* Posts by Mike Richards

4250 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

Worried about Brexit food shortages? North Korean haute couture has just the thing

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Ahh...

'Does our future hold the prospect of 1970s style school dinners all round?'

Pink custard and sponge pudding? Yes please!

Apple: You can't sue us for slowing down your iPhones because you, er, invited us into, uh, your home... we can explain

Mike Richards Silver badge


The only theory that makes sense is that lawyers are all contributing huge amounts of money to a secret betting pool. Each year there is one winner, with the prize being awarded to the lawyer who makes the most ludicrous claim that is upheld in court.

The most annoying British export since Piers Morgan: 'Drones' halt US airport flights

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

I'd be more worried about the risk of an accident by distracting the crew at a crucial moment in the flight.

Mark Zuckerberg did everything in his power to avoid Facebook becoming the next MySpace – but forgot one crucial detail…

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Facebook's shadow profile.

Anyone know if legal bods have started considering the GDPR implications of shadow profiles?

They’re clearly personal information about an identifiable individual; they have been gathered about that person without their permission, aren’t necessary to provide a service to that person and the individual has no way of finding out what data Facebook stores about them without joining Facebook.

To my untrained eyes there would seem to be a reasonable case that the very existence of these profiles is illegal.

An AI system has just created the most realistic looking photos ever

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Those are some impressive results in any case

The video really looks like the early morphing demos (such as the 'Black or White' videos) - but that was time-consuming hand tweaking of real faces, this is all automatic.

Good news for troll farms and political donors wanting to hide their identities behind a myriad of fakes.

Who's watching you from an unmarked van while you shop in London? Cops with facial recog tech

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Funding cuts lead to this

The future is somewhere between OCP and Facebook.

Godmother of word processing Evelyn Berezin dies at 93

Mike Richards Silver badge

Worth popping over to the BBC

For the full copy of Berezin's advert for the Redactron. Even today its eye-catching since it is talking to the secretary not necessarily their boss; it must have been incredible when it came out:


Supernovae may explain mass extinctions of marine animals 2.6 million years ago

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Shouldn't have it impacated animals living on land even more?

Anyone know the lifetime of a visible neutron star? I rather suspect it will have cooled below the visible spectrum long ago. And of course, we don't know where to look.

As for the formation date - yep, an OB star has a life measured in mere tens of millions of years, so it couldn't have formed at the same time as the Sun. However, it's important to remember that whilst all stars orbit the centre of the Milky Way, they do not follow parallel orbits and are constantly rising and falling through the central plane of the galaxy. Our neighbourhood supernovae could be a long way away by now.

One proposal is that the killer might lie in a group of stars called the Scorpius–Centaurus Association which is between 380 and 470 light years away and is dominated by large, hot stars. Though other candidates are probably out there.

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Shouldn't have it impacated animals living on land even more?

There's an apparent terrestrial megafauna extinction at around the same time as in the oceans. However, terrestrial fossils are much rarer than those in the oceans and they tend to be less well constrained in terms of date in part because suitable microfauna and microfloral fossils aren't as common on land.

The Pliocene-Pleistocene is also problematic because the climate was turning towards a glacial epoch and a lot of the uppermost Pliocene terrestrial deposits were either eroded or extensively reworked by advancing ice sheets. There's still some dispute over the exact boundary between the two in many parts of the world as there is no clear boundary.

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Interesting, but radiation killing through water?

The paper suggests muon radiation affecting animals in shallow (or surface) waters. A muon carries a hell of a punch so it can penetrate into the water and then cause damage to cells. The bigger the animal, the bigger the risk of developing something nasty.

This might explain an oddity of the Pliocene-Pleistocene megafauna extinction; it doesn't appear to involve a collapse of the bottom of the food chain - microfauna and flora don't seem to go to the wall as they did say in the KPg event; instead this extinction disproportionately affects large animals.

There was a paper published in 2002 that pointed out a group of OB supergiants would have passed relatively close to the Earth. Had one of those exploded at the right/wrong time it would have had an effect on the Earth.

Narciso Benítez, Jesús Maíz-Apellániz, and Matilde Canelles et al. (2002). "Evidence for Nearby Supernova Explosions".

