857 posts • joined Thursday 8th November 2007 17:09 GMT
sorry if I've offended
I'm not insensitive to the girl or her family. I'm really just dumbfounded by the sheer bizarreness of the story. Still, I guess the downvotes were to be expected.
it all sounds like a cross between
Battle Royale and Saw. Anyway. and forgive my glibness, it sounded, on the whole, a lot more like attention seeking behaviour than a serious threat.
surely it could avoid this fate
if a mega rich dynasty bought it before then? Or maybe it would take the combined wealth of the Tessier and Ashpool dynasties, perhaps?
I think he meant...
varying the time input in the negative direction... not "what have the Romans ever done for us?"
sorry to respond to my own post, but..
I meant that burokksu would be a more natural transliteration for "blocks". "ボロックス" is definitely pronounced "bollocks" (or at least somewhere between "bollocks" and "borrocks").
Surely ブロックス (burokkusu) would be a more natural transliteration? Like ブログ (burogu) for 'Blog'.
I was thinking on reading the article that if a helium balloon is too costly, why not make a hydrogen one? It's not like it's going to matter if it blows up. I reckon (in a totally non-numerical sense) a lacquered paper balloon could retain enough hydrogen to lift it quite a distance. You wouldn't necessarily need any expensive pressurised hydrogen tanks. If you had some sort of chemical or electrolytic reaction to produce the hydrogen and a way of sequestering at least some of the oxygen (in plain electrolysis of water) you could probably produce and trap enough of it in the balloon to get you to the desired height.
Once at a high enough altitude, you could then, hopefully, use a more conventional rocket to carry the payload beyond the atmosphere. Aiming would be tricky, but if you suspend the rocket below the hydrogen-producing part and have a combination of barometer (altimeter) and accelerometer readings (maybe combined with a timer) you can use a bit of fuzzy logic to determine the best time to engage the rocket stage while it's more or less pointing in the right direction and still retaining at least some kinetic energy from the balloon contraption.
Alternatively, I read that the most recent volcanic eruption in Iceland threw ash and other stuff up to a height of over 12 miles. That's still a long way to go to get to LEO and obviously reliant on the occurrence of a relatively rare event, not to mention needing to design a secondary rocket which could survive the initial lift-off, but at least it reduces the cost of the primary ballistic system to zero.
Paper Hydrogen Balloons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_balloon
I can understand outsourcing your ad links
But surely a web server who wants geolocation data can just get it from their access logs, which store IP addresses. Shouldn't be too hard to collate those data with referring page information on the advertiser's site, or simply capture the click on the server and use a redirect to actual advertiser. Or is disintermediating Google just too costly/troublesome for most?
we've all been softened up for this already
One fine day the Reg will ask if you want a platinum cookie, and most people will jump at the chance since they know what a wondrous thing it is. Most people won't read the fine print, obviously.
You can use the same techniques used in washi paper making, making them less absorbent. Though my guess is that if you're printing something that's only microns thick paper might be too bumpy. So I guess they print on glass or plastic?
If I understand this correctly, there's no reason to assume linux is any more secure here.
Let's start with there being an infected MBR and this gets run before the operating system. In the old days of boot sector/MBR viruses, the virus would allocate some memory for itself using the BIOS, then patch in some entries into the interrupt table, say int 13h, which does low-level disk I/O. The classic sneaky viruses would intercept calls to access the disk and if it was already infected it would return a "cleaned" version so that virus scanners couldn't detect it (hence the need to boot off clean floppies if you wanted to be sure the scanner was working). If the disk (or file) wasn't infected, the virus would usually take that opportunity to do so at the time it's being accessed. The DIR-II virus worked quite like that.
Fast forward to more modern OSs and some things have changed, but not everything. In general, once linux has booted up, it doesn't use the BIOS for anything any more, so even if an MBR virus did manage to install itself before the OS, it would be stranded since int 13H would never get called and the virus would never execute. Apparently (from a quick search) windows still does use the BIOS for disk I/O, so maybe you'd chalk that up as a "linux is better" point. Actually, it's no reason to celebrate just yet... because Linux does use the BIOS at one key stage--when it's booting up, ie loading the kernel.
So actually, if you wrote an MBR virus that was aware of modern operating systems, you could actually hook into the BIOS entries for disk access and when Linux is booting the kernel you return an infected version on the fly. So in theory at least, neither OS is better on this score.
copy con com1
Hmmm... that brings me back to the days of using an RS232 cable to transfer files between (PC) computers. Back before network cards (ether or token ring) were commonplace. I can't remember the name of the program that was used but it used a very similar method to what's described in the article. The sending side would run the transfer software and on the receiving side you'd start by typing in "copy com1 con" which basically copies input (ascii) from the serial port to the keyboard. The sending side would then "type" in a small bootstrap program which would be saved on the target computer. That bootstrap program would then copy over the rest of the program so you could get a nicer interface to show files in progress, transfer checksums so that you could detect transmission errors and the like.
