Friday, November 24, 2006


Due to the unforeseen, I won't be able to post until next week! Apologies!



Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Popular Mechanics Wish list 2007

No, its not a repeat of my previous post from Popular Mechanics. This time of year, many publications are bringing out their “Top 10, Top 50 or Top 100” lists. I have already featured such lists from Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. Now Popular Mechanics have brought out their wish-list for 2007 of must-have stuff they would like in their Christmas stockings. Here’s some of them:
First up is the Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 Mean Streak. It’s a beauty of a cruiser, built for long distance and plenty of punch. A 1,552cc liquid cooled engine, rubber mounted to reduce vibration, with digital fuel injection is what you get for your $11,000.
Next up is the Sennheiser RS 130, wireless headphone set. You’ll say “what’s so special about a wireless headset”. Well these come with amazing built-in surround sound technology, for your late-night movie watching, when you don’t want to wake the kids (or the wife).
Watch out for the Suunto t3. If you’re an athletic person and love competitive sports, then this is the watch for you. It measures training intensity, heart rate and other data; and can track speed and distance with add-on "pods" such as a GPS unit. Suunto also have a range of other watches for various sports, even for serious golfers. It also allows you to download the data to your pc for further analysis.
Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel. Just the thing to go with your brand new Xbox. And its wireless! It also comes with gas and brake pedals to complete your virtual driving experience. Also available is the wireless headset or wireless controller.
Fujifilm FinePix F30 Camera. Its a 6,3 megapixel using super CCD HR Technology. One of the best features is its low-light ISO 3200 capability at full resolution.
Dyson Root 6. This is more than your average hand-held vacuum cleaner, and would not look out of place in any industrial janitor’s closet. It is apparently much faster and has stronger suction than any other hand-help on the market.
Lastly, the Wild West Gun Slinger Target Shooting Set. A very cool toy, which launches cans and bottles in the air as you hit the sensors with an infrared beam from the gun from up to 30 feet.
I certainly would not mind any of these items arriving via Santa! What do you think?

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I am always fascinated by the lives of explorers, what they do and how they do it. These people are driven by something extraordinary, something not all of us have. Exploring new frontiers, trekking across inhospitable country, climbing the highest peaks, swimming the deepest oceans, the list goes on. Exploring has been going on for thousands of years and will probably go on for the same time. Here’s one that grabbed my attention.
In 1999, J Michael Fay did a 2000km trek across the Congo Basin in Africa. It took him 455 days (15 months) to survey the ecological status of the region. He did it in collaboration with National Geographic and called it “Megatransect”. First a bit of history about him. In 1978 he worked for the Peace Corps in Tunisia and CAR (Central African Republic). He then joined the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1984 and completed his doctorate on the western lowland gorilla in 1997 all while working and managing the Dzanga-Sangha and Nouabale-Ndoki parks in the Central African Republic and Congo. He then went on to work for the Wildlife Conservation Society and spent two years with the National Geographic Society doing the Megatransect and the subsequent writing up of the results. What makes this transect so amazing is the fact that it was done on foot. Through the jungles of the Congo. Enough said! He had suffered a chest cold and a few foot-worm infections, and weight loss (about 15kg), but he had stayed healthy throughout. No Malaria or any other jungle-induced ill-health. When they walk on their (imaginary) route (there are no roads), they had trail-cutters in front that cut a path through thick undergrowth. After the transect, he lobbied for the creation of 13 National Parks, according to the data he collected. In 2002, the Bush Administration gave $53 million for the preservation of the Congo Basin.
In 2004, he did the “Megaflyover”. They flew over the wildest places in Africa, documenting the “Human Footprint”. Basically how human life is interfering and influencing wildlife and nature in the last wild spaces of Africa. They (Fey and pilot Peter Ragg) covered 160,000kms in a modified Cessna 182 fitted with cameras that took pictures of the ground every 20 seconds. This journey took seven months of flying at low altitudes and sleeping under the plane where-ever they touch down for the night. He had this to say afterwards: “Just as we suspected, humans have penetrated very deeply into every single ecosystem in Africa that we visited…We found many, many places where soils and vegetation and water systems are being exhausted." They started in Johannesburg, South Africa, and went as far up as Sudan, covering almost 17 countries.
I salute Fay and all the other explorers and will bring you more on what drives them, and where they go in the future.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Habitat of the future

