Category Archives: Technology

Morgan: Made in Malvern

I have always wanted a Morgan.

Ever since I first saw a +8 pooteling round the country lanes of Worcestershire, near to where we used to live and close to where they are still made. Ever since my Dad would explain to his wide eyed (and in my sister’s case, somewhat bored) offspring, that they could do 0-60mph in something like 7 seconds, and that the door handles came as an optional extra (‘gasps’ of amazement). Ever since I was allowed to sit in one at the Prescott Park Hill Climb in 1980 something, and was alarmed at how the steering wheel seemed to jut out at you at an alarming angle. Ever since I learned of their 22 section ash framed bonnets, each and every one hand beaten to match the car. And ever since I have been able to drive, I have always wanted one… despite being restricted to a go-cart (made by dad and I from pram wheels, a skipping rope, and odd timber) or the current (and very lovable) Murgatroyd the MX5.

These are things of rare and exquisite beauty. Stunning and timeless design, classic craftsmanship, attention to detail, and a gut wrenching power, in an elegant British classic. They are still hand made in the factory near Malvern, and this fascinating video shows you just how it is done:

If anyone happened to want to satisfy my cravings; either, an Aero8 Supersports, in midnight blue, cream leather interior, and blue piping, or a +8 in British Racing Green, burgundy red interior, with cream piping. I will leave the optional door handles to you.

morgan-aero-coupe-bill-dutting

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A big fan of this…

This has been entertaining me this week:

Chopper fan

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Space Oddity and Space Odyssey

Having been following Chris Hadfield tweets and posts from the International Space Station for some time I can confirm that he is a complete legend. His Q&A sessions about life in space are fantastic, and have been widely distributed, and he has a regular spot on Canadian radio. This latest offering has just sent him even higher (if that is possible) in my estimation.

Commander Hadfield recorded David Bowie’s Space Oddity (with some minor tweaks) inside the ISS … the footage is amazing.

(Prediction alert:) This is going to be huge.

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Google Glasses

For those of you with a creeping fear of Social Media, or even those with just a slightly hesitant adoption of the tidal wave of new online interactions be prepared for the arrival of the new Google Glass. These have been spotted out and about, and are due to be launched later this year.

‘Glass’ (and you will be amazed how soon this joins the everyday lexicon) is a wearable computer eye piece, which allows you to snap photos, read the news and Google search all while looking like a cross between James Bond and R2D2. Glass is not yet publicly available, but those nice people at Google is offering keen geeks to purchase them early for $1,500, if they write them an essay about why they deserve to be allowed to trial them.. oddly I have not quite found the time to send off my essay.

Image

I would like to think that I am reasonably comfortable with most of the social media… despite the endless baby photos and ‘Shares’ from “I f*cking love science” or “This is what I ate for lunch” I find it a useful tool for keeping up friendships, trying to organise my life, and distraction/entertainment. But I am just not too sure about these glasses. Call me a gruff old traditionalist (and many have called me worse) but I rather like, and indeed almost expect, a person’s undivided attention when interacting with them… OK so there are obviously times when it is acceptable and normal to be trying to do two things at once, but knowing that my conversant was either googling the cinema times or checking in on FB while talking to me would rather irk me. The ‘subtlety’ of it is more frustrating than even the ‘i’m on the train’ conversations much parodied in the late 90’s. Or perhaps I am just being old?

No… No, I am not…the technology is certainly impressive, but as one blogger pointed out, it is all a bit close to Vernor Vinge’s Rainbow’s End. The book it set in the not-too-distant future, and everybody interacts with the world via augmented-reality contact lenses. It is a sort of self accepted and social media infused Orwellian dystopia. (Note to self: a good name for a cocktail?)

Anyway, I was pleased when a lot of my ideas and views were echoed by an article in the usually brilliant Atlantic. Adrien Chen had obviously been reading my mind (perhaps having borrowed a set of these new glasses) when he described those that sport the new glasses as ‘assholes’. He goes into a long and clever diatribe about the way that Google has create a product so imbued with ‘assholishness.’: “Glass is just the latest in a long line of asshole moves from Google. Google’s project to scan and upload all books in existence to the internet without the publishers’ permission? Asshole behavior. Sending cars with cameras around to take pictures of everyone’s houses for Google Streetview? Asshole behaviour.”

