All entries for January 2005

January 25, 2005

Thinking of the Final Fling already?

Writing about web page

I'm surprised nobody's blogged this yet! I'll gladly chip in an extra few quid if we get the Killers; anybody care to join me in this?

A geeky chortle

The following was spotted while browsing technical forums (fora?) related to my fourth-year, racing car project (explanatory post still in mental prodution). It refers to a Yamaha single-cylinder bike engine.
Please note you won't find the firing order in
any of the published Yamaha Service material,
and you need this info to program the ECU.
Our engine guy spent weeks chasing down this
info. We finally determined cylinder firing order
as below:


Hope this helps.
It can't only be me that laughed at that?

January 23, 2005


It's been a few days since I put any photos on here. Let's rectify that.

This appealed a few nights ago while I was sat at my desk:

Friday was a beautiful sunny morning and I was leaving the house early; the angle of the shadows seemed fairly photogenic… Let's be honest, I'm only posting this picture because I can oh-so-wittily give it the caption "Early Man". Sorry.

Finally, I was taking photos today for a friend's fourth year group project (they were stability-testing a prototype hydrofoil sailing dinghy in the Sports Centre swimming pool). I saw a couple of mildly creative shots, the last being a refelction looking out of the window of the swimming pool for those of you who can't figure it out!

January 22, 2005


Time for a lazy blog today. Here are a few of the fairly well-known albums I own, to which I believe everyone would greatly enjoy listening. In no particular order (OK, in alphabetical order, smartarse):

Athlete – Vehicles & Animals
Beth Orton – Pass In Time
Elbow – Cast of Thousands
Futureheads – The Futureheads
Idlewild – The Remote Part
JJ72 - JJ72
Katie Melua – sorry but I like it - Call Off The Search
Killers – Hot Fuss
Kings of Convenience – Versus
Libertines – (both albums)
Starsailor – Love Is Here
Strokes – Is This It
Turin Brakes – Ether Song

You should also take your pick of anything by Muse, Radiohead (maybe not Kid A) and Stereophonics (although the third album J.E.E.P. is the weakest). A 'minority report' post, featuring the incredible but deceased Silverman, the very chilled Lorna and rockers Miazma, will be forthcoming at some point.

January 21, 2005

The campaigning begins

Writing about web page

The list of candidates for the Union's primary elections is out! Note that most candidates will not upload their finalised manifestos until the Monday deadline.

Three bloggers and a current Sabb are among those going for President – definitely a strong field. One or two of the other positions are a little more clear-cut in terms of realistic choices, but then the current batch of Sabbs is the first in the last 3 years in which all or nearly all of the best candidates actually won. Union elections are funny old things sometimes.


Writing about News for consumers: Stuff is getting cheaper from Neighbourhood #1

Well I'm on a roll tonight! Two very different branches of my engineering degree employed in the space of 1000 words and about 2 hours. Anyway, this is a reply to Iyobosa, who is happy at a BBC report on the trend for consumer goods to be ever-cheaper while the cost of repairing them is rocketing. I'm glad the BBC article also hints – slightly – at the appalling waste of resources that results from this.

If consumers demand the absolute minimum price for an item, manufacturers will seek to cut corners to produce their budget model. This breaks down after a year, or 6 months, but hey, it's cheaper to throw it away and buy a new one than get the old one repaired.

Suddenly there's an increasing market turnover of this item – instead of buying one and using it for 15 years, repairing it maybe twice in its lifetime, consumers will see it break and replace it within three, as it's the cheaper option. Why, therefore, should the makers manufacture something engineered for more than a 5 year lifespan? That would waste them a lot of money.

Now you're in a situation where people are happy to buy the latest model of this item, use it for a short period of time and then throw it away. Even if you could set up a multi-multi-million pound scheme to recycle all of the materials, you've still lost the resources consumed in producing the energy to manufacture the product in the first place.

The 100% recycling concept isn't practical anyway. It would be a massively expensive process, consuming lots of energy and man-hours. The process is often not even possible, particularly when the product is engineered for ever-cheaper production costs, e.g. with snap-fit fastenings instead of screws. If the product is never going to be repaired, there's no need to design a means by which it can be taken apart easily!

Household waste in the UK is growing faster than the economy; our recycling rates – around 12% of domestic waste – are about the lowest in Europe. Britain's landfill sites are literally filling up (some counties have very nearly no space left) and, as waste needs to be dumped further and further afield, more and more diesel is used in transporting it there.

All of this helps explains things such as the new EU Directive known as WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment), and talk of lots of extra taxes on companies and hence individual products, but it still does not give sufficient voice to why the increasingly prevalent use-and-dispose ethos in our society is such a bad thing.

