3558 posts • joined Wednesday 28th February 2007 21:13 GMT
American ethanol *is* driving up the price of corn. At the moment about 20% of America's entire harvest is going into ethanol plants because the US government offers a subsidy of 51c per gallon on ethanol production - making it more profitable to push the crop that way than send it for export. With the Bush administration constantly upping the demand for ethanol this is going to continue. Whether farmers can increase production to match demand is another matter.
But there is some hope. Almost all of these ethanol plants are fuelled by natural gas - whose price is also spiking upwards, making them ever-less profitable.
The economics of ethanol in the US are so labyrinthine that no one can even be sure they're helping the environment and their contribution to the energy consumption of the country is minuscule. They exist for political reasons only, Iowa; home of the Corn Belt is the largest producer of corn in the World. It also has the first primary election in the US presidential vote. As an episode of 'The West Wing' showed, it is a stupid candidate who goes to Iowa and does not inhale the ethanol.
Can we agree on one thing?
Even if my sensitive casting of Ross Kemp as Servalan isn't meeting universal approval, can we at least be unanimous on this...
The shape of the Liberator can't be changed in the slightest.
It sucks HD-DVD died, but...
...I'm enjoying getting all these disks at less than £6 apiece.
At the moment you can pick up the Toshiba HD EP30 player for less than £100. It plays HD-DVDs in 1080p, supports Dolby TrueHD and upscales DVDs like a dream. If nothing else, it makes a perfect high-end DVD player and Toshiba are promising support for 8 years - by which time Blu-ray's replacement will probably be in sight.
A pity the more consumer-friendly format had to die to make HD affordable.
I have to agree, Asus can only hurt sales with these constant announcements. Right now, the Eee is in such short supply that they *can* sell all they make, but that will change as they ramp up production and competitors appear.
The Apple approach of 'no comment' until new models appear is better for the bottom line. They can sell old model machines right until the new ones roll off the production lines *AND* surprise customers *AND* reap the free publicity.
'Can we believe any of their claims if they can't even get the speed of the machine right?'
The lower throughput is down to them needing to do a price-check when the Pervatron scanner thinks you're a Sainsbury's own-brand oven-ready badger.
Clearly a priority
Now that the Dear Leader has solved the trivial problems of taxation, terrorism, climate change, economic meltdown, and food and energy shortages, he can turn his attention to the big issues.
BTW. Is it just me, or does Andy Burnham look like he's made from plastic?
Some of the reports say they pulled 10Gs during their landing.
The nice thing about Soyuz is that it's a very forgiving design. A normal re-entry should use the capsule's shape to develop some lift and reduce the load on the passengers, but if something goes wrong, the ballistic trajectory ensures that they get home in one piece.
The modern Soyuz is a relative of the Soviet Soyuz 7K-L1 probes (with the spooky name Zond) sent around the Moon between 1968 and 1970. These were designed to become the first manned missions to pass behind the Moon beating Apollo 8. At the time the Soviets knew they couldn't beat America to the landing, but they could get some publicity for the missions and test their lunar hardware. However,problems with the capsules and the Proton booster caused the manned program to be cancelled.
One of the problems with Zond was that it had a nasty tendency to make ballistic re-entries in excess of 20Gs.
That'd be nasty.
Zond returned some stunning, and rarely seen, images of the Earth and the Moon, you can see a few of them at:
I really, really like the overdue addition of music to the promotional video - before I heard the soundtrack I doubted the Vulture*, but now - I'm sold.
Do you think the final version will come with the huge spotlight shown in the video? It'll be really useful for when I come home late at night and I've forgotten a flashlight.
* Not you guys obviously.
There's a handy rule of thumb that the speed of a chemical reaction doubles for every ten degree increase in temperature. So it'll be interesting to see if people in Alicante are complaining their disks have gone tits-up before the 48 hours expires, and if the frozen inhabitants of Kiruna are smugly watching their disks for a week.
In any case - 48 hours is a lot longer than it takes to rip a copy.
Choose piracy; the ecological choice.
