* Posts by Steve the Cynic

516 posts • joined 28 Jul 2009

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Patent trolls, innovation and Brexit: What the FT won't tell you

Steve the Cynic

"we can get rid of UK governments at regular intervals"

Pedantry strikes again! The intervals are not fixed. They are capped at five years, but they can be shorter. They are usually only a bit shorter than five years, but in 1974 we had two general elections in one year.

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Steve the Cynic

Re: Few problems with this....

"the US patent application was duly dismissed by the EPO as illegitimate"

I read this as meaning "The application in the EU by the US firm was duly dismissed by the EPO".

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Sophos U-turns on lack of .bat file blocking after El Reg intervenes

Steve the Cynic

Re: Hang on a second

"No, it doesn't. NTFS has ACLs, and Cygwin uses them to emulate POSIX permissions."

Well, when you look at the permissions on an ACL, there is one marked something along the lines of "executable". (On my system, whatever it actually says has been replaced by a French word ...)

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Steve the Cynic

Re: Hang on a second

"Like all Un*x variants OSX has an Executable bit in the permissions for a file"

Two bits of pedantry for you.

1. The executable bit is a property of the file system type, not the operating system.

2. NTFS has one, too.(1)

(1) I didn't know this either, until I did something unusual with Cygwin and ended up with a .EXE that could not be executed because it didn't have the Executable permission...

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Why does an Android keyboard need to see your camera and log files – and why does it phone home to China?

Steve the Cynic

Re: Why have 50 million people downloaded it?

"Is that not what the Darwin awards are for?"

They are only for *fatal* stupid. And even they don't *fix* stupid.

Side note: Many of the incidents that lead to people being shortlisted for the Darwin Awards are linked to an apparently innocuous molecule sometimes called methylcarbinol.

You or I know it by its full "scientific" (i.e. IUPAC systematic) name, ethanol. A distressingly large fraction of DA winners (and even runners-up and mere Honourable Mentions) were drunk to a lesser or, more frequently, greater extent.

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Space exploration: Are Musk and Bezos about to eclipse Gagarin and Armstrong?

Steve the Cynic

Re: Back to the Future

"considering a woman tall because she is four inches short of his six-foot height"

Even today, when people are taller than back then (better nutrition, duh), five feet eight inches is taller than average for British women.

And yes, novels often reveal much of their era. Day of the Triffids gives away the time it was written in an assortment of silly things:

* Bill Mason acquires half-tracks to move stuff. Good luck finding one these days outside a military museum.

* Bill and Jo stay for a while in a fantastically expensive flat, one whose rent totals *2000* pounds a year. I noticed this one when I reread the book in 2006/7, where 2000 pounds would have rented my flat for less than three months, and it wasn't really that expensive.

* There are significant stocks of food in shops.

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Pastejack attack turns your clipboard into a threat

Steve the Cynic

Re: Dangerous

"Then I remembered trying to get Linux to work. Everything's fine, and each time you try it it looks like they really have made it into a functional OS this time that one could get day to day work done on, and then you run into that essential piece of hardware you need, that simply won't function, but it's kindof like this other one, so maybe if you download this development software and a compiler you could compile your own driver and get it working."

I had something like this with Linux. ONCE.(1) And it was nearly 20 years ago. Since then, real hardware or not, I have had no such problems.

(1) OK, I'll tell you, since you insist. It was a PCMCIA Ethernet card, allegedly an NE2000 clone, by some cheap-ass Taiwanese outfit. The laptop in question, on a different hard disk, ran Windows 98SE, and that OS was perfectly(2) happy with the card. The relevant driver code in the Linux kernel checked the device IDs and such, realised that it was talking to that particular card, and refused to have anything to do with it as the silicon was too buggy for words. The conflict between the two attitudes was a bit startling.

(2) Well, no, probably not perfectly happy. More likely "sufficiently" happy. Better?

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US work visas for international tech talent? 'If Donald Trump is elected all bets are off'

Steve the Cynic

Re: "We'll see how well that goes"

"And then there's the inflatable tank, which helped the US save Europe's ass again in WWII"

Do you, here, mean DD (Duplex Drive) tanks?

They were a British invention... (Fussy: the inventor was Hungarian, living and working in Britain.)

Yes, the most successful DD tank was the Sherman - it was able to keep its gun pointing forward with the floatation screen up, while the British Valentine could not - but the DD system wasn't American in origin.

