Flipping Cats – Smarter Everyday

You all knew it was going to come to this. In my bid for infinite internet fame and glory I will now be posting a cat video. What we’ll be talking about today is one of the universe’s great mysteries. How does a cat always land on its feet?

Before you start the video, here’s a little background information on Moment of Inertia. Don’t worry, it’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds and you already intuitively understand it from your time on the playground as a kid/kid at heart. Lets start with the conservation of energy. Lets say you have two boys sitting on skateboards that you are going to push down the sidewalk. One of them is skinny and one is fat. If we give both kids a push with the same amount of force, which one will go faster? Well that’s easy; the skinny kid goes faster because he has less mass. You could even go as far as to say that the fat kid’s extra mass makes him resistant to acceleration.

OK, now lets take that same concept and apply it to the merry-go-round. With the kids on skateboard we were looking at their linear speed rolling down the sidewalk. On the merry-go-round we’ll be looking at how fast it’s spinning. The two cases we’re going to compare are when everybody sits in the center of the merry-go-round vs. the outer edge. Even though the merry-go-round passengers weigh the same in both cases, the merry-go-round is easier to turn when everybody is sitting in the center because it has a smaller moment of inertia. The energy put into spinning the merry-go-round results in a higher RPM just like skinny kid went faster on the skateboard when we pushed him. When all the passengers move to the outside, the moment of inertia increases and the merry-go-round becomes more resistant to gaining RPM’s just like the fat kid on the skateboard was resistant to acceleration. So the next time some weirdo asks you about the moment of inertia of something, all you have to do is think about how fat the merry-go-round is.

Now watch the cat video:

You can think of the cat as having two merry-go-rounds attached to its spine, one from its front legs and one from its rear legs. Spreading one pair of legs increases their moment of inertia which gives the cat something to “push off of” to rotate the other pair of legs even though it’s free falling. This gives the cat the ability to rotate each pair of legs so they’re always pointed at the ground. Unfortunately this means there’s no mythical spinning force that causes cats to always land on their feet. That doesn’t make the concept of the buttered-toast-taped-to-a-cat perpetual motion machine any less hilarious, though.

Sources: Smarter Every Day and Flying Horse on YouTube

A New Page in the Evolution of the GT-R

I’m not going to do my usual number of posts today because I’d like everybody to focus their attention to this video released by the Nissan Newsroom. It’s a 20 minute mini-documentary about the GT-R development team’s experience at this year’s 24 hours of Nurburgring. I know it’s a lot to ask of your internet browsing time, but please trust my judgement on this one if you have enjoyed the content of this blog. The documentary has a backdrop of racing, but I wouldn’t say it was about racing. Instead, it’s a truly moving record of a group of engineers and mechanics who have the utmost passion for the development of the automotive pride of Japan. The GT-R development team entered the 24 hours of Nurburgring as a separate entity from Nissan’s factory racing branch, NISMO. Their goals were not to produce a special race car for the event. Their entry was a 2013 GT-R Track Package that was mostly production based. The team used the race to expose the GT-R’s weaknesses at higher speeds and more importantly to grow the skills of the engineers and mechanics responsible for the car’s development under harsh conditions. They knew that they would have to become better at building GT-R’s if they were going to meet the hopes and dreams of their future customers. The GT-R program is unique in that it has continued in full scale development even after the car was released. That’s why the new 2013 model is almost incomparably good when put next to the first 2007 GT-R. In the end, the failure of a 12 cent c-clip prevented the team from having perfect race results, but they were more than successful in growing the teams ability to shape the future of the GT-R. Head over to our Facebook page to discuss this video with other Flux Auto fans.

Source: Nissan Newsroom on YouTube

2012 Pikes Peak EV Comparison – What Could Have Been

The last of the coverage from this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is still trickling in. I came across a couple of videos of the Toyota Motorsports Group EV P002 and Monster Tajima’s E-Runner that presented a nice opportunity to do a side by side comparison. What makes this interesting is that the E-Runner DNF’ed due to technical failure, but was dominating the EV class during practice. Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima beat Fumio Nutahara in the Toyota by almost 13 seconds on the 5.16 mile lower section of the course during qualifying. Tajima had set up the E-Runner with a mixed tarmac and gravel suspension settings on the first day because he was expecting a lot of gravel to be pulled onto the road surface from the side of the road which never happened. Monster switched to a faster pure tarmac setup for the later practice runs on the middle and top sections of the course. Nutahara won the EV class in the TMG EV P002 on race day and was less than 30 seconds off of the overall record set by Rhys Millen in his Formula D car. Monster Tajima DNF’ed with a motor failure, but what if he had been able to finish? Would he have been in contention to defend his overall record? After watching these two videos, I think he could have done it. This is footage of both the Toyota Motorsports Group EV P002 and Monster Tajima’s E-Runner on the top section of the course on the last day of practice before race day. Identical course and conditions make this an excellent comparison of speed. The two cars aren’t worlds apart, but the E-Runner is visibly faster and seems more stable. I think it definitely would have been within the realm of possibility for the E-Runner to pull a 30 second gap on the Toyota over the length of the 12.42 mile course. Hopefully Monster Tajima can get the kinks worked out for the race next year and put an EV on top of the overall podium.

Video 1: Fumio Nutahara in the Toyota Motorsports Group EV P002 practice run on the top section of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb 2012.


Video 2: Monster Tajima in the E-Runner on the same course on the same day:


Sources: Technologic Vehicles and GoPro on YouTube.

Subaru BRZ Impressions

A friend of mine picked up one of the first Subaru BRZ’s in North Carolina last month and he was gracious enough to let me tag along and drive it for a few minutes. This won’t be a complete in-depth review because I wasn’t about to flog my friend’s brand new car. If you’re trying to find out about at-the-limit performance characteristics, read/watch one of the professional media reviews where they beat on a nameless press car. There are plenty of them here on this blog. I’ll be talking more about the philosophy and execution of the car and what kind of buyers it’ll be suited for. The Scion FRS/Subaru BRZ/Toyota GT-86 is supposed to be the spiritual successor of the Toyota AE86 (Corolla GT-S Sport RWD here in the US) which I’ve owned one for the last 10 years, so we’ll see if both cars are cut from the same cloth. Hopefully Subaru/Toyota did a great job of modernizing a cult classic.
Continue reading