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Fire Destroys Southampton Fibre-Optics Center 201

Posted by Zonk
from the bad-science dept.
Sam Haine '95 writes "BBC News reports that a fire has burnt down a CS facility at the University of Southampton. It's notable because the facility was one of the best in the world." From the article: "Some of the most advanced research work in the country, and indeed the world was carried out in this facility ... We probably will have to start from scratch, and it will take a couple of years to rebuild the facility"
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Fire Destroys Southampton Fibre-Optics Center

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  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@NosPam.gmail.com> on Monday October 31, 2005 @12:51AM (#13912742) Journal

    I'm only speculating, but I hope for their sake they have all of their data backed up and off-site. How ironic would it be for a company steeped in high speed communications technology ostensibly with the capability to set up their own redundant high-speed SAN to lose data and research in the fire? I'm hoping they didn't, but wonder if they did, considering their projection of a couple years to recover, and also having to start from scratch. Does that mean for the research?, or the building only?

    • by MMaestro (585010) on Monday October 31, 2005 @01:25AM (#13912884)
      More like couple of decades worst case scenario. Even assuming they backed up all their data off-site, its gonna take years to clean up and build a new building (~1 year for cleaning, estimate about 2~5 years to rebuild and bring the whole thing back up to speed). On top of construction, theres the loss of the machines, facilities and temporary unability to do work elsewhere for sometime (can't replicate that kind of research in your average college computer lab.) Theres also the now temporarily work-less researchers, the obvious political fallout and having to figure out how the fire started in the first place. Theres also the matter of who's gonna foot the bill for cleaning, construction and replacing all the lost material. On top of ALL that, I doubt theres a magic 'put everything back the way it was before button' on the backup servers which can instantly bring all the data back for researchers quickly and easily.

      Combined, you're looking at an easy 5 years lost research time best case scenario. Worst case scenario you're looking at anywhere between 10~30 years lost time since some scientists may not want to wait for the facilities to be rebuilt and just take their expertise elsewhere and their not the sort you can replace easily. Theres always the distant (but unlikely) possibility, that they might not even rebuild the facilties and simply shelf or sell off the data to others.

      And of course, this doesn't even touch the financial costs, the damage to the school's prestige and damage to the school's pride.

      • > There's also the matter of who's gonna foot the bill for cleaning, construction and replacing all the lost material.

        Likely the insurance company.
      • The building is/was part of Electronics and Computer Science ( http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/ [soton.ac.uk], but the servers are down at the moment). It was a postgrad/research building (no undergrads). I did my PhD research there 7 years ago.

        I know there is computer science research being done in the building, which is shaped like a 'U'. From what I saw on the news, the fire started in (and destroyed) the other side of the building (the opposite leg of the 'U') where the the clean rooms and laboratories are. It seems to hav
        • Some past results may be, but even without fires I often heard stories about people losing years of work when their hard disk crashed or laptop was stolen.

          Edinburgh University had their Cybernetic Library [ala.org] consumed in a nightclub fire in 2002 (They were located in a city centre office block which had student flats, nightclubs and offices built up together). Around 17 years of papers and books were lost - A good incentive to scan and store everything digitally on separate sites.

          At least in Soton, the facilit
    • It looks like the website is still around
      http://www.orc.soton.ac.uk/ [soton.ac.uk]
      • The ORC (OptoElectronics Research Centre) is mainly based in a different building, and the web servers are likely to be elsewhere again. The part of the building that burned housed labs, cleanrooms and even a small IC fabrication plant. I did some of my PhD research there during the mid 90's, and back then there were very few offices there and most computers in that area used networked storage rather than local.
    • Even with the data backed up, the major loss will be their equipment [soton.ac.uk] - this is not a computer lab, rather it is a hardware fabrication lab with likely millions of dollars worth of semiconductor and optical processing equipment, clean rooms, etc. - research samples taking months to grow may have been lost as well.
      • And such a thing can burn down in one go?
        • Re: Burn Baby Burn (Score:5, Insightful)

          by some guy I know (229718) on Monday October 31, 2005 @10:41AM (#13914819) Homepage
          I had the same reaction.
          This is (uh, was) a multi-million dollar (OK, multi-million pound, sorry) facility.
          Where was all of the fire-suppression equipment?
          Why was the builing itself so flammable?

