I note that none of the ones in the list come close to the Carrington Event (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrington_Event)
235 publicly visible posts • joined 7 Mar 2007
But is Dark Matter real?
There seems to be a fundamental assumption in Gianotti's statement that Dark Matter actually exists. While the consensus is that it does, there is a significant minority view that it's our understanding of Gravity that is incomplete, and recently that view has gained strength. There is the persistent gap between different estimates of the Hubble Constant from different methodologies, and the difference exceeds the experimental error of either technique. I may be garbling things, but I am a geologist and data nerd, not a cosmologist! But surely it would make more sense to work on investigations like the LISA probe and astrometric measurements than try to bang things together harder when we don't have a theoretical basis for doing so.
I guess this is data storage!
The unit I worked for had a very large library collection of maps stored flat in map presses, which were steel cabinets with large, shallow drawers to store maps, each press was about 4' wide, 4' deep and 4 ' high. The cabinets on their own were impressively heavy; when filled with maps they were immovable. We had a group of 6 of these arranged as an island in the middle of the room..
Originally our map library was on the ground floor, but the unit moved to an upper floor. We moved the map presses (or rather, a removal company did so), and all was well - until I noticed that presses that were in contact at floor level had an inch-wide gap between them at the upper surface! I made a hasty phone call to the people responsible for building services, which got a VERY long considering pause! It turned out that the floor was strong enough, but the weight of the map presses was enough to deflect the floor slightly. But I think it gave the Building Services people a bad few minutes!
As the top of the map cabinets was used as a working space (you need lots of flat surfaces when working on maps) rearranging them next to the walls wasn't an option. They were still OK when I retired, about 20 years later!
Re: The RJ family...
I did computing in the dark ages, working on prototype systems (there only ever was one!) based on Z80s (an S100 bus single card computer), with many interconnections with external equipment. Most external stuff was either RS232 or (rarely) IEEE-488. The latter was easy; it just worked. But I don't think I ever came across two RS232 connections that were the same! The good old break-out box was an essential tool. That and trying to work out whether it was 8 bit, 8 bit + parity , occasionally 7 bit and 7 bit plus parity, hard or soft handshaking, and MANY more combinations!
Anyone professionally involved in map-making should be well aware of the political sensitivities attached to it! The number of places around the world where the wrong name will get you into hot water is enormous. Google fudges the issue in some places (e.g. Falklands/Malvinas) but of course, that's only one of many similar issues. Antarctica is a special case with many different (and equally authoritative) naming authorities (see https://www.scar.org/data-products/place-names/) - and although territorial claims are "held in abeyance", they still exist!
Making maps of a territory is one of the ways that nations assert their sovereignty, and Foreign Offices are notoriously sensitive to such things. It's one of the very few issues where I have had to toe a political line!
Its a bit Meh!
I'm writing this on a Windows 11 Laptop, and I actually had to look to see what OS I'm running! In terms of my user experience, it's pretty much indistinguishable from the Windows 10 desktop machine I use at home.
I guess that's the problem: Windows 11 is "So what?" After all, what I use are applications; the OS is almost irrelevant to me as long as it runs the applications I need. I keep being a bit annoyed at the dumbed-down "Settings", but that's really all I notice!
How representative is this sample?
I applaud the technical genius that has brought this sample back to earth, but there is an issue that I don't recall having seen addressed anywhere, which is, How representative is the sample of the bulk of Bennu? Bennu's surface is subject to a variety of erosional effects, such as outgassing of volatile elements, gardening by micrometeorites, and erosion by the solar wind. Surely this must mean that the surface down to an unknown depth is a sort of remanié (otherwise known as lag) deposit? So the surface layers might well be enriched in less volatile and more durable substances and depleted in fragile or volatile materials. I am sure the PIs will have considered this, but I haven't actually seen anything in a public statement.
Re: Ah, the 80's...
In the 1970s I worked in the Oil business in a company that stored data - hard copy and tapes mainly - for oil companies. My job was data acquisition and data management; we used a series of computer or computer-adjacent systems to manage the catalogues. At times I had to work in the offices of our clients. The level of paranoid security the oil companies engaged with was amazing! I've been in places like Los Alamos National Laboratory and none of them have security like the oil companies did in the 1970s.
