* Posts by Spoobistle

53 posts • joined 1 Jun 2011


Full of beans? Sadly not as fellow cracks open tin at dinner to find just one


"a little on the light side?"

Actually that would depend on the buoyant weight of beans in bean sauce. It's not the difference between an empty tin and a full one, but the difference between sauce and beans. My estimate, based on a model of beans as close packed spheres with a density of 1.1 g/cm3 and sauce of density 1.02 g/cm3 (about 5% sucrose) would be a difference of about 20g on a 400g tin. I expect other readers will wish to confirm this experimentally.

Despite billions in spending, your 'military grade' network will still be leaking data


'Twas ever thus?

It would be interesting to know how these figures compare with the days of the paper-filled office - emailing a file to the wrong person is no different in principle to putting a document in the wrong envelope, after all.

Science and engineering hit worst as Euroboffins do a little Brexit of their own from British universities


Re: Brexit bollocks

> Why make it worse than it already is by making all these people angry,

I believe that's called "appeasement". It works in the short term, but in the long run has a tendency to end in disaster. See "Danegeld" and other historical phenomena passim.

Regarding the EU and science, a bad Brexit won't do either UK or EU any good, there are reasons why UK science does so well out of the EU budgets. Breaking that system will disadvantage both; the beneficiaries will be the US (where the Old World talent will go) and the (up and coming) Pacific Rim.

Fantastic Mr Fox? Not when he sh*ts on your lawn, kids' trampoline and your soul


Re: Get a cat

"do it next door instead"

Unfortunately, all too many cats have the same habit. I imagine fox-poo is probably worse to scape out of the lawnmower though.

It's Prime Minister Boris Johnson: Tech industry speaks its brains on Brexit-monger's victory


Re: *

I thought that was the IT Angle: Kingston Telecom.

Who is this "Ivanka Trump" anyway?

Veteran vulture Andrew Orlowski is offski after 19 years at The Register



Talking Pictures Tv (81 on Freeview) much better for B&W films! Don't waste your time on BBC2, rapidly turning into a mushy lifestyle pap channel.

In a galaxy far, far away, aliens may have eight-letter DNA – like the kind NASA-backed boffins just crafted



There's obviously a whole lot of other things to consider in the "real" world, notably the metabolism that provides the nucleotides. They made their new letters synthetically but I am sceptical that their "Z", which contains a nitro group, would fit well into purine/pyrimidine biosynthesis.

Basically we know that the existing systems of protein and nucleic acid metabolism must have been optimal at the point of life's origin, and we can argue about whether they could have been replaced later or not, but we are still not really any further forward as to whether under different pre-biotic conditions an alternative metabolism would originate and persist.

However, this work along with others on non-natural amino acids etc are delineating the possible chemical spaces available for that alternative, so maybe one day we will be able to propose a full scheme for "exo-life".

DeepMind quits playing games with AI, ups the protein stakes with machine-learning code


Grail seekers

As anyone who has tried to make proteins will tell you, even when you have the right sequence of amino acids there is plenty of scope for the folding to go wrong. The energy differences between folded, misfolded and disordered proteins are small. Many proteins don't simply fold spontaneously - they need prior modification or "chaperone proteins" to get it right. There are cellular processes that modify the gene sequence before it is translated into amino acids. Etc etc.

To me this looks like the "big physics" approach: if you can't answer a question, throw a bigger machine at it. It works for some questions but I suspect that the result will be rather like previous attempts to computerise biology. It will get some good hits in the short term, then people will realise that most are actually rather similar to known cases - the "low hanging fruit" syndrome.

Meanwhile, rather like the back and forth between theoretical astrophysicists and astronomers, the biologists in the wet labs will need to collect more information on the hard cases mentioned: fibrous, disordered and membrane proteins.

There's no Holy Grail, just a lot more work.

RIP Ursula K Le Guin: The wizard of Earthsea


Wife's Story

I've been trying for months to recall where I read (many years ago) the story about a werewolf written from the wolf's point of view - I never realised it was by Ursula Le Guin. A sad loss.

Heart of darkness: Inside the Osówka underground city


VLF transmitter?

Didn't this complex appear in that series of Jamie Theakston programmes, now rolling round on Yesterday or Quest?

It struck me that the site could well have been intended as a VLF transmitter for communication with submarines, a well known Nazi obsession. All the Allied powers were doing this after WW2 (Alpha, Omega etc) but there doesn't seem to be much information about whether the Germans were developing anything similar.

Give a boffin a Xeon and a big GPU, get a new big prime number


> then you just collect a sufficiently large set of primes, multiply them all together and subtract 1 - bingo.

I thought that theorem only works if you multiply *all* primes together then subtract one. Otherwise, making new primes would just be a leapfrogging process.

