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* Posts by Mike Richards

3579 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

Hypersonic missile successfully hits Ronald Reagan

Mike Richards

'This does seem a bit odd as nobody panics when a Tomahawk cruise missile gets fired off'

Not really, unlike a ballistic missile the other side doesn't see the cruise missile pop up on their radar and have to make an instant decision whether they're watching the other side playing silly buggers or going to have to replan their weekend around the horrible flaming megadeath of humanity.

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Busted Russian Mars probe could go to Moon instead

Mike Richards

Is this thing being tracked at all

Are ground observers able to see Fobos at all? It'd be horrible luck if it has fired its engines for Mars after all and we're looking in the wrong place.

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Woomera: Ghosts of Britain's space past

Mike Richards

It's also rather freaky in flight

The exhaust is almost entirely invisible, so the photos of the Prospero launch make Black Arrow look like it was just hanging there:

http://www.britain-in-space.co.uk/info/pix-archive/black-arrow/gallery/blarrow03.jpg

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Mysterious sat-pic China desert markings - EXPLAINED

Mike Richards

Spy satellites

You should also add Israel, Japan and Russia to the list of countries operating spy satellites.

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Neutrinos still FASTER THAN LIGHT in second test

Mike Richards

Simple

The neutrinos are passing through solid rock between CERN and the observatory.

Light has issues with this.

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£1m 'Nobel prize of engineering' named after the Queen

Mike Richards

We have a worthy winner

I assume Lester is a shoo-in for the first prize in that he showed all the qualities of the very finest of British engineering - beer, creative thinking, bodging and more beer.

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Mike Richards

Image problem for engineers

In the UK an engineer is someone who fixes your washing machine, in Germany he is heralded by a magnificent Herr Doktor.

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US nuclear aircraft carrier George Bush crippled by toilet outages

Mike Richards

Alternatively...

...combined with the steam catapaults it'd make a fantastic new weapon against pirates

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DOOMSDAY 2012 MEGA VOLCANO 'UNLIKELY' - NASA

Mike Richards

Not really

Magma is sloshing around under Yellowstone, but there is no evidence that activity is trending upwards. Most of these big calderas see regular injections of magma from depth, followed by gradual withdrawals.

There was some worry a few years ago about a bulge under Yellowstone Lake which some people thought was due to magma rising towards the surface. In fact it is probably caused by hot water and gas rising up beneath the lake. It's not growing and not associated with any seismic activity. The biggest current risk in Yellowstone is a recurrence of the massive hydrothermal eruptions which have occurred in the last few thousand years (IIRC the latest has been provisionally dated to 1300 or so).

And its impossible to say what scale the activity in Yellowstone would be on, again caldera eruptions can be catastrophic, or they can be small scale eruptions of magma. A good example is in California where the mind-buggeringly big Long Valley caldera created a series of catastrophic eruptions around 760,000 years ago; but since then activity has been in the form of a series of smaller volcanoes at Mammoth Mountain and the Mono and Inyo Craters which wouldn't really be a threat to anyone.

The three big Yellowstone eruptions were 2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago, so not exactly clockwork and there is no geologist who would ever say when an eruption will occur - only that one will occur at some point in the future.

Besides, why worry about Yellowstone when the Campi Flegrei caldera is only a 3 hour plane flight away; much more active and where the food is better?

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

But if you do ever get a chance to visit Yellowstone, take it, it is one of the most extraordinary places on Earth.

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Sharon Stone greets returning US troops ... with a web vid

Mike Richards

Not forgetting

Most of the troops weren't even born when Sharon Stone was actually famous. For most of the last twenty years she's been becoming increasingly bizarre going on fully unhinged. As the ever-wonderful Marina Hyde put it:

'In 2006, as Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon was slipping into a coma after a stroke, cinema's Sharon Stone was readying herself to prove that nymphomaniac ice-pick murderers and Middle East peace envoys need not be mutually exclusive.'

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Happy 40th birthday, Intel 4004!

Mike Richards

Shocking failure to abide by Reg guidelines

But that's the Americans for you, never using the same standard sauropod-derived measurements as the rest of us.

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US stealth bombers finally get nuke-nobbling super bomb

Mike Richards

Seems a bit of a lot of hard work

Centrifuge plants require a lot of power to work. Bomb the power plants if you can't get to the 'fuges themselves.

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Mike Richards

Alternatively

You can argue that the rebuilding of the Ruhr dams consumed so much material and manpower that it prevented the Germans from reinforcing the Atlantic Wall, and so made the Normandy landings possible.

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Army raygun to boost power with starlight de-twinkling tech

Mike Richards

That's a very cool lorry

But you just know that if the British Army ever get their hands on one the first thing they'll do is try and drive it under a low bridge.

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Enormous orbiting solar raygun power plants touted

Mike Richards

It doesn't seem to add up

As above. The Desertec project to produce 15% of Europe's energy from solar power in the Sahara is much less challenging and would produce cheaper power more quickly.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/nov/01/solar-power-sahara-europe-desertec

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UK broadband speeds crippled during 'rush hour'

Mike Richards

Clearly untrue

There's no crippling of connection speeds where I live - my broadband speed is pitiful round the clock.