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A cracked window on the International Space Station? That's not good

Steve the Cynic

Re: Kessler Syndrome

In general, there would be a range of speeds and directions among the debris. Some would be steeply enough pitched and/or slowed enough to go deep enough into the atmosphere to be deorbited quickly. Others would, as you say, be faster than local circular-orbit speed, *but* from LEO circular-orbit speed to escape speed(1) is an increase of something like +50%, so actual escapes are unlikely.

So there would be a wide range of debris scattered "forward" from the collision (except in the case of a retrograde-prograde(2) impact, where all bets are off, but there would be a significant loss of speed), and some fraction of this debris would be at non-zero orbital inclinations and/or orbital eccentricities, and so would cross/touch the existing equatorial plane at significant delta-V and pose a significant risk to other satellites.

And yes, there have been collisions between satellites where the debris was tracked afterwards.

(1) It's a speed, not a velocity. Unless the path in a particular direction actually intersects the primary or some other orbiting body, it doesn't matter which direction an object that exceeds the escape speed travels - it *will* escape.

(2) Prograde: revolving(3) in the same direction that the primary rotates. Retrograde: revolving in the opposite direction to the one in which the primary rotates. A retrograde-prograde collision, then is head-on or close to it, and takes place at a much higher closing speed than a same-grade collision.

(3) Revolve: said of orbiting bodies, and describes their motion around the primary. Rotate: said of bodies in general, and describes their motion around their own axis.

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Bitcoin is an official commodity, says US gummint

Steve the Cynic

Re: Bitcoin discovers can't have cake and eat it

"Money has always been intangible"

Go back and reread your history lessons. Modern *fiat*(1) currencies, by definition, are intangible, and coins and notes are just physical representations, as you say, but of the currency, not a commodity.

However, historically, either the physical coins and notes were representations of a tangible good - the "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of five pounds" meant, historically, five pounds of silver, at a time when a pound coin was made of a pound of .925 ("sterling") silver, or they *were* the good in question. The silver in that pound coin (there are examples in a museum in the centre of Oxford - it is an effing big coin) *is* the currency, not a representation of the currency.

It is only later that people started to make exchangeable currency, where the physical currency represents a quantity of the relevant commodity (silver, gold, blocks of salt, cowrie shells, future tax revenues, whatever) rather than being the commodity, and it is only much later still that we finally abandoned that idea.

Much later.

Like, try 1971.

(1) The phrase "modern fiat currencies" contains a redundant element. All modern currencies are fiat.

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West's only rare earth mine closes. Yet Chinese monopoly fears are baseless

Steve the Cynic
Trollface

Re: Bad luck Estonia

Often you'll find that in US usage, "Western Hemisphere" really means "North America"...

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French Uber bosses talk to Le Plod over 'illicit activity' allegations

Steve the Cynic

Re: Banning Uber reduces you to third-world status.

"driven by people who [...], and rely 100% for navigation on a cheap satnav."

Some years back, I spent a series of weekends in and around Brum, getting trains up there, and taxis to get around. So far, so good, except that on trips where I wasn't going to obvious places, it was difficult to get a taxi driver who had even heard of the destination.

Then on one trip, I got in a cab driven by an older Irish bloke, and his response to my question was enlightening. I asked him if Brum had a Knowledge, because the other taxis I had had before that didn't show any sign of it. He said that yes, there is a Knowledge in Brum, and he had passed it properly many years before. Most of the drivers, he said, were [South Asians] who would take the Knowledge repeatedly until they remembered enough to pass it and get their taxi license. And that meant that for practical purposes that there were very few taxi drivers who actually knew where much of anything was, and as this was before the widespread distribution of easy satnavs, getting them to take you anywhere except between the New Street station and the main hotel strip was a, um, challenge.

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Apple Watch fanbois suffer PAINFUL RASH after sweaty wristjob action

Steve the Cynic

Re: In fact, warning does make sense

"Peanuts are a legume, not a nut,"

This is true, or not true, depending on whether you are talking to a botanist or a chef.

In botany, peanuts are, indeed, legumes and not nuts. A whole bunch of things we call nuts are not nuts from the botanical point of view, just as strawberries aren't berries, but grapes, tomatoes and oranges are.

In cooking, however, most of those things we call nuts are nuts, and some berries, e.g. tomatoes, aren't even fruit.

