Archive for Technology - page 5

Estimated Cost Of California “Bullet Train” Goes Up By $940 Million…

Estimated Cost Of California “Bullet Train” Goes Up By $940 Million…

…Aaand that’s the good news.  It appears to some observers that the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) may have wanted to obscure that fact from the public.  The San Francisco based engineering firm URS corp. was tasked with preparing a revised cost estimate, and complained that they had been “instructed” by the CHSRA to hold estimates to a baseline established in 2012.  URS said in their March report that the new estimate of $7.13 billion, an increase of $.94 billion was accurate and that “in their professional opinion” CHSRA was incorrectly assigning cost increases to a contingency account.  In response, the Rail Authority sent a letter to the firm asking it to revise it’s report, stating that the estimates were “misleading and not accurate”.  That settles it then.

“The  ultimate cost of the Central Valley segment will be determined by many factors not yet known, …which may explain why URS produced a higher estimate”...”It is noteworthy that over the life of a project, as design progresses, there will be several estimates,” the authority said. “A change in one estimate does not necessarily result in a change to our budget.” – CHSRA Statement

Ahh…the “Living Breathing Budget” theory.  The California taxpayer may now rest easy.

Hawking: “Success in Creating AI Could Be The Biggest Event In Human History…

Hawking: “Success in Creating AI Could Be The Biggest Event In Human History…

….it could also be the last”.  D’oh!  In an article published yesterday in The Independent, Steven Hawking (et al.) lay out some of the benefits to be reaped from the development of Artificial Intellligence (AI) and some potential downdsides:

One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand. Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.

It’s a short article and worth your time to click over and read the whole thing.  Go ahead, I’ll wait….back? OK, good.  It seems that some very serious thinkers believe there’s a possibility that if AI is developed, human beings could become second-class citizens to it.  Subjugated by a servant of our own creation – that’s some serious irony right there. But…I wanted to tie this into our earlier discussion of “what makes humans human” and “do animals have rights”?  The answers to those questions are usually decided by “the biggest kid on the block”.  Right here, right now that means humans, people.  What if we get knocked down a notch and are no longer the deciders?  Because in a possible post AI future, machines might be asking the question: “Do living things (humans, “organic beings”, “meat machines”) have rights?  Are we going to like the answer?

 

I'll bet this is how it goes down

I’ll bet this is how it goes down

BMW i-8

BMW i-8

Dinoasurs like me who have an affinity for muscular cars powered soley by our long deceased dinosaur cousins will have to get used to the fact that the sports cars of the future are going to be driven at least partially by electrons.  Of course, those electrons are still produced by our long deceased dinosaur cousins.  But I digress…

Now BMW has unveiled it’s new plug-in hybrid sports coupe for 2015, the i8.  Gone are the days when a BMW’s model number would tell you the specifics about the car – engine displacement, body style, etc. – apparently this one was named after an Interstate Highway?  No matter.  Autoblog gives us a complete and thorough road test of the $130,000 plus coupe which is powered by a 129 horsepower 96 Kw electric motor up front and a 231 horsepower turbocharged 1.5 liter 3 cylinder gasoline engine in the rear.  My guess is they took the venerable 3 liter six and lopped it in half.  A computer decides whether you get gas powered rear wheel drive or electric powered front wheel drive (or a combination of both) based on settings chosen by the driver and the heaviness of the driver’s right foot.  The tandem power plants deliver a combined 362 horsepower and 420 pounds feet of torque which will propel the i8 from 0-60 in a non-hybrid like 4.3 seconds.  This is due in large part to the coupe’s miniscule curb weight of 3,285 lbs. which translates into a horsepower to weight ratio of a shade more that 220 hp/ton.  Not bad.  And looks – wow!  Like a concept car.  I keep asking where are the flying cars that futurists of the sixties promised us – this one doesn’t fly, but looks like it could (or should).

 

BMW-i8-Frankfurt-motor-debut-front-3-4

 

BMW-i8-Frankfurt-motor-debut-rear-3-4

 

Impressive design, impressive engineering and impressive performance.  I would expect no less from BMW.  However… as deep as it is in design, engineering and performance, it comes up short in convenience and practicality.  There are no cupholders for the occupants of the front seats (!) and with an engine in the front and the back, there is no trunk for your junk.  BMW has yet to release economy figures.  $130K + seems like a stretch unless you’re just trying to out status the neighbors.  I still think for the money I’d have an Audi R-8.  Screw the environment.

 

Cross posted at the blog: Men Out Of Work

How to read this here blog thingy

How to read this here blog thingy

I write about anything that happens to be of interest to me, and the subject matter is varied.  If you like what I write about some subjects but don’t care for others, look on the sidebar to the right.  You will see “categories”.  All my posts fit into one or more of these categories.  Click on the category you are most intersted in, and you will see only posts in that category.  Simple.  Within my posts I often link to additional information and/or another blog or article that inspired the post.  When you see a word in red text, that is a link to additional information.  Click on it and the link will open in a new tab.  Any pictures within a post can usually be viewed in a larger version by simply clicking on the picture.

click on the picture to see it larger

click on the picture to see it larger

 

Please comment! To the left of the title you will see a box with the date and below it a box that says comments.  Click there and a dialogue box will open where you will be able to write comments on the article. This is how I know you’re reading and I welcome all feedback on my writing. You will be asked for your name and e-mail adress but don’t worry!  You can use an alias if you don’t want to disclose your name and your e-mail adress will not be displayed, nor will I spam you.  I moderate all the comments so I will see your comment.