Governments could introduce 'made by humans' tags - legal report


Re: post scarcity

There's no such thing as a post scarcity society. The work of the robots will be used to ease the lives of the already well-off while devaluing the resources the poor can give to society (i.e. their labour). The exact groups that are "well-off" and "poor" may change somewhat, but ultimately Economics is not an immutable consequence of Nature like physics or chemistry, but a man-made construct crafted to serve the powerful. Economics won't change until human nature does. Not any time soon.

Plans to force ISPs to filter content branded 'disproportionate'


> nobody was interested in any help buying, installing, advising, etc. them on how to apply a filter to their Internet connection. Literally NO-ONE even turned up.

Basically nothing the ISPs provide will be much use until parents have a proper incentive to use it. We need laws and social pressure to make it just as unacceptable not to filter your childs internet access as it is to give the kid whisky, cigarettes or your car keys.

High tides: Boffins spy on dolphins baked on poisonous piscines


Re: Not surprising really

My favourite comment on the dolphin-hugging claptrap was supposedly from Margaret Klinowska, who when asked why the angelic creatures saved so many drowning people by pushing them in to shore, replied that we just didn't hear from the people they pushed out to sea and drowned....

Never hold nature up as a moral example, you're bound to end up looking stupid.

Firefox bares teeth, attacks sites that collect personal data



I'd have thought an icon showing an open padlock would be more intuitive?

Symantec sets legal wolves upon Zscaler


Picture pun?!

"Legal wolves" - something that looks like a wolf but you can keep in a suburban garden?

Hence the picture, actually of two Malamutes, usually regarded as affectionate if boisterous sled-dogs. Unless it's a sly comment on the quality of Symantec's lawyers?

SANS issues call to arms to battle IoT botnets


Push the costs back to the suppliers

Consumer protection law could be upgraded/enforced better - if the IoT device you bought was used in a botnet, you get to pay damages to the victim - but you also get to recover those damages from the supplier. Once people get the idea that cheap tat isn't a saving but a liability, the suppliers will beef up security pretty quickly if they want to sell anything.

The law is an ass: Mooning banned at arse end of the world


Waltzing Matilda

Remind me again, what was it the dog did with the tuckerbox?

You should install smart meters even if they're dumb, says flack


Re: The other alternative

Not a chance - that's the whole idea of smart meters: to get National Grid out of having to supply more electricity:


This is what happens when you put bean-counters in charge of infrastructure. The noughties zeitgeist isn't about more capacity, it's about sweating the assets harder till you've moved on and the replacement bill is someone else's nasty surprise. See motorways, rail, NHS, telecommunications, schools, housing... practically anything that requires men with shovels because they cost real money.

Next step is rationing. It'll be called "choice" though, as in you can "choose" to have a hot bath today, or you can "choose" go to work smelly and claim it's for the environment rather than because you're skint.

Printers now the least-secure things on the internet


Internet of punter-milking

I'm starting to wonder if anyone thinks about quality any more. It seems we are lumbered with either cheap as chips tat which can be exploited by any hacker, or locked down "milking machines" which only function while they can phone home to check the subscription is being paid. (Case in point: I have three old BT Vision boxes at home, which I picked up in the detritus at car boot sales. These would be perfectly capable of functioning as Freeview receivers or PVRs, but the software makes this impossible to do legally. So all they can do is bulk up the electrical appliance waste stream.)

I'd like to see appliances marketed in such a way that "Internet extras" are clearly differentiated from on-going expectations of function, and are assessed for safety and security. I don't know who is going to push this though. "Which" perhaps?

Astronauts sequence DNA in space for the first time


Nanu Nanu Pores

I don't suppose anyone expected DNA sequencing not to work in space - I guess this was more about showing astronauts could do it themselves without an elaborate lab setup. By extension you can do sequencing "anywhere" (I think these things have already been used on plagues in various earthly locations).

Maybe even the NHS will get them one day...

Would we want to regenerate brains of patients who are clinically dead?



Think they might have chosen a better brand name... unless of course it's a subsidiary of Cthulhu Enterprises.

Mozilla slings Firefox patches at flaw found by GCHQ's infosec arm


Re: Comma placement (@Dan55)

Well if GCHQ have prompted Mozilla to cure the infuriating Javascript "lockups" that have become a feature of Firefox lately, they'll get a vote of thanks from me, and hopefully I won't have to switch browser.

Facebook tells Viz to f**k right off


Modern Parents

I thought Facebook *was* something out of Viz...

Raspberry Pi grows the pie with new deal allowing custom recipes


More versions

One that aspiring musicians could play along to:

The Raspberry Jam

One that emitted a piercing noise on detecting nearby Apple devices:

The Raspberry iScream

One that monitored restaurant waiting staff overloads:

The Raspberry TrayFull

One that alerted you to toothed cutting devices on auction sites:

The Raspberry SawBay

...I think it's lunch time now.