Re: Why do people call a small outpost a colony ?
Antarctica is a special case, because there is an international agreement NOT to colonize it - The Antarctic Treaty. But creating a self-sufficient colony in Antarctica would be almost as difficult as on Mars - there is no way that crops could be grown in the open, so you'd be looking at a similar artificial environment. The Russians did make some progress in that direction on Svalbard - at Barentsburg, when I visited it, they managed to rear things like tomatoes under glass, and had a small dairy herd (walking past the bull in the confined quarters was a bit scary!). But the settlement was nowhere near self-sufficient. But Svalbard (because of the North Atlantic Drift) is much more hospitable than Antarctica, with many areas of ice-free terrain. Antarctica has a tiny proportion of ice-free terrain, and most of that is rock, often precipitous rock! (see https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/polar-record/article/abs/measured-properties-of-the-antarctic-ice-sheet-derived-from-the-scar-antarctic-digital-database/199572F09FD3F65BC24A018C46F12610) Sorry, there's no open-access version of the paper.
Re: Why do people call a small outpost a colony ?
There is a very good precedent. Greenland was colonized by Norway in around 980 AD. The colony was self-sufficient in food and the basics of life, but it needed resupply on a regular basis for wood (there are no useful trees in Greenland) and manufactured goods (e.g. iron). It did fine for about 400 years, with regular resupply. But when the resupply stopped, the colony failed and the colonists disappeared, probably intermarrying with and being absorbed by the Inuit. It is hypothesized (but not proven) that much the same happened to the Roanoke colony in the 16th century - resupply failed, and the colony had to integrate with the native population to survive. At its peak, the population of Viking Greenland was probably around 1000. The exact date at which the last Norse settlement collapsed is unknown, but I have read excellent accounts of the archaeology of a Norse farmstead, where it is clear that the slow wearing out of essential equipment put an end to the lifestyle of the Norwegians. Of course, the Inuit were adapted to a different way of life that didn't depend on stock-rearing and farming. The Norwegian resupply voyages were probably on the same order of time, cost and difficulty as a routiine supply by spacecraft today.
Here on Earth, we have plenty of examples of the various balances that can be struck between resupply and self-sufficiency. Given the obvious difference in the survivability of the environment, it is clear that a self-sufficient Martian colony would require a large population to sustain the necessary industrial base; manufacturing (for example) electronics (which would be essential for many purposes) would be impossible without a population comparable to a city on Earth. But with resupply, it entirely depends on the level of resupply. If the colony only produces the basics (air, water, food, power), then substantial inputs of raw materials and manufactured goods are required. If the colony can source and produce raw materials, then less resupply is needed, but a larger population to sustain the manufacturing base on Mars.
I note that Viking Greenland only survived at all because there was a viable trade in walrus ivory, furs and falcons. This trade was severely limited by the development of the Hanseatic League in Europe, which restricted such trade and resulted in the slowdown and almost cessation of the resupply voyages.. SO -perhaps we need to think about what a Martian colony could trade in to ensure the resupply was cost-effective?
Re: There's never enough staff...
And what's more, they took great pride in their work on the Pyramids. I thoroughly recommend The Red Sea Scrolls (https://amzn.eu/d/ghlHk1h); an excellent account of the latest discoveries about the way the labour was organized in the time of the Pyramids, based on recently discovered papyri at an ephemeral port on the Red Sea.
By chance, my latest dog is called Tyler, following a trend set by my first dog, Jack - both are named after the leaders of the Peasant's Revolution of 1381, Jack Straw and Wat Tyler. Of course, they are revolting little animals!
Perhaps the Regomizer has a tendency to allocate "appropriate" names? The original "Tyler" caused a great deal of confusion and damage!
Re: Nobody could have predicted the Tsunami
And the Carrington Event in 1852 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrington_Event) would have probably destroyed most satellites in orbit by frying the electronics. NASA simply state that it would be impractical to shield satellites against an event of that magnitude.
Re: Rule one...
