Can you Shoot an Arrow Backwards – into Space ?

Blue Origin Rocket Flight - Credit: Blue Origin

Blue Origin Rocket Flight – Credit: Blue Origin

You might have heard about a secretive space flight effort in the wilds of Texas that sustained an unfortunate crash recently. That was the “Blue Origin” project. (

The flight was aborted by “a flight instability” as the team called it. That, in my opinion, is a Texas sized understatement.

I’m not going to call the crash an accident, because such a crash was completely predictable just from taking a quick glance at its design. And of course they didn’t intend for it to crash, its probably just that they didn’t quite understand some fundamental rocket flight dynamics.

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How Japan Can Stop Dumping Radioactive Water in Our Ocean

Ocean Currents off Japan's North East Coast

Ocean Currents off Japan's North East Coast

The release of radioactivity from Fukushima–both as atmospheric fallout and direct discharges to the ocean–represents the largest accidental release of radiation to the ocean in history,” according to a National Science Foundation synopsis of a study.

As of February 2012, the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is still leaking radiation.

Still Leaking seriously April 2013: “Damaged Nuclear Plant in Japan Leaks Toxic Water (“120 tons, or almost 32,000 gallons, of highly contaminated water”)

This explains a simple solution to capture and store all the Radioactive Water from Fukushima until it can be taken away from the dangerous site and decontaminated – Safely, Easily, and Inexpensively.

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Future Road Track Racing Motorcycle (MotoGP) Wheelbases Will Be Far Longer

(c) Copyright 2011 David Dilworth

“Science is organized common sense where many a beautiful theory was killed by an ugly fact.” -Thomas Henry Huxley

Formula 1 Ferrari Inside Tyre Unloaded - Credit:

Formula 1 Ferrari Inside Tyre Unloaded

When Elden Racing Cars owner Brian Hampsheir hired me as Designer-Engineer to recapture their glorious former racing car fortunes, I received the opportunity to interview their previous designer. He provided lots of good engineering history and perspective, but he claimed as fact one jaw-droppingly false physics/engineering idea.

He did not understand weight transfer for race cars. In fact he had it backwards. He believed that the more weight transfer side-to-side – the faster a car could corner. I believe he even bragged that Elden’s Formula cars were narrower than all of our competitors.

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“Smart”car Start Process wins Award for Most Vexatious Unwanted Puzzle at The Wrong Time

(c) Copyright 2018 David Dilworth

"Smart"car - Not

“Smart”car – Not

I relish puzzles. My parents gave me books of them when I turned five, to keep me occupied while we drove cross-country. As they told it – I’d finished them all by the second day.

However, I’m not at all fond of puzzles when starting a car (though I might put up with some inconvenience for a Ferrari). I’m happy to leave those puzzles to Sherlock Holmes, Mensa, or anyone else. Which brings us to the so-called “Smart”car.

There are a lot of pleasant benefits with a “Smart”car. They are darn cute, lots of people smile and wave when they see it – kind of like driving with a happy puppy hanging out the window. Indeed, they are so short I really have (legally) parked it straight in to a tiny parking spot – rather than parallel to a roadway. Also the cars get good, though not amazing, gas mileage, and (if you like this sort of thing) it feels like driving a Go-Kart, particularly over undulating, curvy roads.

Further, it has a manual transmission (better gas mileage) with a clever automatic clutch – so you don’t need to shift gears if you wish. (Quick tip: since this is not documented anywhere obvious — to engage this Automatic mode you simply press the button on the side of the Gear shift stalk -.)

However, “Smart”cars have one stunningly annoying hindrance that few are fully warned about or could be prepared for – which is why I rather rudely put the “Smart” part of its name in quotes.

Here we’ll examine the multifarious ways a “Smart”car is deliberately and intentionally designed to block you, stop you, prevent you, arrest you, impede you and obstruct You — You – the legitimate user, from simply starting your car.

Starting one is almost the polar opposite of easy; compared with say a Prius where you simply Press a Start Button – and drive off.

(That’s not entirely true, for the Prius starter to work you must step on the brake pedal while pressing the Start button. However, that easily and quickly becomes second nature – whereas nothing about starting a “Smart”car ever approaches that level of ease.)

With that in mind, let me now lead you through the numerous reasonably anticipated, expected, natural, or predictable ways that Fail to start a “Smart”car. These will not only leave you motionless – making you late for work and missing your Doctor’s appointment – they will sadistically make you start the complex sequence over – again and again and again – adding at least dozens of unnecessary and not altogether pleasant thoughts to your day.

The numbered steps below are the correct way to proceed.
Other items describe traps which will leave the car sitting quietly – causing the most mild mannered person to begin, rather forcefully, spewing fulminating epithets.

1) Key in lock.

All right, that at least makes sense, but only to lull you into a false sense of ease.

2) Turn key to On.

When a “Smart”car is parked and turned off, its gear lever is not in “Park” – it is in Reverse. One cannot move the gear lever into Neutral (where it must be to start the car) until key is in the lock and Turned to On or Start – unlike most other cars built in the past 100 years.

This should give you your first clues that this was designed with a very weird set of parameters.

From here on out – abandon all contact with reasonableness.

3) Press Key Door Lock Button

Car Will NOT start if “Door Lock” is not pressed – AFTER key is in the console Start lock.
Again, contrary and opposite to nearly every other car built in the past 100 years.

Right, it doesn’t matter how many times you already Pressed the Key Door Lock Button after getting in – you have to do it again after the key is in the lock.

(Yes, you must Press Key Door Lock Button while key is in the lock even though you can’t easily see or reach the key button.)

Do not turn key to On before you Press Key Door Lock Button, or you have to turn the key back to Off and return to Step 2.

The only way to tell if this was successful is when an “R” or “N” appears in the center of the Dash to show you are in that gear and our of Reverse. Oddly, that vital little necessity is nowhere made clear or obvious to drivers.

Spoiler Alert — *** If you see a “Key” symbol instead – Car will NOT start.

In that case you must Turn key back to Off, then return to Step 2.

This step so thwarted me, for a week – I genuinely believed the battery was dead.
Even got stuck at a friend’s home late one evening and hooked up a battery charger for an hour – keeping him up past his bedtime.

The aggravating part is the “Key” symbol or “R” or “N” appears completely randomly.
Sometimes you get one, sometimes you get another. And unless you know to look at the center of the Dash to see this, you’d never know. It would save a lot of gnashed teeth if this were documented – somewhere obvious.

4) Move Gear lever into Neutral

Why you may not start the car from its de-facto Park gear lever position is a minor whodunit mystery, along with why Reverse turns into a “Parking” mode.

5) Press Brake Pedal

If you do not step on the brake while turning the key to Start,  the car will not start.

6) Turn key to Start – and (finally a helpful touch) you may let go of the key while the engine cranks over.

Soon the car starter will begin and engine will start.

7) Press Brake Pedal – again.

If you do not step on the brake, the car will not go into gear.

Oh, by the way – if the car is not fully, totally stopped when you put it in gear, you will get a “0” (zero) as opposed to an “N” or “1” or a “R” and you must backup and repeat step 5.

7) Move gear lever into “R” or “1”

Sometimes success here is random as well; moving gear lever into “R” or “1” will occasionally result in a “0” (zero) meaning it is not in gear so you have return to step 5.

8) Now that you have an “R” or “1” you may press the throttle and begin driving.

As the car begins moving under power you may let out your breath and mutter “O.M.G ! What a relief.”

In short, this “starting sequence” was either designed by a an extreme fanatic political committee, or an engineer (forgive me for using that term so loosely) who was either hates people who use their products (like most so-called “software engineers”) or is just monumentally incompetent.

Indeed, when I put my mind to it, I could not figure out how to make a more difficult car starting sequence – without resorting to making you run around the car twice, counterclockwise, barefoot, while touching the key to your ear, blinking eyes twice and whistling the Mexican Hat Dance.

He or She should be taken out back and shot without a Trial – to put a halt to this overthought (I’m being charitable here ) idiocy. It would quite surprise me if any other “Smart”car owner would object to that, or shed any tears – for the loss of a senseless life.

Bonus: Here’s another “interesting” “Smart”car surprise:

If you are driving and accidentally put the gear lever in Neutral, you may not be able to get it back into gear. This means you have to bring the car to a complete stop to get it back in gear. (As in go back to step 5). Not my favorite thing while on a Freeway or a road with no shoulders. In fact its Damn dangerous.

Changing to a slightly different focus:

Bewilderingly, the “Smart”car manual claims you can jump-start the car.

That is simply a case of pseudo-science (aka fiction). In spite of the innumerable angering experiences illustrated above – even though I doubted it before I tried, I did try a jump start using their stated method – and of course it always failed entirely. There must be more insanely un-obvious steps I missed.

