* Posts by Bluewhelk

55 posts • joined 1 Jul 2009


NHS Digital execs showed 'little regard' for patient ethics by signing data deal


Re: Huh?

MPs (members of parliment) are elected to the house of commons, most of these are affiliated to a political party, the party with the most MPs gets to form the government. The party leader then chooses people (mostly MPs from their party) to be ministers and form the exectutive, a kind of inner circle with specific responsibilities for heath, defense and so on. The ministers are then, theoretically at least, in charge of the civil servants in the department they represent.

MPs tend to become affiliated with the party that most represents what they themselves believe, although this can be a comprimise. Unless they are ministers they moslty get to follow their own ways and get to sit on various commitees and so forth. The commitees will usually have MPs from multiple parties on them and perform a role in balancing the powers of the exectutive.

In this case it is a bunch of semi-independant MPs on a commitee criticising the executive branch from allowing the civil servants they are in charge of to do the data sharing.

tldr in the UK the term Goverment is an amophous arrangement, some bits of which can critisise other bits so yes :-)

Edit: What nematoad said too

Paul Allen's six-engined monster plane prepares for space deliveries


Both are correct

Bernoulli's and Newton's principles as applied to flight are two sides of the same coin and are both correct, confusion generally arises due to oversimplifying the problem. See ...




National Insurance tax U-turn: Philip Hammond nixes NIC uptick


Re: What does this mean?

As from 16th March 2016 the Petroleum Revenue Tax is zero rated, mainly to keep the older oil fields open where with the tax they would stop being economic.

Don't know where your figures came from but may be the year to year change which would show a drop in earnings.

See: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/oil-and-gas-taxation-reduction-in-petroleum-revenue-tax-and-supplementary-charge

Three certainties in life: Death, taxes and the speed of light – wait no, maybe not that last one



Yep, since the 1980's the metre has been defined as the distance that light travels in a vacuum over 1/299792458th of a second. This makes it easier to derive your own local metre without having to traipse over to Paris to check your metre rule against their 'standard' metre rule. A side effect of this is that the speed of light is fixed at exactly 299792458m/s.

Ford announces plans for mass production of self-driving cars by 2021


Similar story on Ars...

Read a similar story to this on Ars Technica that gives a bit more detail...



The cars will effectively be driverless Uber type cars for around cities, not for general sale to the public.

They will also have more sensors such as lidar and very detailed mapping.

China launches quantum satellite to test spooky action at a distance


Re: MITM impossible

If you have 'captured' the transmission for later analysis then one of two things happen...

1) the photon will be absorbed by whatever detector you use and won't arrive at the destination.

2) you split the photon using the crystals mentioned in the article and the and which ever photon you send on will be different, quantum state wise, to the original.

In either case the interception in detected.

This is how the EU's supreme court is stripping EU citizens of copyright protections


Re: I don't fully understand...

I think you are conflating two different things here, for example you have an image on a website

say http://mysite.com/image.jpg

This is not a link, it is the actual image stored on the server, this would be violating the copyright if the owner did not consent to it being there.

Now you also have links on a webpage named say http://mysite.com/list_of_images.html or even http://anothersite.com/interestingpics.html on a completely different server.

These would contain something like the link a href="http://mysite.com/image.jpg" Piccy /a (missing lt and gt intended)

This is not the image, just a link so doesn't logically infringe the copyright. Only the original "http://mysite.com/image.jpg" does.

Boffins switch on pinchfist incandescent bulb


Re: "waste" heat?

If the heat can't escape then less electricity is needed to maintain the emitter temperature required to produce the light, that's what makes it more efficient.


A normal filament bulb will actually be pretty close to a black body emitter. This new version would not be due to the filtering.

White Stork mates with ISS, delivers bundles of resupply joy


Dehydrated food

I suspect that there is less water, in terms of number of meals covered (because it gets recycled and only the losses need replacing), than packets of dried food (which doesn't). The water will also be drunk directly and used for other purposes (hygiene?). The upshot, it's more efficient to separate them out on the ground plus you get more food for your launch mass.

Probably keeps better too.

WW2 German Enigma machine auctioned for record-breaking price


You're thinking of Lorenz

This is a common mistake

"The enormous efforts undertaken to break Enigma-encrypted messages by the British at Bletchley Park, particularly the efforts of Alan Turing, pioneered much of what now stands as the basis for computer science."

