* Posts by Alexander 3

33 posts • joined 24 Jun 2009

Star Trek tractor beam to save Earth from asteroid Armageddon

Alexander 3

A dangerous science...

I share the Sagan view that such technology should not be developed. The ability to deflect a asteroid that presents a danger is also the ability to shift a harmless asteroid into a weapon. While far less wieldy than good ol'-fashioned nuclear annihilation, it's also not needed. A much better investment would be in asteroid detection systems. Time to react is the most critical determination in almost all planetary defence strategies.

Global warming much less serious than thought - new science

Alexander 3
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All true, and...

Further, that 2 degree change would have far more of an impact in areas with already harsh climates. Areas susceptible to desertification, for instance, might see the growth of the desert onto arable land sped up, cutting food production in areas where food security is already very poor. Even worse, if the warming meant that rain patterns changed, vast areas of the world - typically where people live - would find themselves drying up. They, and their crops, would die or be forced to relocate. A small change could dramatically impact population support capacity in areas, which is where the deaths and conflict will stem from.

Some areas, of course, will likely benefit from shifts in environment - perhaps the Canadian North will become warm enough for crops, or the Himalayas might become wetter. But... even if this does happen, it will take a long time for us to take advantage of it - the ground to become fertile, people to move, infrastructure to be built etc... and we have no guarantee that any of this will offset the loss in resources.

Got a few minutes to help LOHAN suck?

Alexander 3
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Cooling even necessary?

Looks like fun. I'm wondering if you need to cool the environment though - my expectation would be that at that altitude, you'll have such a rarified environment that a dark-coloured rocket body might get quite toasty. Not done the calc, but my guess is that 99% of your "coldness" will escape REHAB altogether..

Be interesting to see about the pressure effects. I assume your rocket doesn't carry oxidiser, so it'll be fun to see if you can get ignition or not!

No chance now to save Phobos-Grunt Mars mission

Alexander 3

Just what I was pondering...

I assume they wouldn't try to get the whole craft back. It might well be possible to return interesting parts - the Mars transfer stage would have more than enough juice to bring the craft speed way down. At that point, a heat shield isn't so important as the craft would be going "slowly" and would just fall into the atmosphere "down". It would hardly heat up at all - a mere few hundred degrees. Still, doesn't solve the minor problem of plummeting towards the ground with no effective parachute. I wonder how many interesting parts would survive the bounce. A landing would be stretching it a bit...

Enormous orbiting solar raygun power plants touted

Alexander 3

A few corrections

Gyros can't, strictly speaking, position you in space; all they can do is control your attitude. Which is also critically important.

You don't need to put a solar power station in geostationary. You would almost certainly put it in a MEO orbit. Not much atmospheric drag, lots of space, and little shadowing from Earth.

Solar flux above the atmosphere is about 1.3kW/m^2

You could quite easily show that such a space facility is not a weapon as the design would have to be considerably different. Plus they would be fragile, vulnerable targets if used as weapons. Nukes are far cheaper, easier and destructive...!

I'm a big fan of solar power in space, but the economics demand a much cheaper launch mechanism. Roll on the Skylon!

Hero Ordnance Surveyors dodge bullets, tweet as they map

Alexander 3


It's a well-tested bit of kit that does the job needed. Seems unnecessary to update...?

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: Blu-ray extended edition

Alexander 3
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Pity about the box...

That box looks real nice ... except for that ghastly, completely out-of-place BluRay band on the top. Whey couldn't they have been a little subtler, like they were on the spine? Even the age advisories are eyesores...

Then again, I've always been bitter about BR since they dropped the "e" from "Blue" and haven't used physical media in years. Always seems so ... quaint..

Fukushima fearmongers are stealing our Jetsons future

Alexander 3

Yes, really.

Coal is a massive killer; directly, through the mining process which kills miners every day, and indirectly through the particulate pollution on a population. Gas extraction is not without hazards also; explosions and blowouts can and do occur. Geothermal I don't know about. If wind was scaled up to the power of a nuclear output, it would certainly kill more people (simply from maintenance workers falling off the turbines if nothing else). Wave is too small to have sensible fatality statistics. But I'll grant you that solar is possibly safer...

The point is... of all the major power sources, nuclear is, accidents (past and future) included, the safest...

Stealing credit card details via NFC is easy/pointless

Alexander 3

Nah, they have asian crooks also...

