* Posts by Mike Richards

3615 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

Germans plan to make 'synthetic natural' gas from CO2

Mike Richards

Parallel infrastructure

Why go to all the bother of distributing hydrogen when we have lovely efficient ways of moving gas and oil around the World? This project could simply push its products into the existing infrastructure.

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Soot, hydrofluorocarbs 'low-hanging fruit' to fight warming

Mike Richards

Soot

There's also a good reason to cut it back - it kills people.

Indoor particulate emissions are a serious health threat to people who rely on wood, dung or charcoal for their primary source of energy; and those of us in the developed world don't get off lightly - the sort of tiny particles pumped out by diesel engines are linked to various cancers.

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Wayward 'zombiesat' poses risk to other satellites

Mike Richards

Not worth it

NASA recovered a couple of satellites from low orbit when the Shuttle was new. The policy never caught on as the cost of refurbishing and decontaminating the satellites was extremely high.

As for geosynchronous orbit, there currently is no way of getting stuff back from high orbit. No one's ever got round to building a space tug and the boosters used to kick satellites out to geosync don't have fuel to bring them closer to home.

This will be an insurance claim.

Mike.

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El Reg PARIS team fires up the GPS tracker

Mike Richards

'El Reg's Iberian Bureau'

It's a shed isn't it?

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US X-37B robot minishuttle: 'Secret space warplane'?

Mike Richards

Shuttle polar orbits

It was the Shuttle's ability to fly polar orbits that really freaked the Kremlin into funding Buran. The Soviet military got it into their minds that a Shuttle carrying a nuclear weapon could lob a warhead at the Soviet Union, avoiding all of their early warning systems and anti-missile networks and still be back in California in time for mai-tais.

Brezhnev not only ordered the horrendously expensive Buran project, but also got the USSR to resume anti-satellite weapon research; both of which were canned right at the collapse of the Soviet Union. They got quite a long way, right up to launching the enormous Polyus satellite; which failed to reach orbit - but looks wonderfully sinister on its Gerry Andersonesque launcher:

http://i.imgur.com/7NefF.jpg

If you want the world to end in a thermonuclear toasting you want it to end because of weapons that look the part.

Getting the Shuttle to fly polar orbits would probably ended in disaster even if the Soviet Union wasn't panicked into lobbing a missile back at the US. The launches would have required extremely light weight solid rocket boosters. These were canned after Challenger exploded because they would have been even more prone to joint failure.

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Johnson: ID cards will pay for themselves

Mike Richards

Errr...

The money spent so far is sunk, lost, gone - whatever you want to call it.

Johnson seems to think that by getting the public to pay for it, the books miraculously balance. But that money isn't magicked out of nowhere - it is taken from other expenditure those people could have made - you know the sort, things that might have kept people employed, or just happy.

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Mystic Met closed Europe with computer model

Mike Richards

Also worth adding

In addition to the Met Office, NATS were getting information from the engine manufacturers who were telling them they could not guarantee their engines' performance under these conditions.

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Flights resume in Scotland - Gatwick and Heathrow still shut

Mike Richards

Andesite

The first ash eruption was mostly driven by the magma being andestic in composition. It was rich in silica and sticky so it exploded rather than flowed out of the vent. This magma had probably been sitting in the volcano since 1821-23 when it last erupted, becoming richer in silica with time. The ice would have added a small amount to the ash eruption, but not much.

The eruption appears to becoming 'strombolian' - small explosions of fluid magma which don't produce much ash at all. But, as you say, if more ice enters the vent that could create 'surtseyan' ash explosions - but they won't go to such an altitude. The people of Skógar and Vík will still be sweeping their roofs though.

This doesn't mean the explosive phase of the eruption is over; during 1821-23 there were two explosive eruptions separated by quite a long period of relative quiet. And of course, everyone is looking towards Katla next door which has been quiet since 1918 - and a quick check at the Icelandic Met Office site suggests its silent today.

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Obama 'deep space' Mars plans in Boeing booster bitchslap

Mike Richards

Not just Constellation

Boeing is a partner in Launch Alliance with its Delta V Heavy rocket. The whole thing has been a disaster as it is much more expensive than non-US rockets and has pretty much only survived thanks to the largesse of the government buying Deltas for space probes and classified missions.