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Mike Richards

Be

Although my connection speed sucks (thanks to BT's decision to lay phone cables along the most scenic route); Be are a great ISP and definitely the one to be with if you can't afford Zen.

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Voyager 2 finally agrees to a long hard thrust

Mike Richards

Obligatory NASA gee-whizzery

By the time Voyager 2 reached Neptune the strength of the radio signal received on Earth was already 1/20 billionth the power of that produced by a watch battery.

These machines are incredible.

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Mail Online is broken

Mike Richards

Mail website summary

Shock and outrage on the left. Slappers on the right.

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Sony to boost image sensor capacity... again

Mike Richards

Still problems downstream

Sony's main camera plant is currently underwater in Thailand and will be out of service for a few months yet. If you were planning on buying an Alpha, it might be worth heading to the shops now.

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Dud Mars probe's explosion will spare Earth's cities

Mike Richards

But

The British bit didn't work :(

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beagle_2

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The new touchy-feely Doctor Who trend: Worrying

Mike Richards

In its defence

The old show never gave us those twin wonders of Space and Time - Amy Pond and River Song.

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Mystery radioisotopes in Czech air are not from Fukushima

Mike Richards
Happy

Well

The Russians have recently finished their latest reactor in Kaliningrad, and if they've engineered it to their usual high standards it should be leaking quite nicely about now,

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Ten... best Blu-ray movies of 2011

Mike Richards

Tangled

I'd also add the criminally neglected 'Tangled' from Disney to the list - a beautiful transfer of a gorgeous looking movie.

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Sony develops 'new kind of television'

Mike Richards

"TV, record all the future episodes of The Simpsons"

That might run into conflict with some of the PVR patents awarded to TiVo and which have been upheld in the courts.

I'd just like it if Sony released TVs that were actually distinguishable from one another by more than the 22nd digit in an unmemorable product code. Fewer different TVs would help people pick one from the multitude.

Oh and don't make them so inflammable next time.

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Now Russians can't even contact their busted Mars probe

Mike Richards

Pedant alert

Mars 5 worked just fine, but it is a lousy record; especially when you compare it to their hugely successful Luna and Venera probes.

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Mike Richards

I think the right word for this is

Bugger!

They must also be concerned that the window for Mars is passing quickly. Leave it much longer and even if they can get Fobos to talk they won't have enough fuel to get there.

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European boffins on voyage of discovery to the Earth's core

Mike Richards
Paris Hilton

Understatement of the year

'We know even less about warm dense matter believed to exist in the core of larger planets'

That's a bit like calling the Blessed Paris merely 'warm and dense'.

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Another new Russian nuclear powerplant comes online

Mike Richards

VVER safety

Any news on whether the safety systems of the reactor have been brought up to basic standards? Most of the VVERs exported to India and China have had completely different safety systems (often Western) from those installed for the Russian reactors; and AFAIK none of the existing VVERs allow for passive cooling.

Not exactly just a theoretical question if previous Soviet operating regimes are anything to go on.

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Cheap gas is a 'crisis' for Greens, but not for us

Mike Richards

Shale gas

What's often ignored with any discussion of any gas is that it is rarely pure and needs to be sweetened before put into a pipeline. The two major acid gases in natural gas are hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. Hydrogen sulfide is easily reduced to sulfur, but carbon dioxide is regularly vented into the atmosphere at the treatment plant. Injection back into the field can be done, but isn't widespread. So when you add the carbon dioxide that comes up with the gas to the carbon dioxide that is produced by burning it, the actual savings from burning gas often aren't as good as made out.

Overall, gas is a better fuel than coal and oil, but it probably isn't good for the long term health of the planet.

As for fracking, yep it can cause 'quakes. But generally not big ones.

A few large 'quakes have been linked to injection of fluid into wells (the most famous being in Colorado where nerve gas waste was being pumped into a deep reservoir). But most are small, just like the swarms going on at Hellisheiði right now where Reykjavik Energy are injecting water to bring new geothermal boreholes online. (It's the little cluster of yellow and orange dots near the centre-left of the map between Reykjavik and Þingvallavatn (the big lake)

http://en.vedur.is/earthquakes-and-volcanism/earthquakes/reykjanespeninsula/

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Mike Richards

EdF

It's not so long ago that EdF was the largest corporate debtor in the world despite having most of its nuclear costs either written off, transferred to the spreadsheets of the French government or simply ignored.

It must be easy to generate cheap power when you don't have to pay for anything.

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Lemmings

Mike Richards

No! No! No!

Not the music!

Argh - humming now.

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Mike Richards

Sony

There's a version of Lemmings for the PS3 available for download. It plays like a dog.

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Ryanair ponders in-air mucky movie service

Mike Richards

Sounds like bullshit to me

Surely there can't be enough room in a RyanAir seat to do the knuckle shuffle.

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Feds warn 'pox party' zealots not to send viruses in post

Mike Richards

Wow! Just wow!