The best part of the scheme was that you'd end up with a working copy of the transfer program on the target computer, so you could start the transfer from that machine to another machine later. Looking back, I suppose it's kind of funny that we were all using a kind of worm program for a useful purpose. I'd love to remember what it was called. Might have been something generic like "PC Link"?
Of course, this custom mouse does away with the need for the user to type "copy com1 con" on the receiving side, since it already is the keyboard.
Or just make sure you use the
cone of silence...
Showing my age as I head out the door.
I think they were drinking, so if they were drinking Budweiser it'd be double-concentrated (the pee, not the "beer").
(incidentally, oh noes... I've had American Pie running around in my brain since I woke up... this just makes it worse)
clear case of contempt?
So you and others have been saying in the comments here. However, read the article and you'll see that she presented herself at the appropriate time, but was not allowed in. Hence the catch-22 situation described in the article. And the sub-head. Seriously...
same flight as McKinnon?
Are you mad? With two super-terrorists in the same plane, you're just asking for trouble. Have you never seen Con-Air?
the pointing finger
was broken, and having been broken, pointed no more.
the real risk here
is that a terrorist can get an easy lock with their smug-seeking missiles.
Simple in emacs:
C-1 M-x show-paren-mode
The show-paren mode is usually turned on by default for languages that emacs knows about--and it knows how to handle many languages.
Most programmers' editors do something similar. Plus most of them have intelligent tab handling to bring you to an appropriate indent level and will also align closing brackets of all kinds with the corresponding open bracket or whatever block marker the language uses. Personally, I prefer brackets over verbose if / endif style languages since you can see an awful lot more code on screen at once and it makes it actually easier to follow what the code is doing without having to scroll up and down.
This doesn't work syntactically. There aren't any rules for deciding on the relative precedence of ++C and C++. The fact that the language doesn't include such a rule is due to both (++C) and (C++) not being lvalues so they can't be pre/post-incremented and the question of relative precedence doesn't arise. The related C++++ doesn't work either, for the same reason. You could call it (C+=2,C-2) but it's hardly a very catchy name.
Also a rather amusing song by The Lewis Duckworth Method:
It was jiggery pokery, trickery, chokery,
how did he open me up,
Out for a buggering duck,
What a delivery,
I might as well have been,
holding a concert bassoon,
Jiggery Pokery who was this nobody
making me look a buffoon
they missed a trick
They should have adopted okudagram as their design approach.
on the fly conversion
probably hits the nail on the head. The whole MIME-type support in HTTP does allow browsers to specify what documents they can handle, so good web servers should be able to tailor the files served to suit the user. If this means format shifting or resampling at lower quality, then the server must know how to do those things and support obviously needs to be added for new formats as they appear.
$140k poster campaign
an even better analogy
would be that he wandered onto a farmer's land in search of a werewolf or something, had a nose around all the fields and then left a note to say how he'd gotten in through a hole in a fence. It might sound a bit facetious, but the key point is that trespassing on land isn't an offense. Neither was logging onto the US computers and having a nose around at the time he (allegedly) did it, at least not in the UK.
With apologies for yet another analogy ...
two questions on abbreviations
#1 Which "Met" are you talking about as having attended? I know that in the UK, the Met is usually the Metropolitan Police, but here in Ireland, the Met is the Meteorological Office. I would have assumed you meant the latter except for the comment wondering why they attended.
#2 CBR on page 3... is this supposed to be Cosmic Background Radiation? If so, I think this is the wrong phrase since CBR refers to the ambient radiation left over from the Big Bang. Isn't it?
Overall, nice article. Not nearly (as pointed out) as editorialising as your other articles. Which is nice because we get a chance to comment. That seems to have been a good call as (so far) the comments haven't descended into religious flaming. Thumbs up.
only four solutions that I can think of
#1 Invest heavily in portable fusion generators. These will be able to provide lift, obviously, but it will give us a closed cycle where we can transmute between water, hydrogen and helium to tweak the overall craft density without unsafe build-up of hydrogen gas.
#2 Go to Jupiter and find some of the giant jellyfish that float in the atmosphere there. Through years of selective breeding we can get them to tolerate the lower pressures and rarefied atmospheric conditions here on Earth, until we have a new viable beast of burden.