The enigma codes were broken on an industrial scale using the "Bombe" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptanalysis_of_the_Enigma#British_bombe), clever as they were I don't think the Bombe has ever been accused of being the basis of modern computing.

However the colossus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossus_computer) which was designed by Tommy Flowers to crack the Lorenz teleprinter encryption is another matter.

Dark matter surveys turn up new satellites … orbiting the Milky Way


Re: As I understand things

Doesn't work like that I'm afraid.

Fields are areas of space where there is a potential difference of some sort, you gain or lose energy when moving a particle through the field that interacts with it. For example with two parallel plates with extra electrons on one of them there will be an electrostatic field between the plates the electrons will 'want' to move to the other plate to balance things out, you can extract the energy by moving half the electrons to the other plate. There isn't anything in the gap as such, the electrons are stuck on the plate.

Secondly, I think that Higgs bosons are pretty rare in the universe these days, it took the LHC a lot of effort to create even the few it needed to detect them and they decayed pretty quickly. Also the Higgs is very heavy at 126GeV, electrons have a rest mass of about 0.5MeV and hadron type particles like protons are about 1Gev, even if you only stuck Higgs to just these you'd end up with way too much mass.

Like yourself I'm only an amateur in this area and I may be a bit off base w.r.t the field side of things.

Edit: @Ashton Black - Yes, like you said.

Boffins weigh in to perfect kilogram quest with LEGO kit


Re: But

50ug in 100years according to ...


Metrologists don't like things that change.


Re: I don't get it

You measure how fast an object accelerates when dropped in a vacuum (or thrown up and let drop), this can be done accurately using interferometry. This is then only reliant on the standards for distance and time.

See absolute "Gravimeter".


Re: But

Not so, the kilogram is now the only standard defined by a physical object.

For example the metre is the length travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299792458 of a second and a second is 9192631770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom.

So while in a well equipped laboratory boffins can make their own metre and second they have to trog off to Paris to compare their kilo with the actual standard (a lump of platinum iridium alloy). In practice each country has a copy or two of the original or access to someone else's.

Worse still the standard kilo (as located in Paris) appears to be CHANGING (not a lot, but enough).

Google on Gmail child abuse trawl: We're NOT looking for other crimes


On the basis that non-encrypted email has no real security against being 'seen' en-route, I think that maybe a better analogy would be if a postcard with an illegal picture was spotted by the post office I would expect that they would notify the police.

In a similar vein if photos being developed at the chemist were suspect they would be reported.

I always work on the basis that anything sent 'in the clear' is liable to being scanned, checked, read or what ever on route. I figure actual people will generally not bother to read my emails en-route as my stuff would be lost in the sheer volume of other cruft as I'm just not that important, automated systems are likely to be fairly well targeted for similar reasons. MD5'ing attachments would cause minimal extra work over and above checking for viruses and spam.

Apple is KILLING OFF BONKING, cries mobe research dude


Mismanaged from the start

First, from a consumers point of view, making NFC payments with a card is pretty much the same as sticking the card in a reader, the costs are the same so no big deal.

The way to replace cash with NFC phones (what the banks want) is to make it universal and the same cost as doing it by exchanging small pieces of metal and paper, effectively zero. Sadly with so many groups trying to get their pound of flesh such as phone manufacturers, network operators and banks it will always cost more.

Then with several different competing systems there is no guarantee that random person A will be able to transfer money to random person B as there is the distinct possibility their two systems will not talk to each other, so you're back to square one.

Finally if it's tied to a phone you're stuffed if the battery is flat!

So from Joe public's point of view, what's the point?

And that's before you start worrying about the security aspects!

GAME ON: Top 10 tellies for a World Cup kicking


Re: 4K!?

Your point is entirely valid but the BBC are doing trials, not broadcast but internet streaming ...


Not generally available yet and you need a stupid fast connection but one to watch for the future perhaps.

Pfft, AC beat me to it but not entirely correct as you still wouldn't get it even if you did buy a 4K TV.

NASA preps flying saucer ballocket flight

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Re: Ballocket???

Given the flight sequence perhaps that should be a Ballockoonshute .....splash

Ancient Earth asteroid strike that dwarfed dinosaur killer still felt today


Re: Fascinating

If there was an object this size anywhere close we would have spotted it by now.

As a comparison the larger moon of Mars is Phobos. This according to Wikipedia (yeah I know) is 27 × 22 × 18 km so is smaller but was discovered back in 1877.

