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* Posts by Nigel 11

2431 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

Thought you didn't need to show ID in the UK? Wrong

Nigel 11
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Re: Passport?

In the USA the universal photo-ID is a driving license, to the extent that some (most? all?) states issue non-drivers' driving licenses!

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Nigel 11
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Re: Print-it yourself ID works.

I think in the case of opening a Building Society account, the account details on the possibly faked bank statement will be checked with the bank. If they deny that a person of that name has an account with that number at that address, the new account will be locked and your money imprisoned until you explain yourself (probably to the police - I think such a misrepresentation is fraud).

Of course you could fake someone else's ID and operate the account until the first statement is sent to the person whose ID you have purloined. Maybe you can find a person who has gone away (say to another country) without closing an account of little value, at an address where mail to former residents just gets thrown away instead of returned to sender. So the checks aren't 100%. 90% will suffice. Organised crime will be deterred to the extent of recruiting a slightly-paid army of real-ID low-lifes and small fake businesses to launder its dirty cash. Which in turn lets the authorities subject illegal money to some degree of taxation.

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Nigel 11
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It's the database, dammit!

I have no objection even to being forced to carry photo-id at all times and produce it on demand to reasonable persons of authority in reasonable circumstances (which is the law in several European states). I'd get a photographic driving license if the government didn't charge me for trading in my non-photographic one (and again every ten years thereafter). I have a passport (which I don't carry in the UK only because it's too big) and an employer-issued photographic staff-ID card (which I do).

What I object strongly to is the centralized database of everything which the former Labour government planned to introduce on the back of its ID cards, to log and control every aspect of our lives, and to make a start on constructing a UK-sized panopticon prison camp. Just because we can, doesn't mean we should, and nowhere more so than in taking away the right to any sort of privacy at all (except, probably, for a privileged few rulers).

So keep the recordings of ID completely decentralized, and forgotten after a reasonable time. That's a time-tested way of making life somewhat harder for the criminals, that really doesn't harm the honest very much.

BTW provided you lie and say you are British, you *can* check into a hotel as Mr. and Mrs Smith. You can even do it legally. In the UK, there is no law saying you cannot call yourself whatever you want, provided it is not with criminal intent. Sleeping with someone else's spouse may be immoral, but is not a crime. It's also an example of a freedom that would be all but gone the moment a national ID database went online in every hotel.

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It's the Inter-THREAT of THINGS: Lightbulb ARMY could turn on HUMANITY

Nigel 11
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Re: What?

I think "lightbulb" is the modern incarnation of "toaster".

A more sensibly net-connected gadget is your fridge. It could be registered with the National Grid as a device that can be commanded "off" at a moment of critically high demand. A fridge will stay cold enough for at least half an hour without power. You'd get the electricity the fridge uses at a discount. At a future date it might also be able to deliver an inventory of its contents to your phone while you are in Tesco.

Or your central heating system, which you would command on with your mobile phone maybe half an hour before you arrive home, so home is warmed up. More efficient than having a timer set for your usual home time, that you forget to cancel on the evenings when you'll be home late.

But if light bulbs could predict their likely failure within the next fortnight, that could be useful. A sane implementation would be to alert your house-controller, which you'd have programmed to mail you or text you alerts if you are that way inclined, or just to quietly add a new lightbulb to next week's shopping-reminder list. (Just like printer alerts at work, if you think about it).

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Nigel 11
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One controller per household?

Regardless of whether it's cheaper this way, there should be one and usually only one internet-connected master controller of thingies per household. The thingies should speak a restricted low-badnwidth protocol down a severely bandwidth-limited pipe. The mains wiring is the obvious conduit ... but give them a 100kbps channel not a 100Mbps channel!

Cars are already moving this way, with the lights and other peripheral devices bus-connected.

There's still botnet potential, but probably less so than the already extant hordes of broadband routers provide. And there would be just one thing to turn off when it malfunctioned, upon which the lights and other devices ought to revert to "dumb" behaviour.

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Locked-up crims write prison software that puts squeeze on grub supplier

Nigel 11
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Re: Well, if and when

Both offences cover a large degree of wrongdoing

Murder??

