* Posts by Kugutsu

41 posts • joined 9 Sep 2009

Through many dangers, toils and snares.... SpaceX to send amazing GRACE to spaaaaace


Re: Spaaaaace trash

It's a little ironic that you are aiming your rant at the one company who are currently actually able to recover many of their boosters. As for your satellite trash comment, I am pretty sure that end-of-life deorbit (or shifting to a graveyard orbit for things further out) is now a requirement.

Oh honey! Oxfordshire abuzz with reports of a MEEELLION bees stolen


Re: Seems there might be a beekeeper or three reading ElReg ...

I haven't, but then I'm a teacher who keep bees at school for mostly educational purposes. I have students manipulating the hives almost weekly from March through September, with the goal of understanding how the whole system functions, and for them to learn how to actually be beekeepers, rather than just keep bees... As a result, honey yield isn't really my priority (though we still tend to get about 40 kg per hive per year on average).

I do keep getting sent links to the flow hive by everyone who knows me, but I am a little skeptical about the whole thing. It seems to me like a good way to make a right mess of a beehive, and ripe honey shouldn't flow that easily in any case... I'm still waiting for someone I know and trust to try it and give me a genuine report on how functional it is :P


As a beekeeper, the insistence on reporting using numbers of individual bees is really annoying. Counting individual bees is meaningless and sensationalist, as the number of bees in a colony varies hugely over the course of a year (anywhere between 10 000 and 100 000+).

Also, there seems to be some confusion between the number of colonies, and the apiary which contains them. You seem to be describing an apiary containing 40 colonies. The entire apiary might produce half a ton of honey (1200 lbs = 544 kg), but a single colony almost certainly wouldn't... Though if they are only producing about 14 kg per hive then they are probably not very good beekeepers, and almost certainly have a local overpopulation problem (40 colonies in a single apiary is a LOT, given they will all be foraging in the same 3 mile radius circle...).

Just my 2 cents, I'll buzz off now...

Webcam sex blackmailer faces extradition to Canada to stand trial for bullied teen's suicide


Re: But

Kids learn by making mistakes. In the past this would be immediately embarrassing, but would have little long term or far reaching consequences. Mostly the event would be laughed at in the moment by peers in the moment, and then totally forgotten. Occasionally, local gossip might pick it up and spread it around a bit. In most cases this would be self limiting, in that if you subsequently behave yourself, gossip will move on to the next salacious target that presents itself.

Now though, every mistake is recorded for posterity, and potentially broadcast to the world. They are no longer learning experiences, they are life-wrecking catastrophes that will haunt you forever, in that any potential peer, employer or partner can do a 5 second search and see you at your worst. But our culture penalises non-participation in the self-destructive sharing of everything through social rejection - the worst possible immediate outcome for a teenager. I do not envy kids today.


Re: How many will have to die?

Controlling teenagers' use of communication media is a bit tricky, now that they all have smartphones, which usually come with data contracts. Only a few yeas back, the advice was to make sure that kiddies/teenagers only access the internet in a public space at home. With the pace that technology develops, they can now get online whenever and wherever they like. It would take a very special kind of parent to try and keep their child offline, given the ubiquity of connected devices these days...

SpaceX wows world with a ho-hum launch of a reused rocket, landing it on a tiny boring barge


Re: Kerbal Space Program

I found myself trying to move the camera angle during the launch video too :P

Climate change bust up: We'll launch our own damn satellites if Trump pulls plug – Gov Brown


Re: Global warming is an industry not science

maxpower: perhaps we cannot control the climate, but with somewhere approaching 8 billion of us on this planet, it would be foolish to assume that we cannot affect it. After all, as your post itself highlights, far more primitive lifeform (bacteria) managed to effect a significantly greater change, and barely more advanced lifeforms in the sea managed to not only mould the climate but the very planet itself (visit any mountain range you care to name, and marvel at the sheer mass of rock that is entirely built from the fossil remains of once-living creatures.


