* Posts by David Given

305 posts • joined 4 Aug 2008

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Sonic BOOM: 10 blast-tastic soundbars

David Given

Re: £800 for a SOUNDBAR!

Possibly the explosions, screaming , fires and general mayhem when little Bobby pushes a knitting needle through the grille?

I agree they sounded good though - mainly due to being huge and flat and simple, not needing clever trickery to pack them small.

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BORGED! Expat moves from New Zealand to Norway to be acquired by Cisco

David Given

Re: Don't go if you like beer

My guidebook said that there is a cultural drinking problem, even more so than the UK; plus a marginalised indigenous population (I was really astonished to see homeless people in Tromsø). The combination is problematic. I don't blame them for taxing the hell out of it.

Incidentally, it's also the only place I've ever found zero-alcohol beer that was worth drinking. Also cheaper than soda.

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David Given

Don't go if you like beer

...because it's scary expensive. We're talking twenty quid for a six-pack of beer at the supermarket. And when I say beer, I mean Heineken. Drinkable beer is extra!

I was on holiday there earlier this year; I went to Tromsø to see the midnight sun, and had a great time. The scenery is fantastic, the people I met were friendly (although I wanted to see empty places, so I wasn't socialising much), the hill walking is great, if a little surreal --- I walked up the local mountain and about 900m up was trudging through the snow in shorts and a T-shirt and when i was passed a family with a six year old bounding up the mountainside, shortly followed by a couple of women in bikini tops --- and there's plenty of it. But the prices are terrifying. I got an Airbnb apartment which was astonishingly reasonably priced, but even self catering and buying from the local supermarket, the prices made me cringe.

...and I'm an expat living in Zürich. Yes, it's true. Norway is even more expensive than Switzerland.

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Space Commanders rebel as Elite:Dangerous kills offline mode

David Given

Re: Cue the mass demands for refunds.

Except Kickstarter isn't a shop. When you fund something on it, you're not buying anything; you're just giving them money, in the hope that you'll get something in return. There is no guarantee that the something will actually turn up, and the T&Cs you signed up to are totally clear on this.

I don't think you're going to find your credit card company very sympathetic.

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BOFH: An UNHOLY MATCH forged amid the sweet smell of bullsh*t

David Given

Re: What's a female BOFH?

This also has the advantage that you don't need to change the notepaper.

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It’s PAYBACK time as HUMANS send a PROBE up ALIEN body

David Given

Re: Escaping aliens

*cough*

https://twitter.com/hjalfi/status/533027465053356032

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'Yes, yes... YES!' Philae lands on COMET 67P

David Given

Re: "land on comet and return science"

Where do you think they get the mystery goo from?

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SUPER-JAMMY Philae comet probe got down WITHOUT harpoons

David Given

Re: Good luck, at the end of the day

IIRC, for any piece of space hardware like this they build multiple copies of each component anyway --- to test against each other, and in case someone drops one (it's happened, they've dropped a complete $300M satellite on the assembly room for before), and to give them something to try potentially risky procedures on, etc. So yeah, I'd be totally unsurprised to hear that they have a complete identical Philae in a lab somewhere.

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Philae heads for comet, reports back to mothercraft Rosetta

David Given

Re: The videocast is terrible.

You mean inane talking heads and celebutards talking over the top of anything with technical content while occasionally cutting to people going RAH RAH MURIKA HUNH and making fist pumping gestures?

I'll stick with ESA, thanks very much.

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Breaking records: Google exec in terrifying SKY PLUNGE DRAMA

David Given

Re: Brilliant, but...

*twitch*

He'll only feel weightless *while he's accelerating* (because gravity is pulling him down and there's no resistance). One he *stops* accelerating, due to air resistance, he'll stop feeling weightless (because gravity is pulling him down but the air's not letting him accelerate).

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David Given

Re: THE CHUTE OPENED...

These days, apparently, we're not supposed to call it 'splat' any more. The preferred phrase is now 'earth hug'.

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David Given

Re: bailing out

Actually...

They have looked into ways of getting people out of space, wearing nothing but a spacesuit and some emergency equipment. This includes the hilariously named Project MOOSE:

http://falsesteps.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/paraconemoosesaverairmat-escape-pods-from-orbit/

There's several stages to the problem; do your deorbit burn, then survive reentry, then land safely. These experiments show that it's possible to solve #3 by simply cutting yourself loose of your reentry vehicle at a relatively high altitude and coming down by parachute; which is valuable knowledge.

