* Posts by HelpfulJohn

561 publicly visible posts • joined 31 Aug 2012


Tenfold electric vehicles on 2030 roads could be a shock to the system


Re: No shit

It is not just rows of Victorian houses lining streets not built for cars.

There are roads - many, many of them - lined with "modern" houses from the 1970's and later that have cars parked all along them on both sides

to such an extent that they are essentially single-file lanes for much of their lengths.

True, some 21st Century housing estates have short driveways and parking slots for a car but those often have more than one car per tiny house.

The problem is not petrol cars, it is *too* *many* cars.

Ask anyone who commutes during "rush" hour, even those car-free folk travelling by bus.

India's lunar landing made a mess on the Moon


Re: Microwaves

Then the telecomms guys will come to swap the copper for fibres. Then the water company will come to fix a leak ...

Oh, wait, the water guys just cut through the mains cables for that research base ...

Shouldn't someone have stored maps of all of those pipes, wires and other junk and supplied them to the Planners?


Re: "chronic or long-term effects of such dust exposure could be a problem for future missions."

I have never understood that argument.

Surely we should be doing both. And building cities from the mile-wide Asteroids, using Phobos (not the other one, it's pretty much useless),

colonising Mercury and Venus (yerp, that one could be done though it would not be easy) and building City-Farms in Earth's high orbits.

All at once.

And we should have started in the 1970's.

There was a time when we could have afforded it all, had the Dream Of Stars to drive it all, could have taken the Galaxy.

It is possible that the Dream is dead and we can not do any of these things, that we lack the treasure, the will and the ambition. That we are trapped.

But surely we should be trying?


Re: Why does anybody want to go there?

Once terrified, Luna would not need dust busters. They dust would settle into clays and muds just as it does on a nearby, wetter planet.

As it mostly does there. Usually. With some local, temporary exceptions.

Unlike the local Big Sister World, though, there would not be any tectonics to cycle the muds from the bottom of the Lunar Ocean so any citizens

would need to build piping and pumps and ejectors at the top of the higher hills. [See the "Ringworld" series for details.]


Re: Artificial gravity doormat

I know this is a "Star Trek"/"B5"/"BuckRogers" type of super-sciffy solution but has anyone thought of a gentle shower in the airlocks?

Or wet-wipes?

Or both?

Okay, it's a bit expensive on the water front, in that it would mean actualy using some, but a 30 second rinse of the suits shouldn't use

too much.

The slurry could even be kept and used, or just analysed for Science and the dirty water could be re-used - at least most of it.

Too "2001 : A Space Odyssey" for real spaceships?

Millions of smart meters will brick it when 2G and 3G turns off


Re: No corruption here.

I had one come around five or six years ago. He was just checking that I wasn't fudging the numbers.

Since then I've been scrupulously honest - yes, I was before then, too :) - and their computers haven't queried my numbers as outliers.

Every so often they even reduce my direct debits [or they used to before the latest couple of years] due to me overpaying them. I don't suppose

that's going to happen very often in the future?


Re: No corruption here.

Two disadvantages at a minimum:

1: the "smart" meter needs power to drive its display and its communications with the world and the little tablet thingy;

2: the little tablet thingy will need to be charged or connected to the mains or it will run out of juice and not "help";

how is this "saving energy"?

Astronomers spot Earth-sized exoplanet probably 'carpeted' by volcanoes



Some fifty-ish years ago, a televised serial story had a starship with the technology capable of reading the surface and atmospheric conditions

of planets light-years from the ship.

Tiny but totally amazing parts of "Star Trek" are really, really happening right now! Things believed utterly impossible in the 1960's, with very

good reasons.

Those Science Guys are incredible.

Imagine what we could know by the 23rd Century!


Re: What a time to live in

It need not necessarily be 1:1 locked.

Our Mercury isn't.

5:3 or 3:5 or others might be stable for long periods, especially with C interfering with the locking mechanics.

Three days per five orbits would make for interesting calendars, with C {"Lapcat"?} making astrology interesting.


Re: What a time to live in

"Surely you mean Google LP 791-18d?"

Hmm. That's a horrible name. How about "Google Lipid"?

The other three could be: Elpa, Lapbug and Lampcat.

