* Posts by Mike Richards

3596 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

SpaceX unveils new Falcon Heavy rocket - WORLD'S BIGGEST

Mike Richards

Blueprints

All of the designs for Saturn V exist and can be referred to. The production lines were all closed and the jigs disassembled after the completion of the backup booster for Skylab. It was never used and now hangs out in pieces at various museums. The sobering thought is that most of the people who designed Saturn are either long retired or dead, so a lot of the expertise has gone with them.

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Official: PS3 has more fanboys than the Xbox 360 does

Mike Richards

PS3

Everyone I know who has a PS3 is using it almost exclusively as a Blu-Ray player because they feel they've been stiffed by Sony. The games are frequently more expensive than those on the 360 and rarely as good featuring cruddy frame rates and murky textures. I don't think I've bought a game for mine in nearly a year.

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Fukushima fearmongers are stealing our Jetsons future

Mike Richards
Happy

Not so fast....

Plutonium's toxicity is much less than commonly stated. Long term studies of people who have been exposed to plutonium either in weapons manufacturing, fuel reprocessing and bomb detonations have found no excess deaths due to its toxicity. It is most certainly not the poisonous substance on Earth as Ralph Nader hyped it, it may in fact be less toxic than caffeine.

Plutonium is an alpha emitter, and in theory can produce a wide range of cancers if ingested or inhaled; but once again, long term studies of people exposed to plutonium particles have failed to show a significant risk.

However, plutonium in the environment is a sign that other nasties which are biologically active and have much higher radioactivities are probably also slopping around in the outside world.

The Pu-238 found at two locations at Fukushima is almost certain to have come from the reactor rather than a bomb test because Pu-238 is only likely to have been made in a reactor by one of two processes:

U-235 + n + n -> U-237

U-237 beta decays to Np-237 over a period of days

Np-237 + n -> Np-238

Np-238 beta decays to Pu-238

There is no time in a bomb explosion for significant numbers of intermediate neptunium to be created and to undergo beta decay so Pu-238 is a good indicator of reactor plutonium.

The second method for making Pu-238 is for Pu-239 to be hit by a fast neutron that rather than fissioning the nucleus ejects a second neutron. This can happen in bomb detonations, but it will not create significant amounts of Pu-238 to affect the isotope ratio.

Clearly there is a leak either in the reactor itself or in the spent fuel pond.

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James Cameron to amp up Avatar frame rate

Mike Richards

Done by Douglas Trumbell decades ago

It was called ShowScan and used 70mm film at 60fps. I saw a demo in the 1980s and the illusion of solidity is astonishing.

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Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Air speakers

Mike Richards

Remote?

Have they improved the remote over the original?

That was an anonymous black on black pebble which was really cheap and nasty to hold and not easy to use without looking at the buttons.

The original works fine with AirPlay if you have an Airport Express - mini TOS from the Airport's optical out to the Zeppelin's optical in. It appears as Airport Express in the drop down menu on iTunes, all you have to do is toggle the Zep until the power light turns green.

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Labour MP debuts fondleslab-assisted Parliament oratory

Mike Richards

Bless!

No doubt it and its contract paid for through expenses.

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Antarctic ice breakup makes ocean absorb more CO2

Mike Richards

What's still unknown

Is how long the phytoplankton lock up the CO2. Once all of the nutrients have been released from the melting ice, the bloom will come to an end and the plankton will die releasing the carbon once again. Likewise if they're eaten, most of that CO2 goes straight back into the atmosphere courtesy of respiration - only a fraction goes into skeletons, muscle and lots and lots of crap.

Some plankton secrete calcium carbonate exoskeletons which can sink to the ocean floor to form what geologists (with their never-knowingly undersold sense of drama) call 'ooze'; which does remove carbon from the atmosphere and ocean, but many do not.

On the upside, phytoplankton produce lots of dimethyl sulfide which is linked to cloud formation over oceans and might act to cool the planet.

Boy, if only this climate malarkey was as simple as a boiling water reactor.

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Praying for meltdown: The media and the nukes

Mike Richards

'The reactors endured a Force 9 earthquake'

No they didn't.

Magnitude 9 was the force at the epicentre of the 'quake. The reactors survived about 100th as much energy.

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Mike Richards

Only some graphite reactors

Gas-cooled reactors don't have void coefficients; in fact the AGR won't melt in the event of a total loss of coolant. What made the RBMK so dangerous is that in normal operations the light water coolant absorbed neutrons so the operators had to keep the control rods way out of the reactor in order to keep enough fissions going on. At Chernobyl, as the coolant boiled away, absorption fell, the number of neutrons in the system increased - causing more reactivity and the reactor ran away.

