Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Tale of Two Red Cars

  
Bugatti Vayron

This is the tale of two motor events that took place last month. Now, I'm a sucker for a fast sports car. Especially if it's red. I go all googly at the sight of one. Immature, I know. Call it childish, I just can't help myself.

The first motor event was the release of the world's fastest convertible, a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Red Edition. It was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show. This super car, powered by a W16 engine delivering 987hp, is capable of a top speed of 253 mph. 0 to 62 comes up in 2.7 seconds and it's packed with the latest in motoring technology.

The second unveiling was at Pebble Beach in the USA. A 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa was sold at auction. Although this car raced at Le Mans (without winning) it's a snail compared to the Veyron's performance figures.

The Veyron was $2.4 million. A world record and it's new.
The Ferrari was $16.4 million, also a world record and 54 years old with plenty of miles on the clock.

This Bugatti is a rich boy's car because you need a healthy ticker to even get insured to drive it. This Ferrari is a rich old man's fantasy car. The one he promised himself if he ever made it big. Personally, being a poor old man, I must settle for the matchbox toy version of the Testa Rossa. No tech but all class.

The Wall Street Journal reports that although the income of the rich, who buy these vehicles, has remained flat since 2008 for obvious reasons, paradoxically the price of these classic cars continues to soar, showing that the prices of collectible cars may be de-coupling from the Western stock markets and its top income earners.

So who's buying them and forcing the prices up? Step forward the inscrutable nouveau riche from the Far East and China. The world really is changing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ride the skies with NASA

Click to enlarge


Following Ole C Salomonsen's great picture (below) of the Northern Lights, NASA have released this space age shot taken from the International Space Station in Earth orbit over Eastern Australia on September 11th. It captures the Southern Lights formed as charged particles streaming from the Sun, known as the solar wind, interact with Earth's magnetic field.

The resultant collisions with atoms of oxygen and nitrogen in the upper atmosphere release energy in the form of photons, emitted at wavelengths the human eye sees as 'green.'  The sun's rays reflect off plants at the same wavelength, which is why plants, too, look green to us.

You can see the stunning NASA video here:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Stunning display of the Northern Lights

 Click on the picture to enlarge


This spectacular picture of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights, seen over a pond near Hillesoy, Norway was titled Earth and Space by Ole C Salomonsen, the Norwegian photographer who took it.

It has been named runner up (and my favourite) in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2011 awards organised by the Royal Observatory Greenwich and Sky at Night magazine.

Wikipedia tells me:
'An aurora is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere. The charged particles originate in the magnetosphere and solar wind and are directed by the Earth's magnetic field into the atmosphere.'
So now you know.

A free exhibition of the best pictures can be seen at the Observatory until February 2012 and they are quite stunning. You can see some here:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11

I can't read about 9/11. Even now it's 10 years on. It's all over the news. Old revisited footage, planes penetrating the top floors and airport CCTV of the plotters at large mixed in with smiling, happy snapshots of the dead.

The thought still shears my gut.

I know why the media show it. Hell, I was one of them. I've done this stuff on other past disasters. Plenty of them. The forward planner churns it out and off you go to regurgitate it, clippings in hand.

But not this one.

I don't know if I ever will be able to face up to it. I wasn't involved, not even in the Country where it occurred. It's the sheer obscenity of it that chokes me up. Like wanting to visit a slaughterhouse. Why? This tragic group of people have passed on, never to be forgotten but surely not to be revisited for the sake of TV ratings?

The pious producers will say 'because they should not be forgotten.'

I get that, I really do. Just like the Holocaust should not be. I just don't believe that's the true motive.

As I said, not for me. The negativity chills my blood. My deepest respect to those touched by this evil day - but it's not a fairground ride and I'm not ready for it.

Perhaps the generation unborn in 2001 will view it dispassionately without wrestling with the need for vengeance. It just makes me want to cry out with the pain of it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Freaks!


How's this for a front cover! Author Caroline Smailes collaborated with Nik Perring to write 50 illustrated short stories about unique and quirky characters, misfits if you like. The talented Darren Craske created the art.

The dynamic and beautiful Caroline successfully authored 'In Search of Adam' followed by 'Black Boxes' and 'Like Bees to Honey.'

Nik produced an acclaimed debut short story collection titled, 'Not so Perfect.'

I can't wait to get inside it and see these fascinating freaks up close! At last something good to look forward to in April 2012 instead of your tax returns.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Harnessing Scotland's wind power



My good Scottish friend, David Cairns sent me this amazing picture he took of Stirling Castle surrounded by an army of wind turbines in the Braes O'Doune. The lower image shows it as it was. The castle has withstood many bloody sieges in its long history including that of Bonnie Prince Charlie. I hate to think what the modern Prince Charles thinks of it. Scotland has plenty of wind but also much water to generate hydro-electric power. Surely water power is a nicer, cleaner, more environmental source of energy than these three-armed monsters cluttering up the beautiful hillsides of the glens?