* Posts by lee harvey osmond

250 posts • joined 20 Apr 2007


Forget that rare-earth element crunch – we can now just extract them from industrial waste

lee harvey osmond

mildly radioactive?

"Also, it’s mildly radioactive since it contains low deposits of uranium and thorium."

Hmmm. In principle then we could also be using bioleaching to separate out uranium and thorium?

I'm scratching my head. The bacteria produce gluconic acid, is that the whole business of making them available to chemical separation, or is there a biological component too?

Chemical reactions conducted by biology tend to be different to those conducted by geology or chemists. Enzymes tend to be very efficient catalysts. Biological reactions tend to proceed via a much larger number of transition (intermediate) states than abiological ones, and this sometimes shows up in the isotopic distributions of elements in reaction products -- reactions with lighter isotopes go faster.

Could we then use biotechnology both for refining uranium ore, and isotope separation? Enrichment? That'd be good for a laugh.

[Yes I reread the article, no biotechnological step in the chemical separation. But I can dream can't I?]

Science says death metal fans delightful and intelligent people, great at dinner parties

lee harvey osmond

Re: Context please.

Well, yes. I don't understand it at all.

We don't have music in this office, I want to brutally murder most of my colleagues much of the time, and as soon as I broach this tricky subject, I get told to go and see the HR manager; and he's not even top of my list

'Occult' text from Buffy The Vampire Slayer ep actually just story about new bus lane in Dublin

lee harvey osmond

Re: "Once more with Feeling"


Crash, bang, wallop: What a power-down. But what hit the kill switch?

lee harvey osmond

Old story


Say what?! An AI system can decode brain signals into speech

lee harvey osmond

Oh dear

It appears we're about to digress into philosophy.

Is language a prerequisite for self-awareness and thought? Is it possible to think, to have thoughts, without words?

'Cogito, ergo sum' ... but how do you express that without language? If you could think it without language, would it still be true?

How, then, is this funky AI system going to transform thoughts into speech, when thoughts don't necessarily correspond to language?

Doctors join wombats in sh!tting bricks to help parents relax about kids chowing down on Lego

lee harvey osmond


All those acronyms, and they never got as far as Studs Not On Top?

lee harvey osmond

Re: Pedantry Corner

Should have been a 2x2.

Although, "standard, four-nodule brick" ... no the default reference brick ought to be four studs by two, in red.

Big data at sea: How the Royal Navy charts the world's oceans

lee harvey osmond

Afternoon effect, see also:

'the layer'

'convergence zones'


The RN's Submarine Service was exploiting the thermocline during the Great War; during the Dardanelles campaign, it was possible to park one's boat at the boundary, because it floated on the cold water below but sank in the warmer water above, although there is one instance recorded of the crew having done this at night and woken in the morning to find their boat was now on the roof, ie at the surface

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

lee harvey osmond

Re: astrology????

To me that looks like a reply to an even weirder post than has been deleted since.

lee harvey osmond

Re: Eh? Come again?

"Welcome to The Scry At Night"

lee harvey osmond

Re: What about Tony Blair ?

Or, indeed, Bill Penney. Who wanted to be remembered for his contribution to science, and not for his specific contributions to the Manhattan Project and to its British successors.

And who wouldn't want a man named Penn[e]y on the £50?

This is also the man who demanded, and got, an IBM machine with a FORTRAN compiler after his first efforts at a two-stage device didn't work. The next set of tests ran just fine.

lee harvey osmond

Re: What about Tony Blair ?

I'm sure that can be fixed

Facebook mass hack last month was so totally overblown – only 30 million people affected

lee harvey osmond


Last communication I saw from Facebook was that the estimate is down to 14.7m

Among UK FB accounts, I am seeing a pattern in who did or did not get hacked. I suspect whoever did this didn't go hacking accounts at random; they had a list of targets before they started.

On the seventh anniversary of Steve Jobs' death, we give you 7 times he served humanity and acted as an example to others

lee harvey osmond


Yes, clearly a total asshole, upon whom we look back in fondness and admiration.

I’m no fanboi; I do not own the watch or the TV thing or whatever. But I’m on my sixth Mac at home, I have three on my desk at work, and as for my second iPhone ... I’m tapping on it here.

Organic stuff, radiation, unexpected methane... Yes, we're talking about Saturn's surprising rings

lee harvey osmond

unexpected methane?

Unexpected methane? At Saturn, but not Uranus. Detection of methane is expected from time to time at Uranus.

