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* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

2490 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

Tales from an expert witness: Lasers, guns and singing Santas

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Very interesting read!!

Thanks for that

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BOFH: One flew over the PFY's nest

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Superb!

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Forget invisible kittens, now TANKS draped in INVISIBILITY CLOAK

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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What we really need

is an invisibility cloak to bring new bits of kit into the house under the missus' radar. Very difficult as the missus' radar is sensitive to non-electromagnetic guilt waves given off by any man who has just bought yet another tech toy.

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Look at how many ways we ruin your life, Redmond boasts

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

A modest proposal for correction

Perhaps the sentence

"47 per cent have worked while on vacation (either they or their employers have an inadequate grasp of the definition of “vacation”. Hint: “if you call me about work on December 25, I will hang up”)."

Should be amended to

"47 per cent have worked while on vacation (either they or their employers have an inadequate grasp of the definition of “vacation”. Hint: “if you call me about work on December 25, I will hang you from the highest gallows”)."

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Stephen Hawking: 'Boring' Higgs Boson discovery cost me $100

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Memorable phrase

"boffinry bitchslap brouhaha"

Well done, sir(s) well done!

How long did the Reg hacks wait for a suitable situation to use this phrase?

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Ricoh Theta 360˚ camera: Point and click immersive imaging

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Re: No Photosphere ?

Photosphere? I just observed the photosphere, and it was full of spots, by contrast, the chromosphere showed lots of prominences.

Coat please, and hand me the backpack with the solar H-alpha telescope

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Oracle pours hot, steaming Java into heterogeneous heaven

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Mixed feelings

It is good to see movement towards better tooling to deal with the complexity of coding on complex platforms such as GP-GPU/CPU hybrids/clusters you name it. At the same time I sometimes doubt that I will always get an efficient solution if hardware details are hidden from the coder. Some code optimizers to a sterling job on a variety of tasks, but sometimes you need to tailor your approach to the underlying architecture. Of course, if a tool works well in a large percentage of cases that is still a bonus, so long as the tools do not get in the way of people needing to access the machine at a lower level of abstraction, for those instances not properly covered by the tools.

One real fear is that people will assume that the code optimizer (or smart virtual machine in the case of Java) will do the work for them, and solve all their problems. I do not so much fear that real coders of parallel systems will walk blindly into that trap, but things might be different in higher management layers of an organization. I can just hear them say "Why do we need these expensive experts, when the code optimizer can automatically parallelize your code?"

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Boffins boggled by ORB-shaped electrons

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: The good old boring standard model

Who is running the simulations?

Easy: White mice!!

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HUMANITY STUNNED - Apple Retina iPad Mini arrives. A solemn moment

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Nice display

Waddyamean pointless! it has far more little points than the old one!!

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Best exit fast before Bad Punnery Enforcement Squad arrives

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RETRO-GASM: The Fuze electronics kit for the Raspberry Pi

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Really really basic computers

It is important that we still teach machine coding at some level. I have included coding very simple programs on a simulated microprocessor in our course "Introduction to Computing Science". It helps people understand what goes on "under the hood" when coding in C (in the course "Imperative Programming" running in parallel). These simulators can run on the Pi or Arduino controllers, I suppose. In particular, simulators can show what is going on graphically, and that helps understanding as well.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

WANT!!!!!

Ah, what a trip down nostalgia lane, but with the processing grunt of a million pound (or more) machine from the 70s and 80s.

I must get myself one of these things (with the excuse of getting it for educational purposes for the kids, to make it fly under the missus' radar)

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BOFH: GOATSE? No, I said goat fetis... you know what, forget it

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Baaaaaaaaaaa!

As Blackadder said to lord Melchett.

Brilliant episode (both this BOFH and that edition of Blackadder)

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OK, maths wonks: PRIME TIME has arrived

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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No 42 in there, so no worries (unless a Vogon constructor fleet appears (it's Thursday, after all))

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Planet hopper: The Earthly destinations of Doctor Who

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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42!!!!

Right in the centre of London!

Coincidence??