Re: Warmists drowning a tantrum

Sorry Harri Koppel, but only in one country on earth is there even any question about the science behind climate change. Nothing to do with your petty party politics. You might want to follow the money, and see why climate change denial is such a popular stance among a certain sub-section of your ruling elites. As for why it is so popular among your voters, perhaps it might be a good idea to take a close look at your education system at the same time...

SpaceX: We'll land on Mars in 2018 (cough, with NASA's help)


Surely the best time to set off is sometime /before/ May 2018? Sometime in March, probably, if KSP as taught me anything :P Otherwise the deltaV required will be crazy...

Discworld fans stake claim to element 117


Given its position on the periodic table, it could be argued that it is a metal, as the traditional metal/non-metal divide passes above it. A semi-metal/metalloid at very least...

Whichever way you want to swing it, I'd be happy to have either, Octarine if its determined to be a halogen or Octiron if its a metal, on the new version of the periodic table. A fitting tribute, given Sir Terry's involvement in spreading the word about science.

European Commission decides it won't have a science advisor after Greenpeace pressure


Can we have some citation please? What GMOs produce insecticides?

The normal mode of operation is that the GMO is modified to resist pesticides, which are then added later. This has the added bonus for the company making the GMO, as normally they also make the pesticide, and that is where their profit lies.

While I agree that we don't really want to be eating pesticides, it is important to distinguish between where the harm is coming from. The act of GMing an O does not make it inherently bad. It is just a quicker way of doing what humans have been doing with their food crops since agriculture began, in a more directed fashion. Some GMOs are pesticide resistant (and I imagine this is the type you are worrying about in your post), while others do fairly benign things, like increase the vitamin content of a crop, or make it synthesise particularly tricky amino acids or fatty acids that are commonly lacking in people's diets... This is the problem with a greenpeace-style ban of GMOs, as they seem unable to distinguish between different types of GMOs, and only want an all out ban.

Hot, horny bees swerve planet-saving duties as climate warms


Re: If you read the paper...

Normally a male bee after copulation is quite literally 'shagged out'. His reproductive organs invert (turn inside out) and remain lodged in the female after copulation. Since they are attached to most of the other organs in his abdomen (notably the digestive system), you can imagine that after sex there is not much male bee left to take an interest in any flowers that may or may not be around.

Obviously, the fake sex offered by the flower doesn't ever get to the point of climax (the flower not having the appropriate apparatus), so the male bee goes off frustrated to try again somewhere else (from the flower's point of view, hopefully with another flower, since it just went to the trouble of loading the hapless male bee up with pollen)...


Re: Boffin knows little about post sex munchies

Except that these orchids probably don't actually produce nectar, as they have evolved a completely different mechanism to attract their pollinator - simulating sex. There are probably thousands of specific plant-pollinator relationships that are at risk due to this mechanism (many solitary bees, and there are many, many species, are the sole pollinators of some plant or other).

One solution for the plants is to move uphill to higher altitudes, where the warmth comes later, and hope that the bees follow, but obviously that only works for so long before they run out of mountain...

Interesting aside: I recently read about mountain goats in Italy losing significant numbers of young each year. The cause appears to be because they timed their reproductive cycle to give birth when the new, nutritious grass sprouted. Recent early springs has meant that the grass has sprouted earlier, so by the time the young goats arrive, all their mothers have to eat to support their milk production is tough old grass, which is much less efficient...

Schoolkids given WORLD'S CHEAPEST TABLETS: Is it really that hard to swallow?


Re: All the world's knowledge

Just to wade back into the debate. At no point do I state that computers have no role, or that information is bad. I simply believe that information /on its own/ is not sufficient. It is not enough to simply expose students to information, and hope that they will absorb it, as if by some process of osmosis.

