The fastest RC cars in the world

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Ezra Dyer's 2006 Bugatti Veyron Drive

Great article on the fastest production car in the world:

Former Volkswagen boss Ferdinand Piech goes big or goes home. So when my phone lit up the other day with “The Safety Dance,” Piech’s designated ring tone, I wondered what madness he’d have in mind. Last I’d heard, since he left VW he’d become CEO of a toenail-clipper manufacturer and brought it great profits before commissioning a line of laser-guided, diamond-tipped cuticle files that ultimately drove the company to the brink of bankruptcy. Perhaps now he was working on a bridge to Hawaii or a flying castle. “It’s finished,” he began. “The fastest, most powerful, most expensive car ever. My greatest triumph. I won’t be happy until every writer has driven it, and written the most words ever written about a single model, and applied more hyperbole than has ever been lavished on any car yet created. I still know the man who has the keys to the factory, and I’ve made arrangements for you to drive… the Bugatti Veyron.”

Ah yes, the Veyron. The flagship of all flagships. The sixteen-cylinder supercar conceived with a mission to crack the McLaren F1’s top speed mark. If you’ve followed the Veyron’s gestation, you know its hurdle to greatness has been fraught with hurdles.

The unusual “W” engine configuration, for instance, was reached after several prototypes failed—the smooth-running in-line sixteen presented packaging problems, and the M16 engine suffered insurmountable oiling failures. Then, late one night, Veyron chief engineer Lars Munch had an epiphany: turn the M16 upside down. Thus was born the W16.

Further testing revealed new challenges heretofore unseen in a production automobile. The Bugatti’s engine, for example, creates so much heat that it requires ten radiators, although this is an improvement over early prototypes that required as many as twenty-seven, one of which covered the entire windshield. This was deemed impractical, and while the radiators are now artfully integrated into the bodywork, the Veyron still runs hot, as illustrated when a production Veyron recently caused a nearby Hyundai Elantra to melt. Indeed, rumor has it that cold-weather testing of the Veyron in the Arctic Circle resulted in a ten-percent shrinkage of the ice shelf, and an entire herd of reindeer was rendered sterile.

It’s hard to comprehend how powerful this engine is, but let me put it in terms you can understand. Think of a 500-cc single-cylinder dirt bike. Then double that to a 1000-cc twin sport bike. Then double that to a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder VW Golf. Then double that to a 4.0-liter W8 Passat. Then double that to an 8.0-liter W16. Then double that to a 16.0-liter W32. Then cut that in half again, because now you’ve gone too far. That’s the easiest way to think of the Veyron’s engine: it’s like sixteen dirt bikes all at once. Imagine how fast one dirt bike is, and you’re one-sixteenth to imagining how fast the Veyron goes.

Climb into the Bugatti’s interior and you’re ensconced in luxury unlike that of any other automobile. As opposed to the stark, race-car cockpit you might expect in something with this much performance, the Bugatti instead coddles with doveskin upholstery (cured in butter and figs) and deep carpets that are real llama. Everything in the interior is authentic and of the highest quality. The shifter one-ups the Porsche Carrera GT’s wooden knob with a lacquered bonsai shaft topped by a solid-gold knob with a shift pattern of inlaid narwhal horn. And did you think those toggle switches were made of imitation mummy teeth? Of course not. Customers in this price range would never stand for it.

The Veyron is a dangerous car in the wrong hands. Even highly trained Veyron test drivers have suffered broken noses, crushed lungs, fractured ribs, and diarrhea. And those are the ones who haven’t crashed into anything. Honestly, for a moment I worried that I wasn’t up to the challenge. Then I remembered that I have a degree in English and am therefore qualified to test the limits of a machine that just might go 300 mph. I climbed aboard.

What’s the Veyron like to drive? Here are some performance facts to help tell the story: 0-to-60-to-0 mph can be accomplished while parallel parking. With the traction control switched off, the Veyron will do a four-wheel burnout from rest in seventh gear. It can beat a McLaren F1 to 100 mph—in reverse. At wide-open throttle, the Veyron can suck a bowling ball through the intake and shoot it straight out the exhaust. Above 238 mph, the small elephant that deploys from the roof at 150 mph is again retracted, decreasing drag. If one of the Veyron’s turbochargers fell off, it would still have three.

On the road, stopped school busses become a blurred flash of yellow out of the corner of your eye. Cul-de-sacs shrink. As you push past 180 mph, shopping mall parking lots look like nothing more than people running wildly and throwing bags in the air. It’s divine.

Of course, all this performance isn’t free. I saw a top speed of 254 mph, and at that speed the Bugatti (or, as it’s affectionately nicknamed, the “Buga”) will run out of fuel in twelve minutes, although it also has an economical cylinder-deactivation mode that allows it to run for twenty-four minutes. And the window sticker, which is itself printed on spider silk, is on the steep side at $1.25 million. Options, such as the Swarovski crystal windshield, can drive the price even higher.

Should you buy this car? That depends on your priorities, and some persons of means would rather use that kind of money to buy a nuclear submarine or Canada, to carve their faces into Mount Everest, or to build a floating skyscraper. But for a certain brand of oligarch, tycoon, sheik, emperor, or deranged CEO, only a Veyron will do.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Frag Dolls contestants play tough

From CNET:

Credit: Stephen Couratier

Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET Networks

Cell Factor High Def video

Awesome gameplay video of Cell Factor with the Ageia physics chip in action. One of the coolest games I've seen so far.