We're really lucky that measles is never fatal and there are no cases of the chickenpox virus causing serious conditions in adults with immune deficiencies.

Oh wait a moment...

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Olympic Torch to visit Bletchley Park

Mike Richards

Bloody hell

They'd better run fast through Bletchley if they don't want to be dragged away by hordes of feral youth.

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UK Space Agency OKs teeny-tiny satellite

Mike Richards

Make sure the government doesn't get involved

Before they know it, UKube-1 will be the size of a bus, weigh as much as a brontosaurus, cost as much as a nearly new Nimrod and have all the functionality of the MoD.

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Vatican mulls God particle, calls for appointment of antichrist

Mike Richards

Vatican observatory

For all of its faults (such as continuing to believe in God), the Vatican does do some very good science through the Vatican Observatory headquartered at Castel Gandolfo:

http://vaticanobservatory.org/

So talking to physicists isn't completely unexpected.

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Whinging Brits reflect on epic Oz road trip

Mike Richards

Is that a hotel bedroom?

Or a prison cell following a dirty protest?

And now I have this (frankly terrifying) image of Lester and Drew, (suitably pyjamad), sitting in that bed like Eric and Ernie.

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Martian simnauts emerge from spaceship outside Moscow

Mike Richards

Coming soon on Channel 5

Celebrity Big Brother: Mars Edition

Every week, one unlucky astronaut will be evicted by the airlock.

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Maggie Philbin on tech, teens and cardigan fear

Mike Richards

Philippa Forrester

There's no way PF could ever be let loose within a metric barge pole of technology after being well and truly fooled by Chris Morris' Brasseye.

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Chinese orbital docking starts long march to space station

Mike Richards

'It wasn’t until 1970 that China even got a satellite into orbit'

In the process beating Britain by a year.

And unlike us, they didn't give up.

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Canada founded on 'relentless pursuit of beaver'

Mike Richards

Devious Canadians

It's a beaver disguised as a maple leaf.

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Solar power boom 'unsustainable', says Gov

Mike Richards

Heat pumps

How good are air heat pumps for providing warmth inside a home?

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'Ghost hunter' set to become Tory Euro-MP

Mike Richards

With the likes of Norman Lamont, Nigel Lawson, Norman Tebbitt and John Redwood all recently starring in the ghastly afterlife of Newsnight interviews there does seem to be good reason to think the dark forces of the supernatural are a perfect match for the Conservative Party.

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Machine translation cracks 18th century occult cipher

Mike Richards

The Voynich is more complex than that.

There's the huge problem of how many characters are used - there's almost no agreement about whether some characters are distinct or whether they are actually different characters with ligatures. Estimates vary that Voynichese uses between 20 and 30 characters for the bulk of its text plus a few other rare characters.

Then when you start doing the number crunching odd things begin to appear - there are definitely word-like groups in the text, but the word lengths do not resemble any known language - there are very few short words and very few ones over 10 characters long. Some words are only found in certain parts of the manuscript. Individual words are often repeated either identically or with slight variations - a pattern not usually found in real texts.

The patterns of characters are definitely not random, there are rules about which characters follow others and which do not and whether they appear anywhere in a word or only at the beginning.

When you measure the entropy of the whole text (ie. how predictable the text is), it comes much lower than most European languages, around the same as English or Latin - but neither of those match the previous patterns found in the text.

It most probably is completely meaningless, but a huge amount of work was put into its creation and it would be wonderful to know more about where this thing came from and why it was made.

The best suggestion is that it was an alchemical fake designed to impress the rich and powerful in Central Europe, but there is a frustrating lack of contemporaneous evidence for the book prior to the early 17th Century (we now know from C-14 that the vellum is early 15th Century, but that does not necessarily mean the book itself is that old).

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Sony KDL-40HX723 40in LED 3D TV

Mike Richards

So...

The far side of a grand and they don't throw in any 3D glasses. That's sure to boost sales.

Can't we just agree that 3D was a headache-inducing flash in the pan, scrap it from TVs and make them cheaper?

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Job-seeking university bods panic over incriminating online info

Mike Richards

In short

Facebook's target audience is relaxed about privacy.

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WHSmith Kobo Touch wireless e-book reader

Mike Richards

Kobo

I tried using the Kobo site - once.

I put a stack of books in my shopping cart. Clicked to pay, filled out the details. Got an error message, but was reassured in big friendly letters that I hadn't been billed. Told to try again. Did so, same error message. Gave up, bought the books elsewhere.

A hour later, two receipts from Kobo for the books. Told customer service that I wanted a refund as their site had not worked and had assured me there had been no charge.

Response: all sales are final, no refund.

They edge just ahead of Sony in my league of companies that can go and merrily burn in hell.

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UK shamed in high-speed broadband study

Mike Richards

Still stuck on 2Mbps

The graphs over at akamai are really rather interesting - and once again South Korea just wipes the floor with us with what looks like an average of 13Mbps.

Meanwhile I wish someone from BT would come along and tighten the bit of damp string that connects me to the Intertubes.

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