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* Posts by Mike Richards

3578 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

Brit pair deported from US for 'destroy America' tweet

Mike Richards
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Who'd have thought it

Too dumb to be allowed into LA.

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SpaceShipOne man, Nobel boffins: DON'T PANIC on global warming

Mike Richards
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You're not thinking big enough

Plutonium 239 produces 2W/kg in decay heat. A few hundred kilos of that should keep you nice and toasty and put an end to any problems with the neighbours just as soon as you declare yourself an independent nuclear state.

There are 87 tons of the stuff in the UK right now - we should be parcelling it up to help old people stay warm this winter.

I have so many good ideas.

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Climategate ruling: FOIA requests cover backup servers too

Mike Richards
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'Remember it's not that long since scientists told us we were heading for a new ice age. They are now telling us that theory was wrong then so I don't propose to blindly trust them now.'

No they weren't - this is a myth.

It was only ever a small minority of climate scientists who thought the Earth was due to enter a period of cooling before the onset of another glacial episode. A short lived period of relative cooling in the 1970s wasn't well understood, but there was a theory that interglacials (such as the one we're going through) lasted about 10k years, and we were about 10k years into the Holocene interglacial - so the only way for temperatures to go was down and this might be the first sign of a new glacial advance. We now know that there is no such thing as a fixed length interglacial - they are much more irregular and tend to be much longer lived - this has now been resolved thanks to deep ice cores. We are now also much more aware how local cooling in the Pacific ocean can bring about cooler weather conditions across the globe over a period of years.

The majority of scientists were already warning that carbon emissions were forcing temperatures higher. There was no year from 1965 onwards where cooling predictions were more common than warming ones and they pretty much all stopped by 1977. The best summary of the research at the time:

Peterson, Thomas C.; William M. Connolley, and John Fleck (2008). "The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 89 (9): 1325–1337

http://ams.confex.com/ams/pdfpapers/131047.pdf

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Spring launch for Apple OLED TV with Siri, says retail mole

Mike Richards
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Don't forget

The televisual deep throat also let on the mind-blowing factoid that Apple was going to release something that was 'very thin'.

Here's my stab-in-the-dark prediction for which I'm dropping the usual consultancy fee - it will also be very shiny.

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Boffins make graphene micro-distillery

Mike Richards
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D2O

I wonder if it also selectively allows H2O to pass, leaving the other side enriched in D2O? Put enough of them together and you could have a nice little heavy water plant.

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Russian supply ship heads for ISS, space garbage crashes into Pacific

Mike Richards
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'How much extra power would it take to dump the space garbage on the moon?'

To go to the Moon from the ISS, you'd have to accelerate from c. 7kms-1 low Earth orbit velocity to c. 11kms-1 in order to achieve escape velocity. So the short answer is: 'a lot'.

There are also complexities about choosing when you can go as the ISS's orbit is inclined with respect to that of the Earth-Moon system.

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Whacked moon rocks yield up their secrets

Mike Richards
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Except

It's not an assumption, it's a fact. Not only did Apollo bring back pieces of meteorite in their samples, but impacts have actually been observed:

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/02sep_lunarperseids/

(and many more).

On Earth you can use shocked quartz to identify impact sites, but there's precious little quartz in lunar rocks.

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Starship Voyager dumped into skip

Mike Richards
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Magnolia is so yesterday

Now it's 'taupe', or if you want to get on to the bleeding edge of theoretical interior design - 'oatmeal'.

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Mike Richards
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Can you answer an advanced theological question?

Where do tealights fit into all this? The useless bloody things cast no useful amount of light or heat but appear to be needed by the skip load in order to achieve full domestic harmony.

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Iranian gov mouthpiece Press TV finally gets taken off the air in the UK

Mike Richards
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Phew!

It'll mean the all-British Daily Express will be able to reclaim pole position for purveyor of weird conspiracy theories and epic idiocy masquerading as news.

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NASA shuts off Voyager 1's central heating

Mike Richards
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Is it the longest lived probe yet?

Pioneer 6 lasted 35 years until 2000, so Voyager is either about to, or already has exceeded this lifetime.

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Ancient tulip-like stomach-onna-stick creatures found in Rockies

Mike Richards
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The early Cambrian must have been like some sort of ITV game show 'tonight only one family will be going through into the Ordovician, the others will be turned into coal. We asked 100 trilobites...'

Superficially it has some similarities to Crinoids which pop up in the Ordovician and were largely extinctified in the Permian. But this is a bilaterally symmetric beastie whereas crinoids (like other echinoderms) have five-fold symmetry.

The fossils in the article are amazing. I'd love to have one - but not quite as much as I'd like a tyrannosaur in the living room...

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Apple launches three-pronged education assault

Mike Richards
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Exclusive

Anything you publish via iBooks is exclusive to Apple.

No thanks.

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Australia, US agree to space junk talks

Mike Richards
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You didn't win the caption competition for Visit Australia did you?

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Russian boffins: US radar didn't fry Phobos-Grunt

Mike Richards
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Mars probes and microprocessors

The Russians really haven't had much luck with microchips to Mars. Both Mars 6 and Mars 7 returned huge amounts of garbage when they finally reached the planet because solar radiation had eaten their microprocessors.

Not that the software was much better; Fobos 1 received an untested software patch that resulted in it losing lock on the Sun and being unable to charge its batteries. Fobos 2's computer failed, but IIRC it was never determined if the error was hardware or software.

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Mars attacks! Morocco pelted with rocks from the Red Planet

Mike Richards
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Mars is the only candidate for the various shergottites, nakhlites and chassignites that have been found.

Unlike almost all other meteorites (with the exception of the lunar meteorites) they don't date to 4.6Gya, they have been radio dated to between 1.3Gya and 0.18Gya implying they came from a planet that was geologically active until relatively recently.

Their mineralogy which is generally magic to ultramafic - similar to that of the Earth's Mantle, again suggesting their origin was a planet that has differentiated.

Gas trapped in glass inclusions in the shergottites have the exact isotopic ratios as that returned from Martian probes.

Finally, some of the meteorites contain minerals that are only formed by weather in wet conditions.

In short, Mars is the only candidate.

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NASA study identifies the ‘low hanging fruit’ in climate change

Mike Richards
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upgrading family cooking stoves (what, my Kenmore?)

You're off the hook - they're worried about people who have to burn wood, dung or kerosene in stoves or for lighting and heat. Most stoves in the developing world haven't changed in the last few thousand years and are very inefficient. They produce huge amounts of tiny particles that cause long term health problems. Producing a more efficient stove (of which plenty of simple, appropriate designs that can be built in the community that use them already exists) would help solve this problem, it would free up people's time as they would need to gather less fuel, improve their financial situation if they have to buy fuel and it would be good for the environment if fewer trees were hacked down for firewood.

If only we could do the same for the bloody goats that people think make great charity gifts when in fact they help desertification.

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Busted Phobos-Grunt in harmless splashdown

Mike Richards
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Russia also placed its last Mars probe - Mars 96 - in the Acific off the cast of Chile, do perhaps Fobos Grunt has gone to join its friend.

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Murdoch slams White House over SOPA in Twitter row

Mike Richards
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With any luck some of m'learned friends will soon be paid spectacularly well to do just that.

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UK student faces extradition to US after piracy case ruling

Mike Richards
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Interestingly

The US legal system, unlike DVDs, is multi region.

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Oz skeptic offers prize if Rossi’s E-cat works

Mike Richards
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Unlikely

Not just because of physics, but nickel + hydrogen under very high pressures is a staple part of modern chemistry for making everything from margarine to hydrogenating coal. If copper was a result - even in very small quantities - it would poison the catalyst and this would have been recorded in the chemistry texts.

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Philips Cinema 21:9 Gold 50in ultra widescreen TV

Mike Richards
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21:9

Not copying Ambilight is hardly surprising because as you say, it's patented to buggery (excuse my legalese), but it is odd that no one else in the telly market has experimented with 21:9 screens.

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French get unlimited mobile for €20

Mike Richards
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Sounds a bit like Fon

The Fon network from Fonera has a similar principle for WiFi. Fon charges a one-time fee for a small WiFi router. If you then choose to share some of your bandwidth (how much is up to you) with the public, you get free access to all other public Fon hotspots anywhere in the world. Of which there are a lot. The company also runs a revenue sharing model where you can get a share of any fees paid by people who buy a pass when they try to connect to your router.

http://corp.fon.com/en

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Australia should head-hunt Michael Gove

Mike Richards
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When do you want him?

Obviously we'd be heart-broken to lose such a popular and charismatic minister, well known for his ideology-free, consensual approach; but perhaps it would be for the best if one more toxic reptile made its home in Australia.

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Tesla 300-mile e-car UK debut set for 2013

Mike Richards
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LEAF

The LEAF comes with a solar panel on the back spoiler as an optional extra. But that only gives 10W - just enough juice to charge the auxiliary 12V battery which powers the onboard computers and the lighting.

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Boffins hack evolution, create SUPERSOLDIER ANTS

Mike Richards
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Bigger, more ferocious ants

Yes, that's precisely what we need more of.

If they want to play with extinct beasties can't they go back to their test tubes and rustle up a dinosaur?

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HSBC pinpoints branches with sub-atomic accuracy

Mike Richards
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Uncertain

According to Heisenberg's Law of Banking Practice if you you know HSBC's position with such accuracy it means that you can never know how much they're ripping you off.

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Kodak heading to Chapter 11

Mike Richards
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See also Polaroid.

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Exotic Russian rock CAME FROM OUTER SPACE

Mike Richards
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Thank-you!

I was hunting for just that factoid.

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The Commodore 64 is 30

Mike Richards
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A great machine, but responsible for a lot of problems that befell the industry. Commodore's cut-throat pricing killed off a lot of promising companies that didn't have the resources to last through a price war, they nearly destroyed Atari and left the company with no choice but to break up and sell off the fragments (including ironically to Tramiel). And finally Commodore killed Commodore - bargain basement prices meant that money was always short when it came to developing the next generation of computers.

But that said, it did give us Boulderdash. And Dropzone. And Paradroid. And Uridium...

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NASA to place twin probes in Moon orbit as you snog beneath mistletoe

Mike Richards
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The reason is...

It was on 'QI' a while back - a programme which has a slightly less rigorous fact-checking process than Conservapedia.

So yes Regers - we can blame Steven Fry!

Hurrah!

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Apple's TV killer 'on shelves by summer 2012'

Mike Richards
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EyeTV

Is nice, but again the interface needs work - nothing massive, just lots of little sillies that could be easily addressed - setting a season pass should be easier and the calendar that rolls back a whole day when you select 06:00 or earlier from a drop-down menu just being two of them.

And improving its stability should be crucial, a TV tuner should run days, weeks, months without ever needing to be restarted. I've found the latest few versions of EyeTV to be pretty unstable and have often come home hoping to spend a half hour in the company of the lovely (if possibly psychopathic) Monica on Masterchef, only to see the error window.

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Mike Richards
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TiVo

TiVo's user interface used to be wonderful as it was fantastically intuitive and uncluttered. More recently it has spawned more and more services and distracting animations so it's getting fairly unwieldy. Still ten times better than Sky's horrorshow however - and unimaginably better than the one shipped with Panasonic devices.

Where TiVo still scores is its intelligent season passes that hunt programmes down no matter how often the schedules change and it's 'I'll record this on the off chance...' feature which learns what you like and goes hunting for more stuff you're likely to like. Combine that with a few simple favourite actors, directors and the like and it'll save you a lot of frustration.

However, that functionality has been patented to buggery (my legalese) and repeatedly upheld in courts so it'll be interesting to see if Apple can come up with something similar or better.

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Latest El Reg project: Rise of the Robot Sheep

Mike Richards
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I like it!

The only way that could be improved is if it could also cover the garden with six inches of concrete to save on future mowing related expenses.

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Lumia sales fail to set world alight

Mike Richards
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US?

Has the Lumia even launched in the US yet?

It's a shame if it fails, the phone is a nice piece of kit and the OS is excellent. Sadly Microsoft's bad smell has probably done for it.

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Ofcom maps out what 'psychics' are allowed to do on TV

Mike Richards
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Fleecing the vulnerable and desperate of their cash

Isn't that what Sky's for?

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O2 denies Nokia WinPho handset cull

Mike Richards
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'Cock-up or conspiracy?'

With O2? Cock-up every time.

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Five firms to create HD-centric DRM for SD cards

Mike Richards
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And the good news is

They'll only charge a little bit more for all this extra security. It sort of reminds me of Sony's myriad of MemoryStick formats which seemed to exist in equal measure to foist unwanted DRM on customers and to reduce even tech-savvy individuals to utter bewilderment. How has that gone down with consumers? On the strength of all the MemoryStick compliant devices that aren't out there, I'd say not at all.

Still, it sounds like the even more secure Secure Digital card is a good candidate for the most hilarious technological fail of 2012.

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Nissan Leaf battery powered electric car

Mike Richards
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Reversing

The best bit has to be the reversing doohicky with all the bendy lines that tell you where the car will be going is absolutely amazing.