          I can understand using wood in lower-cost construction (e.g., residential homes), but such a valuable facility should have been constructed out of concrete and steel.
          In addition, it should have had many or all of the following characteristics:
          • No wood in/on the walls, and no paper-coated drywall.
          • Steel doors.
          • No wooden floors (just tile and such).
          • No wooden furniture (e.g., only steel desks, etc.).
          • Flame-resistant paint.
          • Flame-resistant fabric, where fabric is necessary (on chairs, curtains, etc.).
          • Steel bookcases with doors of steel or tempered glass.
          • Steel cases (instead of plastic) and aluminum (OK, aluminium, sorry) knobs on the scientific equipment, and sealed electronics wherever possible.
          • Copper/steel/cast iron pipes, instead of PVC.
          • Flame-resistant coatings on all wiring, etc.
          • Dangerous experiments (e.g., those requiring explosive chemicals) conducted in outbuildings.
          • And, most importantly, a working, effective, and periodically tested fire-suppression system.
          This is all very expensive, and is probably not cost-effective in most situations.
          However, since the "facility was one of the best in the world", and "Some of the most advanced research work in the country, and indeed the world was carried out in this facility", I think that the added expense would have been worth it.
          • The explosion was believed to have been caused by a gas leak. If you think about what kinds of dangerous and obnoxious chemicals they were using in there, you can understand why, despite being a pretty well-designed building, it still went up.
            • The explosion was believed to have been caused by a gas leak.

              Assuming that this is mains (rather than bottled gas) this would also mean plenty of fuel for a fire. Until someone was able to shut off the supply.

              If you think about what kinds of dangerous and obnoxious chemicals they were using in there,

              As well as all the perfectly ordinary things which will burn quite well, especially with a methane fueled fire.
          • Re: Burn Baby Burn (Score:4, Interesting)

            by bluGill (862) on Monday October 31, 2005 @06:01PM (#13918556)

            Obviously you know little about fire in the real world.

            Wood is one of the better materials to have in a fire. Yes it burns, but it has the rare characteristic that it gives warning before it fails. A steel floor feels perfectly stable underfoot while the firefighters are rushing around, and then suddenly reaches the fail point and falls. A wood floor starts feeling softer and softer underfoot until it suddenly fails. Fire fighters can estimate how much time they have left before the building goes by feel. (though odds are this building did not have wood floors)

            Wood is a good insulator, while steel conducts. A wood door will resist fire longer than a solid steel door, which will start whatever is on the other side of the door on fire. (steel fire doors have insulation inside that is better than solid steel, so this is a non-factor, but it is important to consider)

            Paper covered drywall is a great thing to have in a fire. 5/8inch drywall is good for 1 hour in a typical home fire. Multi-unit dwellings have drywall between all units for this reason.

            While smoke is always harmful, the smoke from a wood fire is much less harmfull than most other things that burn.

            Wood desks do not burn easily. The heat tends to spread too fast to catch the rest of the desk on fire. If the building is on fire the wood desks will make it worse, but if you start a wood desk on fire in the middle of a room (where nothing else will burn) it is unlikely to spread to the next desk. (note that I'm talking solid wood, composites behave differently in fire)

            Proper construction is much more complex than you realize.

            • But if there's nothing around that's flammable, a fire won't start in the first place, and if there's very little around that's flammable, any fire that does start won't get very far.

              So it won't matter that wood gives you a better warning that it is about to collapse, because there won't be a fire in the first place.

              And I have seen videos of demos where a fire starts on a couch, then burns hotter and hotter, then the paint and paper on the walls and ceiling catches fire.
              If the walls were cement boards like
              • And I have seen videos of demos where a fire starts on a couch, then burns hotter and hotter, then the paint and paper on the walls and ceiling catches fire. If the walls were cement boards like those used in bathrooms in the shower area, covered with plaster or tiles or flame-resistant paint, they would not ignite in such a situation.

                False. Your normal wall is made from gypsum, which does not burn! In fact it actually resits fire because it contains water (which is chemically trapped in the molecule

                • The part that is false is that cement boards are better for walls that drywall.

                  The video of the couch is a real world situation.

            • Wood is a good insulator, while steel conducts. A wood door will resist fire longer than a solid steel door, which will start whatever is on the other side of the door on fire.

