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Archive for August, 2008

Phil Hill: A Reluctant Winner

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

The first and only American to win the Formula One World Championship, in 1961 racing for Ferrari, died last week at the age of 81. was a somewhat reluctant racer, competing at a time when tragic accidents and death were sadly common events at the races. It was in this dangerous environment that Hill raced with intensity and determination, while being nervously mindful of the grave risks he faced and famously saying with regards to surviving his 20-year racing career injury-free, “I could not have been trying hard enough.” In addition to the 1961 F1 World Championship, Hill also had victories at the Le Mans and Sebring 24-hour races and the Nurburgring 12-hour, among many others.

Besides being remembered as a great racer and representative of the sport, he was universally regarded as a quiet, reserved, and gracious winner. He had an incredible sense of vehicle mechanics and dynamics, a sense that was revered by his competitors and surely a skill that gave him a clear edge while racing. Racing was not Phil Hill’s only passion, though, as he was also an accomplished photographer, musician, writer, historian, and archivist.

I have a portrait of Phil Hill racing at the Italian Grand Prix in 1961 hanging in my home.

Cassini Provides Enceladus Eye Candy

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

I had already posted about Cassini’s August 11th very close flyby of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and some of the amazing images it captured, but this mosaic warrants posting as well. It is a composite of eight images from Cassini that have been stitched together. The image above is shown in enhanced color and Enceladus would not actually look like this to the human eye. Enhanced color, in this case achieved using a combination of five different lenses, is used to bring out more feature differentiation and detail for analysis, things like the four south polar sulci (which are surface depressions or fissures, and often referred to as Enceladus’ “tiger stripes”) visible in this mosaic. To the human eye Enceladus would look more like below, the starkly stunning image that led my previous post on Enceladus:

More on these images at

Volcanoes Seen From Orbit

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Came across an incredible series of images at of volcanic eruptions, many of which were captured by astronauts on the International Space Station or from an orbiting Space Shuttle. The picture above is of Sicily’s erupting back in 2002 and shot by astronauts on the ISS. Below, the 1994 eruption of the Kliuchevskoi Volcano in Russia as captured by astronauts onboard the orbitting Space Shuttle Endeavor:

Printed Map Innovation. Why?

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Really, it’s an interesting way to layer relevant information in a printed piece, but how could this possibly be a more useful alternative to any number of map/GPS/city guide applications accessible via mobile phones, most of which are free and pervasive online applications? That, and Urban Mapping has already failed once trying to introduce this approach to city maps. Maybe we’re just not ready for paper maps.


Burning The Moon

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Beautiful photographs of the Olympic flame burning atop the Beijing National Stadium, the “Bird’s Nest,” with the moon appearing to be singed as it passes through the flames. The image above was taken by , and is one from a series of photos of this nicely timed opportunity. Click to check them out as her photography is excellent. Most of the images I have used here to feature the new architecture of Beijing have been snapped by toomanytribbles, and I have especially enjoyed her periodic pictures of the CCTV Tower during construction.

Up Close With Enceladus

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Saturn’s moon , pictured above in a full color image from a flyby in 2005 and written about on schneiderism before, received a close visit from the on August 11th. This flyby allowed Cassini to snap incredible surface detail images. The following are some of the more compelling pictures to come out of this flyby.

Below is an image of “The Mound,” which is the object in the center right of the image which is casting a long shadow to the right. The incredible detail of this photo shows us the complexity of ridges, fissures, and cracks that makes up the surface of Enceladus, looking almost like a close-up image of elephant skin.

One thing that Cassini potentially revealed is evidence of the active venting occurring on Enceladus, venting observed by Cassini on previous missions. The image below appears to show this venting in progress, and in detail. Looking at the center of the image, note the blurred whisps over the whitish fissure feature. Serious speculation suggests that we’re seeing active venting right there:

Cassini was able to get very close to Enceladus, much closer than previous visits, and the images below show the high detail that this made possible. The first was taken by Cassini at a distance of about 1600 miles, the second even closer taken from about 975 miles. Both are incredible.

From 1600 miles:

From 975 miles:

I do not think that we can overstate how incredible it is to be seeing the surface of Enceladus in such rich detail, truly an important and amazing accomplishment. These images are a treasure trove of information for researchers and scientists seeking to learn more about our solar system.