Privacy, security fears about ID cards? UK.gov's digital bod has one simple solution: 'Get over it'

Mike Richards Silver badge

Third mention of ID cards by someone senior in the government in recent months

The Home Office is up to something...

Wow, what a lovely early Christmas present for Australians: A crypto-busting super-snoop law passes just in time

Mike Richards Silver badge

Half a World away

The Home Office casts an admiring look at Australia and tells itself 'That's how it should be done.'

Bad luck Oz, you're back in the running for the worst Western democratic leadership again after Theresa May came back so strongly.

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: "Ship! Come back!"

You'd be amazed how quickly intelligence services' positions on case-by-case wiretapping can 'evolve':


Marriott's Starwood hotels mega-hack: Half a BILLION guests' deets exposed over 4 years

Mike Richards Silver badge

Just had my Marriott email

It opens:

'Marriott values our guests and understands the importance of protecting your personal information'

This must be a new policy.

'the information includes some combination of name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest ("SPG") account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences. For some, the information also includes payment card numbers and payment card expiration dates, but the payment card numbers were encrypted using Advanced Encryption Standard encryption (AES-128)'

So we can assume our passport numbers have been left in plaintext and are now in the hands of the PLA. Unlike credit cards it is hard to know if this data has been misused and not easy to get a free replacement if you suspect yours has been misused.

I wonder if Marriott fancies coughing up for half a billion new passports?

The British Home Office was warned about its crappy data management – then Windrush happened

Mike Richards Silver badge

Imagine what would have happened had the Home Office had its way?

The thought of the damage they could have done with a national ID card database can hardly be imagined.

And is it just me who has noticed a few trial balloons going up from people associated with government about whether we should have them to stop beastly foreigners getting benefits post-Brexit? Last week, George Osborne was publicly questioning whether the Tories should have scrapped New Labour's project when it came to power.

Never trust the Home Office.

Forget DeepFakes. This robo-Rembrandt with AI for brains is not bad at knocking off paintings

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: I have zero problems

Microsoft's 'The Next Rembrandt' is worth a look. It used Rembrandt's portfolio and 3D printing to produce something new, that to these untrained eyes, looks like a Rembrandt:


Which scientist should be on the new £50 note? El Reg weighs in – and you should vote, too

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Maggie Thatcher does meet the qualification requirements

The soft-scoop story is sadly not true. Soft-scoop was invented in the late 1930s in the United States. The confusion is that Thatcher worked for Lyons between 1949 and 1951 on emulsifiers when Lyons had obtained the Mr Softee franchise.

She did do a science degree at Cambridge and specialised in X-ray crystallography, so she had a formidable qualification. But there is no evidence she invented anything or proposed a new theory.

Apparently Thatcher applied for a place at ICI after graduation, but was rejected for being "headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated."

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Charles Freakin Darwin

How about Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles).

Founded the Lunar Society with Matthew Boulton, Josiah Wedgwood, and James Watt. Studied biology, physics, chemistry, geology and meteorology.


Theory of evolution (1794)

The canal lift

The Ackermann linkage (found in the steering of most cars)

A copying machine

A speaking machine which could reproduce phones

The hydrolox rocket engine

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Maxwell

Great man about which people don't nearly know enough.

There was an episode of the recent series of Cosmos in which Neil de Grasse Tyson told the story of Humphrey Davy*, Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell. It's a terrific bit of story telling about how three of the greatest scientists of the 19th Century inspired then next.

* a worthy choice for a bank note in his own right. Seems to have been the Brian Cox of his time with people gushing over his charm and good looks. Discovered seven elements, the arc lamp, anaesthesia (using nitrous oxide), burned a diamond, climbed Vesuvius when it was erupting and wrote poetry considered equal to that of Coleridge in his time.

Mike Richards Silver badge

James Hutton

The Father of Geology.

In the late 18th Century up with the fabulously named Theory of Uniformity which basically says that the processes which create and change the Earth's surface haven't changed through time, so by studying what is going on right now, we can work out not only how the Earth has evolved through time, but give an insight into its age.

By doing this, he struck a blow against the Biblical view of the Earth's history and suggested that the Earth was incredibly old, making him the first person to consider Deep Time.

Hutton even proposed a theory of evolution through natural selection.

Britain's rail ticket-booking systems go TITSUP*

Mike Richards Silver badge


Total Inability To Supply Usurious Prices.