              This is a know problem with fires on ships. Even a completly gas tight hatch will not prevent the spread of fire.

              Paper covered drywall is a great thing to have in a fire. 5/8inch drywall is good for 1 hour in a typical home fire.

              There isn't that much paper to burn. The plaster is gypsum (hydrated calcium sulphate), which dosn't
              • Even if wooden furniture is made of solid wood there is the problem of glues, varnishes and polishes giving off toxic fumes.

                Agreed. Though the amount of the above is typically much less than anything in the alternatives.

        • Burn down? No.
          Destroyed? Yes.

          What good is the stuff in a clean room once fire and debris plowed through?

          Clean-room specimens are not so clean anymore once the clean-room has been compromised, they may also have been deformed or broken by heat and vibrations. Equipment is also no good if floors/roof have collapsed on it or after it has been exposed to extreme heat and excessive vibrations. The stuf may not be burnt out but it may be contaminated and damaged beyond being salvageable.
          • Clean-room specimens are not so clean anymore once the clean-room has been compromised,

            They certainly won't be clean after being exposed to smoke and dirty water...
            • Exactly.

              It takes only one large-ish sub-micron particle to ruin a specimen. Smoke and dirty water contain bilions of larger particles. Chances are that even if the clean room's equipment is still otherwise intact, it would be nearly impossible (or nearly as expensive and time-consuming) to clean it well enough to avoid excessive airborne or loose contaminants.
      • no, it could have been far,far worse, they could have lost people... people are far more important than equipment and data... brains are irreplaceable... at least not without several years of very expensive training and experience... please remember this... bits and pieces are easy to replace.
    • Given my experience in one, the probability that they had
      effective off-site backup procedures is almost nil.

      Many places, like mine, have no system administrator either or
      centralized policy. It usually falls down to whatever random
      grad students or postdocs happen to know a little bit more than
      the others.

      People hook up their own computers fairly randomly. Lots of people
      know root passwords.

      The reason is obvious: no money.

      It is difficult enough to get grants to pay for science researchers
      themselves. Given
      • I'm a grad student at the Oxford physics department. (Some of my colleagues had been collaborating with the Southampton fibre-optics facility.) At Oxford, there is a centralized backup server which many people use (an IBM tape-based remote, offsite backup called HFS), quoting from the website [ox.ac.uk]:

        The HFS servers and tape library are situated in a climate-controlled, secure location. Three copies of your data are made, each to separate tapes; one copy is held in the automated tape library; the second, in a fi

  • This sounds like the work of a disgruntled CS student turned MBA. After all, how better to learn about screwing your former classmates than burning down their building (unless you made sure they were inside it at the time) :P
  • liquid nitrogen (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Francis Chee, a postgraduate student at the university, was at the scene of the fire. He said: "There are a lot of liquid nitrogen tanks outside the building and they use liquid nitrogen heavily there. I did hear several explosions sounding like gas canisters going off."

    Obviously not a chem grad student... nitrogen would have helped put out the fire. Still, the exploding canisters act like rockets and prevent fire-fighters from getting close.
    • Re:liquid nitrogen (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nasarius (593729)
      Obviously not a chem grad student... nitrogen would have helped put out the fire. Still, the exploding canisters act like rockets and prevent fire-fighters from getting close.

      As a chem student, damaging/heating a canister of compressed nitrogen can cause a fairly violent explosion. It's not combustion; it's just rapid expansion.

      • Exactly; back when I was a physics undergrad, my colleagues & I would make "nitrogen bombs" using LN and empty screw-top plastic soda bottles. Put a bit of LN in the bottle, screw the top down tight, and drop a heavy weight on the bottle. If you used thinner plastic (such as a milk bottle), it'd explode all by itself with no external input.
  • Is that where they were working on lucas electrics? If so, it's no great loss. [gomog.com]
  • by Sheetrock (152993) on Monday October 31, 2005 @12:57AM (#13912770) Homepage Journal
    The only two things that I can think of that might be of some consolation are that because this dealt with technology much of the research should be in electronic form and backed up and that many times you'll discover a more efficient way of doing things when you go back and design the same thing a second time (although one normally does not have the luxury/misfortune to do so).
  • Backups? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by (negative video) (792072) <me.teco-xaco@com> on Monday October 31, 2005 @12:57AM (#13912771)
    What about the building's fire sprinkler system? Why did it fail? Or why didn't it have one?
    • Re:Backups? (Score:2, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      Why, it was state-of-the-art; their sprinkler system was all virtual. Unfortunately the fire wasn't.
    • Re:Backups? (Score:5, Funny)

      by NoGuffCheck (746638) on Monday October 31, 2005 @01:04AM (#13912798)
      No need to worry, luckly the sprinkler system was off site so it survived the fire unharmed... phew! y,know, its close scares like this that make you really appreciate your plumbing.
    • First line of TFA:
      "Gas canisters exploded inside the Mountbatten building on Salisbury Road, Highfield, which was engulfed by a 100ft plume of smoke on Sunday morning."

      Yeah, I wonder why the sprinkler system didn't take care of that.
      • by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Monday October 31, 2005 @01:38AM (#13912926) Homepage Journal
        But halon gas fire suppression systems should have - at least, to the degree of it not getting totally out of control. Without oxygen, fires don't generally do a whole lot - halon largely works by displacing all of the oxygen, leaving the fire nothing to work with.


        There's also the question of cannisters exploding... Cannisters generally don't do this - they tend to be rather boring, not even speaking much, unless there's something already happening. Cannisters will react to heat - but, like I said, a halon system should have dealt with heat sources long before they became a threat. Cannisters with explosive gasses CAN explode if the valve is leaky and there is a static discharge. But anyone leaving highly explosive substances around massive sources of static, or indeed, in containers that are faulty - well, they should expect something like this. You should generally store cannisters and gas cylinders in well-ventillated but secure locations containing no combustible materials or materials likely to pick up a static charge.


        In practice, you can't go around stowing every single piece of equiptment in absolutely ideal conditions. In consequence, accidents like this are going to happen. Because they are going to happen, the important thing is to keep the impact to a minimum. A lot of effort over the years has gone, not only in building fire suppressing systems, but also in figuring out how to build structures that will contain a fire. The slower a fire can spread, the more likely it is to exhaust fuel and/or oxygen before it can find more.


        Now, explosions get more problematic. Once you get explosions, there's not a whole lot even the best design can do, because you have to assume that there will be a sizable area affected. Aside from minimizing risk (through correct handling and operating procedurea) and trapping precursors (such as nearby fires, static, etc), there's not much that can be done. If you want to have a building survive explosions, you've got to design it very differently - lots of honeycombed structures that can absorb the high energies involved, for example. On the whole, though, you wouldn't design a fibre optics centre that way. Fibre isn't known for exploding. Fireworks factories SHOULD be built that way, and a lot of people killed in such explosions might well be alive if such buildings WERE built correctly for the conditions, but that's a whole different ball-game.

        • So do you suspect an act of arson? Being that this happend at a Uni, there are lots of potential motives...
          • by jd (1658)
            You only get an automatic pass if someone in the same class as you dies, and that's only in America. At older British Universities, you are however allowed to ask for a pint of beer and a pork pie during exams.
        • If it did, you could use something a lot cheaper like CO2. 1301 halts fires when it's at only 3 to 7% concentration, barely diluting the oxygen let alone displacing it.

          What happens is much more interesting and I've never found a good reference with a complete explanation. Under heat, loose halogen atoms break off the halon molecules and react with short-lived intermediate molecules from the combustion process, taking them out of circulation and breaking the reaction chain.

          I looked into this once trying to f
          • Most pages I've found that talk about halon only mention that it "displaces oxygen". However, I also found this page [sciam.com], that seems to have a different opinion: "The trick is that the bromine and chlorine atoms in the halon molecule--the very ones that are so damaging to the stratospheric ozone--are also incredibly aggressive scavengers of hydrogen atoms, which are key to maintaining a combustion chain reaction. Indeed, bromine and chlorine atoms are released as halons decompose in the heat of the fire, estab
          • Not a chemist here but I understood that the reaction h+ + Ha- -> hHa was also endo-thermic which also effectivly scavenged enough heat that it tended to reduce the fire to temperature that were below the ignition point. Any problems with toxicity were associated to mostly urban myths and possible burns from breathing hydrogen halide acid vapors in the air.
    • Re:Backups? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by antifoidulus (807088)
      I wonder if they used gas, sprinklers, both, or neither? The gases they use to put out fires near computers tend to leave the computers unharmed, but the same can't be said for people...the sprinklers of course do the opposite. Then again, the article mentions that gas canisters exploded, so maybe they could have taken out a lot of the fire protection mechanisms with them...
    • What about the building's fire sprinkler system? Why did it fail? Or why didn't it have one?

