* Posts by longbeast

41 publicly visible posts • joined 21 Jan 2011

Venice not in major peril after all - new research


Deliberately misleading nonsense.

Reducing the frequency of abnormally high water level events does not say anything about whether the normal-conditions base water level is rising.

Having fewer storm surges does not help you if the water is flooding you anyway without a storm surge.

Bitcoin slump follows senators’ threats


An unregulated monetary system would be a nightmare

Money needs banks, and money needs governments (or at least something with similar levels of control in issuing new currency).

If you jump ship from existing currencies into something completely unregulated, and build a large economy out of it, you will get banks popping up again simply because people need them and it is possible to make money out of it. You'd need to have a solid and comprehensive personal understanding of every single way that a bank can possibly screw you over, because law wouldn't be there to do it for you.

Similarly with inflation, while you can certainly criticise how it is used as a tool, it's madness to deny that it is sometimes a necessary one. A monetary system needs inflation sometimes or it will fail horribly and be worthless, and the power to control that has to go somewhere. Personally I'd rather have that power be held by a democratically elected body, rather than being held by an unelected crypto-geek who had a bright idea.

Has Steve Jobs killed the consumer hard disk industry?


re: Just try streaming 1080p

I remember people saying that youtube would never become popular, and that the business model was doomed, because there would never be the bandwidth for high quality streaming video.

I will be very depressed if local storage really does start to become unavailable, if lack of demand kills off real PCs and we all get stuck with dodgy dumb-terminal-like phone computers. I hope that day doesn't come, but I'm not going to bet on cloud services being eternally crap to hold that day off.

US Navy produces smart, cheap 6kg fire+forget missile


Not solving the right part of the problem.

Weaponry capable of destroying a small cluster of motorboats has never been the real problem in stopping piracy. The problem is that pirates are difficult to tell apart from innocent fishing boats. You can't just spray missiles at every other vessel that comes close, and assume that non-pirates will all stay away from your ship.

Google says Android 'club' makes phone makers 'do what we want'


Title is required, apparently.

Android by itself is simply no fun. I own an Android device without the Google Market, and while I can get it to meet my simple needs - that of running a browser, irc client and connectbot - there's nothing else that you can do with it that has any "oooh shiny" entertainment value.

People only seem interested in developing for the marketplace, not for android by itself. If somebody wants to make money from the platform then fine, I have no problem with that, but I'm disappointed to see how scattered and weak the open source side of the community is.

I find myself now thinking of Android as being not a proper OS, but as just a component in a limited-function device. It's about as exciting as the firmware in my microwave oven.

Virgin space rocketship trials 'feather' re-entry system



Even for a pathetic little suborbital toy like they're playing with, the rocket motor is big. It takes up the entire rear third of the vehicle. I've not been able to find out how much it masses, but some of the early test versions used 4 tonnes of oxidiser, and given the size of the tank on the flight model I doubt they're using much less to fly with.

It would take 50 such engines to get a craft like spaceshiptwo to orbit. Probably closer to 70 once you take into account the structure needed to bolt all the extra engines on. Add another 100 engines for a first stage booster, because you're certainly not going to be able to drop all of that weight from beneath their tiddly little carrier plane.

Mozilla refuses US request to ban Firefox add-on


re: Obviously it has to be Britain.

You can rule out moving to Britain, as we are currently running our immigration policy in "fuck off you filthy foreign bastards" mode. Severely limiting immigration is a policy that's going to be here for a long while to come.

I suggest moving to Liberia. It's a lovely place. It has a post office, and some roads. Not much else in the way of infrastructure, but it is a lovely little post office.

China sets out space-station plan, asks public to name it


What orbit will it be in?

There has been some vague mumbling about this station being used to support moon landing missions. Does anybody know if this is going to be put into something close to an equatorial orbit, or matching the plane of the lunar orbit, or anything else that is sensible?

Both Mir and the ISS were crippled for any use as a staging post for long range missions due to being in stupid orbits - both with very high inclination so that they pass over Baikonur, so that Soyuz launches could reach them.

The orbit of Mir was chosen because the launcher couldn't get it into any more sensible plane. The orbit of the ISS was chosen for political reasons, to keep the Russians happy.

Hopefully the Chinese won't be doing either of those things.

Boffins pull plug on SETI alien-seeking antenna array


required title

Communication isn't going to try to perfectly mimic natural sources, and it won't try to hide in the background. It's reasonable to say that we won't be able to understand any sensibly coded message that wasn't intended for us, but that doesn't mean we won't be able to see it.