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Lindsay Lohan ditches her surname

Mike Richards

BRITNEY

Balloon Release Instrumented Tropospheric Navigation and Exploration - Yahoo!

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Mike Richards

Fire up NAOMI

Next Ascender and Orbiter - Manned (sort of) Interactive

It's all the more aptly named if, on re-entry, this one crashed onto a hired help.

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The Professionals set to abseil into cinema

Mike Richards

It's Hollywood

So it's much more likely to be Alan Cummings.

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Nokia talks Pure typographic cobblers

Mike Richards

I hope it's just a glitch in the screengrab

but it looks like the baseline of the 's' in 'Whalesong' is a little too high.

As for Nokia's font, I prefer Microsoft's Segoe UI family as used on Windows Phone 7 - it's incredibly elegant, modern and easy to read.

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Libya fighting shows just how idiotic the Defence Review was

Mike Richards

The water is perfectly safe

It's just ever so slightly less perfectly safe than it was yesterday.

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Mike Richards

One reason to keep the Storm Shadow

It is a brilliant name for a weapon - very Captain Scarlet. By comparison Tomahawk isn't nearly as whooshy sounding.

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Mike Richards

Might be a stupid idea but...

...it can't be worse than those the MoD come up with. How about a nice big double hulled cargo ship with lots of flat deck space (like a container ship). Fit it with LOTS of vertical launch tubes for Tomahawks, some anti missile defended and lots of fire fighting ability. Then cruise up and down the Gulf of Sidra lobbing missiles as needed.

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Your census data will be kept secret - except from MI5, police, courts etc

Mike Richards

Such faith

'After all, those individuals intent on undermining a Parliamentary democracy are unlikely to want to vote in one.'

I'd stake money on someone saying the same in the Weimar Republic.

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Southampton Uni shows way to a truly open web

Mike Richards

Well in a way he does

It's just that Zuckerberg's approach involves putting the whole world inside Facebook without any privacy controls.

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Radioactive Tokyo tapwater HARMS BABIES ... if drunk for a year

Mike Richards

On the upside

Iodine is used to sterilise water.

So your baby might glow in the dark, but it won't get an upset tummy

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BAA promises to get its Heathrow act together

Mike Richards

Do they have special classes

That train adults to say: '"If the entire Heathrow community learns from this report, and works more collaboratively to promote passengers' interests, then this is a pivotal moment for the airport and its reputation."' with a straight face?

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Government shells out £2m for ID card compo

Mike Richards

Bless!

Ex ID card supremo Meg Hillier just can't let ID cards go can she? There really should be a support group for her to deal with these distressing separation issues.

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Mike Richards

Alan Johnson's scorched earth policy

Didn't Postman Al introduce the termination charges very late in the day when it was clear Labour were going to lose the election and that both opposition parties were committed to scrapping the scheme.

I wouldn't be surprised if similar charges were put on the two magnificent ocean-going white elephants being erected in Gordon Brown's backyard.

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Channel Islands VAT loophole shut, petrol prices cut

Mike Richards

In which case

Judging by the monumental screw-ups previous Chancellors have produced thanks to their sound grounding in economics, it might be better for the country if we excluded anyone who claimed to be an economist.

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BT, TalkTalk in court seeking axe for Digital Economy Act

Mike Richards

Nice idea except

Mandelson's creepy little shadow minister, Ed Vaizey, was all in favour of the DEA. Neither he nor Jeremy Hunt will want to upset the content teat for fear of not being invited to all the most slebtastic of parties.

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Mike Richards

But give them some credit

Their accounting methods are nothing if not creative.

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South West Trains puts squeeze on commuters

Mike Richards

Shinkansen

In Japan if your bullet train is more than (IIRC 2 minutes) late, not only do you get a full refund, but a written apology and a letter you can give your employer.

Having said that, you could set your watch by the Shinkansen.

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Mike Richards

SWT = RyanAir

The world's least favourite airline and the world's ugliest liveried trains have the same width seats.

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Mike Richards

Clearly

You've never been on the laughably named TransPennine Express. Overcrowded by the time it leaves Manchester (or Leeds).