If we find a fifth world, we could go with "Loper". Then, perhaps, "Luffy", "Lugnuts", "Lohi" and such like fancies?

Hey, did I just name some planets?

Star Fomalhaut has dusty little secret – two more debris belts and a potential planetary party


If a Fomahautian planet gets to be solid, with a reasonable gravity and atmospher and it orbits far enough from the star, it could be used

for several tens of millions of years by a wandering, technological culture before the star cooks it.

Falling rocks and icy blobs could be equally useful, if not more so, assuming Fomalhaut keeps some around.

Even short-lived stars live a very, very long time on our timescales.


The blackness is the blacked-out star.

Stars are *very* bright, even in infra-red and that one would overwhelm the light from the dust clouds. To see how bright a star can be, see Sol

from Earth's equator in Summer.

It is possible to make a composite of the dust cloud and the central star using digital jiggery-pokery but there is no reason to do it here.


Star system, stellar system or planetary system.

There is only one Solar System and most of us are in it. Most of the time.

James Webb spots the early galaxies responsible for tidying up the universe


Re: Something else is wrong here..

"What in the name of the Deity is an "honoree"?"

It's something like an "honouree" only shorter and more USofAn.

It's someone being honoured for something, or something taking the honour of being something. For example, a dark region of the cosmos being

"honoured" for being the biggest collapsed object so far found.

Though I would not call that an honour, more like recognition of it's place on a list, which is just one random property of an object.

It's like honouring (or "honoring" if you are USofAn) a girl for being the one with the reddest hair. Only less significant and probably temporary.

Airbus to help with International Space Station replacement


Re: Pretty decor

"Nobody wants to have to rip away fake potted plants and wall panels to get to a leak."

That is just engineering and designing. Make the potted plant tubs and the thin, pretilly dyed walls behind them easily moved and you can access everything

easily, rapidly and safely. Make them easily moveable and you could even change the decor every so often. This should be one of the *first* things thought of

when building stuff.

And every single room in every suite whether for tourist or crew could have their own "window", a low power screen showing the Cosmos from the non-rotating

hub. Those would double as large comms-computer-wallpaper screens.

Why does everyone *always* insist on making things ugly, expensive and bloody difficult? Cheap and pretty works in Hotels down here. We are currently

hiding hundreds of millions of kilometres of piping in our buildings and we've been doing it for over two millennia. Doing it on warships and orbiting habitats

isn't exactly rocket science.

And the issue of bugs building up behind the panels and around the piping? Well, many supermarkets down here sell shopping bags with anti-microbial

inner linings. I'm sure the bright ladies and gentlemen at J.P.L. could use that concept. Or something better.


Re: 2001

"Trump would most likely just demand they add more floors to an earth-based tower until it reached space :-)"

Such a thing could possibly be done on Ceres and anything smaller. Some falling rocks even have littly, baby rocks already in orbit around

them that could be used for construction materials or asteroidal-stationary mid-points.

Maybe Pluto, too, though a Pluto-Charon Bridge might be more fun and easier. For a Plutonian Orbital Tower one would probably need to spin-up

the planet so the "centrifugal force" could be high enough to keep it upright. Looking at it another way, we'd need to create a viable stationary orbit

for the Plutono-stationary centre-of-gravity of the tower to live in. Spinning-up a planet is simple engineering and highly expensive economics. It

would do things to the P-C barycentre. Maybe.

Eros could have a launch tower poking out. Maybe two, for symmetry.

An orbital Tower on Venus would have to be large enough to reach half-way to Mercury. She doesn't rotate very very rapidly so cythero-stationary orbits

are extremely wide. Spinning up Venus would be a tiny bit beyond Man's present economic base. Though, if done, it would help with Greening the place.

Note: I said "easier" about the Bridge, not "easy". :)

I wonder whether, when Mr. T. wins next year, we could interest him in building things like these? As Vanity projects, they would quite literally be out of

this world. Why have a face carved into one tiny, obscure hilltop when one could use entire *worlds*?


Re: 2001

"he meals for the current ISS crew costs thousands per portion with most of that just in transportation costs."

Which is one of the main reasons why we should have been building City-Farms in high orbit fifty years ago.