Ok, now that you have the Tesla (see previous post), you need a cool house to go with it. Enter the Trilobis 65. This habitat, as they call it, is more than you would expect of a normal house. Firstly it looks like a spaceship cum bathyscape cum futuristic powerboat. It is a semi-submerged dwelling about 20meters in length and was designed to accommodate six people. The Trilobis 65, will be self-sufficient and non-polluting. It was designed by Giancarlo Zema an Italian Naval architect and named after Trilobiti, small sea-creatures that used to live in the sea a long time ago. According to him “The shape of Trilobis 65 is made to allow the creation of an artificial island.(see picture) The linking up of multiple Trilobis 65 units would create a ring-like an insular village connected to the land by gangway. Basically a small floating community.” It has four levels reachable via a spiral staircase. The upper level is about 3 and half meters in above sea-level, and two of the levels are below sea level. It is about 13meters wide and for power you have the following options: Ballard fuel cells , solar, wind, and diesel. It reaches a speed of 7 knots, so not really a power boat! The top level consists of the driving deck, housing the helm, communications equipment and navigation gear. It also has the best view of the sea at about 3 meters. The big curved glass window has a dial which alters the tint or turns it completely black. The power for this comes from solar panels embedded in the skin of the craft. Should this not be available because of night-time or clouds, it draws power from the batteries. The third level is called the “day” area and contains the modern kitchen, dining area and three seating groups. From here, sliding doors also open onto a teak deck. The next level is the “night” zone. This level has two single and two double bedrooms, each with a private bathroom. It is also about a meter under the water level and also houses the ships propulsion system, consisting of two 224kw electric motors. They are powered by the above-mentioned Ballard fuel cells. Now comes the best part: the lowest level. It is the observation bulb. This is 3meters below the surface and has a 360 degree view of the ocean. It has a range of 200w spotlights mounted on the outside for times when there is not enough sunlight to illuminate the surrounding sea-life. All this could be yours for a mere $5 million. It will go nicely with the Tesla and will be available from 2007.
Watch this space for the Jelly-fish 45 and Neptus 60, also designed by the same team.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tesla Roadster

You might remember this car from the post I did on the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards. The Tesla Roadster was one of the award winners. Now this is a truly amazing car. The guys in white lab-coats have been talking about electrical cars for a very long time. Every now and then you would read about one, but normally they will have some sort of drawback. Either very slow, or very heavy or too expensive for commercial production, or the range is too short. Not this one though. Listen to this: It’s a two-seater that’s hundred percent electric, not a hybrid, full electric. It does 0 to 100 km/h in about four seconds, using 185kw of power up to 13000rpm. It has a top speed of 210km/h and has an equivalent fuel efficiency of 1.75 l/100 km. “What!” I hear you say. Yes, and that’s not all folks, if you dial now, you can’t get one until 2008 because they are sold out for 2007 at $100000 each. After about a three and a half hour charge, you have a range of about 400km. The energy system is a custom microprocessor-controlled lithium-ion battery pack that weighs about 450kg. The battery consists of 6,831 lithium ion battery cells configured in a pack that can be charged at any time. You get a home-charging unit and a mobile-charging kit that plugs into any normal wall-outlet when you’re on the road. The website says this about the Tesla: “With one moving part in the motor, no clutch, and two gears… There is no motor oil to change; no filters, belts, or spark plugs to replace… the only service we recommend for the first 100,000 miles is brake and tire service.” Wouldn’t you just love that for your car? See here for a complete list of standard features. It is more than many other roadsters out there. As far as the design goes a lot of it comes from the Lotus Elise, but just modified a little. The car will be assembled at the Lotus factory in Hethel, England.
Do you need any more reasons to like this car? Is it something we’ll see more of on the roads in the future? Most definitely. Especially with fossils fuel rapidly being depleted and pollution, this is the future of automobiles!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Popular Science’s Top 100 Innovations of 2006

