* Posts by Mike Richards

3579 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

1-in-3,200 chance* that a fiery satellite chunk will hit someone on Friday

Mike Richards

Satellites are harder to predict

The exact time the satellite begins its reentry depends on many factors, but mostly the density of the atmosphere where it is orbiting. Because of heating from solar radiation the atmosphere's density changes over periods of hours and days which can dramatically change the amount of drag being experienced by the satellite.

Added to which this satellite has probably lost all attitude control so it will be tumbling and experiencing variable amounts of drag, all of which make predictions a bit less - well - predictable.

An asteroid on the other hand approaches the Earth through a vacuum at a relative speed of several to tens of kilometres per second following the laws of Mr. Newton. The atmosphere only has any effect on it during the last few seconds before it carves out a dent on the surface.

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Mathematicians slam UK.gov plans to fund statistics only

Mike Richards

I suppose we should be glad that there are no economic uses for pure and applied mathematics or fluid dynamics. I mean apart from the uses that underpin many of the high value industries we supposedly need to grow the economy.

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Hunt for long-lost Apollo 10 moon lander adrift in space

Mike Richards

Nope definitely a solar orbit

Snoopy's ascent engine was reignited after being let loose from Charlie Brown and allowed to burn until empty. This let NASA test that the engine could be restarted in an emergency. There was enough thrust to inject it into a solar orbit. Had it been put into a lunar orbit it would have crashed by now because of the Moon's irregular gravitational field.

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EU recording copyright extension 'will cost €1bn'

Mike Richards

Sweden

Interesting that Sweden voted against the extension when it is one of the few EU countries whose music business earns more through exports than is spent on imported content.

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Schoolkids learn coding at GCSE level in curriculum trial

Mike Richards

Make it Scratch

A great little language, easy to pick up, it produces great results in very little time for the attention starved youth of today, you can create multimedia projects and games, share them with people on almost all hardware platforms and you get to learn the fundamentals of program design as well as event-driven, multi-threaded programming.

The biggest problem with Scratch is getting kids to stop playing with it.

http://scratch.mit.edu/

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Resistance 3

Mike Richards

;)

Tsk! tsk!

It's Oorah! in the Marines.

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Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-ray disc set

Mike Richards

Americanisms

Do any Brits say they are 'stoked'?

If they do, I might have died a little inside.

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Feds probe naked Scarlett Johansson outrage

Mike Richards

The police manual says

They're going to take a VERY long time reviewing any images and will probably need the lovely Ms Johansson to disrobe just to ensure they're genuine and not a crude Photoshop job.

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Ballmer: Windows Phone can win third place in mobile!

Mike Richards

That and his ability to survive

Every day that goes by and the question 'why is Steve Ballmer still in charge of Microsoft?' goes unanswered. He's unconvincing as a tech guru, a lousy salesman for the good stuff Microsoft does produce and the company appears to be stagnant.

Time to put a visionary in the public light over at Redmond and get people excited about the very cool stuff Microsoft is developing in its labs.

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Comet can't sell anything, including itself

Mike Richards

They're probably doomed

Because of all the reasons laid out so well above.

But doesn't it seem a little unfair for Comet to fail BEFORE the even-worse Currys is finally consigned to the extended warranty in the sky?

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MPs probe social networks' position following riots

Mike Richards

A use for Twitter?

During the recent riots, the local police force ran an excellent Twitter feed giving up-to-the-minute information about the local situation. I know who live on their own or who are otherwise vulnerable who felt reassured there was timely official news that contrasted with the scary rumours flying around on other social networks.

Cutting that feed off could have made things worse for a lot of people who otherwise didn't have information about what was going on.

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Apple preps MacBook Pro refresh

Mike Richards

Phew - no physical change

I'm glad they're not dumping the optical drive just yet - if there was a 15" machine as thin as the Air in the offing I might get into trouble with my bank manager!

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LOHAN to suck mighty thruster as it goes off, in a shed

Mike Richards

Launcher Engine System Test Environment (Reusable)

That way we can finally see LESTER and LOHAN together as nature intended.

You're not planning on setting this off near the combined mission control / donkey sanctuary are you?

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Twitter contests ad company's 'tweets' trademark

Mike Richards

Twitter is still waiting for a trademark registration for 'tweet' whilst a company built on the back of Twitter has already got theirs approved?

Now either Twitter is hopelessly amateur and didn't think to register tweet until relatively recently, or they employ some slack IP lawyers who haven't been progressing their claim very quickly.

I suppose if we work hard at it, we can genericise 'tweet' and stop Twitter getting their hands on it ever. So time to start replacing 'talk', 'phone', 'message' and 'email' with 'tweet'.

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Anti-gay bus baron rages at being stuffed in Google closet

Mike Richards

Alternatively

Google's search tentacles might have tried to get something from Souter's site but found it slow, unreliable, unresponsive and crap - technically known as being 'a bit Stagecoach'.

