# Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

3349 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

### Indianapolis man paints his ball every day – for FORTY YEARS

#### I'll raise a glass to eccentricity

Brilliant case of doing something "just because". More of this kind of harmless weirdness can make the world a better place (in a small way), simply by putting a smile on peoples' faces.

I wonder if he has photographs of the increase as a function of time. Could be publishable in Annals of Improbable Research. Might even be a candidate for an Ig Nobel Prize.

### Microsoft starts to fix Start Menu in new Windows 10 preview

#### Re: M\$

There is a subtle distinction between infinite and unbounded, ask any mathematician. I certainly do not want an infinite number of items, but I might not want to set a rigid bound. This is the subtle distinction between implementing a list as a static array or a dynamic data structure like a linked list. More than a decade ago one PhD student here scorned LaTeX, and wrote his thesis in MS Word, calling us LaTeX users old-fashioned, stuck-in-the-mud, conservative, etc. There were one or two sniggers when his equation editor stopped working after 128 equation objects were in the file. He phoned the helpline, and they simply told him to split the thesis into smaller chunks, each containing no more than 128 equation objects. Now this was an old version of MS-Word, and the problem may since have bee sorted, but having the limit in the first place is odd, especially given the phrase "Object Link Embedding" used for the implementation method. The phrase suggests an underlying dynamic structure, which clearly wasn't there.

Of course, I might not want infinitely many equations, but I would hesitate to set a fixed upper limit.

### Mars needs TRAFFIC COP to stop probe prangs, says NASA

In principle, SPICE should work. However, to work accurately SPICE needs an accurate model of the gravitational field around the planet. For Earth, decades of data gathering have yielded a good model, but it is still being refined. For Mars, the data are far more sparse, I would assume, so the model is not nearly as good, I would assume. It might be good enough, of course

SNAP ;-)

### SOHO solar scope spies 3000th 'sungrazer' comet

#### Well done that man!

A toast to the 3000th Soho Sun-grazer and Worachate Boonplod!

(and yes, that does sound a bit like a History Monk's name to me, but goodness knows what my name means in Thai)

### Asus ZenBook UX305: With Windows 10, it suddenly makes perfect sense

The UX305 I have does support multi-touch and swipes on the touchpad, and that is a definite step up from my older laptops. I haven't compared it directly to the MacBook, so cannot say which is better. I have worked on earlier MacBooks and got on perfectly well (give me bash, emacs, LaTeX and a compiler and I am quite happy ;-)). OS-wars are SO last century ;-)

#### Re: RAM?

My UX305 model has 4GB which actually is enough for my work on the laptop (8GB would be nicer, of course, but that model, with 256GB SSD was beyond my budget). I have a 16GB desktop for heavier lifting, and a 512GB compute server at work for more serious stuff. Replacing the disk is something I may well consider. I was thinking that if I clone the windows disk image and it doesn't work, I could put back the original disk, and put the bigger SSD in my desktop (which has only HDD). If it does work, I would wipe the 128GB one and install that in the desktop.

#### I like it

I have bought one some weeks back and really like it. Excellent travel laptop. Haven't put Linux on it just yet. Apart from work, I use mine to capture solar H-alpha mosaic images, and the SSD keeps up with the full-HD 128FPS camera I use for that. It is also really fast processing the 60-odd GB of data I collect for each mosaic. Much faster than a Core i5 HDD machine I have. I will put Linux on when I get that external USB3 SSD to stream the captured data onto, so I can split the 128GB disk into a Linux and Windows partition.

### Brown kid with Arab name arrested for bringing home-made clock to school

#### Re: Hysteria

"Lets just hope Hollywood never depicts a car bomb, we'd all get arrested driving to work."

Only if you look Arabic (to a cop, that is)

Regarding the poor kid: Appalling behaviour by the police and the school principal, but alas not unexpected. The principal is rather unprincipled, methinks

### PRIME SPACE: Bezos in Cape Canaveral SPACE PODULE debut

#### Is a commercial space race hotting up?

Could be interesting. I will watch (this) space with interest

### BAN the ROBOT WHORES, says robot whore expert: 'These AREN'T BARBIES'

#### Re: Where does she draw the line?

I think you should draw the line when they implement the GPP-feature. Not necessarily for ethical reasons, but just because Sirius Cybernetics is bound to get something HORRIBLY wrong in "your plastic pal who's fun to be with".

