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Archive for May, 2008

Air Cars

We’ve been talking about air-powered cars recently.. turns out an Indian manufacturer is bringing them out – using very highly compressed air. It seems also that the Americans are taking an interest also… see this link.

One of the issues with these vehicles is range – and so adding a petrol (or other fossil fuel) engine seems sensible but another problem is that of heat – or lack of it – so in the cold weather, the air simply doesn’t give out as much power… and that started me thinking.

Surely the answer is for the fossil fuel unit not to provide power – but to provide air compression – and heat. The fuel engine would feed a compressor – to generate more compressed air – and the exhaust would go through a heat exchanger in the air tanks – to heat up the air – and make it more effective – not to mention the fact that the fresh air exhaust from the vehicle would then be usable as warm air to warm the car!

At night, outside of the house, the car air tanks would of course be recharged by electricity – but as it gets near time to use the car, either the mains electricity, or the fuel engine – or both could be used to preheat the air. The fuel engine from that point on would only kick in when it was necessary to top up the air tanks or provide heat for passengers or both.

I can’t help thinking that with some clever engineering and simple programming this is a much better potential idea than electric hybrids.

Add to this the possibility of motorway-fuel stations offering compressed air generated and stored in huge underground tanks which themselves are topped up from nearby windmill power (already the M6 and other motorways have the occasional windmill nearby) – and you have the possibility of an infrastructure for generating compressed air from whatever natural resource is nearby (water pressure, wind-power, solar, whatever is appropriate) – hence making the air powered car a practicality.

I just hope someone, somewhere has the vision to push this as far as it can go..

Air cars

We’ve been talking about air-powered cars recently.. turns out an Indian manufacturer is bringing them out – using very highly compressed air. It seems also that the Americans are taking an interest also…

One of the issues with these vehicles is range – and so adding a petrol (or other fossil fuel) engine seems sensible but another problem is that of heat – or lack of it – so in the cold weather, the air simply doesn’t give out as much power… and that started me thinking.

Surely the answer is for the fossil fuel unit not to provide power – but to provide air compression – and heat. The fuel engine would feed a compressor – to generate more compressed air – and the exhaust would go through a heat exchanger in the air tanks – to heat up the air – and make it more effective – not to mention the fact that the fresh air exhaust from the vehicle would then be usable as warm air to warm the car!

At night, outside of the house, the car air tanks would of course be recharged by electricity – but as it gets near time to use the car, either the mains electricity, or the fuel engine – or both could be used to preheat the air. The fuel engine from that point on would only kick in when it was necessary to top up the air tanks or provide heat for passengers or both.

I can’t help thinking that with some clever engineering and simple programming this is a much better potential idea than electric hybrids.

Add to this the possibility of motorway-fuel stations offering compressed air generated and stored in huge underground tanks which themselves are topped up from nearby windmill power (already the M6 and other motorways have the occasional windmill nearby) – and you have the possibility of an infrastructure for generating compressed air from whatever natural resource is nearby (water pressure, wind-power, solar, whatever is appropriate) – hence making the air powered car a practicality.

I just hope someone, somewhere has the vision to push this as far as it can go..

 

Awards

There was a time once when the nearest I would get to awards was to win one (very rarely I might add) – but it seems these days I spend a lot more time judging them.

A few weeks ago I was one of the judges on the Northeast’s first Digital Awards – the award dinner is coming up in a day or two so I won’t give the game away. It’ll be all over the Northeast press no doubt in a couple of days. As I write this I’m in a hotel in Cheshire for tomorrow’s judging of the “National Business Awards” – Small business section… and in a few weeks I’ll be taking up my (by now) customary role helping to judge Computing magazine’s Annual Awards. I’ve also done the same for the BCS and other organisations.

All of this takes some considerable effort and most of the judges do this for nothing (some, usually in the public sector actually get paid by their companies for their time) and sometimes in the heat of it all I’ve been known to think “what am I doing”… but of course the reality is that these awards help promote British business – they highlight the best in our up and coming entrepeneurs – and that has to be good – we should shout about our successes from the rooftops.

So often it seems that all innovation comes from a sweatshop in China or “somewhere in California”- it’s good to know that our own guys are beavering away and making a success of it – and even better to know that there are people out there arranging to ensure that their endeavours get the acknowledgement they deserve…

Bang – or NOT to Bang

Anyone in the mood for some really DEEP stuff? If so, read on. I’ve always been pretty keen on the big bang theory, though I never could get my head around how you could get something out of nothing – as it goes against all the laws of physics which have worked so well for us in practice. The expansion I can handle – it’s the stuff popping out of no-where I’ve never really been comfortable with – of course if you’re happy with the notion of multiple dimensions it’s all very simple – our universe appearing as a constantly expanding bubble to us – is merely a manifestation of a universe with more dimensions.

