* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

3115 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

This is why copy'n'paste should be banned from developers' IDEs

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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In a desert-like piece of Pascal code, devoid of any real oases of comments, with single-letter variable names throughout, and naturally lacking any proper documentation, I came across a lonely comment

(* Wulf *)

And no, that wasn't the culprit's name. If he is reading this column, he will know I am talking about him. Having said all this, I could by dint of quite some effort make sense of his code (which algorithm-wise and structurally was fine), but I can still recognize those bits of code I contributed to that system after decoding his work: My variable names grew longer, my comments more detailed, my documentation actually existed!

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NASA charges up 18-prop electric X-plane

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

I do want to compliment these boffins

both with the creativity of their research, and their creativity in cooking up acronyms

BRains Invent Lasting Legacy In Artistic Names for Technology (BRILLIANT)

Raises pint and doffs hat (the black Mayser Trekking today)

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Don't you see these simple facts? Destroy Facebook and restore human Liberty

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Diatribe ...

might be a better word than rant, as it is indeed rather too coherent and even well-crafted for a true, foaming at the mouth rant.

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What took you so long, Twitter? Micro blogging site takes on the trolls

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Enter the Piecemaker

I persnally tink it is discrimnation against us Trolls!

Sgt. Detritus

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Who would code a self-destruct feature into their own web browser? Oh, hello, Apple

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Ah, Netscape Navigator

Still remember that, and Mosaic (which still supported gopher)

There were of course so few websites in the days of Mosaic that you could conceivably test your browser on all of them

Now I tend to use Firefox under Linux and Windows, and Chrome on Android. Works for me.

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Winning Underhand C Contest code silently tricks nuke inspectors

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Reminds me of a single coding error (or horror) that caused trouble when switching from 32 to 64 bit machines on code initially written by two students. The interpretation of "long" and "int" was the same on the 32 bit machines, but differed on 64 bit machines. Storing an array of longs in an int array gave, let's say, "interesting" results. Not underhand, of course, just stupid (and easily fixed once found).

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Pentagon can't check F-35 maintenance thanks to insecure database

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Facepalm
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Sure, encrypt your email – while your shiny IoT toothbrush spies on you

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

The IoT vision always makes me shudder slightly

I for one do not relish the idea of a future with a load of chatty doors, self-satisfied fridges, and a nutrimatic machine making me a cup filled with a liquid which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

Alternatively, we end up with a computer that tells me:

"I am sorry, Dave, I can't do that for you"

...

And my name isn't even Dave

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BOFH: I want no memory of this pointless conversation. Alcohol please

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Nice one!

And now it's beer o'clock!

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Four Boys' Own style World War Two heroes to fire your imagination

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Thumb Up

Facsinating read

Must look up more about these men

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It's 2016 and idiots still use '123456' as their password

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

I now use "The Spanish Inquisition"

because nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Sorry, I think I should be going. The red monastic robes and matching hat please

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

anyone?

Oh wait, no numbers

L1anfairpwl1gwyngyl1g0gerychwyrndr0bwl1l1antysili0g0g0g0ch

easily remembered

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The planets really will be in alignment for the next month

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Unhappy

There is of course the usual caveat

CLOUDS PERMITTING

So far, they haven't

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Hey, Intel and Micron: XPoint is phase-change memory, right? Or is it? Yes. No. Yes

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

But, but, but, ...

does it taste like a duck?

Hmm, hungry now

Sorry, couldn't resist. The one with the cookery book in the pocket please!

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Amnesty International accuses tech giants of battery bastardry

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Raising awareness of the appalling conditions kids have to work in is never a bad thing. Solving the problem is rather harder, however. Rather than bluntly stopping "artisanal mining" at gunpoint (which isn't going to work) there may be ways of improving the conditions by educating the people so they employ safer methods or providing safer alternative income. Even simple measures such as providing some protection for the lungs (simple face masks even?) might do more to actually improve the life of the people involved than an outright ban (which will be circumvented).

Still, it all starts with being aware of the problem

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What do Angolan rebels, ISIS widows, Metallica and a photographer have in common?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Murdered?

The media language of propaganda these days is utterly ridiculous.

"Pacifying Falujah" - Bombing large Eastern town back to the stone age.

"Civilian casualties" - Innocent people killed

"Liquidation" - People killed.

"Expedited removal" - People killed faster.

You could add:

"Revoked", you know, k-i-l-l-e-d: revoked

Alternatively "inhume" is popular with the guild, or "inhume with extreme prejudice" if you want to make a clear statement

Doffs hat to the late, great Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett

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Comet halo theory for flickering 'alien megastructure' star fails

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I was wondering whether the star was moving into a dust field (much like the Pleiades are moving through right now). However, that should show up in IR quite readily, I would think, so that cannot be correct

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KeysForge will give you printable key blueprints using a photo of a lock

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

A BOFH countermeasure ...

