Exams, contracts, and nuclear research: stupid, stupid, stupid

GCSE physics scandal shakes mailbag

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You may remember last week we brought you news that the top bods at Oxford university's libraries were taking steps to deal with the soon-to-be-enforced WEEE directive. That is to say, they suggested getting rid of old electronic kit now, before anyone forces you to recycle it:

Oxford libraries should know better, apart from the non-recycling they are trying to get people to chuck stuff out because it's old. This, in organisations as old as Oxford Libraries, could result in some valuable computing history being consigned to landfill. It is already quite worrying how much of our 8bit and pre 8-bit past has just been chucked out, or is knackered because it's in the (damp) shed/garage. You shouldn't just chuck stuff out if it has historic value (give it to a computer museum) and you should try to re-use or recycle. There are charities who will take old machines and send them to the needy.


The dangers of large, bloated, overdue, and over budget government IT contracts cannot be overstated. Really.

I have a firm rule: only wave around guns if you're prepared to pull the trigger. Grainger is threatening to throw suppliers out, For a project that is over schedule, over budget, and where one major company (Accenture) has already walked away, it will be impossible to re-let the contracts. And a supplier facing penalties for late delivery and/or pulling out might be quite happy to be thrown out anyway.

Some years ago I was called to task over the SLAs we were offering for a project we didn't see any strong reason to do, but where we held the IPR in the only plausible solution. If you don't offer better SLAs, I was told, we'll put it out to tender. My boss and I looked at each other, then I asked for a piece of paper. I wrote `no bid' on it, put it on the table and walked out. We never heard any more about tendering.


Kids are better at technology than ever. They can turn the TV on, and other stuff that uses that electrickery. Someone send 'em a physics GCSE...

"According to the study from NPD, children begin using consumer electronic devices at the average age of 6.7 years, falling from 8.1 years in 2005."

Sorry, are we talking TVs, videos, PC games and the internet here? For those households that have such things (and I'll add the condition that the internet connection has to be always-on, not dial-up), I'd be surprised if there are any school-age children who can't use them. Did we need another survey into the wealth gap in the UK?

My youngest is not yet three but already capable of waking up, trotting downstairs, putting a disc in the DVD and skipping through the bollocks at the front of the disc to get to his programme. I hear similar stories from just about every young family I know.

(That said, I do know one little girl who trotted back upstairs to fetch dad because she couldn't get past the legal threats, mind games and adverts on a Disney disc. Boy are they hard work. Maybe the survey was talking about those, in which case 6.7 years is pretty commendable.)


What a disappointing article! From the headline I was expecting it to say how they were wiring up BC109s and logic gates. No chance of that I suppose ...

Regards, Mike

Oops. We missed out a word:

Quote: Christopher Horner, "a well-known climate skeptic..."

A _climate_ skeptic eh? I wonder if, during a thunder storm, he shouts: "Rain? Nah! It's just a bloke with a hose!" or "Wind? Nonsense! Trees move because they're excited to see you".


The Royal Society unearthed some secret documents left over from the war. James Chadwick, discoverer of the neutron, sent the research to the RS for safekeeping. This, we thought you might find interesting:

With all due respect, the research mentioned in your article was not cutting edge at the time. At least in France.

Joliot-Curie, the physicist Nobel Prize for its work on nuclear energy, had been charged by then France's Président du Conseil (Prime Minister) Pierre Laval to lead the French Nuke Bomb program back in 1935.

As early as 1938 the joint program (along with Belgium) was going industrial at full steam, and our heavy water plant went into production. Did I mention it was located in Norway?

The program would have been completed by late '40, mid '41 if not for the war. And that explains a lot why French leadership was so reluctant to challenge Hitler early on...

A few other tidbits: the heavy water plant was deemed so essential by all parties, albeith only part of the industrial effort, that it prompted Nazi's invasion of Norway early '40, and the sending by France AND the UK of an expeditionnary corps there to counter. If not for the plant it wouldn't have made any sense on both parts.

Our stock of heavy water was safeguarded during the war by Morocco and Mohammed V. Till '41 if was therefore under the nominal control of the Vichy regime. Yet it's Prime Minister at the time, the aforementioned Pierre Laval did nothing to send it back to Hitler despite some rumours to the contrary.

Joliot-Curie then went to work in '41 in the US Nuke team led by Oppenheimer. As some details about the project leaked after the war about the Manhattan project his role was always belittled, not so much because he was French, but mainly because in that Macarthy era he was one of the leaders of the French Communist Party !!


Thanks for writing. You know we love it. ®

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