* Posts by Mike Richards

3615 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

Cyber attacks will 'catastrophically' spook public, warns GCHQ

Mike Richards

'"catastrophic" effect on public confidence in the government'

I don't think we need the cyberattack to have zero confidence in this bunch of control freak chimps.

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Silicon Valley hypegasm for miracle shoebox powerplants

Mike Richards

Problem with breeder reactors

Is one word.

Plutonium.

U238 is bred into Pu239 in a reactor. Fortunately for all of us, so far FBRs have been stupidly expensive, stupidly inefficient and stupidly unreliable so almost all countries have given up on the splendidly pyrotechnic mix of superheated plutonium, molten sodium and hot water.

We're already scared witless over the possibility of plutonium getting out of the fuel cycle and into the hands of the sort of people who shouldn't be trusted with a box of matches. And that's just with our existing light water reactors. Building reactors that are explicitly designed to make more of the stuff doesn't seem to be likely to end well.

The current treaties on the peaceful uses of nuclear power would give any country the right to make as much plutonium as they like in fast breeder reactors. They'd have to have reprocessing technology to recover the plutonium from the spent fuel and there is effectively no difference between bomb-grade and reactor grade plutonium if all you want is a relatively crude deterrent.

The thorium breeder has a similar problem. U233 is fast fissionable and as Operation Teapot showed in 1955 it makes for a delightfully pretty city buster.

http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Usa/Tests/Tpotmet1.jpg

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Lost Nazi nuke-project uranium found in Dutch scrapyard

Mike Richards

Heisenberg

Wasn't ever core (ahem) to the German uranium project which was run mainly by Kurt Diebner. Early on the Germans had decided to concentrate on the power generation potential of fission rather than the bomb, so the Norsk Hydro heavy water was absolutely key to their objectives in calculating the fissionability of uranium.

Fortunately for us the whole project never got a very high profile in the Reich (Speer reported that Hitler only showed a passing interest in the subject) and for a long time ended up being funded by the Reich Postal Ministry of all places. By the time the Germans got round to experimenting with uranium enrichment they were being bombed back to the stone age and there was a crippling shortage of key components.

The German uranium project was eventually wrapped up by the Allies as Operation Alsos (alsos - 'grove' in Greek. The Manhattan Project was run by General Leslie Grove). They recovered a near-criticality experiment and several tonnes of uranium, but nothing close to what the Americans, British and Canadians had achieved.

Oh and trivia buffs. The Joachimsthaler mines which provided the Germans with their uranium were the only source of the metal in Europe. They had also provided Marie Curie with the pitchblende in which she discovered radium and polonium. Uranium extraction had been a side effect of mining silver. Which was used in the local currency, called the thaler. Whose name lives on as 'the dollar'.

Richard Rhodes' 'The Making of the Atomic Bomb' is absolutely recommended reading for anyone interested in how we came to be where we are today.

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Kodak prompts ITC to consider iPhone ban

Mike Richards

Apple Xerox

It's unlikely that Xerox would have won the case anyway. After all they invited Apple in and got paid hard cash.

In 1979 Apple engineers had heard a lot about the Smalltalk work going on at PARC and got an agreement from Xerox that the company could buy 10,000 Apple shares (worth $1 million pre-IPO) in exchange for which Apple could see what was going on at PARC. Over the heads of some of PARC's staff, Xerox's management said Apple could see everything.

The Lisa team which was already well advanced with the OS, then began to implement a completely drag-and-drop interface which was well ahead of what Xerox had demonstrated. They were joined by many ex-PARC people who could see WiMP wasn't going anywhere under Xerox.

As for those shares. Xerox sold them for more than $17 million.

Apple did later agree to licence an ex-Xerox patent from a company called IP Innovation LLC, but that seems to relate to tabbed interfaces rather than WIMP per se.

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Swedish mother-daughter saint skulls are ringers, say boffins

Mike Richards

Now firmly in Blackadder territory

Edmund: Ah. Well, let's start with the pardons, shall we?

Baldrick: Right. Well, this is a fair selection. Basically, you seem to get what you pay for. They run all the way from this one, which is a pardon for talking with your mouth full, signed by an apprentice curate in Tukesbury.