That, and inevitably the genuine people personality will be thoroughly annoying in some way

### KREMLIN: Google is ABUSING ITSELF, misusing its mighty market position

#### Re: Surely the Kremlin would be familiar with rule #1?

BTW, I thought rule 1 was:

"Do not act incautiously when confronting little bald wrinkly smiling men"

#### Re: Surely the Kremlin would be familiar with rule #1?

I am not at all opposed to a little introspection by Google, but I am not sure Putin sees them as a crazed tyrant. I think he just sees them as a potential source of protection moneyfines.

"That's a nice data centre you have there. It would be a shame if something happened to it"

### Vanished global warming may not return – UK Met Office

#### WHAT??!! No mention of an impending Maunder Minimum?

Which may plunge us into a mini ice age!! (Or not, of course)

Runs for cover ;-)

<sermon>

Seriously, as a scientist (not climate science, I hasten to add) I find the bickering and mud-slinging (perpetrated by both sides) tiresome and unhelpful in the extreme. As scientists we are bound to disagree, but at least keep the discussion civil

</sermon>

And anyway, not burning up non-renewable fuels might be a good idea whatever the truth about global warming. We might need that stuff in the future for other things

### Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Fancy a ham and cheese 'dry tree trunk' sarnie?

#### Re: @ tfewster

I will comment on the quality of Asturian cider when I have had a statistically significant sample of it.

#### People should eat steak any way they like

My preference depends very much on the quality. Generally I go for rare (and I do not mean the "rare" I sometimes get in the UK, which is more like medium, I mean rare as in "saignant" in France), and in the best cases I will even have it "bleu" as the French say (very, very rare).

That however is purely my taste. If a guest at my house wants his steak well done, or medium, I just leave them in the pan a bit longer, while the juices settle in my own.

Back to cachopo: really interesting "Cordon Bleu on steroids"

Darn, I am hungry now

### Viper sinks fangs into unwary Indian farmer's todger

#### OUCH!!!

I am sure I am not the only male reading this who instinctively drew his legs together protectively.

### MYSTERIES of remote ICE WORLD PLUTO: New pics BAMBOOZLE boffins

#### Absolutely wonderful stuff

It is always exciting when new scientific data throw up more questions than answers

### Don't want to upgrade to Windows 10? You'll download it WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT

#### Re: "Personal" computer no more

Very well worded indeed. I am seriously alarmed at windows hogging a whole 3GB on my new 128GB SSD lappy. I will see if I can clean up the disk forthwith. I would love to ditch the last vestiges of windows on my machines, but there are some data acquisition and image processing tools that I have not yet been able to replace OR run under WIN or in a VM. More's the pity

Amazing image

### Google robo-car suffers brain freeze after seeing hipster cyclist

#### Re: Track Stand? Bah.

Haven't seen this kind of fix-gear bike hear yet (this being the Netherlands, and me being a cycle commuter, I get to see LOTS of bikes). The only single speed bikes I have used a lot myself had back-pedal breaks and certainly a freewheel. These types are still popular here, what with the Netherlands being so flat, there is not much use for the lower two thirds of the 24 speeds of my current bike Koga-Miyata (fun in Dartmoor, though)

### Oh no Wikiwon't: Russians plan own version of 'distorted' Wikiland

#### Re: Great

And slood? Have the Russians invented slood yet?

The one with Terry Pratchett's "Truth" in the pocket, please

### Perhaps the AIpocalypse ISN'T imminent – if Google Translate is anything to go by, that is

#### Re: It could be worse

Brilliant, just brilliant.

### Hawking, Musk, Woz (and others): Robots will kill us all

#### "Perhaps these are actually human problems."

SSH! Don't tell the robots, they might decide this is reason enough to get rid of us.

