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* Posts by Mike Richards

3578 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

NASA gets funding for Mars InSight mission in 2016

Mike Richards
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Re: Anyone else...

Pedants refer to Martian geology as areology.

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Mike Richards
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Re: Impressively deep and *fast*

'but can anyone really infer anything about the temperature of Mars' core from that?'

It is fairly shallow, but doable. Land-based heat flow measurements here on Earth are usually done below 200-300m to screen out surface effects. Most marine heat flow measurements are taken at around 5m below the surface. The huge amount of water on top helps even out any surface effects.

Some work has been done on modelling heat flows on Mars and whilst this mission's results will be affected by seasonal changes in heat flowing from the Sun, the effects are both minor and can be factored out over a prolonged period of study. There's some detail here:

http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2012/pdf/1382.pdf

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Cloud engineering could SAVE HUMANITY, suggests boffin

Mike Richards
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Salter clouds

Stephen Salter, Graham Sortino and John Latham proposed fleets of specially designed ships to do just this about 5 years ago.

http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/366/1882/3989.full

and

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

No fuel required.

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Anonymous takes down UK government websites in Assange attack

Mike Richards
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'Yesterday Assange addressed supporters from the embassy, looking not a little like Graham Chapman in Life of Brian.'

More like late 1970s John Inman.

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Ageing star sucked retinue member to death, evidence indicates

Mike Richards
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Paris Hilton

'Ageing star sucked retinue member to death, evidence indicates'

Paris???

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Vulture Central logo pops up in prehistoric France

Mike Richards
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That's the Virgin Mary on a world tour after her highly successful appearance on an eBayed taco.

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Amazon UK to offer collection service at corner shops

Mike Richards
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Re: Idea

The Post Office is trialling just this approach and will be extending it nationwide real soon now. I think they will default to leaving stuff with neighbours and households will have to opt out.

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eBay invites mystic wrath over ban on spells, potions and lotions

Mike Richards
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Homeopathy

Still available on eBay, so I guess they're not banning magic for lack of evidence.

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Apple axes loyal store staff in Essex, Milton Keynes

Mike Richards
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Good to see the Dixons effect working so well

Clearly John Browett is bringing the elusive Dixons shopping experience to his new masters. We can probably look forward to stories soon about massive queues and lost business because of lack of staff for the iPhone 5 launch and the run-up to Christmas.

And haven't Apple gone soft? Had his cock up over staffing happened during the reign of the turtlenecked overlord, Browett would have been out on his ear by now.

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Assange granted asylum by Ecuador after US refused to rule out charges

Mike Richards
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Re: Well Done Equador

How can you offer a guarantee not to extradite someone to the US when the US hasn't made an extradition request? Suppose the US prosecutor delivers a request containing apparently unimpeachable evidence of very serious charges.

If we want to live in a state of law then extradition requests are dealt with on the strength of the allegations. Are the Swedes and the UK authorities meant to say a blunt 'no' and ignore the evidence? How does that serve justice?

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Mike Richards
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Re: Well Done Equador

It's a real shame Ecuador isn't so concerned about the rights of its own citizens (http://www.hrw.org/americas/ecuador):

'Corruption, inefficiency, and political influence have plagued the Ecuadorian judiciary for many years. In a referendum held in 2011, President Rafael Correa obtained a popular mandate for constitutional reforms that could significantly increase government powers to constrain media and influence the appointment and dismissal of judges.

'Ecuador’s laws restrict freedom of expression, and government officials, including Correa, use these laws against his critics. Those involved in protests marred by violence may be prosecuted on inflated and inappropriate ‘terrorism’ charges.

'Impunity for police abuses is widespread and perpetrators of murders often attributed to a “settling of accounts” between criminal gangs are rarely prosecuted and convicted. '

I wonder how long Assange would have lasted were he unlucky enough to be an Ecuadoran? Or indeed, following his lucrative stint with RT, an opponent of Vladimir Putin?

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Greens wage war on clean low-carbon renewable energy

Mike Richards
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Re: "Britain’s own geothermal investment are pretty puny"

But if you look at Devon and Cornwall which have the highest geothermal gradients, you could put power plants there which would satisfy a large proportion of local consumption and relieve their dependence of being at the end of a very long distribution system which is vulnerable to damage.

Also, even if you don't use geothermal for power generation, it can make for an excellent heat source for homes.

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Mike Richards
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Re: Wasn't there a geothermal source setup in Newcastle ?

Yep, a 2km borehole into the gloriously named Ninety Fathom-Stublick Fault Zone to see if the underlying basement granite contains hot water. There is also geothermal district heating in Southampton.

