Identify yourself, science dodging cow-human


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We brought you the fabulous news that you can now read War and Peace in mere moments with the aid of a mobile phone. But are you big fans of speed reading? Er, not so as you would notice.

Oh great, instead of taking two weeks to appreciate a good book and regret finishing it, I'll just need two hours to "absorb" it and get the to same point. What is it with this society that everything has to go faster and faster?

What is wrong with actually sitting down for two good hours of mind-enlarging, paper-enhanced storytelling, with the knowledge that tomorrow there'll be more hours of fun ? I am a good reader. 800 pages in a book do not impress me, and I can read that in a day if I want (and have the time).

I have more than a thousand books at home (but not all of the 800-page variety) and I've read every one of them at least twice - and many times more when it comes to my favorites. I realize that speed reading has its uses, and I also realize that this is not mandatory, but please, can we avoid transforming every aspect of our lives into some sort of competition with computers ? Taking it slowly brings it own rewards.


Sure, why not? Reading goes faster when you don't sweat comprehension.


Yeah, and in theory I can speed-up a song or movie to be heard or watched in only a quarter of the time. The question is, who really wants to do that? What pleasure or relaxation can be found in doing that?

Like listening to music or watching a movie, reading is an escape for most people. It's a chance to unwind and let the brain slow down from having to deal with the plethora of varying stimuli we throw at it all at once over the breadth of a day. All that speed reading concepts such as Book Muncher will do is keep the brain just as frantic as ever so that we can't relax.

The reason this and rivals have not achieved a breakthrough in the market is because there is no market. They've reached the few people that get a kick out of it and no one else wants it. We don't read to overstimulate ourselves. We read to unwide from the overstimulation that typically fills the day.


An alert and vulture-eyed reader notices something wrong with an expert's explanation of the car-molesting radar installation in Norfolk:

Defence expert Jonathan Levy explained to the Standard: "The phase shifters control the frequency of the radar. When this changed it could have moved the frequency close to the immobilisers of cars. The effect would be like disrupting a circuit by putting a magnet near it."

Some fu*cking expert then. Perhaps the clue is in 'phase shifter', since phase shifters affect the PHASE not the FREQUENCY. What a twat. I'd also like to see a demonstration of affecting a circuit by putting a magnet near it. Jeez, you can't get the experts these days .... Phase shifters are probably used in a phased-array antenna to shape the beam. If they are faulty the beam could potentially have been diverted onto the road instead of into the sky, but then the safety interlocks should have disabled the radar. Many years ago I watched high power radars be used to knock pigeons out of the sky by mates-who-must-remain-unnamed at a defence research establishment. If I were one of the victims of the car immobilisation events I'd want an explanation from the MoD about the power densities these folk experienced and what the Health and Safety Executive was going to do about it, since those kinds of power levels can be hazardous to health (cataracts, sterility and other nasties being symptoms).

I presume the interlocks were present and working? Ah, but no, they couldn't be or they would have turned the radar off. Still, if the public doesn't know this is dangerous why should the MoD tell them?


Science is harder than media studies, the House of Lords says. We say: Gosh, really?

I write w.r.t. the article "Students shy away from 'difficult' science"..... I'm an admissions tutor in higher education, for years I've tried to recruit to my course giving "better" (more easily achievable) UCAS points offers to students studying maths and sciences (I teach computing/programming) and for years I've been told by our admissions and records office that we should treat all subjects equally. It's all just a part of the politicisation of education and the "emperors new clothes" attitude towards academic achievement we have now in the UK. So I say to your article "hear, hear!" let the mythes of these education snake oil sales men be exposed.


Researchers reveal a proof of concept Mac OSX virus that, should it infect you, is unlikely to do much damage:

It seems to me that readers interested in the McAfee product for Mac OS X would also be interested in a similar product for a much greater threat:

Experts agree that the star nearest our own planet, the sun, is in the "early stages" of supernova. The threat of supernova will greatly increase in the future.

For a small monthly subscription, my company's software will prevent the threat of a solar supernova from affecting the computers on which it runs.

Somewhat sincerely,


To forestall the pedants who will doubtless write in about this one, we know our sun isn't actually big enough to go supernova. We think Joel probably knows this too. Step away from the keyboard...

Small business will save us from terrorists by being terribly innovative about surveillance. Apparently:

Amazing. These unnamed evil terrorists also run fabs to produce evil exploding chips? Or what is it exactly that justifies using more and more thecnology to spy on the common man?