If other American companies come into the marketplace for government launches, Delta V might not be able to compete there either. Which would leave Boeing pretty much out of the space business.

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El Reg PARIS team unboxes some toys

Mike Richards

Correct

They drive in the shade.

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Mike Richards

Lester's place

First - can we all come and stay, and

Second - is he still fighting the extradition?

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Volcanic Eyjafjallajökull dirt-splurt space snap

Mike Richards

Two years

Relax. Whilst there were a number of short periods when it erupted violently producing a lot of ash; most of the time Eyjafjallajökull just grumbled away.

On a media hype scale, this might be huge; but the eruption is much smaller than Mount St. Helens. It's just better placed for maximum buggeration in the current weather patterns.

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Mike Richards

Upside

According to the new rules of Scrabble I've just scored four hundred points.

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Lenovo ThinkPad X100e

Mike Richards

Default settings and updates

Hi Ryan,

Did you get all the updates from the Lenovo site? There is a BIOS update and graphics driver updates that gave mine a serious boost. Also the default power settings seem to underclock the processor. If you open the management app you should be able to tweak them a little faster.

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Mike Richards

Better than the mark suggests

The mark seems a bit mean when compared to the scores 'me-too' netbooks are getting.

The X100e runs Office 2007 with zero problems and has no trouble playing 720p MKV video (I haven't tried it with an external display, so I don't know about 1080 output).

And that keyboard - oh it's a joy to work with.

The only thing I haven't found, is there a quick way of disabling WiFi?

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Volcanic ash grounds dozens of UK flights

Mike Richards

Controversial

Whilst there is no doubt that the Laki eruption had a catastrophic effect on human, animal and plant life in Iceland; the Grattan paper is controversial. There are very wide differences in the estimates of sulfur produced by Laki which would affect how much damage it could have done. Also because the summer of 1783 was freakishly hot and that would have pushed mortality well above trend.

It is a fascinating paper though and well worth a read.

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Mike Richards

Rain

Bearing in mind the miserable state of the Icelandic climate, I doubt there was much need for a god of fire. Icelandic folklore tends to associate volcanoes with underground fire giants. Surtr, leader of the jötunn who help bring about the end of the World would be a good bet for any writs. Surtsey, the island created in a 1963 is named after him.

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Mike Richards

Two years

Wouldn't be uncommon for an Icelandic eruption, but the plume is a short term phenomenon as the gassy magma at the top of the chamber reaches the surface. Assuming the eruption continues for any length of time, the volcano will become much less explosive and become dominated by large-scale lava flows.

It's certainly going to bugger for travel and tourism around Southern Iceland even if there isn't a jökulhlaup (glacier burst). Eyjafjallajokull is right next to the main road into the gorgeous national park and forest of Þórsmörk.

Still, according to the latest seismic data, Katla under the much larger Mýrdalsjökull ice sheet hasn't started waking up. The last time it erupted in 1918, the jökulhlaup extended the Mýrdalssandur coastline by 5km and the ash poisoned animals in Northern Ireland.

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Facebook rejects CEOP 'panic button' demands (again)

Mike Richards

Who is behind CEOP?

I'd like to know how I could get the same level of ready access to government money and influence that CEOP and the Internet Watch Foundation appear to have.

They've not been elected or placed on a statutory basis and yet they appear to think they can tell us what to say, what to do and what to think. For the first time in my life can I say 'well done Facebook'.

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Brit science vessel probes hot cleft for weird lifeforms

Mike Richards

More likely...

Rather than being a completely different form of life, these organisms have evolved from those that lived in much less extreme conditions. They show how powerful evolution is, but they don't make it any more or less likely that radically different chemistries can be involved in life.

What they do make more likely is that carbon-based life can exist in places we never thought of previously. When black smoke colonies were first discovered it was only a small leap to imagine similar ecosystems appearing in the internal oceans of moons like Europa and Enceladus.

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Mike Richards

Strip mining ahoy!

It's worth pointing out that the black smoke itself is rich in metallic sulfides leached out of the molten rock below the surface. Many of our existing copper/lead/zinc/silver 'massive sulfide deposits' (geologists never use a complex term if a good old-fashioned bit of plain speaking will do) are the fossilised remnants of these smokers and there could be money in them thar rifts for anyone with a bucket and a really long length of rope.

