* Posts by Mike Richards

3595 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

Nork nuke quite a lot less powerful than Hiroshima

Mike Richards

@ Anonymous Coward @ Ken Hagan

'Do we really know for a fact they didn't just pile up six thousand tons of TNT in an underground cave and blow it all up at once in order to bluff us?'

That is a possibility with these relatively (and I stress the word RELATIVELY) small yields. It's a fine art to distinguish one of these blasts from an earthquake when you don't know the geology of the region in any detail, let alone the cause.

The previous NK test vented some of its fission products into the atmosphere and they were picked up by the Americans and Japanese, so we know they did detonate a nuke before - we even know a little bit about how it was made and what sort of technology was being used.

So you can bet lots of planes with sticky bits of paper* hanging out of them are flying over the Sea of Japan right now in the hope of picking up something. The USAF has its Constant Phoenix which you can read about here: http://www.af.mil/information/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=192

* Okay, really high tech sticky bits of paper if it makes you happy.

And Ken makes some good points.

'The WW2 weapons were quite possibly over-engineered to make sure they went off. North Korea's are quite possibly under-engineered to conserve their material. As a species, we have learned quite a lot about these bombs in the last 65 years, so it would be naive to assume that scientists in NK know less about these things than the pioneers of the Manhattan project.'

The Little Boy bomb was hugely over-engineered to guarantee that it would explode - it used more than 1 critical mass of uranium to make the big bang and a flash. The US was so confident the uranium cannon would work they didn't test it. The US built about 80 Little Boy type weapons in the immediate aftermath of WW2 until the superior implosion bombs started to be mass produced. The only country to replicate it was South Africa which built a handful of weapons in the 1980s and 90s before dismantling them with the fall of apartheid. SA wanted to avoid an obvious plutonium enrichment program and had plenty of experience with enriching U235 as a cover.

Fat Man was less over-engineered than Little Boy as it used a sub-critical mass of plutonium which was compressed into a super-critical mass by implosion. The US gradually reduced the amount of fissile material in its weapons by levitating the core (giving much more force to the implosion) and boosting the yield with deuterium / tritium. By the late 1950s the US had got a 0.5 kT fission weapon down to 23kg and just 28cm in diameter.

(1950s madness here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Crockett_(nuclear_device) )

But these were only made possible after a great deal of testing. It seems unlikely that NK could go to a miniaturised warhead so early on its own back. Although the really scary thought is that Pakistan *MIGHT* have provided them with one of their missile warhead designs (in turn obtained from the Chinese).

'Point 2: there has been considerable argument over the actual sizes of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs over the years. Wikipedia says 13kt and 21kt respectively and those are at the bottom end of the scale. Historical estimates have been about double that, so a factor ot two uncertainty for the NK device is no big deal at this stage.'

The Hiroshima blast is the one open to most argument; Nagasaki's yield is pretty locked down as the US did immediate studies of the fireball and the radio isotopes in the plume. The figures for Nagasaki were also cross checked with the near identical data obtained from the Trinity explosion. No such work was done at Hiroshima so the estimated yield was back calculated from casualties and damage on the ground.

HTH.

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Mike Richards

Probably not good news either way

It suggests the North Koreans are fixing their problems with making an implosion weapon, although there's clearly something wrong with their design or their materials.

Pretty much everyone else who's followed the Fat Man design (that'd be the Russians, British, Chinese and French - possibly the Indians and the Pakistanis) set it off and it worked; but not only did it work, but they got AT LEAST 19kT - actually the French did best with 70 kT on their first shot.

So either the North Koreans have some problems with their basic design or they're trying to jump ahead and miniaturise their design without doing the basic testing.

The worst news would have been if they'd produce a yield much more than 19kT - then we'd know we were in trouble.

Of course, he said thinking on the hoof, they might have tried a uranium cannon bomb like Little Boy (and the South African nukes). It's pretty much idiot proof and guaranteed to work, but it's a ridiculously inefficient bomb and produces a much lower yield. Though, whether North Korea has enough U235 to make one is a good question and it'd be militarily useless - too big to go into a missile and NK doesn't have any suitable bombers.