MegaTexturing With John Carmack

From [H]Console: sends word that they have posted a seventeen question interview with John Carmack that they’d like to share with the world. The subject? MegaTexturing. What the hell is MegaTexturing? GW anticipated you would ask that so that was their very first question to JC (this is but a small snippet of the answer):

MegaTexture technology is something that addresses resource limitations in one particular aspect of graphics. The core idea of it is that when you start looking at outdoor rendering and how you want to do terrain and things in general, people almost always wind up with some kind of cross-fade blended approach where you tile your textures over and blend between them and add little bits of detail here and there. A really important thing to realize about just generally tiling textures, that we’re so used to accepting it in games, is that when you have one repeated pattern over a bunch of geometry, the texture tiling and repeating is really just a very, very specialized form of data compression where it’s allowing you to take a smaller amount of data and have it replicated over multiple surfaces, or multiple parts of the same surface in a game since you generally don’t have enough memory to be able to have the exact texture that you’d like everywhere.

DARPA's Grand Challenge goes urban!

From Engadget:

Oh DARPA, how we love thee, let us count the ways. Your first Grand Challenge brought us giggles and guffaws as those first-gen automonous bots failed to even complete the course. Grand Challenge 2005 returned to the dessert with oohs and ahhs with four vehicles actually completing the rugged, 132-mile unmanned course in less than 10-hours. Now, DARPA presents the third and best event yet, the Urban Challenge! This time around, DARPA will award prizes to the top three ($2M, $500k, and $250k respectively) autonomous ground vehicles that safely complete a 60-mile urban course on a simulated military supply mission (read: not likely to be blowing things up) in under 6-hours. The main event is schedule for November 3, 2007 with several qualifying events to be held in the run-up. And yeah, you can expect a full-on grudge-match between 2005's winning Stanford team and runners-up Carnegie Mellon (owners of the Crusher) who both announced participation in what was hopefully a sweaty, WWF-like expletive-ridden shout-off with folding chairs a-flyin'.

Monday, May 01, 2006

NASA's next generation spacecraft

One glider, 160 AA batteries

From CNET:

There's hardly a gadget in the world today that doesn't require AA batteries--but 160 of them? That's how many it takes to power this glider being set up for launch by students of the Tokyo Institute of Technology on Saturday.

Credit: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

Here, a student checks the power levels of the Panasonic Oxyride batteries before the test flight on Saturday. The glider's length is a little more than 30 feet, and it has a wingspan of about 100 feet. The material used to construct the aircraft included carbon fiber and styrofoam.

Credit: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

In the test flight on Saturday, in the town of Kambara, Japan, the manned glider traveled all of a couple hundred meters.

Credit: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Video: It’s The Jet-Powered VW Beetle!

45-Mbit Internet Service

SoCal Suburb To Get 45-Mbit Internet Service

Multiband, a residential provider of voice and data systems, said this week that it plans to deliver 45-Mbit services to homes and condominiums in a ritzy Southern California suburb.

While the company's plan looks amazingly affordable – 45-Mbit downstream and upstream connections, as little as one per building, for $24.95 to $34.95 per month – company executives also said they're considering a tiered pricing model to increase their revenue.

For now, about 2,500 condos and apartments within the small but pricey seaside resort town of Marina del Ray, Calif., will receive the new service, Multiband said. The company uses a microwave dish receiver mounted on each building, which can be connected to more traditional Ethernet cabling to route the high-speed Internet service to invididual units, executives said. The broadband access will be offered as an adjunct to DirectTV satellite service, which Multiband also provides as a bundled service.

High-speed Internet has traditionally been the province of DSL and cable, with 8-, 16-, and even 24-Mbit services rolling out across the U.S. and Europe using high-speed ADSL2+ connections. More recently, fibre-to-the-home projects by Verizon and others have allowed even higher-speed connections, for a price. Verizon's fastest service offers 30-Mbits/s downstream connections, but for prices that range between $179.95 and $199.95 per month.

Typically, 45-Mbit services are offered to businesses as shared bandwidth, that tens or even hundreds of employees can share.

The discounted price comes from Multiband owning its own bandwidth, rather than buying T1 connections from bandwidth aggregators, which in turn resell them to ISPs, according to Morrie Eisenman, the western regional manager for Multiband.

We're going to control it; in some cases, how should I say, we're going to let you step up to 45 Mbits," Eisenman said. "The fact is, each building can be treated as a separate business model. It's our bandwidth to sell."

Buying bandwidth from an aggregator would have pushed the comparable price up dramatically higher, Eisenman said. With over-the-air transmission methods like satellite or microwave, latencies – the delay from the signal as it moves through the air – can drag down the average throughput. However, microwave return channels are also used by business ISPs like Libera, as a short-range line-of-sight backbone.

"The nice thing, is we can pick out a receiving facility on top of an office building and bring it [the Internet connection] right downstairs," Eisenman said.

Eisenman, a former Hollywood producer with credits such as the 1997 gangster flick Suicide Kings, said he became involved with Multiband after trying to get a DirectTV service installed at his own condominium. A self-described techie, Eisenman said he used his knowledge of high-value properties to land the position at Multiband after Hollywood went corporate, he said.

Excellent video on net neutrality

Video: Real Life Super Mario Bros. Re-enactment

Video: Carnegie's Crusher for combat

Video: 6.5 tons of robotic mayhem. On April 28, Carnegie Mellon's National Robotics Engineering Center unveiled this new unmanned vehicle to work on almost any terrain. It can carry more than 8,000 pounds of armor and payload and is powered by a lithium ion battery that's recharged by an onboard turbo diesel generator. It will be used at first in convoys and support roles but is expected to be used alongside troops in five to ten years. Top speed: over 25 miles per hour.