Assange catgate hearing halted as Ecuador hunts around for someone who speaks Australian

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: It's simple...

For true Strine you have to insert the c-word that rhymes with Jeremy Hunt somewhere in the sentence. Or indeed, any sentence.

Bloodhound Super-Sonic-Car lacks Super-Sonic-Cashflow

Mike Richards Silver badge

Perhaps inevitably

This is the point in any British bleeding edge technological development when the Americans turn up with deep pockets, slap the stars and stripes on it and claim it for their own.

Punkt: A minimalist Android for the paranoid

Mike Richards Silver badge

Do you have a Gemini - if so what's it like?

Any thoughts on the Gemini now its been out for a bit? Like how well its holding up and whether it is a useful day to day device.


It's over 9,000! Boffin-baffling microquasar has power that makes the LHC look like a kid's toy

Mike Richards Silver badge

I can't believe no one has asked this vital scientific question

Can that much radiation cause superpowers?

Remember that lost memory stick from Heathrow Airport? The terrorist's wet dream? So does the ICO

Mike Richards Silver badge

The Queen

Now has to be smuggled through Heathrow as part of a hen-do to Malaga until she can make an escape via a hidden door behind the giant bars of Toblerone in duty free.

UK space comes to an 'understanding' with Australia as Brexit looms

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: RE: Mooseman

Countries trade disproportionately with their geographic neighbours. Which of the UK's neighbours are not in the EU or in the EEA?

Blueprint of modern construction can be found in a tech cluster... of 19th century England

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Iron-framed buildings?

Great article - thanks!

Another building worth a visit is Oriel Chambers in Liverpool, finished in 1864 and is the world's first metal-framed building with a glass curtain wall - the direct ancestor of the modern skyscraper.

Amazon Alexa outage: Voice-activated devices are down in UK and beyond

Mike Richards Silver badge

She's probably bought them for you using your Amazon account - thoughtful like that.

Boffins ask for £338m to fund quantum research. UK.gov: Here's £80m

Mike Richards Silver badge

Funding based on historical precedent

Because Britain has a long and honourable tradition of beating the world through boffins tinkering at the bottom of the garden equipped with nothing more than bits of an old radio, some sealing wax, a garden shed and a bottomless supply of hot, sweet tea; government funding is proportional to the current cost of a shed and Morrisons own-brand teabags.

First it was hashtags – now Amber Rudd gives us Brits knowledge on national ID cards

Mike Richards Silver badge

"nothing to hide, nothing to fear"

One word: Windrush.

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: "people already hand over masses of info to private firms"...

I wonder if she has just picked up a consultancy or directorship at a tech company wanting to sell crap to the Home Office. A path well-trod by the likes of Blunkett, Clarke and co.

Mike Richards Silver badge

Can you imagine what would happen if a massive national biometric ID scheme was compromised?

No need - India's is completely broken - quoting from the article...

The patch lets a user bypass critical security features such as biometric authentication of enrolment operators to generate unauthorised Aadhaar numbers.

The patch disables the enrolment software's in-built GPS security feature (used to identify the physical location of every enrolment centre), which means anyone anywhere in the world — say, Beijing, Karachi or Kabul — can use the software to enrol users.

The patch reduces the sensitivity of the enrolment software's iris-recognition system, making it easier to spoof the software with a photograph of a registered operator, rather than requiring the operator to be present in person.


Law firm seeking leak victims to launch £500m suit at British Airways

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: A better way of effecting change

The ICO now has the GDPR powers of imposing penalties of 4% of turnover or €20 million. Add that to any legal costs awarded against BA as well as the expenses of fixing the problem and compensating victims; and shareholders might feel sufficiently poor to countenance a clearout at the top of BA and IAG.

Though it would be nice to see some senior executives finally taking a personal hit.

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: GPDR Strikes?

Well the DPA 2018 is in effect and the ICO was complaining how little power the previous regime allowed them to wield against Facebook. They might be tempted to throw the GDPR book at BA 'pour encourager les autres'.

Russian volcanoes fingered for Earth's largest mass extinction

Mike Richards Silver badge

Alvarez was using the older K-Ar dating method for his research.

