* Posts by Mike Richards

3603 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

Canadian kid uses supercomputing to cure cystic fibrosis

Mike Richards

Not always

You can make a lighter sorbet by adding beaten egg white. But it's not worth it.

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NASA restores Pluto to league of planets

Mike Richards

IAU definition

Is bollocks and I can't imagine it won't be revisited before long. Under their own definition (that a planet must have cleared its own orbit) neither Neptune nor the Earth constitute planets.

A better definition would be something along the lines that a planet is a non-luminous body orbiting a star which has sufficient mass to form a spheroid.

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Cable thieves cost UK rail £15m a year

Mike Richards

Yep!

And fine them the full cost of refunding every passenger who was late.

(Although you'd have to be VERY late indeed to get a refund from our oh-so-wonderful railway companies).

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Space shuttle Endeavour finally off next Monday

Mike Richards

Not happening

There were plans to bring back Hubble but these were canned on the grounds of expense and that the Shuttle could not abort to the ISS if there was a failure during the mission. Another plan was to attach a booster that would have shoved Hubble either into a safer higher orbit, or down into the atmosphere for a controlled re-entry. This also didn't go ahead.

Instead a better attachment point for future missions called the SCRS was placed on the telescope. The next mission to Hubble (which no one has a clue about) will be to deorbit the telescope. Currently, Hubble will be decommissioned sometime between, and you've got to give them credit for narrowing it down, 2013 and 2021 - the latter being when it will definitely re-enter the Earth's atmosphere.

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Mike Richards

Doesn't work that way

The Shuttle's components aren't designed for very long durations in space. Just to get you started, the tiles would get dinged by micrometeorites (and larger stuff) and various plastics and rubbers would degrade from atomic oxygen.

And what use would it be going to Mars? There's no runway for it to land even if it could be brought down to a reasonable speed after entry to the very thin Martian atmosphere.

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IPCC report: Renewables can never meet energy demand

Mike Richards

Which won't help

Since developing nations can't afford to buy reactor technology anyway.

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Ten... fantasy gadgets you wish you owned

Mike Richards

Already invented

and it's called the hydrogen bomb.

Having said which, there are some minor wrinkles regarding the range of its effects, the unavoidable millions of fatalities and unfortunately persistent fallout which still have to be ironed out; but I can say with 100% confidence that you will never have to worry about mobile phones or personal stereos ever again.

It's also great for getting stones out of horses hoofs, warding off dangerous dogs, sterilising river water and attracting attention if you are lost in remote areas.

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Elite coder readies £15 programming gadget for schools

Mike Richards

Good luck David

I'm part of a project to design and release a small piece of educational hardware which is just about to go into mass production. I'll be very impressed if the RP can be built and shipped for just £15 unless they can make them in batches of tens of thousands at a time.

If they can, then there is no reason why every kid can't have one for their GCSE project and have ridiculous amounts of fun. Just so long as us grown us are allowed to have them too.

But one thing they must do before going any further is burn Elite into the ROM.

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MIRACULOUS new AIRSHIP set to fly by 2013

Mike Richards

Zeppelin thought of that

The original design for the Hindenberg would have used hydrogen 'anti ballast' held in relatively small gas bags buried within the much larger helium-filled lifting bags. As the ship burned fuel, hydrogen would have been vented, reducing the lift.

For all sorts of reasons, mostly to do with the cost of securing helium, the design was abandoned for a single set of gas bags.

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Boffins herald end of stiff screens

Mike Richards

Silly question

Paris will never be obsolete.

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Dear Mr Beefy ex-soldier: Your BT needs you

Mike Richards

Surprisingly...

...BT haven't thought about recruiting more ex-sergeant majors into their telephone technical support. They'd offer much the same welcoming attitude BT has already perfected when you call to complain.

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Goodyear blimps to be replaced by German Zeppelins

Mike Richards

Helium

Helium was controlled by the US military as a military resource. There was no open market in its sale, so any exports had to be approved by the military as well as the American government. As a result, almost no helium had been exported from the US by the 1930s.