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McKinnon's mum stands against Straw at general election

Mike Richards

Safe seats

There are plenty of seats around the country where you could paint a turnip red (or blue) and it would get elected by first past the post.

According to the Electoral Reform Society there are 382 safe seats in the UK. In Manchester and Merseyside 3/4 of seats are effectively already decided. 2/3 of those in London could not change on any conceivable political swing.

There's an Excel sheet of the data linked from:

http://www.politics.co.uk/opinion-formers/press-releases/general-election-2010/election-already-over-in-nearly-400-seats-$1369334$470346.htm

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Mike Richards

Jacqui Smith

Would have been a better target.

Sleazy and sitting on a wafer-thin 2,716 majority.

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Labour MP knocks up crowd-sourced election platform

Mike Richards

Reimagining Tom Watson

It might be worth remembering that the newly-sainted Tom Watson voted against his Party for the *first* time over this bill.

He was happy to be counted with them when it came to imposing ID cards, the ever-expanding reach of the DNA database, RIPA, the introduction of extreme porn laws, giving ministers the power to intervene in inquests, against inquiring into the Iraq war, against Freedom of Information being applied to Parliament and for the grab and run raid Labour has organised against our civil rights.

Tom Watson cares about as much about our liberties as David Blunkett. Let's not turn him into a martyr.

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A user's timetable to the Digital Economy Act

Mike Richards

How they measure it

'Given nobody has any real idea of the full extent of illegal file-sharing, how can anyone say with any certainty that illegal file-sharing has dropped after the 12 months is up ??'

That's easy - if Hollywood has a bad year and its movies are even crappier than normal, or if Simon Cowell doesn't get a number one, that can only be because people have been pirating the material. Declines in sales are *never* anything to do with people not having the money to buy media, bad releases, piss poor distribution or offensively intrusive DRM.

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ICBM lifts Europe's ice-sniffing sat

Mike Richards

SS-18 launches are cool

Mainly because a 200 tonne rocket filled with some of the nastiest chemicals ever invented, (and an optional thermonuclear city killer on top), is popped out of a silo using a gunpowder explosion, and then ignites its engines in midair.

Watching one, makes you wonder how many times they had to test that bit of timing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fB-vtc-d0Cg

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UKIP suspends Scouse candidate over sado smut movies

Mike Richards

UKIP

Were probably worried that the movie showed the benefits European integration when a Dutch plumber came to service a British washing machine.

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Mandybill: All the Commons drama

Mike Richards

Some of the finest brains in Britain at work...

Seriously folks - Siôn Simon was a Labour minister. He's standing down at the election but I think he might go far with clear thinking like this:

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North, Labour)

I understand the point my hon. Friend is making, but does he not think there is a danger that the Bill will criminalise large numbers of imaginative young people and education establishments who frequently share material on the internet and use the medium as a form of creative expression? Are we going to kill all that off and cut people off as a result of this Bill?

Siôn Simon (Birmingham, Erdington, Labour)

No, it does not criminalise anybody; all it does is simply seek to enforce the existing law. We should, however, be very careful that the Bill does not have the unintended consequence of bringing about the end of public wi-fi. I was assured by the experts in the various Departments involved in this legislation that there were clearly existing technical measures that made it perfectly possible to run public wi-fi with these measures.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North, Labour)

How?

Siôn Simon (Birmingham, Erdington, Labour)

Obviously, I do not claim to know what the technical measures are, but when I am told that they exist, I take it in good faith that they do exist, and unless my hon. Friend can prove to me that they do not exist-

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North, Labour)

rose-

Siôn Simon (Birmingham, Erdington, Labour)

My hon. Friend cannot prove that to me, however, as I am not going to give way to him again because I have not got the time.

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Mike Richards

House of Lords

The Lords get final approval, but short of a miracle it will go for Royal Assent in the next couple of days.

Both Labour and Conservative front benches support this atrocity and the Lords wouldn't dare to try upsetting the 'will of the Commons' this close to an election.

There might be some muttering, but Mandelson (if he can be bothered to turn up between stage managed photo opportunities with carefully picked voters) will mutter calm words about super-affirmative procedures and how reasonable he and his successors will be when the media industry come to them asking for Google, YouTube, Apple and the rest of the Web to be taken down because Simon Cowell hasn't been able to afford a new island this year.

