Archive for July 2014

The planes in Ukraine fall mainly when hit by missiles

Amid the continued ‘did they, didn’t they, of course they did, will they admit it’ Ukraine plane blame game, the BBC today reports that:

UK government sources say intelligence shows rebels deliberately tampered with evidence, moving bodies and placing parts from other planes in the debris.

The separatists must have a pretty unrealistically low opinion of Western investigators who surely have, y’know, some information about what to expect in terms of bits from a Boeing 777:

Investigator A: Sir, I’ve found the left propeller.
Investigator B: This was a jet.
A: I see…so I guess the fact that I’ve located the primary torpedo tube isn’t going to help either?
B: …A passenger jet. So, to recap, the evidence we’ve gathered so far seems to be a tape recorder with ‘black bocks’ written on it, an effeminately-dressed mannequin with President Obama’s face, and the spoiler from a 1997 Renault Megane.
A: Sir?
B: Yes?
A: Planes don’t normally have a snowplough with a Soviet flag on it, right?
B: To be honest, son, I’m not even sure what a plane is any more.

Written by Statto and Tom

July 23, 2014 at 21:39

Posted in BBC, international news

US vs them: Credible threat, incredible response

A ‘credible threat’ of bombs and terrorism and stuff aimed at the US means that a number of UK airports have increased security. According to the BBC,

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the measures were being taken to keep the public safe. While he would not specify what steps would be involved, he ruled out ‘significant disruption’ to passengers.

I would love to have sat in on that meeting.

‘Minister, we’ve implemented a policy of using the backscatter X-ray machines on all passengers with beards or who look like they could grow one, and we’re considering giving people special “plane shoes” to wear onboard.’

‘Will that be enough? Could a terrorist still sneak something through? After all, this threat is credible.’

‘There is one more thing we could try.’

‘What is it?’

‘We could deploy…significant disruption to passengers.’

‘Sorry, what?’

‘The idea is quite simple really: if the delays in going through security are tedious enough, most terrorists probably won’t bother and they’ll give up their impassioned jihad against the West and maybe get a job in a shop or something.’

‘WHOA. That sounds serious. Have the Americans specifically requested it?’

‘Not yet, minister.’

‘Well, let’s keep that in reserve. Tell the press I’ve ruled it out for now.’

Written by Statto

July 3, 2014 at 15:19

Posted in terrorism, travel

Dieu et mon droid: UK to develop robot strategy


A very British robot. Image Creative Commons Dave King/D J Shin/csaga

We’re broadly in favour of spending more on science and technology research here at Headline Superheroes, and it therefore comes as good news that the government is thinking of creating a unified UK robot strategy. Whilst this may sound like futuristic military posturing, it will actually involve research into automating processes. Sorry, that was really boring: WOOO!!! Robots!!!

However, the narrow-minded obsession with economic impacts in Westminster means that justification even of inherently awesome robot research must be drenched in cost–benefit bullshit. Take this quote, from Prof David Lane of Heriot-Watt University, lead author of the proposal:

With the right course of action, we believe the UK could achieve 10% of the global [robot] market share by 2025.

We can only assume that the researchers in question consulted their almanac of global markets for products which don’t even really exist yet, and tried to work out how many of those as-yet-undeveloped things we might be able to sell as a fraction of that unknown market, on the basis of absolutely nothing. And luckily it came out as 10%, which is nice and round.

The article also skips the thorny issue of what can be classified as a robot, on a scale which runs approximately from electric toothbrushes to C-3PO.

If the UK were to lead the world in automated bread-toasting technology, would that count? Voice-controlled dishwashers with GPS? (‘It looks like you’re trying to wash some dishes! Your current latitude is 51.7 degrees. Congratulations! You have the 371,023rd most northerly set of IKEA Färgrik dinnerware.’) Or does it have to be an entirely autonomous search-and-destroy warbot equipped with thrusters enabling short-distance flight, hyperspectral threat detection, and five cleaning programmes boasting enviably low water consumption? (‘It looks like you’re considering rebelling against the UK robot hegemony! Here, let me wash those sporks for you! Also, nice latitude!’)

‘The UK could lead the world in robots,’ the report’s authors say. Let’s hope we’re riding into battle bestride Megazords, rather than sitting, bored but slightly wealthier, on the invoices for 10% of the world’s toasters.

Written by Statto and Tom

July 1, 2014 at 23:42