Archive for June, 2009

This Week’s Tweets

Jun 24th, 2009
  • Disgusted to read the many of the comments on the Times' article on the attacks on Romanians in Belfast. #
  • Bit worried about the incestuous nature of my twitter followees, they all seem to know each other. Even the ones which shouldn't. #
  • Twitter is not a competition folks, you do not need to maximise your number of followers. #
  • Show support for democracy in Iran add green overlay to your Twitter avatar with 1-click – #
  • Absolutely chucking it down. Might be tinges of thunder as well. #
  • Mmm! Leaving work and I smell BBQ #
  • @grabcocque They can't prove anything. Are tweets admissable in a court of law? in reply to grabcocque #
  • Today's lesson: The oven will not warm up if it is not turned on. #
  • @JonStrickland I knew exactly where that link would go, mainly because I also had something in my eye when I saw it. It appears to be back. in reply to JonStrickland #
  • RT @JonStricklandI. . I have something in my eye. . . #
  • @Greenwichlad It mysteriously went missing. The link doesn't even work. 93% Yes last time I checked it. in reply to Greenwichlad #
  • @MsKitton How on earth did you managed to miss it until now? in reply to MsKitton #
  • Waiting for a bus. Public transport at its shabiest #
  • – Someone dressed as father christmas in June? #
  • @SciencePunk Unless you take relatavistic travel into account in reply to SciencePunk #
  • @bengoldacre Have you been able to figure out what Steron's game-plan was? I never worked out what they were trying to pull. #
  • Heading off to look at a possible new flat. #
  • Anyone know the best options for setting up a short-term broadband connection? (Currently not even an active line) #
  • I have a horrid sinking feeling that I'll be dealing with AOL. #
  • @BillyWilliwaw Yeah, I had considered that. I'd prefer the speed, stability and bandwidth allowances of a fixed line but it's a possibility. in reply to BillyWilliwaw #
  • @Palestinebat Looking at them now. Seems the major issue is going to be sorting out a landline. I don't need a phone damnit! in reply to Palestinebat #

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This Week’s Tweets

Jun 17th, 2009
  • @rockpapershot Probably too late here, but on the subject of Kieron's reviews of board games, what can modern games learn from these? #
  • Sudden spike in blog traffic over past hour. Can't figure out where they are coming from. #
  • Does anyone else think Daniel Merriwether <sp?> sounds obnoxiously smug? #
  • I hate shops which charge a different price on their website to the highstreet. Just wasted a trip into town. #
  • Used student discout and loyalty card to get it cheaper. Why do I still feel cheated. #
  • Why are anchovies popularly presented as being disgusting? They are gorgeous! #
  • 2800 new tweets? Me thinks pidgin may be having trouble! #
  • @GuyNesher It might be Twitpocalypse related. #
  • Do I hear thunder? Please don't powercut before my experiments are finfished! #
  • PLEASE RT Functioning Iran proxies #iranelection (via @unslugged) #
  • – Slipped on wet floor in the lab. Painful! #
  • Vaguely wondering if I broke my arm yesterday. Its still sore, but the swelling makes it difficult to feel the line of the bone. #
  • Playing arround with Opera Unite. If my browser is open, feel free to leave a note on my fridge:
  • @yuribou Yeah, movement is just fine. Pain is only when I poke it, although dull ache rest of time. Hope swelling will go down soon. #