Edmund: Ah. How much is that?

Baldrick: Two pebbles. ...all the way up to this one, which is a pardon for (reads) anything whatsoever, including murder, adultery, or dismemberment of (Edmund reads along) a friend or relative.

Edmund: Who's that signed by?

Baldrick: Both popes.

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Doctor Who attempted to overthrow Thatcher

Mike Richards

'current Dr Who with its multicultural & gay agenda'

What is this 'gay agenda'?

Did they include a timetable in the 'Radio Times' that I really should have paid more attention to? And is there homework?

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Wreck of 1930s flying aircraft carrier dubbed 'historic'

Mike Richards

Kind of...

Akron and Macon were built by Goodyear-Zeppelin, a partnership founded (quite brilliantly) in 1917, just before America joined World War I. Re-established in 1929, Goodyear got the rights to Zeppelin patents and people, Zeppelin (which was haemorraging money) got 10% of the partnership, hard cash and a guaranteed customer who could pay their bills.

The Zeppelin NT is still flying, there's one near the old Zeppelin works in Friedrichshafen that takes people over Lake Constance. IIRC there are two or three sister ships.

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Mike Richards

Wasn't the 'Akron'

Twas the LZ126 / ZR3 'Los Angeles':

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ZR3_USS_Los_Angeles_upright.jpg

After this the US Navy refused to allow their ships to use high masts.

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Chilean mint misspells Chile

Mike Richards

No, no, no...

It's an anti-fraud feature. Until El Reg broke the story, the Chilean Mint could identify real coins by checking to see if the name was spelt incorrectly. Now that cunning plan's been blown open they've had to resort to the back-up excuse that it was a terrible mistake.

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John Mayer tweets remorse over Playboy interview

Mike Richards

Oh thank god

It wasn't just me wondering if I've missed a meeting.

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Home Office to secure mobile phones

Mike Richards

Here's how the Home Office normally goes about solving the problem

LONDON. British boffins have opened their shed doors, clamped pipes between their teeth and proudly unveiled the Home Office's solution to street crime; a problem which afflicts even pleasant parts of our Metropolis. The half ton cast-iron and glass wonder is called The British Aerospace Mark I Telephonic Communications Enclosure'. This commodious device about the size of an average living room has been styled by a avant-garde cathedral architect and incorporates the very latest in Bakelite technology.

Her Majesty's Minister for the Interior, the Right Honourable Alan Johnson MP, told this correspondent that the government soon hopes to have enclosures on every street corner so that even working class people can indulge in the latest craze of making 'telephone calls' for a modest sum and to provide convenient advertising locations for ladies working night shifts.

The enclosures, which are already being called 'phone boxes' by the low orders will be painted in a patriotic shade of red. Once again, Britannia leads the way!

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Researchers rip iPad apart to reveal Apple's profits

Mike Richards

Bill Gates

Wasn't Bill Gates also unimpressed by the iPod and the iPhone? As a techno pundit he's somewhat lacking.

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Drayson locks Forces chiefs out of Defence budget carve-up

Mike Richards

'uniformed opposition' - should be 'informed opposition'

Drayson is a pointless waste of perfectly good carbon isn't he?

A jumped up Labour Party donor who made his first fortune selling a batch of life-expired vaccines to - oh - a Labour government and then made another one selling smallpox vaccines to - a Labour government - without ever having to tender for the contract.

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Boffins spy liquid water on Saturn's moon

Mike Richards

Naming water

'Water' is the English name of the molecule H2O. Its phases are water ice, liquid water and water vapour. Since water can be found in all three phases in space, the clarification is needed.

'Ice' is also incorrect because some of the outer planets and their satellites are made of water ice with greater or lesser amounts of ammonia ice, methane ice... and don't get me started on the clathrates...

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Mike Richards

Answer

'Anyone know how many tonnes of extra water will be required to put Tuvalu under a foot of water?'

Depends if you're aiming it at Tuvulu or not.

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Viking frogmen chase Street View spymobile

Mike Richards

Could it be...?