### NASA's Dawn gets intimate with Ceres

#### I'll drink to the name Byggvir

Excellent choice! Mine is a Westmalle Tripel

### What's Russia smoking? Kremlin bans Wikipedia for dopey article

#### Re: Crowd Control

Not just Vodka, Russians also like their коньяк (cognac), some of it pretty good too

#### Re: You what?

Please do not feed the troll

### Manhattan-sized iceberg splits from glacier – and spotted FROM SPACE

#### Re: when measuring things in terms of Manhattans

Given an ice cube of size of approximately 10cc, That would yield some 1.75x1015 ice cubes. At two cubes per drink we could make 8.75x1014 gin and tonics. This means roughly 120,000 drinks per person for the entire population of earth, equating to 32.8 years of partying at 10 drinks per day (modest enough I would say)

### FBI probed SciFi author Ray Bradbury for plot to glum-down America

#### Interesting, and probably accurate way of putting it

From the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) report

“He noted that some of Bradbury's stories have definitely slated against the United States and its capitalistic form of government”

(my emphasis)

Interesting use of the word "capitalistic." Given the influence (then and now) of big money, it is perhaps a more important distinction than democratic.

I am also perennially amused by a certain group of Americans who shout at the top of their voices that America is the land of the free, and yet don't like liberals. Maybe they should look up the etymology of the word liberal. Just a thought

Many other Americans despair rather than smile at the attitude of these fellow countrymen

### High-heeled hacker builds pen-test kit into her skyscraper shoes

#### A kind of SEP-field, maybe

By making something EXTRA VISIBLE her shoes become Someone Else's Problem, and they are therefore invisible

### NASA dismisses asteroid apocalypse threat

#### Re: Er.

Or was that wonton destruction?

Hmm, dumplings ........

OK, I am off to the Chinese takeaway

### NASA reveals Cassini probe's last glimpse of Saturn's icy moon Dione

#### Stunning imagery

The Cassini-Huygens missions has been such a huge success, it is sad (but inevitable) that it should end soon. A toast to the scientists and engineers who have worked so hard to make this a success. Looking forward to the extreme close ups of Enceladus and the other last fruits of the mission

### Gas giant cores actually built from shedloads of gravel

#### Re: This must come as a surprise...

I gather he wanted to do Jupiter all in fjords

### Yet another Android app security bug: This time 'everything is affected'

#### Re: Tip o' the hat to Mr Pratchett

In the name of preserving the good Anglo-Saxon tradition of alliteration (Beowulf and all that), I would turn that into

"An embuggerance of exploits"

Doffs hat (the Panama, today) to both Powernumpty and the late great Sir Terry Pratchett

Just my tuppence

### Activist pens pirate's map to 'liberating' academic journals

#### Re: big move towards open-access publishing

OA costs can certainly be a problem. Our research foundation does pay for those costs (as do EU programmes, I gather). In other countries the situation is worse. A key problem is that new OA journals lack the impact factor of established journals, making setting up a new journal (OA or otherwise) difficult. IEEE allows you to choose a model in certain journals at least, I understand. That might be the best way forward: established journals offering a choice.

#### Different publishers take very different stances

IEEE allows the authors to place the material on their website, provided that IEEE copyright notice is included, and that the server prominently displays a notice alerting readers to their obligations with respect to copyrighted material. An example is this one here (bottom of page in particular). This is a very good way of doing things I feel. Elseviers is FAR more restrictive, which is why I prefer publishing with IEEE.

There is a big move towards open-access publishing. This allows anyone to access the paper, but is more costly for the authors. However, given the total cost of a typical research project, open access publishing costs are insignificant

### Camera-carrying DOLPHIN SPY caught off Gaza

#### Re: Whatever next?

Marlins with Missiles?

Icon, because them Missiles be Minutemen

### Boffins identify world's (possibly) first flowering plant

Like grasses which are wind pollinated, many if not most underwater angiosperms are pollinated through water currents (last time I looked I never spotted bees in scuba gear ;-) )

### Hacktivists congratulate Daily Show's Jon Stewart via Donald Trump's website

#### Re: Trump

Are eggs and beans used in the production of this fragrance?