WIPO punts Cambridge University over attempt to grab Cambridge.com


Re: Compromise

You're forgetting Cambridge, New Zealand. I don't think there's any university there either.

NASA: 'Closest thing yet to ANOTHER EARTH' - FOUND


life has already died out on Kepler 452b...

On a sweaty greenhouse of a planet, about a billion years ago, Noel Smuk is arguing with his executives.

"Well if we can't get a person off this boiling hellhole, what can we do?"

"How about sending a robot ship with frozen microbes? The AI can scan for life and seed any sterile environments, then come back and tell us where it has fertilised. By the time it gets back we'll have developed better cryopreservation."

"Great, where to go?"

"There's this little exoplanet about 1400 LY away, bit small, bit young but it should definitely be on the list"...

Weird ARCHAEAN LIFE FORM found at 'Loki's Castle' DEEP beneath Arctic Circle


Re: Oh Hell

> "...which we refer to as microbial dark matter,..."

> Now even the biologists are doing it...

There is a vague similarity - they haven't actually discovered a wee crawly beastie, what they did was to scrape up lots of little bits of DNA and stitch them together (virtually) to read the genome of the beastie. Like the physicists, they know it must be there, but can't actually see it. Unlike the physicists, there is a sporting chance some intrepid diver will eventually find it on the bottom of his boot.

Tesla's battery put in the shade by current and cheaper kit


Re: Kettles

"My kettle is rated as 2.5kW, it boils a cup of water reasonably quickly but watch what happens when you turn it on, hot bubbles form around the element, detach and rise to the surface releasing some of their heat on the way up but most of the heat is given up to the atmosphere."

Most of that is dissolved air coming out of solution, and nothing to do with the heating.

"Any water left in the kettle cools quickly due to lack of insulation.

It can't be beyond science to have a 1.25kW kettle boil the same amount of water in a similar timeframe"

As James Joule convinced us many years ago, it takes a fixed amount of *energy* to raise the temperature of water to boiling, so twice the *power* takes half as long - assuming a perfectly insulated kettle, and that's the real point. A crappy uninsulated 1.25kW kettle will be no better than a crappy uninsulated 2.5kW kettle and probably worse because more heat is lost in the longer time to boiling. If you want rules about kettles, make them apply to the insulation, not the heating power.



Re: @rpb - Currant in Yorkshire

> In Yorkshire we feed Eccles cakes to pigs although we have to blend them in with other things

As a child in Manchester it was a tricky choice between the Egg Custard and the Eccles Cake; not till I came to Yorkshire did I discover that some local genius had combined the two in the Curd Tart. Its only disadvantage is having to avoid the Hulture Secretary temptation in the bakery.

A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers


Re: Ignore the licence requirements

Not to mention:

Ignore the big guy with the baseball bat who thinks you're a peeping tom spying on his wife/kids.

NASA: Mars satellites menaced by speeding SPACE ALIEN


Re: funny arithmetic

I make 33 miles/sec to be 0.0177% of c, though you still wouldn't want to meet it head on.

True fact: Your CAT wees ... like a racehorse


Re: "More research is needed."

Not far off:

"Additional mathematical techniques as well as accurate urethral measurements

are needed to increase correspondence with experiments."

I guess MRI would be an ideal method for this. Doubtless the authors are preparing a grant application for an elephant-size MRI and a supercomputer.


Re: "... a long and wider urethra results in faster flow ..."

It's a bit confusing in the paper - they are taking the length of the urethra to represent the "drop" i.e. pressure difference due to gravity between the header tank (bladder) and outlet, so the longer it is the faster the water comes out at the tap. Of course this neglects the angle of the pipe. They do mention that in analysing the difference between male & female, but it's not clear whether their urethral length data is also gender corrected...

I'm no expert on fluid mechanics, but from the one old textbook I have and a bit of algebra, I come up with a similar 1/6 power law for emptying a volume from a tank with a hole in the side if you scale the lengths/areas/volumes dimensionally according to mass, so I think the rest is more about coming up with an decent estimate for the time, which they get within an order of magnitude.

I take my hat off to them though, from downloading videos of animals pissing off YouTube and holding sawn-off coke bottles under pooches at the local dog park, they managed to get a PNAS paper. Most people would just have ended up in the local paper.

Beer, because I bet that's where it all started.

HIDDEN OCEAN of LIVING SOUP found on Enceladus, moon of Saturn


Elder Things

Ancient life forms, buried under ice for millions of years... unwary human exploration... samples brought back...

Where's H. P. Lovecraft when you need him?