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Mike Richards

Teresa Villiers

Was on 'Dispatches' this week saying how awful the trains were but how it was nothing to do with the Transport Minister because it had all been privatised doncha know and she was just there to pay £5 billion a year over to the assorted shysters (First Great Western), bus companies (Stagecoach) and banks (HSBC) that run our railways.

I just wish SNCF or DB would come over and run the whole thing.

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Mike Richards

London Midland

I'm sure London Midland has been using 3 + 2 seating on its cattle cars for a couple of years now. They're incredibly uncomfortable for anyone of average height and build. When you then add the lack of places to put luggage and coats, they're oppressive.

On a related note, I was wondering earlier this week if rail companies are in breach of their obligation to offer a safe railway by forcing people to stand on high speed services. In the event of a crash or catastrophic derailment the casualties would be horrific. Anyone know?

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Fukushima's toxic legacy: Ignorance and fear

Mike Richards

Strangely enough

Sky News hasn't been running an uninterrupted scareathon about the perils of coal following yesterday's tragedy in which 43 miners were killed. Nor has Matt Frei been backed by crappy computer animations of how wood smoke kills more than 1.5 million people every year.

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Mike Richards

Not quite sure how this qualifies as a 'minor incident'

4.7GWe of power generation has been completely trashed and will never restart. Factories and homes are experiencing lengthy blackouts and disruptions to production. Thousands of people are temporarily homeless. Other nuclear plants are going to need repairs and probable safety improvements to ensure backup power cannot be lost ever again.

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Fukushima: Situation improving all the time

Mike Richards

Quietly reworded

I wish the BBC would allow us to see the changes made to an article after posted. Right now it reads:

'The official death toll from the quake and tsunami has now risen to 8,450.'

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Mike Richards

We also had a geiger counter

And our physics lessons on radiation were rendered useless, by the standard sources being less radioactive than the Cornish granite walls.

If anyone hasn't seen it; the XKCD comparative radiation chart is a superb illustration of the amounts of radiation being talked about:

http://blog.xkcd.com/2011/03/19/radiation-chart/

I had a CAT scan last month, judging by the dose I received I should be developing superpowers any day now.

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Mike Richards

Come on be fair

The BBC has also run a 'nuclear disaster - did the media overreact?' story. Admittedly nowhere did they suggest that their meldownathon coverage might have had anything to do with scaring people half to death.

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Fukushima on Thursday: Prospects starting to look good

Mike Richards

Some good news

Tepco is planning on have restored a grid connection to the site by the end of today (Japan time), after which any surviving electric pumps can be restarted, which should make things safer, if not quite as lovely as Lewis is suggesting.

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Jon Bon Jovi accuses Steve Jobs of murdering music biz

Mike Richards

Four things

The killer for a lot of people was when the multiples came to every high street.

The independents were where you could actually hear music, talk to people who knew what was coming, what was good and (hush) what wasn't. Even very small towns could have two or three independent stores.

The multiples like HMV and Virgin started off with lots of choice and seemed to be a better version of the independents as they offered even more choice. But now they're being eaten alive by the supermarkets and Amazon they've gravitated to pushing a few big names, the staff are all minimum wagers making ends meet with no particular enthusiasm for what they're selling, and their management have a background in generic retail rather than this business.

If anything, iTunes has brought back something of the experience of stumbling across something awesome. Although the aseptic iTunes Store interface doesn't really look much like those endless stacks of vinyl in a gloomy shop the size of a child's bedroom pervaded by the smell of something that probably wasn't tobacco smoke.

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EA dubs Nintendo Wii a 'legacy platform'

Mike Richards

Maybe, but...

...it got Nintendo back into the living room console market and got people talking about the company and its products. They forced Sony and Microsoft to innovate, but unlike PS3 and 360, the Wii was profitable from day one. Whilst Nintendo was banking money, the other two were being forced to spend big money to catch up.

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London's Olympic clock claps out

Mike Richards

Inexplicably

The BBC and Sky haven't cut to endless speculation of what will happen if power can't be restored.

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Fukushima update: No chance cooling fuel can breach vessels

Mike Richards

A bit of a mixed bag

What has probably given people in the know nightmares is that computer simulations of BWR failures show that small containment structures incorporating pressure suppression measures such as tanks, wet wells or ice condensors, offer much less security than the alternative design of a large heavy containment vessel. The small containments at Fukushima have a much greater risk of failing in the event of a catastrophic steam explosion or the high pressure ejection of the molten core - both of which could happen in a BWR.