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BBC gives naked computers to kids (hmm, code for something?)

Steve the Cynic

"with the hope of inspiring them to learn programming or (perhaps more politically correct) coding."

You lot all know that they use the words "coding", "coder" etc. as a means of diminishing the significance of what programmers do, don't you?

Think about it.

Which sounds more important / more valuable / more skilled / more expensive to hire, a "coder", a "programmer", a "developer"? My vote *ISN'T* on a "coder".

Which of those three sounds more trivial, more unskilled, more interchangeable, etc.? This time my vote is *DEFNINTELY* on a "coder".

Which do you want to be?

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SCREW you, GLASSHOLES! Microsoft unveils HoloLens

Steve the Cynic

Re: Hope they truly work

"This has been the case since they first got into the HW business (which is when no-one would make a keyboard with a Windows key on it for them, I beleve)."

You believe wrongly, unfortunately. Microsoft's first hardware product was an expansion card for the Apple II, released in 1980. And even if you restrict it to PC-compatible hardware, their mice date back to before the Windows-key keyboards, and the Mach20 board does as well.

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FERTILISER DOOM warning! PESKY humans set to WIPE selves out AGAIN

Steve the Cynic

Re: More interesting than "The Big AI fear", but....

"Internal Combustion Engine"

Um, the internal combustion engine in some form was invented long before 1914. Even if we concentrate on the thing we recognise as an internal combustion engine (i.e. an Otto cycle reciprocating engine), we still find working engines produced in the last quarter of the 19th century. Even gas turbines predate this "critical" date of 1914 - the very first working models were produced in the 1903-1906 time frame, although they were unusably inefficient.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_internal_combustion_engine

Usual caveats about Wikipedian accuracy apply.

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Sacre block! French publishers to sue Adblock maker – report

Steve the Cynic

Re: "Les cochons vouloir de l'argent!"

@Neoc: Yes, indeed, it should. But the general standard of French in the sub-headlines on this august site is, um, not as high as it could be (see yesterday's howler: "Vous etes ayant un rire, n'est-ce pas?", a word-for-word-ism of "you're having a laugh" plus the standard French tag-question finisher "n'est-ce pas", but complete gibberish in French. It should, of course be something like "Vous déconnez, n'est-ce pas?" or maybe "Vous plaisantez, n'est-ce pas?" if you want to be less casual.)

(Spending nearly six years in France tends to make English-to-French literalisms extremely hard to read...)

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Mars was a WET mistress: Curiosity probes once-moist bottom

Steve the Cynic

Re: "Mommie, Can We Play Obombie Truth Origami"

You know, I've been reading ... stuff ... on the Internet long enough that I can't tell anymore whether this is just someone trolling us, or if the writer is truly sincere.

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MYSTERY Russian satellite: ORBITAL WEAPON? Sat GOBBLER? What?

Steve the Cynic

Not a new idea...

"Another would be kinetic pellets which shoot out at another satellite."

Salyut 3 had (or so it is claimed) such a mechanism, aka a 23mm autocannon (some sources claim 30mm). And it's a rather coy name for bullets, too.

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It's space WAR: Comet launches fireballs at space-invading EARTH

Steve the Cynic

Pedantry strikes again...

Article: "while Earth-grazers come into our atmosphere at fast, low angles that leave them streaming long tails as they burn up."

Earth-grazers don't burn up. They burn (whence the trails), but they leave the atmosphere before they have time to burn up completely.

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Are MPs smarter than 5-year-olds? We'll soon find out at coding school – Berners-Lee

Steve the Cynic

Re: Engineers in Parliament

"People who would support evidence-based policies"

Our (your?)(1) experience so far is that evidence-based policy-making tends to result in policy-based evidence-making.

(1) I say "your" because I'm not in Blighty anymore, although I'm disinclined to suggest that the French politicians are any better.

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It's the WORST game ever, just pulled from a desert DUMP ... now ET can be yours for $500

Steve the Cynic

"it does seem to explain why people found the game so unplayable."

I'll admit to being one of the people who actually played this all the way to the end. I fell in holes (but I learned how to do it when *I* wanted to), and I found flowers. Hell, I even found a flower once in a hole that, instead of doing what the flowers normally did, turned into a Yar (protagonist from Yar's Revenge, a sort of pixellated fly) and flew up the screen. And before you ask, no, I couldn't tell you how I did it. That was more than 30 years ago, and I only did it the once, so I have no idea what pattern of activities caused it. Overall, though, I'd say it wasn't such a bad game, aside from being a trifle repetitive (and these days I play MMORPGs, so I can't complain too much about repetitive activites...). And I consequently don't get the way people pile so much hate on this game.