Sell! Sell! Sell!
Phorm's share price is a delight to behold. Whilst the FTSE 100 has pretty much moved sideways in the last few months, Phorm is now trading at about 1/3 of where it was in early March. Clearly investors don't have much faith in the brave new world of Webwise.
Long URL approaching:
If a British accent in America can get you through the tightest security (and I can confirm it can get you a long long way) it can't be long before all al Qaeda operatives are sporting the finest Dick van Dyke accents.
'If their flight was delayed and their wife was waiting for them at the airport are they still OK with that?'
Spookily, all the airports I've ever used possess strange devices called 'Arrivals Boards' which tell the cognisenti the estimated times a plane will land and even say if the flight has been delayed.
From experience, the people on board a plane are usually the last to know if their flight is going to be late.
First blended wing
Like most things aeronautical, it was German. May I introduce the pre-war Junkers G38:
A passenger aircraft which could carry passengers inside the thick wings as well as the fuselage.
But I'm using the PS3 more for a couple of reasons.
Noise - the 360 is just so intrusive, there is no comparison between the two of them when watching a movie or playing a game that doesn't have shooting. The PS3 is very rarely audible, the 360 roars. Put a HD-DVD in the 360's add-on drive and depending on the phases of the Moon the machine might just bellow for two hours so it's almost impossible to hear the dialogue.
Secondly, it's the reliability. My 360 has already been serviced once by Microsoft after the RRoD and they've replaced the inherently faulty motherboard with another one of the same model - so I suspect it'll fail again in short order. The machine's fan is already sounding rough after only a couple of weeks, so I wouldn't be surprised if the whole thing went bang. If I get a choice of platforms I buy the game for PS3 because I'm pretty sure it'll be working this time next week.
Don't panic Mr. Mainwaring!
I think I can clear up the confusion....
Geosynchronous satellites form a ring around the Earth's equator. (There are theoretically other geosynchronous orbits but these require the satellite to remain under some form of thrust such as that from a solar sail).
At closest approach the asteroid will be closer to the Earth than this orbit so if you draw it on a piece of paper it looks like there are two points where the satellite could crash into a satellite - one approaching Earth and one leaving.
HOWEVER, the 2D view is misleading. The asteroid's orbit is inclined with respect to that of the plane of the Earth's orbit, so those crossing points actually sit above or below the plane of the geosynchronous satellites - so no risk of collision.
Even if the asteroid did crash into the Astra satellite, tragically depriving millions of Ross Kemp and the new Gladiators, it'd have about as much impact (ahem) on the rock as the one-off interaction between a hedgehog and a Mondeo.
And now the terror forecast
'The public should be kept permanently aware of the level of threat faced by the UK of terrorist attacks.'
'The outlook at midnight tonight. Politically oppressive with waves of extremism sweeping in from the Middle East here - and here. Generally there's a slight chance of ricin or caesium in the South East, so best take a gas mask and don't forget your identity card. And now the shitting forecast:
'Blunkett, scary becoming terrifying soon...'
'BT has claimed that it has no way of telling which of its customers it Phorm profiled and served targeted advertising to.'
BT must have had some way of identifying users who were unwitting subjects of these trials. Suppose BT customers started complaining about the service, (okay, started complaining the service was worse than usual), BT would have needed to know if these problems were down to Phorm technology or to some unrelated issue, otherwise their engineers couldn't have solved the problem and they'd have no way of making comparison with un-Phormed users.
My DP request is with BT right now asking if I was part of their trial. I look forward to their response; especially if they say they've no idea whether I was press-gang-banged into their trials.
@ Matthew Hepburn
Unless you're using a very naive bank (in which case I have some friends in Nigeria who would love to meet you), all your bank transactions will be encrypted with https. Phorm can look at the packets all it likes, but it will only see garbage.
'What exactly then is a council suppost to do then if it suspects fraud? Ignore it? Sit on their arses?'
Oooh I dunno, have someone from the education authority call the parents in for a nice chat/interview during which their address is discussed and they are reminded about the rules over catchment areas?