It's now clear that this is not reliable in the Deccan as many of the feldspars used for dating have either been chemically altered by hot groundwater after the lavas crystallised, fractured - allowing argon to escape, or weathered on the surface. This has the effect of producing abnormally young K-Ar ages for the lavas which are in conflict with the fossil data found in sediments between individual flows.

More recently, geologists have moved to Ar-Ar dating on isolated, cleaned feldspar crystals which produce much more consistent dates. The new dates show the most prolific part of the Deccan all lie within the magnetic episode called C29r (66.398 - 65.688Ma) which straddles the K-Pg boundary (66.043 ± 0.043Ma) - although the position of the boundary inside the Deccan is not clear.

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Antipodal shock

A link between the Chicxulub impact and a massive increase in the volume of the magma erupting from the Deccan has been proposed in:

Keller, G., 2014. Deccan volcanism, the Chicxulub impact, and the end-Cretaceous mass extinction: Coincidence? Cause and effect? Geological Society of America Special Papers 505, SPE505-03. https://doi.org/10.1130/2014.2505(03)

Keller proposes that the Mantle could be fractured by a massive impact allowing melt to migrate more rapidly to the surface and produce cataclysmic amounts of lava. It's an intriguing theory with a lot to commend it, though it is clear the Deccan was buggering the planet well before the impact. The biggest problem is dating the Deccan itself; many of the lavas have suffered low temperature metamorphism or chemical weathering which have altered the feldspars normally used for K-Ar and Ar-Ar dating.

Annoyingly, the KPg iridium anomaly is not found in the Deccan. A few localised iridium anomalies have been found in the West of the province, but it is generally thought they represent concentrations of the element from terrestrial weathering.

I still think we need a time machine.

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Plumes

It's a plume-driven volcano and it will probably have major explosive eruptions in the future. On a historic scale, a repeat of one of the cataclysmic eruptions from Yellowstone (or indeed its more mysterious southern cousin, Long Valley) would be devastating and cause huge hardship for the Northern Hemisphere. However, chances are on a human timescale, future activity will be confined to the caldera; and on a geological timescale, even caldera eruptions pale in comparison to flood basalts.

Though, the fading plume that drives Yellowstone was responsible for the magnificent Columbia flood basalts of Washington and Idaho. I heartily recommend a trip to anyone who wants to be awed by a landscape. (And Yellowstone itself is simply jaw-dropping).

Mike Richards Silver badge

Some rift valleys are found on spreading margins - such as that along the MidAtlantic Ridge; but most are intraplate features created by an upwelling of hot Mantle under a continent. A really good example is the East African Rift Valley which is pulling the African Plate apart; but doesn't seem to have quite enough umph to actually break the plate and create new ocean floor.

Closer to home, there are nice rift valleys in the German Rhine region; the Midland Valley in Scotland, the North Sea and a hidden one running north-south under the West Midlands.

Mike Richards Silver badge


The dynamic of these huge events is pretty well understood as being related to Mantle plumes which are superheated columns of rock (not magma) rising from close to the Core/Mantle interface. They rise through the Mantle as relatively narrow features, but as they reach shallower levels they form mushroom-cloud shaped bodies of rock. The reduction in pressure is enough to partially melt the head of the plume; meanwhile the impact of the plume on the lithosphere causes it to bulge upwards, thin and fracture allowing the magma to pour out as flood basalts.

As you say, the Deccan is probably linked to the extinction of the dinosaurs; a massive decline in biodiversity (especially in the oceans) and a wildly-changing climate and acidified rainfall were all occurring long before part of Mexico was turned into a crater. Right now, that plume is driving the volcano on Reunion in the Southern Indian Ocean - but the good news is that once the head of the plume has been exhausted, the long tail only provides a relative trickle of melt.

The most productive plume on the planet right now is the plume that created the Antrim Basalts in Northern Ireland is now driving most of the volcanism in Iceland (the MidAtlantic Ridge is a relatively small contributor to Icelandic activity); but the most impressive is the one under Afar in Ethiopia which is pushing the whole of East Africa more than a kilometre into the sky and driving the Africa Rift Valley - although it probably isn't strong enough to rift Africa into two.

In theory, we could see any emerging plumes long before they arrive on the surface through technologies such as seismic tomography and their effect on local gravitation; but the good news is that there is no obvious threat from a new plume for the immediate geological future.