While Rule One continues to rule (the bandwidth of a pile of USB sticks in hand luggage still beats anything with wires) , it can fail catastrophically. Very many years ago, before the Internet was a gleam in anyone's eyes, I shared an office with a PhD student. Said student had recorded data in The Arctic on film (this was before digital cameras!) and then shipped it back to the UK. Unfortunately, the film went missing in transit and was never recovered. A whole season's work went up in smoke; the student was EXTREMELY upset, but fortunately managed to recover from it (she is now a respectable member of Norway's academic elite).
We very nearly suffered something similar because of the inflexibility of airport security. Again, we had a bunch of data recorded on 35mm film. At that time, you could ask for film not to be passed through airport X-ray devices; AFAIR it was guaranteed by international agreement. Also, the fieldwork had been at least partially financed by the Norwegian government, We arrived at Oslo airport, and the security flatly refused to allow the film to bypass their X-Ray machine. They were very proud that it was a model that would not fog film, and they insisted on everything going through it, despite my boss arguing about international agreements and about the cost to the Norwegian government if the film was damaged. Fortunately, the film did survive, but if it had been a more sensitive emulsion, it might not have!
A well-known effect in yacht racing. Handicap rules are devised to ensure that yachts of different kinds can compete on level terms by applying a handicap. Designers then start to work out how they can get a better handicap without reducing the speed of the resulting yacht. This was particularly evident in the 1920s, when long overhangs at bow and stern became fashionable. The handicap rating was worked out on the waterline length when stationary, so because they had a short waterline length relative to the overall length, they got a favourable handicap. But when being sailed, they heeled over, lengthening the actual waterline length. It is well-known that the maximum speed of a displacement vessel is related to the waterline length, so the longer waterline length when heeled made them faster than the static waterline length ould indicate!
One-off prototype hardware and software
There's an essential conflict between hardware and software people, which I've experienced at first hand. In the very early 1980s, my colleague and I developed this: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/annals-of-glaciology/article/digital-radio-echosounding-and-navigation-recording-system/48C0D56C413BA23F23F92996868E1E96
I developed the software; my colleague designed and built the hardware. If I had a fiver for every time we had the routine "It's hardware!" "No, it's software!" exchange, I'd own my own super-yacht! Fortunately, we were able to remain friends - just as well, as we were also the crew operating the system in the Arctic!
Of course, I only recall the occasions when it WAS the hardware! But we depended on the Z80 interrupt system, which was very sensitive to any noise on the edge that triggered the interrupt. Debouncing circuits abounded in the final system!
"We just hang it on the washing line (remember them?) for 3/4 of the year or hang inside for the rest of the time. Much cheaper. We get plenty of free wind, and the sheets are so much nicer when they have been aired in the sun (plus bleached a bit by the sun) compared to the tumble drier."
And even more efficient to use an electric dryer (these days a heated airing rack - see previous post!) during the hours of daylight if you have solar panels!
"Now don't get me started on why we didn't replace the tumble drier!"
Well, I gave up on tumble dryers after the second one caught fire- and yes, I did clean the lint filter EVERY time I used it! The basic problem is that dust and lint slowly accumulate in inaccessible parts of the casing, no matter how clean you keep the parts that you're supposed to clean. I was fortunate - in both cases we were present and spotted the problem in time to drag the machine into the garden, where it could burn out safely. But if we'd left it running while out of the house, we'd have come home to a burnt-out shell! Both machines were well-known, reputable makes, too.
In the early 1980s I remember attending a User group meeting at a well-known University in the Fens. At this meeting, one of the issues was that one of the colleges wanted to install a bought-in accounting package on the mainframe - the mainframe (an IBM370 with a custom front end to the OS at that time) was pretty much the only game in town. A representative of the company gave a presentation. But I remember (I was part of it!) that the overwhelming attitude of those present was "Why on earth buy software when you can write it yourself?" As I'd just come from an industrial company, where I'd been tasked with writing an accounts package (it never happened; I left before it got serious, but not for that reason), the whole attitude at the time was "You want the computer to do XYZ? OK, start coding!". And I wrote a suite of data handling software to handle geographic data, and thought nothing of it - it was all in a day's work.