I reckon Lewis has been on holiday to the sub-Arctic paradise of Bergen.

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US gov's emptying of vast Texan helium-tank dome 'wrong'

Mike Richards

Zeppelins

The Graf Zeppelin was always planned to be filled with hydrogen, it was only after the R101 burned that Zeppelin began considering helium as a lifting gas. Had the Graf been filled with helium she would not have been able to make transAtlantic flights. Zeppelin even cancelled the planned LZ128 for the same reason and began work on the much bigger LZ129 Hindenburg which would have been viable with helium.

Zeppelin did not have formal negotiations with the American government about using helium in Hindenburg, instead relying on their chief Hugo Eckener's close friendship with Roosevelt to try and release the gas. However, the President's hands were tied by Congress passing the Helium Control Act which forbade the large scale export of the gas. Hindenburg was redesigned at a late stage as a hydrogen-inflated ship (she would have originally had two sets of gas cells, the main ones filled with helium for lift, the second filled with hydrogen acting as anti-ballast which would be vented to offset the loss in weight from burning fuel).

Hindenburg was inflated with hydrogen on her first season, Zeppelin were confident they could handle the gas safely - they had never had a hydrogen fire on any of their civilian ships - and the airship performed superbly. During the winter of 1936/37 she was laid up and her accommodation expanded to take advantage of the greater lift from hydrogen. She returned to the TransAtlantic route in the spring of 1937 and burned shortly afterwards.

It was only after the Lakehurst disaster that the Zeppelin company approached the US for an export license for helium to inflate Graf Zeppelin II - the Hindenburg's near twin. The ship had been redesigned to accommodate helium, including advanced water recovery systems that would reduce the need for venting gas. Once again Eckener appealed to Roosevelt and was given permission to have the gas. However, Harold Ickes blocked the export in retaliation for Germany's annexation of the Rhineland.

Graf Zeppelin II was inflated with hydrogen but never made a commercial flight, the US having blocked any hydrogen-filled ships from their territory. She spent a short life on propaganda missions for the Nazis and trying to ferret out the secrets of Britain's radar chain. The original Graf Zeppelin was deflated and turned into a museum. Both were scrapped early in World War 2.

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BAE cops to arms-deal violation, pays $400m US fine

Mike Richards

So

Any chance Tanzania will get its money back?

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E-book readers are a satisfied lot

Mike Richards

'The Sony will go flat just in standby in about 5 days..'

Really? I can get a couple of weeks out of the 505 - even more if I don't put a memory card in it and just rely on the internal memory.

Fantastic device, the iPad will have to be REALLY impressive if it is to be a better way of reading on the go. But I agree with you over the terrible Waterstone's eBook store. It's simply shocking, how Sony tolerate it I don't know.

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DNA pioneer lambasts government database policy

Mike Richards

New Labour response

Scientists!

What do they know?

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Think Aussie election rules are draconian? Look at the UK's

Mike Richards

Does this mean

We can continue to call Alan Johnson a complete twunt right up until the moment the election is announced?

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ID minister promises virtual immortality for all Britons

Mike Richards

Terry Gilliam

Really should have sued New Labour for nicking all their policies from 'Brazil'.

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Mike Richards

Seriously, it's not just you

But has anyone given any thought what sort of job Meg will be capable of after the election when she, her party and this ghastly project are finally put on the scrapheap.

Hillier (check - yup typed it right) comes across as not quite the sharpest tool in a knife drawer filled with rolling pins.

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Obama scraps Constellation moon mission

Mike Richards

Meanwhile on Wall Street

The banks that got us into this mess will be paying out $118 billion in bonuses.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704281204575003351773983136.html

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Mike Richards

Since you asked

'While it is true the Shuttle flies a more complex mission (0-M23_0 as opposed to airliners less than M1) with more engines (about 44 in total with 4 different propellants) and some unique systems (TPS, Fuel cells) is it *really* 12.5x more complex?'

Yes.

HTH.

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Mike Richards

AAP

Yep they existed and got to quite an advanced stage, but Apollo was gutted when the Vietnam war and inflation began to eat the American economy for breakfast. By the end of the 1960s NASA could essentially have the Shuttle and that was it.