Growing foods in orbit, even fake "beefburgers" in vats, would, once the farms and support cities were up there, be literally dirt cheap. Sending them around the

various sciencey, techie and engineering stations would be simple orbital mechanics and timing. Fetching waste, such as sewage, to help defray some of

the burden of replacements of volatiles is simply returning the Pizza-delivery vans full instead of empty.

We should have been sending up scores of Skylabs and MIR's and using the shells of re-supply modules as extra mass for add-ons so that by now we'd have

the infrastructures to create a vast Civilisation off-world. We should be using the re-supply modules to add to the ISS right now.

Of course, we should also have the Hubble in high orbit, with the infrastructure up there to add to and maintain it, as well as Hubble-27 and friends but that, too

is a non-starter.

It's a shame that start to the grabbing of the Human Galaxy will never happen, is no longer possible.

That the Dream Of Stars is dead.

UK civil servants – hopefully including those spending billions on tech – to skill up in STEM


Re: How about the ministers go next?

"Margaret Thatcher, Chemist"

Thanks. I did suspect as much. :)


Re: How about the ministers go next?

"f they have STEM, they're already smart enough to know they don't want to be a minister, or any other politician."

Wasn't Mrs. Thatcher a chemist? With a degree in chemisty-stuff? Y'know, sort of like a Real Scientist? I think she was a sort of politician for a while?

And aren't there actual Medical Doctors in the UKland Parliament? Do M.D's count as "Real" Scientists?

And I'm wiling to be corrected but don't UKland M.P.'s generally get loads more money, more holidays and less work than "Real Scientists"? So isn't that

*far* smarter than working in Science?

Windows File Explorer gets nostalgic speed boost thanks to one weird bug


Re: File list - easy way to create?

"Any suggestions for an alternative file explorer?"

I've been using an old version (V. 9.0) of "PowerDesk 9" for over a decade on XP and Win-7.

It has everthing *I* need for a file manager in Windows and it was, when I bought it, very much better than Windows' File Explorer/Manager.

I doubt if it is still available.

Voyager 2 found! Deep Space Network hears it chattering in space


Re: All alone in space

"[1] That's about the age of the Earth *cough* according to some *cough cough*"

Uh, no.

It is about two thirds of the age of the Earth, the planets and the stars, as well as everything else according to the Abrahamic myths.

Some other creation stories *do* have her being younger and some far older.

By a strange coincidence, Science has the current age of the Earth and the half-life of a uranium isotope being of roughly the same magnitude.


Re: All alone in space

"Weird to think it'll be another 300 years before it gets to the Oort cloud."

And millennia before she passes out of it. The cometary zone is *huge*. It extends half-way to Proxima ...

Which leads to interesting ideas.

Should Proxima and all her little freinds, such as Wolf 359, have extended cometary zones it may be possible for City-Farms to use the ambient resources

to sustain themselves while drifting from one to another. Interstellar travel, the slowest way. Indeed, a loosely coherent "civilisation" of City-Farms may be

the easiest way to colonise the Galaxies.

Not that it will ever happen but it's nice to think about.

"Space is mind numbingly big." Citation needed?


Re: All alone in space

Talks to *her*.

Machines are generally considered to be feminine in English, ships more so and all of those little robots are ships. Spaceships.

Planets, stars, countries and a few other classes of objects are also female. Why this is is too deeply buried in the Anglo-Saxon-Teutonic past to be

easily explained.

It may seem strange, but even Sol and Jupiter are female. :)

NASA mistakenly severs communication to Voyager 2


Re: Voyager amazes me

"They are still able to send highly detailed images back to Earth ..."

Except that they don't. They do send data but they rarely give us any photographs any more which is a damned shame.

I would realy like them to try binocular vision on some nearby stars and their worlds. Trinocular if the engineers could work Pluto Express into the mix.

It would have been fun to take long-exposure images with both Voyagers, both Pioneers and the Pluto robot all targeting the same objects.

Now, everyone tell me how and why that sort of shenangains are impossible. :)

Could they do parallax on the same star? That would also be so very cool.

The choice: Pay BT megabucks, or do something a bit illegal. OK, that’s no choice


Re: Similar language problem on Windows 1 0

One of my boxes doesn't have a "Timezone/London". The nearest I can get is Dublin.

