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* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

2575 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

Kiwi boffins bid up Earth-like planet prediction

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re:"If we did leave the solar system, where should we go?"

And when they find a perfect planet, somebody is bound to say:

Yeah, but you know how it is with travel destinations: they look all shiny in the brochure, but when you get there the landing strip is awful, the customs officers rude, the taxi driver rips you of and drives you to your hotel which hasn't even been built yet, the sand on the beach scorching hot, but the sea is freezing cold for some reason, and it's polluted, and the Germans have taken all the towels and deckchairs, the food is awful and the toilets wont flush, the next-door kids will making far too much noise and the disco next door means you can't sleep a wink!

We might just as well stay at home or go to Southend-on-Sea

Such people should be sent of on a B-Ark to a small blue-green planet at the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy.

Oh, hang on.....

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ANCIENT CURSED RING known to TOLKIEN goes on display

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Alternatively you could name your servers

Ankh, Morpork, Quirm, Pseudopolis, Lancre, Genua, Sto Lat, ..........

Here they used Pallas, Zeus, and Poseidon. I got some blank stares from the CIT crowd (Philistines, the lot of them ;-) ) when I suggested Offler, Om, and Nuggan

I'll get me coat!

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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"The only similarity is that both rings are round!"

As J.R.R. Tolkien said when a (Swedish, I think) translator drew lengthy comparison with Wagner's "Ring des Nibelungen." I think the museum is hoping to ride on the popularity of the film to draw in visitors (can't blame them).

Magic rings abound in myths and legends, and Tolkien new many (Kalevala, Mabinogion, Edda, etc.), and inspiration has many sources. Also, in the Hobbit, the ring is simply a handy tool, and only in the LotR does it become sinister.

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Why does our galaxy spiral?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Interesting simulation

I have seen spiral arms develop in simulations of collisions of galaxies run by a colleague at the astronomy department, where they appear to be material structures. I must have a look at the paper later.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

Interesting simulation

When I did astronomy at the Kapteyn Institute (in the 1980s), a similar theory floated about, which suggested the spiral arms are essentially a compression wave running through the gas and dust, triggering star formation in spiral patterns, and the hot, short-lived stars lit up the surrounding gas with their UV radiation. Shortly after the wave passed, the bright stars burnt up, and the amount of light decreased, without the total mass density changing much. The theory behind this simulation runs along a similar pattern, although in the 1980s simulating anything this big was impossible, of course.

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Veiny green 'scum' meteorite may be first visitor from Mercury

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coffee/keyboard

Re: "Almost-planet Vesta"

New keyboard please

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Thumb Up

Very interesing indeed

Curious looking stone as well (good-looking scum, one might say)

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Rocket boffinry in pictures: Gulp the Devil's venom and light a match

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Happy

Re: Kerbal Space Programme....

Nor does Goddard. He made a few contributions.

The thing we really need is an infinite improbability drive, so if anybody can give me a Bambleweeny 57 sub-meson brain hooked up to an atomic vector plotter, I will supply the cup of really hot tea and feed in the improbability of the infinite improbability drive.

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I've got a super free multi-petabyte storage box for you: /dev/null

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

I think many of us share the view that we should archive all plans from middle management (and indeed many government plans as well) in /dev/null. It can be done without any loss of real information

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Dragon capsule makes fiery entrance, safe splashdown

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

And rightly so!

I'll see your pint and raise you another one!

That image brings back very fond memories of the Apollo era.

Go SpaceX, go!

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GCHQ attempts to downplay amazing plaintext password blunder

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coffee/keyboard

The sound you hear

is that of crypto-experts past (Alan Turing included) spinning in their graves

Hilarious blunder, especially coming from GCHQ

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CERN re-opens 'Animal Shelter for Computer Mice'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: There's Comic Sans Again

The Higgs font?

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Experts doubt Anonymous Mossad spy outing claims are kosher

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Facepalm

Members of the Israeli Defense Forces?

Given that military service is compulsory for most Israelis (quite a few orthodox Jews are exempt, despite being very militant), and can be called up at any time as reservists, it might be quicker to list those Israelis not in the IDF.

Just my tuppence

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Not kosher?

Indeed, horse is not kosher

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Curiosity out of safe mode, doing science again

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

Re: Wot no checksums?

Even the best error correcting codes fail in practice when the signal is drowned out by MASSIVE random noise output by the sun. It would be like trying to shout at somebody on the other side of a football pitch while Motörhead are doing a gig in between. I think you will find that quite tricky (this is why people text each other in the disco, instead of talking).

Now make the football pitch a few hundred million km across, and replace Motörhead's few ten's of kilowatts of power by 3.9x10^26 Watts, and you get the picture.

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iPads in education: Not actually evil, but pretty close

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coffee/keyboard

Re: "... Fondleslab: Jus' say 'AarrghaarrghpleeassennononoUGH'"

Precisely

And of course, when a troll fondles a slab the fingers go through the screen

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art?