The threat is from the tails of existing plumes, which although they only ten to produce a fraction of a cubic kilometre of melt each year, can occasionally produce monstrous volumes of magma - such as our old friend the Icelandic plume which produced 18km3 in the Eldgyá eruption of 939CE; depressed Northern Hemisphere temperatures by 2C and probably inspired the Viking idea of Ragnarok; and then vomited up a further 14km3 from nearby Lake during 1783-84; creating a famine that killed a quarter of Icelanders, poisoned more than 20,000 people in England and probably contributed to a complete collapse of the Indian and Chinese monsoons. If they were to happen today, the death toll across the World could be unimaginable.

Just to put those into context, after 65 million years of erosion, the Deccan contains more than one million km3 of lava. Magnetic evidence suggests most of it was erupted within a span of 20,000 years which included several prolonged episodes of inactivity. A Deccan-like eruption would be the end of us.

It would however be a beautiful way to go....

ZX Spectrum reboot scandal biz gets £35k legal costs delayed

Mike Richards Silver badge

This case is turning into a real Jarndyce and Jarndyce.

Beam me up, PM: Digital secretary expected to give Tory conference speech as hologram

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Hologram you say?

It'll be obvious -holograms are three dimensional.

BTW. Kudos to whoever it was who rebranded Pepper's Ghost as a 'hologram'. Probably got a new patent for it by adding the magic words 'with a computer'.

Time to party like it's 2005! Palm is coming BAAAA-ACK

Mike Richards Silver badge

I'm considering a blockchain rolodex startup.

ZX Spectrum reboot latest: Some Vega+s arrive, Sky pulls plug, Clive drops ball

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: What we need

I expect North Face and Superdry are two of those so-called popular music artistes that you might find on certain bands of the FM spectrum if you ever tune away from the Home Service.

Bank on it: It's either legal to port-scan someone without consent or it's not, fumes researcher

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: CMA is overzealous

The CPS has guidance for prosecutions under Section 3A of the CMA which covers the likelihood that software was being used to break the CMA. Amongst other things, prosecutors should consider:

• Was the software developed to obtain unauthorised access to a computer?

• Does the software have legitimate purposes, such as testing a device's security?

• What was the context in which the software was used to commit the offence compared with its original intended purpose?

I can't see how he has a case here. The CPS will point to their guidance.


Grad sends warning to manager: Be nice to our kit and it'll be nice to you

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: what the fuck does PC LOAD LETTER mean?

You were dancing on the edge of the volcano there!

I trust you didn't risk driving home? That would have been the day the balance of the Universe would require that you were run off the road by a juggernaut filled with faulty printers.

Now that's a dodgy Giza: Eggheads claim Great Pyramid can focus electromagnetic waves

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Something wrong

It's the second pyramid, that of Khafre which retains part of its casing.

Judging by the whacking great gouge in its side, the picture is of Menkaure's pyramid. The damage was done by workmen belonging to Saladin's son, al-Malet al-Aziz Othman ben Yusaf who wanted to quarry the pyramids for building stones. Such is the quality of the building, they did precious little damage apart from stripping the casings.

If you want to see a pyramid with casing nearly intact, a trip to the twin pyramids at Dahsur near Saqqara is recommended. One of the two - the Bent Pyramid - is in especially good condition (apart from not actually being a true pyramid).

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: "building material with the properties of an ordinary limestone is evenly distributed"

The sarcophagus, burial chamber, the relieving chambers above the burial chamber and the portcullises in the antechamber are all made of Aswan granite. The rest of the pyramid is constructed from local Giza limestone and was originally cased with Tura limestone from the eastern bank of the Nile.

[mine's the one with the Ark of the Covenant in the pocket]

Think tank calls for post-Brexit national ID cards: The kids have phones so what's the difference?

Mike Richards Silver badge

Obvious really

The only way to stop a malicious and incompetent government department from misusing personal data held about citizens is to give more personal data to that malicious and incompetent government department.

The Solar System's oldest minerals reveal the Sun's violent past

Mike Richards Silver badge

Re: Hibonite Gems

It's a rare mineral occasionally found in high-grade metamorphic rocks that have been subject to enormous pressures and temperatures, but not quite brought to melting point. Almost all of the samples mentioned in the books come from Madagascar.

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