My advice to the “Smart”car President – get a new designer ASAP and send the one who signed off on this Rube Goldberg monstrosity, to design things that no human will ever use — like Gasoline Powered Turtleneck Sweaters or BlueTooth Shoelaces.

# # #

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Huge Mis-Understanding of Oar Fluid Dynamics: Oars are Drag — Not Lift Devices

This morning I was astounded and then annoyed to read a leading manufacturer and designer of competitive oars – get the fundamental reason, the fluid dynamic reason, oars work – entirely wrong — to the detriment of the field.

Fluid dynamics can seem slightly difficult to understand, but with good explanations it can easily make sense. (The field is daunting to many due to the excessive use of math required to take courses barring entry to this priesthood. So lets see how well I can convey some math-free principles here.)

In any case, the unsigned article strongly, and wrongly, claims that oar blades operate using “lift” as though they work like aircraft wings.

No. The truth is that in competitive rowing, oar blades operate almost wholly as a drag devices, like a traditional circular parachute, employing drag only  – not at all like flying wings. (This is not true for all oars. Some oars not used for competitive rowing, such as Gondola oars, do use lift to a small degree.) Continue reading

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Motorcycle / Bicycle Gyroscopic Effects

Cornering Wheelie - Hayden at Laguna Seca 2011

Cornering Wheelie – Hayden at Laguna Seca 2011

(c) Copyright 2013 David Dilworth

Gyroscopic effects are one of the few physics principles that are not intuitive to me. I’ve studied them and used them for decades, yet when I spin a bicycle wheel holding it by the axle I’m still never quite certain which way the gyroscopic effects will torque the wheel – until I test it with my own hands and see which ways things move.

This is a brief overview of the three separate gyroscopic effects that affect bikes (that I wrote in part to help me remember). It does not deal with other very important bike dynamics including the several Polar Moments of Intertia (roll, yaw, pitch) that come into play when a bike is conducting a turn.

I’ve used an example of a bike turning left so this should make more sense than a page of equations or having you wade chest-deep through ambidextrous physics jargon. If I get enough encouragement I may try to make some diagrams for us all.

1. HandleBar / Gyroscopic Steer-Lean Effect: gyroscopic effect created by a steering maneuver when the front wheel is rotating.

We’ll start with some basic bike dynamics and examine the gyroscopic effects independently of each other.

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Finally-A Giant Leap Forward in Battery Technology

A ten-fold leap in stored energy density has been realized in a University of Illinois lab.

The team claims the batteries should be ten times smaller for the same power storage and they can be recharged 1,000 times faster than existing batteries.

They do this with fabrication at the molecular level using Styrofoam beads as micromolds, depositing metal on the beads and afterwards dissolving away the beads.

Super-powered battery breakthrough claimed by US team

Imagine what you can do with those.


High-power lithium ion microbatteries from interdigitated three-dimensional bicontinuous nanoporous electrodes

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News: New World Sailing Speed Record by Paul Larsen and Vestas SailRocket 55 knots (63 mph, and momentarily hits 78 mph unofficially) !

Vestas Sailrocket 2 setting new World Sailing Speed Record Credit: Helena Darvelid / Vesta Sailrocket

Vestas Sailrocket 2 setting new World Sailing Speed Record Credit: Vestas Team

(November 18, 2012: Namibia, Africa) Vestas Sailrocket 2 piloted by project leader Paul Larsen traveled at more than 55.32 knots (exceeding 60 mph and 100 kph) over a nautical mile course on Walvis Bay. For a few moments during the run the boat exceeded 70 mph (112 kph) relative to the water surface. The two records are not yet official while pending verification.

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Halting Kuwait Oil Fires with Design (1991)

Kuwait Oil Fires

Problem (in 1991) : Oil Fires generating tons of thick oil smoke every minute, polluting the Himalayas thousands of miles away.

Kuwait Oil Fire Smoke Plumes from Space

Team: Dilworth Design rapidly assembled a team of 25 volunteer scientists and engineers to provide solutions. The team diagnosed the problems, mapped out a solution and came up with about a dozen ideas. This dozen soon distilled down to a single idea – Concrete Pencils.

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Lost Aircraft Tracking System with “Breadcrumbs” – for Free

Lost Airplane

Lost Airplane

Great article on tracking crashed aircraft in Air and Space magazine November 2011 issue “Lost in America.

The article describes several types of Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) technology used to help alert family and officials that a plane has crashed, and to help rescuers find the downed plane.