I wonder... I suspect they have equally ingenious and malicious crims out there. If we feel we have more of it here, I suspect it's either due to us being careless, our implementations being poor or - most likely - we're being more worried about it because it's new and unknown.

But I reckon they have their fair share of crime out there but they manage it... much the same way we do with our current tech. The question is, would this change make it better or worse and, if worse, is the added convenience an acceptable tradeoff for it?

Alexander 3

very true...

Very true, but this is more because the current system is inherently insecure, built before proper technological security maturity. If you can build an inherently secure system, then the need for "security through obscurity" - the current setup - is not needed. In that world, while I would certainly prefer my details remain private wherever possible, I would also be assured that their being public is not going to be harmful to me.

Alexander 3

yeah... card security is crazy weak out in the US

I got out to the US and it is ridiculous how poor the card security here is. I got a debit card a year ago and use it every day for transactions. I sign for almost everything (you can usually use a PIN but it's never mandatory). However, I've still not signed my card, which means not one of the thousands of transactions I have done has ever checked my identity. I could nab anyone's card and empty it in the shops before the victim could report it...

Online here you don't typically use the CVV, but usually need an address. Not sure if that's a hard rule though.

Interpol issues arrest notice for Wikileaks' Julian Assange

Alexander 3
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Red Notice != Arrest Warrant

Actually, this isn't an arrest warrant, it's more akin to a request for information.


But yeah, looks mighty fishy to me. Still, I reckon when Assange is done with all the leaking, he should probably turn himself in and face the music. If I was being unfairly accused of something, I think Sweden would be one of the best places to receive the trial...

Top Ten Retro PC Games

Alexander 3

I concur with the flaming man

Civ should be there, any one of them. And X-Wing. Retro to me is 10+ years ago and I'm sure that's a fairly relaxed criterion... Incidentally, that makes PS2 retro and xbox very nearly...

Alexander 3
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MoO2....hell yeah

I approve wholeheartedly of both those games! MOO2 in particular stole too many of my hours and too much of my heart...

New US swarmsats will scatter to avoid space-war strikes

Alexander 3

Yes, but...

Spacebourne lasers don't yet exist, while kinetic-kill by missile has been done by (at least?) the US and China. It's worth noting that this ability is a side-effect of satellite fractionation, not the main attraction..

Alexander 3

Indirect Line of Sight.

"Unless they just mean that the swarm has to be big enough to cover the entire Earth - though that would take a lot of birds..."

That's where Immarsat comes in. They provide a non-direct line of sight. The article is referring to direct satellite-ground links, which as you say is impossible all the time.

Electric mass-driver catapults to beat Royal Navy cuts?

Alexander 3

Radar LoS problems

A little off topic, but if you want to see over the horizon, why not float some large balloons with the needed radar gear up a couple kilometers? You'd see as far or further than you would with an aircraft, would have "infinite" loiter time, cheap and replaceable operation. The whole radar beacon thing might be a problem, but if you were in a hot zone you could untether them and let them float away while sending data back for a couple hours.

The US border partol did something similar: http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/usa/airdef/tars.htm

El Reg marks Steve Jobs for termination

Alexander 3
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A bear?

I love a post-work Friday evening bear with the lads..

Most new 2009 EU powerplant was wind oops, gas

Alexander 3


That's the idea behind Combined Heat and Power stations. Either centralised or not, the principle is "Heat fluid. Generate as much power as you can off of it. Then pump the waste into houses/factories as a heat/pressure source". Saves energy twice, as then those secondary sources don't need to run gas-burning boilers..

Alexander 3

Overheating plants?

This problem affects all power plants that work by heating water - including all types of fossil fuel sites - not just nuclear.

Rainbow plane warps in from gay dimension

Alexander 3

Colour separation

I assume that it's because the camera is capturing the red, green and blue elements from its CCD at slightly different moments. The grounds is unaffected (probably some correction happening), but because the aircraft is moving fast relative the the ground it has moved noticeably between the blue, green and red snaps. Not sure why they'd do this (usually all three are captured simultaneously) - maybe some quirk of the specialised, high-res camera they were using?

Might also have something to do with the optics - someone mentioned chromatic aberration which sounds like a nice technical word and so may have something to do with it!

PARIS gets her very own private enclave

Alexander 3
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Good stuff

Looks like fun. When I did this my balloon drifted out over the North Sea (at least, that's what I think it did. Never got it back so can't see its log). Watch out for that! If possible, consider putting a small HAM radio on board that can tell you where it is in-flight (or maybe that's what your Morse beacon is doing?). Will be following this one!

