Air races

This weekend the Red Bull air races are taking place in London. Specifically, they’re racing over the River Thames with the Millenium Dome as a backdrop. I managed to catch some of their practice runs today. Unfortunately the only camera I had was on my iPhone (which is also how I’m writing this post!)

Cool stuff like this is why I really love London.

Photo of one run here…

True Knowledge — Free invites to a different kind of search

I’ve been reading about True Knowledge for quite a while now. True Knowledge is a Cambridge (UK) based company that’s building a new search engine, but based on completely different techniques than Google. With their system, you literally type a question into the search box to get your answer. (There’s more behind the scenes, but this is the most obvious change.) I signed up on their list for a beta invite and got one a while back. I recently received 60 additional beta invites to pass along to others.

Why post this now? Well, True Knowledge just got a whole bunch more venture capital funding, so they are at least impressing their advisors. And when I’ve tried it their technology has impressed me, too. While right now it’s fairly specialised, as they scale up their back-end databases this should most certainly change.

You can read press about them here and here.

You if you’d like an invite, please just leave a comment below or get in touch with me directly.

Into the wild blue yonder

Have you heard about Virgin Galactic’s White Knight 2? It was unveiled Monday at Scaled Composite’s Mojave complex.

I’m quite happy that I’ve got an interesting connection to it… one of my good friends from back at the University of Michigan (and the Solar Car Team) was the lead aero designer for WK2! Yes, I’m hoping to score some cool points by association here.

For background, WK2 is designed to carry a spaceship to ~50k feet in the air, and then drop it so that the spaceship can start its rocket motor and actually get into space. It’s built to carry a lot of weight, so it’s got a big wingspan. Because it’s got to drop a spaceship, it’s designed to have two fuselages. WK2 is of very advanced construction, the main structure being built completely of composites. (Strong, lightweight… you know the drill.)

The cool part is that if WK2 isn’t carrying the spaceship, it’s quite an impressive plane on its own. Imagine dropping a V12 into a Dodge Dart and you’ll have an idea of what I mean. It will be massively overpowered without a very large extra bit attached, which should make it very fun and interesting to fly!

So well done to the entire team; I can’t wait until I have the chance to someday take a ride for myself.

Meditations — the start of a series

I picked up a book recently that’s been both a fascinating and inspirational read: “Meditations,” by Marcus Aurelius. (This book is the translation I actually own, which is a bit newer and has an unnecessarily pompous title.)

I’ve found it a great little book to keep with my bag as I ride the Tube into work. There are a lot of short but important thoughts that help remind me of what’s important in life and what I really need to be focusing on.

To be fair, it’s also clear it was written over 2000 years ago, so certain bits aren’t very applicable. Some of it is on the metaphysical side, some on the nature of physics, etc. But so much of it is a leader meditating on how to be a better person, and still rings very true today.

I’m going to periodically post quotes from this book; things that I find interesting or important. Perhaps you’ll find them as intriguing as I do!

Today’s closing quote:

Claim your right to say or do anything that accords with nature, and pay no attention to the chatter of your critics. If it is good to say or do something, then it is even better to be criticized for having said or done it. Others have their own consciences to guide them and will follow their own lights. Don’t be gazing after them, but keep your eyes on the straight path ahead of you, […]

-Meditations, Book Five, #3

Congratulations to the University of Michigan Solar Car Team

Congratulations to the University of Michigan Solar Car Team! They just won the teams’ fifth national championship, beating thirteen other teams from Austin, TX to Calgary, Canada. The team is the winningist team in the United States, having won five of the nine national championships. This year’s margin was the biggest ever, just under ten hours! (And that was after ~90 minutes in penalties the team chose not to contest.)

As I’ve mentioned before (here and here), the Solar Car Team was a foundational experience for me. I spent four years on the team, working on the 1997 Wolverine and 1999 MaizeBlaze teams. The two years I spent as Project Manager for the 1999 MaizeBlaze team is something I’ll always be proud of; it was two years that taught me more about leadership and management than I ever could have believed. That I was in charge of a 100+ member team with a budget in excess of $1million at age 20/21 is almost unbelievable in hindsight! Though we didn’t quite meet our goals, we developed a fantastic team, and I’m very proud that so many of them stuck around to win in 2001.

This years’ team was a re-vamping of the car that raced across Australia in the fall of 2007. I personally think they had a really great shot at winning the World Solar Challenge with some extremely innovative technology. Unfortunately they were in an accident in the first few miles of the race as a result of some maneuvering with/around the Stanford University entry. Despite the crash, they worked through the night and back through the field to still have a very respectable finish.

The team has been through a lot in the past few years, and I’m really happy that they had such a resounding win this year.


Racing across the US and Canada

Back at University I spent virtually all my time working on and leading the University of Michigan Solar Car Team. It was a fascinating experience, and I raced our cars across the US in Sunrayce 97 and Sunrayce 99, as well as across Australia in the World Solar Challenge 99. I wrote a bit about this before here.

My old team is currently racing in the North American Solar Challenge, from Austin, Texas to Calgary, Canada. That’s 2400 miles! Wired has a half-decent article here on the race, with a GREAT photo of the University of Michigan car (in the wind tunnel).

Good luck to the team! (A few days late.) So far, they’re already in Canada and leading. Of the eight races in the US that have been run since 1990, the team has won four of them so a win here would put them in the majority. GO BLUE!

“Lucky” — a very lucky koala bear

So I was checking e-mail and saw a link to a Reuters Oddly Enough article that mentioned something about a koala. Curious, I clicked through to read it.

The article was about a koala bear that was hit by a car and was stuck in the grill of the car for over 7 miles before the driver was flagged down by another driver. (How you don’t notice hitting an animal of that size, I don’t know.) The story had the obligatory rescue notes, the koala survived and everything was happy in the end.

And then I read the last sentence:

Lucky will stay at the hospital […] for 45 days to recover from his experience and receive treatment for a chlamydial infection.

So THAT’S why he was called “Lucky”! (That crazy Aussie sense of humour…)