Archive for the Noteworthy Category

20,000 rpm not in F1

Posted in Noteworthy, Tech, Transport with tags , , on November 9, 2009 by Apollo

While it seems a bit silly for a business that sees fines of over £100 million as little more than petty cash or small change to speak of “cost saving measures”, F1 development rules still means that achievements are made that we may be cheated of seeing.

I had anticipated seeing engines running to 20,000 rpm in the 2009 season, but the rules outlawed this figure, and capped them at 19,000 rpm in the name of economy.

However, as anyone with an ounce of engineering knowledge will realise, to run reliably at 19 k, you have to be able to perform unreliably at higher numbers, and 20 k is only some 5% more in terms of revs, although that same engineering knowledge will also tell that the energy involved will increase by something more like 10%, and that doesn’t merit the same use of the word “only” that 5% merits.

In a 4-stroke engine this is particularly significant, since it means the reciprocating parts – in particular the pistons – also carry that amount of additional energy, and the con-rods have to haul them to a full stop and reverse their direction 333 times every second, or every 3 ms. These really are speed and energies you wouldn’t want to be too close to when a rod lets go, and the pistons decide to leave the engine.

With that in mind, I was intrigued to see a Cosworth engine test at 20 k, although it may be significant to note that the test was not maintained once 20 k had been reached, but was terminated almost as soon as the figure was achieved.

Piston engines can go much faster, but not as car-sized V8 or V10 designs. These engines are tiny by comparison and can be found in models, and turn at ridiculus speeds by comparison, many times that of their larger brothers, but then again, they are very, very much lighter, but can still be built of exotic materials – they use so much less!


Supercars on show

Posted in Noteworthy, Tech, Transport with tags on November 7, 2009 by Apollo

Cartoon sports carToo far for me to go and have a look, those nice people at the BBC did a little report about some fast car on show…

It’s a pity they had to go some way towards wasting it, and let someone that thinks an over-loud raucous musical soundtrack was obligatory, had to accompany it get their way – mistake.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


It’s funny how the arrival of the Veyron a few years ago, lifting the production car top speed to a demonstrable 407 kph (253 mph), has spawned so many challengers, and this report included a British candidate, which has a claim of 261 mph for the title of Fastest Production car.

I always wonder how practical these later challengers are. The Veyron story has been told in some detail, and the power/heat/tyre hurdles are significant, as are the reliability aspects.

Are these later claimants to the title able to do their speed runs with little or no special preparation, and then just carry on driving on the road as normal, as the Veyron has demonstrated it can, or are they highly strung special, in need of fettling before and during their high speed runs, and not really in any condition to carry on driving on the road afterwards?

The other thought that occurs to me relates to the ultimate capability of the Veyron. As noted, we know what’s in it, and the exotic technology that supports it and it 16-cylinder quad turbocharged engine.

Would it be so hard to wind it up a little more and add another 10 mph or so, or turn one into a record maker one day?

Dragons’ Den Series 6 ends

Posted in Noteworthy, TV, Venting with tags , , , , on September 8, 2008 by Apollo

Monday nights have taken a dive from tonight as the sixth series of Dragons’ Den came to an end on BBC2.

The series makes a fascinating insight into the reasons behind making a business investment, and I’m sure those that with genes that programme them to be “employees” rather than “employers” must watch in disbelief each week (if they watch) as so many deserving applicants are turned out of the Den to the words “I’m out”. One example was the inspired, but misguided, effort by one father and son pairing to gain investment in the form of sponsorship for the lad’s motor racing career. While they spoke a good deal, and the initiated not having to place their own cash at risk would probably have wanted to jump at the deal, which promised the investor a sizeable cut of the driver’s future earnings (and gave examples of drivers like Schumacher and Hamilton who have risen to make millions per year), the wily Dragons saw the fundamental flaw in the plan which would have sucked them into further, huge investments in subsequent years in order to make it to that final promised return, IF the lad has fulfilled his championship promise. A look at the BBC’s Dragons’ Den web site comment area showed that many of those offering negative comments on this deal just didn’t get the idea, and couldn’t (and probably never will) comprehend the fundamental basics of a real business investment.

While I’ve been watching Dragons’ Den since series 1, I’d still only claim a basic understanding of their thought processes. I’m getting better, and probably get 90% right when predicting the outcome, but that remaining 10% can still be something of a mystery. I do know where I go wrong in some cases, and that’s when I let myself be ruled by personal bias rather than business logic. For example, just like some of the Dragons’ who pop the phrase “I’m out” almost instantly of someone bring in a proposition that is alien to them, or they object to on ethical grounds, I do the same if something has anything to do with the curse of Celebrity, or Designer Labels. Involvement in either of these areas would make me lose sleep at night, as I consider both to be fundamentally evil, ripping money off people by selling them impossible dreams that only a literal handful of the millions it cons.