Technology does indeed have its place, and I use it with my students, as a tool, and as a part of their wider learning. My concern is that technology and easy access to information is seen as a replacement for thinking and understanding. The skills that moiety describes above are crucial, and are exactly the sort of thing I try to teach on a daily basis. They also happen to be the sort of thing that students by default are not able to do, and without guidance, generally do not seem to learn on their own (there are of course exceptional students who will thrive no matter what, but they are not the majority).

As for Achilleas example of teachers going through the material, throwing it into the classroom, and hoping that some will stick, that is no better than pointing the students at wikipedia and ordering them to learn. That kind of teaching is becoming less and less acceptable, and its demise can only be considered a good thing...


All the world's knowledge

Wikepedia (and the internet) don't quite offer access to all the world's knowledge. They /may/ offer access to all the world's information, but this is not quite the same thing. The problem here will be information overload - so there are 40 000 ebooks available, but which one to read? Knowing how to look, and where to look, and what questions to ask, is far, far more important than just having access to the information. This is not a problem limited to developing countries, it is just as valid for our first world offspring, who are increasingly growing up assuming that they can outsource not only remembering, but also thinking, to the web. Education remains vital to teach children to think, to question and to understand. Only with these skills is raw information of any use at all.

Disclaimer: I am a teacher myself, and despite the wave of news articles suggesting it, I am pretty sure that my job cannot be effectively outsourced to the web. What I offer is not simply information, it is a personal journey to understanding for each of my students (at least, that is what I strive for).

Move space junk with laser shots


Re: A constellation of mirrors!

You would also need a motor and enough fuel to keep your mirrors on-station. Otherwise the sunlight they are reflecting will pretty quickly push them off-course far more than the (I assume) much heavier satellites they are trying to shift. Also, surely sending up several thousand new bits of stuff is a bit counter-productive...

Kepler continues exoplanet bonanza


Re: If we can detect these planets...

Also the electromagnetic emissions from that system's sun would probably be far more powerful than any emissions from a potentially inhabited planet, and over this kind of distance, would totally swamp the signal. Imagine putting your mobile phone right in front of the speaker stack at a rock concert, backing off a hundred metres, and then trying to hear someone's voice on the phone...

New evidence: Comets seeded life on Earth


Re: Miller-Urey experiment is ongoing

Nice analysis, but where did you get the idea that this comet has come from outside the solar system? According to NASA it's from our own Oort cloud (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/asteroids/news/comet20130305.html).

Anonymous hacks MIT websites after Aaron Swartz's death


Re: Anonyputzs discover puppypower?

now I know why this story from 2010 is for some reason in the list of most read pages on the BBC website. I had been wondering all afternoon...

European Space Agency clears SABRE orbital engines


Oxygen is not fuel

"...cleared the revolutionary cooler that fuels it"

The fuel is hydrogen, the air provides oxygen, which is the oxidiser needed to burn the fuel. If fuel could be extracted from the air on the go, transport would look very different, and probably cheaper (although on the other hand, the atmosphere would fireball at the first sign of a spark...).

Elon Musk envisions small town of vegetarians on Mars



If Mr Musk is serious about colonising some other world, why not go for the asteroid belt rather than Mars? Find a nice metallic asteroid, hollow it out (bonus raw materials), spin it up for artificial gravity, then find a nearby carbon/water asteroid, and you have all the ingredients for setting up a biosphere. Most of the process could be automated, and people could move in once a stable habitat has been set up. Once you have done one, you can repeat as often as you like. Rather than create just one additional home for humans, this method could lead to many (more baskets for those eggs), and as an aside it could produce stuff which could conceivably be exported back to earth.

Mars seems to be a lot more work for very little extra benefit - any biosphere will have to be enclosed in any case, and anything produced there is stuck at the bottom of a gravity well. Mars is not an inherently safer place to live than an asteroid, as in either case, a malfunction of the life support equipment would be catastrophic.

Job-hunting honeybees rely on 'meth' to find work


Re: Arizona State University?