Yes yes I know, but hey, it's the pun that just goes on giving

Brit startup plans fusion-powered missions to the stars

lee harvey osmond

Re: Quite a bit of nuclear fallout

Freeman Dyson did the calculation in the early 60s. There will be discussion of the calculation's result in his son's memoir "Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship", but as I recall, not of the calculation itself

lee harvey osmond

Re: Quite a bit of nuclear fallout

Yes. Not much fallout at all. Tiny selectable-yield H-bombs engineered to be clean.

Freeman Dyson & co generated estimates of how many fatal cancers would be caused globablly for each launch, and the number was 'less than 10', but they knew that was politically unacceptable.

I wonder how many folks die of lung cancer caused by exposure to nuclear radiation from trace elements in coal smoke? Gotta be way more than 10

lee harvey osmond


Yes, but those engines suffered from pin ejection. Nuclear fuel pin ejection!

Bombing raids during WWII sent out shockwaves powerful enough to alter the Earth's ionosphere

lee harvey osmond

Re: Grand Slam

Yup. 'Camouflet'. Rearrange the ground under the target, creating a void which then collapses, messing with any structures built above. Streamlined, armour piercing, fancy steel casing .. go to the memoirs to find aircrew saying they were different from other bombs, as they fell they didn't tumble, they just dropped straight down, spinning as they picked up speed.

The 4000 to 12000 lb HC "blockbuster" bombs on the other hand .... cookies! Unremarkable steel dustbins full of high explosive, often dropped in company with about 1000x 4lb incendiaries. The cookie might knock down lots of buildings, such as an entire street of houses, and the incendiaries would then set fire to the wreckage. Not nice? No. But Bomber Command learned part of its business by looking at bomb sites in the UK.

lee harvey osmond

Re: Approx

Refill the tank?

The Bovington people have missed a sponsorship trick with one of their exhibits.

"Put a tiger in your Tiger tank's tank"

And at 0.4mpg (Imperial, of God's Own Petrol) I imagine sponsorship would be welcome

lee harvey osmond

Re: Amounts so huge, that I simply can't process them.

3 million tons being approximately 1/17 the yield of the Soviet Tsar Bomba, as tested in 1961, at 50% of selectable yield.

Think on that; six years of industrial warfare on a global scale, including the first three fission bombs, being a tiny fraction of the yield of a single weapon 20 years later

Don't get THAT personal, says personalised cards firm Moonpig. Dick pics. They mean dick pics

lee harvey osmond


Well yes.

As a previous commentard could have remarked but didn't, it may be against their T&Cs, but what about T&As?

Never mind Brexit. UK must fling more £billions at nuke subs, say MPs

lee harvey osmond

"the Atomic Weapons Establishment stores at least some of its data on the public cloud."

Call me irresponsible, but I'd like to make a public cloud with at least some of the fissile material the Atomic Weapons Establishment stores. Over 100 tons of separated plut, apparently

Flying to Mars will be so rad, dude: Year-long trip may dump 60% lifetime dose of radiation on you

lee harvey osmond

Re: Six months?????

Or even thermonuclear gadgets.

The ship would be about a thousand tons of cast iron drive plate, about a thousand tons of crew space on top ... and a very big spring/shock absorber contraption in the middle, plus a few thousand tiny selectable-yield H-bombs in a magazine on rails a bit like a beer bottling plant, that'd be about another thousand tons.

Set the fuse on a bomb for maybe 2s after it arms itself, shoot it out of a hole in the drive plate using some sort of spring cannon, then slam the trapdoor shut.

This chemical rocket fuel business isn't half as much fun; doesn't deliver half the specific impulse either.

lee harvey osmond

Six months?????

Nope. Forty days there, maybe forty days on the surface, forty days back.

I'll want a really massive radiation shield made out of freshly-mined lead for all living spaces, on the voyage spacecraft, lander and habit to keep out cosmic nastiness.

And an even bigger radiation shield to keep me safe from my own propulsion plant!

Revealed: The billionaire baron who’ll ride Elon’s thrusting erection to the Moon and back

lee harvey osmond

Job for a professional astronaut [Re: Prediction]

Look, I'm just some fat oaf behind a keyboard -- physics and gastronomy, pasta and antipasta, that sort of thing.

I reckon I'm better qualified than him to fly on that thing (apart from the billionaire bit, obviously). And I wouldn't fancy it; too many things that could go wrong and either kill me if i didn't fix them promptly, or just kill me. It's not even like the flight will be to low Earth orbit and back, so if anything went wrong I could go for an early re-entry.

Ascent phase goes wrong and I get dropped almost anywhere? Gobi desert, Greenland glacier, Amazonian rain forest, Peckham? I might cope. Middle of the Pacific, have to get out before the spacecraft sinks and then swim for it? Hmmm. Failed circuit breaker, need to wedge it with a pen cap? Yes I know that one. Tiny hole in the cabin during re-entry and no pressure suit? Suppose you can't spot the hole, or can see it but not reach it, to bung it?

Do not adjust your set, er, browser: This is our new page-one design

lee harvey osmond

Re: Not too keen

White space is useful in designs, both mobile and desktop, web and app.

Gives you somewhere, anywhere, to click or tap without hitting a link or button by mistake.

lee harvey osmond

"you can opt out at any time"

Possibly you meant, since this is The Register, we can check it out anytime, but never leave

Wasted worker wasps wanna know – oi! – who are you looking at?

lee harvey osmond

Yep, wasps are assholes

Got stung on the wrist myself at a beer festival a fortnight ago. I played nicely all weekend (no swatting!) but got stung anyway. I’d include the picture if I could, but El Reg’s below-the-line stuff doesn’t support that.

Wasp sting treatment? Insect bite creams like Anthisan are good. Or failing that, topical application of something mildly acidic like lemon juice. Or application of ice. You can imagine I had lots of trouble finding ice and lemon at a beer festival at a pub.

Talk about left Field: Apple lures back Tesla engineering guru

lee harvey osmond

Re: Cue Elon Musk

... and for all we know, and for all the article’s title “Apple lures back ...”, maybe the reason why he quit is ... Elon Musk.

Fukushima reactors lend exotic nuclear finish to California's wines

lee harvey osmond

Re: 1952?


The Trinity test used a plutonium pit, same design as Fat Man on Aug 9th.

The fissile material in Little Boy on Aug 6th was 235U.

lee harvey osmond


137Cs is a 235U fission product. In principle we started making that as soon as we started doing uranium fission in Dec 1938. The first significant discharge into the environment would have on 6th Aug 1945, unless the Hanford crew lost some spent fuel before then and told nobody

watchOS 5 hints at new Apple wearables and life beyond the Watch

lee harvey osmond

Re: "yes, they still make Teasmades"

Technical issues.

As per a fellow commentard's remarks, the water in the input tank won't be freshly drawn, it'll have been standing there for several hours. The tea or teabags in the teapot waiting for the arrival of boiling water will have been out of one's airtight tea caddy for a similar number of hours.

In my experience, one has to either pour+strain (or remove teabags) as soon as boiling water delivery ends.

Worst of all: milk. If one's aim is to have a machine make tea for you at your bedside, your choices are to do without milk, or to have a fridge next to the bed (impractical: tiny fridges are known for noise and appalling electrical efficiency), or to have individual pots of UHT, or ... to get out of bed and go to the kitchen fridge.

The technology can be repurposed as it is essentially a self-puring kettle fused to an alarm clock. Load the teapot with instant coffee granules, fruit tea or what have you.

My overall assessment is: overalls not required to operate your teasmade. The tea is more palatable than 'better than nothing', it is at least 'adequate', though not 'good'.

lee harvey osmond

"yes, they still make Teasmades"

Go for the retro or vintage look, as the 'modern' one with the LCD analogue clockface has a blue backlight that is a b*stard if the unit is next to your bed (a pretty obvious deployment site for a teasmade, I'd say) and you're trying to sleep.

UK's first transatlantic F-35 delivery flight delayed by weather

lee harvey osmond

"the jet (which is easily replaced)"

Since for some reason we in the UK only own 15 F-35s so far, if they are easily replaced, why don't we hide those 15 under a tarpaulin for a bit, and 'replace' them?

I suggest that purely in cost terms, F-35 pilots are currently easier to replace than F-35s. But it wouldn't do to be caught planning anything based on that idea; it wouldn't do at all.

Blighty's super-duper F-35B fighter jets are due to arrive in a few weeks

lee harvey osmond


or, "abandon all these expensive military manned aviation programmes, and buy missiles instead" er, you are the ghost of Duncan Sandys and I claim my £5

lee harvey osmond

Re: But.. but..

"Very dangerous if one engine failed, like most twin engined WW2 british aircraft."

But -especially- true in the Mosquito.

The problem is that the sudden imbalance in thrust causes the aircraft to begin a ground loop, ie make a very tight turn on the ground. In a Mosquito being accelerated down a runway by two Merlins, that'll probably tear off the undercarriage and the aircraft will be sliding along on its belly. Wooden aircraft, two tons of bombs, couple of tons of petrol, and hot engine exhausts ... not fun.

lee harvey osmond

"Starved of hydro-electric power


It was about crippling the steelmaking industry.

Without water they couldn't make steel, without steel there would be no weapons, and without weapons there would be no war.

"Thousands of German personnel were promptly redeployed to sit around the dams manning flak guns"

more importantly, 20000 man years of construction effort got committed to rebuilding the dams, which might otherwise have been spent building Atlantic Wall defences, which might explain why on and after D-Day Allied troops overran locations they expected bunkers but found only surveyors pegs.

Take-off crash 'n' burn didn't kill the Concorde, it was just too bloody expensive to maintain

lee harvey osmond


It is once more time to discuss Concorde's lavatory. Right at the tail of the aircraft where the fuselage begin to taper, so, if a conventionally-sized adult male standing up to pee, you didn't have the headroom to look down to see where you were aiming

Good news: AI could solve the pension crisis – by triggering a nuclear apocalypse by 2040

lee harvey osmond

Artificial Insemination?

... just sayin' .

Morrisons launches bizarre Yorkshire Pudding pizza thing

lee harvey osmond

Don't panic... but our fragile world is drifting away from the Sun

lee harvey osmond

The sun is losing mass?

All those particles streaming away? Yes.

And what about all the hydrogen being fused into helium and generating so much heat we can see it glowing 93 million miles away? E = mc^2 and all that? About four million tonnes per second as I once heard Sir Patrick Moore claim?

Airbus warns it could quit A380 production

lee harvey osmond

Who is ‘Leahy’?

Who is this Leahy person named without introduction part-way through the article?

From Vega with love: Pegasus interstellar asteroid's next stop

lee harvey osmond

yeah, but this thing has a light curve. Not a Rama-class spacecraft then.

Hotter than the Sun: JET – Earth’s biggest fusion reactor, in Culham

lee harvey osmond

"The fission process turns two forms of hydrogen"

"The fission process"

typo or editing error ...

"turns two forms of hydrogen – deuterium (extractable from water) and tritium (produced with lithium) – into the inert gas helium – and neutrons"


"which can generate power."

Explain please.

Is it the neutrons that can generate power, or the the helium too?

How is the power generated? This is not a fission installation where the primary cooling circuit extracts heat to sustain a thermal flux to boil water and drive a steam turbine.

Microsoft's AI is so good it steered Renault into bottom of the F1 league

lee harvey osmond

Re: Results speak for themselves.

" although that Renault engine was down on absolute power it was reputed to be more driveable and (I think) fuel-efficient than the Mercedes and Ferrari engines."

False. God you must be old. That was true in 1983-5. But not any time recently.

Do please consult https://www.grandprix247.com/2017/07/02/inside-line-why-is-the-honda-engine-so-bad/ , and read the commentards' remarks.

Supposedly, the Mercedes F1 power unit (2014-) employs a technique 'turbulent jet injection' which, if you're good at it, affords more power (or torque, or economy, or ...) and also reduced emissions. Mercedes had a satisfactory power unit from the start of the current engine rules in 2014, Honda's power unit debuted with this technology in 2015 but the engineers haven't got it right yet, and Ferrari and Renault introduced it sometime mid-season 2015, having found out the previous year how far behind the game they were.

I offer an observation of my own, straying a bit off-topic here: the mass-market manufacturers such as Honda are in this game to explore the technology and train engineers, and what they're interested in is petrol engines that achieve both incredible thermal efficiency and reduced pollution profiles. Honda is unlikely to quit just because they're not winning. Alonso has a reputation for changing teams in ways that sabotage his career instead of helping it; in pursuing his it's-Honda-or-me policy with his present team's management, there is scope for him to score his biggest own goal yet.

Are Asimov's laws enough to stop AI stomping humanity?

lee harvey osmond

simplified three laws

[1] I didn't do it

[2] nobody saw me do it

[3] you can't prove anything!

Should you stay awake at night worrying about hackers on the grid?

lee harvey osmond

on the grid? not at my door?

... so are these the same hackers that are trying to abuse the smart meter I have diligently ensured will not be installed because I don't want people doing network-enabled f**kery with my domestic energy supply, only notionally facing 180deg the other way? Or different hackers entirely?

The ultimate full English breakfast – have your SAY

lee harvey osmond

poached? mustard? rocket?

Eggs to be fried by default, options include poached or scrambled.

In the case of fried or poached, the yolk is to be soft.

Tomato ketchup, or brown sauce, or mustard. Or several.

I have heard of some establishments where I live, in God's Own Southend-On-Sea, providing a sprinkling of rocket on the fryup. This is an abomination and my Inquisition will be dealing with it.

UK.gov snaps on rubber gloves, prepares for mandatory porn checks

lee harvey osmond

Re: Conjours up the image ...

Someone's got their wires crossed, I believe this is a Gordon Brown reference.

Remember his catchphrase when Chancellor "we will do <whatever> when Prudence permits"?

Yup. She had a flat in Bayswater apparently. [And, leather or rubber, never plastic. Ugh.]


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