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ZOMBIE apocalypse! The 'LIVING DEAD' are HERE – Fox News confirmed it

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Are you sure they didnt mean to say

But don't they always say that? Hyperbole, thy name is Fox

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Production error?

I thought Fox News WAS a production error?

Or was that mass producer of errors?

Or the product of a deranged imagination?

Wait! That was the galactic banking sector!

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Vulture 2 spaceplane STRIPPED to the bone

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Know I know

why the design reminded me of the Vickers Wellington model I built as a kid.

Lets raise a glass to the memory of the great Barnes Wallis

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Galaxy is CRAMMED with EARTH-LIKE WORLDS – also ALIENS (probably)

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

You mean, superman isn't real?????????????

HERETIC!!!!!!!

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Maybe they're hiding from us.

Of course they are. We play cricket. Bad form, that, very bad form

OK, OK!! I'll get me coat

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IT'S ALIVE! IT'S ALIVE! Google's secretive Omega tech just like LIVING thing

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Won't they just take to sulking in basements?

I'll get me coat. The one with the cassette tapes of the Hitchhiker's Guide radio plays please

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Facebook fans fuel FAGGOT FURY firestorm

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: WFG

I would suggest WFoG or WFOG, as it is semi-pronounceable, and the FOG component chimes nicely with the mental fog that often accompanies WFoG posts

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BETHLEHEM-grade SUPERNOVA possible 'within 50 years'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: No three & no kings

3 is odd indeed, in this case I would have expected the number to be perfect, so 6 or 28 would be more appropriate.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Disappointing...

I know what you mean, ISON might be nice, and even naked eye, in the coming months, but the COMET OF THE CENTURY (where is that blink attribute when you need it) claims initially made look way overblown.

Hale-Bopp in 1996 was very nice however

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

Refinement for sure, and some nice modelling, but no shocking news

We have known about the statistics of supernova explosions from watching similar galaxies to ours (spiral or barred spiral, not lenticular BTW) for a long time. I myself have seen half a dozen in the last three years in various "nearby" galaxies with my humble 8" scope (none discovered by me, I just watch the ones others have found), so the statistics that have been gathered with big scopes are pretty good. We know that a naked eye supernova is long overdue, but that does not alter the probabilities of having one going off now, or in the next few decades.

The authors do provide nice estimates of the brightness distributions expected, however, I do not want to knock their work.

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BOFH: Is WHAT 'running slow'!? GOD

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Installers

I do not usually get installer questions during installation of Windows, except when it does not recognize hardware. One case I remember is Windows 2000 refusing to talk to a bog-standard S3-based super VGA card from Diamond, just a year old, so hardly obsolete. It did like the older Matrox Millennium board I had lying around. On most bog-standard machines you do not have trouble, but if you have anything remotely fancy, the Windows installer can throw a fit.

The same Windows 2000 install refused to boot the moment I attached a Quantum Viking II UW-SCSI disk to the Adaptec 2942 UW controller (which it did recognize). Attach a disk -> no boot; remove disk, all hunky-dory! AARGH! As the main disk was a mere 20GB, I really liked the idea of having a second 9GB disk available, especially because all the old data was on it. It was not to be. Put the thing in an external case and attach as external SCSI drive? That did work. Why? To this day I do not know.

A Linux install on the same machine was WAY faster.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Re: coming-to-work-naked

Never mind the caps lock, it shows you are really getting into the spirit of things, in a tap-dancing-along-the-disaster-curve kind of way. Have a beer!

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Simon is on form

"... or the slow crawl of a progress bar across the screen as a windows boot prepares to fail..."

Having struggled with a series of installs lately, I can relate to that. Really I can.

Time for some percussive maintenance!!

Where is that cricket bat?

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'It seems that the OSes and devices are based on the Devil'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coffee/keyboard

Hilarious

Just, hilarious! He probably was inspired by all the daemons in his system

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

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Oh dear

I feel an urge to install a couple to make our new home machine not just dual boot, but triple, quadruple, quintuple boot, if only to freak out the missus

Must resist, must resist

Let's have a beer to calm the shaken nerves.