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Mike Richards

Goodies for customers

At one point the bill said that the media industry would have to look at ways of making more online material available. It didn't say what they had to do, when they had to do it, that it had to be affordable, useful or that there would be any penalties if they somehow forgot to get round to doing it.

Knowing this lot, that was one of the bits of the bill that got chucked overboard.

In short - this was a bill written by the media business, for the media business and presented to them on a silver plate by a bunch of tossers who hope to get into the media business.

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Mike Richards

236 may have voted

But only about 10% of them were ever in the chamber. Ben Bradshaw who was in charge of the bill in the Commons couldn't even be bother to be there for the third reading because of a much more important commitment - appearing on Newsnight.

The sheer cuntitude of both front benches is almost beyond belief. But I'm sure they'll console themselves safe in the knowledge that David Geffen and Feargal Sharkey will be able to buy a new LearJet.

So who wants to bet how long it will be before someone in the media business is stupid enough to request a site be taken down because it might be used to infringe copyright at some point in the future?

And how long before they find some reason to block WikiLeaks?

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Tories drop opposition to UK.gov DNA plans

Mike Richards

Labour fighting on high principles I see

They're going to drag the mother of a murdered girl around the TV studios? How does that help the woman begin to get on with her life and heal the grief? Even if she wanted to do this, Alan Johnson and his bully boys should have said 'no' this is the wrong thing to do.

As for the Conservatives - come on, we know they haven't had any principles since the repeal of the Corn Laws.

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Mandybill enters pre-election wash-up

Mike Richards

Pedantic

That should be Lord Twatspanner.

But thanks for an awesome new addition to my lexicon.

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NHS IT misses another deadline

Mike Richards

I hope this was an April fool

Because it's just too depressing otherwise.

So if BT take over that means they will be picking up a big health contract originally signed by - former health secretary Patricia Hewitt - who now sits on the board of BT. I guess Patsy will be entitled to a nice big bonus this year.

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Associated Newspapers, GMG to pool newsrooms

Mike Richards

Nicely done

But is anyone else worried by Lester's ominous silence on this of all days?

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Acer prices up skinny, long-running Timeline X laptops for UK

Mike Richards

Handsome beastie

But I'm wondering what quality plastics and metals will be used to build this thing. Acer have produced some nice pieces of hardware, but all the ones I've tried have been let down by the eggbox construction and nasty materials.

By contrast, Lenovo don't really score on style, but their construction and use of materials is second to none.

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Nuclear synthi-jetfuel plants wanted for US Afghan bases

Mike Richards

One small problem so far...

...small reactors have almost always used highly enriched uranium as their fuel. Some even use bomb grade uranium. Even the more modern designs which use c. 20% enrichment are a serious proliferation risk as it is much easier to go from 20 -> 90% U235 than from natural uranium to 20% enrichment.

I'd like to know DARPA's plan of safeguarding nuclear materials if an American base equipped with a nuclear thunderbox came under sustained attack and was likely to fall to the enemy. It's not like you can haul a hot reactor out of harm's way.

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Italian toads predicted L'Aquila earthquake

Mike Richards

'gravity waves'

Is the BBC claiming that seismologists have detected something that cosmologists are still looking for, or are they, (as I suspect), making things up?

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Greenpeace labels Dell 'a bloody marketing machine'

Mike Richards

PVC

Left alone PVC is pretty much the safest stuff on the planet.

Burning it without scrubbing the fumes is seriously unhealthy as it releases chlorine compounds into the atmosphere. Some studies have linked PVC incineration with elevated levels of dioxins in nearby soil - although the evidence is less clear-cut than some environmentalists make out.

Vinyl chloride monomer is known to cause liver and bone damage as well as an almost unrivalled range of cancers. Fortunately modern PVC plants have tightened up their emissions and rates of liver cancer in particular amongst workers and those living nearby are almost indistinguishable from the population as a whole.

PVC can be nasty when it is softened using phthalate plasticisers. This used to be very common in products like children's toys, and baby's bottles. The phthalates can leach into the body either directly or when picked up by fatty substances (such as milk). Phthalates are known gender benders and cause infertility in even limited amounts. Some of them are also known carcinogens.

