Why Is Your Car So Boring?

May 27th, 2017

If you pay attention to the design of modern cars, you might have noticed that most are very similar and kind of boring. Sure, when you get into the high-end luxury cars, you have more individuality, but generally most mainstream cars are pretty bland. There is a reason for that, as this article by a designer explains.

Imagine you’ve just been hired as a design engineer at a major automotive manufacturer. Your boss introduces himself and says “Hey, are you ready to design the most innovative, mind-blowing, original car you’ve ever seen?” Now stop imagining that, because your boss isn’t going to say that. Maybe Elon Musk says that to his new recruits as they walk through the door. Then he probably mutters something under his breath about tunnels in the parking lot.

My boss, on the first day of my career as a design engineer, said “Mr. Car Designer, we’re considering removing the dampers on our glove boxes. I need you to benchmark other manufacturers to make sure our cars won’t be seen as lower quality compared to the competition. Prepare a presentation, and then we’ll start training you on how to fill out the paperwork necessary to make the change.”

Now you’re prepared for the excitement that is design engineering for a major automotive company. This is my job, and as a car enthusiast, being a part of the design process has been an eye opening experience, if not the experience I expected. I’d like to impart to you some of the things I’ve learned.

Jupiter is Really Really Strange

May 26th, 2017

Observations from NASA’s Juno spacecraft are forcing scientists to rethink what they know about Jupiter. The giant planet is even stranger than they thought it would be.

“We knew, going in, that Jupiter would throw us some curves,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “But now that we are here we are finding that Jupiter can throw the heat, as well as knuckleballs and sliders. There is so much going on here that we didn’t expect that we have had to take a step back and begin to rethink of this as a whole new Jupiter.”

Among the findings that challenge assumptions are those provided by Juno’s imager, JunoCam. The images show both of Jupiter’s poles are covered in Earth-sized swirling storms that are densely clustered and rubbing together.

We’re puzzled as to how they could be formed, how stable the configuration is, and why Jupiter’s north pole doesn’t look like the south pole,” said Bolton. “We’re questioning whether this is a dynamic system, and are we seeing just one stage, and over the next year, we’re going to watch it disappear, or is this a stable configuration and these storms are circulating around one another?”

As for me, I think the mission would have been worth every penny had it just returned this one picture.

Jupiter's pole

Decoding the Game of Thrones Season 7 Trailer

May 25th, 2017

The first trailer for season 7 of Game of Thrones is out and it looks spectacular. There’s a lot going on, more than you might guess from a casual viewing, but thankfully, the folks at io9 have gone through it frame by frame and picked out some of the significant points.

Cersei (Lena Headey) starts the trailer off by enumerating how badly she’s fucked up, in the wake of her shocking ascension to the Iron Throne. Each pronouncement is accompanied by a cut to an appropriate person to represent all the people who hate her and her family…

Stream Landsat Live

May 24th, 2017

You can get a live stream of the Earth from the Landsat 8 satellite. The viewer displays live imagery if it’s currently streaming or you can display recordings of previous passes. I just watched a stream from Hudson’s Bay south to the Gulf of Mexico. Incredible.

2016 Nebula Awards Announced

May 21st, 2017

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have announced the winners of the 2016 Nebula awards, which are voted on by members of SFWA. Charlie Jane Anders won the best novel award for All the Birds in the Sky, which is also a finalist for the Hugos.  Locus Magazine has the complete list. These were the novel finalists:


Roger Ailes is Dead and Good Riddance

May 18th, 2017

Roger Ailes is dead and good riddance. If time travel existed, he wouldn’t have been born.

The only thing that needs to be written about Roger Ailes for all the rest of eternity is that he was as vile an abomination as has ever slipped from a human orifice, that the success and power he attained in life are as damning an indictment as you can read against the fiber of American society, and that the entire world is worse off for him ever having lived in it. Everything he was and did was awful and worthless. Bury him under an outhouse.

And they can bury Rupert Murdoch beside him when he finally croaks.