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This Week’s Tweets

Jun 10th, 2009
  • @yuribou How very meta in reply to yuribou #
  • @antonvowl I don’t give brown long though. If the tories lead labour by >10% tomorrow for sure. in reply to antonvowl #
  • @antonvowl Uhh, that last tweet made no sense. I mean ‘he’ll be a gonner for sure’ in reply to antonvowl #
  • @bengoldacre Now I just need to work out how I can possibly cite Shah and Christopher 2002 in my thesis on the ubiquitin proteasome system. in reply to bengoldacre #
  • RT @dave_turner: I’m feeling nostalgic for a simpler time. Shall we get #theBNParetwats trending again until the polls close tomorrow? #
  • @RichardWiseman Metal table, cafe, beer (European), pedestrianised road. I’d say Paris if I didn’t figure it was somewhere in the UK. in reply to RichardWiseman #
  • @RichardWiseman Must say, this does all seem slightly silly. More of a demonstration of the ‘power’ of twitter than anything else. in reply to RichardWiseman #
  • Pleased that #stopthebnp is trending, probably because #theBNParetwats which is also trending. #
  • Liking the Opera 10 Beta. Been using the alpha for a while, but now have more stability along with some nice features. #
  • Arse! Just remembered that they changed my polling place. Shall have to vote after work. #stopthebnp #theBNParetwats #
  • Mentioning multiple trending topics, just to appear in the trending topics feed, should be an insta-ban. Damn twitter spammers. #
  • Science and the European elections: #
  • @erykah_ Yeah, generally 10, although I guess yours may close sooner, so don’t rely on that. #
  • @bremxjones You shouldn’t need your polling card to vote (assuming you can remember where your polling station is), makes it quicker though in reply to bremxjones #
  • I’ve voted, have you? #fb #
  • Jazz coming from the community centre opposite. Makes everything sound relaxed and happy! #
  • @erykah_ You okay? in reply to erykah_ #
  • @PC_Gamer Please tell me you are taking that hugely out of context, otherwise my enthusiasm is nosediving faster than Gordon Brown’s career #
  • Sickened my those who voted BNP, disappointed in those who couldn’t even be arsed to vote. Congratulations, you let the racists in. #
  • Its like ten green bottles in the Labour party at the moment. #
  • Has just read about Scribblenauts. Sounds like demonic arts have been employed in the creation of that one. #
  • Why am I getting mails from Bebo? I’m not on Bebo, and message appears genuine as links are real. #
  • Seems I did have a Bebo account, set up years ago when someone wanted my contact details and insisted on using Bebo to do so. Odd. #
  • @charltonbrooker A couple of the tabloids saw fit to but a joke in their front page headlines, but then that probably shouldn’t surprise me. in reply to charltonbrooker #
  • Twitter very slow today. Is everyone else up to exciting weekend stuff? #
  • The Tetris trending twitter topic now has me humming Korobeiniki, otherwise know as the tetris theme. #
  • Strangely proud of the picture I drew of a hairy naked guy for an online flash game. #
  • @lizzybean76 Broken Picture Telephone in case you hadn’t already guessed. in reply to lizzybean76 #
  • Oh cock. I come out of a game to find twitter full of swearing. Then I discover why. Fuck. 1 Nazi and 4 Nazi-lights #
  • FUCK YOU! Andrew Bons. My vote for the lib Dem’s was not a protest vote based on ignorance. #
  • What the hell! Could someone give Griffin a dictionary so that he can be taught what racism actually means. #
  • No Griffin, I don’t hate you because you are white. I hate you because you are a racist shit. #
  • Does anyone know a good summary of the European alliances? #
  • Anyone want to try and get some photo group thing running, just like the Dems did in the US after Bush was re-elected? #
  • rt @LadyMcScamp: RT @CathElliott RT @CllrTim: It’s in. Griffin has got his seat too. He’s too far ahead to be beaten now. #
  • @antonvowl @dave_turner To be honest, I glad twitter is full of ranting today. I’d be worried if it were all fun and rainbows. #
  • Not in my name: #
  • Hmm. Finger stinging. Hope I didn’t get something nasty on it. #fb #
  • @dave_turner I’m sure he does; sadly his conclusion appears to be that its because he’s white, rather than because he’s a hateful idiot. in reply to dave_turner #
  • Fucked up two days work in a simple mistake. Bah. #
  • Sorry for the double blog posts today, but I didn’t feel they could be crammed into a single post. #

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Bean had?

Jun 9th, 2009

You may have noticed reports in several newspapers and tech sites today of the Heinz Beanzawave, a USB powered microwave. In total, according to Google News, the story appears to have been covered by over fifty different outlets including the UPI, CrunchGear, Cnet and the Daily Mail. Not to mention a number of popular blogs, such as BoingBoing. While some of these articles have users raising criticisms in the comments, none of the news sources I checked bothered to run a critical eye over the story. (If you find one, please post it in the comments so the good guys can get some acknowledgements.)

The news seemingly originated from a press-release form the ‘Microwave Association,’ working in association with Heinz. Unfortunately for fans of beans and fancy USB gadgets the story appears to be, well, a load of old beans1.

Even a quick critical eye will spot some key flaws. The average modern microwave has an output of 850W, with even weaker models outputting at least 650W. By comparison, the USB 2.0 standard provides a maximum current of 500mA, at 5V; which works out as a maximum power output of just 2.5W2. The former figures should be familiar to anyone who has cooked something in the microwave, as the output is printed on the front, and you are expected to adjust cooking times accordingly. The latter meanwhile should be obvious in part to anyone who has hooked up a printer. While simple devices like mice can obtain sufficient power from a USB socket, the same can’t be said for more power-hungry devices such as printers, which need their own power supplies. Indeed, the power supply units of most computers aren’t certified to deliver 850W of power, with possibly only high quality gaming rigs fitted with a hefty enough PSU; even then, powering a microwave would leave scant remainder for the processor and graphics card.