About the best you could say in defence of a murderer is "he only killed one man, and that man had made him very angry". (If causing death was neither intended nor a reasonably forseeable consequence of the criminal's actions, it's not murder).

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Nigel 11
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Coat

What language did they use

Seeing as no-one has yet taken the bait ...

Java or C#. Definitely not free.

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Crypto boffins propose replacing certification authorities with ... Bitcoin?

Nigel 11
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Re: analogy fail? (@ Frumious Bandersnatch)

Surely people also have a strong financial interest in keeping thir systems secure? Loss of confidential information to third parties, destruction of information by hostile third parties, both have costs associated. Possibly high costs. Possibly fatally high costs for a business.

I don't know enough about the technology to judge the practicalities, but the concept is surely not a fail on motivational grounds.

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Linus Torvalds seeks REDEMPTION for every coded SIN

Nigel 11
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Re: Distros too

There's already a long-term-stable kernel out there: the one that Red Hat maintain, and Centos and Scientific Linux free-beer clone. Security and other fixes from more recent linux kernels are back-ported to 2.6.18 (for RHEL 5) which will continue to be maintained for five years after RHEL7 release date. Same pattern for RHEL6 (2.6.32 based)

Last time I looked (a good while ago) the 2.4 kernel was also still healthy, on volunteer life-support.

There are pros and cons of feature-frozen bug-fixed kernels, and the Linux community can have its cake AND eat it. The biggest drawback is probably new CPU designs and a frozen kernel that doesn't fully support them, or doesn't support them at all.

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HP 100TB Memristor drives by 2018 – if you're lucky, admits tech titan

Nigel 11
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Re: Biiiiiiig Changes

An entertaining alternative to dissolving things in Ferric Chloride, is to employ an angry person and supply them with a lump hammer and gas torch.

That's stage 1: break into small pieces.

Domestic and probably commercial data security is quite adequately served by just drilling a couple of holes in thetop of the HDA and pouring a cola drink through one hole until it comes out of the other. (Just think what it does to your teeth! )

But a really secure site worries that even a small piece of a disk platter might be placed under an electron microscope and decoded bit by bit. Therefore, do not allow off site until its very atoms have been dissociated by dissolution in a vat of ferric chloride.

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Nigel 11
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Buy HP stock?

We techies understand this better than most. If all goes according to plan, HP is a must-own investment.

Except, Memristor tech is about the only bright spot for what's otherwise an uninspiring behemoth of a company. What are the chances of HP coming to grief before it can capitalize on its Memristor know-how, or some eejit in HP management selling the immature technology for about a thousandth of what it will be worth long-term? Six years is a long time on the stockmarket.

Thoughts?

(In my dreams, HP never bought Compaq, never divested its instruments division, maybe did divest its printers division, and it's the old HP now developing Memristor tech).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Nice for the enterprise but what about for toys?

You mean other than 3Tb USB3 Hard disks?

I doubt they'll be devices in the first instance. I think with Memristor tech, the primary MRAM will be tightly integrated with the CPU and NIC, built onto the motherboard if not into the CPU assembly for bandwidth reasons.

(And we're going to need better than gigabit networking to the desktop! )

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: confidently

predicting the outcome of 5 more years of bleeding edge technological development seems fanciful.

Ever heard of Moore's law? Not quite up with the Higgs Boson, but still one of the most startlingly correct predictions of future progress.

Once CMOS and VLSI fabrication were working, Moore's law became inevitable. It was based purely on the physical scaling laws. Prior to CMOS, engineers talked about the "smoking hairy golfball" problem: a CPU with the sort of performance we take for granted today, would have to be the shape of a golfball because of the speed of light, hairy with wires connecting to it, and smoking because there would be no way to get many kilowatts of heat out of it.

But CMOS scales at constant power per area of chip, so Moore's law worked until the minimum size of a channel became limited by the discrete size of atoms. We're pretty much at that limit now, with Flash and Intel's FIN-FETs.

Going back even further, you might want to search our a lecture given by Richard Feynman "Plenty of room at the bottom".

