It’s Dying

We all need distractions I guess and maybe laughing at the poor on the Jeremy Kyle show was one of those. It was a way to feel better about ourselves, a way of looking at people who suffer and try but ultimately are just a passing fad for those of us who are OK at the moment, thank you very much.

Perhaps that’s why people watch bollocks like Eastenders and other soap operas where everything happens to everyone because if everyone tried to get along and be nice to each other it wouldn’t be worth watching and it wouldn’t provide escapism.

I’m certainly clear in my head about why I like science fiction. It’s nerdy and requires a little science knowledge but space type stuff often provides a glorious distraction to the mundane. It gives me the chance to live elsewhere and think about the implications of travel and technology that won’t happen in my lifetime.

In reality it’s all fucked isn’t it? Brexit, politics, the planet, it’s fucked. It’s dying. The single GREATEST threat to the human population wherever you live at the moment is the fact that the world is on fire. It’s really depressing. I’m hoping I’m dead before the Water Wars start. They are going to be terrible.

All those politicians worried about maintaining power and trying to get your vote using short-term gains and short-term give-aways. Not one of them is standing up for the planet. We need RADICAL change to society and how everything works. We need to save this planet. I’m not normally pessimistic about things but the planet is dying through human abuse and it’s going to kick us the fuck back and quite rightly too.

I’m scared for the future of my children and the fears that they will face as they get older. I’m scared for my unborn descendants because it’s all going to be shit. Take a look around the world and see where the action is to provide a future for people on this planet. It’s not there. Consumption-capitalism is driving this world to ruin while at the same time killing those who are poor and have little. It’s disgusting. We should be promoting a social-environmental-capitalism. Governments need to incentivise social and environmental good-doing.

It’s not like this is new. We’ve known about climate change and carbon emissions for over forty years. NOT a thing has been done in my life time that will drastically alter the way the planet is going to react. It’s all a nightmare. I’m not sure humans are mature enough to do anything about it either. I’m hoping that the generation after me, once they assume power when the baby boomers and generation X die off can cope and end up being nice to each other and working to create an Earth for the future.

I see the newer generation of politicians kicking back against the obscene capitalism of the last one hundred years and are now talking about social responsibilities and they seem to be speaking a more gentle kind of politics trying to go after the aging fuckers who have taken everything they can and created personal wealth beyond necessity. Here’s hoping that people like AOC can start to change the world to actual care about each other.

In the mean time the Daily Mail and other institutions that gain their power from the want and blinkered view of the older generations print articles implying that solar farms are wrong and will ruin your view.

A "News" Article
A “News” Article

The headline should have been “locals fight planet saving solar farm (stupid cunts)”. But then the exact people fighting this farm and the ones who read the Mail because they are all old and white. Fuck the Mail.

More amusingly, in thirty years the Hardy countryside won’t look like that at all because the climate will have changed so much it’ll be barren and all the locals will have died of malaria.

War Machinery

Took a few hours out of the busy schedule the other day to visit the Historic Dockyard at Chatham. This is one of the places this country built and serviced warships for over four hundred years. I found the positive spin put on it all in the introduction video to be full of cognitive dissonance but I guess that’s how it goes. It was rather “Great Britain ruled the seas and controlled the world” it was kinda a Brexiteer’s wet dream with promises of glory and power. It completely ignored the human aspects and damage this country has done around the world. Anyway, enough from this old lefty, let’s have some pictures.

Smithery No. 1
Smithery No. 1

I like the way the light enters this room. It’s part of a building that contained the first smithery. There were a few buildings like this where all the metal work was completed. It’s quite impressive.

Ocelot
Ocelot

HMS Ocelot is a spy submarine and the last Royal Navy ship to be built at Chatham [they built more afterwards, but for other countries’ navies]. It’s quite impressive being given a tour around this beast. I think I’d love to see a more modern submarine, the whole concept of living under the sea is rather freaky.

Cavalier
Cavalier

HMS Cavalier is a destroyer now permanently moored in wet-dock at Chatham. I would have liked to have seen the engine rooms and murkier areas of the ship, but that would probably need specialised tour guides and so this one is a self tour.

It’s a great place to visit and I have been here a few times in the past. I’m not sure if I’ve written about it before though. I’ll go and have a look! well, my cursory search has highlighted no references within this website to the dockyard, that seems strange but there you go. This is the first. It’s a lovely day out.

Early Air Pioneers

Until about four days ago I didn’t know that the first powered flight of an aircraft in the UK occurred on the Isle Of Sheppey. The island isn’t that far from here and so I went to have a look at a beach.

Upon some investigating it turns out that the first purpose-built aircraft factory was on Sheppey and built by the Shorts brothers. Then it turns out that they then build the first airfield nearby in 1909. This is amazing and I don’t know why I didn’t know this before this week.

