Wednesday, July 20th, 2022
The virtues involved in being a good driver —the mix of independence and cooperation, knowledge and responsibility — really are virtues well suited to citizenship in a sprawling and diverse republic.
Ross Douthat, “What Driving Means for America” by Ross Douthat in The New York Times
Thursday, May 26th, 2022
The Londonist covers the Elizabeth Line opening, May 24th, 2022.
Tuesday, February 8th, 2022
eVTOL Innovation YouTube channel extols the Lilium as the most promising of the upcoming ways we will fly.
Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022
Friday, January 14th, 2022
Where Is My Flying Car?
J. Storrs Hall
Where is My Flying Car, what author and nanotechnologist J. Storrs Hall refers to as his intellectual memoir, is the first book I can remember hoping that everyone would read. Graceful, witty, we cut through the blather to the chase of social good: technology, always and forever, and where and how we got off this crystal ship, and how we can get back on it. Consider this the truer, more resonant, more actionable big brother of Tyler Cowen’s Great Stagnation. A random excerpt from 40% in:
Gyros of perfectly usable specs are being built now. This is mostly in Europe, because the EU has an approved rotorcraft classification that is similar to the light-sport fixed-wings you can buy here, but the US does not. That means that in Europe, you can buy a gyro built in a factory, but if you want one here you have to build it yourself. A typical gyro goes for about a third the price of a helicopter and can use a 200-foot runway. The Dutch company PAL-V is in the process of launching a new design roadable autogyro. It has the same advantages as the Pitcairn designs of the 1930s, but updated with modern materials and technology. It also has to face a lot more regulatory hurdles, as a car as well as an aircraft, than there were in the 30s. As a result its roadable configuration is three-wheeled so that it comes under motorcycle regulations instead of car ones. The rotor, tail, and propeller retract and/or fold up and it becomes an enclosed trike-style motorcycle on the road. It’s listed at better than 100mph both on the road and in the air.
This is fascinating and exciting — especially today when one can simply search the the company name (PAL-V) and instantly see the company’s news and promotional materials. But the book is not just a catalog, it’s a manifesto. And it’s not just a manifesto, it’s a history. I’m not doing it justice. I’ll come back and write more and differently on it.
[Update 2022 Jan 27: The book has been out a couple of years, so it’s suprising that just a month ago we have The Wall Street Journal’s review by Philip Dewlves Broughton.
Sunday, January 9th, 2022
We will never inherit the universe until we learn how to live with radiation—and that means studying it honestly.
J. Storrs Hall, Where is My Flying Car
Wednesday, November 10th, 2021
The best Star Trek starships by Josh Tyler at Giant Freakin Robot.
Wednesday, October 13th, 2021
I think that if we were told 40 years ago that Bill Shatner would actually go into space at age 90, we’d think things turned out pretty well.
Thursday, October 7th, 2021
From the bubbling, dexterous mind of Venkatesh Rao we have two rich essays posted within two days: “Storytelling — Cringe and the Banality of Shadows” and “Remystifying Supply Chains: Supply chains are TV for matter”.
The supply chain crisis is in some ways more unprecedented than Covid itself, given that containerized supply chains, and the world of distributed, networked, computationally coordinated production they enabled, are only a few decades old.
This is the first crisis of this magnitude to hit them.
To find a comparable crisis in history you have to go back to World War 2, with U boats sinking transatlantic shipping. And that was in an era when global trade was less than a third of today’s levels if I’m not mistaken (as a fraction of GDP) and still in the ancient mode of breakbulk shipping.
Monday, October 4th, 2021
Londonist visits the two new Tube stations, Battersea Power Station and Nine Elms.
Sunday, November 15th, 2020
Wow, after 5 years Yehuda Halevi St. is reopening, complete with underground light rail station. Will I still love you? Even more?
Thursday, November 12th, 2020
A series of great photos around London’s Tube from a book by Luke Abgaimoni in Londonist.
Wednesday, September 30th, 2020
Thursday, September 17th, 2020
Saturday, September 5th, 2020
Lunaz Design’s electrified 1961 Rolls-Royce Phantom V.
Thursday, August 20th, 2020
The iPhone matters more than anything … it is the foundation of modern life.
Ben Johnson, “Apple, Epic, and the App Store”
Sunday, April 19th, 2020
Tuesday, October 29th, 2019
The Tube Ronnies complete with transcript, thanks to the invaluable IanVisits.