      I'm guessing you're an American. Having spent many years in Europe, I know that there are many buildings overseas that are older than our entire country. And, no, most of them have not been retrofitted to modern building codes. That's just the way it is. Though, as other have speculated, a fire as devistating as this one it may not have helped anyway.

      • It isn't a building code or age issue. Retrofitting sprinklers pays for itself rapidly in reduced insurance premiums, particularly with a building full of ultra-expensive equipment (wafer steppers and related fab equipment) and dangerous gas canisters (arsine, elemental fluorine).

        And the point of sprinklers is to prevent a fire from becoming devastating in the first place, by limiting the wide-area temperature to the boiling point of water. One notable case where they don't work is with metals like magnes

        • It may not have been insurable, or insurance may have been inappropriate. In a cutting-edge research lab, the equipment may become obsolete, in a very short life cycle so it's not hard to imagine that the cost of insurance for five years might exceed the cost of the equipment of the same period. I'm sure in most commercial fab plants, fire suppression is specificaly designed for the plant, and department, I doubt it's a one-size fits-all deal
          • Old, used technical equipment tends to still be worth a lot of money. Sure, the really bleeding edge stuff might lose 85% off its original cost, but that's still a big pile of money when it started out at $10M for the whole building. In fact, there's an entire industry based on reselling used technical equipment. (See the ads on this web search [google.com] for example.)
      • But this building doesn't sound that old and it was a lab for goodness sake. If they can install lasers and computer networks they can put in a fire suppression system.
        Yea I have been to the UK it is interesting. I was born in south Florida. A building from the 1940s is "old" here.

        Sounds like the next building should try and separate any potentially dangerous activities from the rest of the lab.
    • Because it didn't run on Linux!!!!!!

      yuct, yuct :p
  • Fire (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ModernGeek (601932) on Monday October 31, 2005 @12:58AM (#13912777) Homepage
    It's amazing how much fire can destroy and how fast. Even with advanced fire suppression systems, fire departments, etc. Without any of these, fire can be even more devastating. I was talking with a guy who said they don't have a fire department in his area, and that when there is a remote fire department responding, it's too little to late. Fires in his area take out acres and acres of land and homes. It's impossible to get insurance in the area. I joined my local volunteer fire department about a year and a half ago, and I never realized until then just how frequent fires are, and how easily they can get out of control. The biggest thing is to prepare for the worst and pray for the best.
  • ...I'm specifically thinking about the one that took out the Debian servers last year. (Too tired to find a link...sorry.)
  • Who dun it? (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheDracle (836105) on Monday October 31, 2005 @01:12AM (#13912827)
    First Google buys all unused fiber optics:
    http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/08/ 28/2156233&tid=217&tid=230&tid=193 [slashdot.org]

    To corner the market.

    And now mysterious fires ravage the competition.
    • I don't see how this really benefits Google in any tangible way. These people were doing R&D, not competing to buy fiber.

      In any case, if it did help Google, anyone with stock or sell options could have done it.
  • OK people (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Y-Crate (540566) on Monday October 31, 2005 @01:13AM (#13912832)
    I think that after two examples (the other being the Ardman fire [cnn.com]) of why you should invest in proper fire suppression equipment in one month's time in one nation should be enough to make people realize that such systems are a worthwhile investment.

    Then again, such things are usually put low on the list of priorities whenever possible, because "it won't happen to us".

    You can even get the upper hand when explosives are present, you can get systems that will have fire suppressants leaving the discharge head before the explosion is even visible (some systems are guaranteed to have the suppressant flowing in less than 50 milliseconds of onset of the event that triggers the release.)

    I suppose it just comes down to a matter of deciding how much you value your operation and assets.
    • Re:OK people (Score:3, Informative)

      by igb (28052)
      But fire supression isn't as easy as you make out. In the machine hall I manage I have the usual underfloor, main space and ceiling void vesda early detection, plus automated dumping of extinguishant. However, as Halon has been illegal for new construction in the EU since the early 90s, it's CO2. So there's a motion sensor system to avoid killing people inside.