I somehow think there is sufficient hot air in the man not to need such assistance

### Microsoft replaces Windows 10 patch update, isn't saying why

#### Re: “includes improvements to enhance the functionality of Windows 10.”

I do not think they would make ANY mention of "improved functionality" in that case, they would simply take a page out of their version of the BOFH excuse generator for patching. After all "correcting several buffer overflow errors" sounds perfectly plausible. Maybe the vague "improvements to enhance the functionality" clause simply is a euphemism for "bricks/borks fewer machines than the previous update"

Or if you do not want to be cynical, it might refer to some modest algorithmic improvements somewhere in this huge amount of code. I have often made a series of incremental improvements to code (improving memory efficiency, slight improvements to speed, etc) in image processing and visualisation code in various releases, and not bothered to specify each and every one.

Whatever the meaning I will not be installing it on any machine of mine any time soon.

### Flying Spaghetti Monster spotted off Angolan coast

#### Re: Monday morning design

Fair enough, I would say. On the other hand I can never quite get the hang of Thursdays

### Susan Sheridan, voice of Hitchhiker's Trillian, dies aged 68

Very sad news. I have fond memories of listening to the tapes of the radio plays driving a battered old VW Beetle through France.

### Mathematician: sunspot could mean mini ice age from 2030

#### Re: What does this mean for PV?

The minimum does refer to sunspots, and the total energy output of the sun does not vary much, but there is a definite correlation between sunspot activity and global temperature (spanning hundreds of years). The current understanding of the physics suggests that the weaker solar magnetic field during minimum causes more cosmic rays to penetrate the atmosphere, seeding more clouds, which increases Earth's mean albedo.

This correlation between solar activity and global temperature does not necessarily deny the existence of AGW, but no doubt it will muddle (and muddy) the discussion on AGW (yet again). Futile, really, because getting rid of dependence of fossil fuels is a good thing for many reasons besides the warming issue (as many others have noted).

What worries me (a bit) is that I have got myself a load of (expensive) solar astronomy kit, and it would be a shame if the views get boring. On the other hand, nobody knows what the sun looks like in H-alpha during the onset of a Maunder-type minimum, so recording it (IF it happens) is going to be interesting. Even a fairly quiet sun in white light can be full of drama in H-alpha, as can be seen in this shot (with Earth to scale added)

### NASA pops open a big can of red planet whup-ass with Mars Trek

#### Great piece of outreach software

I really like these kinds of releases of data and visualisation to the public. Great job NASA!

#### Re: You sir owe me a new keyboard

Seconded!

With a camera easily capable of generating a data stream of 600MB/s I really want some of this new tech in my next machine

### China wants to build a 200km-long undersea tunnel to America

#### Re: Sleep

I have much the same problems on long flights, and rarely if ever manage any real shut-eye. The same holds for the sleeper-trains I have been on, alas (not so much the toddlers, but the vibrations and noise). I have had a ride on a Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto which was so amazingly smooth that I do believe I could sleep on that one.

My main concern is building a long under-sea tunnel in a tectonically active region.

### Wendi the horny dino named after Canadian fossil hunter. Charming!

#### Re: Is she really a "boffin"?

She must be at least an honorary boffin

### PLUTO: The FINAL FRONTIER – best image yet of remote, icy dwarf planet REVEALED

#### Re: Maybe they will find

You are right, that was Nereid.

#### Maybe they will find

we rented the planet out to Outsiders, just their kind of environment, apparently.

On a more serious note: I cannot wait to see the real close-up images.

### Sorry, say boffins, the LHC still hasn't sucked us into a black hole

#### Re: Bravo

You won't be saying that as you get dragged screaming towards CERN one day!

Simple conservation of mass (or equivalently energy) will tell you that the black holes formed have no more mass than the particles from which they formed. The black holes do not exert more gravitational attraction than those selfsame particles. Only if they live long enough (which they shouldn't) and have time enough to accrete more mass could they pose any danger. The very same theory that predicts their formation suggests they should decay before this happens. A scenario like in Larry Niven's "The Hole Man" is perhaps not impossible, but very, very, improbable.

What you should not do is work out the exact improbability, and feed that into an infinite improbability drive, of course.