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Category Archives: Engineering

Pistons!

Very cool article on pistons in Popular Mechanics. They even give a pictorial contrast of various pistons ranging from a Ferrari to a chainsaw.

At full throttle and 6000 rpm, a piston in a gasoline engine is subjected to nearly 10 tons of force every 0.02 second as repeated explosions heat the metal to more than 600 degrees Fahrenheit.

NTSB Not Happy Across the Board

The NTSB isn’t happy with the FAA, Boeing, or even the battery manufacturer with regards to the 787 battery fires.

“Have you ever googled ‘laptop battery fire’? These folks never watched that movie.”

More on Space

Fantastic article on the International Space Station over at The Atlantic.

I’m not necessarily on a space-kick lately… but space transportation is fun to watch develop.

Pushing Space Flight Limits

Popular Mechanics has a good summary of SpaceX’s latest efforts to reuse rockets. They’ve been tracking this since originally scheduled in December. This is a big deal for space flight and interplanetary exploration.

Top Gear: Porsche 918 in Abu Dhabi

Another fantastic Top Gear segment shot in Abu Dhabi… this time Richard Hammond takes a look at Porsche’s new hybrid supercar, the 918. I can’t get enough of the blue flames shooting out of the exhaust.

An Internet-connected Transportation System

So you have a network of taxis and buses running around your city and you make them all unique WiFi access points. Pretty slick. Step it up a notch though and you have an innovative way to track the status of various components of your city’s infrastructure. Outstanding!

Motor sounds

Fascinating look at why a Toyota V6 and a Porsche Flat 6 sound so different…

Righting the Costa Concordia

Slick video on how they will right (via a process called parbuckling) the Costa Concordia cruise liner that ran aground last year.

The Driverless Carriage

Great article in the Wall Street Journal on the ongoing development of self-driving cars. A couple points:

  1. The firsthand account from a reporter in 1897 of his first drive in a horseless carriage is priceless.
  2. Google is merely tinkering with self-driving cars… Ford, Volvo, Audi, Mercedes are already implementing this in Europe
  3. The US government needs to, at the very least, get out of the way of the automakers on this one. Ideally they’d be looking at ways to be steering our infrastructure spending toward the impending revolution of self-driving cars.

Make no mistake, self-driving cars are the way of the future. People aren’t going to give up the autonomy afforded to them by automobiles in favor of trains, planes, bikes, etc. Those modes of transportation serve their purposes, but day-in-day-out family life requires an automobile. Self-driving cars will reduce accidents, increase transportation network efficiency, increase fuel efficiency, and redeem millions of hours of lost commute time. It’s the natural next step for our transportation infrasatructure. Think about the movies “Minority Report” or “I, Robot” for a glimpse of the way automobiles will serve us in the future.

A final thought. I don’t trust Google on this one. They want to be at the front of the self-driving car market in America for ulterior motives. They aren’t trying to make the transportation infrastructure more efficient, they are trying to collect more data on your lifestyle habits so they can sell more advertising.

Hacking an Airplane

Eye-opening articles on a the ability of a hacker to gain control of an auto-piloted aircraft. Automated Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) protocols have no security and the hacker uses them to find targets, exploit the aircraft’s onboard computer, and break in.

Here are some of the functions Teso showed to the HITBSecConf Amsterdam audience:

  • Please go here: A way of interacting with the plane where the user can dynamically tap locations on the map and change the plane’s course.
  • Define area: Set detailed filters related to the airplane, for example activate something when a plane is in the area of X kilometers or when it starts flying on a predefined altitude.
  • Visit ground: Crash the airplane.
  • Kiss off: Remove itself from the system.
  • Be punckish: A theatric way of alerting the pilots that something is seriously wrong – lights start flashing and alarms start buzzing.

Scary.