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Nigel 11
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Re: Biiiiiiig Changes

I suspect it's possible to store enough power in a supercapacitor to allow for the wiping of (say) the 16Gb of MRAM that's playing the role of DRAM, that wants to be wiped on power failure for security reasons. Certainly enough to secure-wipe a much smaller area dedicated to storing crypto-keys. OTOH I also wonder whether such a wipe can ever be proof against theft of the hardware and application of serious data-recovery hardware. (Really secure sites never let used hard disks off site. They smash them to small pieces, then dissolve the pieces in Ferric Chloride! )

Incidentally if you worry about someone with physical access to the hardware, it's possible to recover a surprisingly large amount of information from DRAM minutes after its power is failed. A data thief can usefully remove DIMMS from a system and plug them into a data-copier. (And then test a mere few billion possible bit-strings as crypto keys for stuff in the hard drive, with a significant percentage chance of success).

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Nigel 11
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Re: "showed off a wafer"

Probably it's some sort of failure. During R&D the yields of working product are often low, to say nothing of the experimental designs that don't work at all.

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: O RLY?

The difference is that this one is working in the labs and there aren't any obvious reasons why it can't go on to development and production. If we didn't already have flash and DRAM it would already be on the market. Because it's got to compete with established technologies, it'll have to stay in the labs until it's a demonstrably BETTER product for at least one value of better. During which time we'll all gain confidence that it doesn't suffer from any unexpected premature ageing processes.

Things could still get delayed. It's even possible that there's an iceberg out there. But my expectation is that this will be the biggest breakthrough since CMOS.

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RM CEO: We didn't even try to sell PC biz before killing it

Nigel 11
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Re: Tablets in schools? Not for long.

I've long thought that the best approach for a school would be Gbit networking and thin clients, with a large multiuser server that actually does the work locked well away from the kids and non-IT staff.

Thin clients are cheap to replace. (All but free if you can use a Pi and recycle a keyboard / mouse / display from some other organ of your local government that's escaping Windows XP before next April). Thin clients also have the advantage that there's no financial and little other incentive for kids to steal them.

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Nigel 11
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There's less reason to customize a PC as systems become more and more integrated (and Intel's on-board graphics become sufficiently capable for a greater range of tasks). This plays into the hands of Dell and suchlike who have economies of scale, and against companies like RM who build exactly what you want.

Not sure how you define a UK system builder. but rackservers.com is UK-based and also sells custom desktop PCs.

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

Nigel 11
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Re: What happened to...

VME/B

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BETHLEHEM-grade SUPERNOVA possible 'within 50 years'

Nigel 11
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Re: Disappointing...

Oh, we know the nearby stars that will go supernova within a cosmic eyeblink. Betelgeuse (the nearest) will go sometime in the next 100 kyears or so. Other giants further away look even more unstable.

But a human lifetime is a tiny fraction of a cosmic eyeblink, and the exact timing of a supernova is probably not predictable to an accuracy of years (not until it passes the point of no return). The giant bloated star gets less and less stable, contracts, finds there's still something left to fuse, gets hotter, expands, wobbles on the edge like that for hundreds of kyears. Betelgeuse has contracted 15% since we've been able to observe its size (about a century). Maybe, just maybe, it really has run out of fuel this time!

(Betelgeuse is just far enough away that it won't do serious damage to the Earth when it blows. Only just far enough. Halve the distance and there would be Consequences. Halve it again and we'd be staring at a near-future extinction-level event)

(And spare a thought that if there is a $DEITY out there, maybe It is working really hard at making sure that there are no gamma-ray bursters popping in our direction in any "nearby" galaxies. If that is the case I'll thank It should I ever meet it, and I quite understand why It doesn't have any time for our smaller concerns! )

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Nigel 11
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The galaxy is reasonably transparent in infra-red, it's just visible observations that would be blocked. (And of course it's almost completely transparent to neutrinos and gravity waves ... read the article! )

And if you realy want to boggle, google hypernova or pair-instability supernova. These are rarer events. It's hypothesized that a pair-production supernova is such an efficient converter of many suns' worth of mass into energy, that it would't leave any black-hole remnant.

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Nothing to sniff at: Dell Ultrabooks REEK OF CAT PEE, scream users

Nigel 11
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Re: we don't test for smell

...

