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* Posts by Mike Richards

3578 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

Fusion reactor eats Euro science budgets

Mike Richards
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Fire up the fusor

Philo T Farnsworth's fusor has been around with modifications for about fifty years now. Unlike cold fusion where the results are still disputed it does produce reproducible results. They're also relatively cheap to build (you can make one at home if you don't mind irradiating the cat with fast neutrons), so it looks like a technology that should be investigated seriously:

http://www.fusor.net/

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Mike Richards
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Hmmm they need $1.4 billion

How much did saving Northern Rock cost us?

What are the overruns on the NHS Spine?

How much for one of BAE's crappy frigates/submarines/Nimrods?

The UK, even in its current financial state could afford this and be seen as a visionary.

But we won't.

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PARIS in hot glue gun action

Mike Richards
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Mosquito

Didn't this have a slight problem with its wings falling off?

Just saying.

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Brighton NIMBYs complain over BT broadband upgrades

Mike Richards
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As well as being a very awesome idea...

...it does point out that all these conservation societies only ever want to preserve the 'nice' bits of any period. (Manu)factories and slums aren't considered worth saving so we end up with horrors like the National Trust and Prince Charles who think the only bits of the past we should have are those that look good on the back of a tea towel and can have a tea shop attached.

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Mike Richards
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Slander!

They're not being burned as witches, they're being burned as Devonians for the heresy of putting the cream on the scone* first.

* the more militant members burn people for using a scone when it should always be a split.

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First true submarine captured from American drug smugglers

Mike Richards
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As the man from the DEA says:

"It is the first fully functional, completely submersible submarine for transoceanic voyages that we have ever found,"

Which must mean it's better than anything BAE have produced for a long time.

But be prepared for BAE lobbying that they need to build more multi-billion unarmed combat ships to protect the UK from South American drug smugglers.

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Beeb dubs Facebook users 'saddos'

Mike Richards
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Grammar

'What about the twatterer?'

I think they're called the twatterati.

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3D TV: Avatar or Ishtar?

Mike Richards
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Bang on

This is the latest way for the movie industry to get people back to the theatres. Now we've all got big screens and HD the living room is looking increasingly appealing compared to the out-of-focus, crappy print quality, fast-food, daycare centres of the multiplex.

But if they can now offer 3D that's something you can't have at home. So for a couple of years people have been drifting along to see the novelty - some good ('Up'), some bad ('Clash of the Titans') - but all highly profitable as they've been able to bump up ticket prices.

Where it all falls down is that people who actually *like* 3D are few and far between. Even those movies that haven't been post-produced to look 3D (hello 'Last Airbender') tend to look a bit murky, are hard work on the eyes and come across as LESS immersive than a well-projected (especially digitally) 2D movie. I'd be perfectly happy never to see another 3D feature ever again outside of a theme park.

So no, 3D won't persuade me to buy a new set. Bigger screen, better blacks, Internet out of the box - yes, thinner - maybe.

And if they want me back in the multiplex - well tasers for the staff, a projectionist who knows what the focus does and content that doesn't assume I left the brain at home would be a good start.

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Mike Richards
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HD-DVD / Blu-Ray

The movie studios sided with Blu-Ray, probably because it offered even more DRM options.

The PS3 only helped adoption, but HD-DVD was dead by the time the PS3 actually started selling in bulk. Lucky they put Blu-Ray in the console, because it's something of a disappointment otherwise.

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Vital PARIS supplies jet in from US

Mike Richards
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'Expect bulging rubber tubing and pistons in due course.'

I've heard that somewhere else before now.

But the magistrate was very understanding.

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Robotic cargo spacecraft misses rendezvous with ISS

Mike Richards
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Not a biggie

The Progress has plenty of fuel and power to make another attempt at docking. This is a spacecraft with a formidable track record; there have been previous failed dockings, and you can bet the Russians will fix this.