Thanks! and Enjoy!

Now I don’t have to guess where that airliner is going

Now I don’t have to guess where that airliner is going

You may not “get” this if you are not an aviation enthusiast or borderline aviation freak like I am.  It probably stems from my childhood as an Air Force Brat and the son of a WWII pilot.  I practically have a compulsion to look skyward whenever I hear aircraft overhead and identify it.  Since I live under one of the departure routes of the airport in my city, I look up a lot.  Southwest 737 eastbound…Delta 737 eastbound…American MD-80 eastbound… and so on.  Now my neck won’t be so sore.  Once I hear a plane I can go to Flightradar24.com and see the aircraft type, airline, departure point and destination.  Just click on the little plane icon and the flight info is displayed.

 

screenshot

screenshot

 

Awesome.  I can’t believe I didn’t know about this already.  Now I do.  And so do you.

How Can an Airliner Just Disappear? (PartVI)

How Can an Airliner Just Disappear? (PartVI)

Today, Malaysian Authorities officially declared Flight 370 lost at sea with no possible survivors.  Based on close analysis of the attempted communications between the plane and satellites it was determined that the flight was on the southern of the two possible courses and this would have put it 1500 miles west of Australia in the Indian Ocean when it’s fuel would have been exhausted.  Since there are no possible landing sites, the lost at sea declaration was made.  The search continues though now as a recovery effort.  Conditions in the area are such that it is believed no one could survive for what has now been two weeks even if they had survived a crash or ditching.

australia-flight370-search-map

Still unanswered are the questions of how or why this happened.  Authorites have all but ruled out an accident because of the circumstances surrounding how the plane “disappeared” from communications and radar, and because the flight’s behavior afterward indicated that the deed was done with purpose and some skill.  There is speculation as to who was responsible and as to whether one or both of the pilots may have been involved, though to what end is not known.

How Can An airliner Just Disappear? Final Installment (for now)

How Can An airliner Just Disappear?  Final Installment (for now)

Since all the new reporting on Malaysian Airways Flight 370 seems to be speculation, I am not going to post about it again until some new concrete information comes out.  All that is known for sure is that that plane is missing and presumed crashed.  The who, what , when, where and why are all unknown.

angel plane

As I stated in my first post, the simplest explanation is usually correct, and that is that the plane has crashed.  Though I believe there is a strong possiblity that this was an attempt to “steal” the airliner, IMHO the likelyhood of a successful undetected landing is very slight.  What is also unknown is if the mystery will ever be solved.  And so, continuing prayers for the passengers, crew and their families.

How Can An Airliner Just disappear? Part IV

How Can An Airliner Just disappear? Part IV

This is now officially a criminal investigation, as reported in The Washington Post.  The Airliner’s ACARS system initiated periodic “handshakes”with comm satellites approximately every 30 minutes for an additional seven hours after civilian radar contact was lost.  The plane’s location could not be ascertained from the signals and it is not known whether the plane was in flight for the duration of that time or if it had landed, nor is it clear whether it crashed or was landed and shut down when the system stopped communicating.

The exact amount of fuel on board is not known, but it would  have been sufficient for the scheduled six hour flight to Beijing and common practice is to carry a minimum 1 hour reserve.  Authorities have several working theories, mainly falling along three lines.  First is that the plane was hijacked either by the crew or terrorist passengers and then crashed intentionally into the Indian Ocean as an act of either terrorism or suicide.  Another theory is that the plane was hijacked by either crew or passengers with the intent to divert and land at an unknown location, but then ran out of fuel and crashed.  The final theory is the same as the second theory except that in this scenario the plane was successfully landed at an unknown location.  This third theory is deemed the unlikeliest, since authorities believe that for this to happen, the plane would have been detected entering either Indian or Pakistani airspace and as of yet there is no indication that this occurred.

Additional information:

ABC News (autoplay video)

CNN

UK Daily Mail

 

How Can An Airliner Just Disappear? Part III

How Can An Airliner Just Disappear? Part III

All bets are off now.

Reuters reports: Radar Data Suggests Missing Malaysia Plane Deliberately Flown Way Off Course: Sources

Associated Press:  1 US Theory Is Someone Diverted Missing Plane

New York Times: Satellite Firm Says Its Data From Jet Could Offer Location

How Can An Airliner Just Disappear?  The same way your Porsche disappears from your driveway.

Someone steals it.

 

How can an airliner just disappear? continued

How can an airliner just disappear? continued

In the continuing saga of Malaysian Airlines flight 307 there was a bit of a bombshell dropped today when the Wall Street Journal reported that the Boeing 777‘s on board telemetry system continued to operate in a sort of “standby” mode for approximately 4 hours after the last confirmed radar contact with the jet.  The initial report was that monitoring systems embedded in the plane’s Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines were emitting data, but the article was corrected to say that the plane’s satellite communications link was the origin of the signals.

Rolls-Royce Trent 800 High Bypass Turbofan engine on a Boeing 777

Rolls-Royce Trent 800 High Bypass Turbofan engine on a Boeing 777

 

Modern aircraft are equipped with a digital datalink system called the Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) whereby the aircraft sends packets of information about flight systems autonomously to ground crews.  The Wall Street Journal’s anonymous sources say that according to investigators the plane’s ACARS system, though not sending data, did send signals attempting to establish a link to communication satellites and this leads investigators to believe the plane was intact and still flying.  Official sources, however, denied the report.

 

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