery butanol

“It would appear that, only certain persons in this society are founts of knowledge and that their opinions and ideas are adhered to, even when they are talking on subjects outside their area of technical competence.”

by Robert D. Lucas, PH.D.

There was an article entitled “Deal to turn whisky ‘leftovers’ into bio-fuels for cars”, in a local newspaper of Wednesday 26th September 2012. The same news item was aired on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Monday 24th September 2012. It was reported in paragraph five of the article that, ninety percent of the stuff which comes out of the distillery is not whisky. It is leftovers like daff and pot ales which are high in sugars. It is planned, as reported in the article, to utilize these leftovers for the manufacture of butanol (an alcohol) for use as a bio-fuel. I have some points and observations which I will now make.

In the past (letters to Advocate: 7th June, 1998; 31st July, 2002; 3rd August, 2004 and 18th May 2006) I have advocated that yeast by-products (which are a high quality source of protein) from rum manufacturing, be utilized in the manufacture of rations for livestock locally. As I pointed out then, alcohol is a toxic by-product of the metabolism of molasses by various strains of yeast Saccharomyces cervisisiae. Once a threshold level of alcohol is reached, the yeast die off; but considerable amounts of free molasses remain. The yeast can be separated and used as a source of high-protein input for animal rations. The cell-free extract can then be distilled to remove ethanol. The residual liquid can be fermented to obtain more alcohol. Alternatively, selective pressure can be used on S.cervisisiae, to obtain strains of yeasts with increased tolerance to ethanol. The same trait can be obtained using genetic engineering techniques, to obtain improve alcohol tolerance of yeasts.

Butanol beats Ethanol for vehicles!

In 2006, in a letter (“Ethanol not the only manufacturing solution”), I proposed that the alcohol of choice for use as a bio-fuel be butanol. Continue reading



Filed under Barbados, Energy, Environment, Science

Eat your water bottle? Barbados scientist develops edible degradable plastic!

Barbados plastic molecule

Robert D. Lucas, Ph.D.

I have been doing some research on the development of degradable plastics locally. I have been able to develop an edible degradable plastic using glucose which is stable under certain conditions.  There are certain challenges which have to be over come when using glucose. It is necessary to give some background on the status of degradable packaging and on how I became involved in the present research.

At present, there are four other methods of making degradable packaging.  One of the methods, uses gelatinized starch which is molded under pressure with cellulose. In the second method, starch is extracted from maize, fermented to give lactic acid, which is then polymerized. Thirdly, there is the use of genetically modified bacteria, which are fed sugars. The latter process is complex and expensive. In the third method, use is made of methanotrophic (bacteria which utilize methane), in an aerated medium obtained from waste-water from plants (food, sewers etc.), to which has been added certain salts. Methane is then pumped through the system, and is polymerized by the bacteria.

I became involved in the research, as a result of a proposal of mine, which was entered in the National Council for Science and Technology (NCST’s) innovative competition. As a result, the Barbados Industrial Development Corporation (BIDC) became interested in my proposal. BIDC purchased some basic pieces of scientific equipment and the NCST allowed me the use of their forty-foot container which had previously been converted into a laboratory, located in the Ministry of Commerce’s yard. Apart from the BIDC’s equipment, I have funded all of the chemicals and other bits of equipment myself. I am not paid for doing the research; I want to make that absolutely clear. Continue reading


Filed under Barbados, Environment, Science

This is probably written by Colin Leslie Beadon – but if we remove a word, then what?

Bayes’s theorem of Inverse Probabilities.

by Colin Leslie Beadon

I’d not be surprised an editor would blank a script with such a heading as above. Yet in an attempt to continue encourage all our youth, in the pursuit of science, and mathematics, I can’t but press blindly ahead.

Thomas Bayes 1701-1761 was a clergyman from Tunbridge Wells in Kent. He was, as Bill Bryson writes in his newest book ‘At Home’ , a shy and hopeless preacher, but he was a singularly gifted mathematician.

The Rev Thomas Bayes somehow tripped upon an equation. And as has been often been the case with equations, he did not know what it could be used for.

Thankfully, Rev Bayes wrote it carefully down, but then he shelved it. That is right ! Rev Bayes shelved it away, and died two years later.

Two years after his death, a friend sent the equation to the Royal Society in London. It is a short equation. About 30 key strokes on a laptop could write it. The equation was published in the Royal Society’s ‘Philosophical Transactions’. But there were not any computers around in those days, to make head or tail of it.

‘Today that equation is used in modelling climate change, predicting the behaviour of stock markets, fixing radiocarbon dates, interpretation of cosmological events, and much else where the interpretation of probabilities is an issue.’

As I have said before in previous letters, this phenomena of a scientist/mathematician coming up with an equation that does not seem to fit anywhere, until a great many years have sailed by , never fails to bring up goose pimples. I don’t know how many times now, reading on science I have come across this extraordinary facet of long-delayed equation recognition.

I’m going to repeat my enthral of the other book by Bill Bryson. ‘ A Short History of Nearly Everything’.

If we are definitely serious about getting our young people interested in science, then the above book should be in every single classroom, and should have been read by every politician too, since it deals interestingly, and excitingly, in all the major knishes of science.

Reading such a book, would draw most of us out of the morose and blindness we swim around in concerning the world and the modern age in which we live.

Too many of us are being hoodwinked by sellers of modern technology dealing with climate change and alternative energy (for example), technologies most of us know extremely little about.

Wikipedia: Thomas Bayes


Filed under History, Science

Black race and science

Revising history doesn’t change the present.

Black governments must fund science as a priority

by Robert D. Lucas, Ph.D.

Recently, there was a series of articles in the local newspapers (by Messrs Michael Dingwall and Rahim Shabazz), concerning the role of the black race in the advancement of science. I have some comments to make as a scientist. Let me first state that scientist are seekers of the truth. Scientists deal with facts and not sentiments.

Dingwall is correct when he states that as a race, black people continue to lag in the field of science and technology and to quote him: “The black man has been virtually absent where innovations in science and technology are concerned.”

The foregoing is a statement of fact and no amount of wishful thinking by Shabazz or Mr. Orlando Marville is going to alter the situation. The black race is always harping on the past. It is time to look forward ( I am not saying that one should forget the past) and make efforts to change the situation.  At one time, Europeans were considered to be little more than savages by the Chinese and Muslims when these peoples were leaders of the known world. The Europeans pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. The achievement by the Europeans was led by their scientists. Continue reading


Filed under Africa, Barbados, Culture & Race Issues, History, Race