This steam car is not all hot air

Posted by jerry on July 16th, 2008 — Posted in Journal, Steam, Technology

The British Steam Car Challenge aims to break a world steam car record set by a Stanley steamer that has stood for 100 years. But if you thought this is some romantic harking back to an Edwardian world using Victorian technology, think again. This is today’s technology right now. Your plug-in electric car uses it, the internet runs on it and your house is lit by it. The steam turbine lies at the heart of modern electric power stations, whether nuclear or conventionally fueled. And that is a clue.

British Steam Car Challenge

External combustion engines can use a wider range of fuels than any other technology. So a steam car can run on fossil fuel oils, or biodiesel, or alcohol or old vegetable oil. And the burners run clean. The British steam car challenge car will burn its fuel completely, producing almost no harmful emissions – unlike the internal combustion engine. Its two-stage turbine producing almost 270kw is designed to take this three tonne car to speeds in excess of 270kph powered by LPG.

Eight years in the making, this car is in every way a testament to the dedication of this small team of British enthusiasts. And despite being a purpose-built sprint car, the lessons learnt from demonstrating the practicalities of the steam generators and associated control systems could well be applied in a future steam hybrid car or a worthy successor to the Doble, Stanley and White cars of the past. External combustion could well be one of the green high performance solutions to our current love affair with fossil fuels.

The car will be driven at the Bonneville salt flats during Speed Week this year in August – by Don Wales (grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell) and Charles Burnett III.

If you stop by their website before 30 July you can donate £1.00 and be part of history in the making, adding your name to the car and contributing to an extraordinary team.


Steampunk mouse mod

Posted by jerry on July 13th, 2008 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology, Writing

It’s official. Steampunk is a global phenomenon. This mouse mod which turns the humble computer rodent into a Victorian-style aesthetic masterpiece was made in Russia, where there is apparently a strong modding community.

steampunk mouse

Steampunk itself is derived from a sub-genre of cyberpunk science fiction that emerged with the likes of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling in the mid 1980s. Steam-punk is a spin-off that postulates an alternative future in which contemporary functionality is produced in a kind of Victorian/Edwardian era. It was given huge impetus by the publication of Gibson and Sterling’s “The Difference Engine” which envisages a world in which Charles Babbage’s programmable mechanical computer develops into a steam driven Victorian version of today’s world.

In keeping with that aesthetic, enthusiasts have shoehorned modern computer equipment into elaborate brass and leather devices which have today’s functionality with the aesthetics of yesteryear – when machines were handcrafted with pride.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet – like you’ve never seen it before!

Posted by jerry on July 3rd, 2008 — Posted in Journal

I loved this slightly irreverent version of Hamlet – its humour is quite true to the original intent methinks 🙂


New SecondLife blog – No(wh)ere

Posted by jerry on July 3rd, 2008 — Posted in New media, Technology

New SecondLife blog Nowhere/Now here is one to keep an eye on. Teal Etzel ranges from a whimsical review of a Greenies sim to in-world tutorials, which will take much of the work out of finding good content in SecondLife.


Sydney Biennale 2008: Revolution – Forms that turn

Posted by jerry on June 23rd, 2008 — Posted in Journal, Travel

It turned out that we were in Sydney just in time for the opening of the Sydney Biennale at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

You could tell something was up by the way the old sandstone building was covered with graffiti – but this wasn’t just any old graffiti…


And inside it seemed that the main theme was inversions. Like indigenous artist Gordon Bennett’s rejected proposal to hang all the aboriginal art in the main galleries and relegate the European stuff to the basement – and hang everything upside down. He had to be content with an honourable mention and a model of what the hang might have looked like.

The foyer was dominated by two main works- one, a performance piece by Bulgarian artist Nedko Solakov (b.1957). The work – called “A Life (Black and White)” comprised two painters – each dressed in mirror image of white tee shirt and white overalls or black tee shirt and black overalls, painting the walls of the foyer. One painted the walls white while the other overpainted in black, and vice versa – for the duration of the exhibition in an endless loop. Perhaps it is a commentary on the futility of intentionality. And it works on so many levels.


Perth artist James Angus (b.1970) installed his “Bugatti Type 35” in the foyer. Made from steel, aluminium, rubber, leather, fibre glass and automobile lacquer, his piece comments on the car’s original designer Ettore Bugatti, who trained as an artist and became an auto designer. His Type 35 in the 1920s redefined the car and the notion of speed. Angus’ exquisitely finished version is skewed by 30 degrees – referencing speed, but at the same time rendering all functionality impossible with ellipsoid wheels as though the whole car was distorted by speed, yet snap frozen never to move again.


Further in, as you get to the standard displays I enjoyed the whimsical piece that I immediately christened “Bugger” – depicting two porcelain busts on pedestals gazing down at the broken shards of a third bust scattered on the floor. The piece is by Italian artist Giulio Paolini (b. Genoa 1940), and is called ‘L’Alto figura’, and was produced in 1984.

broken fate

And I always enjoy the Canaletto painting in the European section – And although he painted many similar scenes, I love the detail in this work, as though he were trying to convey information about the culture of the time, including the technology and the economy of Venice in the 17th century.


Don’t forget to visit the Living Black exhibition downstairs – there are great kinetic works by George Ward Tjungurray, and intriguing work by Billy Thomas leading you into a kind of reading between the dots. He has painted ceremony – but under erasure, with a profusion of white dots obscuring the subject. This is a really thought provoking piece.

The Biennale brings together 180 artists from 42 countries and includes 65 new works. The exhibition is on from 18 June until 7 September. And it is well worth a visit – what do you think?