Also from the Wiki, "Near-Earth asteroids, or NEAs, are asteroids that have orbits that pass close to that of Earth. Asteroids that actually cross the Earth's orbital path are known as Earth-crossers. As of May 2010, 7,075 near-Earth asteroids are known and the number over one kilometre in diameter is estimated to be 500–1,000."

These are all being tracked and all have (currently) safe orbits.

I definately take your point about the smaller things though, the Chelyabinsk meteor was around 20m across and stuff like this is very hard to spot, small and VERY dark and non reflecting. One of these in the wrong place would be very inconvenient.

Flappy Bird crosses over into cryptocurrency, big data


Graph slightly misleading

Looking at he graph I was surprised some people were able to nail the game in a couple of attempts, the distribution doesn't look right.

However reading the guys blog linked in the article it seems that the graph is generated from data over about 4hours of play. Thus the points in the "zone of skill" may have been playing for many hours beforehand in order to achieve the good scores at the time the data was taken, and conversely those in the "zone of colossal failure" may improve later.

Another graph labelled "Increasing Score With Practice" probably gives a better indication of how people progress.

Not played the game myself though.

Google helps out utterly underexposed Lego brand with Chrome toy


Re: Needs moar bricks!

Does different colours, click on the, initially, red square for a selection.

Does need some more brick types though and you can't push things around on the model (eg open the door) as far as I can work out.

Snap! Nokia's gyro stabilised camera tech now on open market


Re: Spin

I think they're more like tiny tuning forks carved out of the silicon substrate. They are then made to oscillate (electro statically), then turning / moving them causes distortions that can be measured.

Two white dwarfs and superdense star. Yup, IDEAL for gravity lab in the sky - boffins


Re: Waitwhat

Pretty much.

Mass and energy are equivalent from E = m c^2

I think high energy physicists regularly interchange the two.

For sane amounts of energy you won't get much mass increase but in these types of systems I guess it'll be significant.


Re: bias?

I think it's more like where you can use Newtonian gravity to calculate the solar system interactions but this becomes inaccurate when you try to follow Mercury over a longish period where you need to use general relativity. Thus it is said that Newtonian model of gravity breaks down when influenced by a large mass (like the sun here).

Here they are trying to find circumstances where the predictions given by general relativity start to break down. We already know it's incomplete because it doesn't work at quantum scales for example.

The trick is to be able to test the theories and if it fails it can then point out which newer theory has a better fit. The problem is that you need extreme examples to push the boundaries of general relativity, this system is fairly extreme and as it contains a quasar it contains an accurate clock that we can take readings from.

It doesn't really mean the old theories are wrong but just incomplete. Like we can still use Newtonian gravity so long as we understand where the limits are.


Re: how?

Timing variations in the pulsar pulses give you its speed (sort like Doppler effect). As time pieces pulsars are very stable so any changes are due to relative motion over short time scales.

Integrate speed to get size of orbit (simplistic analogy I'll admit)

Keplers laws then give you relative masses (possibly need relativistic corrections?).

DEAD STEVE JOBS kills Apple bounce patent from BEYOND THE GRAVE


Re: Regardless of the merits of the Apple patent

The point is that in Europe you have to patent something BEFORE making it public, in the USA I believe this is not so much the case. Thus Steve Jobs demoing it to all and sundry made it public and as the idea was not yet protected by a patent, in Europe, it meant that anyone could copy it, in Europe.

NASA: Earth II may be hiding in unexamined data from injured Kepler


Re: Calling Roadside Assistance

The Hubble telescope was serviced from the Space shuttle, I believe the orbit was more or less at the limit of what the shuttle could cope with. The Space shuttle is no longer flying so we couldn't even service the Hubble telescope now.

The Kepler telescope is not in an earth orbit, it trails along in a solar orbit following the earth at a slowly increasing distance.

Even if the shuttle was flying now it would have had no hope of getting there and back.

We just don't have the technology to do it.

Heavenly SPEARS gives LOHAN a hot satisfying BANG


Re: Battery Shorting?

The text mentions a fuse being blown by the timer at the end. I guess the fuse is between the battery and the rest of the circuitry.

Apple creeps up on Android in US smartphone sales


Re: I am going to indulge myself in one of my pet peeves.


A 0.9 increase on 3.7 gives...

0.9 / 3.7 * 100 => 24%

Although I do agree with your point about the difference between percentage points and plain percent.