Attention will have to shift to Tuesday nights now, and the Abysmal American Inventor series we’re getting on Five now. This is so dreadful it makes compulsive viewing – and is probably a pretty good definition of “car crash TV”. You just keep watching it to see when the disaster will happen.

American Inventor airs over the period of an hour, but the programme could easily be halved in duration if they made it serious. I don’t want to home in any of the individual offerings or I’ll be typing all night, but the show could use the time saved to show us what happened at the exit from the studio – where the men in white coats should be waiting to collect some of the inventors, slip them into jackets with no holes at the ends of their sleeves, and deposit them in rooms with nice, soft, padded wall. They should also stop wasting time with folk who come along with daft ideas, and can provide no other justification for winning the $1 million than that they are broke, are ill, have ill relatives, are dying, or something similar. This reduces it to little more than embarrassing begging. While everyone should have a chance, and – believe it or not I would fight for everyone to have that chance – that right comes with the responsibility of coming along with an invention that is at least partially serious, and that means, for example, not a stick that you insist on calling a wand, and try and convince the judges that they can defend themselves from wild animals with.

It’s a shame there’s so much rubbish in American Inventor. Without it, it would make a pretty good show, instead of something to watch each week for no other reason to see how dire it can be.

The first series managed to end on a serious note, with a device for automatically extiguish Christmas tree fires – I’m not going to go hunting to find out how the current series will end, and can only hope that it manages to come up with something equally worthy, and not a stick, or a song, or…

Dragons Dens Series 6 Ep 1

Posted in Noteworthy, TV with tags , , , , on July 22, 2008 by Apollo

The sixth series of BBC2’s Dragons’ Den kicked off tonight, and managed to deliver the now familiar mix of worthy cases for some funding, together with a dash of hopefuls that have you wondering if there is a team of orderlies in white coats  waiting at the exits with those jackets that are tied shut at the back, and have no holes for the hands to exit the sleeves.

But first, a word about the camera operators – are they ex-Top Gear employees? This programmes, also BBC2, used to suffer from truly atrocious camerawork as the operators seemed to view with one another from week to week to see how could produce the most irritating and intrusive and fades while moving from scene to scene, leaving you eyeballs feeling as if someone had used them to play ping-pong. Dragons’ Den seems to have the same problem now, with jarring step focus changes, odd angles, and unnecessary changes of view. We can only hope the operators are spotted by a music video producer, and moved on quickly.

There’s really one team of cowboys to comment on this week, and its the pair of con artists that turned up caliming to produce water from air. When you’re presented with crap that like from the moment they open their mouths, you know you’ve got trouble, and they went on to prove this in style. They were full of it every time they opened their mouths, even suggesting that producing water by using electricity to condense it by chilling the air was green and environmentally sound – as one of my colleagues used to say when presentations like this started “At least Dick Turpin wore a mask”.

Deborah Meaden– was spot on when she picked on the browbeating techniques of the “super-salesman” and pegged him as a Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman, not only was he willing to admit that he had been such a bully, he was ready to boast about it. You can go find Kirby yourself, I’m not advertising for them. This has to be one of the most reprehensible companies around, and you may remember them for their repeated appearances on That’s Life with Esther Rantzen. As far as selling goes, Kirby’s salesmen had one tool, get in your door and don’t leave until you’ve made a sale, if that means browbeating the customer for hours (the pitch can be 2-3 hours once they’re in)  until they’ve been beaten into submission, then so be it. And the deal is not cheap, neither are Kirby vacuum cleaners, finance is preferable, and they choose area where their victims will need finance to purchase their cleaners at vastly inflated prices – how else would they make their money? They just loved to people to who had no money to sign up for finance, then chase them for payment for years. Then there was the service, or lack of it, as those same folk who were being chased for their payments had no cleaner – once it broke, it was a case of weeks and months for service, if it was ever delivered.

I’m genuinely stunned that anyone standing in front of the Dragons would even admit to being involved with Kirby, worse still, the idiots with the water-from-air machine even described their operation as pyramid selling, and various other reprehensible descriptions too. It’s a wonder the Dragons didn’t call security and have them thrown out on their ears.

I have a special place reserved for people like Mr “super-salesman” – First against the wall when the revolution comes!

I’ve always been amazed to see that a tiny little Kirby shop stays open along the road from me. I only found it by chance some years ago, when I decided to go exploring down streets I don’t usually have a reason to go down. I didn’t even associated it with the Kirby con, and went to have a look in the window, and there were the cleaners, looking as ancient as they ever did. I don’t know if they’ve ever been updated, I haven’t been back for years, but they looked like escapees from the 1940s or thereabouts, as if they just kept churning the same stuff out year after year, until the machinery wears out. While they may be lovely aluminium castings, they have a price tag somewhere in the £800 or more (maybe lots more now since I haven’t come across then for years now) range, for an obsolete machine, to be paid at £10 a week, plus a suitably exorbitant rate of interest. Not a bargain, or even a good deal.