Ok, where does that come from – the usual way to picture this is – picture a flat, 2 dimensional man on a flat, 2 dimentional universe – ie a piece of paper – he can see across in any direction but not up or down – so – if a large ball smashes through his piece of paper and managed to do that cleanly – what will he see? He’ll see nothing turn into a point and then into a line that gets wider and wider…. and then gets narrower and narrower – and disappears.

That’s kind of how I pictured the big bang – assuming we’ve always been here – and that we’re part of a larger picture we can’t see as we’re only capable of operating in 3 dimensions (4 if you include time).

Ok, kiddies version I know but with limited time to think about these things – that’s where I was heading until now.

My OTHER problem has always been the sun – how come it’s hotter above the surface than it is on the surface – and how come sun spots are cool!! If the sun is a huge nuclear reactor – surely when it spurts bits out they should be hotter and brighter than the surface and above??

Sadly as one gets older there seem to be less and less people to talk to about this stuff – but there is always the web.

Ok, so then recently I was sitting playing with STUMBLEOPON and I hit a theory of the universe from an electrical perspective… and BOY do things change.

If you’re interested in this stuff you REALLY should take a look at this video.

http://video.google.com.au/videoplay?docid=4773590301316220374

This rotten government speaking on our behalf

The UK’s longstanding opposition to human spaceflight will be no bar to its citizens becoming astronauts, the European Space Agency (Esa) says.

Officials made it clear at the start of a recruitment drive in London that Britons were very welcome to apply.

Although a major Esa member, the UK currently refuses to fund human spaceflight, believing robotics to be a more worthwhile space activity…

So goes a recent BBC report.

In case anyone outside of the UK is in any doubt – let me be clear – it is ONLY our crappy socialist government that thinks this – the British people were never ONCE asked our opinion on this subject….. or maybe it’s just the BBC who’s record on defending British views isn’t exactly sterling… I’d just like to say that I don’t know ANYONE who’s against human spaceflight…. how many of you remember the various robotic flights other than the ones to MARS? Answer – no-one because we don’t really relate to this – despite timescales MOST of us relate to the guys walking on the moon because they were just frail HUMANs achieving something that no-one has ever done before – walking on another planet.

I get SO annoyed when people speak on my behalf without having the courtesy to ASK me first!! The more British people we get up into space – the more experience and knowledge we get – the better – SOMEDAY when we have a government with VISION, we may just take our OWN leaps into space – in the way that even third world countries are now working towards…

Iron Man

Ok, I KNOW I said Fantastic 4 was the best… but life moves on – Maureen and I just went to see Iron Man and I have to say I was REALLY sceptical – I mean, it looks great in the comics when you’re 3 – but how do you make a man in an iron suit look good in 2008 – well they did – fabulous movie – great special effects, marvelous music – just a shame they couldn’t have squeezed Jessica Alba in there though I appreciate that this probably isn’t a good time…

Want an escape for the weekend…. with nachos? – see IRON MAN.

TV

Ok, so I picked a plasma TV. Why? Well, I went off to Tescos – mainly out of laziness. I could probably have managed a much better deal on the web but then there’s the postage on such a large item – and you have to be in the house to get the delivery etc etc… no, on this occasion I decided to “trade locally” (there’s an LG factory in the region – don’t know if they actually produce TVs there but hey – I’m a consumer – I just want the best for much cheapness…)

I bought an LG 42″ plasma. At first sight, if you stare at all the TVs in the store they all look pretty much the same – but try that from 45 degrees – most, but not all of the LCDs now look ABYSMAL.

So that was that decision – next decision – which plasma…. I’m into contrast – and by far the best contrast was from the TVs with shiny screens (as against the usual matt finish). So then it was down to resolution – and as even SKY doesn’t really transmit at that great a resolution I plumped for 1024 * 768. My only use for the TV other than as a TV is as a media system and that res is fine. The offer was £750 or thereabouts for just that WITH a hard disk to record your TV.

Of course I should have known there’d be a con – there always is. The system features the rather magnificently useless FREEVIEW, a hard drive to record TV – and a ton of inputs – the problem being – yes, you guessed it you can ONLY record from FREEVIEW – one of the reasons that some time ago I spent a tremendous amount of time picking the right PVR so I would not be trapped in this way – and despite all of that – they got me. The reasons of course are simple – recording hi-def SKY takes a lot better hardware than recording crappy old FREEVIEW.

Anyway to cut a long story short, the picture quality of the TV (LG) was that good I conveniently ignored the hard drive issue – and weeks later I’m still impressed.