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
Volvo unveils its first full battery electric model, the XC40 Recharge SUV with 402bhp a 248-mile range. Featuring no front grille!
Sunday, October 13th, 2019
AutoCar drives the electric Jaguar I-Pace from London to Frankfurt. As recently as two years ago such a journey simply wasn’t feasible. Now, once you have the more expensive car, it’s much cheaper than driving diesel let alone petrol. That said, charging stops are an hour rather than five minutes, and every 200 miles rather than say every 500. But I think there is some good here. Travellers must get out and stretch their legs for a longer while. All in all our automotive future looks improved.
Tuesday, September 24th, 2019
Pictures of the glorious Soviet metro stations, a photography book by Christopher Herwig.
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
The end of formal dining on Amtrak. The change is “driven by a desire to save money,” Amtrak said to The Washington Post, “and lure a younger generation of new riders — chiefly, millennials known to be always on the run, glued to their phones and not particularly keen on breaking bread with strangers at a communal table.” Sad!
Sunday, September 8th, 2019
I want to ride the Goldenpass Express, a Swiss panoramic train designed by Pininfarina.
Monday, July 1st, 2019
Tuesday, March 5th, 2019
SpaceIL’s live page, featuring the Beresheet mission to the moon. This video diagrams the mission.
Tuesday, January 1st, 2019
Chronicling from “below the API line”, as Venkatesh Rao calls it, are Austin Murphy with “I Used to Write for Sports Illustrated. Now I Deliver Packages for Amazon” in The Atlantic and Lauren Hough with “I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America” in The Huffington Post.
The depicted harshness of American work life for so many is terrible not just for those involved but for all. (Also these two share a prodigious unmet need to urinate on the job — is this the top new workplace tribulation?)
Wednesday, October 17th, 2018
Tuesday, August 21st, 2018
Tuesday, July 4th, 2017
Robots don’t eat chocolate. James Meek weaves a rich tale of Cadbury’s moving its chocolate factory from Bristol in England to Skarbimierz in Poland. We get EU politics, British commercial history and contemporary Polish politics. It’s a microcosm of the economic game of musical chairs happening in our era. [via Tyler Cowen’s marginalrevolution.com]
Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017
Friday, March 17th, 2017
Looks like a nice place to be, Amtrak in the 70s.
Sunday, December 4th, 2016
Francis Fukuyama coins and explains vetocracy. The intricacies are bamboozling—which is the point. Seems to me that fixing this is the first domino.
Friday, November 18th, 2016
Some tentative optimism from The American Interest: If the new Administration can both push infrastructure and simplify the regulatory process, “it will have proven that the Trumpian earthquake can in fact break certain decades-long patterns of bipartisan paralysis…”
This article features a list by Dan McNichol of suggested public works projects throughout the USA. He is author of The Roads That Built America, a history of the Interstate highway system (of which I actually have a copy).
Monday, September 5th, 2016
Tuesday, August 30th, 2016
Speed of Dark
I was brought to this most non-sci-fi of sci-fi novels by the Brighton Science Fiction Discussion Group. Narrated in character by its autistic protagonist, Speed of Light initially reminded me of Mr Robot. Yes, I did like it, but wasn’t sure if the thinness of the other characters is due to our narrator’s limitations or those of the author; I don’t know her other work so can’t say. A mostly unsentimental decency permeates — actually it’s an exploration of decency — which gives it an appreciable pre-cyberpunk, almost square feel.
A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars; it’s where the rich use public transportation.
Petro Gustavo, Mayor of Bogota
Tuesday, July 26th, 2016
Published in 1976, the themes nonetheless feel contemporary some 40 years later: environmental destruction, economic inequality, social alienation, childlessness. It’s all very naturalistic. We never encounter any aliens because they are long gone, and we don’t understand their amazing technological artifacts at all. And the people are in constant emotional turmoil.
Monday, July 18th, 2016
Friday, March 8th, 2013
Considering how central it is for Londoners, Why is the Tube so underrepresented in stories? The writer suggests that, like sex and prayer, and unlike on the street, any human significance down there is internal.
Wednesday, March 31st, 2010
The daily activities most associated with happiness are having sex, socializing after work and having dinner. The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting.