* Posts by Mike Richards

3615 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

The Register's resident space boffin: All you need to know about the Pluto mission

Mike Richards

Re: 'Young ' surface

There's very little atmosphere on Pluto, frozen out it would form a thin frosting across the planet rather than obscuring some stonkingly big geology.

It's a shame New Horizons didn't carry a magnetometer as that would have probably detected any magnetosphere driven by a convecting interior.

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Mike Richards

Triton

'Active geysers of nitrogen had been found on Neptune’s moon Triton in 1989, but the source of heat for that was thought to be tides.'

I'm pretty sure the consensus is that Tritonian geysers are driven by solar warming of a dark layer under the translucent nitrogen crust since they cluster close to the moon's subsolar point in the mid-southern hemisphere. The energy needed to perform the large scale reworking of Triton's crust is almost certainly tidal, the moon has plenty of tidal energy from its retrograde orbit around Neptune.

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What makes our planet's clouds? Tiny INVISIBLE CREATURES. True story

Mike Richards

Re: Global warming help?

More phytoplankton in the water would be a bad thing. They might take up some additional carbon from the atmosphere and create more clouds - but - they'd kill the oceans in the process.

When the plankton decay their bodies are consumed by oxygen-metabolising bacteria. Which is fine in a normal, ventilated ocean. However, as plankton populations increase and oceans warm, you run into a hard limit on the availability of oxygen. Not just that more is being consumed, but also that warmer surface waters hold less oxygen, but that there is less overturning and mixing of oxygenated surface waters because of increased temperature driven stratification. In high latitudes where most deep sea ventilation takes place you get a double hit from increased temperatures driving greater productivity and fresher waters from ice melt refusing to overturn.

As oxygen levels fall in deeper waters, conditions favour sulfur metabolising bacteria whose byproduct is hydrogen sulfide - highly toxic to bottom-dwelling communities, and who have the effect of allowing phosphorus and nitrogen to remain in the water column rather than being trapped in sediments. These two elements allow for increased productivity which keeps pushing oxygen levels to the floor.

These are called euxenic conditions which are like the eutrophied ponds you find at this time of year, they are are nowadays found in restricted bodies of water such as strongly stratified lakes, fjords and the Black Sea; but the geological record shows a very strong correlation between global euxenia, high temperatures (from delta 18-O) and high carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans (from CCD reconstructions and 12-C/13-C). The last big one was during the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum when it appears a good part of the world's oceans were anoxic at depth and in places euxenia may have reached the surface creating dead zones for larger organisms.

There's some approachable papers here if you'd like to know the details:

Diaz, R. J. and Rosenberg, R. (2008) ‘Spreading dead zones and consequences for marine ecosystems’, Science, 321(5891), pp. 926–929.

Meyer, K. M. and Kump, L. R. (2008) ‘Oceanic Euxinia in Earth History: Causes and Consequences’, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 36(1), pp. 251–288.

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Mike Richards

Re: Original Research?

Except in this case we can firmly say 'the journo done it', the original CLAW paper is referenced in the new work.

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Mike Richards

Re: Original Research?

You're quite right, it's corroboration of the CLAW hypothesis dating back to 1987:

Charlson, R. J., Lovelock, J. E., Andreae, M. O. and Warren, S. G. (1987) ‘Oceanic phytoplankton, atmospheric sulphur, cloud albedo and climate’, Nature, 326(6114), pp. 655–661.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v326/n6114/abs/326655a0.html

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Natural geothermal heat under Antarctic ice: 'Surprisingly HIGH'

Mike Richards

Re: It puzzles me too

Except volcanism can't explain the thinning and collapse of the floating ice sheets around West Antarctica. Warmer ocean currents can however.

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Apple Watch sales in death dive after mega launch, claims study

Mike Richards

Plus one to blend.

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Will rising CO2 damage the world's oceans? NOT SO MUCH – new boffinry

Mike Richards

Re: The corals in the Great Barrier Reef are 150 million years old

The Great Barrier Reef is 20,000 years old. It is built on an older, (dead) reef that began life about 600,000 years ago.

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Mike Richards

Re: Not news?

Since you raise the Cretaceous...

There is a marine extinction marked by widespread anoxic deposits at the Cenomanian-Turonian boundary which is linked to high overall temperatures and very high atmospheric carbon dioxide which may have been emitted by a very large upswing in volcanism caused by lithospheric thickening in the Indian and Pacific oceans.

There are also a pair of events in the late Cretaceous that show how sensitive plankton are to temperature. Beginning around 71Ma, surface and deep waters began to cool, at the same time the number of planktonic species rose by more that 40%. Then from 70-69Ma and then again between 66 and 65Ma, ocean temperatures rose at the same time as atmospheric CO2 reached the peak you mentioned. Planktonic species went into decline at the same time. Only to be delivered another whack when something crashed into Mexico.

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Mike Richards

Re: Not news?

Eutrophication and anoxia are strongly associated in the geological record with high temperatures and high atmospheric CO2. As you point out the surface waters become home to large populations of plankton whose decay removes oxygen from deeper waters as their dead bodies fall to the ocean floor. The result is that deep waters become dominated by sulfate-metabolising bacteria who release hydrogen sulfide and turn the deep ocean euxenic. Material accumulates on the bottom as black, carbon and sulfur-rich muds and shales. In the meantime biodiversity of plankton suffers since most can't survive in unventilated oceans. There's very good fossil evidence for planktonic extinctions during the carbon isotope excursions (and very hot episodes) of the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum and the Late Pliensbachian/Early Toarcian thermal event in the Early Jurassic.

This is accentuated in greenhouse climates by the warming of surface waters which not only reduces their available oxygen content, but also makes them less likely to overturn and deliver oxygen to deep waters.

As other people point out, acidification is a problem for carbonate-shelled plankton such as coccolithophorids whose populations in the geological record also crash during warm periods.

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Q: What's black and white and read all over? A: E-reader displays

Mike Richards

Re: want a large screen android e-reader

Sounds like the Onyx M96 is what you are looking for:

9.7" screen, Android 4, stylus option:

https://onyx-boox.com/shop/onyx-boox-m96-universe-97-inch-e-ink-pearl-display-e-book-reader-google-play-ivona-text-speech-bluetooth-4-0-low-energy-powered-android-4-0-4/

It seems to have a limited European distribution - like one company in Germany, and the price is a bit higher than you were asking for:

http://ereader-store.de/en/onyx-boox/64-onyx-boox-m96-black.html

Haven't played with it, so it might be brilliant, might be a total Hammond.

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The rare metals debate: Only trace elements of sanity found

Mike Richards

Re: Aha!@TeeCee

There's one limit on oil production that is insurmountable - how much energy it takes to extract and refine that oil. If it equals or exceeds the amount of energy in that oil, it's not worth using it as fuel.

One thing that's noticeable in recent years is the amount of energy needed to get oil out of the ground has been rocketing. Conventional fields have something like a return of 25:1 - that is you get 25 times as much energy out of the oil as you put into getting it. Unconventional fields like the Canadian tar sands are right down at 5-2.9:1 with shale gas doing a little better at 7.6-6.1:1. The real boondoggle though is corn ethanol at just 1.3:1.

There's probably enough oil, gas and coal to keep us going before the economics force a halt. The big question is can we afford to cook the planet and acidify the oceans rather than looking elsewhere for our energy.

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NASA sending five-metre THERMO-HAMMER to Mars

Mike Richards

You mean geologists?

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Creationist: The Flintstones was an accurate portrayal of Dino-human coexistence

Mike Richards

Re: God give me strength

'Didn't the Pope make a statement a few years back saying the Bible is not meant to be taken literally? I was sort of hoping, probably in vain, that him saying that may have been the beginning of a shift toward a slightly more enlightened age for religion.'

The Catholic Church has long held that the power of Genesis lies in metaphor rather than being seen as an accurate description of the creation of the Universe. The first official statement on Darwinism was in 1950 which said that the church had no problems reconciling evolution with doctrine, there is no official position on the age of the Universe, only that it is finite, and it must be remembered the Vatican Observatory is a world-class facility with some top researchers in all astronomical fields.

The real issue over Young Earth nonsense is with the small Protestant sects who do cleave to a very literal reading of the Bible.