God I miss my nuclear chemistry classes.

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Stolen RAF files are blackmailer's dream

Mike Richards

Can't work out which is more tragic

That thieves can break into an RAF base, or, that the disk wasn't secure.

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Buddy unveils Metro e-car

Mike Richards

You're all being too hard on the designer

One of the things the designer mentioned in his brief for this horrible-looking thing was that it had t be big enough to carry two people and

A CASE OF BEER

This guy is clearly thinking clearly, we should encourage more engineers to work this way. So the next space shuttle must carry 7 astronauts into orbit for seven days, return safely in any weather and be capable of stowing a case of beer. The US Army's next robot must survive dangerous combat conditions and not spill a single bottle of beer...

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E-cars are a dangerous myth, says top boffin

Mike Richards

Bit out of date with his numbers

'Only 36 per cent of energy available in the fuel in a power station is delivered as electricity'

Combined cycle gas stations like those that dominate UK energy production rate at over 60% efficient. Throw in distributed heating systems where they supply local populations with hot water and heating and you can be looking at round about 80% of the energy in the fuel going to useful purposes.

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'Thieving' sperm whale caught on CCTV

Mike Richards

'Do you recognise this sperm whale'

This could really brighten up Alaska's version of CrimeWatch.

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Yahoo! puts webpages in their place

Mike Richards

Yahoo!???

Are you still here?

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ESA chooses British army officer as astronaut

Mike Richards

@Remy Redert

'He might be able to keep the moustache if he has one, but you do understand he'll need to lose the pipe if he's to go up into space. Right?'

But... but... but... Dan Dare had a pipe:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/12220922@N05/2683800114

The pressing need for a zero-G pipe requires the full application of the best of British boffinry. Since we don't have a DARPA to call our own...

Gentlemen! To your sheds and prepare for blast-off.

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Mike Richards

One unanswered question

In order that he meet perceived international stereotypes, does Major Peake have a truly splendid waxed moustache and a pipe?

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More doubts on ID card readers

Mike Richards

Distinctive noise???

Oh god, you just know the government is even now investing in workshops, DVDs and teams of roving ID ambassadors to show and tell security twonks about the 'distinctive noise' made by a genuine ID card.

Fact. If you rap one with your fingernail it sounds like 'BLUNKett'.

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MP expenses leaker may never be found

Mike Richards

"we have looked at the likelihood of a successful prosecution"

There isn't a jury in the land who would convict the person who leaked this data.

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'Air fuelled' battery tech invented in Scotland

Mike Richards

@ Anonymous Coward

'Besides, why bother with this crap when you can just have a fission reactor and be done with it?'

Because reactors need pumps which make noise and make the submarine more vulnerable. Diesel electric submarines such as those deployed by the German and Swedish navies, run rings around nuclear subs.

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Fox terminates The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Mike Richards

One reason for cancellation

Is that the Terminator franchise isn't owned by Fox, so even if the series does well on DVD they don't see much income. Dollhouse is a fully owned property, so strong DVD sales will add to Fox's bottom line.

I've seen both and after a rough start, Dollhouse is the better series (IMHO). I really don't see where people get the impression TSCC had a particularly deep story; it was good on occasion, but rarely anything to write home about.

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DARPA working on inertial-nav 'Smart Boot' tech

Mike Richards

Civilian apps could be awesome

Are we close to the technological breakthrough of a pair of boots that can walk you home from the pub after an all-night bender???

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Atlantis grapples Hubble

Mike Richards

@Remy Redert

The Shuttle doesn't have enough fuel to change orbit from the current HST rendezvous to that of the ISS.

But by the sounds of this the damage looks to be superficial and in an area not especially exposed to very high temperatures during re-entry. It's worth remembering that many, if not most, Shuttle flights have had tile damage; we're only hearing more about it post Columbia.

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Raygun 747 to fight 'one-off' tag with twin '09 missile fryings

Mike Richards

@ Dan Paul

'Iodine is a volatile solid metal'

It's a WHAT?