Because clearly, everybody who didn't vote for the current government is a terrorist.

If I'm dead wrong, can anybody please tell me what the current PC definition of "terrorirst" is and why such a person is by definition so technologically savvy that there is danger of the establishment losing some sort of race? Because they are people with arms?

Please do tell before I'm merely dead, shot while traveling the tube.


A Spanish judge has ruled that sharing CDs containing recordings music downloaded for personal use is not illegal, as he dismisses a case against an anonymous 48-year old man :

Just writing to say that I think that the paragraph at the end of your article...

"Over 100 students at Växjö University, southern Sweden, have been banned from using the institution's network in the past two years because they downloaded copyrighted material without permission in their apartments on the university campus."

needs to be put into context. The way you wrote it makes it sound like the students were totally banned from using the University's network when in fact, as I understand it from the stories I have read in the Swedish press, it was only the connection directly in their dormitory room that was disconnected, they were still able to use other connections in the computer lab and library, and the ban on their dormitory room connection was only for two weeks for each transgression. This, I feel, is much less severe than your article leads the reader to believe.

Also the two men who were earlier fined in Sweden were both unemployed and since in Sweden the actual amount of a fine is expressed as a multiple of x days wages, they did not actually pay very much in fines. They were sentenced to pay 80 days wages of 250kr, so their actual fine was 20,000kr (£1455 or $2777). Not very much when you consider one of the men was accused of downloading more than 13,000 songs (that's cheaper than iTunes where individual songs cost 9kr).

I live in Sweden and I get the feeling that the government's heart really isn't in helping the RIAA and other international bodies prosecute individuals. They appear to be doing the minimum necessary to keep the RIAA and the American government happy. When you consider in a population of only 9 million people it is estimated that 1.2 million participate in illegal file sharing, just what are the government supposed to do? Fine or lock up 10% of the population?


The judge is wrong as reality will demonstate shortly.


And we hear from Oli again, in connection with news that a case claiming that two Russian companies hacked into a London computer system can be heard in English courts:

Hang those friggin scumbags by their balls !



UK banks have agreed to share data on suspected financial criminals with the government, and in return want access to public sector information:

Does anyone else find the whole concept a bit disturbing ?

The jist seems to be that if the government (or their delegated authorities) decide that someone has done something wrong, then instead of all that troublesome collecting of evidence and prosecution, they can just slap a corporate ASBO on them and skip all that bothersome right to fair hearing etc ! And to top it off, having slapped on this order with no right of review or appeal, it then falls on business to enforce sanctions - again with no oversight or review.

So yet another step down the road to "conviction by accusation" and "guilt until proven innocent" as the cornerstones of our legal system.


Knock knock. Moos there? A cow human crossbreed. Pull the udder one...

"Dr Stephen Minger" is happily developing a bovine-human hybrid. Funny. I thought that's what minger meant...


For the record, I am in favor of stem cell research, but the stories about transgenic embryos put me in mind of a series of stories written some fifty years ago (give or take) by Cordwainer Smith (pseudonym of Paul Linebarger: check out http://www.ulmus.net/ace/csmith/linebargerbiography.cfm --he was quite a remarkable fellow!) under the rubric of "The Instrumentality of Man," which was a 'future history.' A race of transgenic "underpeople" was bred as workers.

In the fullness of time they had their own revolution and their own "Joan of Arc." I know it's just fiction, but it's interesting to think we might be moving down that road.


The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics say, "you may begin to undermine the whole distinction between humans and animals."

What is that distinction again? I rather thought that humans were animals. If we're not animals, I wonder if the SCHB could advise what we are? A particularly complex fungus perhaps?


Nigeria buys a satellite from the UK. Your response was kind of inevitable:

Re: Nigeria plans 2009 satellite launch

Dear Lucy, Your name comes highly commended to me. I have ten million pounds tied up in our Nigerian Space Satellites and need someone to act as an intermediary to release it from the bank.

If you will help perform this service you will receive US$1M and a free ride into space.

please respond ASAP as we cannot hold this for long regards Monazir Ahmed --- p.s. this is a poor attempt at humour

General monazire Ahmed of Nigeria

Provided we don't get stranded in orbit after following up on that most exciting offer, we'll be back on Friday with more from you. ®

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