It's something of a myth that the Americans refused to supply helium to the Hindenberg. When she was being designed in the wake of the R101 catastrophe there was a proposal to use helium as her lifting gas and hydrogen anti-ballast to compensate for fuel consumption. However, she was redesigned at an early stage as an all hydrogen ship for a couple of reasons; helium was hideously expensive and the Germans were reluctant to spend hard currency on obtaining an alternative to cheap domestic hydrogen, and secondly, Zeppelin had never lost a passenger ship to hydrogen fires. When the R101 report was finalised and it was shown the British had built a bad airship, there seemed to be no case for helium.

Zeppelin only formally applied for permission to obtain helium after Hindenburg burned. Hugo Eckener, who headed Zeppelin, personally lobbied Roosevelt for helium supplies to inflate the second Graf Zeppelin and Roosevelt agreed. However, in the meantime (it was now mid 1938), Germany annexed Austria. The US Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, considered Germany a potential threat to the US and blocked the sale of helium. The second Graf was inflated with hydrogen.

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Mike Richards

'Come on, no zep ever got above the clouds!'

Oh yes they did.

During World War I the Germans built so-called 'height climber' Zeppelins to try and fly over British air defences. They routinely bombed from over 6000m being hidden from ground defences by a layer of cloud - as you can imagine, their error margin was something like a county. The altitude record for one of these Zeppelins is over 8000m.

As for the height climbers, they were only able to fly that high by being incredibly fragile, meaning they couldn't manoeuvre well at low altitudes* and they couldn't overcome rapid improvements in aircraft and anti-aircraft guns.

* The British R38 was a copy of a height climber. She broke up and exploded over the Humber during low altitude manoeuvres just after being accepted into the US Navy as the ZR-2.

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Freeman Dyson: Shale gas is 'cheap and effective'

Mike Richards

'It can't be that expensive to be done on an industrial scale'

Unless you live in an area with an exceptional geothermal gradient, geothermal power is just not economic. In most of the world the gradient is a measly 15C per kilometre; successful geothermal plants have needed gradients of five or even ten times that - and even then they need boreholes a couple of kilometres deep.

Then you don't just drill one borehole, you drill hundreds, plus plenty more return wells to pump the water back down into the earth - not only because it helps keep the reservoir full, but also because it tends to carry an unhealthy dose of heavy metals, sulfur and carbonates.

In the right places (Iceland, the Philippines are stand-out examples), geothermal is almost as cheap as hydropower; and has the benefit of producing lots of hot water for domestic heating. There are more marginal sites (Cornwall being the best in the UK) where there is some potential for geothermal power, but sadly it won't ever be useful for most of us.

BTW. Did I miss Andrew's long article about the Cornell research into the emissions problems of shale gas?

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Star Wars: From dream sci-fi bride to perfect Blu-ray wife

Mike Richards

I thought...

Lucas had said that the special editions (the ones with all the CGI buggeration) were the definitive versions of the movies and that the original ones would never be released?

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Boffins develop liquid crystal solid-state raygun turret

Mike Richards

Erm...

Carefully..?

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Mike Richards

Not forgetting

It all gets much easier if you assume your shark is spherical.

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Honda Jazz Hybrid

Mike Richards

Bless

It's nice to see the 'English as a seventh language' crowd are here practising their skills.

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Space shuttle Endeavour launch delayed until at least May 8

Mike Richards

How many components are there in the Shuttle?

It runs into the hundreds of thousands, every one of which has a likelihood of failure, put enough of them together it's incredible that a machine of this complexity can ever be made to work. The Shuttle is probably too complex, but it is far from ramshackle.

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Beyoncé sued over aborted videogame deal

Mike Richards

If this is true

Beyoncé is well-positioned for the 2011 Naomi Campbell Person of the Year Award.

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PlayStation Network credit cards protected by encryption

Mike Richards

Encryption - yay!

Though knowing Sony it was a Caesar Cipher.

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Mike Richards

Email

None of my friends with PS3s nor myself have received emails either. 77 million emails is a lot, but Sony's new pals in the criminal underworld seem to be able to send that many in a lot less than a week.

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Revealed: Secret security plan should Kate leave Wills at the altar

Mike Richards

Thumbs up - you've earned your beer

But there'd better be a PlayMobil recreation of tomorrow's gushtastic events for those of us who are naturally intolerant of wall-to-wall fawning and cringing from the likes of Nicholas Witchell and Vernon (I am so not making this up) Kaye*.

Feel free to add velociraptors and shape-changing robots to the guest list if it promises to make things more interesting.

* Memorably described this week by Marina Hyde as the missing link between the BBC and the vegetable kingdom.

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London Olympics ticket grab ends with website wobbles

Mike Richards

Fantastic system

They take the money from you but only inform you what you've got a MONTH later? If only there was a machine that could authorise purchases and issue receipts within seconds...

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Mike Richards

'Basically it turns into a protracted version of "Deal or No Deal"'

Ooooh as if the Olympics weren't gruesome enough with the likes of Tessa Jowell and Seb Coe, now you've thrown Noel Edmonds into the mix.

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2011 Ford Focus

Mike Richards

Nice car

Just a shame Ford has continued to row back from the radical styling of the original Focus towards something much more mainstream.

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Five amazing computers for under £100

Mike Richards

Huge fan of the Z88

I probably wrote a couple of million words in my time on that machine. You're quite right, it really was way ahead of its time in being truly portable, incredibly frugal with power and (unusually for a Sinclair) extremely robust.

I wonder where mine is? I think I'd better go hunting through the cupboards tonight.

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Microsoft inks Nokia deal with phones set to fly in 2012

Mike Richards

Flying Nokia phones

Have previously only been sighted in Naomi Campbell's household.

It didn't end well.

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Lasers set to replace spark plugs in car engines

Mike Richards

Benzine

Is a mixture of hydrocarbons obtained by distilling crude oil. It also goes by the names petroleum ether, petroleum spirits or naphtha.

Benzene may be a minor consituent of benzine, though for all sorts of reasons you'd prefer if it wasn't.

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Mike Richards

'Squeeze, bang pew pew, blow, suck'

Oh Paris - is it you?

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Mike Richards

Lasers

Okay, this is a great application. But why am I still waiting for dental lasers to replace drills? This was promised when John Craven helmed the mighty 'Newsround' and still nothing.

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Hubble celebrates 21st with gorgeous galactic 'rose' snap

Mike Richards

Longer Sundays?

If you've ever been to Wales you'd know just how long Sunday can last.

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iPhones secretly track 'scary amount' of your movements

Mike Richards

Encrypt my backup

The data on the phone is plaintext.

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Multimillionaire's private space ship 'can land on Mars'

Mike Richards

Don't forget what he does in his spare time

http://www.teslamotors.com/

He must be having a blast developing the future.

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Watchdog sniffs Rihanna's 'gently thrusting buttocks'

Mike Richards

Wrong complaint

Had ofcom investigated the god-awful singing then I feel the complaints might have been upheld.

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Scientists reveal eight-legged Jurassic beast

Mike Richards

The Reg has already covered this

A while back Lewis used science to prove that spiders in Greenland would soon qualify for the congestion charge:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/05/07/armoured_spiders_out_of_greenland/

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High Court squashes Digital Economy Act challenge

Mike Richards

'When, following the DEA implementation, profits don't soar.'

They'll demand more from Vaizey and Hunt - stiffer fines, more interceptions, fees for using the Internet / buying a blank disk / buying a music player - honestly there is no end to the creative parts of the media industry (apart from actually creating good material). We'll hear more heart-bleeding stories about artists living in poverty and the trillions lost each year through privacy and once again the government will roll over to the media business.

If they stopped treating their customers quite so badly it might help. New Blu-Ray, popped it in - ten trailers none of which were for the same demographic as the movie I wanted to watch, then when I got to the movie itself, an unskippable advert for Maltesers.

Last week when travelling abroad I wanted to buy an eBook for the flight home. Waterstones refused to deliver the book to a computer located outside of the UK even though I had logged in to my own account and provided the correct CVS number on my card. One sale lost.

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Kindle beats Apple's closed book on choice

Mike Richards

It's down to choice

By the time the iBooks app came to the UK Kindle was already well established on iPad. Those of us with iPads took a look at iBooks when it was first released, saw the horrifying prices and piss-poor selection and have never looked again.

I don't own a Kindle (I have a Sony Reader), but the whole Kindle ecosystem is brilliantly thought through and Amazon deserve their success.

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Citroën lifts lid on looming diesel hybrid

Mike Richards

French design

Why is it the famous French flair for design seems to elude them when it comes to building cars? The tech is nice, the body is horrid.

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Blighty's Skylon spaceplane faces key tech test in June

Mike Richards

Also looks like

Max Faget's original DC3 design for the Shuttle orbiter which would have sat on top of an even larger winged booster. They'd have weighed nearly 2000 tonnes all up and taken off and landed horizontally. The DC3 would have had 11 SSMEs on the booster and another 2 on the orbiter.

It was canned once the USAF demanded a large cross-range ability and forced NASA to adopt a delta wing design. But in sheer Gerryandersonatiude it takes some beating - this might just be it.

But hold on - a 0.5mm shell on this beast - how robust would it be to bird strikes and the like?

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The best sci-fi film never made: Also-rans take a bow

Mike Richards

Good idea, but

His sister Kylie would have been even better.

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RAF Eurofighters make devastating attack – on Parliament

Mike Richards

'Typhoon was built to a specified requirement.'

You're quite right - that requirement was the Cold War.

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Dixons' best chance? Quit the UK and move to Sweden

Mike Richards

What have the poor Swedes done to deserve that?

I think it's the UK's unstated policy to piss off the nordic countries one by one. Having had a couple of year's fun at the Icelander's expense it's time to turn on the Swedes (the Norwegians will be left until last as we need their oil and gas), flatpack furniture and Dolph Lundgren movies not so much.

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Nissan Leaf electric car

Mike Richards

Sounds like the Tesla S is almost there

The base model will have a 260 km range with other models having 370 and 480 km ranges. Charging times will be 3 to 5 hours, depending on the battery capacity with a 45-minute QuickCharge will be possible when connected to a 480 V outlet.

And it looks gorgeous, sort of when Mrs. Jaguar loved Mr. Mondeo very much indeed...

http://www.teslamotors.com/models

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DARPA aims to make renewable power practical at last

Mike Richards

Antimatter?

As you said yourself - this is DARPA. You aren't thinking crazy enough.

They'll store solar power as biomass in giant hydroponic gardens fertilised by squaddie crap. The plants will then be fed to the genetically modified cyborg slugs which in turn will be consumed by the flesh devouring killer droids.

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Android, Steve Jobs, and Apple's '90%' tablet share

Mike Richards

There's a lot of room at the bottom

But is there any money to be made in flogging ultra-cheap tablets? Or are most of the Android developers going to be competing with one another for the lowest cost, lowest margin part of the market - a place where there is precious little scope for innovation or to distinguish your product against those of your competitors.

Apple will be delighted to see the Android market spending its energy competing against itself. And I expect Google will one day follow Apple and Microsoft in having 'favoured' partners who are willing to develop a more premium product in order to offer something different and exciting.

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Russian Vostok capsule sells for $2.9m

Mike Richards

A shame

That Russia is still selling off its incredible history as a space pioneer rather than using it to inspire the next generation of Russian engineers.

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US Navy laser cannon used to set boat aflame

Mike Richards

Fashion tips

The pirate about town of tomorrow who wants to be noticed but not overdone can't fail to impress in this outfit inspired by a Christmas turkey. He's modelling a fashionable ensemble of Bacofoil pants and hoodie charmingly offset by these risque welding goggles. Trust me it'll be 'hello sailor' on the yardarm tonight.

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Icelandic todger museum acquires human hampton

Mike Richards

Yes of course it is

You should probably make a proper expedition to the museums of Northern Iceland - because if you get as far as Hólmavík in the NorthWest you can go and visit the Witchcraft Museum and see their most prized exhibit - a pair of necropants.

What are necropants? I hear you cry.

Well they're for finding gold. To prepare your necropants you have to make an agreement with a friend that he (and it must be a he as you'll see shortly) will help you in the next life. Your friend must then die of natural causes and be buried. Shortly after he's been interred you dig up his body and skin his lower half to make a pair of trousers. Put on your fashionable new pair of strides and place a piece of gold in the erm - handily provided pouch and you will be guided to treasure.

Before satellite TV, I'm sure this must have passed many a long winter's evening on the edge of the Arctic.

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Dutch astronaut unleashes 155 mph 'Superbus'

Mike Richards

It's just missing one thing

A hen party.

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