Fortunately, time is in numerals so there's no language barriers. :)


Re: Similar language problem on Windows 1 0

"Why do some websites admins think locations are hard linked to languages ?"

Regionalised licences. In France, they might be only licenced to sell in French. for example.

It's the same thing that prevents TV, movies, music and books from being available globally at the same price everywhere all of the time.

It's a hang-over from 14th Century thinking and it will *never* change.

A. C. Clarke wrote a short SF story in which the owner of satellites ended this crap simply by broadcasting from high orbit. We all know

how well *that* has worked.

A room-temperature, ambient-pressure superconductor? Take a closer look


"Look up "Namibian desert beetle" and "fog basking"."

Also rainforests. Not much water per square leaf but lots of leaves do add up.


Oh. Sorry.

I really should read everything bfore replying. :)


"... they promoted a story about a device that could pull moisture from the air and make water, supposedly without any energy input ...."

That is easy. A simple sheet of plastic will do it. Not well, and not in any great volume per second, certainly not sufficient to tap into for drinking

water for millions of perople but it works at dawn in some deserts.

"... and this was going to save the water starved world."

Nah. It's just condensation from humid air on a relatively cool surface.

It's the process that makes dew. On a huge scale, it's very valuable. But like a lot of hese edge cases of physics, it isn't concentrated enough to

be technologically viable.

People do use it in deserts, though.


"The sun produces lots of heat and light because it is really big."

Citation needed?

The number’s up for 999. And 911. And 000. And 111


Re: Why the down vote?

Long wires like, say, just blue-skying this one, the National Power Grid with all of those dangling wires held up by pylons?

Those sorts of long wires?

I read something, somewhere that a big, scary Carrington Event (or something bigger, after all Sol is a *huge* bomb and she's active quite a lot of the time)

could de-Grid entire countries.

I'm not entirely sure about a single Nuke flashing an E.M.P. over some place like Ukraine but I don't supposed even a small one would be beneficial to

the Grid.

No Grid, no emergency damage control centres, so having a live 999 replacement wouldn't much matter.


Re: Until we manage to screw up with orbital debris

On point 2 : If there is a sudden flood of screams of *HELP*!" from Location A then one would think that *any* 999 replacment woul be just smart enough to #

suspect that something odd was happening somewhere around that place.

Dumping most of the cries for help and taking ony a small sample should suffice for any intelligent agent to get a vague picture of the reason behind the


Human brains were made to run on inadequate data, building a picture from fragments.

On point 1: one simply needs better tech. :) This is the panacea. No matter what the issue, get better tech.

An utterly independant, fully funded International Rescue service with their own "Thunderbird Five" and many, many relay satellites would be a good start.

Free Wednesday gift for you lucky lot: Extra mouse button!


"It still amazes me that people don't know that the wheel is a button"

I just had a random thought: does *everyone* know that the ALT-CTRL-DEL key combination can be done with one hand using the right hand side of a Windows


The "ALT GR" key works fine as "ALT".

I found that out many years ago when I was too lazy to let go of the mousey with one of my hands so I used the non-rodenty freely floating one on the KB.

Five billion phones are dead in drawers – carriers want to mine them


Re: as if those are at all equivalent

Yes, well, I've known about those for years.

I still have a small pile of dead cells on the table next to the front door.

Someday, I *will* remember to take them with me. :)


Govt suggests Brits should hand passports to social media companies


Re: Crazy Idea

I'm not.

I'm one of the super-select *Few* who were called "Superheroes" by that minister bloke during the Plague Years.

My contact with the Great British Public has not increased since. Does that mean I am *still* a Superhero?

If so, cool!

Also, compared to just about any of the popular sites, the Register isn't a "medium", it's really quite good.

It's time to mark six decades of computer networking


Re: Now forgotten

Wrong question?

The more important question would be: "Why not?"

If it works for thousands of programs, millions of people and quadrillions of boxes, switches, networks and other thingys, why bother changing it?

There is also the "how the Hell *do* we change it?" issue. See "removing IP4 to implement IP6-only" for details. :)


Re: Flashes of light.....

I would never have tried to explain it to my mother.