'“If you want to get [iPlayer] on the PlayStation or Xbox, they want control of the look, the feel and the experience. They want it done within their shop, and their shop only,” Huggers claimed"
'Seems fair enough to me.'
Clearly you haven't used the sluggish, buggy, unintuitive abomination that is the PS3 shop.
Might be a good thing...
...if it could also track debris clouds from exploded satellites and spent boosters which are the real threat to satellites.
I'm not sure about the claim in the article about needing to keep track of geosynchronous satellites - it's very unusual for a geosync satellite to ever move out of its destination slot, and when they're there, they stay put relative to the ground, so not much tracking needed.
Possibly the US is interested in satellites such as those that hang around in high, or the extremely elliptical Molniya orbits which are used by communication and reconnaissance satellites as well as the Russian Oko early warning satellites.
Wood does decay naturally, but decay produces a good amount of methane which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.
Burning wood turns it into CO2 which can be captured by the next generation of trees.
Actually, the world's forests are currently largely being felled to provide land for soya and oil palm. So I prefer to blame deforestation on ecohippies and their biodiesel VW Beetles. ;)
'What was the share high? I want to gloat at the difference, and you want to post it, admit it!'
You can keep track of Phorm's tanking shares here - it looks like the Matterhorn:
It peaked £35.06 in mid-February, since then it's been downhill all the way with Phorm now trading at its lowest price in six months.
@ Anonymous Coward
'Look at Iceland they've had very low immigration over the last 1000 years and have a very 'clean' Viking gene pool but have a 'very' healthy population.'
Actually you couldn't have chosen a worse example. Iceland has a disproportionate rate of genetically determined mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and alcoholism precisely because of the limited gene pool of the original settlers. Conditions that would normally have been 'bred out' by a constant flow of new immigrants and the interchange of people have persisted in the gene pool simply because of Iceland's remoteness.
The relative health of the Icelandic population is a recent occurrence as their country moved from a pastoral/fishing society. Reports as recently as the 19th Century talk of how the Icelanders had a marginal existence. Cheap energy, access to global markets and the post-war Scandinavian social model of government are responsible for the modern healthy Icelander.
The reason they press on despite the evidence
It's a trend which really began under the crumbling Major administration, but which was turned into an artform under Blair. If a minister can show they stood up to a select committee / pressure group / Today programme it gives them serious kudos with the sheep on the backbenches. If they can do it by snarling and bullying all the better, it shows a vigorous government in action.
A minister who's seen to bend to any external interest is clearly not strong enough for the job and needs to be replaced by a more loyal member of the Politburo.
And if their policy turns out to be screaming disaster, it doesn't matter, a successful minister will have been promoted out of that portfolio and will be busy screwing up something else entirely. There's no better example than John Reid who was woeful in every job he did, pissed off everyone he ever met and left a trail of wreckage behind him - but didn't stop him being considered as PM material.
Problem in the UK
Is that the government has drawn the definition of 'terrorism' so broadly that anything much beyond dropping a crisp bag is going to fall foul of one or another pieces of terror legislation.
'Please don't think I'm one of them - I'm very definitely an atheist. Hubbard wrote it in '65ish I think. Which means the copyright is due to expire and then it's quite rightly a free for all, we can all grab a copy and set up our own whacky cults.'
'Dianetics' was first published in 1950, but it's copyright will belong to L Ron who went to meet Xenu in 1986. Under US copyright law, it will expire in 1986 + 70 = 2056. Unless of course a powerful, rich, well-connected organisation can persuade Congress to extend copyright again. Ah...
On an unrelated note, is there any chance we can get amanfrommars in a conversation with a Scientologist, or would that break the universe at a fundamentally weird level?
The power of RTD
Vanishing bees get mentioned on Doctor Who on a Saturday, and a government taskforce (presumably complete with helicopters, thrilling logo and fully-reclinable secretaries) is on the case by Tuesday.
Now that's impressive!