While the products that Google has created are undoubtably brilliant, and useful, they are all part of the creeping invasion of privacy and accumulation of personal information. Perhaps those that are uncomfortable with these developments are not the Luddites that they are so often portrayed as, but defenders of privacy and liberty. As Chen says, “much of Google’s assholishness ended up producing very useful products (I love Streetview), but this doesn’t change the fact that they rest on an act of colossal assholery, an arrogance that says your privacy/copyright doesn’t matter because Google wants to make a new thing that happens to demolish it.” Read the rest of his article here, or just burn it directly onto your retina here.

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Snow Scooter!

As the more observant of you might have noticed it’s that time of year again when the British transport system grinds to a halt, schools are closed across swathes of the north-east, the number of ‘sick days’ skyrockets, and children everywhere seem permanently attached by their squished noses to to frozen window-panes; yes, there has been an inch of snow somewhere in the Highlands. Time to dig out those scarves and gloves, phone in sick, and head to the slopes with the dinner tray to whizz down the icy inclines.

But what’s this? No, kids these days don’t want a homemade skeleton bob cobbled together from biscuit tin lids, they want one of these: Snow Scooter! Or so ‘Discount Vouchers‘ would have you believe.

Described in the marketing as “The Latest Trend on the British Slopes” [I wonder where the mean.. surely mild inclines/ green and pleasant lands?] they retain at an eye watering £21.99 with another £6 hidden in there for P&P.

The developers seem convinced that “it is important to look good whilst hurtling down a hill and this snow scooter will do just that, as you cruise past sledges and leave them face first in your powder!” Form an orderly line…

Now Scooter

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Petrol from thin air… a masterpiece of British technology

This one may have escaped your attention, hidden away in the depths of the Daily Telegraph, but it has the potential to change the world as we know it… essentially, some cunningly clever British scientists working for a small company in the north of England has developed the “air capture” technology to create synthetic petrol using only air and electricity.  Cool egh! Theoretically if the process was attached to a green energy source such as a wind turbine or solar electricity, they could make petrol that actually captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during its manufacture process… and the petrol produced can go strait into any normal petrol car! 

‘Experts’ have already hailed the breakthrough as a potential “game-changer” in the battle against climate change and a saviour for the world’s energy crisis, but thus far they have only actually produced about five litres of petrol in just less than three months … so its not going to rival the hegemony of the oil giants such as Shell or BP any time soon, but the theory is there. Read the full article here.

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Cathedrals to Science and Industry

Bank Holiday weekends normally involve a lot of travel… going to see parents, friends, relatives, loved ones. All good Brits are used to moaning about the clapped out travel infrastructure of this country; endless jokes about leaves on lines, pot holes in pavements, and long queues at Heathrow, but we rarely stop to marvel at the sheer beauty of some of our engineering masterpieces.

Dashing about in our everyday lives we never stop to focus on some of the awe-inspiring collections of rivets, cleats, plates, joggles, spans, arches, ribs, joists and finials that make up what early engineers might have called our ‘Cathedrals to Science and Industry.’

Now I know I am a geek, but I have always found Paddington Station a beautiful place. Crawling into the barrelled vaults by train, all London beckons. It’s a place of meeting and parting, passing time waiting and frantic dashing. It’s also beautiful. Believe me, and if you don’t, then stop and have a good look next time you are loitering waiting for the 17:56 First Great Western service to Worcester Shrub Hill.

Now real geeks have been allowed to study architectural drawings and  railway archives in libraries all over the country, but Network Rail has just put part of its beautiful archive of Victorian and Edwardian infrastructure diagrams on the web. Its ‘geekery light’ if you like… you dont actually have to own a thermos flask, nor a high vis jacket, but allows you to peek at their impressive collections from the privacy of behind your laptop.

 I defy you not to marvel at the audacity of the high-level bridge at Newcastle upon Tyne, with its columns cascading like waterfalls, nor find harmony in Bristol’s neo-gothic Temple Meads station. And do have a look at Maidenhead bridge, designed in brick by the multi talented (and most spectacularly named) Isambard Kingdom Brunel, has two middle arches spanning the river in great leaps. The image below shows Turner’s attempt (successful in most estimations) to capture the scene.  They were lower and broader than anything previously constructed in brick, and the Great Western Railway’s directors feared the bridge would collapse: they insisted on the bridge’s temporary timber supports remaining even after it opened. Annoyed, Brunel secretly lowered the supports a bit so they did not actually support anything… but thats exactly what you might expect from a man whose middle name is Kingdom. 

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