Explaining it to my *sister* is like an exercise in talking Tagalog to an Icelander when either of us understands the language and I don't do Icelandic.

On the other hand, my wife took to it exceedingly well.

It isn't all culture-lag or time-locked milieux.

On the exponential growth of these technologies, the last few years have shown us that a couple of obnoxious multi-wealthy types can use their commercial enterprises as

massive brakes on innovation and technological change. Suing another company for having rounded corners on their devices is not exactly conducive to getting us off this

planet and walking among the stars any time soon.

We used to be ever so much better than that.


Re: Real reasoniong behind the resilience.

Well, my Win-7 box has been operating 408 days continuously running four instances of Prime95, so I would say "yes, reliability has improved a lot".

It's a 2013 box and has been going for a decade so reliability is *really* better and has been for years.

I vividly remember trying to download a 60MB (yes, *MEGA*-byte) video file for my wife and it failing repeatedly and needing to be restarted for over a week.

Today, I can watch multi-GigaByte movies as streams with every expectation of zero interruptions for buffering.

I can watch them while P95 runs in the background, too.

Today's tech is incredibly impressive.


Re: Now forgotten

What really, really worries me is that I not only understood that but that I could possibly still do it all after a bit of ersfreshing of the wetware cores.

That and more.

Man, the things we had to know!

Is it better now that everyone can run a super-computer with his thumb?

Four out of five Uranus moons likely to have ocean under crust


Re: This is so cool (no pun)

There is no natural Naqada in the Solar System. A Stargate would need to be imported.

Though an Ancient did once build one from a toaster in Sam's kitchen so maybe it *is* doable in Europa?

Hubble spots stellar midwife unit pumping out baby planets


Re: Confused


ESA and JAXA release Mercury eyecandy, courtesy of spacecraft BepiColumbo


"... but we'd need a really, really compelling reason "

Because it's there?

Were humans ever to colonise the bits of the Solar System that are relatively easy to use, and were they also to build city-farms in Earth orbits and bobbing about in the

Asteroid Belts and Trojan Zones, Mercury would get used simply because it's big, often heated a little, has loads of things to build with, places to explore and sights to

see and it has a small source of photo-electric power that could be useful.

That she's a damned hard-to-get-to place only makes her more enticing. Humans adore having to work to get to places. The challenge makes the result seem all the

sweeter. Or so I'm told.

Personally, I'd rather Green Venus.


Re: Another reason why Mercury may be interesting to Earthlings

Well, to give them another idea: Jupiter *might* contain as its core a diamond larger than the Earth.

There, De Beers, now you can have a new hobby ...

BepiColombo probe turns to the dark side … of Mercury


Re: "at night"

Mercury is not totally dark at night.

There is a whole universe of starlight shining on her. It's not a lot to the human eye but it's enough for cats and cameras to pick up details.

The views of the night skies would be amazing. Also prolonged. A telescope sited there would be cool ... at least until Sunrise. Optical and longer

wavelength eyes including radio wwould have longer observing periods than they would even on Luna's Farside.

During the days Solar Astronomy could be a fruitful field. Indeed, possibly the *only* field.

From airless Mercury, our lovely little star is rather bright.


Re: Mercury day

Will it reach zero when old Sol goes into Red Giant phase and swallows the poor thing?

How long would a rocky planet last inside a Red Giant? Would friction cause it to orbitally decay until it got totally eaten?

Some of us worry a little about these things occasionally because we're planning on watching them from Earth. Or, preferably, a long way further out.

Virgin Galactic finally gets its first paying customers to edge of space


Re: I think it's found it market.

"And completely reusable!"

What? The planet? It looks very much like this is not entirely true in all situations.


Re: I think it's found it market.

I seem to remember - but am far too lazy to Wiki - a MIG joyride for tourists that took one to "the edge of space" allowing for a period of deep emesis and possibly even

a few minutes driving the bus. It may even still be going. South Africa, maybe?

Sir Dick's effort may be slightly less cramped but is it really any *better*?


Re: Day trip

Isn't "1999" the one where Luna goes awandering about the galaxy?

Hardly a good advertisement for the safety of tourist flights.

Though I did like their optimism.

Fifty-one years and we still don't have a base up there. 51 and counting.