What you are calling the North American variety is actually the european variety. Honey bees are not native to the american continent, and were all imported. African honey bees were also imported, and are a separate strain, but the same species, which means they can crossbreed, and together they have created a bastard strain of the two races, which are known as africanized bees, which have unpleasant characteristics.


Re: All workers do all the jobs

Worker bees can lay eggs, however they do not do so to keep the colony numbers up, nor can they possibly create a new queen. Since workers are unfertilised, they can only lay haploid eggs, hence they can only produce drones. These are also normally stunted (due to being laid in worker size cells), and drone laying workers are a sign that a colony is screwed, since they normally will not even accept a new queen at that stage. Its best to toss the whole lot out and restart.

The article is interesting, because it explains the mechanism behind the fact that workers can do different jobs at different stages, and also go back to doing an early life-cycle job, like nursing, later on, if the colony needs it.

'Natural health' website apparently hacked by sinister forces


Re: Couple daft things about the "organic" label.

Focusing on the nutritional content of the food, organic or otherwise, is to miss the point. The real problem with industrially farmed food is not the inherent nutritiousness of the food (which would have to be at least pretty similar to any alternative, otherwise whats the point in eating it), but with what is added to it to help it grow, ie pesticides, weedkillers and fertilisers.

Personally I have a big problem with pesticides above all, as the idea of deliberately poisoning food in order to kill animals (insects usually, but they are still animals) strikes me as asking for trouble. Not to mention that as they kill insects pretty indiscriminately, they have a disastrous effect on ecosystems. Plus, speaking as a beekeeper, I strongly suspect that many of the stories of 'colony collapse disorder' are linked to pesticides (in fact the evidence points to the seed-applied, and thus systemically present, neonicotinoids as the main culprits).

Weedkillers and fertilisers simply complete the job of ecosystem destruction, and taking it to the ultimate endpoint, our agricultural land will be turned first into a 'green desert', where only the crops survive, and then most probably into a true desert, as soil structure is a complicated thing, and largely dependent on the action of things living in it.

In our desire to control our environment, we may be screwing it up beyond repair. So while I dislike the 'green' lobby, I find myself agreeing with their goals on this one, if not their principles.

'Scientists' seek to set world social, economic, tech policy at Rio+20


Re: @Kuugutsu

my suggestion was sarcastic. I do not advocate either intrusive surgery or intrusive compulsory medication as a means to controlling population. Rather, my suggestion was for increased education.

As for more jobs being created in the tech industry, the problem is that the higher the tech, the fewer bodies you need doing stuff. Take SpaceX for example, a high tech company that has just successfully built and launched their own rocket AND orbital vehicle capable of reentry. To do all this, they employ less than 2000 people... To suggest that this nascent tech industry will provide employment for the vast segment of the population as you suggest is very naive. Quite apart from the fact that most people have no aptitude or interest in working in this sector. So we return to the point where the old, no-longer-able-to-retire are directly competing for jobs with the younger generations. What I can forsee happening instead is that 'training' and 'education' will be spun out longer and longer, delaying the age at which people enter work, to compensate for the later age at which they leave work. Unfortunately, however you look at it, youth brings energy and new ideas, and this will be squandered in favour of entrenched, inflexible older workers which will overall stifle innovation and make the situation worse.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to have any kind of solutions. My take on the situation, as a resident of europe, is that we are pretty screwed as it stands, and that more development, rather than less, is the only way out...


Rather than 'putting women on the patch' why not advocate giving all boys the snip instead? Or perhaps instead of Orwellian control of the populace, maybe we could try giving kids the education and aspirations, so that they don't fill the world with babies... I am not an expert in demographics, but I would wager that there is a very strong correlation between more children and less education.

As for raising the pension age, what would you have all these old folks doing? There is already a shortage of jobs for young people with energy and motivation (you cant tell me that the 10% of the population in the EU, for example,who are unemployed are all workshy welfare scroungers).