Every year, Popular Science Magazine publishes their 100 top innovations of the year.
They have 10 categories namely: Automotive, Computing, Gadgets, Home Entertainment, Personal Health, Aviation & Space, Engineering, General Innovation, Home Tech and Recreation. Here are the winners in the respective categories:
Automotive: Bugatti Veyron 16.4. The fastest production car ever with 746kw output! Built by Volkswagen and sold at a loss of almost $1.5 million!
Computing: One Laptop Per Child. The goal of OLPC, a non-profit organisation, is to provide each child a laptop, especially in developing countries. It costs only $130.$100_laptop
Gadgets: Sony Reader PRS-500. On the way to no more paper! Download your favourite books onto this baby and empty your shelves!
Home Entertainment: Nintendo Wii. They went back to the drawing-board with the controls of this gaming console: less is more in this case. It only uses a couple of buttons that doesn’t take you years to master. ;
Personal Health: Custom Grown Bladders. None of the patients that received newly built bladders, built from their own cell tissue, had organ rejection problems!
Aviation & Space: QinetiQ and Surrey Satellite Technology Topsat. A fridge-size spy satellite, which uses a new folded-optics camera will be very popular as they are small and inexpensive as far as satellites go.;
Engineering: Beijing National Swimming Center. The official swimming facility of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China will not contain a single piece of steel or concrete. It will use network of steel pipes linked together by 12,000 load-bearing nodes.
General Innovation: HP Memory Spot. It’s a two-millimeter-square chip that has half a megabyte of flash memory and can swap all its data in less than a second. You will be able to read data (including music and video files) off it using devices such as iPods for instance. It transmits data via a tiny built-in antenna over high-frequency radio waves.
Home Tech: Bostitch HurriQuake Nail. This nail was engineered to withstand up to 170mph winds, earthquakes and is designed to withstand being pulled and twisted out of its place by hurricanes.
Recreation: Celestron Skyscout Personal Planetarium. This is the best tool for amateur astronomers. Simply point the device towards a star in the heavens and it will give you all the info you need on it. Or if you’re looking for a specific star, it will tell you where it is with blinking arrows. It incorporates a GPS, compass and determines the angel it is being held at.
These are honestly some of the most brilliant innovations I have ever seen and will definitely be posting on some of these items in the future. These things are one of the main reasons why I started this blog. Call me a nerd, but I find it very exciting!
See also my post on the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Famous Generals: Part One

These were the brilliant military minds of the past. In the first of this series of posts on Famous Generals, I will begin with Hannibal Barca. A complete list of generals can be found here.
Hannibal originates from the Mediteranean (247 – 183 BC) and was one of the greatest military leaders and strategists of all time. Hi greatest enemy was Rome and its armies. He was so good, the Romans even adopted some of his strategies in their war-making. He hailed from Carthage, a city that was located on the eastern side of Lake Tunis across from the center of modern Tunis in Tunisia in Northern Africa. He is most well-known for invading Italy. He marched from Iberia over the Pyrenees and the Alps into northern Italy – all this with a contingent of war-elephants! He entered Gaul with 50,000 foot soldiers and 9,000 horsemen and by the time he was nearing Rome his army numbered 38,000 infantry, 8,000 cavalry, and thirty-seven war elephants. He defeated all on his way to Rome, including Capua, but was not strong enough for Rome itself.
All of this took about 10 years, during which the Romans regrouped and planned an attack on Northern Africa. This forced Hannibal back Carthage where he was defeated in the Battle of Zama. The Carthaginian Senate then subsequently forced him into exile. After About eight years in exile, the Romans demanded that he surrender himself, but he decided that suicide was a better way out.
In all he has been described as one of the most brilliant military minds ever and has induced fear in the hearts of the Romans for a while. Remember, all this happened before Julius Caesar, who only came into power round about 50BC. Hannibal’s wars were won not on numbers, but by battle-tactics. The armies he battled were mostly of larger numbers and had greatly respected generals who lead them. Even military geniuses like Napoleon Bonaparte referred to Hannibal in awe. Even long after his death, he would still be remembered in Rome and the rest of Italy as terrifying and people would exclaim “Hannibal is at the gate!” in situations of disaster. Also, when kids behave badly, mothers would say: “Behave well or Hannibal will come and get you!".

PS: I want to do a post on Famous Generals once a month. Please let me know if this bores you to death and I’ll change the subject!