I went into that little shop once, not for anything Kirby of course, but it had a big sign over the window advertising service for a vacuum cleaner I do own – and I was looking for a part after a coin had trashed a blade inside one of its turbine brushes. When I eventually managed to get the less then intelligent girl minding the store to understand I wasn’t in the shop for anything to do with Kirby, but because of the sign, realisation dawned, but I was then informed that “He didn’t do that anymore, but had just left the sign up”.

I’m glad “He” was out that day, or it might have taken me 2 or 3 hours to get back out the door!

Whatever, the chancers were ejected with not a penny, and their plan to fleece their sales staff and customers was more than quickly uncovered.

The participants that won finding in this opening programme weren’t from the usual genres either, so the Dragons may be looking to invest in different areas in the the current economic climate, so it will be interesting to see if this is a one-off, or of the trend continues next week.

On reflection, I think they missed a trick, and should have kept Mr Kirby super-salesman there for another three hours or so, trying to talk his way into the money before they turned him down. He was already sweating buckets just from starting his pitch, and would have melted away to a wee greasy spot, or had a stroke or something if they’d kept him going. He would have deserved it too, for providing a sample machine that hadn’t been properly purged or set up, and was producing cat’s pee for the Dragons to sample.

Turkey F1

Posted in Noteworthy with tags , on May 16, 2008 by Apollo

Funny how a habit can start, instead of forgetting about Turkey, because it wasn’t all that notable I keep thinking about.

The race was a return to what might be expected form, to me at least, and the front-runners went to the front – and stayed there. What was notable though was the example of how not only the driver, but all the contributions can come together to, perhaps not necessarily win the the race, but to lose it. Without delving into the minutiae of the day, choice of tyre compound usage order, two or three stop strategy, efficiency of pit-stop, traffic on rejoining, weather vs car setup, all are relevent, and can negate the hottest of laps by the driver, combining to put him just a few seconds too far back to make up front and pass the next car. There’s no car and driver combination on the track that pull that trick at the moment, there may be later, but it a trick that Ferrari and Schumacher could pull off in the past, coming from what appeared to nowhere and clinching a win.

Possibly more relevant to the future is the start of the disappearance of the lesser teams, and the looming arrival of the policy whereby teams will not be able to go and buy a car from one of the original manufacturing teams. The decision is being looked and reviewed by the decision makers, and may be reversed or modified, but if not, then it will ramp up the cost of joining the exclusive F1 club further still, even though they are making moves to cut costs by requiring engines and gearboxes to last for more than one race, and imposing performance and stress maximums by such things as limiting engine control systems, revs to 19,000 plus the tyre rules.

It’s still far from cheap, and the drivers are still walking away with far too much of the team’s money. They make millions off track, so should really be paying for the privilege of driving, and maybe even financing the teams, not the other way round.

Oops, and I wasn’t going to waffle much.

Spain F1

Posted in Noteworthy on April 30, 2008 by Apollo

Straight off at 150 mph, 26 G, and the result is a bump on the head and maybe concussion – not a lot one can really say about that crash.

Well, since F1 is often quoted as the source of innovation for the cars that you and I drive on the road, perhaps one might ask when we can have some F1 safety features please. Cars may be much improved on the simple tin boxes they were (not too many years ago, unless you were buying top end luxury marques), but they’re still a life-lottery if you’re accident doesn’t happen to match one of the few particular impact types that they are designed to pass for official testing purposes and certification. While these are not to be sneezed at, and are both valuable and worthwhile, the average person doesn’t realise that accidents that happen outwith those conditions might gain no benefit from these safety features, and might even be made worse by them. I’m not knocking them, just observing that there’s still plenty to be done, and to beware complacency.

As for the race, well, all I can think of is noting that the last one shook up what might have been termed as the ‘expected’ results, while this one has seem something of a return something that might be regarded as ‘expectations’.

Coming races will become more interesting as the various embarrassingly silly aerodynamic aids are discarded, and the more sensible developments start to appear.

Bahrain F1

Posted in Noteworthy with tags , on April 7, 2008 by Apollo

I can’t be bothered with the silliness that is floating around the edges of F1 and members of its governing bodies. Trial by the media and the intrusion of the press/media on people’s private lives has become a cancer on what was once the valuable “Freedom of The Press”, now used as something to allow papers and adverts to be sold, nothing else. The moguls in charge should have video cameras super-glued to their heads, and connected live to the internet 24/7, and let us see how squeaky-clean and virgin-white they are.

The race was more interesting that most probably give it credit for. Although there were a few notable incidents (one particular ‘brake test’ comes to mind), and we are very early in the season, the progress and end result were interesting, in so far as they were so vastly different from what we have seen so far.

Far from being a procession, or predictable, things were all over the place, and (neglecting some consistency from Ferrari) there was no clear pattern in the outcome.

The next outing will be intriguing. Will it be the same again, a odd mixture of final placings? Or will it return to what we saw as the season opened?

I have no idea, and wouldn’t even try to predict anything at this stage, but I will be watching closely to see if any pattern emerges in the result.