(I also found the dot in the 2600 game Adventure, and carried it to see the Easter Egg.)

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Trickle-down economics WORKS: SpaceShipTwo is a PRIME EXAMPLE

Steve the Cynic

Why supply-side / trickle-down failed...

It's easy, really. The version of SSE/TD that is most often attempted by politicians - lower taxes for the rich in the belief/statement that they will spend that money, so everyone lower down the ladder will be better off - fails because of what they spend their money on. Generally (technological wizardry like rocket planes, Challenger Deep-grade submersibles, etc. aside(*)), they spend it on luxury goods *imported* from elsewhere, so when (e.g.) the US government tries this, the American rich buy Italian or German cars, fashion from Italy or France, and so on. Most of the money is *not* seen by those lower on the US ladder because it leaves the country.

(*) Note also that the sort of rich man who finances the technological wizardry, whether from his own funds or via his company, will probably do it even if the government(s) is(are) on a no-SSE/TD schtick, so arguably these guys aren't an exception to the general failure of SSE/TD.

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HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist

Steve the Cynic

Re: Bah!

"Now if you'd said it was as big as a WWII fuel oil tender and resupply submarine, I'd have been impressed."

Boats like Surcouf (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_submarine_Surcouf) were bigger... And the idea of a 3000+ ton shark is a bit scary. Now all you need is a way to install the twin 8-inch guns on the shark. That'll beat your poncy lasers any day.

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Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know

Steve the Cynic

"A North Yorkshire startup called New Wave Energy has come up with a concept to deploy a network of drones at a high altitude to harvest solar and wind energy."

This claim intrigued me, so I checked out their site. No, they don't claim to be trying to defeat the laws of thermodynamics. A flying platform cannot generate enough energy to propel itself by deploying a wind turbine - if it could, that would make it a perpetual motion machine...

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Chap runs Windows 95 on Android Wear

Steve the Cynic

Re: Win95 on a 386DX?

"Sounds like what we did to a manager who complained that he didn't have an up to date PC "

Ah, but in my case, he knew very well that it was ridiculously slow, but it was capable of doing some small task (no I don't remember what it was) stuck off in a corner somewhere. He even set it up on purpose...

He worked at a client of the AV firm (that shall remain nameless) that I worked for at the time, and I had to talk to him when I released a new rev of the Win95 on-access scanner that included a timeout while something else happened. The machine was so slow that the process timed out. Fortunately, the timeout was adjustable, so he went away happy because he could stretch it to be long enough.

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Steve the Cynic

Re: Win95 on a 386DX?

I once talked to a guy who was running Win95 on a 25MHz 386SX with only 2MB of RAM. (Yes, I know the sysreqs said 4MB, and he knew it, too.) It was apparently a bit slow starting up, but once up, it would stay up and do whatever trivial task he had for it, but it made my software have to have a special timeout adjustment...

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Activist investors DESTROY COMPANIES. Don't get me started on share dealings...

Steve the Cynic

"Consider these ideas:

"1 People who buy shares should be forbidden from selling them for five years.

"2 Execs paid with share options should be prevented from vesting them for five years from the award date.

"3 Everybody in the company should be paid with the same share option deal.

"4 Public companies should go private to escape activist investor hell."

Let's consider these in order.

1. Sure, this stops the roller-coaster ride that is the modern stock market, but it also makes getting investment more difficult, because it means you can only access the people willing to hold for the long term, come what may. And that means the pension funds won't buy your stock because they will lack the flexibility to unbuy it when they need to. And the more prudent investors will only invest in sure things because they will be locked in for five years. No, this is a bad idea.

2. (Pedantry) Execs themselves cannot *vest* stock options. In the context of stock options, vesting refers to the process where, usually slice-by-slice, the options become eligible to be *exercised* (that is, eligible to be used to buy (or, in the more general case that isn't applicable here, buy/sell) the relevant shares). Five years might be a bit much for the first slice to vest, but for normal employee stock options, it's common to have to wait at least a year, so I'll put this on in the "open for debate over details" category.