Most Western manufacturers have banned certain phthalates - especially diethylhexyl phthalate - from toys, although they are used in other PVC products where ingestion is unlikely - but they will most likely still eventually enter the environment as the products are disposed of.

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Carphone Warehouse splits with self

Mike Richards

Best Buy

Watch 'Chuck' - their Nerd Herd is a pretty accurate send-up of Best Buy employees.

BB's a bit like Curry's with transAtlantic lack of self-awareness.

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Child safety tsar demands faster action

Mike Richards

Safeguarding WiFi

Well if the MandyBill gets through Parliament that'll be solved. There won't be a public WiFi network in the country once companies realise they'll be liable for everything passing over their airwaves.

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Radio lobby 'hides' 2m analogue receiver sales

Mike Richards

Hmmmm

How many cars come with DAB already installed? My guess is that most cars still come with FM radios thrown in to make them look better value and that these sets are never upgraded during the life of the vehicle.

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Is iFlorist the greatest website in the universe, ever?

Mike Richards

Come on Reg - go all Which? on us

Order some lovely flowers for the even lovelier Moderatrix (or Lester) and see what happens, then write your own review.

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Dell Mini 10

Mike Richards

No more netbooks for me

I've discovered the Lenovo X100e. 11.6" display, enough grunt under the hood to run 720p videos, the usual ThinkPad construction (although it is plastic) and a quite magnificent keyboard. So it's £400 - but that extra £100 buys you a whole lot more functionality than any netbook on the market for very little extra weight.

I'd recommend that the Reg review team get one in and take a look-see; if only to save a couple of souls from the increasingly depressing netbook market.

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Vast 'Cloud 9' sky-wedding balloon destroyed in Vegas prang

Mike Richards

Make it better

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Aerial petting zoo!

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The Pirate Party is the shape of things to come

Mike Richards

And copyright isn't the only IP law

Short copyrights would not necessarily harm companies (the original Statute of Anne which kicked this off was a 14 year period with the option to renew once only for a further 14 years if the original author was still alive)

But copyright is not the only protection creators have on their products. Trademarks don't expire so long as you continue to use them. The oft-repeated case of Mickey Mouse and copyright law is a complete red herring (one spun successfully by Disney I might add).

Even if MM's copyright expired tomorrow, Disney would still have all the rights to the character because MM is trademarked. Disney would lose the exclusive right to redistribute archival MM as copyright expired on the movies (they make negligible amounts anyway), but the company would still be the only ones able to make new MM materials or licence the wretched rat's image.

Let's go back to 14 year copyright terms, one renewal, none of this nonsense about 'x years after death' - there's no justifiable reason why the law should guarantee the great, great grandchildren of an author an unearned source of income.

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Phorm turns up in Brazil

Mike Richards

"we are now active in almost every other major internet market worldwide."

Excluding North America and the EU.

Maybe they've got the lucrative Chinese intrusive profiling market sewn up now Google.cn is no more.

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Biometric harvest network can handle just 700k a year

Mike Richards

Post Offices

Where are they going to put the biometric enrollment facility? Replace the passport photo machine or get rid of the shelves holding all the cigarettes?

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US Navy plans self-building floating fortresses

Mike Richards

'ice-crete'

Close, it was called Pykecrete after its inventor Geoffrey Pyke. It was a mixture of wood pulp and water which was then frozen into blocks that took ages to melt. The pulp not only made it harder to melt, but made it less brittle. There's even a story that Pyke demonstrated its durability by shooting a block of the stuff in front of some top brass. The bullet not only failed to penetrate the Pykecrete, it ricocheted off and injured an American officer.

Churchill and Mountbatten were huge fans of the idea, and it even got a Codename - Habbakuk - which not only sounds like the noise you make when choking, but its even all Biblical and apocalyptic: "Behold ye among the heathen, and regard and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told to you.” Which as a mission statement, is pretty awesome.

A small plant was set up in Canada (home not only of lots of trees, but truly ball-busting cold) and a demonstration pykecrete barge was built. It survived several summers before actually melting.

Habbakuk itself was cancelled when long range bombers were available and the German Navy pretty much abandoned the Atlantic war.

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MIT boffins on track of portable 60-watt seawater desalinator

Mike Richards

Safe to say

These guys are about to become stupidly rich just as soon as the Pentagon can find the chequebook.

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