The biggest problem is detector size. Even if we assume a best case scenario, and there is some friendly alien race out there who has pointed a beacon directly at us, intended for us to detect, these aliens would assume a certain level of technical competence on our part. The easiest way to make a really huge collecting lens for a telescope is to use the gravitational lensing effect of your own star, and put a secondary lens somewhere in your local oort cloud. Our hypothetical alien friends might assume that if we are capable of building radio telescopes, we're also capable of putting those telescopes in a sensible place in our local system, and as such might be transmitting on very low power.

A gravititational lens telescope would be significantly more sensitive than anything we can build on Earth, by several orders of magnitude. The same gravitational lensing principle can also be used to send signals at very low power between stars.

Our problem might just be that we are assuming aliens will be hugely wasteful with powerful signals, when any sensible technological civilisation goes the low power route.

Ubuntu seeks Android-packin' Windows deserters


The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

Every time wine updates to make one thing work, three other things break. It's a horrible, horrible system to have to rely on.

Watching people try to mimic windows by guesswork and documentation is like seeing somebody try to build a skyscraper by asking somebody to describe what it should look like over the phone.

US proposes online IDs for Americans



We have used biometrics for the last 5000 years, in the form of recognising people when we see or hear them. Faces, voices, bodytype... are difficult to forge sufficiently well that a careful person can't spot it.

They don't work so reliably over the internet.

UN promises self-driving intelligent cars



That depends whether you want to just encourage better driving education, or whether you want to force it by raising difficulty of the driving test.

Making it more difficult to own a car wouldn't be a popular move.

Trying to teach people who don't think they need to be taught isn't going to be very effective.

Blighty's Skylon spaceplane faces key tech test in June


re: anonymous coward

"If your idea of a big gun worked it would have been done by now. "

It hasn't been done before because explosive powered guns can't get the necessary speed. The hot gas produced by setting off chemical propellant does not expand smoothly at mach 20 - reaction product molecules are too large and so for any reasonable temperature range, they move too slowly, even if individual molecules are greatly exceeding the speed of sound.

There is a way to get around this, by heating pure hydrogen gas. It's a much lighter molecule, and so for a given energy and temperature range, the gas particles move a hell of a lot faster. All you need to do is heat up a reservoir of hydrogen to very high pressures and then release it behind your projectile - and this will get you the required speed.

The technology to do this without losing too much hydrogen to the outside world is still being developed, and is untested on a large scale, although it has been used for hypersonic engine tests to get very small scale models up to ignition speeds.


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They've already done work on a cargo adaptor that they call a skylon upper stage. It's more of an inner stage really, but it ought to do the job in theory.

If they do find themselves in need of extra oomph, a better place to start would be to add disposable takeoff engines. Even with their funky pressure-adaptable expansion nozzles for efficient use at all altitudes, a runway takeoff with a rocket engine is inefficient.

A low altitude booster stage doesn't necessarily have to ruin their model, so long as it is extremely cheap and simple to install - preferably so cheap as to be trivial by airline standards and capable of being hauled around by forklift.


It's the same people.

Reaction Engines Limited started up because the engineers involved in the HOTOL project didn't want to see it die. Skylon is a slightly updated HOTOL, updated a bit and taken private.

Pope says gravity proves technology can't supplant God


Repeating myself.

I've said this before, and it is worth repeating.

Personal development of any worth has to start by looking for truth. Trying to be good while you are lying to yourself doesn't work - there are too many ways that it can go wrong.


I'd take that bet.

I don't know about the original poster, but for a month's pay I'd certainly be willing to hold my arms up for an hour.

Trying to hold them up forever has a few flaws though, such as the end of the universe, and the fact that I could use that forever to earn more than one month's pay.

A fifth of Europeans can't work out how much a TV costs



Can you be so sure that there aren't a few people with extra arms?

Just to confuse the count, I'm going to stubbornly insist that I have four. Two of my arms have shoes on, admittedly, but that means nothing.

Wind power: Even worse than you thought


We can't go 100% nuclear without major investment.

Nuclear power is great for base load and we ought to be going for about 40% nuclear without any hesitation, but it isn't a good fit for Britain if you want more than that. There will still have to be something to fill the gap.

We're a small island with no land borders - it's difficult to export power in large amounts - so when our own usage dips at night, the generating capacity has to dip too. Nuclear reactors can't be shut down that quickly, so they end up having to run at full power with nobody to sell that power to. They become uneconomical very quickly under such circumstances.