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Mike Richards
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Re: Geo exporting

The main reason is that the Icelandic power companies have previously concentrated on building power plants to service energy intensive industries such as aluminium smelting and ferro-silicon based in Iceland. This policy is going out of favour as the benefits of the factories are minimal in that they create relatively few jobs and their products are relatively low-value bulk materials whose value fluctuates wildly with changing global economics. More recently they've been exploring the potential for using hydro and geo power to power server farms which are a much higher value business.

There's also been a big public backlash against the perceived transformation of public lands into private hands. The damming of some of the most spectacular rivers in the country such as at Kárahnjúkar and the three new dams planned on the lower Þjórsá has been immensely controversial and the recent sale of geothermal reserves in Reykjanes to a Canadian company, Magma, was very, very unpopular.

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Mike Richards
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Geothermal does cause earthquakes - but small ones.

The big new geothermal plant at Hellisheiði east of Reykjavik has been associated with a sharp uptick in earthquake activity around Hengill and Hveragerði. The earthquakes are being triggered by the injection of water after it has been bled of steam back into the reservoir. The largest of the quakes registers about 3.8 and they come in swarms of hundreds if not thousands spread over days or weeks. 3.8 is a noticeable jolt, but not really dangerous to anyone unless they're in a particularly fragile house - certainly not a problem in Iceland. The problem diminishes with time as the injection wells are brought up to full pressure and the rock around them becomes equally pressurised.

There have been no effects on the water table at Hellisheiði, although if you do visit the power station (and it is beautiful), you can't help but notice that geothermal has one big downside - hydrogen sulfide. But if that is the worst problem - bring it on!

The second big geothermal plant near Reykjavik at Svartsengi is also being used as a demonstration plant for methanol production. CO2 which is brought up in the well water is being separated and reacted with hydrogen to produce 5 million litres of methanol which will be added to petrol which is the country's biggest import by far.

http://www.carbonrecycling.is/

Geothermal in Britain is more difficult as our geothermal gradient is pitiful in comparison to Iceland and large parts of the US. However, it would be good to see some imagination in putting the resources of Devon, Cornwall and the Peak District to work in generating clean electricity.

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NASA's $2.5bn Curiosity rover: An Apple PowerBook on wheels

Mike Richards
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Better article than

Those elsewhere which compared the rover to an iPhone. Forgetting the important point you get a better signal from a rover on Mars than an iPhone on O2.

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Mike Richards
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Re: Riiight

Either that or a Zanussi washing machine with great games.

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Russian rocket fails to orbit 2 satellites after booster bungle

Mike Richards
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Re: $7m for a satellite?

Probably not up there for very long - the transfer orbit they're stuck in is 165 * 3,118 miles.

It'll be interesting to see why the engine failed, its a hydrazine-fueled number which has almost no moving parts and doesn't need an igniter, so it should be very reliable. Apparently it had to make five firings, it failed on the third.

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British radio telescope genius Sir Bernard Lovell dies

Mike Richards
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Soviets

Jodrell Bank had an up and down relationship with the Soviet space programme. It was used to track the Luna 1 and 2 Moon missions to provide independent corroboration that the Soviets had produced a rocket that could throw things to escape velocity.

But later they got into real trouble when Luna 9 became the first probe to land safely and return images from the surface of the Moon. Jodrell Bank was listening in to the messages and realised the data was coming back in standard teletype format. Inexplicably the Soviet Union had not published any of the images, so after waiting a reasonable time, JB called the Daily Express (when it used to be a newspaper) and were able to reconstruct the images and publish them in the West before they appeared in the Soviet press. Needless to say the politburo was not impressed.

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Mike Richards
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Re: A true boffin...

That thing's a deathtrap - Tom Baker fell off it and woke up as Peter Davison.

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HSBC brands EVERY Apple iPhone 'an insecure PC'

Mike Richards
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Their ads freak me out

Not just the ones with the creepy Chinese kids planning world domination, but that they put the same adverts on all the world's jetways. So the last thing you see before getting on a plane is an HSBC ad, then ten hours later you emerge, shattered, apparently in the same place.

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God-botherers burst onto IPTV Freeview: The End is Nigh

Mike Richards
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AOL's into television

Surely they'd better spend their time making programmes about how to recycle unwanted CDs?

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Post-pub nosh deathmatch: Bauernfrühstück v bacon sarnie

Mike Richards
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Re: Where's that frying pan...

'*It involves two forks, some jump leads and a 14 kW generator set.'

I remember a stag night along similar lines.

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Airline leaves customer on hold for 15 hours

Mike Richards
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Wow!

That makes my personal record of 4 hours 7 minutes on hold (in a single call) with BT Total Broadband look positively speedy.

I didn't waste the time, I built four bookcases and a cupboard whilst waiting, then used the hour or so left over to find another ISP.

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Martian lakes seen where NASA Curiosity rover WON'T BE GOING

Mike Richards
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Re: "Why build one..."