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'Huge airships to carry freight starting 10 years from now'

Mike Richards
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Not a good theory

The theory is that the aluminium powder in the doped cover (which was there to reflect heat) reacted with an iron oxide primer. As good old-fashioned chemistry practicals taught us aluminium + iron oxide + heat -> aluminium oxide + iron + mind boggling amounts of heat. This is the thermite reaction.

The theory falls apart because the concentrations of iron oxide in the primer would not have been enough to start the reaction.

It also conflicts with evidence from the ground that report seeing a glow deep inside the airship before the fire became visible on the skin; and that the ship was reportedly stern heavy on her final approach, both of which suggest a hydrogen leak deep inside the craft.

At the end of the day, hydrogen doomed the ship; the Germans had just been incredibly lucky that they hadn't lost a civilian ship before then.

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Mike Richards
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Even better than blimps

Ekranoplans - much more fuel efficient than a plane and much faster than a ship. For those of us that grew up on Gerry Anderson TV they also have the added advantage of looking seriously awesome:

http://www.russia2all.com/images/shop/customer_media/7558/km-ekranoplan.jpg

(yes those are ALL engines!)

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Mike Richards
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Yes but...

By your methodology oil, coal and natural gas are renewable fuels.

Helium is being created constantly at a rate of about 3000 tonnes per year across the Earth. Unfortunately we're using ten times that much every year.

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Mike Richards
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Oh no it doesn't

The Earth is unable to hold on to helium because helium tends to migrate to the upper part of the atmosphere where the thermal velocity of helium atoms exceeds escape velocity. Some is also lost by ionisation through the Solar Wind.

There is no primordial helium on Earth which is easy to prove since He3 is practically non-existent down here whereas its plentiful on Jupiter which is big enough to hold on to its original helium.

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Mike Richards
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Seconded

RoboBlimp!

Surely the real market for these things is as freighters which can bring us the essentials of life (Spanish strawberries and Shanghai iPhones) much more quietly than a 747?

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Apple's iPhone 4 denial: insulting or ignorant?

Mike Richards
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Not knowing anything about antenna design

I'm a little confused how Apple's claim that recalibrating the display of bars to better show bad signals is going to solve my problem' namely that holding my iPhone 4 in my living room sends the signal from O2's usual 2 or 3 bars to 'No Service'. The previous iPhone had no problems making or receiving calls at home, this thing drops at least half of them.

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Last shuttle mission shifted to Feb 2011

Mike Richards
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Re So long Shuttle...

I don't think Beachrider is arguing with the flexibility of the Shuttle, just how the contracts were allocated. Several companies tendered for the key components of the Shuttle and the companies that eventually got the work were not those that were expected. North American Rockwell building the Orbiter was a real shock and there's always been suspicion that Nixon favoured a fellow Californian.

The choice of the SRB is also dubious; it was widely expected to have gone to Aerojet who had designed a monolithic booster design that would never have failed as happened with Challenger. Lockheed was second most likely. Instead it went to a segmented design from Morton Thiokol. Thiokol is based in Utah; at the time of the contract, NASA's head was James Fletcher who came from - Utah.

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Apple denies iPhone 4 antenna glitch, blames inaccurate signal bars

Mike Richards
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the clever bit...

...is that all of a sudden the iPhone is going to start reporting fewer bars. Apple will be able to tell users 'nothing to do with us, take it up with the network and demand better coverage'.

And their excuse is bollocks. My 3G registers 3 bars in my living room, it might fall to 2 bars when I pick it up to make a call. The iPhone 4 registers 2 bars and shows 'No network' when I deign to hold it using anything other than Apple's official finger tripod.

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US $250m superbomber 'almost as good' as $8m robot

Mike Richards
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An excitingly swoopy plane

albeit only about half as pretty as the Valkyrie and a tenth as gorgeous as the TSR-2.

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Sony tweaks Twitter gadget for UK users

Mike Richards
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Ummmm and the point of this is?

It's a mains-powered iPad that shrank in the wash.