Nuclear power is fantastic and cheap for countries like France that can export power overnight, but we can't do that, not without a really seriously huge investment in the channel tunnel power link.


Pumped hydro is nice if you've got a good spot already...

I've commented about this elsewhere in the thread too - smaller scale power storage would be better, allowing it to be sized to fit the wind farm, and not needing too many factors in combination when you're choosing where to put your plant.

Hot sodium-sulphur cell batteries are the way to go.


Wishing for better storage.

For a long time, I've been hoping that sulphur cell storage batteries would take off, replacing pumped hydro for balancing the grid over time. Increasing use of wind power really ought to have made them more attractive - a relatively cheap, reliable, small scale, fast reacting energy storage system ought to be exactly what everybody wants.

If you pair up every wind farm with a sulphur cell storage battery, all the problems disappear except for the price of building them in the first place. Even then it ought to compare favourably with nuclear.

Small business denounces extra red tape


re: Happy now?

The law should only reflect the needs of stereotypes, and force that view onto everybody else?

So what if some men don't want to be at home with their kids? That's no excuse for denying the option to those that do.

Antarctic ice breakup makes ocean absorb more CO2


re: Turtle

How have you managed to see an article which essentially says "new data added to climate change theories, global warming to be slightly slower than predicted" and on reading it, to turn that in your head into "global warming is bollocks"?

The Bayeux Tapestry archiving model


Why not ask for fast and long lasting?

Researchers and engineers aware of this need for high capacity, ultra-high reliability long term storage. The most promising approach that I've heard of involved electrically switched mechanical bits.

If you've etched a mechanical switch that is big enough to ignore radiation and thermodynamic effects, and you keep it somewhere sensible, it'll store data pretty much indefinitely. If you've etched several billion of them... problem solved.

I'm assuming that you do need some kind of locking mechanism to prevent vibration screwing up your data. Not really a problem if it's a write once, read forever type of system. The switch needs to be ultra reliable, the lock only needs to change state once.

X-51 hypersonic scramjet test bird ready for second flight


Fuel is not a problem if you don't need it to be ultra-cheap.

Hydrocarbons as an energy store will be around for a very, very long time. Whether it's biofuel derivatives or something synthesised directly from co2 and water, fuels can be manufactured.

Even if every oil well on the planet unexpectedly ran dry tomorrow, we'd still be able to produce plenty at a higher cost for neat applications like this scramjet.

Well... we'd be able to, once the economic chaos settled down a bit.

Hadron Collider 'could act as telephone for talking to the past'


Detector sensitivity.

If we assume for the sake of argument that this hypothesis isn't a load of bollocks (my guess is that it almost certainly is, but since the collider is already running anyway, might as well look out for it, the additional cost is minimal), the singlets would be a right bugger to detect because they can spread out in so many more dimensions than we're used to. Point sources of particles in our boring old 3d world get dimmer according to the inverse square law, but singlets would be subject to inverse cube law at the minimum, and possibly to the fourth power as well, depending on how the brane works.

In other words, you need to be very close to the source in both time and space to get a strong signal. Probably even a few metres away in distance and a nanosecond away in time would be too far.




There is no single, definitive reference frame. You can say that as seen from the galactic core, we are moving very rapidly, but that's no more valid than us saying that we are still and the galactic core is moving very fast. The same applies to saying that our galaxy is moving fast through the local group - we humans think in terms of heirarchies and so it is easiest for us to think of the bigger object as a static background with smaller stuff zooming around inside - but particles don't think that way.

EU copyright database could help reform the laws on orphan works



All creative work by any EU citizen is copyrighted just by the fact that it has been created. Even if you're restricting the database to written and static visual media, that's still going to be a staggeringly vast amount of information.

Nobody can possibly hold all copyrighted works, maintain accuracy of the database, and use it as a basis for deciding ownership of copyright. One out of those three yes, maybe two with great effort... all three, not a hope.

NASA aims for space tests of Mars-in-a-month plasma drive


Be optimistic!

Sure it will!

It's not going to be all on a single circuit in series. A solar array is, as the name suggests, an array - inherently built with some redundancy. You can prod holes in it all you like, and all you lose is a little bit of power where the actual damage happened. At worst you might have to shut down engines and EVA to reconnect a broken cable.

There's not much risk of debris in interplanetary space though. Plenty of probes have gone that way before, solar panels unfurled all the way.


Only very marginal benefits.

Even if you're making a spaceship that is stripped down to the theoretical minimum of an astronaut standing on top of a fuel tank and engine, no mass spared on comfort, you're still only going to be getting accelerations of about a thousandth of earth gravity.

