Bugged comets and forgetting your teeth

What bugged you, this week

Letters Never let it be said that El Reg is not a fount of useful information. This week, we all learned that it is legal to put a bug in an office. Now we can add to that knowledge: it is almost certainly not legal to listen to the bug, or do anything with the information you record with it:

If you obtain personal data through the use of a bug, you will commit an offence under section 55(1) of the Data Protection Act (see section 55(3)). If you're a P.I. and then sell (or offer to sell) the personal data to your client, you will commit a further offence under section 55(4) or (5). Neither depends on an enforcement order, and both can be prosecuted without the ICO's involvement (as long as the DPP consents).

This presumes you don't have the data controller's consent to obtain the data in the first place, but that seems like a pretty safe assumption to me.


"The Information Commissioner (ICO) could issue an enforcement order which could say to the private organisation that they must cease processing," said Southern.

Well, don't hold your breath.

In February 2006, we applied to the ICO for a "Decision" under Section 50, Freedom of Information Act 2000, relating to [a sensitive request for information].

The ICO stated it might be two months before we heard more: after getting no response to requests for an update, the ICO eventually admitted to our MP in September 2006 that they *hadn't even started* looking into the case, due to under-resourcing and and being overwhelmed by work. To our knowledge, they still haven't started, eight months later.

So, not exactly a huge deterrent, then...


I'm in New Zealand so the law may be a little different but most of our laws are based on UK ones. I am not a lawyer but I would be concerned that placing a bug would constitute wiretapping.

I was reading up on wiretapping a while ago and I believe there is no requirement for it to actually involve some physical invasion. It is simply any attempt to intercept a communication in which the communicating parties have a reasonable expectation that it be private.

If I were to close an office door to speak to somebody, I would expect that the conversation would be a private one. For anybody to intercept that communication, even though the transmission medium happens to be pure sound, may well constitute wiretapping.

As said above, I'm not a lawyer and can't be sure but this may be an additional avenue of prosecution that could be investigated if somebody bugs your office. Placing the physical bug wouldn't be enough to trigger this though, you would need to prove that they intercepted a private conversation.


The Institute of Physics got most irate when the university of Reading said it was planning to close its physics department. Something about a waste of public funds:

I almost went to Reading university back in 98. Not for the Physics department, although I was considering it, but for the cybernetics department. Instead, after visiting the department, and seeing Prof. Warwick first hand, I went to Liverpool Uni's EEE department to do robotics there.

If any department should be shut at Reading, it's the Cybernetics. Warwick has made a laughing stock of the university, world-wide. I now live in the US, and saw a TV show just last week, which featured a few minutes from him, and it made me embarrassed to be British, University educated, and a robotics engineer.

Closing the Physics department is just wrong. We need more Physicists, not less. projects such as the Muon1 DPAD (www.stephenbrooks.org/muon1/ ) show the importance and relevance of a modern physics education, and how you can achieve great things with a physics degree.

Andrew Norton

It surely couldn't be that they've spent all their money on Captain Cyborg? I guess it's too much to hope that Cybernetics forms part of the Physics dept, but it would almost make the cuts worthwhile to see Kevin Warwick get a well-earned P45 ...


There was a remarkable consensus among Register readers about the cause of the link between dental hygiene and memory loss. Some examples:

Could it be because people who have less teeth forget to clean them?

It would fit that someone with a good memory would remember to clean their teeth every morning and someone with a bad memory would forget.

Is the bad teeth a result of a bad memory instead of the other way around?

(Oh and if I just had my teeth pulled out I wouldn't want to walk around a maze either! - thats refering to the mice.)


There's no mystery... People without tooth didn't lost them in an instant... They have a long history of undetected mercury intoxication. The "silver amalgama" is 50% mercury, 30% silver.

Mercury vaporises slowly... but with increasing amounts of tooth "repaired" the values of mercury increases.

There are 2 paths... Saliva to intoxicate the body and the olfactory region connecting directly to the brain and causing depression, loss of memory and after many many years....Alzheimer.

However the mercury amalgam represents a business of $50 Million... It started when Medical dentists (American Society of dental Surgeons) using gold and strongly against the cheap and toxic mercury lost power against the rapid growth of the non medical that had great profits with the el-cheapo solution... This was 19 century. The mercury amalgam was banned from Europe were it started... and the non-dentists in the USA formed the ADA (American Dental Association)... Did I mentions That the $50M is %50M per day?!?

After the 2nd World war mercury amalgams were 'allowed' in most European countries by USA influence...in 1994 Sweden banned mercury again.

The effects of mercury are so broad (and strong) that cannot be describes here. It may prove to be one of the most important factors in depression alone... itself a multi-billion dollars business.

So there's no news.

When tested with mice... there's a other factors that can add each other: Pain, confusion by the body change, loss of motivation to eat in the absence of teeth.

Regards, Dutra de Lacerda.

ESA promises a new launch date for its flagship polar satellite mission, MetOp. Oh, and explained why the launch was delayed:

So they dropped MetOp.

I wonder how far "a few centimeters" is... anything upto one meter!

Well it's nothing new - NASA dropped their equivalent satellite rather spectacularly when they tipped it sideways without noticing that the other team had stolen their bolts...



You are utterly un-stoic in the face of increased cosiness between Orange and Nokia:

We're doomed! My orange handset will never work again. It's bad enough at the moment. Orange really shouldn't be encouraged to fiddle with the handsets.


And speaking of doomed, handsets, how about asteroids?

I am prepared to believe that scientists are doing quite well in the search for potentially dangerous asteroids. That is a tremendous success, and may well make us all safer. But comets are still a serious threat (although arguably the odds on a direct hit by a comet are lower than from an asteroid).

The difference is that, whereas asteroids follow regular orbits like that of the Earth, comets swing far out into the interstellar darkness before plunging back into the Sun's gravity well and often passing very close indeed to the Sun. That means they come suddenly, unpredictably, and (if on a collision course) more or less head-on. Moreover, comets can be very dark in colour, making them almost undetectable.

Lastly, if a comet breaks up - or if we were to blow it up with a hydrogen bomb - it actually becomes more dangerous. As it has been memorably put, such a comet turns from a bullet into a charge of buckshot. For a superb description of what might happen if a comet did hit the Earth, see Niven and Pournelle's SF novel "Lucifer's Hammer" http://tinyurl.com/kt7mh.


And with that, we'll bid you adieu. Back on Friday. ®

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018