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Queen's Speech: Snoopers' Charter RETURNS amid 'modernisation' push

Mike Richards

All of the Labour leader candidates that have come forward are very much New Labour, so you can bet authoritarianism runs in their veins - Cooper has hardly said a word about mass surveillance and went along with DRIP and Burnham was once in charge of the ID card project. The others sound like they're auditioning for Conservative party political broadcasts.

They'll enthusiastically vote for the proposals so that they can't be tarred as being 'soft on crime'. I suspect these proposals will pass with a couple of fig leaf amendments with massive majorities. And then we'll see another toothless incarnation of the Parliamentary committees set up to protect our freedoms that they've merrily put through a shredder.

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Mike Richards

Re: Measures will also be brought forward to promote social cohesion

'Measures will also be brought forward to promote social cohesion'

Whether you like it or not.

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Mike Richards

Re: Time to leave

The Pirate Party is the most popular group of politicians in Iceland right now.

The beer is ruinously expensive though.

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Mike Richards

Re: Well...

Come on, Labour will only quibble over the fact it doesn't go nearly far enough.

And the Lords will harrumph and then back down because of some piece of nonsense called the Salisbury Convention that they will not block a manifesto commitment no matter how dangerous or insane it is.

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Why are all the visual special effects studios going bust?

Mike Richards

Only some are going bust...

...if you've got twenty minutes to spare with the end credits of a modern blockbuster, you'll notice a lot of Indian and Chinese names cropping up in the VFX credits. A lot of the tedious, *relatively* low-value tasks, such as rotoscoping are being outsourced to places like Bangalore, and an increasing number of other parts of the VFX are following them East now that movie companies realise that the stuff coming out of India and China is just as good as can be done in California or London.

The US animation industry has been contracting for some time now, particularly Dreamworks Animation which housed a lot of smaller studios. Dreamworks had wanted to release three full-length animations every year, but as anyone who has endured most their movies knows, that came at the expense of script and animation quality. They've now cut back to just two movies per year, one of which will be a sequel. The result of that has been heavy layoffs of animators and the total closure of Pacific Data Images who had a good claim to being one of the fathers of CGI.

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Sir Jony Ive, chief Apple doodler, promoted – into job he already has

Mike Richards

Mutley's got a new medal?

I'd have preferred hearing that Apple had a new idea now that 'make it thinner' has been worked to death. And no making the same stuff available in gold and 'space grey' doesn't count.

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ZX Spectrum 'Hobbit' revival sparks developer dispute

Mike Richards

Sounds like Scott Adams' 'Adventureland' from Adventure International. Available on just about everything in the early 1980s. There's a Java version here:

http://www.freearcade.com/Zplet.jav/Advland.html

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Candlelit vigil planned to honour executed Newcastle cow Bessie

Mike Richards

You let out the best bit

Where the story went the full Chris Morris:

"Those attending the vigil are asked to wear a cow onesie and bring a candle."

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The yummy mummies' likeable wagon: Nissan Qashqai Tekna

Mike Richards

Wow!

It's not entirely hideous - has Nissan finally stopped making blobby cars with the look and charm of cane toads?

Now if they can only kill off each and every one of Nissan Jukes (rhymes with pukes), the world will be a better place. It's hard to imagine, but it must have happened, that people go into Nissan dealers and look at the Juke with its bulging lights and strangely inflated lines and say 'YES! That's what I've been looking for all my life.'

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RAF radar station crew begs public for cash to buy gaming LAN kit

Mike Richards

Alternative explanation

The budget cuts at the MoD are rather deeper than we think and these guys are actually building a new radar station one kickstarted doohickey at a time.

We'll know if next week they ask for money to buy some little round television screens and a spinny-around dish on a pole, preferably one that gives a reassuring PING! when it spots Ivan (forgive the deeply technical nature of the language).

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All-Russian 'Elbrus' PCs and servers go on sale

Mike Richards

No, but you'll be able to use its browser to order a computer that can.

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Snoopers' Charter queen Theresa May returns to Home Office brief

Mike Richards

On the bright side...

