Back to the future with Sir Clive Sinclair

Paul Raven @ 05-11-2010

If you’d asked me what the twenty-tens would look like back in 1985, I don’t think I’d have said “1985”. But that’s the oroboros of culture for you, I guess; not only are the streets of big cities packed with preening hipsters dressed exactly like the alpaca-esque post-punks I used to be somewhat intimidated (yet subliminally inspired) by as they lurked moodily around the local war memorials, but Sir Clive Sinclair – the chap who gave his name to the ZX Spectrum computers that lurked in the corner of every second British kid’s bedroom around that time – is once again making a bid to populate the urban streets of Britain with what is in essence an electric-assisted bicycle in a plastic shell.

You’ve got to admire Sinclair’s classic British pluck, really; the C-5 remains an iconic example of duff eighties futurism, a gloriously eccentric failure and testament to well-meaning but ultimately misguided innovative engineering. The C-5 was ugly, fragile, and more than a little silly. So, has Sir Clive learned from the mistakes of the past?

The Sinclair C5, circa 1985:

Sinclair C5

The Sinclair X1, circa 2010:

Sinclair X1

I’m going to go with “no”. Once more unto the breach, wot? Ours is not to reason why…

OK, I’m being a little over-snarky here, perhaps; I’m a big supporter of urban cycling and alternative transport, and I’d love to see the take-up on affordable and predominantly human-powered urban vehicles increase dramatically. But – and please forgive my cynicism – I don’t think that thing’s gonna do it. [images ganked from Gizmag]


Quantum motor with just two atoms

Tom James @ 19-09-2009

Quantum-motorResearchers at the University of Augsburg in Germany have developed a blueprint for a kind of quantum electric motor that uses just two atoms:

Their motor consists of one neutral atom and one charged atom trapped in a ring-shaped optical lattice. The atoms jump from one site in the lattice to the next as they travel round the ring. Placing this ring in an alternating magnetic field creates the conditions necessary to keep the charged atom moving round the the ring.

As with many elements of quantum physics it is difficult to imagine precisely what you could do with such a miniscule motor, but for the time being the researchers are seeking to attach the motor to a nanonoscopic resonator, thus making the resonator vibrate.

In the meantime we are left speculating as to what peculiar corners of which unexpected futures devices such as this could find a use and a narrative.

[via Slashdot, from Technology Review][image from Technology Review]


Scaled-elextric: slot cars for transport

Tom James @ 11-08-2009

slot-carToday’s dose of technocratic mass-transport conceptual design is brought to you by German designer Christian Förg. His Speedway Transport System is inspired by slot cars of his youth:

Förg’s Speedway Transport System concept uses a network of linear electric motors to propel cars along the highway.

He sees us driving around in futuristic dual-mode electric cars with small motors for city driving. When we’re ready to leave town, a contact-free linear motor would propel the car over long distances with a drifting magnetic field. Förg says linear motors would work under our existing roadways, complementing – not replacing – existing automotive technology.

“This means that you can use the roads with normal cars and also at the same time for the Speedway system,”

If this ever gets taken up it’ll be interesting to see what alternative uses the street finds for this technology.

A slight non-sequitur: Will Hutton writes in the Guardian on the dire state of the UK rail network, and how in order to remain economically competitive, Britain must invest in the kind of high-speed rail they have in Europe.

[via Wired][image from Wired]


eROCKIT – 50mph electro-assist bicycle

Paul Raven @ 16-07-2009

File under “wow, gimme one of those!” – the eROCKIT bike is described by its creators as “a new vehicle category, the human-machine-hybrid”. A trifle hyperbolic, perhaps, but it’s still pretty awesome. Watch:

The eROCKIT bridges the gap between the regular two wheeler categories. On one side the muscle-powered two wheelers, on the other side, the motorcycles. The eROCKIT concept requires a continuous muscle deployment from the rider. The vehicle’s electronic system multiplies this muscle power and deploys it as vehicle propulsion.

For the first time in the history of vehicle construction, the driver’s physical power becomes just as relevant for driving dynamics and speed as technical vehicle properties and engine power.

Send me one for review, please! Because I sure as hell can’t afford the €33,000 price tag… [via NextBigFuture]