My kids much prefer to get their hands (and everything else in a 5 furlong radius) dirty with REAL paint, or real clay, rather than using a screen (they also like that, but the real deal is more fun).

I also totally agree that a device on which you cannot programme, and which is not sergeant-Detritus-proof, is not a good tool for IT in the classroom.

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Lightspeed variable say intellectuels français

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Re: Can you spare me the trip, too?

I thought the shortest possible time was the New-York second: the time between the traffic light turning green in front of you and the yellow cab behind you honking its horn.

Mine is the one with "The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul" in the pocket

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Furious Stephen Fry blasts 'evil' Reg and 'TW*T' Orlowski

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

None are so clearly upset ...

as those who repeatedly claim not to be upset.

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GE puts new Nvidia tech through its paces, ponders HPC future

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Happy

Cool, seriously cool!

We live in such exciting times. I several algorithms which could benefit from much faster global access (and just more processing grunt, but that goes without saying). I do worry how to harness the power embedded in your typical GPU architecture. They do not seem to like data-driven processing order much. Scientifically, that is a challenge of course, not a problem.

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Help save the endangered QUANTUM OWL, pleads Reg man

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Thumb Up

I will join

Even if, living in the Netherlands, I might not reap the full benefits. This is an important institution which is very worthy of my support

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Oi, Microsoft, where's my effin' toolbar gone?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

Re: What is this article supposed to be?

You are all misunderstanding it. It a very cunning advert for LaTeX. If you adjust your monitor settings properly, the message "LaTeX RULES!!" can be made out in the background.

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LOHAN fans drawn to magnetic coupling

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: How about a "BIGGER HAMMER" variant of flaming

Good point. Maybe coat it with potassium perchlorate, for that extra oomph.

I just love things that go BANG

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Flame

How about a "BIGGER HAMMER" variant of flaming

Use a strip of magnesium as a conductor. In the path of the rocket exhaust it should burn up readily (brightly).

There might be a delay, but it does not rely on melting

And then I just love the extra fireworks display

Icon, because, ..... well guess

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Experts finger disk-wiping badness used in S Korea megahack

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

Long, Dark Teatime of the Seoul

It could be the South Koreans doing it to fellow South Koreans they happen to dislike, and give them a excuse to attack North Korea with similar means. This suggests they are in the third stage of warfare according to Douglas Adams:

1. Retribution: I am going to kill you because you killed my brother

2. Anticipation: I am going to kill you because I killed your brother

3. Diplomacy: I am going to kill my brother and then kill you on the pretext that your brother did it.

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Space probe spies MYSTERY 'Cold Spot' in very fabric of cosmos itself

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Re: The cold spots...

Could be worse, it could be the Azgoths of Kria

"Ode to a small lump of green putty I found under my left armpit one midsummer morning" anyone?

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Voyager goes off a (helio) cliff

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

Going places

I remember seeing the Voyager launches on the news. I followed all the planetary fly-bys. That thing is really going places. Almost makes me feel lonesome (and certainly small)

A toast to all engineers and scientists involved!

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Brit web biz waves white flag in Python trademark bout

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Originally they wanted to call the service "Monty" ...

I'll get me coat

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Refusal to swallow scuppers woman's tadpole-smuggling plan

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

She should have brought dried frog pills instead

so she could hallucinate she was sane.

but then she would probably be able fly without needing a plane

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LOHAN slips into tight rubber outfit

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

I am surprised

nobody has suggested duck tape yet

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Software bug halts Curiosity: Nuke lab bot in safe mode

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

How does it report bugs:

Houston, we have a problem

surely?

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Holly(oaks) talking head is FUTURE of face messaging, claims prof

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: It is, ... absolutely awful

"On BBC News this morning they showed "her" in angry mode shouting "You're late! Where on earth are you?" in a way that I found really quite unnerving. I suspect anyone feeling a little harassed would not want one of these."

And anyway, isn't shouting at you that way the privilege the missus?

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

It is, ... absolutely awful

I do wonder if it would not be simpler to, you know, insert a camera into the phone, and, like, image or film the actual expression of the sender rather than simulate it, but perhaps that technology must first be developed

Can the software please add a sarcastic expression to the above statement?

It is of course handy if you want to send an insincere emotion, but that would of course be unethical, so nobody would do that

^ Same emotion again, please

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Drones with freakin' CLAWS grab objects like eagles

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

That might actually make me join in

For me fishing always seemed boring, unless when using the "nutting the salmon" technique proposed by Billy Connolly (it involves a crash helmet).