I had previously known that Shorts used to make aircraft at Rochester and used the Medway there as the aerodrome. It is here that they made the Sunderland and other famous planes.

Eventually they moved production to Belfast and now the company is known as Bombardier. It would have been magnificent to see sea planes taking off and landing on the river Medway, such an age of exploration and adventure. This would have made Rochester such a target during the second world war as there was a Royal Navy shipyard and also an aircraft manufacturer there.

On Sheppey I drove to the old RAF Eastchurch site which is now three prisons built on Crown land. It was strange driving to the museum as there was lots of security along a public road. It felt like entering an RAF base. Two of the prisons there are high security and the walls were impressive. The third prison is an open prison and the museum is on the land of that prison with a cafe nearby run by inmates.

RAF Eastchurch
RAF Eastchurch

The key to the things I have marked in the above photo runs such:

  1. The museum
  2. The first aero hangar in the UK
  3. The RAF base water tower
  4. The original airfield control block
  5. The E-W runway
  6. The N-S runway

There are plenty of features there to see and the person running the museum was really friendly and told me loads about the history. It’s strange to me all these old air force bases that are now re-purposed. I guess I hanker for the old days of aircraft everywhere.

One of the buildings on the site still shows the scars of war with bomb damage on the brick wall:

Bomb Damage
Bomb Damage

The museum is based in one of the original base buildings and certainly contains lots of lovely information about the early days of aeronautical exploration in this country.

RAF Eastchurch Museum
RAF Eastchurch Museum

Inside the building was a photograph taken at Muswell Manor on the east coast of the island and one of the early headquarters of the Royal Aero Club. In that photograph the following people are pictured:

  • The Short Brothers
  • Frank McClean
  • Frank Hedges Butler
  • Warwick Wright
  • JTC Brabazon
  • Wilber Wright
  • Orville Wright
  • Charles Rolls

That is an amazing collection of rich people who had the money to start the aviation industry in this country and the world. The Wright brothers had come across the Atlantic with their flyer to try and create interest and also start manufacturing the product. This they managed and the Short brothers built the Flyer under licence. The rest is pretty much history as we know. I hadn’t even been aware that the Wright brothers had come over here!

Near Muswell Manor is a statue to the Short Brothers. It stands as a marker for the start of aviation in this country and the adventuring that started at Shellness.

Shorts Brothers
Shorts Brothers

Not A Neo Con

I found an advert which, I think, lies! I was looking through the newspaper that my parents read and I found the advert below. Now, let me first explain that I do not agree with the “news”paper that my parents read and given my personal politics it stresses me that they still get this heap of shit delivered to their door. I have offered to pay for a different paper but they have refused. I’m not sure why they still read the Express but it is a vile piece of work.

What A Con
What A Con

This advert is along the lines of what started me into this skeptical hole in the first place. Originally my father gave me a magnet that surround the fuel line in a car and then magically makes the car engine more efficient. I’ve written about it here. At first glance it seems reasonable that something might increase the fuel efficiency of an engine, but if it’s that simple don’t you think the manufacturers would do it anyway?

I wrote about a fuel chip I saw advertised in a motorcycle magazine here. It seems that this device is making very similar claims. Notice that if you want, you can get your money back if you aren’t happy with the results. This is a classic scam because no-one cares enough to ask for their money back.

Having looked at the website in this advert and the one for tank chip they both are in association with the same company.

Hamilton Direct

This company is based in Paignton in Devon. They seem to peddle a lot of bullshit. Don’t buy anything from them.

The bike insurance people Bennetts did a proper testing regime on the tank chip and they found it makes no difference. You can see their results here: Bennetts.

If the product seems to good to be true then the chances are that it is.

Mutability

A few summers ago my project was to build an ADS-B receiver and use the data collected to upload to an aircraft tracking website. If you want to see what I see then go to:

360 Radar

I don’t remember the details about how I found this but the project was good fun and I got the Raspberry Pi in the loft with a decent aerial, filter and pre-amp, and it was all working fine. I was using a lovely piece of software called Virtual Radar Server and was able to use this as a web server and people could see the aircraft on web pages served by the Pi.

360 Radar is good because it using multi-lateration to detect the positions on military aircraft. This is pretty handy for spotters like me and it also works well when I take cadets to RAF Wittering for some Air Experience Flying, I can see where my cadets are in the air.

Over the last few months I’d been receiving outage warnings from the 360 guys. It would appear that my Pi had stopped sending them data and while I live in a flight-busy area of the country and there’s plenty of contributors here every little helps. I had the occasional outage and this seemed to be when the router reset and the Pi wouldn’t re-find the existing wi-fi network. I just had to power cycle the Pi and everything worked fine. The outages seemed to be occurring more over the last while with the Pi stopping feeding every few days.