It's 2014 and you can pwn a PC by opening a .RTF in Word, Outlook


Is Wordpad affected?

Anybody know if Wordpad is vulnerable? I use this rather than Word for .rtf files as it is a bit quicker and less clumsy for some tasks.

My smelly Valentine: Europe's perfumers wake to V-Day nightmare


Re: No sexier perfume on the planet...

If you watched Chris Packham's BBC2 programme about animal minds, you will know that Chanel Number 5 is very good for attracting wolves (the 4-legged kind). I'm not sure what this means, except that maybe it's not a good idea to wear it at the zoo.

OMG, Andrex KILLED the PUPPY! Not quilty, exclaim bog roll boys


Re: Online toilet paper lovers?

>You're dead on with the tracing paper thing, though.

The secret is to crumple it up a bit before use. Not too much, or then your finger *will* go through!

We had some stuff at school called "Bronco". I think this was the value version of Izal. I later found out that bronco is Spanish for rough...

Chester Cathedral smites net in Wi-Fi SMUT OUTRAGE


Torture porn?

How about scantily clad blokes being nailed to crosses? Hope there's nothing like that in the cathedral!

Pristine WWII German Enigma machine could be yours

Black Helicopters

Re: unbreakable


Look up Venona.

Radio hams unite to fight off new powerline comms standard


Re: Not Just Radio Amateurs

The government needs to be convinced that the HF spectrum is a valuable commodity to those who use it for its unique properties, even if it hasn't been "monetised". There are laws about noise pollution and leaving rubbish in your garden, even though it doesn't cost your neighbours anything; PLT interference is a nuisance in the same way, just not so obvious. MPs may be ignorant of technical matters, but they are very used to dealing with complaints about nuisances. They need to know that by letting this slip, they are contributing to the degradation of the radio environment for its responsible users in the same way that nuisance neighbours degrade the aesthetic environment.


Lazy government

PLT is the electromagnetic equivalent of fly-tipping - saves some cowboy the effort of doing the job properly and puts the cost of clearing up onto the people left with the mess. The HF spectrum is a valuable resource for low power long-distance communication, whether hobbyists like hams, or commercial, and should be devoted to this purpose, not abandoned to pollution simply because politicians can't be bothered to listen. I can't help thinking the situation is similar to the canals in the 60s and 70s - they weren't used for cargo so they became rubbish tips, got filled in, built over etc. It took a determined band of objectors to conserve them and now they are appreciated for their amenity and recreational value. We don't know what uses may be developed for HF bands in the future (community broadcasting?) but if they are filled with PLT and SMPSU smog, they won't be any use to anyone.

Ofcom aren't really the body for this job - they are much more interested in media than tech. Look how much effort they put into nipple-watching on obscure satellite channels. Interference regulation should really be under something like Trading Standards (sales of kit) or Environment (effects).

Coke-snorting cop bots to replace sniffer dogs


Healthy snorting

There has been some work on dogs sniffing out cancer and other diseases. Wouldn't it be nice if airports and tube stations had machines (or dogs) sniffing out your health problems and handing out referral cards for your GP, instead of burly coppers intimidating dope-heads. Don't 's'pose there's any money for that though.

Mars, Moon, solar system could be littered with alien artifacts


(un)friendly aliens

"Dolphins not infrequently rescue drowning humans to dry land. This is also evidence of high intelligence and inter-species altruism. They know that humans come from dry land, a place where no dolphin ever wants to end up"

As a zoologist pointed out, we never hear from the people they push out to sea...

Bacteria - well, they're just a lifestyle choice for phages.

I'm with Douglas Adams and the white mice theory.

Gallery mulls 'damage' after cleaner scrubs modern art


Missed a trick

So all the unemployed Greeks need to do now is create a lot of "Art Works" like this and pay the German bankers with them!

Sixth of Britain's cellphones have traces of poo on them


Tide of Filth

I'm surprised it isn't more than 1 in 6 - at least it's likely to be your own poop-flora unless you have some genuinely bizarre phone habits. In fact probably a good way of deterring muggers - "well you can have it but you'd better go over it with bleach..."

Sixty-seven WIMPs spotted in the wild, maybe



It's tungstate - not tungstenate.

Mine's the one with the volumetric flask in the pocket.

Bloody Moon stuffs the Perseids


Cheap radios

R2 at 69 MHz - sure that's not image response? (69 + 2 x 10.7 = 90.4)

Sci/tech MPs want peer review, not pal review


data availability

Maybe the data isn't yours to make available: take look at


- the Trinidad & Tobago govt evidently made a little pin-money out of charging for their climate data. So you could find yourself caught between a FoI commissioner order to release and a Justice Arnold order blocking your ftp server...



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