NASA's 2013 budget cut its support for the 2016 ESA ExoMars mission to divert money towards the James Webb Telescope which has gone horribly overbudget.

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Mike Richards
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Re: "Why build one..."

ESA's ExoMars is due to put a rover down on the Red Planet in 2016 with a Russian rover following in 2018. NASA cancelled all involvement in the project earlier this year so there are no further American landers planned at the moment.

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M.R. James, master of the ghost story, was born 150 years ago

Mike Richards
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Christopher Lee versions

About 10 years ago the BBC televised readings of some of these stories by Christopher Lee and despite being nothing more than an old man narrating a story in a cosy room they are some of the scariest things I've ever heard. I wish the Beeb would either show them again or issue them on DVD.

More recently, Susan Hill and Michelle Paver have written ghost stories worthy of MR James himself.

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Olympic athletes compete in RAYGUN SHOOTING for the first time

Mike Richards
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A better explanation for the modern Pentathlon

It's every skill you need to escape from a castle after being caught in bed with the evil general's gorgeous daughter.

It'd be even better if they had to complete each discipline with a box of chocolates in one hand and fight off an army of disposable henchmen.

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Solar, wind, landfill to make cheapest power by 2030

Mike Richards
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Re: A small question

Whilst there's a huge amount of geothermal power available, individual sites have limited lifetimes of about 20-50 years before their heat reservoir is depleted - rocks hold a lot of heat, but are lousy conductors. A good geothermal prospect not only needs hot rocks, but it needs expansion room to drill new boreholes when the older ones become less productive.

Australia's geothermal potential is mostly deep (4km) wells sunk into dry, ancient granites that are hot because of radioactive decay of high concentrations of uranium. If they can get it to work they will be exploiting the same sort of rocks as found in West Cornwall.

The Rosemanowes Quarry experiments in the 1980s produced large amounts of hot water but couldn't overcome huge losses of water between the injection and extraction wells. Modern fracking and horizontal drilling technologies might make this possible again. A 10MWe/50MWh pilot has been planned at Union Downs for Redruth for some time now and drilling should begin later this year. A second plant has also been approved at Eden.

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Mike Richards
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Re: Gas? @JetSetJim

Magnox opted for a long decommissioning period so as to allow radiation levels to fall sufficiently that people will enter the reactor containment and perform the dismantling. The alternative was a 25 year process but that would have required them to design and build robots to perform the dismantling.

There are also big issues with the Magnox stations (and the AGRs when they reach EOL) about how to safely store the huge amounts of highly flammable and radioactive graphite from the cores/

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Pure Stream takes on AirPlay

Mike Richards
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Re: £250??

It does look a bit - 'Argos'. And that remote - WTF?

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Ghost In the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society on Blu-ray

Mike Richards
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Re: DAT OST

The soundtrack to 'Innocence' is incredible - as are the visuals such as the shoot-out in the convenience store and that amazing parade.

Not sure I entirely understand it, but sometimes you just have to go with the pretty.

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Dumpling squid do it WHENEVER THEY CAN, FOR HOURS ON END!

Mike Richards
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'both males and females changing colour during the copulation (from yellow to dark purple “with green and orange highlights).'

I assume this is some sort of progress meter?

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Outage outrage: O2 dishes out 3 free days, £10 voucher

Mike Richards
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Re: Good for O2

'we did get three copies of an apology printed on nice heavy paper with our statements this month, though. Not sure why 3 copies in one envelope...'

Three copies means they're *really* sorry. If you were one of their premium banking customers you'd have got five.

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McDonalds staff 'rough up' prof with home-made techno-spectacles

Mike Richards
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Re: MMmmhh I'm Luvin

'A Playmobil reconstruction of this.......'

One with HappyMeal toys surely?

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Pyrotechnic boffin poised to light LOHAN's fire

Mike Richards
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Re: igniter box

Li-Po?

Must be the chemist in me - but I wondered if a Lithium Polonium battery was a spot of overkill (in every sense). Then I did some googling - bitterly disappointed now.

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India preps craft for first mission to Mars

Mike Richards
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Re: The UK can be proud of what aid to India has achieved.

'and i admire that but at the same time shouldnt they actually spend their money on their people? why should we foot the bill? basically we are paying for their space program, when we cant even afford our own.'

Yes they should and its shameful that so many people in India have almost nothing and rely on our aid. But we shouldn't ignore some of the poorest people in the world just because their own government doesn't do enough for them.

And we could afford a space programme if we chose, our leaders have decided that its not terribly important so we're not only the only country to ever give up a space programme, but we're only fringe players in ESA. Doubling or tripling our expenditure on space would hardly be a huge imposition and it would be repaid manyfold because Britain is actually bloody good at this with both Astrium and SurreySat as big players in the satellite business.