The good news is, as Lewis points out, the production of energy in the reactor is rapidly diminishing, and with every hour the risk of further melting recedes. The reactors are slagged, but it looks like the vessels have held.

Where I disagree with Lewis is that the lesson of Fukushima is not to build more reactors now, it's to sit down and look at reactor designs and see if we need to learn lessons from this tragedy. Since we don't know the precise sequence of events that led to the loss of all off-site and on-site power for the pumps it is probably worth finding out what went wrong before proceding with new build. Fortunately we're not going to be building any more 1960s vintage reactor or containment designs; but that doesn't mean it isn't worth looking long and hard at what happened here and improving things further.

Right now, I'd be looking at CANDU reactors, not just because the Canadians are nice people, but because we could start building them as soon as possible, they work, they work well and they're safe.

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Balanced, neutral journalism is RUBBISH and that's a FACT

Mike Richards

Bad news for Fox News

They'll have to stop using the 'Fair and Balanced' tag line and begin only showing stories from one viewpoint - saaaaay the Republican side?

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Tearful NASA salutes space shuttle Discovery

Mike Richards

When I was young

We could fly to the Moon, design a reusable space ship and fly to New York before lunch.

The Shuttle turned out to be a horribly flawed design, but my god the ambition it represented. If you ever get a chance go and take a look at a Space Shuttle main engine - it is a work of genius and an absolute triumph of engineering. It has to survive the temperature of liquid hydrogen without shattering like glass or developing leaks; the heat of an oxy-hydrogen flame without turning into a puddle, it has to pump biblical amounts of liquid without bubbling or variation. And then it has to get through the incredible vibration of takeoff and acceleration, moving and throttling throughout, return to Earth - and then do it again and again.

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Mike Richards

Apollo deaths weren't caused by Saturn

Saturn V was blameless in the Apollo 1 fire. That was a flaw in the Apollo Command Module from North American Rockwell.

Oh and there were only 10 manned flights of Saturn V (Apollos 8 - 17).

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Discovery glides into history

Mike Richards

Getting down

There are two more Shuttle launches, after that everyone will be going up and back down again on Soyuz modules.

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Anti-religious campaigners smack down census Jedis

Mike Richards

Another census thing

I'm very impressed by the range of languages on offer.

One that caught my eye was 'Swedish' - partly because I wasn't aware of large Swedish ghettos in the UK, but also because is there any Swede who doesn't speak better English than the average Briton?

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Mike Richards

You might be on to a winner

If you fill out all the forms with the same religion you - YES YOU - might be the lucky winner of a brand new faith school.

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Mike Richards

Erm - oh no it doesn't

''Thought shall not kill' is religious law which under pins our Society. Our sense of what is right and wrong can be directly traced back religious teachings.'

'Thou shalt not kill' is a nice soundbite, but it is quite surprising how much of the books of Exodus, Deuteronomy and Leviticus are given over to finding exceptions to what appears to be a fairly simple rule.

Working on the Sabbath - death. Planting two crops in the same field - that'd be a killing. Weaving two threads in the same garment - stone him! Then of course it is perfectly acceptable to kill people who live in the place your imaginary sky fairy tells you actually belongs to you, or those who worship a different imaginary friend, worship the same imaginary friend in a different way, or just don't look enthusiastic enough. The whole set of rules you think are a great way to live are full of viciousness and thuggery; they demean classes of people, demote the role of women to little more than that of property, encourage slavery, crush individualism and encourage fanaticism. They belong back in the bronze age along with the illiterate goat herders who dreamt them up.

Our sense of right and wrong have nothing to do with religion, they have developed independently because we are social animals. Just because some societies have formalised them along with bells and smells, doesn't give religion the right to claim that it is the only way to live life as a good person.

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Croatian brainboxes deploy calculus-based CAPTCHA

Mike Richards

I hope this catches on

Physicists putting up X-ray diffraction challenges, biologists making you work out the species from a DNA sequence (all of it) and the geologists just threatening to take a hammer to your tender bits.

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BBC to take cautious approach to 3D 'hype'

Mike Richards

Killer app

I think you might have stumbled upon the thing that will sell 3D like the proverbial hot cakes.

3D Womens' Beach Volleyball.

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How languages can live together without killing each other

Mike Richards

Wow!

I salute you for knowing something quite so spectacularly obscure.

Meanwhile I wonder if there is anyone capable of directly translating Basque to Icelandic, a language so unfathomably strange that it's just as well they're all stuck on an island halfway across the Atlantic.

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