However as it is the proportion of the whole that is more interesting here, quoting the 0.9 rather than 24 makes more sense in context. I guess the author could have put "rising 0.9 percentage points" which would have been more correct but it's more verbose and most people here know what is meant anyway.

Just sayin.

Emergency alert system easily pwnable after epic ZOMBIE attack prank


Public / Private keys

Not sure what's happening here, I would have thought the firmware would only need the PUBLIC key for SSH logins. Certainly if the PRIVATE key is also embedded then that's a major cockup as the firmware does not need to know this, indeed that's the whole point.

Boffins create tabletop ANTIMATTER GUN


Re: Mmm..Anti Gravity, Higgs and Magnets

It's really hard to get things to fall into a black hole. Basically if you chuck a rock at a black hole it'll end up orbiting around the hole unless you are very accurate, things in space really like to go into orbits around each other. In order to get to a lower orbit you need to 'lose' some energy and for a black hole that means a LOT of energy.

For an active black hole you end up with a rotating disc of matter, mostly in the form of super-heated plasma. This creates magnetic fields which also get twisted up as the whole lot rotates around, these then funnel the highest energy particles (the hottest and fastest) towards the 'poles' and then out along two beams or jets. Sort of opposite to the earth where solar wind particles are funnelled in at the poles.

This effect along with emitted photons in the form of infra-red, light, X-rays and so on robs the system of some energy allowing the slowest particles to get in a bit closer and eventually disappear beyond the event horizon.

The main point here is the particles in the jets are escaping BEFORE they get to the event horizon, the higgs boson is not required. Indeed by having mass and high velocity they take a nice lot of energy with them as they go.


It's a BYO-slingshot party in the Silicon Valley of Elah


Re: Image

Quick search on google ...

Tappity tap ...

Hmm. OK, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goliath

Image on right captioned "David and Goliath, a colour lithograph by Osmar Schindler (c. 1888)"

Boffin road trip! The Reg presents Geek's Guide to Britain


Porthcurno Telegraph Museum

Don't forget the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum down in Cornwall.

Not just undersea cable stuff, all sorts of communications technology, actual working spark gap transmitters too. It's all housed in a shielded nuclear bunker so can demonstrate stuff that is not possible (legally) elsewhere.

And while you're down there there's the Goonhilly satellite ground station.

And if you're into steam engines there's a working one at one of the tin mines on the north coast. I forget the name for the moment though.

Scientists spin carbon nanotube threads on industrial scale


Re: Electrical properties

The article states that it is as conductive as copper (and 10x the tensile strength of steel). Capacitance is a function of the spacing of the conductors, so not really much different for a given arrangement and you'd probably want to keep twisted pairs due to the interference cancelling properties (emissions as well as signal corruption).

On the plus side it would be harder to break.

Hubble takes furthest peep back into universe's history


Re: Something not quite right here...

Don't worry, It's kinda non-intuitive.

It's not that the galaxy itself is moving away from us, it's the universe expanding that is causing the galaxy to become further away due to there being increasingly more 'universe' between us and the distant galaxy over time.

It gets worse because it is possible to view distant galaxies that are actually moving away from us at (apparent) speeds greater than that of light, the light will have spent years travelling towards us but actually getting further away before reaching a point where it 'overtook' the universes expansion and could carry on to reach us now.

Despite all this, in that galaxies local bit of the universe the galaxy is moving much slower than the speed of light (if indeed it still exists some 13billion years on!).

<-- One of these will help you get over thinking about the crazy physics.

Hidden Grand Canyon-sized ICE-HOLE hastens Antarctic melt

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Re: The article is way under the normal standard of el-reg

According to the BBC website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18959399) it IS a rift valley and goes on to say the east and west halves are moving apart causing said valley. Just happens to be full of ice, so thumbs up to El. Reg. here.

Open-source password keeper to get 'minor' weekend security fix

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Good news really

If that's the worst security flaw that the researcher can come up with, it means I can happily carry on using it safe in the knowlage that it's generally a reliable bit of software.

In addition it is encouraging that the developer is patching this, either in 3days or as originally planned given the difficulty to exploit the bug.

NASA counts down to nuclear tank invasion of Mars


Re: Descent vehicle

The only potentially useful thing the descent vehicle will do after dropping the rover will be to make a nice bit dent in the ground as it crash lands.

To land the descent vehicle as well would probably require more fuel which in turn would mean less stuff on the rover so dumping instrumentation or somthing. The mass on these trips is very tightly constrained and they want as much as possible do be doing the most useful work it can.