At first I thought it was a wi-fi issue so I bought some new ethernet-over-power adapters and linked the system into the route via a wired connection. This also meant I could ssh in to the Pi even if wifi was the original problem. I tried to work out how to turn the wifi connection off entirely but just ended up changing the SSID the Pi looked for as a simle way of ensuring the wired connection took preference.

After a week of testing I was still getting outages and my initial thought was that the VRS software was making the Pi work too much. I’m not sure why I thought that but I looked up ways to remove VRS. This was not the easiest as I had installed it years ago and couldn’t remember how it ran within the OS. I eventually managed to remove the Mono service and this stopped VRS running.

It was at this point I worked out how to use the log file of the MLAT client and I could see that all the software seemed to be working fine it was the Dump1090 program that didn’t seem to be sending data internally. I figured that Dump1090 had somehow stopped receiving the signal from the aerial. It all worked fine after a reboot and so I decided to replace the USB dongle that was decoding the ADS-B signals. I ordered a FlightAware USB stick and at the same time decided I would rebuild the Pi OS from scratch to have a “clean” build.

Once the new USB stick arrived I turned off all the systems and followed the excellent instructions from the 360 Radar guys to rebuild the OS of the Pi and just run a lite version of what I had been doing before. This took a while as I mistakenly thought the Pi wasn’t uploading to 360 because I was looking at the wrong server details. After an email to the support chaps it turned out I was contributing and a couple of hours of troubleshooting by me hadn’t been worth it!

So, the Pi sits in the loft, chugging away supplying data to 360 Radar, in return for which I get free access to their excellent tracking site. I’m running dump1090-mutability along with the MLAT-Client from 360. I’d really like to be able to allow you all to see the output of this but Mutability doesn’t have an external feed and I am not opening up my 80 port for the world.

Output of dump1090-mutability
Output of dump1090-mutability

Send Electroneum

If you enjoy reading the musings of a grumpy old man on these pages then you could send me money. Cash is fine as is a bank transfer or a cheque, but the last option would mean I either have to post the cheque to the bank or go there myself and who visits banks these days?

If you are in the market for some cryptocurrency then you can buy some Electroneum and send it to me using the wallet address below:

Wallet Address
Wallet Address

I am 80% confident that cryptocurrencies are bad. It’s a bubble and also bad for the environment because of all the electricity used to maintain the block-chain. Anyway, before society comes crashing down you can send me some Etn coins.

BAH!

Yesterday I went to Imperial College to see two talk / roadshow things. The first was the Ig Nobel roadshow which lasted about two hours and had talks from the chap who runs the Ig Nobel awards and also from four scientists who had won the prize. The Ig Nobels are awarded for science that:

makes you laugh, then makes you think

It was a lovely couple of hours hearing about the endeavours of scientists from around the world trying to make the world a better place.

Ig Nobel Roadshow
Ig Nobel Roadshow

I laughed and smirked and reveled in the atmosphere of nerdery and geekiness. You can watch it below:

After an intermission of a couple of hours there was the London round of BAHFest. The Bad Ad-hoc Hypothesis Festival. I went last year and enjoyed it immensely. I really liked it again this time around. The ideas were delightful and thoroughly entertaining. Watch it now:

Hopefully my calendar will allow me to go next year. Such a delightful event.

Goodbye Tonkas

As part of my trip around Lincolnshire I spent a few hours outside Coningsby watching the Typhoons. They are pretty loud when taking off although one did set my car alarm off by doing a full-afterburner take off and heading straight up to 15,000 feet.

Eurofighter Typhoon
Eurofighter Typhoon

I also went to the BBMF hangar and looked around the various types they have there. Here’s their Lancaster:

Avro Lancaster PA474
Avro Lancaster PA474

I also saw another Lancaster at ex RAF East Kirkby.

Just Jane - Avro Lancaster
Just Jane – Avro Lancaster

However, the main reason for being a hundred and sixty miles from home was to be relatively close to RAF Marham so I could try and see some Tornados flying before they end their airborne days. I had noticed there was a NOTAM out for Marham on the Friday and so I planned to be there about half an hour before the start of whatever it was. I figured that if it wasn’t the Tornados it would be a Lightning II and that wouldn’t be such a bad thing to see. I still haven’t seen one fly and I could only just make out two in real life over the other side of the airfield.

Sortie - Rolling
Sortie – Rolling

I was lucky. There were five Tornados going up and preparing for a final display and fly past later in the month. It was really good to see them taxiing.

Tonka Formation - RAF Marham
Tonka Formation – RAF Marham

After about an hour over the North Sea doing their stuff they headed back to Marham but not before I had seen four F15s fly over and then three KC-135s in formation. They were a sight to see!