Would be to attach the business end of a remote-control cattle prod on steroids to the other side of a metal lock (or simply the metal doorknob). Doesn't work on plastic keys, perhaps, but just stiffen the lock so you have to use metal ones.

The remote control handed to beancounters or various bosses might of course be faulty. Shocking, really shocking, the lack of proper QC in those (cheap) remote controllers the beancounters wanted us to buy .....

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Aircraft now so automated pilots have forgotten how to fly

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: The human pilots just do the easy bits...

Are the rumours true that the short haul pilots have to take a spin in a 109?

To stay with Junkers, they could perhaps also try a Stuka

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Black hole shows off glow-in-the-dark ring after sucking in matter

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I would love to have a look

with my 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain, but could someone first hoover up all these bleedin' clouds?

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Fans demand 'Lemmium' periodic table tribute

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Re: Heavy Metal?

The phrase "heavy metal" also made an early appearance in musical context in Steppenwolf's "Born to wild" in the line "Heavy metal thunder!" in 1968, so late 60s early 70s is about right

Motörhead was fun whatever label you wish to put on it. I do not think Lemmy would mind being remembered as a heavy element that is born in a burst of energy, and disappears in a flash after a (too) short, (radio-)active life

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Longing to bin Photoshop? Rock-solid GIMP a major leap forward

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: RAW?

There is also UFRAW:

http://ufraw.sourceforge.net/

I haven't used it yet, but will probably do so shortly.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Multi-channel and deep bit depths is what I need

I do a lot of multi-channel deep bit depth work in astronomy, and Gimp's lack of support there has caused me to use it only in the latest stages, if at all. I will certainly try the new version.

And I can live with the GUI (yes, it is a bit clunky), heck, I can even live with ImageJ and MatLab, or even ImageMagick command line stuff. However, I cannot live with Photoshop's software rental approach. I am quite willing to buy their older version, but they don't sell that any more (at least, not via any legal site I have found). Adobe is free to choose its business model, and I am free to look elsewhere.

I also cannot live with their reliance on the cloud. I might be in the depths of Uganda, which means I might be far from (decent) internet connection, and I do not want a pop-up saying: "Sorry Michael, I can't do that for you." Yes you can be away from authentication for a while, but I do not like this kind of time-bomb ticking away in the background waiting to go off at some moment.

For others it may be ideal, of course. Horses for courses

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GCHQ mass spying will 'cost lives in Britain,' warns ex-NSA tech chief

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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The man is absolutely right!

As I tell my students over and over again: adding hay doesn't make finding needles any easier. Getting a big magnet by contrast, does. We can only hope the powers that be listen, but I am not holding my breath.

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Curiosity Rover eyes Mars' creeping dunes

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Stunning images again

Great work by all involved!

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Periodic table enjoys elemental engorgement

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Nerdium, Geekium, and uhhh...

Boffinium, perhaps?

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Nerdium, Geekium, and uhhh...

may I suggest Dorkium?

Seems to complement Nerdium and Geekium well

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Forget anonymity, we can remember you wholesale with machine intel, hackers warned

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: These detection methods don't scale.

Not only do these methods not necessarily scale, they need an ever increasing ground truth of identified code for training. This is not trivial to obtain. Besides, as more and more coders are added, you have to worry about the number of degrees of freedom in coding anything, i.e. are there enough different coding styles to distinguish the millions of coders on this planet. Besides, you have to deal with code developed by teams (which is the normal situation), which will either show a mixture of styles, or predominantly show the style of the loudest mouth in the team, with a small admixture of the other members. Similarly, what happens when a new coder refactors old stuff? I know I have seriously refactored a program written by some students to adapt it to new use cases. It is still not really like my

You could of course show that a certain style is consistent with a known sample of some hacker's work, but even then people might slowly change their coding style. Having had a look at some of my earlier efforts, I know I have changed style a great deal (thank goodness ;-)), if only by incorporating OO techniques

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You’re clever? But are you clever enough to give a Reg lecture?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Megaphone

My students tend not to fall asleep during my lectures. That might of course be because I am LOUD rather than interesting. And I don't need no steenking megaphone to reach Brian Blessed's volume levels

ARE YE DEEEEF???!!!

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EU reforms could pave way for smells and noises to be trade-mark protected – expert

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Eki eki eki patang zoo poing zzraazrroohhhh... NI!

Is all I can say

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MoJ digital software glitch sends thousands of divorcees back to negotiating table

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

Re: digital software?

