Archive for September, 2009

Dude, where’s my flying car?

On one of the discussion groups I frequent, we’re occasionally visited by gentlemen with interesting agendas wanting us to invest time or money in interesting projects.

One such visitor insisted that he’d built a human powered vehicle out of old bike parts a couple of years ago that he’d got up to 127km/hr (conveniently there are no witnesses and the machine is not available for examination); subsequently he has a proposal for a commuter vehicle that would allow folks to pedal their vehicles for up to 20 minutes at 100km/hr.  He just needs our help and money.   And to seal our impression of his credibility, he talks blithely of the marvels of the over-unity motor.   No perpetual motion nut is getting any of my money or time.

In the same week, we were visited by a proponent of the perennial Flying Car.  He’s been pushing this agenda for a long time, mainly with complaints about the way that governments and the entrenched car industry have used legal impediments to halt or otherwise bury the concept to preserve the status quo.   According to this chap, if he could just get the concept accepted, (and get a bit of help and money) his flying cars could replace/destroy the current automobile industry.   For this guy, our discussion group is fresh meat – he’s bombarding us with flying car related information in the guise of some relationship to human powered vehicles.  (Sadly we’re too polite to tell him where to get off…)

This (the “flying car”) is one of those concepts, IMHO, where the question is not whether it can be done (though that’s debatable), but whether it should.

I suggested to the advocate that I’d be interested to read his prospectus; that I’d expect to see some discussion of how the concept would be ecologicallyand socially responsible; how it could be made safe, how much additional infrastructure would be required, whether there would be any saving of investment in existing land transport infrastructure, how it stack up against putting resources into better mass transit.. and lots more.  Interestingly he has not provided any such thing, though he seems convinced that if I came out to his workshop and listened to his sales pitch I’d be a convert.  Hmmm…. just like all the other folks (not) clamouring to invest in his technology?

I’d hazard a guess that if any one thing kills the concept of the flying car, it’s that no insurance company would touch one.  And much as I think the insurance industry has a lot to answer for, in this case I wouldn’t blame them.

Hot under the collar

A couple of days ago, my son told me that his car (mine actually, but he seems to be increasingly fond of  this particular possessive pronoun)  had overheated when he was driving through the city central business district.   He’d noticed the temperature guage climbing and stopped before it actually produced steam, then driven home with no overheating after it had cooled.

This was a worry.  I took the car for a spin that evening but it seemed to be performing OK.

The next morning before work, I decided to get down and dirty and crawled under the beast (not much crawl space under an Impreza!) for  a look-see. 

No plastic bag plastered onto the radiator or wasps nests in the grille, plenty of coolant,…. but aha! what’s this?  Two floating electrical connectors… that look like they fit into sockets on the radiator fans.

Yes indeed, at the last service a few months ago (100k) in which they replaced the timing belt, some clever mechanic forgot to reconnect the electric cooling fans.

It looks like the only reason the car hadn’t overheated before was that it’s been Winter (hence cold) and that my son normally drives the car to and from university along roads that allow 60-70km most of the time so there’s adequate airflow through the grille to keep things cool.   

When he ventured into the CBD, he was stuck in slow, crawling and stopping traffic for quite a while, so without airflow, the temperature soared.

I’m just glad the boy keeps an eye on the guages and that it wasn’t summer.  It could have been an expensive mistake.