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Mike Richards

But it didn't

Section 28 wasn't there to stop the promotion of homosexuality (whatever that means). It was there to stop any discussion of the subject. It was a hateful piece of legislation imposed to assuage a particular narrow-minded part of the population at the expense of a vulnerable minority.

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Laptop batteries made of jelly invented

Mike Richards

That's a great idea

Add vodka for extra hilarity.

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LOHAN eyes hardcore partner's impressive girth

Mike Richards

How to test a rocket at realistic high-altitude conditions.

Stick it on top of another rocket and see what happens.

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Mike Richards

Let me think

You need something cheap, expendable, bitterly cold and with no atmosphere... looks like a trip to Blackpool is in the offing.

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Telstra's branding plans leaked to El Reg

Mike Richards

'Australia’s best loved brand'

Surely that would be Dame Edna?

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Parliament has no time for 100,000+ signature e-petitions

Mike Richards

Dear god no!

You don't think you can defeat Whitehall with paperwork do you? They'll see it as a challenge.

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UK, US ink boffinry pact on laser fusion 'star power'

Mike Richards

Plenty

Thorium isn't a nuclear fuel. It's fertile.

You transmute Th-232 into fissile U-233 inside a fission reactor.

You then require the economically dubious process of reprocessing to separate U-233 from Th-232 and fission products. Which produces huge amounts of actinide waste that has to be disposed of - hopefully not by pouring it into the Irish Sea.

U-233 makes for fabulous bombs. Don't we have rather too many nuclear weapons states as it is?

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Mike Richards

So nothing at all to do with weapons then?

The bit about NIF that gets a lot less attention is that it is also used to simulate the conditions inside a nuclear weapon at the moment fusion is triggered. Ever since the test ban treaty the bomb people haven't been able to turn chunks of Nevada glow-in-the-dark, so they've had to resort to simulations. And since the UK is joined at the hip to American warhead design, we've got an interest in this project.

"NIF is crucial to the NNSA Stockpile Stewardship Program because it will be able to create the extreme conditions of temperature and pressure that exist on Earth only in exploding nuclear weapons and that are therefore relevant to understanding the operation of our modern nuclear weapons."

National Research Council's Plasma Science Committee 2007.

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Apollo 17 Moon landing: Shock revelations

Mike Richards

N'ah has to be fake

For one the shadows don't match ;)

And secondly, no sign that Wallace and Gromit got there first.

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Windows 8 to boot in 8 seconds

Mike Richards

In Lion?

If so wow! Ever since I installed 10.7 my MBA boot times have become incredibly protracted.

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Designer styles bendy Samsung smartphone

Mike Richards

Nice - but...

...most things over at Yanko require at least one fundamental law of Nature to be rewritten; two if it's more complex than a cup holder.

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London public transport tap-cash plans will be 'entirely safe'

Mike Richards

There can be no more terrifying words in technology than

'entirely safe'

Because you know the people who said it have know idea what they're talking about.

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Amazon solves wait-at-home-for-deliveries problem

Mike Richards

Great idea!

It would be fantastic if these things could be put into local post offices. I'd even pay a small charge if it meant I'd never again have to play the will-they? won't-they? waiting game with HDNL.

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Early Earth’s ‘golden shower’

Mike Richards

Radio dating

You're right about using radioactive decay of isotopes to perform dating, but where it falls down is that there aren't any isotopes of gold with half lives long enough to perform geological dating. So you have to make an assumption that the gold was present when the rock was formed (in the case of Isua when sediments were metamorphosed into gneiss) and use the radiodate established from other elements in the rock - IIRC the Isua was dated using rubidium strontium dating.

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Does Cameron dare ditch poor-bashing green energy?

Mike Richards

Lifetime costs for nuclear?

Do the costs in that document include the cost of decommissioning the UK's nuclear power stations? The taxpayer has been repeatedly stung by ever-escalating prices for scrapping the Magnox plants (they couldn't privatise nuclear and get the private sector to take on decommissioning costs) and making the spent fuel safe. It's running at something over $2 billion a year already and will only increase as the AGRs begin to reach the ends of their lives.

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Mike Richards

Close but no cigar

Although the 'too cheap to meter' quote is often ascribed to Lord Marshall of the CEGB, it actually comes from Lewis Strauss of the US Atomic Energy Commission and he was talking about nuclear fusion not fission.

The full quote is:

"Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter... It is not too much to expect that our children will know of great periodic regional famines in the world only as matters of history, will travel effortlessly over the seas and under them and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds, and will experience a lifespan far longer than ours, as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age."

Feel free to score it out of 10.

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Hurry up with webcams in courts, says Sky News boss

Mike Richards

Good point

'Innocent or guilty? Vote now! Full results and analysis of our viewers' verdict with Kate Burley at 5pm. Call now to upgrade to our Bangemupanthrowawaythekey 3D package.'

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Sweden rolls out invisible infrared tank

Mike Richards

Surely it should be disguised as the very lovely Paris?

The porn potential for this invention should not be overlooked - Swedes and squaddies being what they are...