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Billionaire's pet DRAGON SPLASHES DOWN off Pacific Coast

David Given

Re: Probably a question for http://what-if.xkcd.com/

They use tidal forces --- the station's big enough that the Dragon is nowhere near its centre of gravity, but is being carried along in the same orbit as the station because it's physically attached. This means that when they let go it'll naturally follow a non-trivially different orbit. The result, seen from the station's perspective, is that the Dragon will slowly fall away.

They use this effect when undocking to get vehicles far enough away from the station that they can safely use their thrusters. They also use it when docking --- it mean you get a natural braking force for approaching vehicles (along a particular vector), which is dead handy as it means you don't need to fire your thrusters towards the station.

Physics is awesome; and you can simulate this in Kerbal Space Program if you want to try it for yourself. Just make sure your two vehicles are lined up along a planetary radius.

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Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody

David Given

Re: I'm old - as I've never heard of him.

Absolutely. I've done NaNoWriMo four times. Actually got a completed and terribly bad novel out of it, which is now up on my website. (The other three times I completed the word count but didn't actually finish the story; I must get round to doing so as they're actually not too bad.)

I can strongly recommend it. As Terry Pratchett said, writing is the most fun you can have on your own, and the feeling of accomplishment after you're finished and look back at what you've achieved is awesome. See http://nanowrimo.org.

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It's not always about you: Why the Apple Watch is all about China

David Given

Re: Please explain

...I do wonder sometimes how having a hundred thousand ideograms in your head affects your worldview. Because you'll start to see meaning in random noise in the environment; chances are a handful of sticks dropped on the floor will look enough like an ideogram you know to be readable. (Pretty sure there are forms of divination that do just that.)

Even in English, I will occasionally find a word jumping into my head, and then a careful search of the environment will reveal the word written somewhere; my eye fell on it and I unconsciously read it.

Of course, finding out is easy enough; all I need to do is to learn Mandarin and memorise a few tens of thousands of ideograms. Simple, really.

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Proprietary OS source code LEAKED to web – from 40 years ago

David Given

Well worth looking at

CP/M is a surprisingly decent operating system --- it's a miracle of minimalism: the absolute smallest number of features required to do a decent abstraction over the hardware, and not a single one more.

On CP/M 2, the OS proper, the BDOS, was 3kB, and provided some I/O streams, a filesystem, and... nothing else (see http://www.gaby.de/cpm/manuals/archive/cpm22htm/ch5.htm). The command shell, the CCP, was another 2kB and could be overwritten if applications needed the RAM. These talked to the underlying hardware via the BIOS, typically another 2kB. On a 64kB system this meant apps got about 59kB of available RAM.

And these modules all talked to each other via standard, platform-independent interfaces. The CCP and BDOS supplied in binary form by Digital Research; the BIOS you could write yourself (and they provided all the tooling, docs and a sample BIOS for you). The BIOS interface was ludicrously tiny (see http://www.gaby.de/cpm/manuals/archive/cpm22htm/ch6.htm#Section_6.6) and porting was straightforward, particularly as the hardware requirements were so minimal --- you didn't even need interrupts!

It's worth playing with. There's still a wealth of ultra-minimal software out there, including actual C compilers (provided you like K&R). You can actually get proper work done on it, including internet access.

The later versions supported bank switching, network file systems, multiple concurrent users (yes, with time slicing!) and stuff like that, but to my mind they don't have the beautiful simplicity of CP/M 2.

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Inateck BP2001 Bluetooth speaker: The metalhead sysadmin's choice? Not exactly

David Given

No, that's 'si reprehendis, deinde Ricardum es'.

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Weekend reads: Douglas Adams' bio in The Frood, The Bone Clocks and Harry Partch, Hobo Composer

David Given

And Another Thing?

...has anyone actually read it? What's it like?

My only encounter with it was three minutes of it being read on Radio 4. It totally failed to grab me and I found myself simply not caring. Given that as a child I more or less read the books weekly and could recite them on demand, I found this a bit sad. Is it worth trying?