#3 Lock Steven Hawking and Umberto Eco in a room until they work out the mechanics of creating a wormhole into a parallel dimension and building a probe capable of returning a sample of ice-9 from one of the Vonnegutian realms. Then get the Darpa boffins to work out a safe fuel cycle along the lines of that in point #1 using this new material. Cross our fingers that the blimp doesn't crash land over any ocean, lake, reservoir, waterway or ground water. If we can't get into the Vonnegutian realm immediately we may have to employ an I Ching expert to help navigate through a Dickian space or Gernsbach continuum first. This might be risky, though, as we might end up finding that we've already solved the problem of Zeppelin explosions before the Hindenburg disaster precipitating a full tilt into one of those Teutonicly dominated timelines.
#4 Forget about it and make do with getting around in our flying cars.
Not such a bad little language, IMO. If you really wanted some twisted teens, you'd teach them brainfuck or INTERCAL. Befunge would be a slightly more practical language.
Actually, scratch that entirely. If you want to destroy them completely, go ahead and put BASIC on it.
Of course, this doesn't help with existing apps (do I have to put a TM after this since it's an Apple (TM) article?) which would need to be recompiled and someone ultimately has to pay for the recompilation. But at least in principle it doesn't strike me as being too difficult a transition for people to make. The wiki page has more useful observations which would seem to be quite relevant to this article.
Hi again, Andrew. Thanks for elucidating more of the picture for us. I must admit that I did overlook the fact that a fission event will often create one (or more?) radioactive isotope(s) which will in turn decay, causing more energy output. I think lurking in the background of my mind at the time was the notion that a lot of the daughter atoms are considered waste products in the general sense and reduce the reactor's efficiency. I remember reading that in an explanation of the thorium fuel cycle at energyfromthorium.com, but I guess it applies to any nuclear fuel cycle. I can't remember the exact mechanism for these causing reduced reactor efficiency, but I think I had mentally filed it away as meaning that the daughter atoms were less effective in producing heat, which is the whole point of the reactor in the first place, so I naturally discounted them as the major heat producer in the reactor. Thinking about it now, perhaps efficiency in this case isn't only referring to the ability to convert fuel to heat, but includes an element of how effectively a chain reaction can be sustained or how much total energy can be extracted from a given amount of fuel before the waste products must be separated?
Your post also begs the question... with the errors and omissions in the way I described the meltdown process corrected, does this mean that my confidence in a meltdown being effectively contained without causing a further disaster is actually misplaced? I'm genuinely curious to know, even if it contradicts what I originally thought. Or do we end up with being able to say that even if the core melts down, so long as we can cool it down in time and continue to actively cool it, that we don't have much to worry about? And what of the initial topic of the China Syndrome? Is the residual heat production capability sufficient, in your view, to melt through the bottom of the containment vessel, or is a conflagration of the melted material a more practical concern? Should I upgrade my assessment from "not much to worry about" to "everybody panic again?"
wrong end of the stick?
Hi Andydaws. I had to read your post a couple of times before realising that you're effectively agreeing with what I said. I take it your main quibble is that criticality isn't necessary to cause a reactor meltdown. That's fair enough. I was aware that it's not just neutron recapture that causes the temperature of the core to increase. I did mention (or at least hint) that the decay puts out other decay particles, not just neutrons and as you mentioned, these are the main reason why the core heats up. But I also have to quibble with your explanation, as without fission events there would be no mass->energy conversion and hence no increase in core temperature. So yes, technically criticality isn't needed for the core to be hot or get hotter, the rate of neutron recapture is, I think, quite relevant in understanding thermal runaway since, if I understand it correctly, a linear increase in the rate of neutron recapture results in an exponential increase in heat output. So maybe criticality per se isn't the main issue, but the underlying idea of neutron recapture and the chain reaction definitely is.
> Pretty much by definition, within a bolus of melted fuel, it's hard to have moderation - especially in a water-cooled and moderated reactor!
Yes, we're in agreement here. I deliberately glossed over the issue of fast neutrons versus neutrons slowed down by a moderator. But since you mentioned it, I'd just like to point out to other readers, if it's not clear to them, that the right moderator and the right geometry actually serve to increase the rate of neutron recapture and hence push the reaction towards become self-sustaining, or at least generating usable amounts of heat energy. For what we're talking about, namely core meltdown and what happens after, moderation is actually a bad thing because it contributes to thermal runaway. My initial point was that if the fuel rods melt down and there is nothing more than a puddle of fuel with all the moderating material boiled off, then there is nothing to slow down neutrons enough to be recaptured, and the rate of fission greatly decreases. And as you said, the main problem at that stage is just dealing with residual heat. I simplified it by saying that the puddle of fuel simply didn't have the right geometry to sustain a chain reaction (though as you point out, my simplification of saying criticality here was technically wrong), but you can also explain it in terms of the lack of a moderating medium. On the whole, though, saying the geometry isn't right is probably more to the point, so that's why I tried to explain it in those terms.
containment vessels & co
I did a search this morning to see if I could find anything about some of the cores not having a protective containment vessel, but I couldn't find anything to back up that assertion. Maybe you were referring to the state of some of the reactors which were fully shut down and so only had residual heat to dissipate, and so had no risk of meltdown?