The build quality is lovely and I like the interior, even if all that white is going to be troublesome for anyone with dogs, children or even new jeans. For a lot of people this will be the perfect car just as soon as the price comes down towards VW prices. And that will happen, this is new technology and production capacity is limited.

I like the future - I'll like it even more just as soon as it's Maserati shaped.

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Duff Mars probe's flaming shards to rain down mid-January

Mike Richards
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Depends in many things

It's very hard to narrow it down further. Rather than a simple orbit in a vacuum, the probe is now interacting with the Earth's atmosphere. The time of the actual re-entry will be governed by the attitude of the probe with respect to the atmosphere as that will affect the amount of drag it experiences. The other big factor is how active the Sun will be, the more active the Sun, the more it heats the atmosphere which expands and causes more drag. Skylab was the most famous victim of atmospheric heating.

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Mike Richards
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Not quite right on US to Venus

The 1978 Pioneer-Venus Multiprobe mission was the only US Venus surface lander. All four subprobes landed on the surface after returning atmospheric data. One continued to return data after landing.

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2011's Best... DSLRs

Mike Richards
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Alpha cameras

The Sony A35's big brother, the A77 is a monster and very enjoyable to use with 24 megapixels and 10fps shooting. Lots of toys such as 1080p video and GPS built in as well. Though it's currently rare as hen's teeth thanks to the Thai floods.

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Google execs eye NASA's Hangar One to park their air fleet

Mike Richards
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Absolutely

Meanwhile the two hangars at Cardington built for the R100 and R101 are in a shocking state of disrepair.

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Greenland 'lurched upward' in 2010 as 100bn tons of ice melted

Mike Richards
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The islands of the Aegean show wild changes in sea level, but these are tectonic in origin as the southern Mediterranean is subducted under the Aegean. Many parts of Greece are being stretched and dragged under the waves, but towards Turkey you see islands pushing out of the ocean.

The Baltic is a better place to see isostasy in action. Lake Mälaren just West of Stockholm was a branch of the Baltic as recently as the Viking Age, today it is a freshwater lake linked to the ocean by the Riddarfjärden. Rebound continues at about 1cm per year which also means that the Stockholm Archipelago keeps growing new islands.

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Mike Richards
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Nyergh... must comment

'The Earth is a big molten ball with scum floating on it, some parts thickier than others, as slow magma currents cause it to crinkle, not unlike the skin on boiled milk.'

As S-waves show, the Mantle is solid. If you drill a hole down through the Crust from almost anywhere on the Earth's surface the first liquid you will hit is in the Outer Core - and then you'll hit a geyser of molten iron.

It's much better to think of the Earth as being similar to a cold Mars Bar. The outside chocolate shell (the Crust) is brittle, below that is a caramel which is technically solid yet highly plastic layer (the Asthenosphere), below that is a solid layer of fudge which is still plastic (the Mantle proper). Bend the Mars Bar slowly and the Crust cracks, but the Asthenosphere and Mantle bend gradually. Hit it hard and they fracture.

Likewise the Mantle undergoes flow over the long term, but remains entirely solid.

Where this theory breaks down is that the Earth is much less delicious than a Mars Bar.

If you really want to see isostatic rebound in action, drive along Route 1 in Southern Iceland between Hveragerði and Vík í Mýrdal. The enormous cliffs on the left of the car are the old sea cliffs from about 10kya; the strip of land you're driving on is the old beach and the sea is anything up to 10km away on the right. Towards Reykjavik the calculations are that rebounds were anything up to 7cm PER YEAR in the immediate postglacial period which would put them amongst the fastest known.

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Beeb rescues old Who episodes

Mike Richards
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Underwater Menace - oh dear

Why's it never Power of the Daleks or Web of Fear?

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Royal Mail double-dip billing bug enrages stocking-filling biz

Mike Richards
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Yep, it's well and truly consigniaed.

I hope the telephone support staff are arranging a very special party for the person who okayed major changes to the Royal Mail's IT systems in the run-up to Christmas. You know the sort of party with bunting, balloons, a few stakes, rope and a very low tide...

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Iran displays video footage of captured US spy drone

Mike Richards
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Was it captured, or...

...did it defect?

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UltraViolet: Hollywood's giant digital gamble is here

Mike Richards
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Whats lifetime mean

My lifetime, the lifetime of the last person living in my cosy group, or an arbitrary period set by the publishers?

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NASA rover finds evidence of water flowing on Mars

Mike Richards
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I don't think geologists are boffins.

They're a specialised type of waterproof scientist for whom every problem can be solved using a suitably large hammer.

Boffins need sheds.

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