And now - new stealth jumpjet makes first hover landing

Alexander 3
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Skyranger to replace the Hercules?

Aah X-Com. Now I want to play it again. Goodbye, productivity.

IMO, the Lightning and Firestorm were both pants. Personally, I'd be happy with an X-Com Interceptor - they could VTOL, carry a full weapons load half way around the planet and back and do so at over Mach 3. And they were available in 1999 for $2M apiece. Our defense biz is failing us. What we need is a good old alien invasion and threat of global enslavement to get their arses into gear...

NASA aims for Friday WISE up

Alexander 3
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The bear - was it curled up or stretched out, ready to attack?

I think that all mass and linear dimensions should be expressed in polar bears. It does make things much more understandable, given the general public's familiarity with polar bear dimensions.

LHC knocked out by ANOTHER power failure

Alexander 3

Looks like the Daily Mail!

That headline. Seems a little tabloid-esque, don't you think? Using capitalistion to rouse us all into a mob of luddites who will demand the shutdown of the LHC project as it's just ANOTHER example of an EU quango that's mis-managing everything disastrously until all the directors can retire on fat cat pensions...

Or is A.N.O.T.H.E.R. a shady terrorist organisation bent on disrupting vital science by the Centre for Effective Ruffian Neutralisation?

Alexander 3


I was able to copy that without issue. Could your company have restricted context menus and the Ctrl-C combination in IE? You know, in case they wanted to do something dodgy...

Generators and UPS fail in London datacentre outage

Alexander 3
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Actually, our UPSs are doing a grand job..

I know what you're getting on to, but no, there are plenty of systems that have no problems at all because they have effective (and tested..) systems in place. However, a "Blackout Causes Failover System To Work As Expected!!" doesn't make quite as good a headlight as "Blackout Causes Failover to Fail Epically! Zombie incursions expected!!"

Designers detail the cars of 2030

Alexander 3

What's the use?

Why do people spend so much time drawing up these concepts and then predict that's what cars will look like?

None of those designs have any redeeming technical features as far as I can see. Every one of them will be less suitable as a means of transport than pretty much any modern car. The designer's bold statements of cheap price, building materials and powr source are hollow - just said to make them sound a little more chic, with no consideration of practicalities.

I mean, by all means make predictions of the future, but if you're going to, have some rational behind them. These are purely artworks and belong in an art magazine or futuristic movie, not a technical news site...

Hmm, strange how I get so worked up about this!

WTF is this country called America?

Alexander 3
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America? No such place!

I think your pundit there is politely protesting your correspondent's confusion of the country and the continent. Although he doesn't actually say so, he may have a point. There's no country called "America"; however, judging from your hint of a "really big piece of land south of [Canda]", perhaps he thought you were referring to the United States of America.

Of course, that's all complete gobberwonk. Mr Page would not make such an egregarious geographic error! He fully intended to refer to Virginia, on the American *continent*. To avoid confusion with all the /other/ Virginias of the world..

Google Maps Monopoly board folds under server strain

Alexander 3

Where are the Clouds?

Isn't handling excess load spikes - like those at launch - one of the main justifications for Cloud Computing? "Hi Amazon, I need some mammoth bandwidth and CPU time for a week. Here's some cash, give me some virtual machines" or something?

Slime-powered Toyota Prius demoed

Alexander 3

Forget cars...

If you can grow it in coasts and other shallow salt waters and it's high-grade flammable, isn't this an excellent means to generate fuel for existing oil power plants? Carbon neutral, solar generation, minimal capital cost, technologically suitable for any county, no land use, storable..

People on the coast might complain about the smell though.

Designers conjure up wacky 'car of the future'

Alexander 3

A design eh?

There doesn't seem to be any engineering basis or reasoning behind why a car would look like that. It's pure speculation - which sounds like an art project to me. I wonder how they get funding to create these designs..

It would be ok if they introduced some ideas of what a car should look like, but they haven't. That mockup doesn't seem to address issues of aerodynamics, cornering and accelerative forces on occupants, where the energy storage will be, how the vehicle will behave in a crash...

I mean, how will you seen what's on the TV with a large window infront and behind it? Why would you have a TV in the first place, when there's a large glass panel you could make your display (this is 2040 after all. They have windows that are also 150" monitors. That are touchscreen.)

El Reg commentards offered extra iconography

Alexander 3
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Icon demand!

How about a "I want more icons" icon?

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