Your proposals for healthcare are sensible, but fraught with difficulty in enforcing (what role does genetic predisposition play, for example, and who decides which medical conditions are self inflicted?)

Slashing welfare I agree with you on, but again, there must be alternatives, ie jobs for people to do.

Ironically your point about making tech have a longer lifespan, while I agree with it entirely, will in fact serve to reduce still further the number of jobs available - if people's hardware doesn't break or become useless, what incentive is there to consume and thus drive a market. Horribly flawed though this economic model is, that is how it is put together at the moment.

I entirely agree with your final paragraph - massive funding into hard science and tech will drive further development and hopefully a way out of the current mess. Other than that, in the short term, we are stuck with it, short of someone taking drastic and very unpleasant action (if an animal population outgrows its habitat and resources, it crashes, and humans have in the past intervened before the crisis point with a cull...).

Jeremy Hunt 'sympathetic' to Murdoch's BSkyB bid


Re: Is it just me.......


Disappearing bees mystery: Boffins finger regicide pesticides


Re: Symptoms on't fit the findings

Bees mostly die while out foraging, so a colony can seem empty when you open it up. This study supports this, as it states that bees get lost on their way home, so there will be no dead or sick bees to find - as they have died out in the fields, a long way from their hive.

Also, bees are quite hygienic creatures, and if possible they cart their dead out of and away from the hive. A dead bee is pretty hard to spot in long grass, and if there's not a pile of dead bees right outside the doorstep (not a good sign), then probably you wont spot them at all.

Beekeepers notice colony losses, but as I stated in an earlier post, it is hard to identify the cause, and most probably there is no one cause, but a combination of many. And even then, identifying the causes doesn't mean you can do anything about most of them...


Re: What about Australia...

Its most probably a contributing factor, not an absolute cause. There are many things that can negatively affect bees - I myself lost 2 colonies this spring. What finished them off was three weeks where the temperature didn't rise above -10°C, but the reason why they couldn't deal with this was probably due to the long, long active season in 2011 which allowed varroa mite populations to grow out of all proportion, and weaken the colonies more than usual. My smaller than usual colonies survived the mild winter, as they came out a bit in January when the temperature rose enough, but they couldn't survive the cold that followed. Pesticides may have played a role in weakening the bees still further, perhaps in reducing their resistance to mites, disease or the cold. All in all, it is very hard to say exactly why bee colonies die out - the thing that killed them is often the final straw rather than the absolute cause. Many of the straws are not directly or effectively human-controllable (weather, disease, pests, predators), however if there is a factor we can reduce then it should certainly be investigated.

Australia is thus far lucky in that they do not have varroa, which is by far the most widespread and damaging honeybee pest, killing brood, weakening colonies and spreading disease. I wish them every success in keeping the mites out.

High school student expelled for dropping F-bomb in tweet


"If my account is on my own personal account, I don't think the school or anybody should be looking at it. Because it's my own personal stuff and it's none of their business,"

No one else wonder about this? Why did he tweet it if he didn't want anyone looking at it? Surely the point of exercise is to get people to look at it...

On another note, any information on how many kids get expelled from this school for swearing in the corridors/playground etc?

Harvard boffins cause buzz with robot bee


Re: Not impressed....

You're thinking of wasps. Bees wouldn't be interested in barbecues, being vegetarians (nectar, pollen, propolis - all plant products). Wasps on the other hand are second hand carnivores, as they feed their larvae meat, which in turn secrete sugar syrup which the adults use as their energy source. Also wasps use their sting to hunt, so they are naturally more aggressive, and able to sting without dying (bee stings are barbed, and stinging pulls their guts out, while wasp stings are smooth, so it can fly away and come back for another go later)...

Swiss space-cleaning bot grabs flying junk, hurls itself into furnace


Re: Re: Chocs and clocks?

this is a very true cliche - they even wash the streets here every morning. I am not at all surprised that they have come up with a satellite to do the same thing in orbit!