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Facebook tests sinister CURSOR-TRACKING in hunt for more ad bucks

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Note to self

IF I ever log on to facebook, remember to make rapid random cursor movements to confuse system

Better yet: do not log on to facebook (resisted so far, not tempted yet)

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Moto sets out plans for crafty snap-together PODULAR PHONES

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: LEGO-style

Maybe it should be branded LEGOrola?

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HTC phone STOPS BULLET, saves Florida gas station clerk's life

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

And it isn't even a ruggedized phone

sorry, time for me coat already

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Z30: The classiest BlackBerry mobe ever ... and possibly the last

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Stop

Re: Here we go again...

One troll well and truly fed, I am afraid

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Phantom Flan flinger: The story of the Elan Enterprise 128

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Ah, Memory Lane, 128kB of it

I had the Enterprise 128, and had a lot of fun with it. Hooked it up to a Brother electronic typewriter and could then print stuff with the ear-splitting sound of a daisy-wheel printer running at full clip. We even got the word processor to print things in cheapskate boldface by hammering down the letter twice with a tiny shift. The BASIC was very slow, as I remember. I programmed an FFT on it, which took quite a while on a 256 entry 1-D array. Quite a pointless exercise, but I just did it because I could.

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LG G Flex: A new cheeky curvy mobe with a 'SELF-HEALING' bottom

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Rulers obsolete

"It will make a great (if rather expensive) desktop catapult."

Note to self: Mustn't read this kind of thing when sipping tea behind the keyboard

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Do Not Track W3C murder plot fails by handful of votes

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: The N in DNT is NOT

Which bit of DO NOT TRACK don't you ad-monkeys understand?

The word "NOT", apparently (or at least not in this context)

None are so deaf as those who do not want to hear

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Cinnamon Desktop: Breaks with GNOME, finds beefed-up Nemo

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Interesting to see the separation from Gnome

Might give it a shot on my Linux machines

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I am a recovering Superwoman wannabee

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Also Don't forget!

Very true.

I (like many men nowadays) take quite a big share in housework, getting the kids to school, helping them with homework, cooking, besides working full time. My wife also works nearly full time so it can become a rat race for both of us. At some point you simply need to say: there are 24 hours in a day, and not all of them should be filled with duties. I have learned to say: "Hang this, I have done as much as could humanly be expected or more, I am now taking time off for my own hobbies" (stargazing: superbly relaxing, it really puts things in perspective). What helps is to focus on what you have accomplished, not on the list of chores that still has to be done.

Not always easy.

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Only a merciful BULLET can really save a RHINO, say Texas hunters

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Alternatively

they might be encouraging evolution in different directions such as

- the ability to dodge bullets

- better armour plating

- the ability to stalk Texans with guns and trample them before they had a chance to turn around

- better camouflage

- the ability to play dead, wait until some bastard tries to take a snap with his foot on your head, and then POUNCE

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Texans propose solution involving guns

If you had told this story as a joke people would say (quite rightly) you were stereotyping Texans. It just goes to show, truth is at times stranger (and more stereotypical) than fiction.

I have seen an interview with the proposers on the Colbert Report. The interviewer didn't have to ridicule the interviewee, as the interviewee was doing such a sterling job of making a fool of himself already.

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In a meeting with a woman? For pity's sake DON'T READ THIS

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Sorry, could you repeat that story?

I wasn't paying attention

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SEX CRAZED FISH keeping hapless Southamptonites awake

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Mushroom

Re: @Joefish

Depth-charges anyone?

I am wondering if the humble gurnard might be to blame. Their Dutch nickname "knorhaan" (grunting cock (seriously!)) refers to their habit of making quite loud noises under water.

Quite tasty, and excellent in bouillabaisse.

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Coding: 'suitable for exceptionally dull weirdos'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Mushroom

That guy doesn't even know what an ID10T error is

I code,

I teach,

I even teach coding, if you must

I actually teach programming, which only needs coding the way a car designer needs to know the best shape for a wheel. Coding is a tool to turn algorithms into programs, or put differently, to turn your thoughts into actions. The real hard work is to crack a problem, to define exactly what must be done to solve it. This is a skill that everybody needs at some level. Turning the result of that analysis into code is comparatively easy (but also teaches a high degree of discipline in execution, which isn't a bad lesson either).