So I have two Tornado stories for you. The first was at North Weald airshow in the late 80s. My friend Nick and I had cycled from home and couldn’t afford entry so we just parked our bikes inside one of two fences in line with the end of the runway. We figured we weren’t airside and neither were we next to the road, we were in a kind of no-mans land. A Tornado lined up in front of us and then used full re-heat to take off. The noise and vibration was amazing. It was an awesome sight.

Just A Few Flights Left
Just A Few Flights Left

My next anecdote involves me being a cadet at RAF Coningsby in 1988. I was allowed to sit in the cockpit of a Tornado ADV and I played with the throttle. I was later told that doing this had dumped some fuel in the engine, but I wasn’t concerned. Later that night I was on the flight line “helping” and the aircraft I had been sitting in refused to start. It looks like I broke it [a little].

Head On - Panavia Tornado
Head On – Panavia Tornado

While at Marham the spotters got our own little airshow and it was such a delight. It was a special time to see these aircraft doing what they were meant to do, which is fly, for the last time.

I should add in that while in Cyprus on cadet camp there were Typhoons and Tornados taking off every evening to bomb ISIS in Syria and Iraq and I remember watching them leave while we were at the beach bar on Akrotiri. The after burners, the noise and the sight was spectacular. Tornados going to do the job they were designed for.

Midnight

I’ve been thinking about time. Well, let’s face it I think about lots of things all the time but time is problematic. I was mostly thinking about this at the turn of the year, when 2018 magically turned into 2019 or the start of the nth journey around the sun when starting from an arbitrary point. I mean starting the new year on the day after the shortest day for the northern hemisphere would be more sensible but I guess we could have a war with the southern hemisphere about that.

Midnight is the first moment of the next day. When the clock hits 00:00 that is the start of the next day. The previous day ends at a moment which is the limit of all time before 00:00. Twelve AM is the beginning of that day. Such is the definition.

Now, here’s the problem and it involves language and colloquialisms as is often the case with problems about definitions. Within mathematics there are plenty of words which have specific definitions in the subject and different meanings in casual language, I mean that was designed that way originally to exclude the masses from education.

So, if I said to you I will meet you “at midnight on Thursday” then it is likely that we would be talking about meeting at the boundary between Thursday and Friday. But, if I said I’d meet you at 12am on Thursday that would probably mean we were still meeting at the boundary between Thursday and Friday but in reality that time is the boundary between Wednesday and Thursday.

Thinking about this now I think it would be only me having problems with a meeting time of “midnight on Thursday” and in a group discussion I would be the one asking for clarification whereas everyone else would be perfectly happy with the understanding of the meeting time. Oh how I hate language sometimes.

Not Really

This one is easy pickings really. Almost everything written in the Daily Express is rubbish and it has been amongst the leaders of our “free press” stoking the embers of racism and nationalism over the last few years. But, let’s stick with science:

Express Distress
Express Distress

I took this clip of the Daily Express two days ago. It’s a photo that was shared widely through the press and you’ve probably seen it.

It is a good photograph and quite stunning. Although we can’t see the right hand corner of the iceberg and I couldn’t see any other views of this iceberg so I wonder how rectangular it is and how many people’s brains will fill in another right angle.

I’m more interested in the words that the Express uses.

“Nature can do straight lines” – yep, knew that already. Pretty sure light travels in straight lines (at a basic level). Also, notice that the edges of the ice berg aren’t straight. There are bumps and lumps. So, it’s not straight. It just appears that way.

“Eerily perfect 90-degree angles” – hmm, have they measured that? Perfect 90-degrees is pushing it a bit. I mean they can be close to 90 but “perfect”. Bullshit. In the very NEXT paragraph they say the angles can be “about 90-degrees”. So they dismiss their own claim in the VERY NEXT PARAGRAPH.

“Perfect ice rectangle” – but it’s not perfect. What sort of person writes that word in a news article? We can’t see the rest of it. The picture is at an oblique angle so we can’t measure the sides. I doubt the Express have done anything like that.

So, let’s see what NASA said about their photographs:

“I was actually more interested in capturing the A68 iceberg that we were about to fly over, but I thought this rectangular iceberg was visually interesting and fairly photogenic, so on a lark, I just took a couple photos,” Harbeck said.

The photographer took the photos for a lark! Brilliant.

Tabular Iceberg Panorama

They aren’t all that rectangular:

Second Rectangular Iceberg

In fact pretty much all of them are irregular in shape and so the odd one that looks a little special to human brains isn’t that exciting:

Larsen C tabular icebergs 1

How do you get your kit to Antarctica? In a large plane of course. How do you land large plane? Make an ice runway:

c-17-sea-ice-runway