A splash in the pan

Writing about Things I'll never understand [part II] from Michael - Dutiful Bandsaw

Michael asked a question about peeing. I suggest you read his question before you read this response, unless you are very, very easily offended, in which case browse elsewhere for today.

Before I start, note that a urethra is a urethra either way and so this will also apply to ladies. Girls may not poo (a well-known fact), but they definitely pee, often in large groups when they're in a bar.

Most engineering students would be able to tell you the answer here. edit: Or so I thought. I had to spend quite a while on this and may still have missed something more obvious...

I'll attempt to put it simply but explain it fully. I hope even non-scientists will be able to follow this. This is not something I'd like to do a thesis on by the way, Michael. (But then I'm not a fluid dynamicist, thankfully).

Fluid dynamicists are obsessed with non-dimensionalising everything so that their equations will work for any type of fluid, flowing at any speed, through a channel of any size or under any other variations of conditions.

The first non-dimensional number you learn in Fluids is the Reynolds number, which combines the viscosity and density of the fluid, the flow speed and a "characteristic length" – the size of a flow channel, or of the obstruction in the flow you're looking at (e.g. an aircraft's wing thickness). In this case, "width of channel" is more appropriate. We can assume here that channel size, flow velocity and viscosity and density of urine are similar for all men. And women.

Now, in an ideal world, flow is nice and smooth (think of a tap turned on just enough that you get a steady flow). However, no real pipe is perfectly smooth and this certainly applies to a biological tube such as the urethra. Above a certain Reynolds number (approximately 2000 for pipe flow), flow becomes unstable and prone to turbulence. Roughness can trip a smooth flow into turbulence, and this is what happens when you pee. If you pee faster you'll notice that the flow becomes more turbulent, as the Reynolds number increases with velocity.

At normal peeing speed, the flow is on the point of turbulence, we've established that. But what about the corkscrew? That's a result of the surface tension of the liquid keeping the molecules in a steady stream. This is a viscous effect.

Now back to your whisky bottle: the fluid is probably similarly viscous and dense. The bottle's neck is smoother and certainly wider(!) than in the first example, but you're also pouring much faster. Thus you're replicating similar conditions, so are at a similar Reynolds number and see a similar flow regime.

Note that the Navier-Stokes equations which describe fluid flow are not soluble by anybody in the world at the moment. Some more pessimistic fluid dynamicists have suggested that mathematically they may never be solved (merely approximated to very well).

The Coriolis Effect – a hideously complicated phenomenon arising, I believe, from centripetal acceleration as a result of the earth's rotation – appears on a significant scale mainly for applications such as predicting weather patterns (i.e. fluid flow in the atmosphere). It doesn't have any real effect in this case, and certainly not on bathwater when you pull the plug out!

January 20, 2005

My precious bodily fluids

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, this is the War Room!"

Love it.

January 19, 2005


I have a big smile on my face.

It's not the fact that I won tonight's pub quiz (or that I consumed a number of pints in the process). It's not (alas) that I'm in love. It's that my house is relatively clean!

I arrived home before 3 to find a recalcitrant housemate actually washing up. Taking full exploitative advantage, I was soon scrubbing the walls and cooker hood to guilt-trip him into tidying the lounge, which he did! He even, bless him, washed the kitchen floor while I was out recycling the bottles and newspapers. So now, apart from my room itself (work in progress), my world is ordered and clean for the first time in a long while and I can concentrate on putting in silly hours on work, procrastination and winning pub quizzes.

I also have other things to smile about. For example, I've arranged a fun evening tomorrow and I have four separate social events in my diary for Thursday night, having already vetoed the organisation of two more which would involve me! I love being busy.

A further announcement

I hereby note that Luke asked me to enlighten you all about what I called "our racing car". Said post is in mental production and will be published at such point as I get some time. Suffice to say it'll be a bit of a rant because I think know said car is very cool.

January 18, 2005

War of the Worlds

Writing about web page

I got very excited when I read a comment on Sarah's blog just now – a forthcoming film of War of the Worlds! But… Spielberg? Tom Cruise? Rubbish poster with tagline "They're already here"?

Hearing that incredible, unmatchable intro "...being watched by intelligences greater than our own..." "...slowly, and surely, drew their plans against us" transposed into a generic American trailer voiceover was actually a traumatic experience.

You should know that the very best thing about War of the Worlds – apart from the fact that it petrified me when I was 10 – is that it's based around where I grew up. Weybridge, Byfleet and the Chertsey Meads all get plenty of mentions throughout the story. I used to picture the alien machines striding across the Meads behind my school, with the vivid imagination you lose as childhood fades.

This film – "the extraordinary battle for the future of humankind through the eyes of one American family fighting to survive it" for ****'s sake – should be stopped at all costs.

January 2005

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