I didn't actually read Lewis's article that mentioned the China Syndrome initially, so my "nobody has mentioned" comment might have been off the mark. The best articles I've read on the events as they unfolded have been written by Dick Ahlstrom in the Irish Times, as he's done a really good job of explaining the actual problems and defusing the hysteria.
As to the risk of fire in the spent fuel ponds, that certainly is something to be concerned about, but it's an entirely different issue, and thankfully that also seems to be under control now.
Just one more comment about reports of the Japanese authorities being deceitful or reticent about reporting on the extent of the problem. This isn't something you raised, but has certainly been a line that has been trotted out by many media outlets recently. While there may be some element of this in general due to a general culture of not wanting to admit mistakes or collectively "lose face", I've actually got the opposite impression, and trust that the authorities are mostly open and honest about problems if they recognise that they are actually big problems. Two things make me think this way. Firstly, the last time there was a major nuclear incident in Japan was when workers mixed fuel by hand in buckets rather than using the equipment/tools they should have done, causing several deaths and damage to buildings, etc. I was actually living in Japan at the time, and was following events as they unfolded on TV. The initial reports might have been a bit vague, but within a day or two, there was no doubt about what had actually happened and we were getting updates about the state of the situation, readings on radiation levels, etc.
With this particular crisis, I'm no longer living in Japan, but we do have NHK broadcasts available to us on freeview satellite. Since the quake hit, the channel has been a pretty good source of information about what's currently happening, both regarding the situation with the power plant and the wider problems with dealing with the aftermath of the quake and tsunami. It mightn't have been the most technically detailed source, of course, but overall they've done a good job of explaining the situation to regular viewers who mightn't even know how a nuclear reactor works. Overall, I'd have to say that this reporting has been pretty good and impartial, which is actually more than I can say about some other major sources.
One last point about Japan's "dishonesty" in reporting is that actually they're obliged to report all kinds of accidents and events that can pose risk of radiation release or other incident to the IAEA, and nobody, I think, is suggesting that they've failed to report what they should. While the authorities there might be a bit slow in releasing information at first (due to the afforementioned cultural issues, but also not wishing to cause panic) I don't think that there's any doubt but that when they do admit to themselves that there's a real problem, there isn't any question of covering it up, and in general western reports to the contrary are as much, if not more, about sensational stories than they are about reporting the facts.
Actually, one thing that hasn't been mentioned in all of this is that even if there were a core meltdown did occur in Fukushima daiichi, the reactors were designed with this in mind. To wit: outside the reaction vessel, there is a containment vessel. Should a runaway reaction in the reaction vessel cause the fuel rods to melt, they will melt their way through the bottom of it and pool in the surrounding containment vessel.
The reason why the nuclear reaction in the reaction vessel was self-sustaining to begin with is mainly a matter of geometry. By having rods in such close proximity to each other, the rate of neutron capture increases to the point where a decaying Uranium atom's decay particles have an increasing chance of being absorbed by atoms in the surrounding rods, to the point where the cascade of absorption and decay events is sufficient to produce a self-sustaining nuclear reaction.
In (one of) the worst case scenario(s) the reaction not only achieves criticality (ie, probability of decay particles causing another decay = 1), but greatly exceeds it, then the core can melt down. But even if the core does melt down through the bottom of the reaction vessel, it will form a puddle at the bottom of the containment vessel. The shape/geometry of this mass of Uranium (+ reaction byproducts + other things that melted into the vessel) is such that now the probability that decay particles will spawn another decay event is much less than what's needed for the reaction to continue to be critical (ie, less than 1).
So this brings me to the reason why I responded specifically to your post... in this case, there is almost no chance that a full core meltdown would even escape the containment vessel or melt its way down "to the water table", let alone to the centre of the Earth. Because even reaching the water table would actually be very bad, obviously the people who design reactors (even 40 years ago) foresaw the risk and designed their reactors accordingly.
One last comment in general... thanks Lewis, it's nice to read your anti-hysterical articles. Ever since this crisis came to the fore, it's been writers like yourself (along with a moderate amount of background knowledge I had) that have helped me decide early on that there wasn't really anything to worry about with these particular reactors, despite all the media reports and grumblings to the contrary. Thanks as well for bringing our attention back to the much larger problems caused by the earthquake and tsunami. Thanks & well done.