      But the whole idea of machine rooms as dangerous fire sources dates back to valves, three-phase and lots of paper dust. Mine is in the middle of

      • Re:OK people (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheGSRGuy (901647)
        Halon systems generally give a certain amount of warning before going off. The server rooms where I work have Halon fire supression systems, and there are placards and lights/buzzers everywhere that tell you "you've got 60 seconds to exit the room once this light turns on." The same warnings are found in fireworks stores, and I would presume factories.

        It's not like suddenly the oxygen in the room disappears and everyone asphyxiates. Halons are basically a super-powerful CFC. They destroy ozone (hence remov
    • Then again, such things are usually put low on the list of priorities whenever possible, because "it won't happen to us".

      No, there's often a value judgement made: "How much insurance can we afford for what we have to protect?"
      I work in a University environment where sprinklers have deliberately not been used in some areas because of perceived dangers (electric, chemical), and not in some areas because people can be scared out with lights and loud noises, and the building itself would be better rebuilt.
  • Firewall (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kyeetza (927172) on Monday October 31, 2005 @01:30AM (#13912900)
    A massive fire has destroyed a leading computer science research facility.... They should've invested in a better firewall...
  • Sounds more like it was a chip fab. One of the chemicals that might be used in the wet benches can be pyrophoric (ignite contact with air, with no other ignition source). The gas called silane.

    The ducts used to pull silane out of the wet benches are usually heavily fire rated. Silane is used to deposit silicon layers on chips. I know that other wet benches have burned up in the past due to silane as an ignition souce. Generally it is heaviliy cut with Nitrogen (98% Nitrogen, 2% Silane) since the silan
    • Re:Chip Fab (Score:2, Informative)

      by hptux06 (879970)
      Yep, the Mountbatten building houses most of the electronic / microchip facilities for southampton. According to my brother (a student there), the fire's taken out the Clean Room [intel.com], used for chip fab. Seeing how the cost for building clean rooms start in the millions, that's gotta hurt.
    • ...like the 'clean room' building (nicknamed the lego block while I was there) is what's gone. Difficult to tell from the photos, but I think Mountbatten building housed the clean room stuff, and it was certainly an experimental fabrication area, whether for chips or fibre I wouldn't know.

      Justin.
      (So'ton grad class of '93).
  • by newandyh-r (724533) on Monday October 31, 2005 @02:23AM (#13913053)
    The information on the University's web site - URL not published because they definitely won't want to be slashdotted today - says:
    Fire at Highfield campus A major fire today at the University's Highfield Campus has partially destroyed the Mountbatten Building, in particular the area containing the microfabrication facility. Very fortunately, as far as can be ascertained, no one was injured or is missing as a result of the fire. Apart from some minor smoke damage to adjacent buildings no other University buildings have been affected and staff and students are asked to return to work as normal on Monday morning. Undergraduate teaching at the University is expected to take place as usual on Monday and students should arrive for lectures at the normal time. Staff and postgraduate students who would normally work in the Mountbatten Building and those who work in the Zepler building are asked to attend a meeting at the Turner Sims Concert Hall at 10.30am, for a briefing on the latest situation and to hear about the University's contingency plans. The Mountbatten Building houses research laboratories and offices for the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) and the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS). The University, ECS and the ORC will do all that is possible to support staff and students affected by this serious fire. The emergency services were alerted to the fire when the alarms were activated at 6.30am Sunday, and the fire was under control by mid-afternoon. Based on available information there was nothing in the smoke plume that would pose a significant risk to health beyond that of the normal constituents of any other building fire. The cause of the fire is not yet known. Local people were advised to avoid making unnecessary journeys in the vicinity and to avoid contact with the smoke plume. Those who are vulnerable or had an existing medical condition were asked to take particular care. The University's Secretary and Registrar John Lauwerys commented: 'This is a huge loss to the University and the fire has destroyed one of our key research facilities of international importance, supporting groups in both Electronics and Computer Science and the Optoelectronics Research Centre. 'It is a huge relief that no one has been injured as a result of the fire and our concern now is to ensure that staff and students that normally work in the Mountbatten Building are given every help to re-establish their academic work. 'The University is very appreciative of the professionalism and skill of all the emergency services, who responded so quickly and effectively, preventing the fire spreading to adjacent buildings. 'It is not yet safe to enter the Mountbatten Building, so we do not yet know the extent of the loss in terms of people's research material. It is likely to be a few days before this can be fully established,' he added.
    [ooops - I had hoped "blockquote" would keep the formatting intact ... haven't got time to format cleanly]
    • Formatting (Score:2, Informative)