Iodine is a member of the halogen group and is most definitely NOT a metal. So whilst the rest of us engaged in the age-old ritual of blearily staring at Open University chemistry programmes through an industrial hangover, what were you doing?

500 words on the oxidation states of lanthanum on my desk by this time tomorrow.

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Kettering to London: 18 hours by rail, bus and pack mule

Mike Richards

Has anyone noticed...

...that since they finished upgrading the WCML there has been more disruption because they're constantly digging it up again?

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Google blames cheeseburgers for destroying the planet

Mike Richards

Alternative suggestion

If my computer is using more power than Google does to answer my query, the obvious energy-saving solution is to switch off my computer.

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Tesco tills go titsup

Mike Richards

Still not working

When I went to one of the biggest Tesco's in the country this evening, so it looks like it might be something more complicated than flicking the power switch.

Isn't today the day they were planning a huge new relaunch of their Clubcard loyalty scheme? So that's worked out about as well as a Gordon Brown relaunch.

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NASA sticks to 2010 shuttle retirement

Mike Richards

@Simon

"...a little shocked that it will take the programme $87m to not fly shuttles in 2012. Sounds like a bargain."

They'll be decommissioning the hardware and removing anything dangerous or likely to deteriorate before shipping the airframes to three lucky museums.

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Carphone Warehouse buys Tiscali UK

Mike Richards

At last!

It's what you've been waiting for - two shit companies in one place!

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2060: Humvee-sized, bulletproof meat-eating spiders attack

Mike Richards

Easy solution

We train them to enjoy the taste of refrigerator-sized immortal jellyfish and finally answer the immortal question of which phylum is the hardest.

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Renault intros e-MPV

Mike Richards

Makes a great little delivery vehicle

That range and relatively quick recharge should make this an ideal delivery vehicle for city centre businesses like caterers, florists and the like. Finding a good niche for 'leccies will be key to getting them accepted. Hoping to compete with the petrol family car is a non-starter (ahem) right now bearing in mind the limitations of the technology.

Does anyone remember a Channel 4 series about 10 years ago called 'Better by Design' which got a couple of industrial designers, Richard Seymour & Dick Powell, to redesign the Norwegian Pivco electric car? They had the brilliant idea of turning it into a tiny delivery vehicle with interchangeable back sections that could be swapped as and when needed to carry different loads. Of course, as in all these things, the company saw the idea, loved it and then decided to stick with the original layout.

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New Kindle: Wider, but still no broadsheet

Mike Richards

Keyboard

I really like the Kindle's addition of a keyboard. If this device is to succeed in the educational market then its crucial that users can annotate their books without having to also carry a notepad or computer. The current eInk screens don't allow for onscreen keyboards unless another overlay is put over the top like on the Iliad - but IMHO that makes for a poorer quality display and a thicker, heavier device.

A physical keyboard is the only way to go and the Kindle 2's looks like a nice compromise between usability and thinness of the whole device.

Now when's it coming over here?

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Conservative US shock-jock to sue Wacky Jacqui

Mike Richards

Who to pick?

Can't they both lose?

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'Lunatic' Smith doubles ID card costs for Mancunians

Mike Richards

You'd have thought...

...from its history that IBM wouldn't want to get involved in the compulsory registration of citizens all over again.

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Virgin Media pilots 200Mbit service

Mike Richards

Brilliant Beardie future

Capped *AND* Phormed - sounds unmissable.

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Ron Howard accuses Pope of scuppering Dan Brown movie

Mike Richards

Dan Brown

Wasn't 'Angels and Demons' written BEFORE 'The Da Vinci Code'? Which means Dan Brown was still developing his powers as an author, so it's unlikely we'll see the later novel's 'extraordinary' prose, 'astonishing' plot and 'thrilling' character development.

But I reckon it will still read like he had the wikipedia guide to Rome open in front of him.