More on Cassini’s August 11th flyby of Enceladus at , and a very informative article on Enceladus can be found at .

Good Time 360 Panoramic Machine

Friday, August 15th, 2008

from on .

I came across this video at earlier this week and loved it. I dig this song, and expected a video like this from Cut Chemist. This is the first music video to be shot with a 360 degree panoramic lens. You’ve got to admit that it’s pretty amazing. To really experience this I suggest clicking through to and watching the video in HD.

Possible Futures: BMW in 2015

Friday, August 15th, 2008

The above image is the Vela concept that came out of a partnership between BMW and the Transportation Design School in Turin, a city that continues to embody its position as a design epicenter. BMW asked students there to design what BMW’s might be like in 2015 consistent with BMW’s “language evolution and trademark essence.” This simple brief resulted in a very interesting and creative response by the students, like the Vela pictured above and the ZX-6 concept pictured here:

Pretty wild. 2015 is only seven short years away and while these concepts may be unrealistically radical BMW is smart to take advantage of the way the students at IED are thinking to look for innovative design opportunities. It’s hard to say what cars may look like in seven years. If you think back to seven years ago today cars are not really that different at all. Still, much can happen to change our expectations of what an automobile is in this short time.

More at .

DARPA Turns 50

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Over the last 50 years nothing has driven technology innovation like the military industrial complex. Sure, academic institutions, independent researchers, and private industry have achieved many things, but for sheer volume nothing can touch what the United States military technology research behemoth has accomplished. For researchers, this is where the big money lies and we’re talking about projects in areas beyond armaments and weapons like networking science, trauma medicine, communications, materials sciences, robotics, and transportation. Behind this is , the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is the central force behind the Department of Defense research initiatives that we usually hear about after they are no longer relevant. Their motto is “Bridging The Gap,” which may be a stretch. Regardless, DARPA is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and along with that celebrating 50 years of technology innovation… some of which is not actually used to kill people.

Oddly silly promotional video for DARPA’s 50th:

Found this video via .

Hubble Space Telescope: 18 Years and 100k Orbits Later, Still Ticking

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

There’s milestones, and then there’s MILESTONES. The seems to have achieved quite a few while making it look somewhat easy, though lately it has again run into some technical difficulties. As Hubble rounds out its 18th year in Earth orbit, its orbital counter has passed the 100,000th mark (100,023 at this writing) which is itself an interesting accomplishment. This translates into 2.72 billion miles traveled, which is altogether impressive. All of this, of course, while it has remained just a few miles above the Earth’s surface, snapping pictures like this:

Digital Disruption

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

I’ve always found military disruption patterns and camouflage incredibly interesting, and sometimes beautiful. It was a big deal when the United States Army and Marine Corps began changing their decades old camouflage uniforms to a massively researched digital camouflage pattern, and one that was actually substantively tested for field effectiveness. Now, a similar approach to camouflage is being applied to military vehicles and aircraft. The plane above is a Slovakian Defense Forces MIG 29 that has had a digital camouflage technology from the Canadian company applied to it. Frankly, I think it is gorgeous. Beyond that, though, it is also incredibly effective. This is much more than just a coat of paint. The finish that Hyperstealth employs is not only applied in a pattern that very effectively breaks up the shape and scale of vehicles and aircraft, it also has stealth properties by reducing radio wave reflection by as much as 45% on subsonic aircraft. I also found this image of the HCMS Calgary next to a U.S. aircraft carrier incredibly interesting, though it looks photoshopped:

Lotus Eigne: Please Build This Car

Friday, August 8th, 2008

, a recent honors graduate of the Transportation Design Course at Northumbria University, has been inside my head. The man has designed what I might have to proclaim as the PERFECT CAR. Let’s run down the criteria:

  • Performance focused – check
  • Innovative design – check
  • Electricly powered – check
  • Visually appealing – check
  • Can seat three – check

The Eigne concept would currently be the only automobile that meets this criteria. I have usually driven two seat sports cars, but with the relatively recent arrival of my lovely daughter, this is no longer a practical option for our little family. A three seat sports car, though, totally works. One that is electrically powered, even more so. Rarely do I come across something that seems so perfectly tailored to my needs, my passions, and ultimately… my wants. This car must be made.

