Thursday, February 27, 2020

Unblocking Blockchain

Dr Ryan
Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Dr Philippa "Pip" Ryan has been speaking on standards work to develop smart contracts at the Blockchain Technology, Data Management and Smart Contracts conference. Appropriately, but somewhat confusingly, Pip was not here, but in Chicago, on the end of a video link. She mentioned how the standards committee have tried to include developing nations by undertaking some of their work online.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Super-charabanc Peoplemover

Greetings from the Australian National University where Dr Antonia Terzi is speaking on the engineering of the Superbus. This is a prototype high speed people mover. It looks like a stretched super-car, to carry 23 passengers. This is not a practical transport system, but an interesting marketing exercise. Dr Terzi detailed the engineering of a vehicle which could travel at high speed, but also through city streets. However, the aerodynamics would be irrelevant in reality, as a bus (or as this would be more accurately called a "Charabanc"), would not operate at high speed for a significant amount of time.

Artist''s impression of Brisbane Metro Vehicle.
From Brisbane City Council
There have been similar examples of making public transport look attractive to the public. An example are the vehicles for the Brisbane Metro. The articulated buses for this service are being fitted with streamlined noses, and wheel covers, to make them look like light rail. The streamlining and wheel covers have no practical function: they are purely decorative, but are very important to making the service acceptable to the public.

Bishop Austrans Pod
An example of good engineering with poor marketing input was the Bishop Austrans rapid transit system. Australian company Bishop Austrans rapid transit system. This used people-mover sized vehicle pods,  on a light track. Bishop engaged CSIRO to model how many pods would be needed for a given number of customers. Bishop's pods are very similar to the superbus, both being based on automotive technology adapted to on demand public transport. However, Bishop's pods were very unexciting, looking like something from an old science fiction movie, whereas the superbus looks like something from a new movie.

Dressing up a public service in an unnecessary streamlined shell may seem a waste of engineering talent. However, engineering is of no value if the public doesn't want the products produced. One way I suggest this can be does is by providing entrepreneurial training.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Innovation in Difficult Times

Greetings from the Canberra Innovation Network, where Andrew Barr, Chief Minister of the ACT,  just opened their new co-working space. He pointed out "we are going to have to be innovative". One challenge was that due to fires the ACT can' t recycle materials: so how to we keep this out of landfill. Also the ACT has to respond to changing climate, and further reduce carbon emissions. While Canberra doesn't have net emissions from electricity, the Chief Minister admitted there was much more to do. Another challenge was the Wuhan coronavirus and its effect on Canberra's education sector.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Less Wobbly Toilet Seat With a Cake Pan and a Piece of Car Trim

Toilet seat with top fixings,
and take off fixing.
Over Christmas I stayed with friends who had a wobbly toilet seat. This is the type with "top fixing", a concealed hinge and "take off" seat, all of which makes it less secure.

seat fixing kit
The fixings were loose, and no amount of tightening made a difference. So I bought a seat fixing kit. The nylon plugs were more secure, and the Allen keyed bolts were easier to tighten than the Phillips-head originals.

cake pan
However, the fitting on the replacement kits was smaller than the original, and the seat would not clip on. So I used the replacement bolt and plug, with the original fitting, which worked fine. Refitting the seat, I found it more secure, but it still wobbled. So next I added silicone gaskets (cut from a cake pan).

PVC Pinchweld
The gaskets made the mounting more secure, but it still slipped. So the final step was to add 340 mm of PVC Pinchweld to the front lip of the seat. This fits around the outside of the front quarter of the toilet bowl, and locks the seat in place, stopping it moving sideways.