At a wild guess:

'Langdon walked across St. Peter's Square, distinguished from the territory of Italy only by a white line along the limit of the square, where it touches Piazza Pio XII. St. Peter's Square is reached through the Via della Conciliazione which runs from the Tiber River to St. Peter's. This grand approach was constructed by Benito Mussolini after the conclusion of the Lateran Treaty.

'It was only then, as he perused the menu in a family-owned trattatoria that he saw the reflected image of the lesbian assassin nun wielding the cold fusion assault rifle.'*

Word to Ron Howard and Tom Hanks - you gave us 'Apollo 13' for crissakes - why are you making this shite???

* If anyone has a couple of million burning a hole in their pocket I am willing to write the rest of my screenplay - complete with the lesbian assassin nun, the cold fusion assault rifle, prominent placement of the product of your choice (Coca Cola, Pepsi, the Shroud of Turin you name it, I'll cram it in between the roof-top car chase and the CGI sidekick), Dolph Lundgren and/or Jean Claude van Damme in a dirty green vest as the mitteleuropean action hero who dies a gory death at the hands of the Provisional wing of the Salvation Army, and a huge, deeply satisfying climactic explosion which will have me venerated by hearing specialists for years to come. Think Michael Bay without the taste and restraint but with gothic chanting on the soundtrack.

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eBay driving world's tomb raiders out of business, says prof

Mike Richards

'Genuine death mask of King Tut'

$1.99 + $400million shipping from China.

It really wasn't until I saw that it was in Beijing that I cottoned on it might not be real.

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Amazon big-screen Kindle sails this week

Mike Richards

@ Robert E A Harvey

'I think the publishing houses need to get together and agree a portable format for all ebooks if they don't want to hand control of their business over to Amazon & Sony.'

There is an agreed standard called ePub which is supported on most current eBook readers and reader software. In a complete break with the rest of the company Sony support it on their readers and it works very well.

Amazon do not support ePub and tie you into the Kindle infrastructure.

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China launches DNA database to track trafficked kids

Mike Richards

Bloody Chinese copying our ideas again

Not satisfied with knocking off iPhones and Wiis, the Chinese are now emulating our own splendid security-mad government. Next they'll be having unelected leaders and suppressing dissent - oh - right...

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DHS tests bomb-proof CCTV by blowing up bus

Mike Richards

Awesome

We can all die, but the instruments of the surveillance state are immortal.

I'm so happy to live in such wonderful times.

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Fujitsu LifeBook P8020

Mike Richards

Rival to the Sony VAIO TT???

This machine is priced in a market alongside the two style icons of the laptop market - the VAIO TT and the MacBook Pro - it's hard to see why anyone would choose the Fujitsu. Hell, even Dell's latest consumer laptops are more attractive.

In terms of size, if you want a small screened laptop I guess this compares with the TT, but that's about it. The bottom of this machine looks thicker than the whole of the TT and as for the styling - well there isn't any. And is that really a VGA out on premium-priced laptop???

As for the MBP, Apple's specs are better, and well - let's face it, it's the best looking laptop out there.

I'd go for a Dell over this thing and pocket the difference.

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Pudsey Bear refused UK passport

Mike Richards

'bring the IPS into disrepute'

No, electronic borders, passport and ID card system will bring the IPS into disrepute.

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Honda executes 180° turn on plug-in e-cars

Mike Richards

Erm...

This story comes out now - a couple of weeks after Honda started advertising the hybrid Insight on British TV?

Makes me think Honda might have been working on this for quite some time.

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Pig plague 2.0: Can't spell 'pandemic' without 'panic'

Mike Richards

Twixt two stools

Okay there's no need for hysteria - yet (possibly). But...

It's worth remembering that this is the virus that caused the 1918-19 pandemic and it has shown itself to be capable of human -> human transmission. What is absolutely crucial is finding out how deadly it is. At the moment the figures from Mexico City suggest a relatively high level of mortality, whereas it's produced relatively minor symptoms elsewhere. What we need to know is how many infections there have been in Mexico and if the deaths are in excess to normal 'flu. Of course there's an outside possibility there are two forms going around.