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Prince Charles whips out jumbo red ball for Blighty's code-breakers

Mike Richards
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Re: Public Recognition

And...

After the war, Britain gave vast numbers of Enigma machines away to the various colonies and dependencies for them to encrypt all their traffic using an 'unbreakable' cipher. We also knew the Russians had got their hands on Enigma and hoped they would begin to encipher their communications with it.

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UK tech biz grinding to halt as Reg space programme sucks in talent

Mike Richards
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Meanwhile?

Does El Reg have a top secret programme to kidnap any surviving Nazi rocket scientists and put them to work tinkering with LOHAN's strap-on thruster?

Because that would make an epic movie.

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WikiWin: Icelandic court orders Visa to process WikiLeaks $$$

Mike Richards
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Re: DO YOU

Dear Barack,

We have a lovely big abandoned American airbase only three hours from the Eastern seaboard. Some Chinese and Russian investors have just arrived with a lot of money and are having trouble spending it. We've decided to have drinks together later.

Iceland.

PS. Don't make us deploy the rotten shark.

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'Extreme' solar storm speeding straight towards Earth

Mike Richards
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We're fine

At the first sight of trouble, the Home Secretary has ordered O2 to send a text message composed by G4S that will allow all RBS customers to withdraw emergency beer money.

Literally nothing can go wrong.

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Sigma SD1 Merill 46Mp DSLR

Mike Richards
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Re: "The SD1 is a camera that will work magic in studio or landscape photography"

I had an SD-14 which could produce astounding images at low ISOs and in bright light, but the noise issue and general mechanical unreliability with an overheating sensor and poor sealing made it an immensely frustrating camera to use. When it was good, it was better than any APS-C camera of the period, but it couldn't rival a full frame camera.

The biggest issue for anyone who thinks about switching to Sigma is that you are pretty much stuck with using Sigma hardware and software. Many stores won't carry lenses with the Sigma mount and the range is not huge, and as for the software - if you ever thought Adobe produced the worst software on Earth you haven't been unlucky enough to Sigma Photo Pro. Slow, buggy and incompatible with just about everything.

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Hubble finds fifth moon orbiting Pluto

Mike Richards
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Re: Image processing

Complete guess, the glare of the much larger Pluto and Charon obscures reflections from the smaller moons. So the area containing the two main bodies has been partially obscured.

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LOHAN fizzles forlornly in REHAB

Mike Richards
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Keep the motor warm?

Is there any way of using something like a hand warmer to keep the fuel block at a higher temperature?

If it's any consolation the American rockoon attempts of the 1950s had similar problems when their clockwork mechanisms kept freezing. The Navy's solution was to pack the machinery with cans of hot orange juice.

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Google Nexus 7 Android tablet

Mike Richards
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Find out what warranty Google offers

If you do buy a US Nexus, check what warranty comes with it - it might be as little as 90 days (1 year standard in the UK) and it might be limited to the US only. A very few companies - mostly camera companies - offer worldwide warranties on their products, but most do not. If you're out of the warranty zone and if your product fails within the warranty period you will have to pay the full cost of a replacement or repair through the company's local tentacle.

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Can neighbours grab your sensitive package, asks Post Office

Mike Richards
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Liability

If you tell the Post Office that you're happy for a neighbour to take in a parcel and it goes missing or is damaged are you liable? If a courier delivers a parcel to another address than that on the label *without permission* then they are entirely liable if anything goes wrong.

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UK.gov to clear way for Britain's first SPACEPORT

Mike Richards
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Re: UK is in the wrong place to have a space port.

Don't we still own Ascension Island? Near the Equator, long runway, bugger all immediately to the East - it'd make a fantastic spaceport.

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Mike Richards
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Re: Meh regulation

'Best of all - since there is virtually no space industry in the uk apart from Surrey Satelites'

The moneyspinning folks at Astrium would probably disagree with you on that point. The UK builds a sizeable proportion of the world's commsats.

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Climate was HOTTER in Roman, medieval times than now: Study

Mike Richards
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Why?

Does the red trend line stop around 1900 just as recorded temperatures take a sharp upturn?

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50 years in SPAAAAACE: Telstar celebrates half-century since launch

Mike Richards
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Echo and SCORE

'Telstar wasn't the first satellite to bounce radio signals, that was "Courier 1B" from whose name one can identify as a military project'

Courier 1B is pre-dated by Echo 1 which was a passive communication satellite - nothing more than big reflective mylar balloon which reflected signals. Echo 2 followed in 1964 by which time it had been superceded by active satellites.

SCORE was the first satellite to broadcast from space, it could play pre-recorded messages and receive new ones for later broadcast.

Courier was the first active satellite which received, amplified and rebroadcast radio signals in real time.

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