Why of course, it's called the Glooper and is run by Hubert (assisted by Igor).

Lot better than an abacus, but you will need a raincoat or umbrella

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Let's shut down the internet: Republicans vacate their mind bowels

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I do not for a moment doubt the ability of politicians of ALL parties to get things wrong, often deliberately because it suits their purposes. As stated in the Hitchhikers' Guide:

"It is a well-known and much-lamented fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it"

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Well, freedom of speech does include the freedom to speak foolishly. I rather like major Winchester's pronouncement in M*A*S*H that "It is the inalienable right of each and every person to make a fool of themselves in public".

Wise words indeed

Such wise words were sorely lacking in the debate, it seems

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Man faces 37 years for sarcastic post insulting royal dog

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

In this context that suggests insulting politicians is 7.4 times less bad than insulting a dog. Sounds fair enough

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After Death Star II blew: Dissecting the tech of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Re: AI must be harder than we thought.

Maybe the GPP features got SO annoying nobody wanted them any more

Share and Enjoy!

OK, I'll be out of here. The one with the HHGTTG radio plays in the pocket, please

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: It's not that unlikely

Simply look at RN destroyer design between the two world wars: The post Jutland WW-I Vs and Ws served throughout WW-II, and many later destroyers (including the then modern Hs serving in the first battle of Narvik) look very similar indeed.

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Bigger than Higgs? Boffins see hints of bulbous new Boson

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Exciting stuff!

Looking forward to the results of follow-up research

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Janet pulls open network info for good after DDoSers exploit it

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Our new infrastructure is organised thus...

I prefer having piranhas in the moat. Unless sharks with frickin' lasers are available

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Curiosity Rover digs into humanity's first alien sand dune

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Your tax dollars at work!

Exactly! And it has its own frickin' laser!! Fun, isn't it!

On a more serious note, that dune image Curiosity took is just breathtakingly beautiful, as have been so many this project has brought forth.

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Spanish village mounts Playmobil extravaganza

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Playmobil or it didn't ....

Oh, hang on....

Sorry, couldn't resist.

I'd better be going

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Ceres' salty history hints at bright spot origin

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Thumb Up

Fascinating stuff from several probes recently, Rosetta and Philae, Dawn and New Horizon have really been a treat to follow. Big thumbs up to the boffins who make this possible

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US Navy's newest ship sets sail with Captain James Kirk at the bridge

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: not a handsome beast

Actually bigger than many if not most WW-II cruisers. The RN County class heavy cruisers weighed in at 10,000 tonnes, rather less than the 15,000 tonnes quoted here, which is heavier than many pre-dreadnought battleships. A very far cry from the 260 tonnes of the earliest torpedo-boat destroyers. Churchill apparently once said that by forever increasing the size of destroyers, we move them from the class of the hunters to that of the hunted. He may have had a point.

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Netherlands votes to splash cash on encryption projects

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Token gesture, really

500,000 euro is very little. Welcome, of course, but hardly a major push. Knowing Dutch politics, and minister Kamp in particular, he will use every opportunity to weasel out of this or procrastinate it for YEARS. The plans will no doubt go through the usual process of being "sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters."

Doffs hat to the late, great Douglas Adams (the black Mayser Trecking today)

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Japanese hack gets space probe back on track

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

I will see your Kirin and raise you an Asahi Black!

Well done those boffins!

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Dear alien overlord (not mine, so I fear you not)

If you have successfully designed a spacecraft and got it to orbit around another planet, you can comment on the design. Except that you would probably not, because you know how hard it is, and how much luck is needed. For all you know, the component failed due to micro-meteorite impact.

And yes, I did notice the smiley, but I am afraid the joke fell a bit flat, but it is always difficult, attempting humor in an alien language ;-)

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Russia's blanket phone spying busted Europe's human rights laws

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Grand Chamber panel included the Russian Judge

Very enlightening. I do note however that this Russian judge carefully notes past experiences from the Soviet and Imperial eras as contributing to the suspicion that "political and economic figures, including human-rights activists, opposition activists and leaders, journalists, ...." are targeted. The current regime isn't mentioned. Very diplomatic

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France mulls tighter noose around crypto

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Facepalm

I think the icon

says it all

it will be a sad day for common sense, let alone civil liberties if this bill passes, even if it is only for the duration of a state of emergency

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BOFH: Taking a spin in a decommissioned racer? On your own grill cam be it

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Superb episode. Really brilliant

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Spanish village celebrates Playmobil nativity

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

They clearly want to show the nativity did happen.

After all:

Playmobil or it didn't happen!

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Europe launches search for Einstein's space-time ripples

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Fascinating stuff

Fingers crossed for a smooth launch once thy get the technical glitches sorted

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