Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lovely Quote

Via Ross on Light Blue Touchpaper, from here:
Foreigners don't have much very complementary to say about Lithuanian food.  When I am asked about it, I usually say it's 1001 ways to cook potato, many of which should be banned.

Why does this not surprise me?

RAF Airbus transport fleet 'not fit for war'

The National Audit Office said the Airbus deal was years behind schedule

It could cost hundreds of millions of pounds to equip the RAF's new transport aircraft to fly in war zones, the Ministry of Defence has been warned.

When I saw the BBC headline, I thought it was talking about the current, geriatric Tristar and VC-10 fleets.

£10,500 million pounds for 14 aircraft seems quite a lot - £400 million per year lease cost - 20% of which is AirTanker's operating costs. Now list price for 14 A330-200 would seem to be $2.5 billion (and there would be discount for ordering 14 identical planes) - so the MoD appears to be paying at least a 300% premium for some combination of tanking kit, the finance and its own incompetence.

For something not fit for purpose - military tankers that were never specified to "fly directly in to high-threat environments"? At least not without the fitting of several hundred million £ worth of improvements over "a number of years".

NAO summary and report as pdfs.

Update - Okay - I'm reading the full report and we are only getting 9 aircraft - to replace a current fleet of 24.  That makes it a 650% premium.  There will be 5 further aircraft procured - which can be commercially leased out and we have to pay extra to get if we want them.  Sighs.  Update to the update: the "Public Sector Comparator" was based on a purchase of 19 B-767 - albeit with 20% less fuel capacity than the A330 MRTT.  Even then it was cheaper ...

Update 2:  Was thunkin.  Are the 5 non-RAF planes going to be equipped with the defensive aids suite?  If so, does MoD have a veto on whom they are renting to?  If not, and we then need them, how many months is it going to take to have them fitted before they are useable?

Monday, March 29, 2010


So there is a use for spam filters after all!

Filters have trashed e-mails with the word "socialist"; substring "Cialis" is erectile dysfunction drug.

Now, we just need to invent the 'andles' legal high ...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Serious Woo on the BBC

Humans do seem to feel a sense of kinship with dolphins, intelligent, playful, talkative creatures that they are. And separate research shows people feel the benefit from getting up close and personal with dolphins, says Dr Dobbs.

No, not that, what is about to follow. Now, there are no quotes here - unlike other bits in the article, so I don't know whether this is Dr Dobbs (PhD not MD but FRSM) or Elizabeth Diffin who is guilty but:

This is because dolphins are thought to emanate "chi" - the essential life force in Chinese medicine - and the basis of various therapies for clinical depression, autism and brain damage.

So dolphins are good for us because they emanate eastern woo - which can cure things?  Don't these people have editors to stop them fitting their fantasy theories in to the middle of otherwise credible articles? Or, if that is Dr Dobbs opinion (and there are plenty of MDs who believe - or claim to believe - in various sorts of woo, so he wouldn't be unique), couldn't they have got a direct quote?  Journalism, supposedly trained!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Insecurity Leaders?

Okay, I've just got my copy of the infosecleaders.com Career Survey. Now, you'd think that somebody emailing something like this out to a bunch of people who think they are, and may even be, information security 'leaders', would obey some basic principles of email security? Especially as it has been over a year since they set the survey up (as an aside, I don't remember completing it but don't really doubt that I did ...)

Anyway, one of these is that any links in the email should point to a URI in the domain of the sender - so (made up) www.infosecleaders.com/1stsurveyresults.pdf - for example. Instead we have, under the "Download the results here." link: http://clicks.aweber.com/y/ct/? and some php variables".

Fail. Seriously. If we can't get this sort of thing right then why would anybody bother listening?

At least they didn't link you to a page requiring you to log in ...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Sensible Politician?

Just where did the Tories get Philip Davies? I don't see much of a future for him in the enormously-foreheaded one's socio-green-europhilic movement. I hope his rather slim majority improves if he continues to come up with stuff like this:

I know that we have other business to discuss today so I shall not detain the House any longer. I despair at the endless consensus that there seems to be in the House, which is forever seeking to restrict people's freedoms in this country, to try to stop them doing things that they do legitimately and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, without any problem. For hon. Members to lecture people constantly about what they may and may not do, and what they should and should not say, is depressing beyond belief. The report is more of the same-more of the nanny state.