...now they've been elected, some bereft of technical knowledge is going to have to explain how the Tories are going to mandate encryption with a backdoor *that can only be used by the 'good' guys*.

That + snoopers charter + 'making Britain the best place to do business online'.

It's been a while, but I think we might be about to experience a tech cock-up that makes Blunkettcards look well thought through.

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Tesla's battery put in the shade by current and cheaper kit

Mike Richards

Re: It isn't supposed to make sense

It was on Blue Peter regularly, so those of us East of Offa's Dyke also got to hear about it.

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Bridge, ship 'n' tunnel – the Brunels' hidden Thames trip

Mike Richards

Re: Great Eastern

Her top mast is still standing outside Anfield Stadium. Not sure how it got there so long after she was broken up.

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Revealed: The AMAZING technology behind Apple's $1299 Retina MacBooks – a lot of glue

Mike Richards

Re: What's stopping them...

It is kind of surprising that Apple hasn't yet added a final step of pumping the whole shell full of glue and inserting a (beautifully machined from a solid block of aerospace grade aluminium) cork in the hole.

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Bone-tastic boffins' breakthrough BRINGS BACK BRONTOSAURUS

Mike Richards

Surprisingly no quote from Ann Elk (Miss) who has a new theory about the brontosaurus.

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Astronomers battle plague of BLADE-WIELDING ROBOTS

Mike Richards

Re: Methanol

'If only there was a way of creating some sort of invisible fence by some simple means like laying a wire in the ground.'

Or the IR beacons Roomba already uses.

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Euro THERMONUCLEAR REACTOR PROJECT is in TROUBLE

Mike Richards

Re: Hypocrites

No.

The European Court of Auditor, which is an independent body, signed off EC accounts every year between 2007 and 2013. They certified them as legal, regular and reliable as well as free of material error.

They did criticise an error rate of about 5% in the 2013 budget, but errors are NOT fraud, instead its where EU money is spent without applying the appropriate regulations. And almost all of the errors were caused by national governments, not the EU.

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Apple design don Jony Ive: Build-your-own phone is BOLLOCKS

Mike Richards

Speaking of abdicating responsibilities

Someone at Apple should have told Sir Jonny that he wasn't an interface designer so we could have avoided the skinny fonted, is that a fucking button or a label? why is that written in red when it's not a warning? car crash that is iOS8.

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BLOOD STAR of the NEANDERTHALS passed close to our Sun

Mike Richards

Re: Maybe Toba catastropohe 70,000 years ago was connected to this.

They can't have caused gravitational havoc in the Solar System for the simple reason that the Solar System remains stable. The models used by the authors predict that it had minimal effects on the Oort Cloud which is much closer and much more weakly bound to the Sun than the Earth, so there would have been an utterly neglible effect here on Earth.

Toba erupted because that's what calderas do. It's big, but it's not even in the top ten caldera events known in the geological record let alone the numerous flood basalts out there which make Toba look like a firecracker.

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Mike Richards

Re: 0.8AU or 0.8 Light Years?

The Oort Cloud is bound to the Sun so its outer limit is considered the edge of the Solar System, that's currently thought to be between 0.8 and 1 light year out, so yep, this was inside the Solar System.

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Boffins baffled by the glowing 'plumes' of MARS

Mike Richards

Re: Slightly baffled by aurora comments

Mars has almost no global magnetic field, but there are a number of localised magnetic anomalies on the planet, presumably locked in place when the core solidified. ESA spotted aurorae in 2005 over the southern hemisphere and they seem to be associated with known anomalies.

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Ukrainian teen created in lab passes Turing Test – famous nutty prof

Mike Richards

I wonder if Prof Cyborg will deign to publish his results in a peer-reviewed journal, or whether this will be another one of his media friendly press releases that never seems to get into the formal literature.

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BT tweaks WORDING of sex-ed web block after complaints

Mike Richards

Re: Child abuse!

Parents are still allowed to opt their children out of sex ed in school.

I'd love to see a follow-up study to see if there is any correlation between kids taken out of sex ed and their incidence of teenage pregnancy or STD infection.