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Microsoft's KIN is dead, long live Windows Phone 7

Mike Richards
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Not the device

The problem was the data plan. The target market isn't able to stump up the sort of monthly payments that Kin came with. Had it been sold unbundled it deserves to have done well - the Cloud based approach to pictures and the like is actually a good idea.

So for once Microsoft isn't actually the culprit.

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Strato-droids to mate in upper atmos, exchange vital juices

Mike Richards
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Well done Lewis

I think you've earned your pint for the day - and it's not even lunchtime.

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Beeb sacks teaboy, hires Press Association

Mike Richards
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Why do they use a Television Centre photo?

Most of the Beeb is now decamped just down the road at White City. Which is - as I can personally testify - the most confusing building on Earth - every corridor leads to a coffee shop.

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Naomi Campbell to appear in war crimes trial

Mike Richards
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It gets better

The nation's favourite clotheshorse is refusing to appear at the Hague - it might actually come to an international arrest warrant being issued that would compel her to attend.

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Meryl Streep to tackle Margaret Thatcher

Mike Richards
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Better casting

Sharon Stone reenacting her finest moment from 'Basic Instinct' showing how Thatcher charmed Reagan with Jedward to play the Thatcher twins. Graham Norton to host the inevitable BBC talent search programme.

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The 3G coverage picture that can't be published

Mike Richards
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MK is in the stoneage for comms

3G coverage is shite here on all the networks, the city centre has a WiFi network that no one can use and the cable network is crapola.

Truly the city of the future.

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Phorm's losses top $100m

Mike Richards
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China?

Ah they've finally found their true home. Though whether the Communist Party will be happy about an upstart foreign rival snooping on their citizens is another matter.

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Mike Richards
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No, no, no, no...

I'm reserving that song for the day Thatcher joins the great stock market flotation in the sky.

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Duff French missiles for Royal Navy finally fixed

Mike Richards
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Not quite the same thing

I was impressed at the Science Museum with their Bloodhound missile - which for a bit of 1950s tech still has a lot of WOW!

Namely it's go up to 400mph by the time it cleared the launcher and went supersonic in 25 - seconds? no - FEET.

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Mike Richards
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French frigate, Italian Frigate, British...

...barge.

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Comet-bomb interceptor makes low pass above Atlantic

Mike Richards
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Disappointed

Usually NASA have a handy back-of-the-envelope comparison to hand on to tell us just how insanely difficult this is - you know, 'scoring a hole-in-one after a three mile shot' or 'getting five bars while making a call with an iPhone 4' (okay this wasn't that difficult, but you get the idea).

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Power line tech could crash aircraft and shut down the Archers

Mike Richards
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So now...

...we've all got to switch off electrical items when the plane is taking off - whether we're on it or not.

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Pakistan set to ban more web blasphemy

Mike Richards
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Forwards towards the glorious 12th Century!

While India is turning itself into a 21st Century superpower powered by science and innovation, Pakistan is burying its head in the sand. This sort of thinking (alongside widespread campaigns against Western concepts encompassing everything from rights for women to evolution) is crippling its economic future and giving no hope to its people that they can ever be raised out of genuine horrific poverty.

With the exception of anyone working in Pakistan's nuclear programme, the future doesn't look bright. And for the rest of us, the fact a country with these sort of people making decisions has a nuclear programme doesn't bode well at all.

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UK arms industry 'same as striking coal miners' - Army head

Mike Richards
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The only problem with this is...

Thatcher WAS in charge of the country when most of the current batch of white elephants lumbered off the drawing board. She was just as in love with BAe as her successors.

Perhaps now is the time to bring back the Sandys report and scrap all manned aircraft in favour of unmanned whooshy things.

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Vauxhall Ampera extended range e-car

Mike Richards
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Built in Europe

Though where precisely hasn't been decided. If you're lucky it'll come out of one of GM's German plants.