Pretty much routine in the 1970s
I was at University in the early 1970s, at the height of IRA bomb campaigns. Bomb scares were something that happened fairly frequently at just about any public event. My favourite was when a University Music Society concert had to be abandoned halfway through because of a bomb scare. No bomb; it was a false alarm (that particular campaign involved lots of false alarms with just enough real ones to make people take them seriously). But one of the pieces on the program was Divertissement by Jacques Ibert (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npZc5B3IPQ8&ab_channel=WDRKlassik). The concert was rescheduled for a week later - and during the finale of the rather chaotic piece (14:36 in the video), the concert hall was blacked out, a strobe light operated and a guy with a black hat and a stripy shirt ran across the stage carrying a large round object labelled "BOMB"!
A few years later my sister-in-law had a narrow escape when a real bomb went off at one of the London stations; I forget which one.
Re: Pranks and things
In my second year, the engineering students put a car (a Morris Minor, I think) on the landing on the stairs leading up to Hall in Churchill College! They also did a very ingenious arrangement with a ladder and a few other things in one of the Barbara Hepworth sculptures - it wasn't at all obvious how it was done!
Re: Paint all over everything, including power sockets and emergency buttons?
The point is that if you're a big enough organization (and they don't come bigger than governments) it's cheaper to self-insure. If you buy insurance, you're paying a rate that will, on average, meet the expected level of payouts with a margin over to give the insurer a profit. Fair enough if you're too small an organization or too poor an individual (like me) to bear the risk; you pay someone else to take the risk, with a bit over to allow them to stay in business. But if you're a big organization, then it makes more sense to shoulder the risk, as on the whole it will be cheaper by the profit margin of the insurance company. Of course, legally required insurance is unavoidable - but, for example, I think that company cars in such circumstances are only third party insured (the legal minimum in the UK)
Two things, both with the same employer in the late 70s!
1) Company moved to a new headquarters, and telephone access to our computer (a bureau service) was essential (this was pre-internet days, and British Telecom (it might still have been the General Post Office!) were the only supplier. We had arranged with them for the telephone lines to be connected on the day of the move, well in advance. Come the day - no engineer. Rang them; "Oh, the engineers are on strike!" One and only time I have come close to losing my cool; they were told in VERY strong terms that it was their problem, not ours, and we had their name on a supply contract! I must have hit a nerve - an engineer (probably one who had been promoted to management) turned up and we got our connection. Or it might have been a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease...
2) The hardware included a disc drive - probably a few megabytes in a thing the size of a spin dryer. It needed fairly regular maintenance (I had the usual collection of crashed disc platters on display). Funny thing was that every single time the engineer came, there were screws left behind - they knew they'd be back, and why put screws back in that they knew they'd be taking out again?
Given that there are Martian meteorites on Earth, it is almost certain that there will be terrestrial meteorites on Mars. So, if a terrestrial meteorite (which we know would have a good chance of carrying terrestrial microorganisms such as D. radiodurans) landed on the Martian polar caps, it could easily have a short-lived environment after landing during which surviving bacteria could reproduce. As there is evidence for repeated melting and refreezing at the Martian Poles (e.g. "Spiders" and "trees"), it seems to me that we should EXPECT there to be bacteria or similar micro-organisms at least in the vicinity of the polar ice caps.
Re: Bad design
I hit this one recently; quarantine in Hong Kong. You had to have 4 successive negative PCR tests, which had to be done at either the quarantine hotel or at an official centre. The results were notified via SMS, and as part of the registration process, you had to give a mobile phone number. Snag was, I only had my UK phone; it (although supposedly unlocked) wouldn't accept a Hong Kong SIM (but that's another story) and the registration process would only accept Hong Kong or Chinese international dialling codes! I ended up buying a very cheap, non-smartphone just so I could receive those texts.
Many moons ago, in the mid 70's I owned a Toyota that was probably built around 1970. I locked the keys in two or three times, but it was simplicity itself to break in - a bit of bent wire between the window and the door frame to hook on the bar that operated the latch, and hey presto - you were in. I think it was a copper that showed me that trick!
I understand that cars built somewhat later had a fixed bar over the top of the bar that operated the latch so you couldn't do that!
To bring it up to date, my present car updates its software over a mobile phone connection (it has its own built in). It does ask for permission that must be given from the in car multi-function screen, though, but that only required the proximity of the key to operate it - I rarely have to take the key out of my pocket!