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Fanbois, prepare to lose your sh*t as BRUSSELS KILLS IPHONE dock

Mike Richards

Re: Give some credit where it is deue [sic]

This is part of the EU's internal market towards lowering barriers and increasing competition - it should be a capitalist's wet dream.

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It's not gold in the frozen hills of Antarctica, my boy, it's DIAMONDS

Mike Richards

Re: Good time to invest...

Don Draper is such an amateur compared to De Beers.

Americans traditionally bought smaller, lower quality diamonds than Europeans and then only the wealthiest part of the population. Solution, give diamonds to movie stars and suggest the giving of a diamond ring was necessary for an engagement in the plot. Soon, a diamond engagement ring - preferably on from De Beers - became associated with romance. This was repeated in Japan and now in China by prominent adverts showing beautiful women (wearing diamonds) pursuing Western lifestyles rather than traditional, tragically diamondless lives.

They seeded the press with stories about the size of diamonds given to the rich and famous, ensure members of the royal family visit diamond mines and receive diamonds from De Beers. All accompanied by lovely photographs of course.

Post war, De Beers sent 'educators' into American schools to teach girls about diamonds and their history. At the same time they invented a new colour 'diamond white' which was associated with only the highest value diamonds.

Their slogan, 'A diamond is forever' - not so much a statement of its stability, but implying that it would be wrong to sell a diamond you've been given so promoting new diamond sales rather than old ones.

Too many small, low-quality diamonds from the Soviet Union threatening to disrupt the market or off-cuts of gemstones which would otherwise go to industry? Sign an agreement to act as the sole supplier to the West of Soviet stones and invent the eternity ring. Size isn't important, but a 'perfect' diamond is.

God only knows what they're dreaming up now.

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Mike Richards

Re: Banned until money

I think you're being too kind to the UK, there's a reason the UK has staked a huge claim on Antarctica - and it isn't because we like penguins.

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No anon pr0n for you: BT's network-level 'smut' filters will catch proxy servers too

Mike Richards

Re: Happy To Oblige

Not if voices on the Right have their way. When even mainstream Tory thinking is that the Human Rights Act is a dangerous irrelevance I don't think we can look forward to a golden age of personal rights.

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Mike Richards

Re: @Marvin

'(that *we* elected, in case you missed that) '

Was this in any manifesto commitment (okay stop laughing), or was it just something Cameron implemented after the Mail started beating up on him?

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Mike Richards

Re: Pretty nifty way to take out any site that you fancy huh?

Daily Mail surely?

A daily shite-tsunami of borderline pornography, scaremongering, objectification of women, borderline paedophilia (the 'all grown up' trope), hate-mongering and abuse of the English language.

They also demanded filtering, so it seems only fair to put them behind one. Can all BT Internet customers get together and start demanding the site is blocked?

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Mike Richards

Re: Censorship is alive and well in Britian

'Whatever you tell it to. '

Trans: Whatever the people with money tell it to.

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Security guru Bruce Schneier to leave employer BT

Mike Richards

Re: 'thought leadership'?

It's been spreading relentlessly after metastasising at the heart of the BBC; it can usually be found beating up the English language in conjunction with the chilling phrases 'blue skies thinking' and 'innovative leadership'.

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Ghosts of Christmas Past: Ten tech treats from yesteryear

Mike Richards

Re: Big Trak

My dad was a saint getting my first train set up and running. There's no small amount of preparation involved in putting together Hornby OO for an impatient child when you share the house with a very enthusiastic labrador.

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Mike Richards

Re: Biscuit size and memory...

This is so very deserving of research funding.

And possibly insulin.

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Mike Richards

Sinclair tellies

Are those the ones that were used for the really rather cool communicators in Space 1999?

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Jupiter moon Europa spotted spraying WATER into SPAAACCCEE

Mike Richards

Re: Spectrum of that water?

My guess is that it's too faint to get any spectroscopic analysis done from Earth let alone the tiny concentrations of the other stuff floating around in the water.

ESA's JUICE mission which is scheduled for 2022 will perform detailed analyses of the Galilean moons including trying to get thicknesses of their crusts and in Europa's case identifying organic molecules on the surface to see if they are anything other than products of UV light on methane.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter_Icy_Moons_Explorer

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