Fearnley’s design sports a coveted central position for the driver, with seats on the left and the right for passengers. The electric motors for the vehicle are conveniently located at the wheels, in each corner, freeing up valuable internal cabin space for the three seat position. This would be a phenomenal real-world vehicle.

Alas, though, it is but a concept for the moment. At least we are provided this video by Fearnley to appropriately whet our appetite:

I came across the Eigne concept at .

Let The Games Begin

Friday, August 8th, 2008

And begin in an incredibly memorable way. Holy crap. A couple breathtaking images of the fireworks display for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing earlier today. Gorgeous. Below, Beijing National Stadium (The Bird’s Nest) explodes in a crown of thousands of fireworks.

This next image is the Beijing National Stadium again but with the National Aquatics Center in the foreground:

Definitely an impressive display, and all the more because of the dramatic architecture that is the backdrop for the spectacle. Nice work, everyone.

Images are from and I found them via .

A Man of Full Voice

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn died yesterday at the age of 89. A Nobel Prize winner, Solzhenitsyn was an accomplished novelist, historian, and dissident. Even in the face of threats and reprisals he wrote extensively of the abuses of Soviet state power, and the system of gulags employed by the Soviet regime, having spent eight years in a labor camp himself for “anti-Soviet propaganda.” After serving his term he was released but only to internal exile, eventually having his Soviet citizenship revoked and forced into foreign exile. He lived for a time in Germany before making his way to the United States, where he lived until 1994 when he returned home after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Among his most noted books are the novel Cancer Ward and The Gulag Archipelago, a history of the Soviet police state the manuscript for which was discovered by the KGB and caused his exile from the Soviet Union. Solzhenitsyn was tough, and never hesitated nor shrunk from his personally felt responsibility to shine light on the failings of the Soviet system, and its abuse of the people.

“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn 1918-2008

Solzhenitsyn outlived the Soviet Union by 17 years.

Solzhenitsyn’s concise

The Mothership

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

Lot’s of excitement last week with Virgin Galactic’s unveiling of (WK2), the aircraft that will carry SpaceShipTwo aloft for mid-air launching into orbit, on July 28th. Developed by Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites, WK2 is an innovative and visually interesting aircraft distinct for its twin fuselage and kinked wing designed to hold SpaceShipTwo for the ride to 48,000 feet. I just came across this video from Virgin Galactic that shows us great detail of the aircraft’s exterior:

I especially like the end of the video which shows Burt Rutan and Richard Branson walking around the craft and smiling widely. This is a big deal, and these two gentlemen are far along in a pioneering effort to begin to make space accessible to a great many more than those that work for governement space agencies. WK2 is an exciting step in this effort, and flight trials of the aircraft are set to begin this fall. Note the functional benefits of WK2’s twin fuselage design. The aircraft can be flown from either side.

A Journey Through NASA’s 50 Years

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

I posted regarding NASA’s 50th anniversary a few days ago but just came across this through NASA’s 50 years of discovery and exploration. Read more about it .

For The Moment, The Strongest Material Ever.

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

Image of graphene sheet via Berkeley Lab

We’re talking about , an incredibly strong nanomaterial made from graphite and comprised of a densely packed single layer of carbon atoms that are arranged in a hexagonal pattern like a honeycomb. This forms a two-dimensional sheet, as shown in the image above, with an incredibly simple atomic structure. All of this was entirely theoretical and not thought possible until it was actually made back in 2004. Graphene has been described as an unrolled carbon nanotube. Columbia University nanoscale science researcher and professor has been working with graphene and testing its strength. Hone likens his one molecule deep sheet to ultra-thin plastic wrap, and compares his test of the material’s strength to stretching that piece of plastic wrap over the top of a coffee cup, and measuring the force that it takes to puncture it with a pencil. Hone says that If he could create a large enough piece of graphene (it has so far been restricted to very small pieces more ideal for high-conductivity transistors) to lay over the top of the coffee cup it would be strong enough to support the weight of an automobile pushing down on the pencil.

While graphene does possess incredible strength, it’s most likely use in the near future is as a replacement for silicon in electonics and semi-conductors.

just brought graphene to my attention, and I read this great article with more detail at .