On a pedantic note, is it from the University of Lausanne, or EPFL? The two are separate entities...

Jackpot: astronomers tag Goldilocks planet


slowing down

Surely it could only accelerate continuously for the first half of the trip, and then it would need to decelerate continuously for the other half. Otherwise it would arrive in the target system at 0.25c and fly straight through it in a matter of (hours/days/weeks?), not giving it much chance to do much discovering of stuff...

Also, what if it meets something on the way, going at 0.25c? Even the smallest bit of interstellar dust or ice is not going to leave much spacecraft left.

Boffin's bot spots red light jumpers before they kill


or you could stop the light jumping...

If its going to be installed on cars, why not have it wired to cut the engine/engage the brakes of the car of the light-jumper? Rather than rely on potential victims being quick enough on the uptake to dodge... Having their car come to an emergency stop all of a sudden might even make the w*ankers wake up and realise what they are doing.

Boffin's wall of bees shields farms from stampeding elephants


can this scale up?

The bees over there must be a lot sturdier than the varieties we have here in Europe. Here, keeping colonies from collapsing due to a staggering array of factors (varroa mites and other parasites, bacteria and viruses, wasps (and soon hornets from France), starvation, cold, pesticides, being too weak to survive due to stubbornly swarming away the majority of the population in the hive, etc, etc), is what makes beekeeping less a hobby, and more a vocation.

Even though the climate will help some of these problems (cold and starvation), I still doubt that beehives can just be set up and forgotten, and maintaining the sheer number of hives to surround even a small farm would be a full time job.

Not to mention, where will all these bees come from? And what will they eat? They will all be competing for the same resources (nectar and pollen from flowers), so beyond a certain density of colonies per area, the competition will mean that some of the colonies will either move out, or die.

This is not to say I am not impressed with the idea, but it seems to have some holes in (rather like the elephants if they get too near the fence :P )

Walmart falls in with Washington's war on terror


freudian slip?

''and other threats to law enforcement authorities''

This is an interesting, and quite telling, little soundbite from the DHS spokesperson. Not threats to the people/citizens/etc, but threats to the establishment, and their employed fists...

Large Hadron Collider in multi-magnet quench hiccup


rammed by an aircraft carrier...

going how fast?

Swiss roll Street View into court

Big Brother

unidentifiable? not quite...

"As I have said before, no-one is identifiable in these photos, everyone sees thousands of nameless faces every day while driving, walking, watching news reports on TV etc etc etc."

Not actually true - I have managed to find and positively identify a couple of friends strolling through the centre of the city I live in, and I wasn't even looking for anyone in particular, just playing with the app... When I showed them they agreed it was them, and even remembered the day the pic was taken (something about a 10ft pole sitting on top of a car is fairly conspicuous :P )

Warning: Showers can seriously damage your health



Are you confusing Celsius and Fahrenheit? 120°C is above the boiling point of water, and is a bit excessive to kill bacteria. Most of them will die at around 70°C (to put it into context, milk is pasteurised at about 70°C). Of course, a very few bacteria may survive, and also things like viruses and spores, which is why to sterilise stuff like medical equipment, or ultra long life food, they heat it above 120°C, but it needs to be done under pressure, you can't boil water above 100°C under normal conditions.

The danger temperatures with bacteria is between 30-50°C, which is exactly the sort of temperatures most people will shower under - these conditions will let bacteria thrive, and as other posters have said, storing warm water in tanks is basically like giving them a nice little multiplication vat, hence why you should avoid drinking warm water...

Colt Telecom cable cut mystery


36 hours and counting...

We've had 2 days of downtime now where I work (in Switzerland), and no sign of any recovery. Its getting beyond merely annoying, and starting to be a liability, as we are effectively cut off from the outside world (how did we manage 10 years ago?). It also makes it far more difficult to fill all those empty hours at work...

The only positive from this how situation is that its meant that our IT guy can probably persuade the management to pay for a second connection now :P


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