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Micro-drum acts as quantum memory

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Spinning platters

There is just no way of escaping them

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Euro satellite ‘heard’ Japanese megaquake in SPACE

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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The speed of sound increases with the stiffness of the medium, and decreases with density. For an ideal gas stiffness depends on pressure, which depends of density and temperature. The net result is that the speed of sound increases with temperature. So low temperature leads to low speed of sound. High in the atmosphere, the temperature is low. However, at the altitude of satellites, things are probably more complicated, as ionizing radiation of the sun may heat molecules to 2,000 K or more (and ionize them, changing the properties of the dilute gas), depending on solar activity.

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Fake fingers fool Brazilian biometrics

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Some advanced reader (claim to) use IR light and the Doppler to detect moving blood under the skin. Those scanners are not fooled by these fake fingers. I gather some scanners even OKed photocopies of fingerprints

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Curiosity's MYSTERY MARS find: NASA reveals THE TRUTH

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Happy

Re: NASA has found.....

Some sediments are actually deposited by wind. Plenty of that on Mars. Hydrocarbons would be interesting. Await yells of "There's oil in them there hills!!!", followed by a rush to get to the oil first

(and once found, wondering how on earth (Mars) they can ship it back to the nearest refinery)

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Starlight-sifting boffins can now spot ALIEN LIFE LIGHT YEARS AWAY

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Neat, but.....

I am given to wonder whether the odd results are real, or artefact of this new method. It would be really very cool if it works as flawlessly as claimed in this article. I will go and have a look at the actual paper to make up my mind.

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Jennifer Lopez gets you more Facebook friends than Iron Maiden

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Hmm.

Exactly, all stuff for the "Scientists Now Know" corner of Annals of Improbable Research, home of the Ig Nobel prizes (and the judges will be spoiled for choice (again)).

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Elon Musk's 'Grasshopper' hover rocket scores another test success

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Thumb Up

Great stuff!

"Grasshopper" does instantly remind me of the Kung Fu series with David Carradine, however.

That says a lot about my age, I suppose

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Uni profs: Kids today could do with a bit of 'mind-crippling' COBOL

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Boffin

Nope! No blood on the floor here.

I just suggested it here, and various beverages got sprayed on the floor. A few tears of laughter were added shortly afterwards.

If our students want to learn COBOL, we point them to the library where there are a few books on COBOL. When they look blank, we tell them the library is the place with all the books and stuff.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

Re: you devil you

Rocket-Propelled Grenade?

Duck!

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Proper programming language

Good points. This is one reason we went back from Java (still used by us for teaching OO) to C for our initial programming course. We find the students learn to understand what is going on better. Having to do your own malloc and free can be a pain, but learning what memory management actually is about is useful.

More importantly, I think it is important to teach the students programming rather than teaching them a programming language. The first is a way to think about solving problems, the second is a tool to achieve a result. You need to learn both of course. In terms of programming languages, the most important skill is to learn how to teach yourself a new one.

Another point is that there are two reasons to learn a new programming language:

1) because you want to work on a project written in that language

2) because you want to learn new ways of thinking about programming

If you have learnt to program in Pascal, learning C does not give you a fundamentally different way of approaching programming problems, but Haskell or Erlang will. A thoughtful discussion on this is found here.

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SOD Big Data! Most of what you're keeping is digital landfill

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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It is also about pattern recognition

Indiscriminate adding of data makes finding any information hard. There is a real risk of drowning interesting patterns in noise. Data != Information

As I like to tell students (over and over again): Adding hay does not make finding needles easier

We do do some work on really big data (vast amount of image data from astronomy and remote sensing), but that data has lots of internal structure which helps finding stuff.

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Six things a text editor must do - or it's a one-way trip to the trash

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Like the definition of IDEs

I now understand why I avoid them for a lot of tasks

Verity is informative as aver

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: There is only one thing a text editor needs

Doesn't VI stand for Venom Incarnate? I think I read that here, but these people may be biased

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Emacs: Rejected

Lisp is not a really a problem provided you have sufficient parentheses installed.

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Here's the $4.99 utility that might just have saved Windows 8

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Now with that add in W8 might be OK at home

I dread the idea of "upgrading" at home, simply because the missus will freak out with things being in different places (or simply having a different icon/colour/name). You would not believe the level of complaints I got when I installed Office 2010 at her insistence to be compatible with her work environment (Office 2007), and it was not pixel-compatible with her machine at work. Before that I drew flak about having LibreOffice to handle docx files (which always mess files up, according to her). I was somewhat amused that MS-Office 2010 made a similar pig's breakfast out of the same Office 2007 docx files from her work.

Thank God I use LaTeX!!!

<deep breath>

Sorry, end of rant, I needed to get that off my chest

With workarounds to make it look like W7 I might be spared quite some pain.

The kids will have no problems with the transition, I would guess.

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World's 'smallest' mobe unveiled in Japan

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Crivens!!!!

Nah, ya wee scunner!

It's the Nac Mac Feegle that want those!

Bigjobs!

They won't buy them of course, not if they can steal them

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