And even if this is a relatively benign virus, it is clearly capable of spreading through the human population. It will continue to mutate and reassort as it passes through humans and pigs (and possibly birds), which means we're getting yet another warning that pandemic 'flu is a real threat - how many more warnings do we need before we start planning for them?

BTW. Whales can catch the 'flu virus - can you imagine how much snot they produce???

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Swine flu apocalypse: Batten down the hatches

Mike Richards

Look on the bright side

The 1918 - 19 pandemic was preceded five to six months earlier by a similar disease which had a relatively low mortality in humans but was extremely dangerous to pigs.

There's still plenty of time to panic.

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London cops trial 'leccy patrol cars

Mike Richards

Starskey and Hutch colours please

But I doubt the battery will be powerful enough for it to crash through a pile of empty cardboard boxes.

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Toshiba Tecra M10 14in notebook

Mike Richards

*cough*

'Sure stiff is better than floppy, but one-handed operation is better than two.'

Lines like that make Reg reviews things of beauty.

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Supersonic stealth jumpjet passes hover thrust test

Mike Richards

@ Peter Gant

'From this future point ONLY VTOL aircraft and helicopters will be able to use the carriers.'

After this week's budget I wouldn't be surprised if the carriers were canned by the next government of whatever colour.

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General Atomics unwraps new, Stealth(y) robot war-jet

Mike Richards

General Atomics

Best company name ever.

They also designed the batshit-crazy ocean liner-sized Orion spacecraft powered by small nuclear bombs - which for some reason never got approval.

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Ballmer disses Oracle's decision to buy Sun

Mike Richards

@ Michael Philbey

Technically Balmer is correct when he says Microsoft doesn't own hardware companies. They do the design of products and subcontract the whole process of making the boxes to companies like Flextronics.

But by that measure Apple isn't a hardware company either.

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LG insider points to Apple OLED notebook

Mike Richards

Must be true

I've just order a MacBook Pro - me spending money on any product inevitable results in either the company going spectacularly broke or upgrading the whole range.

If anyone would like Aston Martin to release a new range of cars, please get in contact with me and bring £100,000 in used non-sequential notes.

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Branson mothership bottom smacked in 'touch & go' incident

Mike Richards

Touch and gos

I once had the privilege of being shown round Edwards Airforce Base by a retired USAF pilot. Amongst all the awesomeness, I got to watch a B1-B doing repeated touch and gos. Apparently it was a regularly administered punishment for pilots who had flunked a landing.

Beautiful plane and it made one hell of a noise when taking off again.

As for this story. It's a non-story in many ways, these sort of issues are regularly found when prototypes are flown for the first time. It's hardly a problem to worry about. After all to take just one example the very first 747 had problems with its flaps and with wing flutter during the test flights; despite that, Boeing produced one of the most awesome pieces of machinery ever designed.

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It's US vs Europe as world e-car plug standard race nears end

Mike Richards

Surely...

USB charging is the only way to go? ;)

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Interstellar Bebo spamgasm targeted at 'water world'

Mike Richards

'blobominations'

The most awesome word yet. I intend to use it wherever possible.

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Start-up Bee pledges 'affordable' British e-car

Mike Richards

Hmmm

Well I'd hate to piss on anyone's parade, but when was the last time this country produced any piece of high tech that could compete with the Japanese, Americans and Germans?

I'd love to think Britain was going to be a leader in this trade, but I still remember how breathless journos told us that we were going to lead the world in aviation, rail, pharmaceuticals, GM, computers, space... but somehow we ended up selling cheap Korean phones and insurance to one another to make things meet.

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Half of 10 year olds now mobile connected

Mike Richards

Parents

Are these the same parents who demand that mobile phone masts be kept away from their precious little snowflakes at all costs?

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The Pirate Bay loads cannon with official appeal

Mike Richards

"If you get on a bus you've got to pay. And I think it's fair you should pay your ticket."

Doesn't Paul McCartney qualify for a free bus pass?

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US parkies in 'burrow-buster' marmot detonation campaign

Mike Richards

Waiting for the first news story

Involving an airliner crash caused by one of its turbines ingesting a low-flying marmot.

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