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Mike Richards
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Looks

It looks like an American's idea of what a European saloon should look like, after having a Maserati described by a mime artist.

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Sony Vaio P netbook

Mike Richards
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Colour

Does it come in any shade of sane?

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Future quantum computers could be made of... silicon?

Mike Richards
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Apple should make the first quantum computer

It'll deter people from trying to upgrade their machine if they know popping open the box might kill the undead cat that makes everything work.

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Buyer's Guide: 3D TVs

Mike Richards
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Correction

'so you don’t have to worry about buying the wrong type of 3D TV and then being left with an expensive and obsolete piece of kit when one format wins out over the other'

Instead, you can now worry about buying a 3D TV and then being left with an expensive and obsolete piece of kit when you finally realise how much you've got to pay to equip family and friends with the bloody glasses.

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Want Olympic tickets? Better get a VisaCard then

Mike Richards
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Beastly foreigners

Will be able to use Mastercards. It's just those of us who are paying for the fiasco won't get a choice in which way we actually pay to see what we built.

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Dixons renames itself Dixons

Mike Richards
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'Lower stock levels'

Ah that explains why they've decided to phase out floppy disks.

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Redback spiders provoke BAE lock-down

Mike Richards
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BAe

You do realise these spiders are the only deadly thing to come out of a BAe factory in the last decade.

Perhaps we should replace Eurofighters with spiders (each with their own cute little parachute) nd drop those on the Taliban?

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Flying-boat tiltrotor catamaran design wins NASA compo

Mike Richards
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Oh yes

And whilst we're about it could be also have one of these?

http://rides.webshots.com/photo/2695001730048918155QVwPHU

Either that or an Eagle from Space 1999.

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Apple, Google, Microsoft – are you a Brand Taliban or Brand Evangelist?

Mike Richards
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Pro / anti BP?

Surely that's where this all breaks down. BP produces oil and petroleum products that are to all intents and purposes indistinguishable from every other oil company. How can you be a brand evangelist when you can't tell the difference? The only thing that really distinguishes them are their logos and okay - on that alone, BP has the best logo.

It's different where phones and computers are concerned as you can at least pick on some aspect speed/design/OS etc and love it/loathe it.

As for why we do it? Surely it's down to a need to justify our expenditure? 'I've bought brand X therefore it HAS to be the best!'

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Big EU imports of Sahara sun-power coming soon?

Mike Richards
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Iceland

There've been a number of studies that have all come to the conclusion that up to 1GWe could be brought to the UK via a high voltage DC cable strung from Iceland to Scotland for less than the cost of a nuclear power station. The Icelanders would probably be happy as it would allow them to sell power at a commercial rate rather than the heavily subsidised rates used by aluminium and ferrosilicon plants.

Though there is growing concern in Iceland at the environmental effects of large-scale hydro power (which supplies about 75% of their output). At the moment they have a power surplus (which must be nice), but there are extremely controversial plans to put more dams on the epic Þjórsá near Hekla. What they'll do with this power is uncertain, aluminium smelting is deeply unpopular as it doesn't require much skilled labour and all the value is added when the metal leaves Iceland. So there is a big push to get server farms to come to Iceland - there's a huge one at Keflavík and even the prospect of solar silicon manufacture.

But why risk those when there's a big island to the South that's having trouble keeping the lights on?

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Mike Richards
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Would it be photovoltaic?

Since most of the large solar schemes tried out in California and Spain have been solar-thermal plants which have higher efficiencies and can generate power at night by storing heat in molten salt.

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Huge new airships for US Army: designed in Blighty

Mike Richards
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Well let's hope it works better this time round...

...the last airship we sold to the US exploded over the Humber:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R38_class_airship

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Twitter on a ZX Spectrum

Mike Richards
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Ah the Dragon

Wasn't that the machine where every game had green on green graphics?

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Tom Stoppard: Tech is destroying the written word

Mike Richards
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As Plato once said about writing

'And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.

'The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.'

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