10 Scared skunk

11 Thioacetone monomer [ http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2009/06/11/things_i_wont_work_with_thioacetone.php ] (A must-read. Would you believe that less smells worse? )

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WD slips bullet between teeth, gets ready to hand $706 MEELLION to Seagate

Nigel 11
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Re: I hope this means their quality won't drop even further...

It may be too early to say SSDs are more reliable. That they less often die a week after purchase is true, but that just reflects no moving parts. The other side of the coin is that an SSD may be far more likely than a hard disk to go from AOK to brick "just like that" with no warning of any sort. I'll have a better idea 3 years hence, because ....

We're now specifying SSDs for desktop systems where the user stores nothing locally. However, for storing multiple Terabytes, there's no alternative to using an HD (or an array of HDs).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Quality drop

That has NEVER happened to me with a Maxtor or a WD.

Wouldn't have bothered to say "batch problem" yet again if you hadn't mentioned that defunct manufacturer Maxtor. Theirs were the only drives that I am convinced were truly defective by design, not just one batch. I suffered multiple failures on multiple sizes and models of drive purchased over a 2-3 year spread and decided never to buy another of their drives if I had any choice. That their finances collapsed and they were bought up for a pittance shortly afterwards confirmed my opinion of them.

And now I find someone who thinks Maxtor was wonderful. Well I never.

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Nigel 11
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Re: I hope this means their quality won't drop even further...

Funny: I've seen exactly the same comment about Seagate drives. And HGST and Toshiba drives.

What's really going on is bad luck and (especially) bad batch problems. EVERY manufacturer will occasionally and inevitably ship a batch of product containing one of a batch of faulty components. If you buy a batch of drives, or a batch of PCs containing drives from the same batch, then if you get two or more premature failures in the batch, you should assume that the whole lot are likely going the same way. In particular, complain in writing during the warranty period, requesting that all the implicated drives are swapped. The vendor will almost certainly refuse, but should your fears be realized you can later prove that the merchandise was not of saleable quality, and that you pointed this out BEFORE the warranty expiry but were given the brush-off.

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Digital radio may replace FM altogether - even though nobody wants it

Nigel 11
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No. It can't sound better. The codecs used in DAB introduce non-harmonic distortion into an audio signal. For music, this is ghastly. Far worse than hiss and crackle, far worse than mere harmonic distortion.

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Nigel 11
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why don't they just plan to retire dab in the long term and replace it with internet streaming?

Coverage and bandwidth. Do you think 4G will ever be available on unclassified roads in deepest Dorset or the Grampians, five miles from the nearest hamlet? (And even if road coverage were to reach 100%, what about farmers and walkers miles off anyroad). Do you think there will be enough bandwidth to support any encoding that doesn't introduce so much non-harmonic distortion as to turn music from a source of joy into a source of pain?

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Nigel 11
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Re: DAB Bashing

Perhaps someone will come up with a converter box that rebroadcasts a single channel on a FM frequency, over an area of a few tens or so square meters.

But it'll sound even more crap than a pure DAB radio. And it'll do nothing to address DAB's other weaknesses. It won't get you a signal that doesn't keep dropping out on the move (es[ecially in rural parts), and it won't give you the battery life of an FM radio if you want to listen somewhere that a mains or automotive electricity supply is not available.

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Want to keep the users happy? Don't call them users for a start

Nigel 11
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IT Angle

Re: Fine without the possessive

Well, what would normally be meant is "the users who I have primary responsibility for supporting" as opposed to some other group of users. In exactly the same way, a manager is likely to say "my staff" meaning the part of the organisation for which he has primary managerial responsibility.

Why does it annoy you so much?

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The Raspberry Pi: Is it REALLY the saviour of British computing?

Nigel 11
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Re: Great expectations...

But why use the PI to do it?

Because - see "androgynous cupboard" below - it's cheap enough that if you break it, you don't need to cry. A new one won't break the bank. That's particularly important if you are interested in tinkering with hardware.

