Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Engineer's Tears

When I was a youngster I wanted to make model airplanes that actually flew. I learned from JP, big brother of a schoolfriend, how to design and build a basic airframe that would get off the ground and fly level.
It's not that hard, folks.
If you are flying faster, the rules are slightly different e.g. wing profiles for supersonic aircraft are different and the need for a smooth aerodynamic form is much more pronounced.

Anyone who takes an interest in flying things can pick up a lot of it from looking at the plentiful working examples - so why are fictional aircraft always done by people who ignore all the rules?

Here's a few examples from the DAZ site that make me throw up my hands in horror:

This baby even has a tank turret on top: weird, but take a look at the front profile of it. This thing (if it flies at all) is gonna be very slow. I'm also puzzled by the extra engines above the body that don't seem to be working. Oh wait - if they were turned on they would burn off the tailplane ! 

This one doesn't seem to have enough wing area to get off  the deck. 'nuff said.

This attempts to be the airborn equivalent of the jetski.  Ignoring the wing area issue for a moment, there is just one slight problem with that: the flyer is exposed to turbulent winds.  Provided you were flying at biplane-type speeds that could be okay - but then you would need much, much bigger wings.  Now ask yourself how the pilot is going to control this thing while standing up, buffeted by 100 mph-plus winds and no rudder pedals.
 I hope he has very strong arms !

 Ah,  I say- this one actually looks like it has enough wing area to get off  the ground, although the jet exhausts look a bit small for the size of craft.  Oh - hang on, where are all the control surfaces? where is the elevators - or any pitch control for that matter?
 . . . . . and then I saw another view . . . . .
What should be the main engine air intakes are partly closed off flat !  Add to that the louvres in the wing (so much for enough lifting surface to fly, sigh!) and once again this is just crazy.

Finally . . . . . . .
This is actually the best of the lot IMHO because it does not fall down on any of the foolishness shown above.
Aerodynamic? check.
Possibly enough thrust to get off the ground? check.
Possibly enough control to navigate? check.  (note those exhaust ducts on the tail?)

There's' just a couple of itty bitty problems.
 First, look at the front: the view from the pilot's seat is obscured forward so you won't see what's directly ahead.
Okay, maybe it has a camera and screen so the pilot sits behind armourplate. 

The other one is pretty obscure, so I don't really expect the creator of this flyer to know about it :- the man trouble with VTOL craft using jets is exhaust gas ingestion or EGI for short: when that happens, thrust drops off and the flyer comes down. Everything works fine once you are up in the air, it's those few feet above the runway that are the problem.  The Harrier jump jet uses some clever design to get away from it as much as possible but this design will get EGI in about one second -  that's why we don't have lots of VTOL flyers around using this method.

So in summary I will have to make my own SF flyers and spaceships  if I want them to pass muster.
More work, but at least I can be sure they will look like they might actually fly.
I might even be able to sell them on a website somewhere for pocket money. 

If you are interested, the place to go for some great design ideas for flying machines and spacecraft  (nearly real and real ones, that is !) is Scott Lowther's excellent Aerospace Projects Review Blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What happenned to the phone

Remember I said my iPhone was misbehaving? I took it to the local "genius" bar where I was told that the dock connector had "liquid damage" and would need to be replaced.
Cost from Apple? 180 bucks.
Well, I ain't made o' money so I decided to try something cheaper: the local  mofo repair guy. He charged 80 bucks and did it in half an hour.

The connector definitely failed: the reason the earphones kept cutting out was that the phone thought there was a dock connection going on.  okay. . . . . but $180 to replace the part?  Even repair guy appears to be getting money for jam - really, how much does the replacement part cost? and labour? I am very certain it did not take half an hour.

So, for anyone else out there, get the best protection for your mofo you can get. I have an Otter  Defender case which is pretty good ( it's about as drop- proof a case as you can get) , but my work is very messy at times and I got slack, leaving it in my uniform  where it got coated in gunk - so I cleaned it: apparently even a wipe with a wet cloth was too much for it.  . . so now I have a plastic bag with one of those airtight seals on it and the phone screen can still be used inside that (although I'm not sure what the sound is like!)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lytro hits the stores

I have mentioned the Lytro camera once before: it really is not the same as any other "camera" in  that you can adjust the focus and other things after the picture has been taken.

It's now on sale in the US so I hope it turns up here soon too - although probably it will be at a higher price (typically, not for any good reason though).
There is something of great potential here - can't quite say what it will be used for, but I know it will turn up. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Okay. I don't normally read comics . . . but this one is really, really good. The art is good - but the story is awesome - wish I could write as well as this man, and he draws it too, a page (or two!) each week.
Adventure, wit and great humor all in one comic!
Christopher Baldwin I salute you.

Here's the link to a sample. Below the toon you will find the "start" and "next" buttons.