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Your chance to WIN the WORLD'S ONLY HANDHELD ZX SPECTRUM

David Given

Re: In order to stand a chance at winning

IIUIC, the reason why this kind of competition always asks really noddy questions is because then it's a quiz rather than a lottery; lotteries are regulated by law, quizes aren't.

I suspect that if they *didn't* check you'd answered them correctly then they might have trouble explaining to The Man that this is in fact a test of skill and not simply gambling. But that's assuming that the law makes sense (which is in itself a very dubious assumption).

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Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen

David Given

Re: Philae will make a seven hour descent before slowing to "walking speed"

Awesome --- thanks! That gives me the magic Google keywords to find this paper:

http://issfd.org/ISSFD_2012/ISSFD23_GC_2.pdf

So the lander ejection mechanism imparts a dV of between .05 and .5 m/s; then there's a backup spring which provides a fixed dV of .17 m/s; the ADS has a maximum dV of 1.85 m/s, of which they're going to use up to 1 m/s for a course correction during descent and the rest to hold the vehicle down while the anchors bite. That all sounds quite reasonable.

The paper discusses descent strategies, BTW, and is rather interesting.

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David Given
Boffin

Re: Philae will make a seven hour descent before slowing to "walking speed"

There must be some way to deorbit it. I haven't seen any mention of how they're going to do this. The only real options are either (a) use a small engine on Philae itself, possibly a single-shot solid rocket; or (b) use Rosetta's main engine to do it.

For option (a), I *have* seen a reference that there's a small engine on Philae to hold it down while the screws dig in; but that was on a page talking about Lego.

Option (b) would be pretty ballsy, as what you basically end up having to do is to deorbit Rosetta, detach Philae, and then boost Rosetta back into orbit again. If the second boost fails, for whatever reason, then Rosetta will land alongside Philae, and I doubt it's designed to do that.

Admittedly, orbital velocity is only about 1 m/s, so it's not much of a burn.

Hm. Maybe they're using option (c): eject Philae with a big spring. Be nice to have some actual information...

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Spin doctors crack 'impossible' asteroid hurtling towards Earth

David Given

Re: The Only Rubble Pile is Between Astronomers' Ears

Electric Universe? Wow, I remember those posts from Usenet! Is it still David Talbott behind it? Is it still based on Velikovskyism, where most human catastrophes are caused by close passes of other planets by Earth? Have they come up with a plausible theory of how where the energy comes from for the dV to change a planet's course yet?

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Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate history' story made into TV series

David Given

Re: Prometheus wasn't a bad film at all. Stop whining.

Prometheus is a pile of really great effects, sets, scenes and some reasonable acting all desperately searching for a plot which makes sense.

This is the best summary of Prometheus I've seen yet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x1YuvUQFJ0

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You 'posted' a 'letter' with Outlook... No, NO, that's the MONITOR

David Given

Re: Regarding the terminology problems...

Not hardly; I grew up in the 8-bit era with, yes, 5.25" floppy discs.

Which were square.

And stopped working if you bent them.

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David Given

Regarding the terminology problems...

...I do think that as a member of an industry which has things called 'floppy discs' which don't bend and are square, we do really have only ourselves to blame.

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Today's bugs have BRANDS? Be still my bleeding heart [logo]

David Given

Bring back Ada

After Heartbleed I found myself reading up on Ada --- the original safe programming language. And you know what? It's *really nice*, and I say this as an old-school C hacker. It compiles into real machine code, it's suitable for writing both the really low-level stuff (you can specify the exact bit layout of structures, for example) as well as the high-level stuff (generics and object-oriented code support on a par with C++'s); it's got a beautiful concurrency model that makes juggling threads not just safe but *really easy*; it's got robust support for programming by contract --- preconditions, postconditions etc; and on top of all this it's fast: CLBG shows it to be about equivalent to C++ performance-wise. It even has pointers! But the type system makes them impossible to misuse...

I did a writeup: http://cowlark.com/2014-04-27-ada

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that there is simply *no excuse* for writing stuff in C (and C++) any more. There's just better ways to do it these days.

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US-Russia Soyuz 'nauts STUCK IN SPACE after ISS dock fail

David Given

Re: Huh?

Both. The capsule/on-orbit section is the Soyuz-TMA. The launch vehicle is a Soyuz-FG. Yes, confusing name overloading FTW.

The unmanned Progress supply drones usually launch on top of a Soyuz-U launch vehicle, just to make life even more interesting (although I see that they've launched at least some on a Soyuz-FG).

