Fed2 Star - the newsletter for the space trading game Federation 2

The weekly newsletter for Fed2
by ibgames

EARTHDATE: April 22, 2018

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An idiosyncratic look at, and comment on, the week's net, technology and science news
by Alan Lenton

Greetings readers. This is the second, and last, of the issues picking up stuff that got missed earlier, so it has less articles and more Scanner URLs than is usual. We start with a piece on Google’s attempt to portray itself as a journalist in a UK court, then there is a piece ostensibly about the loudest sound on record, but actually it’s about volcanoes, then, for a change, we take a look at the subject of springs – with some heavy, very heavy engineering, before moving on to some unusual pictures from space. After that, in the Scanner section, there are URLs on Google self-driving cars, a Facebook sneaky trick [nothing new there – Ed], securing social media, a new class of antibiotics, sleeping in two shifts, Microsoft adopting Linux (sort of), a possible new space engine, keeping the app economy alive, and finally, new figures on religious affiliation in the USA. In the Coda section there’s an amusing quote from Leon Trotsky.

Phew! Well as I said earlier, this is the last catch up for the time being, although here in the UK we always seem to have lots of long weekend style holidays in April/May. Still to come is one for May Day (that’s the one with Morris dancing and skipping round the maypole for tourists to get the feel of Ye Olde England), and Spring Bank holiday at the end of May, which coincides with the USA’s Memorial Day holiday, so we will definitely take a break that weekend. More details nearer the time.


I’ve always been somewhat ambivalent about the EU’s ‘Right to be Forgotten’ legislation. On one hand most democracies have laws removing convictions from criminal records after a certain length of time, but on the other I recognise that some times information about an earlier crime is needed if you are, in the broadest sense, doing business with someone.

Two cases where Google refused to remove information came up recently in the UK. Google’s defence was fascinating. They claimed to be journalists, who have a legal exemption from the legislation! The judge was not amused and rapidly demolished their argument. I’ve no idea how a company whose main business and source of income is selling people’s personal information to the advertising industry even thought they could get away with it.

As the judge, Mr Justice Warby, put it: “Whatever the nature of the search in question, when Google responds to a search on an individual’s name by facilitating access to journalistic content about that individual, this is purely accidental and incidental to its larger purpose of providing automated access to third party content... That is a commercial purpose which, however valuable it may be, is not undertaken for any of the special purposes, or ‘with a view to’ the publication by others of journalistic material... Such processing is undertaken for Google’s own purposes which are of a separate and distinct nature.”



What was the loudest sound ever? It was the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. In fact, according to sciencealert.com it was 10,000 times louder than a hydrogen bomb exploding. As an example, that’s pretty useless, I thought – I doubt if many, if indeed any, of my readers have actually heard a hydrogen bomb going off! More to the point, it was heard over 3,000 miles away and caused a tsunami 148 feet high.

The article has loads of other snippets about the eruption. Note, though the misuse of the word ‘decimating’ in the paragraph on the tsunami. It didn’t just kill every tenth person on the shoreline – it killed virtually all of them! At the end of the article there is an unusual video showing the start of an eruption in Papua, New Guinea. It’s a useful example of the differing speed of things in air and water. First, you see the eruption – transmitted by light. Next, after a pause comes the sound – transmitted by moving air particles. Finally, you can see the water born shock wave which moves at the slowest speed (the video ends before that reaches the boat – I suspect the hatches were busy being battened down!)

And while we are on the subject of volcanoes, take a look at this picture of Japan’s Sakurajima volcano, complete with lightning!

Geek Stuff:

Not all geeks are digital. Before there were digital geeks there were engineering geeks. (Nevil Shute’s book ‘Trustee from the Toolroom’ is a classic story of engineering geeks. Recommended.) So... This week’s geek spot is all about springs – real ones not digital ones! Unless you’ve got an incredibly cheap keyboard it’s probably got springs in it to make the keys return to the proper position after you’ve pressed them. So, even high tech sometimes need its low brethren!

The Hackaday site has a piece on everything you might ever want to know about springs, how they work, making them, and the theory behind them (remember Hooke’s Law from school physics?). But for me the best bit of the article is near the bottom – a video showing a spring bigger than a person being made. It starts with drawing the red hot rod of metal from the furnace, then the winding and finally quenching it. Brilliant! I want one to put in the garden as a conversation piece!


This week’s pictures are from space, and are a little different from what you normally get from space. That’s because the usual pictures from space are shot from directly overhead by astronauts on the ISS. They’re nice, but you tend not to get any feeling for the heights and depths involved. Now a set of pictures from the SkySat satellites has been taken from a different set of angles, and the results are amazing. I thoroughly recommend taking a look.

My favourites? Well that’s difficult, well if pressed I’d go for the one of Pearl-Qatar in Doha and the one of the Kluchevskaya volcano on the Russian Kamchatka peninsula. I’ve seen plenty of overhead shots of Kluchevskaya, but none of them gave such a feeling of just how big it is!

Well worth a look.

PS: I wonder how many people found out, like me, just where Kamchatka is as teenagers playing the board game ‘Diplomacy’?


Google Chair’s inaugural lecture discusses a Google priority: Self-Driving Cars

Facebook puts 1.5bn users on a boat from Ireland to California

Securing social media: National safety, privacy concerns

Scientists discover new class of antibiotics to combat drug resistance

Humans used to sleep in two shifts, and maybe we should do it again

Microsoft built its own custom Linux kernel for its new IoT service

Rolls-Royce and Boeing invest in UK space engine

An easy-breezy attitude to sharing personal data is the only thing keeping the app economy alive

The number of Americans with no religious affiliation is rising


Quote for the Week:

A non-political quote from Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky: “Old age is the most unexpected of all things that happen to a man.”

I guess that includes women as well! [AL]


Thanks to readers Barb and Fi for drawing my attention to material for Winding Down.

Please send suggestions for stories to alan@ibgames.com and include the words Winding Down in the subject line, unless you want your deathless prose gobbled up by my voracious Thunderbird spam filter...

Alan Lenton
22 April 2018

Alan Lenton is an on-line games designer, programmer and sociologist, the order of which depends on what he is currently working on! His web site is at http://www.ibgames.net/alan/index.html.

Past issues of Winding Down can be found at http://www.ibgames.net/alan/winding/index.html.

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