I know for a fact that the moment the proposed measures are introduced, the zealots represented on the Select Committee will be back for more, and back for more again. They are never satisfied. Dr. Taylor said that he wanted the Government to go a little further and do a little more. Unfortunately, he and the people whom he represents always want the Government to go a little further and do a little more.

and this:

My problem is that those are the sort of measures that his Government are keen to introduce as well. We appear to have a Dutch auction between the Scottish Executive and the Westminster Government as to who can introduce the biggest nanny state of all. I am afraid that both are going in completely the wrong direction. I agree with the sentiment behind his point, but I do not think that his Government are any less guilty than the Scottish Executive.

The debate was about minimum pricing for alcohol. But that is unimportant. H/t to the Filthy Smoker over at DK.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Quote of the Day

From the Test Match Special live text feed:

From Tony at work in Jakarta, via text: "Need to toss a coin here - heads to follow the cricket, tails the F1, and landing on the edge doing more work. Tough choice"

Unfortunately, I've two reports to write. But I have a 2nd monitor ...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Newton's Laws

Dear Billy,

(Cartoon is a classic from xkcd.)

I have addressed your points - Everything you say is against Newtons Laws - an aluminium plane cannot do what you are claiming.

All videos of 911 show the planes melt into the buildings, with the builings sealing themselves up after the plane has entered, then exploding inside after coming to a sudden halt, then the building is supposed to have weakened and collapsed because of the fires from the plane fuel which burns at 816 Degrees Cent (in an enclosed space even though you see the fuel burn up in seconds on the videos) when in fact steel melts at 1482 Degrees Cent.

in lieu of a longer post, which will have to wait until I finish work today, I am posting "Newton's Laws" - I assume you meant 'Newton's Laws of Motion" - I can't see what gravity, cooling or viscosity have to do with this.) Which of these states that an aluminium (they're not, really, but it probably doesn't make that much difference) aircraft will bounce off (or be completely stopped outside of) a modern building?

1.  Law of Inertia. Every body persists in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by force impressed.
2. The change of momentum of a body is proportional to the impulse impressed on the body, and happens along the straight line on which that impulse is impressed.
3. Law of Reciprocal Action: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.

Now, when a Boeing 767 hits the glass and concrete facade of a steel-frame building, it will slow down. Rapidly. At 300knots there is nearly 20 million N.s involved in that impact. Moving at roughly 150 m/s, and at under 50m long, you are going to get a lot of force.  Basically, Law 1 says that, unless you have a force, the plane will keep on moving.  That force comes, mostly, from the structural materials of the building.  Law 2 allows you to calculate or estimate the forces involved and you then start to have to worry about sheer and other stresses (oh, and the integrity of welds and effects of corrosion and all sorts of clever materials effects).  Law 3 says that the necessary force on the plane is matched by an equal and opposite force on the building.  Please note here that you maintain that the plane(s) could not have gone in to the building- that they would have been stopped by the concrete surrounds of the windows.

Glass and the thin concrete in the facade simply do not have the shear toughness to take this and crack or crumble, failing to provide enough force to stop the plane,  which carries on into the building. Slowing down quite rapidly and falling apart (because aircraft aren't tough enough to take this sort of thing either) - although some of the bits, especially the engines, will keep going for longer being both more dense and more sturdy. At some point (not many seconds later), a large plane, like a 767, will hit the frame and either shatter that (causing a fairly immediate collapse) or come (mostly) to rest. A light plane (Piper Dakota, for example) will wear off its velocity against other objects - desks, computers, people, filing cabinets, whatever - and may not reach the main frame - especially if the floors are quite strong.

I will note here that as kinetic energy is proportional to the square of the velocity and momentum only linearly, then there will now be a lot of "spare" energy about.  Under the first law of thermodynamics, this can't just wander off and go for a coffee, so has to hang around.  Most of it will be as heat energy.  Which will have a bad effect on all of the fuel now inside the building ...

A slightly heavier (than the Piper) but much less tough (either then the Piper or a 767 - aerospace technology has improved dramatically since then) plane (a 10 tonne B-52 B-25 Liberator bomber, without bombs) hit the Empire State Building in 1945.    No direct energy weapons then.  Eye witness accounts, from inside the 79th floor, have the plane exploding inside the building ...

Friday, March 05, 2010

Rats to the Rescue

This is superb.

When they smell a landmine, they stop, sniff the ground and begin to dig. This signal lets the Apopo staff know they have found a mine or some other explosive, which can then be removed.

Rats, according to Apopo, are much faster than men using metal detectors and are not distracted by metal contaminants. They are much cheaper to maintain than dogs and are easily passed between different handlers.

Human vermin plant them, careful rodents help us to dig them up.  And, unlike dowsing rods, it actually works.
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