3. I hope you don't mean that literally as it is written, that all employees get N options to buy at price X (variations on X subject to e.g. date of grant and its effect on the opening share price), with N and X being the same for everyone who gets a grant on a particular date - but I suspect that you do indeed mean that. N*X is likely to be small, then. Worth investigating but I suspect this is unworkable.

4. This is already an (effective-against-activist-investors) option for companies that can afford it / afford to borrow for it. It tends to make uninvesting difficult (because there isn't an effective/efficient/orderly market for the shares, aka the shares cease to be a liquid asset). The shares remain an asset for shareholders, but that asset is now hard to sell, and hard to price (because of that hard-to-sell nature).

All in all, these suggestions smell strongly of a (probably unwanted) result that the innocent are punished to make sure the guilty get hit. You know, like copy protection crap on software, which is based on the assumption that any and/or many of the customers are thieves. ("Because any of you *could* be a thief, and lots of you *are* thieves, we will inconvenience *all* of you by forcing you to have to have the original disk in the drive when you run the software, and to have to buy a new copy if you lose your original disk and want to keep running the software.")

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EVIL patent TROLLS poised to attack OpenStack, says Linux protection squad

Steve the Cynic

It should, but the minutes would probably need to be published immediately after the meeting (so as to establish a priority date), including a list of attendees (so as to establish that the troll had a presence there).

And you're assuming that the patent-invalidation court / hearing would actually pay the slightest mind to these minutes when faced with the moneyed interests of the patent troll (or other grasping interest).

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'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault

Steve the Cynic

Re: I'd be more impressed if they found gun shot wounds.

"Yeah. I can't help feeling "smoking gun" is not a terribly apt metaphor for a multi-million year old fossil dinosaur bite."

The sub-headline made me think of Existenz, where they had a gun that fired teeth...

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Business is back, baby! Hasta la VISTA, Win 8... Oh, yeah, Windows 9

Steve the Cynic

Re: Time to rethink

"What about DIrectX 12? Will be it retrofitted to 7 or will it be an 8+ exclusive? You may not need it, or you may..."

I'll observe in passing that DirectX 9.0c remains a strong (the strongest? the only?) contender for the title of most-demanded version in the consumer market - most games I've seen recently list it as the "required" version, sometimes with DirectX 11 as an option... Until this changes, then, I'd say that no, DX12 won't be particularly important. (YMMV in some specialised fields, of course, but that goes without saying.)

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Will Apple give Chinese iPhone workers cancer? THE TRUTH

Steve the Cynic

Re: The blame game

SD3: Please read the original post more carefully next time. He was saying that blaming Apple / Foxconn is fun, not that making fun of leukemia sufferers is fun.

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CNN 'tech analyst' on NAKED CELEBS: WHO IS this mystery '4chan' PERSON?

Steve the Cynic

Re: I'm with French on this

"le_pa€€word"

Dude, get it right: le_mot_de_pa€€e

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Good luck with Project Wing, Google. This drone moonshot is NEVER going to happen

Steve the Cynic

Re: Stated Goals

"The Docklands Light Railway in London is apparently automatic"

The Lille Metro has been fully automatic for longer than the DLR. And unlike the DLR, there are *no* staff on the trains.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lille_Metro

It offers trains once a minute during peak times.

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If you think 3D printing is just firing blanks, just you wait

Steve the Cynic

"How about those guys that make motorcycle kits? No? Because too few people buy them to make motorcycle kits a thing?"

Might I direct your attention to http://www.tamiya.com/english/products/list/12bike/kit14001.htm , a page with the title "1/12 Motorcycle Series". Plastic model kits of, um, motorbikes.

For a UK vendor of motorbike kits, try http://www.emodels.co.uk/plastic-kits/-c-173_192.html which includes 4 pages of kits including Tamiya and Hasegawa products.

http://www.modelhobbies.co.uk/shop/plastic-model-kits-motorbike-model-kits-c-27_44.html has at least one non-Japanese brand...

So no, I suggest you try again with a different subject area.

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US Copyright Office rules that monkeys CAN'T claim copyright over their selfies

Steve the Cynic

"*[In practice of course they don't. Long ago, my brother once had his opinion reproduced in the local paper. I asked him if he had actually said he was impressed upon meeting a former MP (recently elevated to the peerage). He was sure he hadn't.]"

