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Comment Licence Fee on the way out? (Score 2) 80

The BBC looking for ways to generate income now the Licence Fee is on the way out? For those not in the UK, if you watch live tv (either BBC or other), you have to (by law) buy an annual TV licence (approx 140GBP a year) - from which a large chunk gets paid to the BBC as the national television programme provider, and provides a good amount of their income.

This model is clearly under threat with the need to watch live tv declining. I moved into a new house 6 years ago and decided to save money by stopping paying for a tv licence and just watching on catch-up via the BBC and other tv players for other stations, you don't need a licence for that (the crucial definition is you need one if you're watching a live transmission). I suspect there are many like me. Gone are the days 99% of the country would need a TV licence. With the numbers declining and the BBC's commanding position declining (gone are the 1970s when there were only 3 tv channels, and our government is in favour of breaking up or selling off government run services): I think the BBC is working out how it generates money in the future and trying out some different approaches.

Comment outsider question: why the USA embargo on Cuba? (Score 3, Interesting) 141

Not a flamebait question/troll even though it might seem so!

This article does indeed show how folk can be creative under a restrictive government: the Cuban authorities don't look like the victim when they are not allowing their own citizens access to the internet (anybody know what their justification is - I'd be interested to know the official reasoning).

But on the other side and in a more general sense, can somebody tell me why the USA still has an embargo against Cuba? (sensible answers only please). It's really perplexing for an outsider so reasonable answers would be welcomed. The USA doesn't have a problem with quite open trade and relations with other nominally communist states (e.g. China, Vietnam). It doesn't mind trading with other countries it was at war with 50 years ago. It doesn't mind trading with countries who had /still have nuclear missiles pointing at it. It doesn't mind embracing countries with poor human rights records.

Is it because of the proximity of Cuba, or some other reason? Really curious, feels like an odd hang over from a cold war that finished before many slashdotters were born...


Comment Maybe US space is not the only game in town? (Score 1) 39

Perhaps the EU scientists see China as being a future significant space science / engineering power and is exploring potential future relationships. Maybe EU space scientists don't see the USA and Russia as the only major players in town. Given that that Chinese are one of the two nations that are capable of launching humans successfully into space at present it would seem fair enough to take them seriously and work with them.

Comment Forget paranoia, more likely about the $$ it costs (Score 3, Insightful) 325

Let's trust Wikipedia on bird strikes and assume that small objects (under about 10kg) rarely cause a catastrophic collision, mostly it looks like bird strikes and similar are survivable for planes, they just cost lots of money. Looks like most aircraft aren't going to fall out of the sky even faced with a drone operator who successfully crashes into a plane. However the photos show it can make a pretty mess of expensive jet engines.

So I suspect that commercial interest might also be at play, it would be in the airlines' interest to claim a terrorism threat to stop idiots going to the supermarket in the morning then flying a drone near commercial airspace in the afternoon. Going to cost a lot to replace one of those jet engines from the look of the wikipedia photos showing what happens when a bird hits them.

Seems like if you want to commit an act of terror then a 5kg lump of plastic isn't likely to knock an airliner out of the sky, but it will probably cost the airlines a lot of money so I can imagine they'd quite like some regulations in place to stop idiots flying them near their planes.

Comment yes but we're a group of islands in the Atlantic (Score 1) 90

This may be so but we (the British Isles) are a group of islands in the Atlantic, we get waves rolling around our coastline 24/7, coming in a long way across open ocean, and we've got a lot of sea. We're a relatively small island and people get protective about windfarms getting built on land. So it's a reliable source of energy to explore in a place not many folk mind too much having installations on, definitely worth researching scaleable solutions here.

Comment Depends where: LHR: 191k passengers/ day (Score 1) 237

London Heathrow sees 191,000 people arrive and depart per day.

Excluding passengers in transit, that's still going to be an awful lot of people moving in and out of the airport on the edge of London. I can't see you shifting them all in 4 person cars without more traffic jams that already plague the M25 (ok, I suspect from your post you're unhappy with more than 1 to 2 people per car, but in principle car sharing and multiple car passengers is feasible).

Maybe airports can be serviced in small rural areas by cars but in major metropolitan areas mass transit systems are more efficient.

Comment Are the police involved? (regarding death threats) (Score 1) 239

I understand that cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian, who made the statement that the best thing men could do to support women was to believe them when they say they are being harassed, has had a death threat made against her. Are the police involved? If somebody made an anonymous death threat against me I'd call the police and expect them to take it seriously. How is this being handled in this case (I don't know how things work in the USA).

Comment No, I'm his age and we learnt metric (Score 1) 942

> It couldn't possibly be because he's older... was taught imperial when he was in school... and humans tend to go with what they know?


  I was born the same year as him and we were all taught metric units in England from the beginning of school, imperial units were never used. We were introduced to it in passing when we were aged about 8 or 9 as a funny old system that people used to use so we might come across from our older relatives it but not something we should pay very much attention to . Britain in the late 60s early 70s was still optimistic and looking to a scientific new future, white heat of technology and all that, and metric measurement was seen as part of the scientific new future (remember we had decimalisation of our currency at the same time, 1971, so we'd moved to 100 pennies to the pound from 12 pennies to the shilling, twenty shillings to the pound: imperial units were out of fashion). Metric measurement was pretty well known even by our parents at the time who'd gone to school in Imperial times (literally: pre 1947 when India, Pakistan and Burma were part of the empire, run from London) and taken for granted.

  Of course I should be fair and note that according to wikipedia, DC went to an exclusive private school from the age of seven so perhaps they had rum ideas about education and believe the empire was about to return and taught the kids a dead measurement system... but if it followed the national guidance on curriculum, he would have learnt metric.

We still have a passing knowledge of imperial units in the UK, folk still know a handful, but it's a very partial and incomplete understanding and the majority of people under 50 would look at you as being a bit crazy if you said you wanted them to work in pounds and ounces and feet and inches. Most of them wouldn't know how many pounds were in a hundredweight or feet in a furlong.

DC is trying to out UKIP the UKIP and gain favour with the over 60s Little Englander vote.

Comment Not in school when they are 6 years old (Score 1) 942

The article is in response to David Cameron's opinion that he'd prefer school children to learn Imperial units instead of metric as their first means of measuring the world. It's what he wants 6 year olds to learn.

I'd agree it would be interesting to give people an insight into old measurements for those folk who want to work with equipment that still has legacy imperial hardware around that they might encounter, e.g. 16-20 year olds starting an apprenticeship in some engineering domains. But I don't think working with imperial measurements is the same level of priority as the majority of other subjects that 6-11 year olds should learn. Unless you live in the USA or Liberia (I think these are the only two countries in the world to use imperial measurements as their main system?). And I definitely don't think rocket scientists should learn them, we all know how well that US Mars spacecraft faired when there was a mixup on the US side between imperial and metric measurements ;-)

Comment Imperial Nanking university, China, 258AD (Score 1) 173

Funny that, I work at a European university and this afternoon I attended a presentation on scholarship, part of which included a history of scholarship and the university. The highly regarded senior lecturer flagged up Imperial Nanking University, 258AD, as the first real university, and made a good case for it, as does wikipedia.

I think you're arguing that a university is only a university if it follows a definition of what one is according to Western European medieval law: I'd say most people would go with a definition that explores how it matches against educational criteria. Something on the lines of a gathering together of scientists and educators to share ideas, engage in research, and communicate expertise to students with the goal of enabling them to achieve mastery (and in turn teach others), while reflecting on the practices of teaching and learning. The educational model that medieval European universities operated on definitely has predecessors elsewhere in the world, such as China, and I could believe India as well.

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