If you care, there's tonnes of borderline-obsessive information on Wikipedia.

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Star Wars movie to start shooting in UK this summer

David Given

Disco Lando? Your wish is my command...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lJQ5PmmleQ

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Curiosity gets an OS upgrade, plans new round of selfies

David Given

But not *too* real.

May 25 23:07:07 curiosity powerd: device unreachable

May 25 23:07:08 curiosity powerd: Pu on fire

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Bizarre Tolkien-inspired GCHQ Xmas card CAN'T BE READ by us PLEBS

David Given

That picture's pretty old

...feeding it into Google Image Search shows it seems to have originated from the New Zealand magazine The Listener, sometime in July. The image search may be here: http://tinyurl.com/lsllmkf

Unfortunately the article is paywalled, but here's another reference to the image from August:

http://humanrightsfoundation.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/twenty-seconds/

So yeah, I reckon that card's about as genuine as a chocolate fiver. Mmm, chocolate money...

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Asteroid-hunting beauty AWAKENS, takes cheeky snaps of neighbours

David Given

Running a spacecraft costs quite a lot of money: you need to assemble a team of flight engineers to actually make the thing go, plus a team of scientists to actually do something useful with it, plus equipment for both; and you also have to book and pay for time on the Deep Space Network to actually communicate with the satellite.

The DSN is heavily overbooked and if a satellite has completed its primary mission and therefore, in the eyes of the funders, paid for itself it's not uncommon to hibernate it so as to free up time and resources to manage another satellite.

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El Reg's contraptions confessional no.2: Tablet PC, CRT screen and more

David Given

Where are the tiny monitors?

There's a lot to be said for having a small monitor on a shelf somewhere for general use --- syslog output, portable console, wiring up to a cheapo composite spycam for spying on the neighbours... but they're surprisingly expensive. A 7" will typically cost you about half again as much as a full sized desktop monitor, and while it's possible to get 4" monitors for about 20 quid they're typically 320x240 composite and too small to read text on.

I suppose it's all about economies of scale, and that there are more desktop LCD panels shifted than 7" panels and so the desktop panels are cheaper. But it still makes me cross that I can buy a 7" LCD panel with a satnav bolted on the back for less than I can buy a 7" LCD panel with VGA input.

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David Given

Re: Model M

The only trouble with the Model M is that if you use one in an office environment, you do eventually run the risk of being beaten to death with your own keyboard --- they're not quiet. I have heard it's possible to get variants that don't have the Incrediclicky(TM) sound, but I don't know if they're any good.

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Delia and the Doctor: How to cook up a tune for a Time Lord

David Given

Check out _White Noise_

...which is a fantastic album, and most of it's on Youtube. My favourite track is _Firebird_, which is a brilliant mixture of dated and undateable:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMWg92GGI-g

(Music video not original.)

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What a plot of nonsense: Ten Master master plan FAILS

David Given

The Mark of the Rani?

Please tell me we haven't skipped over the Master's ultimate least great moment, which is when he gets kneed in the groin by the Rani? (Who, for my money, is a much more interesting antagonist than the Master --- she's not evil, just amoral. And her total lack of patience for the Master's moustache-twirling is a joy to behold.)

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Our MOM's LATEST EGGS: 'Looking GOOD', chuckle Indian space boffins

David Given

...you know, I *so* want an orbital schematic app of the solar system (er, Sol System, that is) which uses the same UI as the KSP map view. Complete with live updates. It's a really nice way to see where the various spacecraft really are, rather than just being 'somewhere in space'.

It's probably not very hard to do. WebGL, plus the Heavens Above database of orbital elements? Hmm...

Oh crap, I feel a project coming on.

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ULTIMATE ELECTRIC driving machine? Yes, it’s the BMW i3 e-car

David Given

Re: Finally an electric car I may want...

...and the power controller. A 125kW electric motor power controller doesn't come cheap --- a quick Google shows one for £9000. I once talked to a guy who did aftermarket conversions of cars; rip out the IC engine, install batteries and an electric transmission. He said that you typically paid 1/3 each for the batteries, motor, and power controller. That adds up to about £30k for this thing, which makes the price not unreasonable for what you get.

Not that I'm willing to pay it, mind, although this thing does tick all my electric car want boxes. I think it looks great, too.