But even if "all" you have done is accidentally nuked the hard disk of a PC while trying to repartition and install Linux alongside Windows, there is lots of work to get it back to how it was and maybe lots of data you will never get back. Lots of expense also, if you didn't appreciate the importance of making some factory restore DVDs on the day you unpacked it (assuming you did get to unpack it yourself). If it wasn't strictly speaking your very own PC, but a shared resource, people will be blaming you. Not a nice place to be, especially not for a kid.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Mind your language

Personally I'd say that teaching any language that needs a compiler as a first language is misguided and verging on cruel. Any scripting language is better simply because there's so much less of a learning curve to climb. No edit-compile-run infrastructure. No debugging of address / overwrite errors. If you're unsure of something, just try it in immediate mode at the command line and see what happens. Python is particularly good because it is also a very well-structured language (c.f. BBC Basic or, gag, Perl).

AFTER a kid has mastered Python is the time to explain that compilers generate code that runs maybe three times faster if you have a problem for which that actually matters, and what you have to give up in order to gain that speed. As computers get faster and open-source Python libraries of other people's numerical codes expand, such problems get rarer.

If a kid can't "get it" even in Python, a career in something other than programming beckons!

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Nigel 11
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Re: About the cost.

You also need a case, a decent display with HDMI input, a power supply, some SD cards, a USB hub, a keyboard, a mouse, a network cable long enough to get to the ADSL modem, and a fair amount of desk space.

Don't need a case (or can improvise with cardboard or grown-out-of Lego). Keyboard and mouse can probably be scrounged for free or liberated from a council tip. Display maybe likewise, or jack it into any half-modern TV. SD card, you can probably scrounge an old small one from anyone who does photography, or source it for pennies on E-bay. Desk? No, floor or lap will do if nothing else available. Next to the router, if needs must and you really can't get hold of a long enough network cable.

The rest of the argument is a little bit stronger. Low-level programming is always going to be a minority interest. But now it's no longer restricted to a minority of a minority - wannabe hardware hackers no longer need parents who can buy a PC and unusual interfaces, and another one, two or more when your kid's attempts at homebrew electronics let the magic smoke out.

If you have a kid with hacker nature, the kid will be like a duck in water and you won't have to explain anything much, just answer the questions and encourage him. If your kid doesn't have hacker nature (probably 19/20 kids), trying to teach, explain to or encourage her will just put her off programming for life.

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Hard-as-woodpecker-lips MOUSE GOBBLES live scorpion, LAUGHS off stings to face

Nigel 11
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Re: How friggin awesome is evolution!

It can't be evolution - if the poison kills you, then you can't breed in a protection against it, therefore this is 100% proof that evolution does not exist.

I should think that how this evolves is something like this.

To start with, the mice attacked scorpions the same way mongooses attack cobras. Very carefully. They're faster and smarter than their prey, so mostly they get to eat it rather than die. The less nimble ones get dead more often, and the species gets nimbler. Note that all hot-blooded species have a fundamental advantage over cold-blooded ones in the morning, before the cold-blooded ones have a chance to re-warm their bodies from the overnight chill.

Sometimes when battling or eating the prey, a small amount of venom gets into their bloodstream. Enough to harm but be survivable. Genetic variability means that for the higher doses, some survive and some don't. Gradually, genetic tolerance of the venom gets bred in. When a sting ceases to be lethal 100% of the time, risk-taking mice gain an evolutionary advantage over the original extremely risk-averse mice.

And so by slow and gradual evolution, you arrive at mice that laugh at scorpion venom.

I'd guess that the final stage is that mice which feel less pain when stung have a slight advantage over ones which do. Pain is distracting, so they more often get caught by larger predators if they suffer pain? That would create an evolutionary bias in favour of "hard" mice.

One other thing: ability to acquire tolerance of venoms by an individual is near-universal in mammals, including humans. It's the standard immune system response. The immune activity degrades a foreign protein before it can fatally degrade the host's proteins, and is then primed to mount the same response faster and better next time. Immune responses are passed (or primed) from mother to child via breast-milk. It's an area we don't yet fully understand. There may be epigenetic factors at work, and Lamarkian evolution may not be completely discredited when it comes to inherited immune response. Just a thought.

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Intel: Our first five parallel-computing schools are open for business

Nigel 11
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One way to think parallel

One way to think in parallel is a spreadsheet!