Acceleration-gravity of around 0.001G and lower isn't going to do much to help bone density loss and immune system function. It won't even really help with settling dust out of the air, since the air has to be circulated by fans anyway.

It might make astronauts feel better in psychological terms to be able to feel a very faint downwards direction perhaps - giving some sense of direction.


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As the article mentioned, proper reactors have been flown in space already. They're not popular devices, as a few of them burst their coolant systems and spewed molten metal all over their orbit. Nuclear reactors have horrible potential for making the space debris problem worse.

Shooting down satellites also has unfortunate space debris consequences.

Nuclear power for an interplanetary mission is a great idea, and I wholeheartedly support it, but trying it in low Earth orbit when we haven't got any sort of debris cleanup strategy is asking for trouble. Keep it far away from orbits full of expensive satellite tech.

Whitehall to puff punters: 'Hide your fags'


Can tell it will be nonsense when the words "nanny state" turn up.

It's fun watching people trying to read this as persecution of smokers by evil government.

We all know damn well that advertising works, people buy things on impulse, brand recognition has power, and so on. Companies spend huge amounts of money on these things to influence people's decisions. Removing that influence ought to be a good thing.

Being advertised to, in whatever form, is not any kind of civil right.

Building Windows 7 skills - will we need another 10 years?



Is there some reason why this question is being asked now, rather than back in mid 2009 when Win7 was released?

Judge guts suit against Sony for killing Linux in PS3

Thumb Down

re: You miss the point entirely

Contracts can't override the law.

If you bought a product that could explode and kill you, that came with an agreement saying the manufacturer had the right to detonate it anytime they liked... it would still be illegal for them to blow you up.

I don't know how strong consumer protection laws are in the US, but certainly in the EU, the same principle would apply to disabling advertised features. Terms and conditions be damned - laws take priority over them.

Discovery on countdown for Thursday launch


Robots to rule in space.

It was a shame that no second generation manned spaceplane ever came to fruition. We all know the shuttles were a flawed system, but that shouldn't mean the idea was a bad one, it just means you learn from your mistakes and do better next time.

If only something like the x-37 spysat / space UAV had been built first, then the experiences from operating that had been applied to a manned spaceplane... A cheap system that you can throw up into the skies just because you feel like testing the latest modifications to its hardware is a good way to learn.

Who needs 600 friends when you're a bride of Christ?


The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

"It's good to see people referring to the Roman Catholic Church as an organisation as distinct from any personal means towards spiritual fulfilment."

Sorry to be harsh here, Chuts, but spiritual fulfilment is not anything good or meaningful if it means uncritical faith and the worship of a hypothetical being.

Personal development begins with seeking truth, regardless of which organisations you associate with.

NO-SH*T CURE FOR BALDNESS discovered by accident


Reminds me of something...

This immediately puts me in mind of the introductory scenes from Idiocracy, in which cures for impotence and baldness were given higher priority in the labs than curing stupidity.

A pleasant surprise then, to go on to read that it was an accidental discovery made while trying to genuinely improve people's lives and cure stress related diseases.

A happy story all round.

Egypt switches off the internet

Black Helicopters

Not the first.

Burma/Myanmar did it back in 2007, when their own local proto-rebellion was being beaten down by the military, and too many photos of the violence were getting out that might have embarrassed the government.


Utah to honour Browning M1911 semi-automatic


re: How British

Criticise the UK's past if it makes you feel better. We've had a chance to learn from our mistakes and have changed.

We're criticising the US as it is today.

Raygun dreadnought project reports 'remarkable breakthrough'


Fighting aircraft won't be redundant...

... the following generation of fighters will just be a lot bigger and carry their own doom-beam emitters.

Air combat becomes a contest to get the first accurate shot, with speed and agility taking a role only in being able to get to the battle without crashing. A laser in the air can have better range than one on the ground.

Until anti aircraft lasers become common throughout the rest of the world though, we're still going to need the current generation of aircraft. No need to panic.

Wind turbine bonanza expected in Hull


Pumped hydro is a bit arse.

If we do move towards having much more power generated by wind, the economic conditions will be moving towards the requirements for sodium-sulphur cells as storage. Smaller than pumped hydro, easier to build and maintain, but unattractive at the moment since they have to be kept hot and with quick start gas turbines all over the place, they're being kept hot for no purpose.

My guess is that if a large fraction of our power starts coming from wind, we'll eventually start seeing gas turbines replaced with molten sulphur cells.