If he puts a line about global warming into the next episode, we should have that licked by next Thursday.
Yup, Zeppelins were used to bomb the UK, France and Belgium between 1915 and 1918.
They were a huge propaganda success - the thought of Germans attacking the enemy capital was wildly popular in Germany and produced near panic in the UK. But the raids were little more than a nuisance in terms of the damage they did - about 500 people were killed in Britain by Zeppelins throughout the war.
The biggest problem for the Germans was their navigation, they rarely found their intended targets and even when the did, precision bombing was impossible. The Zeppelins were soon outclassed by improved planes with incendiary bullets, forcing them to fly even higher which made them even less useful.
Perhaps surprisingly, by the end of the war bomb loads were in the tonnes - far higher than the aircraft of the time. But the cost of the Zeppelins and their fragility made them obsolete as the Germans, including the Zeppelin company, developed long-range multi-engined bomber planes.
Zeppelins did do a bit of reconnaissance for the German fleet and for the army over the Western front, but incredibly no one seems to have thought of using them in association with U-boats to find Allied convoys and direct attacks.
"I wrote to my MP when the ludicrous proposal was first made, and got a patronising ``experts say it'll work'' response from the hilariously named Paul Goggins. Nice to see I was right and they were wrong."
Go on, write again asking if he'll apologise for misleading you.
Writing to MPs is the last legal type of bear-baiting allowed in this country. Enjoy it before it's banned.
@Kevin Patrick Crowley
'Check out the Bakken Oil Reserves'
Yup lots of oil in the Bakken formation, it's already producing oil in South Saskachewan. Sadly the porosity of the Bakken rock is generally very low - good oil fields have very high porosities which allow oil to accumulate between rock grains and move through the rock. The lower the porosity, the lower the amount of recoverable oil. Highly productive fields generally have porosities in the 20 - 25%. The exceptional Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia has 35% porosity; by contrast Bakken in down around 3 - 4%.
The numbers about Bakken are derived from mathematical models with only isolated drill logs and production figures. It's hard to say how much of the oil that could have been formed in Bakken has migrated into traps where it can be exploited; how much remains locked up in useless non-interconnected pores and how much has been lost through faulting or pyrolisis. Oil geologists are very wary about citing figures like these because there is a long and fabulous history of new elephant fields proving to be entirely dry.
The conservative industry figures for recoverable oil in Bakken, add about 10% to the known US reserves. These figures might be improved with horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing, but they would not come anywhere near the headline figure of 413 billion barrels.
There's far more recoverable energy in Montana's enormous coal fields, though exploiting them would be an ecological catastrophe for the American west and the rest of the World.
Mine's the one with the Silva compass and the geological hammer in the pocket.
If the spokesdroid really thinks "In-flight mobile phone services can be a very interesting new service especially for those business travellers who need to be ready to communicate wherever they are, wherever they go."
Then put the picocell in £20K wanker-class and a nice thick bulkhead between those tossers and the rest of us travelling as veal.
(Unless of course I'm one day invited to turn left on entering the plane, in which case I want the upgrade to be accompanied by the sort of Zen-like calm needed to answer questions like 'what is the sound of one mobe being rammed up an EU commissioner?')
Not a lawyer - but...
BT says the trials in 2006 and 2007 were legaland were not in breach of RIPA or the DPA, as a consequence they did not need to inform the customers nor amend the terms and conditions of the service.
HOWEVER, before WebWank goes live, BT says it must amend the terms and conditions of the service. Presumably to protect themselves from the wrath (hah!) of the DPA and RIPA.
So which is it? Legal or illegal?
Well my DPA request is in the post to BT. I'm awaiting their response with interest.
- It's true, the START MENU is coming BACK to Windows 8, hiss sources
- iSPY: Apple Stores switch on iBeacon phone sniff spy system
- Pic NASA Mars tank Curiosity rolls on old WET PATCH, sighs, sniffs for life signs
- How UK air traffic control system was caught asleep on the job
- Google embiggens its fat vid pipe Chromecast with TEN new supported apps