Would be really interested to rent one, though.

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Right royal rumpus over remote-control 'RoboRoach'

David Given

Cockroaches have a long and proud history...

...of being used in scientific experimentation; their key value being that nobody really cares about them.

For example, four Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches were launched on Bigelow Aerospace's inflatable space station prototype:

http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060807/full/news060807-7.html

Turns out they can survive vacuum for short periods of time, and in low pressure environments will actively pump air into their abdomens, causing them to swell up to one and a half times normal size. Luckily I haven't found any pictures.

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Classic telly FX tech: How the Tardis flew before the CGI era

David Given

Re: BTW there was other stuff, too

...the globe in the last shot reminds me of the old BBC1 ident, which showed a spinning globe against a distorted map moving in sync. This was generated with the following wonderful piece of lateral thinking:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/articledan/4882377578/

That's the best shot of the kit I could find, but there's more info here:

http://www2.tv-ark.org.uk/bbcone/1974_idents.html

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David Given

Re: Faking CGI

Hell, just go watch the original Tron. The CGI's okay, but the really stylish and striking scenes were just colourised black-and-white shots of the actors superimposed on traditional animation and hand-coloured. Although I wouldn't exactly call it easy --- apparently it was hideously labour-intensive.

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David Given

Re: Trial of a Timelord Opening Shot

It's a really nice shot, yes --- and a very effective opener for an ambitious story that I was thought deserved better than it got --- but those stars have always bugged me. I assume that they were *supposed* to look like that, given the care and attention that shot got, but I don't know why...

I wonder what happened to the space station model?

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Ten top stories from Classic Doctor Who

David Given

The funniest moment in 26 years

People may be amused by this brilliant clip from _City of Death_:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYSj3rJGO4I

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Facebook fans fuel FAGGOT FURY firestorm

David Given

Re: Could've Been Worse

I actually just spotted 'em at the supermarket (Tesco's deli counter, 35p each; not Brains', either). I'm actually quite tempted, if I can figure out what to do with them. A lot of the weird old British traditional food can be rather good cooked well.

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Indestructible, badass rootkit BadBIOS: Is this tech world's Loch Ness Monster? VOTE NOW

David Given

Re: a guy who's run Linux on a hard drive motherboard:

Sorry, I don't follow you. He has a ucLinux kernel running on the ARM microcontroller on the HDD board (see the video). That's running Linux on the HDD, surely?

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David Given

Reprogramming USB stick flash firmware?

Does anyone have a reference for how to do this? It's something I've been interested in doing for ages --- a flash microcontroller is typically an ARM SOC, and programming them should be easy. But I've never actually found anyone who's done it. It'd be a very interesting platform to play with.

(It's not as ludicrous as it sounds. Here's a guy who's run Linux on a Western Digital hard drive motherboard:

http://spritesmods.com/?art=hddhack&page=1

)

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Fed up with Windows? Linux too easy? Get weird, go ALTERNATIVE

David Given

Re: Haiku's well worth looking at...

You're quite right. Shows how long it's been since I've looked at Ubuntu.

Haiku did it first, though!

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David Given

Re: Haiku's well worth looking at...

Yeah, but Linux and Windows both require *different* images for booting off CD and from USB. The Haiku image can be dd'd to a USB stick or burnt to a CD and it works on either. I haven't seen that for Linux yet.

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SR-71 Blackbird follow-up: A new TERRIFYING Mach 6 spy-drone bomber

This post has been deleted by a moderator

Fiery bits of Euro satellite to rain down on Earth this weekend

David Given
Thumb Up

It's got wings!

The GOCE satellite actually orbits within the atmosphere --- it uses its solar panels as wings for lift, and an ion engine to counter drag. The wikipedia page has an awesome picture:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GOCE.jpg

So I suppose technically it's an aircraft (although now the engine's out of fuel, more of a glider).

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Need an internet antidote? Try magic mushrooms

David Given

Not so magic mushrooms

The school where I grew up (long story) was in the country in Perthshire; its playing fields were apparently reckoned to be one the the best sources in Scotland for magic mushrooms. During the season there used to be all sorts of weird people lurking in the undergrowth, not all of them pupils.

Eventually the school started patrolling the place with big dogs to try and keep them out. Yeah, that was... strange.

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