Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My Favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson: Jim Al-Khalili

Recently I discovered Professor Jim Al-Khalili and his fantastic series of BBC science documentaries.

Born 1962 in Baghdad to an Iraqi father and English mother, the family permanently relocated to the UK in 1979. Now involved with teaching and research as a professor of physics at the University of Surrey, Al-Khalili's style is highly reminiscent of NDT's. By this I mean that he's able to break down incredibly abstract, complex, and often completely counter-intuitive concepts into entertaining, easily understood explanations that never feel dumbed-down.

He's funny, too, in an understated, intellectual, British kind of way, and the material never comes across as overly academic or dry. Production value is through the roof, with beautiful art direction, writing, pacing, and score, all serving to treat epic subject matters with an appropriate level of scale, atmosphere and magic.

Watching through most of these videos over the past few weeks, I now have what feels like a very solid layman's understanding of how the universe works on the smallest, subatomic level, and to say that this has shifted my perspective is a huge understatement.

This episode is a good place to start I think, as it appeals directly to those with an interest in engines and mechanical engineering. With the embedded video above, I've skipped ahead about 10 minutes to a scene shot in the Crossness Pumping Station, a stunningly ornate and pretty temple to steam power and the promise of the Industrial Revolution.

In a nutshell, within it Al-Khalili explains how the search for more efficient steam engines led directly to the discovery of thermodynamics, itself the key to our modern understanding of everything. I can't recommend it enough.

Other series-within-a-series episodes to consider include Everything and Nothing, Chemistry: A Volatile History, Atom, Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity and The Secrets of Quantum Physics. There's many more to choose from, most of which can be found on YouTube or even torrented.

Just started reading his book Quantum: A guide for the Perplexed. Thus far I remain mostly perplexed, but endlessly fascinated.

Craigslist Corvascort

The seller:

"So with a heavy heart its time to post my 1999 Ford ZX2/1965 Corvair which many have called the 'Corvascort.' It runs and drives but does need some TLC and some bodywork to get it back to the dream cruise head-turning car that it once was. A little rough on start-up, but once it's going it'll take you anywhere."

all yours for only a thousand bucks

Monday, October 17, 2016

Aston Martin V8 Vantage Convertibles & Hand Gestures

Yesterday, entirely unprovoked, a navy blue Aston Martin V8 Vantage convertible pushed me eight feet onto the shoulder in order to pass the car in front. This was on a two-lane toll road, and we were all doing roughly 15 over the limit to begin with. His move was rather slow and quite deliberate, but still terrifying, particularly to my front seat passenger wife--our two year old son in back wasn't bothered.

I kept cool and in control, then called 911 and reported him as a violently erratic drunk driver. Tons of cops in the area on any given day, and not many Astons with that plate number, I'd guess.

I hope you're in jail, scumbag. Also, I'm entirely confident I could have just dusted that fancy Aston if I had also woken up as a psychopath.

because I've smashed them with a hammer
Today I renewed my license for the first time in at least ten years. Before leaving I took a quick practice test. The ghost of Lucas still haunts us.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Furious Torrent of Bullshit: Supreme Bricks & Front Wheel Drive Mercedes

Lovers of brands and forced lifestyle imagery everywhere rejoiced late last month when hype purveyors, Supreme, released a brand new gimmick promising to fill a gaping hole in their shallow, reflectionless souls.

A new, inexplicably expensive hat/shirt/pair of sneakers with a logo? $50 palm tree socks? An ugly, overpriced sweater endowing its end user with an inflated sense of self worth? Fuckin jorts?

Nope, a brick. A $30, red clay brick. Identical in every way (excluding a value-adding logo) to the type I just overpaid for at 50 cents a pop. $30 worth would have nearly filled my little pickup to capacity.

Yep, thousands of very cool and 100% self-assured people stood in lines for hours to snag their bricks this past September 29th, many of whom left unfulfilled and even sadder when stocks sold out almost immediately.

Then they all hopped in their brand-new Mercedes CLA's and drove home to read up on what everybody else thinks is worthy of their money, passion and finite life force.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Billet Internals, Methanol Injection, & Twin Superchargers: Big Block Dodge Tow Monster

I'll let the seller tell the story.

"1968 Dodge Crew Cab dually. You are looking at drag racing history here. This is the '68 Crew Cab that the J&S East Valley Garage Jay Roach/Arley Langlo Top Fuel team used as their tow rig throughout the late 70's and early 80's.

Originally purchased at auction at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Slant-six, step-side crew cab.
Now sports a massive 512ci 440 iron stroker with a Top Fuel billet crank, Venolia forged pistons, and two, yes two Paxton centrifugal superchargers. Transmissions are a SM456 4-speed with a 3-speed Brownie overdrive behind it. Out back sports a 14-bolt corporate rear end with massive custom cooler and 4.10 gears. Genuine mag wheels. Fenders are from a mid 80's ford F350, and the hood is actually a '69 louvered stock piece. Custom made dual disc Borg/Beck clutch and custom pressure plate. 1-3/4" primary/ 5" collector headers built in chassis. Air conditioning still blows R12 cold with roof mounted cooler and fans. Three 20+ gallon custom fuel tanks with Holley blue pumps and regulators. Total fuel capacity is over 80 gallons. Custom water/methanol injection and cold air fender intakes for blowers.

This truck fully loaded and wet weighs 9390lbs! This is a man's tow rig with well over 1000 ft/lbs of torque on 100 octane. In its hay day it toted a 30' trailer stuffed with a Top Fuel dragster, spare engines, tools, and plenty of nitro.

Stored under cover its entire life, except for the last couple months due to storage limitations. Very minor rust in one drip rail. Camper is watertight and has bunk beds and full carpeting. Paint is the real deal--hit it with the buffer and look at yourself in the mirror. 

note the shift pattern plaque on the dash--easy breezy
This truck is NHRA history from the good ol' days. It pains me to see it go along with the history, but space and time limitations have made it necessary. Charge the batteries, give it a bath, top off the fuel and hit the key--it's ready to run."

Absolutely insane. These Frankentruck type of builds are rarely as well put together as this one sounds to be, and are almost never turnkey. Great history, too.

I bet it gets 4 MPG, which should still work out to a respectable 240 mile range.