It's a bit like the platforms spirit and co. rolled off, they didn't do anything afterwards.

<= Photo of descent vehicle at instant of touchdown.

'Unbreakable' Samsung Galaxy Note II to take on iPhone 5


Re: A word of caution

Most of the time my 'Note' manages on a single charge each day (I just plug it in overnight) and even then it's nowhere near fully discharged when I do so.

However sometimes it can get a bee in its bonnet and it drains the battery, I suspect it's a misbehaving app running a service in the background or somthing not letting the thing go to sleep. I find power cycling cures this.

Packet radio can be a drain if you're in an area with bad signal as it struggles to get even the small amounts of data through that happen when on the network, turning it off is best in this situation.

The screen does sap power though, when playing games it seems more power goes to the screen than for processing but running with lower brightness helps, not as pretty though.

Milky Way DOOMED to high-speed smash with Andromeda galaxy


Re: Won't somebody think of the black holes

The two black holes will eventually merge and you'll have one rather more massive black hole. If Triangulum also joins the party then its black hole may well get ejected at great speed as it will be the smaller of the three and three body systems are unstable.

Theoretically when two black holes merge you get lots of gravitational waves which scientists have been trying to detect (unsuccessfully so far), a close merger on this scale would be a good test for the instruments.

The BOFH meets Dilbert


The BOFH meets Dilbert

Check out this Dilbert strip...


So reminded me of the BOFH!

Election hacked, drunken robot elected to school board


Re: Secure?

A few years ago they had bank clerks doing this as they are good at counting lots of bits of paper.

Higgs boson hunters have god particle in their sights


That's a lot of collisions

From our friend Wikipedia...

One inverse femtobarn is equal to around 70 million million (70 x 10^12) collisions


Samsung Q430 14in notebook


Battery Manager

From Sony Vaio Control Centre...


Battery life will be about 80% of the one of the fully charged battery, however, this mode prevents battery degradation and is more effective if you usually use the computer with battery power.


I'm using this feature as I spend a lot of time at a desk and only time will tell...

On my previous laptop (a Rock Pegasus) the battery was OK after a year, after 2 years it didn't last quite as long and after 3 years it fell off a cliff. Sadly the video then went titsup so I've had to replace the whole thing :-(

US college girls: Fatter roomie helps control 1st-year plumpening


Re: What?

It's filed under "Biology" so no IT connection required.

In any case I kinda like these odd off the wall reports, keep up the good work guys.

Do the Webminimum

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Pretty good

I've been using Webmin to manage the servers here at work for years now, works a treat.

US boffins fashion quantum-computing bit out of SQUID


Its Aluminium Oxide

Synthetic Sapphire is relatively cheap to produce

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapphire

'Tightly bound' stars seen locked in 'diabolic strip waltz'


CG Image

The image will be computer generated, you'd never optically resolve anything this small at this distance.

The data showing how the system is behaving will come from high resolution spectrometer observations showing the doppler shifts of light emitted by the various objects and gasses involved over time. The image will be based on this with a good dollop of artistic license.

I think the jets are due to the rotation of the black hole 'corkscrewing' its magnetic field lines which then catch some of the inflowing ionised material and accelerate it back out before it reaches the event horizon.

The event horizon will be relatively small for a solar mass black hole, about a third of the diameter of the sun if I remember correctly.

Only nukes can stop planetsmash asteroids, say US boffins


1rock => Lots of rocks

The trouble with 'nuking' an asteroid is that even if you do succeed in fragmenting it you end up with several smaller asteroids all in the same orbit and the same combined kinetic energy.

So you are not really any better off because it's the total energy released in the impact that causes the damage. 1big bang vs. several smaller bangs.

What you actually need to do is shift the orbit of the asteroid without breaking it up (too much) so it doesn't hit the earth in the first place, this could be done with a nuke if you vapourised a chunk off one side to give it a hard nudge. Trouble is some asteroids are actually more like piles of rubble than single solid rocks so giving the sharp nudge will just break the thing up without changing the orbit so much.

What you really need is a gentle push over a long period for the most reliable and predictable results. Hence "gravity tractors", ion engines and the like.

That's why you need to spot'em early, so you've got time to do the gentle push over, preferably years.

Celebrity goat declines Britain's Got Talent gig


Sea Kittens?!

I mean which brain dead idiot thought that one up. It fails to work on so many levels that I just don't know where to start counting!

Oh yeah, PETA, as you were.



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