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Airport scanners go live today, kids included

Mike Richards

Children

How can children give informed consent for scanning? And what if they say 'no' (as any parent knows only too well) - does the child get taken off the flight? does the family not fly? or do they get dragged through the scanner come what may?

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Mike Richards

Lord Andrew Adonis

As the Guardian's Simon Hoggart once put it, 'he's much more an Andrew than an Adonis.'

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Mike Richards

According to the BBC

The regular metal detector arches will be randomly selecting people to surrender to the Pervatron, the human element (or indeed the element of the security staff) won't get a look in.

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Mike Richards

Wow!

I think you've just come up with the idea for ITV's next big Saturday night show. A new version of 'Blind Date' with a freshly botoxed Cilla and a Pervatron.

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Mike Richards

Everyone through the Pervatron

If you want everyone to go through you'd better get used to the five hour check-in. These devices aren't quick and I have a strange suspicion they're not going to be that reliable.

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Obama to boost US nuclear power industry

Mike Richards

Reprocessing

The British and French have far more experience of reprocessing than the US and neither has managed to turn their businesses into profitable entities. The last time anyone in Britain looked at reprocessing it was with the view of determining if it was worth continuing at all. I suspect if Sellafield wasn't such a major employer in an area with sod/all other employment it would have been closed down by now.

As for why America never went down the reprocessing route, it was in part because they had a separate plutonium production industry based at Hanford. Their power industry quickly standardised on BWR and PWR systems using enriched uranium and long burn times producing relatively little bomb-friendly Pu239.

The UK on the other hand went with Magnox and AGR stations consuming natural uranium with on-load refuelling after short burn times. Their reactors produced plenty of Pu239 and the Magnox fuel HAD to be reprocessed because it corrodes rapidly.

So yes, reprocessing kind of makes sense in getting the most out of the fuel, but it won't make for cheaper energy and it will make for a lot of high-level actinide waste which will have to be processed and stored. Good luck with finding a permanent solution for that.

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Silicone implants that generate 'leccy invented for US spooks

Mike Richards

Works in reverse

We might have just found the perfect silent notification for SMS messages.

THWUD - BOING! You have mail!

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India eyes man in space by 2016

Mike Richards

Re; Budget?

India had a growth rate of about 7% last year. I'm guessing they can afford it.

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Mike Richards

No, not really...

It's an incentive for Indian companies to develop high technologies which can be exported and lift even more people out of poverty. China has become the most successful country in history at uplift, not by rural aid, but by industrialisation.

Just as Victorian Britain had the slums of the East End which were every bit as unpleasant as those of Mumbai, it was also capable of scientific and engineering accomplishments such as the Beagle voyage and the Crystal Palace.

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Apple iPad vs netbooks: fight not over yet

Mike Richards

RAM

It's not the small screen, slow processor or tiny keyboard that means I've pretty much given up on netbooks - it's that they're still shipping with Windows and 1Gb RAM. It's just not enough to make them useful over a long period of time.

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Verified by Visa bitchslapped by Cambridge researchers

Mike Richards

URLs

Good point, but (IIRC) some sites - like Tesco - bring up the VbV in a frame or iFrame so you can't even see the URL - only an unexpected shonky page which looks nothing like the retailer's own asking you for confidential information.

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Mike Richards

In Sweden 10 years ago

SwedBank rolled keyfobs out over a decade ago, but then their banking system seems to be somewhat better managed than the UK's.

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Mike Richards

Ah that explains it!

I'm also with HSBC and used my Visa card heavily in the run-up to Christmas buying travel tickets from all and sundry.

Christmas Eve arrives and my card is locked, meanwhile the World's Local Bank (tm) has buggered off down the pub for a bonus-fuelled piss-up.

When I eventually got through to someone called Charles (in Bangalore) they couldn't explain why the card was locked, only that certain security issues had been raised - but nothing so serious that a few minutes listening to the godawful three bar HSBC anthem (all of their long-suffering customers will know it well) couldn't put right with a short spot of [tappity] and the requisite 'have you thought about buying home insurance from HSBC?' question.