Regarding the idea of being an exceptionally boring weirdo:

I have been called exceptionally loud/weird/funny/smart/tiresome and a whole lot of other things

But never boring, never boring

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Vulture 2 paintjob: Four-year-old nipper triumphs

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Excellent selection!

I tip my hat to the little felt-tip prodigy who came up with it (it's the roo leather Barmah again (the hat, that is))

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Swedish teen's sex video fine slashed: Unwilling co-star girlfriend furious

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Or perhaps the judges are a little more discerning about videoing their sexual romps

Possibly, but some of us old fogies also know the interwebs, plus we might have paid someone to do a background check on the web (quite common these days). If her name comes up in the newspapers (not sure about that) even stuffy old gits who still read only broadsheet newspaper (i.e. newspapers as the Lord intended them ;-) ) might catch on.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Or perhaps the judges are a little more discerning about videoing their sexual romps

I also have difficulty with the argument given by the court. Arguing that modern youth in Sweden is quite relaxed about these matters is largely irrelevant, as the video is posted world-wide, and not just to her own age group. If she wants to seek employment in Sweden, she will typically be interviewed by older people, who do not necessarily hold the same views.

This gets worse if she wants to seek employment abroad (this apparently does happen, although certain judges might not be aware of it). I cannot imagine employers from the US (to pick a country totally at random) having the same tolerant attitude to this kind of thing as they might have in Sweden.

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Hey coders – get a sense of hUMA: AMD to free GPU from CPU slavery

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Sounds very interesting

Anything that allows more flexible access to all this compute power would help extend the raneg of algorithms you could run on them.

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Bacteria-chomping phages could kill off HOSPITAL SUPERBUGS

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

Interesting, but...

As others have stated there is a host of prior research on this.

I have done some modelling and simulation research, which shows that the presence of non-host bacteria (i.e., not the target of the phage) can scupper its attempts to fight the pathogen. I called this effect the "decoy effect". In complex bacterial ecosystems such as the intestines, the harmless bacteria can easily outnumber the harmful ones by a huge factor.

There are quite a few observations support this idea, showing that phage treatment, or treatment with bacterium-eating bacteria such as the wonderfully named Bdellovibrio bacteriovorax (there is also a Vampirococcus) help most in those cases when the host microflora is absent or is outnumbered (see M.H.F. Wilkinson, Predation in the presence of decoys: an inhibitory factor on pathogen control by bacteriophages or bdellovibrios in dense and diverse ecosystems. J. Theor. Biol., (2001) 208:27-36. Pre-print version available in PDF (292 kB)).

This does not mean the opportunities offered by phages should not be researched. We should not expect them to solve every (bacterial) ailment. Personally I think we will keep having to find new antimicrobial strategies. It is a case of what in evolution is called the "Red Queen Effect": you have to run just to keep in the same place, in terms of fitness.

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Last living NEANDERTHALS discovered in JERSEY – boffins

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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People share 96% (or so) of DNA with bonobos, so everybody shares more with Neanderthals. I think what is meant that around 1 - 4% of DNA of people outside of Africa has similarities with Neanderthals which people in Africa lack. Several recent studies claim that the similarities stem from a shared ancestor, rather than hybridization. The alternative is that the similarities stem from a mixture of both.

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METEORITES, not MEN, are FROM MARS: NASA rover's shock discovery

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

Do women really want to be from Venus

I wonder if women putting forward that men are from Mars, women are from Venus have thought this one through. It suggests men are from a planet which is fairly cold, has a thin atmosphere, but is not totally inhospitable. Various robots set down on its surface which work for years on end, it is that hospitable.

By contrast, Venus is a positive hell: the atmosphere is highly acidic (containing sulphuric acid), the temperature is high enough to melt lead, and the pressure is high enough to crush any probe sent there. Thus, saying women are from Venus associates women with acid, molten lead, and unbearable pressure.

Is that really the message they want to send? ;-)

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