It explains the old official system (operating at 121.5 mhz), a newer official system (406 mhz) and a fascinating new system with a very different improved and proven concept.

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Protected: The Productivity Paradox

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Protected: Deflecting Most Head-On Crashes – by Design

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Best Road Track Corner Driver Ever ?

Best Road Track Corner Driver Ever ?
by David Dilworth

Who is the Best Corner Driver ?

Who is the Best Corner Driver ?

In my decades of involvement in the car racing world, including teaching race car driving at Winfield’s Racing School at Goodwood in England, I’ve had the opportunity to carefully observe many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the world’s best drivers navigate road track corners: Formula 1 drivers, Can-Am drivers, USAC, CART, etc. With a few exceptions, if they raced on a road course since the 1970s – I’ve probably carefully observed their corner driving skills. From the Andrettis to Zanardi; from Jackie Stewart to Jacques Villeneuve.

I still smile in amazement at how one man’s skill in driving corners still stands so clearly above the rest. His driving was aesthetically magnificent. Fast, smooth, graceful, yes, even elegant. The way he drove a corner was a genuine dynamic masterpiece.

And I’ll be shocked if you can guess who I’m talking about.

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Preventing Oil-Tanker Spills With Proven Aircraft Technology

Preventing Oil-Tanker Spills With Aircraft Technology (c) Copyright 1990-2005 David Dilworth

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

Exxon Valdez Oil SpillCredit: USGS

This is a concept for an inexpensive, but not free, lunch. Converting proven technology can dramatically reduce the serious harms from oil tanker spills and their fires and lower the cost of oil and gasoline by reducing the cost of oil shipping insurance. Continue reading

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Replace Car Batteries Instantly – No Charge

Electric Racing Bike

Very Quick Electric Racing Bike

A couple of weeks ago I saw electric racing motorcycles at Laguna Seca. I was shocked (sorry) at how quick they were. In the medium speed section of the course, a few bikes were approaching the speed of the fastest MotoGP bikes. Based on my experience with electric racing vehicles, I predict they will very soon be the quickest bikes on the track, especially if they adopt longer wheelbases first.

However, at last year’s Laguna Seca electric bike race, just like in auto racing when you run out of gas, the leading bike ran out of electric “juice” on the last lap – losing out on victory.

So far most engineers and the press believe electric cars are stuck with long recharging time for batteries.

That’s a colossal failure of imagination.

What do we do when digital camera batteries fail – do we wait for it to recharge?
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Understanding of Two Fundamental Physics Phenomena Improved Dramatically

Here are two articles on landmark research explaining how we mis-understood two static physics phenomena prior to 2011: Static Friction and Static Electricity.

Static Friction Demonstration

Static Friction DemonstrationCredit:

1. Static Friction
“How Earthquakes Can Be Predicted: Researchers Reveal New Means”

These researchers found the coefficient of friction can vary by five-fold when measured at molecular size. They also found three very different kinds of stick-slip friction: below, at and above the speed of sound.
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Fukoshima Blue Flashes and Neutron Beams = Criticality Accident (Fission)

There are three alarming things observed at Fukoshima, that aren’t getting much US media attention: Blue Flashes, 13 separate Neutron emission detections and radioactive Chlorine.

Radioactive Warning

Radioactive Warning

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Understanding Radioactivity Harm Thresholds (in plain English)

Do you understand the nuclear radioactivity levels resulting from the Japanese nuclear plant crisis?

Radioactive Warning

Radioactive Warning

Can you figure out how much radioactivity is dangerous?

This article explains the three major ways radioactivity is measured, to help you compare the numbers reported by the media – so you can make up your own mind whether the amount of radioactive material leakage is dangerous.

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Radiation or Radioactivity ?

Mainstream news stories almost always confuse radiation and radioactive (materials), which are significantly different things.

Radiation Harm Chart



    only affects things locally, very locally. While

Radioactive material

    can spread in the air and water and emit ionizing radiation all the way around the world.

Here are two examples of correct and wrong usage:

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Persistence – Inspiration

“Nothing in this world can take the place of Persistence.

“Talent will not;

nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.

“Genius will not;

unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

“Education will not;

the world is full of educated derelicts.

“Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

That idea comes to us courtesy of former US President Calvin Coolidge. Here’s a version I first used in the 1970s :

“Persistence is the most powerful tool known to womankind”
-David Dilworth, 1979

Go get em.

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