      by TubeSteak (669689)
      sometimes slashdot likes to pretend you're formatting in html.
      You need to make sure that little drop down menu says "Plain Old Text"
      That's the only way /. will leave your paragraph's intact. Otherwise you have to insert markup

      Fire at Highfield campus
      A major fire today at the University's Highfield Campus has partially destroyed the Mountbatten Building, in particular the area containing the microfabrication facility. Very fortunately, as far as can be ascertained, no one was injured or is missing as a resul

    • by sakusha (441986)
      Odd that the Mountbatten Building was destroyed by an explosion and fire, it is a sadly ironic reminder of how Louis Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 31, 2005 @03:50AM (#13913300)
    Just a correction on the news item: the actual CS department was unharmed, and CS students are unlikely to be directly affected at all. According to an interview with the admin Chris Gutteridge on Surge FM (Coral) [nyud.net] (the Uni radio), all students files and documents are safe and were backed up. The internal intranet and internet connectivity is still up, although a couple of servers have been cut off. It is electronics students and researchers who have lost out here.

    For those that aren't aware, Soton has a combined electronics and computer science facility. Electronics in Mountbatten, and CS in the attached Zepler building. Only Mountbatten was affected, and Zepler recieved only minor smoke and heat damage. This is remarkable as Mountbatten has been entirely gutted due to the explosions, whereas Zepler appears to be otherwise perfectly fine.

    Mountbatten did have a modern sprinkler system, quite why it failed and why the fire escalated will be investigate in the next few days. There are also concerns over the lack of information about chemicals stored there, which prevented fire crews from stopping the fire earlier.
  • by djce (927193)
    I'm an alumnus of Southampton Uni - I graduated 10 years ago and revisit the city (and sometimes the campus) once or twice a year. I had a few lectures in that building, but mostly I was in Maths on the other side of the campus.

    The building in question is in a very tightly-packed part of the campus, and if memory serves is probably only about 200yds from the neighbouring houses (Hartley Road etc). So it sounds like it could have easily been a lot worse.

    On the plus side, the campus is on top of the edge of
  • The scientists at Southhampton were saddend by news of the Japenese doing a dvd in 0.5seconds, the best they had managed was in 4 seconds. So, late at night, confident that they could better it if they just increased the voltage a bit (they use overclockers.com for tips) they tried. It got hot, but lo! Wasn't there some liquid nitrogen around? But they still couldn't beat the Japense, so up the voltage went again. And then Bob, the youngest scientist used the jug of Liquid nitrogen to cool his beer, and bef
  • The Irony!! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    If you google "southampton university fire", you will see amongst other things, adverts for a Fire Safety Officer!!

    From http://www.jobs.soton.ac.uk/adminweb/jsp/jobs/sJob view.jsp?function=View&id=05B0046 [soton.ac.uk]

    "Following a review of its provision of fire safety services, the University of Southampton has established a post of Fire Safety Adviser. This is a significant role in one of the UK's most successful Universities. With in excess of 100 major buildings, and a range of work from laboratories and workshop
  • Frickin' lasers! Seriously, though, this is a great shame and has also affected servers hosted by the MailScanner [mailscanner.info] Team - there's a news item on the front page of their site about the fire.
  • Southampton University has a handful of campuses, the largest being the Highfield Campus at the north-east end of the Common, towards the outskirts of the city (the others are the Avenue Campus, Oceanography Research Centre, New College, Winchester School of Art and Chilworth Science Park). The Highfield Campus map is here: http://www.soton.ac.uk/about/campusmaps/highfield m ap.html [soton.ac.uk]. The burnt-out building is building 53 just north of Salisbury Road in Square C1. At present there is reduced access to the
  • ... which one of you guys left the laser on?

    Bruce

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.

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