I drive an EV; a Volkswagen ID.3. It has a nominal range of about 240 miles. I recently did a trip from my home near Ely in Cambridgeshire, to Manchester, then Edinburgh, a day trip to St Andrew''s, then to York and finally back home. I forget the total mileage, but it must have been around 800 miles, with trips longer than the car's range on at least two days. I did not have the least problem with charging; I was able to find fast chargers at locations where I could stop for us to have a meal or whatever while the car charged, which took less than an hour for a full charge. Of course, I was never charging from a flat battery; I rarely let it go below 25% charge.
The point is that existing charging works perfectly well. Providing more of the existing type of fast chargers would cope quite happily; there was one point where I had to wait half an hour to get onto a charger, but that's a matter of sizing the facility to meet the demand. I was able to charge the car overnight at the hotels we used; I am sure that hotels have pretty quickly realized that people look for "Car Charging Facility" when choosing hotels! Slow charging mostly - even merely the provision of a standard 13 amp outlet - but overnight that was plenty.
In all that journey there was never a point at which e felt restricted or slowed down by problems with charging the car.
Re: ta ta Liz
It still feels weird saying "King". I've had 59 years, my entire life, with the "Queen" on money and stamps. (Apart from the many King George and Queen Victoria coins still around when I was younger, pre-decimalisation, some so wor you could barely make out the letting on them)
I was born shortly after the Queen's accession. Think how weird it feels after 70 years!
When I started in Computing, undergraduate computer science wasn't a thing; programming was often taught in engineering or maths courses. I learnt "on the job" several years after graduating! Kudos to Her Majesty for at least engaging with IT, when so many people of my generation refuse to.
Re: a place in hell
Not really a problem with a short name like John Smith, but if you have a patient with an eastern European or Asian name that's lengthy or difficult to spell there's a risk of mistake where you might type it wrong the second time but hit another patient's name by mistake!
Or Chinese names (or other non-alphabetic writing systems) where there might not be a consistent transliteration. My late wife's name could (quite correctly) be transliterated in several different ways. She always used the same one, but the symbol she transliterated as "Yau" could easily be transliterated as "Chiu"
I did my O-levels when £sd was still around. Try and imagine doing compound interest sums in it! Actually, we converted to pounds and decimals of pounds, did the arithmetic, and then converted the result back to £sd! But simple arithmetic operations were carried out without conversion - in some ways, it helped when you were using other number bases (e.g. octal and hexadecimal)
Of course, Britain went decimal shortly afterwards!
Incidentally, the abbreviations are actually very simple and logical - if you know Latin! Libra, Solidus and Denarius were the origins of the abbreviations, the Roman coins that were regarded as "equivalent" to the later pound (Libra means a pound weight, originally of silver!), solidus (a small silver coin) and denarius (the commonest low value copper coin). For a very long time, the only actual coin in general use was the penny (until after the Norman Conquest, I think) and the others were units of account.
At which point you just have to think about what you have done to piss off Sir John Cosmos* and wonder whether his plan of ruining your week will just stop at these corrupted backups or will he do his best to knobble your boiler on a cold morning as well.
Amd just to prove that the perversity of the Universe tends to a maximum, my central heating recently jammed ON! Fortunately before the peak of the heatwave, but it was still excessively toasty around my place until the engineer came. And yes, I could have killed it entirely - but the hot water was on the same system!
In fairness to the Police, they get some very odd requests for crime numbers resulting from the Insurance companies' love of them. I had a ridiculous one - I had my camera stolen while in Buenos Aires. Didn't realize it had been stolen until too late to do anything practical and I had no desire to get mixed up with Argentinian police (I worked for the UK government at the time). Got home and started a claim on my travel insurance. "Have you got a crime number?" they asked. I pointed out that I didn't, and they asked me to ring the local (UK) police to get one! I duly did so - and had a good laugh with the police officer I spoke to, who expressed great willingness to go to BA to investigate the crime! But he was obviously used to similar silly requests, and I got my crime number, out of which I got a rather better camera than the one I had stolen!
CMC Reality (a version of Pick). Before that I did use a thing called AS on an IBM 360, but I can't find any reference to it - I think it was something that IBM put together to provide bureau services. It bore no relationship with later things called AS. Then Phoenix on the Cambridge IBM 370. Then CP/M! But I started in computing for real in about 1976.