I can confirm this, in a different context. It was 2002 and I was out and about (for reasons that aren't relevant here) in the Weald near Crowborough (which is, in turn, near Tunbridge Wells). I was parked in a lay-by, taking some pictures of the scenery when a bunch of people arrive in one car with another car following them. I got some pictures of the other car as they also took pictures of it (and, more to the point, as they abruptly and bluntly said I shouldn't do so)... As I found out later, the car turned out to be the next year's version of, as I recall it, the Honda Accord, so...

... Auto Express magazine gave me some money for the pictures and wrote up a blurb. The things they had me saying were quite remarkable, and were almost but not quite totally unlike what I had said to the reporter.

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Motorist 'thought car had caught fire' as Adele track came on stereo

Steve the Cynic

Re: I'm not sure

"On the one hand, the retardation of the general driving populace in this country is funny."

This sort of remark makes me think of something I saw one day on the A40 heading east from Oxford toward the London-bound M40 junction. It's a two-lanes-each-way dual carriageway, and on that particular morning, the right lane (the fast one) was crammed full of cars. The left lane featured a tractor well burdened by mowing machinery (not in use at that moment, but travelling at tractor speed). Approaching the tractor in the left lane were a handful of cars valiantly attempting to merge right to pass the tractor. One of them, of course, left it a bit later than the others, and there was a sudden burst of tyre-smoke from all four wheels, and then the car shuddered and there was a spray of assorted fragments from the front of the car and/or the back of the tractor. Car and tractor pulled off the carriageway, and my god he made a mess of the front of his car. (Didn't do the mowing machinery much good either.)

Oops...

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Canuck reader threatens suicide over exact dimensions of SPAAAACE!

Steve the Cynic

Re: Babcock the Canuck

"Nomenclature"

Let me adjust that:

"North American Nomenclature".

In a certain soggy country north of France, "hockey" is played on grass, and "ice hockey" is played on ice. I don't recall a special term for a hockey-like game played in gymnasiums.

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Call girl injected Google exec with heroin, drank wine, left him to die – cops claim

Steve the Cynic

Re: A shame

"It's how we behave afterwards that define our character."

I believe the line you're looking for is this:

Lou Mannheim: Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.

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Send Bitcoin or we'll hate-spam you on Yelp, say crims

Steve the Cynic

Re: Best Ignored

See also http://xkcd.com/937/ for another view on the value of online reviews.

Paraphrased:

"Tornado Guard: set up alerts for tornadoes in your area. Average 4.9 stars" Sounds good, and wow, 4.9 stars. Let's look at what they said:

"5 stars, great interface, lets me set up loads of alerts"

"5 stars, lots of good features"

...

"5 stars, superb interface"

...

"1 star, did not warn me about tornado"

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French Senate passes anti-Amazon amendment

Steve the Cynic

Re: So

"again no idea where euro is on a uk keyboard"

Wikipedia says that the UK keyboard layout puts € on AltGr+4. I use AZERTY(*), where € sits on AltGr+E.

(*) Because I live in France and it's too much like hard work using different keyboard layouts. Because it's too hard getting UK-QWERTY keyboards over here, I switched over to AZERTY when I moved here back in 2009. AZERTY's main sin is having dead-keys for typing less common accents like circumflex and diaeresis (umlaut to you, Chuckles).

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Shine on you crazy diamond: Distant dwarf may hide space jewel

Steve the Cynic

Re: Dense diamond

"Take a fail point yourself. Electron degenerate matter is unable to form any kind of chemical bond (because of the lack of electrons) and therefore unable to crystalise."

Did I mention chemical bonds or crystals? No. I referred to it as a "diamond" (in quotes), meaning a so-called diamond, because various people had called it a diamond, not because I thought it would be even slightly reasonable to call it such a thing.

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Steve the Cynic

Re: 5000 times cooler... so simple

Or maybe "5000 times as much coolness". Coolness, when referring to temperature and not to jazz, is measured in reciprokelvins, and the thing that is 5000 times cooler has 5000 times as many reciprokelvins, or 1/5000th of the number of kelvins. "It is at one 5000th of the temperature of the Sun" would be a better way of saying it, but this seems to be another instance of a modern trend, that of using these sort of reciprocal units (coolness is the reciprocal of temperature, slowness is the reciprocal of speed, etc) in comparisons, so that "X is N times slower (cooler, smaller, etc) than Y" means that "Y is N times faster (hotter, larger, etc.) than X", or equivalently that "X is 1/N th as fast (hot, large, etc.) as Y". It's stupid, and it lives in the same house as "twice as hot" - this is often used to mean "at 40degC instead of at 20degC".