Behind the scenes, a spreadsheet keeps a list (graph) of which cells depend on which other cells. Provided the dependencies are processed in the right order, you can recalculate each cell in parallel with many others. LibreOffice has the use of GPGPUs for calculation as a future goal.

Of course, most actual spreadsheets are not large enough to keep more than a single core significantly busy, but one might "code" for parallel execution using a program design methodology that looks a lot like a spreadsheet and it's underlying, automatically generated, dependency graph.

More generally, the problem is software. At present we do parallel coding mostly using sequential languages and the spawning of multiple execution threads. Other approaches are needed, with the computer doing the parallelisation, not the human programmer.

The irony is that nature worked it out a very long time ago. A brain is a parallel processing system par excellence, 10^11 processors operating asynchronously at something like 20Hz. But it's possible for an evolved system to be beyond the understanding of that system, and so far even insect brains seem to be beyond our ken.

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How to spot a coders comment

Nigel 11
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And Embedded deep in VMS

Somewhere in the system timer interrupt code, back in the days when you got the source of the entire VMS operating system on Microfiche with every new release ...

; Does anybody really know what time it is

; Does anybody really care

; If so I can't imagine why

; We've all got time enough to die

(which is of course a quote of a lyric by , IIRC, Chicago).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Old school assembly language programmer

Hardly. Old-school assember newbie who didn't know what a macro or a pseudo-op was.

You'd code

SWAP R1,R2

and the macro or assembler would generate the sequence of XORs if that was the most efficient way to do it on your CPU. If the hardware vendor hadn't written it for you, any self-respecting assembler programmer would have written it for himself.

I once saw an enormous macro to implement

SETCONST register, value [,scratch_register]

which avoided loading a constant from RAM for about a thousand commonly and less commonly used constants on an early instance of what would later become known as a RISC architecture.

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Open-source hardware hacking effort 'smacked down' by USB overlords

Nigel 11
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Dead vendor squatting?

How about finding a vendor ID for a vendor that long ago went out of business, and "squatting" that with openly allocated product IDs that the defunct vendor never used (and in light of its corporate death, never will).

Not perfect, but maybe the right way to force the issue?

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Obama to Merkel: No Americans are listening to you on this call

Nigel 11
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the US "is not monitoring and will not monitor"

Probably literally true and 100% false at the same time!

Ie, they've sub-contracted it to some outfit that is non-US. GCHQ? Some wholly-owned tax-haven-based subsidiary of a Maryland holding company about which it is very difficult to obtain further ownership information (i.e. 100% indirectly owned by the NSA)?

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Microsoft: You've got it all WRONG. It's Apple's iPad playing catch-up with our Surface

Nigel 11
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Joke

Re: Reality distortion fields

Well, Microsoft started the trend of taking the superb (XP UI) and crappifying it (Vista/Win7, Win 8 ). Recent Apple OSX releases haven't been quite up to the standard of previous ones, so maybe they *are* following?

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Oz Army red-faced after ready ... aim ... FIRE burns suburbs

Nigel 11
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Joke

The great leader

... has taken note that should he ever decide to invade Australia, he should do so in Winter.

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Black hole boffins close in on gravity waves

Nigel 11
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Re: Gravitational waves?

An orbital death spiral is exactly what will happen to every orbiting system in the universe, given enough time. "Enough" is a lot (hint: many powers of ten times the current 15-billion-year age of the universe). Gravitational wave emission becomes humanly measureable only where nature throws stellar or greater masses around in really tight orbits at significant fractions of the speed of light.

You aren't upset about the electromagnetic death spiral that will overtake orbiting electrically charged bodies at a rate many orders of magnitude faster, are you?

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Nigel 11
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Re: Impressive work

It always seemed obvious that a GW detector near a big particle accelerator should be picking up feint but repetitive pulses when the accelerator was running.

The key number to bear in mind is the relative stength of the Gravitational force and the Electromagnetic one. Electromagnetism is about 10^42 times stronger. This is one of the most staggering numbers in physics!

In fact, you can deduce this from thinking about the everyday world. You can dangle a few kilogrammes on a fine thread. Attracting in one direction, the entire Earth. Balancing in the other direction, electrostatic forces between the atoms in the thread. Which are themselves mostly self-cancelled within the atoms (electron charge cancelling proton charge): the attraction between atoms is the result of small asymmetries of charge distribution, which is still sufficient to hold molecules and crystals together against the pull of an entire planet.