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Mike Richards

Looks like phishing

Every time I hit the dreaded VbV page I do a double-take - it looks utterly shonky as if it was knocked together by some script kiddie. Wonky fonts and justification, the company logos haphazardly placed on the page. If it at least looked like the public face of a faceless private corporation it would be mildly reassuring.

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Compulsory perv scanners upset everyone

Mike Richards

ECHR

Is nothing to do with the European Union, it's run by the Council of Europe and was created largely by British lawyers.

Having said which, the EU is also doing a lot more to protect us than our own government.

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Only nukes can stop planetsmash asteroids, say US boffins

Mike Richards

Measurements

Are these perpendicular gothic cathedrals or just the regular Roman basilica type?

And as for the nuclear weapons - roughly how many cardinals would they weigh?

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MPs frozen out of super-secret copyright talks

Mike Richards

'Junior business minister David Lammy'

He's just as clueless when professing to be the universities minister.

In a heap of really shit government officials, Lammy stands out as especially bad - forget 'Blears bad' - he makes her look competent; travel far past 'Hoon bad', take the second exit at 'Blunkett bad' and you'll still need to fill up the tank to reach the particularly pointless realm inhabited by David Lammy.

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Mike Richards

That's not how it works

I'm not sure this is going to form a new Copyright Act or whether it will simply be incorporated into a new copyright treaty (which is the prerogative of the government and does not need any debate).

There have to be three readings of the Bill in both the Commons and the Lords to enact an Act of Parliament. If Parliament is prorogued before the Royal Assent the bill automatically falls and has to start from scratch. There's almost no chance any new copyright bill could pass through these stages, even if both sides were in agreement, before the end of this Parliament.

The first reading is a formality. The government minister (or occasionally a back bencher) announces that a bill on such-and-such is going to be introduced. There's rarely a vote at this point. The real chance to change things is at Second Reading. Here's where all the debate occurs. MPs can post amendments (which must be voted on) or the whole bill can be thrown out.

The bill then goes off to committee for scrutiny (make your own jokes here). The government decides whether to accept the amendments from committee and the bill is then introduced for Third Reading. Usually this is a formality, but the amendments from committee can be voted on. However it's very restrictive and usually guillotined.

If the bill gets to this point it then goes to the Lords for three further readings and a committee stage. The Lords can also suggest amendments or reject the bill. After which it's back to the Commons. Assuming the Lords have no objections the bill goes for Royal Assent. If the Lords have suggested amendments, the government can either choose to accept them or to reject the amendments - at which point, back to the Lords again.

But I suspect, Mandelson's Law, which is fully supported by the Tories will be worded in such a way that any changes to copyright will become law without any public debate.

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Super-soldier exoskeleton to get 3-day fuel cell powerpack

Mike Richards

A nuclear powered exoskeleton

Oh my - this is the sort of things dreams are made of!

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Airport scanner staff object to vetting

Mike Richards

Yes, but look on the upside...

...a clever government will soon realise each of these images is indecent and probably breaks the law. In which case each passenger can be fined for indecent exposure with the money going to the State - let's just call it a Security Levy.

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Mike Richards

Surrender to the Pervatron!

I think I've worked this one out.

I'm a threat to mankind because I want to fly. Meanwhile the bloke operating the man-sized microwave isn't - because he's got a peaked cap.

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Police arrest MD of dowsing-rod 'bomb detector' firm

Mike Richards

'We are working on a new model that has flashing lights'

'Hello? Is that Keyboards Direct? Hi, I seem to have sprayed coffee over my old keyboard and I need a new one - now. What? You'll be right round you say? That's fantastic! Thank-you Keyboards Direct.'

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Egyptian mobile users warned off Koran-based ringtones

Mike Richards

Saint of the day and 'Daily Pope'???

Oh if only Father Ted were with us now.

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Avatards rush to name sprogs Pandora

Mike Richards

Makes a good case for the Swedish taxman

Our Nordic neighbours wouldn't put up with this nonsense; the kid would be called Annifred or Agnetha or possibly Lars.

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