So we’ve already seen that such a device would have to operate at a significantly lower power output than most modern microwaves. Such a device would be unlikely to be marketed as a novelty, and instead would be positioned to replace most standard microwaves. However is it possible that such improvements have been made, and we are in fact looking at vastly superior technology. In short, not likely, unless they have also managed to break the laws of thermodynamics in creating this miracle microwave.

In demonstrating how truly impossible their claims are we need to consider some physics.

The specific heat capacity of a substance is used to describe how much energy is required to raise its temperature; for water, this is given as approximately 4.2 joules per gram per kelvin. This means that for every gram of water, you must supply 4.2 joules of energy, to raise the temperature by 1 kelvin, or 1 degree Celcius3. Therefore, for a 200g tub of beans (which we shall approximate by assuming it is all water.) it takes 4.2 x 200 = 840 joules to raise the temperature by a single degree.

So how does this translate to our microwave? Well fortunately, the measurement watts tells us how many joules of energy are transferred each second. In other words 1 watt = 1 joule per second. So if we are to assume that our microwave is 100% efficient, that all energy it uses goes directly into heating the beans, we can discover how long it will take to deliver the required 840((And here is a good illustration of the inefficiency of standard microwaves. As by this calculation the beans should be ready in just under a second.)) joules to raise the temperature of the beans by a single degree. Simply divide 840 by 2.5 and… oh dear… 336 seconds. Five minutes, 36 seconds to warm the beans by a single degree. If you want them boiling hot4, then you are going to be waiting over 7 hours.

What bothers me most about this story isn’t the dubious nature of the original press-release. It was clearly constructed by marketing bods in an attempt to gain free column inches. In that respect it worked, and I’m only adding to the effect by writing this. What bothers me is the way the press regurgitated it, unthinkingly, unquestioningly, delivering advertisements as news. Not only this, but it is clear that in most cases, they didn’t even stop to pass a critical eye over it. This isn’t just churnalism, this is factually incorrect churnalism. When the media sacrifices its credibility in terms of fact checking, and ends up falling slave to marketing, what does it have left? And when we lose one of the key methods of fact distribution, of investigation and exposure, what do we have left? Blogs and citizen journalism go so far, but an effective and trustworthy media is is important for everyone; this story is only one of many that makes me wonder how much of one we have left.

I have already contacted the Microwave Association in the E-mail provided in the press-release, and have invited them to respond. I’ll update this entry as soon if I hear anything from them, and leave the comments open if they wish to contribute there. (Although I encourage you do do so via my E-mail, as that way I can be sure the response is genuine. Also, please bear in mind that comments from new users will be held for moderation, and may not get published immediately.)

  1. See, you don’t have to be part of the tabloid press to make terrible puns []
  2. Power is the product of current and voltage []
  3. The scale of Celcius and kelvin is identical. Only the position of the zero position changes, with 0 kelvin being equal to -273.15 °C []
  4. Assuming room temperature 20 °C and a boiling temperature 100 °C []

Not in my name

Jun 9th, 2009

Sixty-five years ago 160,000 troops landed on the beaches of Normandy to drive back the forces of fascism, and to protect the freedoms that they held to be important. Thousands of others worked behind the scenes to provide the ships necessary to co-ordinate such an astonishing feat, not to mention those involved in the concurrent air assault.

On Sunday, the UK elected two members of the British National Party to the European parliament.

Already, many words have been written by people vastly more knowledgeable and articulate than me. Members of both the left and right have expressed the disappointment, anger, and sorrow at such an event. On Monday, and late Sunday, Twitter swarmed with people discussing the result and its implications, and for most of the day BNP was the top trending topic, with many other related terms putting in an appearance further down the list. Blogger Anton Vowl considered how some of the failures of New Labour led to this situation, not through any particular success of the BNP but through the apathy of other voters. Others, in their frustration, threw eggs.

I shall not be re-hashing these arguments. They are elsewhere and the points have been made. I shan’t be throwing any eggs, our position against the BNP is stronger than that; we don’t want to re-enforce their delusions of martyrdom. I will however say this: The BNP don’t speak for me. They claim they represent average Britions; I’m British, they don’t represent me. They claim they wish to make Britain great, but in doing so attempt to destroy the things I love about this country. We are better than this. The BNP may talk of “stemming and reversing the tide of non-white immigration” but they do not do so in my name. hnh

Anti-racism and fascism organisation, ‘Hope Not Hate’ is collecting signatures1 to deliver to the European parliament to show that the BNP do not speak for all British people. If you feel that the BNP do not speak for you, and wish to make your feelings known you can find the petition here.

  1. I sign this out of my own moral revulsions that I have become associated with these people by virtue of nationality. The petition is not an attempt to overturn the democratic process. []