The same number is the reason you aren't going to observe gravitational waves for anything less than extreme cosmological situations where there's a star or a galaxy's worth of mass moving close to the speed of light.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Limits of doubt

Not detected, therefore limited. Not enough so at this time to cast doubt on GR. Enough so to cast doubt on some models of galaxy formation (in particular, on the formation of multiple large black holes in their cores and subsequent merger dynamics of these hypothesized large black holes).

A thought I had was that the cosmic era of large black hole mergers may be over (i.e black holes in galaxy centres interact strongly enough that they merge into one within, say, a billion years of the galaxy forming. Since all neaby galaxies formed longer ago than that, mergers won't be happening any more, bar rare events such as colliding galaxies.

One might even be able to apply the Anthropic principle to this (would a universe with frequent mergers of large black holes in our cosmological neighbourhood be compatible with mamalian life on a planet's surface? I'm thinking about cosmologically nearby Gamma-ray busts. )

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Brit boffins trap light in Lego-like lumps

Nigel 11
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Re: This is why the UK Governments PV subsidy is stupid

It's quite possible to transmit electricity 1500 miles, with modern UHV DC technology. That's the distance from the UK to the Sahara desert.

It's also less bad than that 1500 mile figure suggests, because in practice you'd tend to displace Spanish electricity to France and French electricity to the UK.

The biggest problem is the (in)stability of North African states. Huge solar farms in the Sahara would be a massive capital investment, and we just don't have confidence that the natives wouldn't hold us to ransom or just scrag it. Morocco is probably the best bet, but also probably not good enough. Especially not South of the Atlas mountains.

However, I am surprised there aren't more Spanish olive farmers grubbing up their trees and planting solar panels. Not enough grid capacity? Hello EU, where are you when we need you?

Could we cede the Olive business to the Moroccans or is it too dry there?

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Windows 8.1: A bit square, sure, but WAIT! It has a Start button

Nigel 11
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Re: Windows has been essentially based on a VMS core

I think the truth is "inherited a lot of design properties".

But not from the VMS codebase, just from paying the same architect.

Anyway, it's the subsequent history that matters. Microsoft consistently put marketing ahead of securirty. NT 4 blew huge holes in the VMS security model. W2K blew some more. By the time they realised security slightly mattered (around XP SP2 time), it was so completely F*cked that mentioning VMS ancestry just made one feel like crying.

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Nigel 11
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Headmaster

Re: Bewildering is right

Indeed, and if they stuck the Win7 GUI on top of the vastly improved OS that lies underneath TIFKAM and called it Windows 7.1 it would sell like wildfare.

And if they used the XP GUI and called it XP 2.0, it might even go like a wildfire

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Nigel 11
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Re: Ashamed to say

On on the ones I use, control/alt/delete, sign out, hit CR, power button bottom right of screen. That's three-finger salute on keyboard, mouse click, keyboard, mouse again. BLEUGH.

Or you can cheat and just press the soft-power button on the system unit.

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Fiendish CryptoLocker ransomware: Whatever you do, don't PAY

Nigel 11
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Flame

Nuke the perps from orbit?

If the USG spent a bit less on exterminating terrorists and a bit more on exterminating slime like this, the NSA might get better publicity. (And I do mean exterminate. How many many-years of human enterprise do these sub-humans waste in order to make a few bucks? I rest my case.)

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Microsoft: Everyone stop running so the fat kid Win RT can catch up

Nigel 11
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Pace of a Continental Shelf on a work to rule?

Does this means if we wait a million yeare there will be a sudden phonequake and Windows Phone will overnight become awesome?

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Wanna run someone over in your next Ford? No dice, it won't let you

Nigel 11
Silver badge

Re: reading what the press release said

I thought HGVs were speed-restricted to 56mph. I wish the bloody things could do 70mph, then you wouldn't get a bunch of cars in the outside lane of the motorway while an HVG at 56mph overtakes an HGV doing 55mph! (And then the gradient changes, and the one doing 55 speeds up to 56 ....)

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