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Mike Richards

How goes the invisible shed?

Why no mention of whether this Swedish boffinry can be applied to man's best friend - his shed (self assembly naturally)?

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El Reg's NAOMI rocket throws launch-pad strop

Mike Richards

You're in fine company Lester

Please don't feel down because NAOMI didn't rise to the occasion; even the mighty NASA has had its share of failures to launch.

In fact you've actually beaten NASA. In 1960, Mercury Redstone I only made it 10cm from the pad before something horribly expensive went sproing! shut down the engines and brought the rocket gently back down to the Earth.

So by my calculations if you keep up this rate of success you should be on the Moon round about 2020.

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Outbound space probe looks back at tiny Earth and Moon

Mike Richards

Two reasons

In part it's a technology demonstrator that solar power can be used for deep space missions with low pier requirements, but in part it's been forced on the US by a lack of Pu-238 to go into radio thermal generators. The US has very limited supplies of the isotope which have to be shared between NASA and the military, and in recent years the US has been buying supplies from Russia. The US is ramping up production again, so this might only be a temporary bottleneck.

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DARPA wants a working manned starship for $500k

Mike Richards

$500 000?

Might just get you a very dramatic mission jingle.

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Tony Sale, 'Colossus' crypto machine rebuilder, dies at 80

Mike Richards

Sad news

I had the good fortune to be given a guided tour by Tony last year and his enthusiasm for every aspect of the Museum was evident and infectious. His a huge loss and my sympathies go to his friends and family.

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Russian rocket flub threatens to empty ISS

Mike Richards

Space Race

The Americans pulled decisively ahead of the USSR during the Gemini missions when the Soviet programme was effectively grounded. Their Voskhod manned capsules were death traps and the Soyuz programme was well behind schedule and of very poor quality - let's not forget Soyuz 1 killed its pilot.

Gemini on the other hand showed the Americans could manoeuvre freely in space, conduct long duration missions and repeatedly perform rendezvous - something the Soviets did not master until much later. At the same time the Americans had perfected large rocket engines and were able to get their bigger, heavier Saturn V off the pad with just five engines compared to the N1's 30 - which unsurprisingly, didn't work well.

Where the Soviets did score was that when they finally debugged their simple designs they proved exceptionally reliable - it's not poverty that's kept them using the Soyuz and Proton boosters - it's because they've had an epic success with them. And the Soviets did perhaps produce the best main engine ever designed for the N1 - used individually or in pairs it's been a huge success on the Atlas V.

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Mike Richards

Orbiters probably still fixable

But there are no spare ETs or SRBs.

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CERN: 'Climate models will need to be substantially revised'

Mike Richards

Is there a charitable scientist in the house?

'Good job I don't believe anything spouted by scientists and quango's who's funding & existence tends to rely on spouting it...'

Does this maxim also apply to say oncologists? seismologists? virologists?

The Daily Mail forums are next on the far right.

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Amphibious Nazi raccoons menace Sweden

Mike Richards

Nonsense

They're coming from Denmark, compared to Danish the whole 'Bork! put de chicken in de pot! Bork!' dialect of Southern Sweden will be a breeze.

BTW. There's a sense of justice to all this. Now the Swedes are finding out what it was like to be English a thousand years ago - living in constant fear of an invasion from the sea of ferocious Scandinavian hairy rabid killers.

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Kremlin green lights Siberia-Alaska tunnel

Mike Richards
Pirate

Fantastic idea

It'll go right past Palin's front window.

I bet she'll have a seizure if this ever gets mentioned to her.

So anyone want to mention it to her?

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Four months' porridge for 20-minute Facebook riot page

Mike Richards

I'm pretty sure Bangor is fireproof

Several hundred years of continuous Welsh drizzle has rendered the place entirely fireproof.

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Ofcom mulls smackdown for rogue religious TV channel

Mike Richards

Viagra ads

The little blue pills don't really need marketing, but there does seem to be a lot of ads for erectile dysfunction on telly of late (usually during action movies - make of that what you will). They obviously can't show the condition or any before and after photos, so they have to approach the matter in incredibly elliptical manners. Watch one with the sound muted before the info at the end and there is precisely zero chance you'd guess what it was advertising - debt problems? soft furnishings? bedside lighting? a particularly dull holiday park?

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Mike Richards

Sadly

Some of these people have children and are all too often willing to inflict their Dark Ages lunacies on innocent people.

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Mike Richards

'The biggest scam on the planet.'

Organised religion or Sky TV?

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Hardware-happy HP has swallowed a Sun death pill

Mike Richards

Which only begs one question

How bad were the candidates that failed to get the top job?

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Mike Richards

Depressingly accurate

Don't forget the bit where the real money making part of the company is shipped wholesale back to the US 'so as to integrate it more fully with our core business'. If you're lucky a few widget makers or telesales jobs are kept over here.

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Afghan coppers trained with Playmobil

Mike Richards

So this is what Lester does on his days off

But what will they do if they're attacked by Optimus Prime?

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