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Steve the Cynic
FAIL

Re: Dense diamond

Take a FAIL point, dude. The "new kind of physics" you are seeking hides behind the terms "compact star", "electron degeneracy pressure" and more generally "degenerate matter". You should also take a tour around "Pauli exclusion principle" for a minor diversion and a bit of background.

And yes, the "diamond" is very dense. A white dwarf will have a mass of anywhere from 0.2 to 1.44 times the mass of the Sun, but packed into an object about the size of the Earth.

For more detail than you probably ever wanted to know, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_dwarf .

And join the "5000 times cooler" sinner in the corner. There's plenty of spare dunce hats.

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Steve the Cynic

I'd love to know...

... WTF "5000 times cooler" is supposed to mean.

If it is supposed to mean "surface at 1/5000th the absolute temperature" (the only thing we can actually measure about either its temperature or the Sun's), then it has a surface temperature of 1.1 Kelvin, which is, indeed, pretty cold, but seeing it at that temperature is basically impossible, and anyway the surface is described as being at 3000 K.

If, on the other hand, we follow the 3000 K surface temperature, then the 5000 times cooler idea leads me to accuse the Sun's surface temperature of being around 15 megaKelvin, which is grossly over the mark (around 5800 K). 15 megaKelvin is reasonable for the Sun's core, but that's actually just speculation, and "5000 times cooler" comparing the surface of the white dwarf to the core of the Sun is a highly questionable comparison. (I would normally be a lot more blunt about this analysis, but I'm in a charitable sort of mood today.)

Overall, then, whoever said this is guilty of sins against language and should go sit in the corner with a dunce hat on. For shame!

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Google starts selling Glass to Brits – for £1,000 a pop

Steve the Cynic
Headmaster

Re: Hmm.

"These things illicit the same emotions of pity as wearers of bluetooth headsets.. that bad."

Methinks you mean "elicit"(*), but for me it isn't so much pity as a sort of diffuse contempt.

(*) "To elicit" is more or less equivalent to "to provoke", while "illicit" is an adjective meaning not licit, more generally carrying a sense of dodgy dealings.

I guess I'll add this to my list of pairs and triplets of frequently-confused approximately homophonic words, alongside ours/hours, you're/your, their/there/they're, accept/except, affect/effect, lose/loose and a host of others.

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Google, Red Hat, Ubuntu, Parallels bet on virtualization's surprising successor

Steve the Cynic

Re: Back to the Future

"go back to 70s mainframes IIRC"

I'd have to say you don't RC... Unless 1967 is part of the 70s... ;)

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The hoarder's dilemma: 'Why can't I throw anything away?'

Steve the Cynic

"The assorted slide rules might qualify as such until I get around to building a nice display case for them. Then its a collection. Or a hoard, hanging on the wall."

Back a few years, around 1977, say, I took an open-day type tour round the secondary school where I would be going the following school year. In one of the maths classrooms, they had a (one) (1) slide rule on the wall.

Of course it was six feet long, for demonstrating slide rule technique to twelve-year-olds...

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100% driverless Wonka-wagon toy cars? Oh Google, you're having a laugh

Steve the Cynic

Re: Nice idea

Re: automated trains, or, as suggested, urban mass transit.

Every working day, I ride a fully automatic mass transit system with no on-train staff. There are no drivers, no "close doors" button-pushers, no puke-stoppers, nobody. Occasionally orange-jacket staff will use the trains to move around the system, or green-jacket staff will invade them to hold a ticket inspection party, but they aren't on-train staff in the way you'd normally use the term.

Where am I? Lille, France, which is the first city in the world to use this particular combination of technologies (driverless automatic rubber-tyre people-mover/light metro). The VAL trains mean they can run trains once-a-minute during rush hour.

And they've been doing it since 1983.

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NASA spots new Mars meteorite crater

Steve the Cynic

Re: mmmh...

"Looks fairly head on since its almost circular"

For impact craters this line of reasoning is more or less complete bulldinkey. Impact craters for all but the shallowest impact angles are round because the crater is caused by an *explosion* whose effects are almost completely independent of the angle of impact.

Unless you are talking about the shot pattern of the array of craters. I'd give you that, sort of.

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