Deconstructing Technology, Go-Fast Technology, Hooniverse, Pushing Boundaries

The badge says DAF Variomatic. It’s a racing transmission.

Huron 4A Cosworth DAF Variomatic, by Wouter Melissen, via UltimateCarPage

It was a rainy Tuesday when I got a tip from Monkey10is that DAF had a history of racing. A machine I’d never heard of called the Huron 4A Cosworth DAF Variomatic. A quick search turned up an article by Wouter Melissen. Real enough. That’s where I found the first picture. Seems DAF already had some experience in Formula 3. Never mind their reputation for making innocent-looking two-cylinders named Daffodil. Wikipedia noted, quote ‘interesting’ low speed behavior when ice was around. And it’s an open secret that at top speed, slowly releasing the gas will make Daffodil go faster instead of slowing down. But I was more interested when Wouter mentioned an AWD DAF 555 prototype in passing. As if such a thing can be mentioned in passing.
Continue reading The badge says DAF Variomatic. It’s a racing transmission.

User Input

User Input: I Never Joke About My Work, 007

Image cribbed from Time Tapestry, although I have no idea if it is originally theirs.

Image cribbed from Time Tapestry, although I have no idea if it is originally theirs.

Today’s launch of Spectre in theatres marks the end of the Daniel Craig era of James Bond movies. One distinctive trait of these series of movies was their habit of moving away from the traditionally over-the-top gadgets and gizmos. In the interests of realism, and in maintaining the audience’s suspension of disbelief in this post-iPhone, post-Google-Glass, post-Nest-thermostat world. Let’s face it, we now have most of the gadgets that Bond was so proud of in his previous movies. The amazing things that he could do with his cellular phone in the early Pierce Brosnan Bond movies are fairly common-place today. In-car video calling? So common, most jurisdictions have outlawed it as a safety hazard.

So there’s something refreshing about the James Blonde movies taking such a huge, dramatic step away from the gadgets, and focusing more on the characters, their motivations, and those feeling-things that you humans have.

Now, I think it’s safe to say that the Aston Martin above was the greatest Bond gadget of all time. Not only was it a gorgeous car, but all of the spy gadgets shown in the movie are actually built-in to the car, with the exception of the ejector seat. Okay, yes, the machine guns are just flash-bang replicas, but… they are still there.

So other than the obvious answer, what James Bond gadget from the 50 years of movies would you most want in your life?

Atomic Awesome

Forgotten History – The Strange Tale of Seaborg’s Plutonium

First Plutonium Sample

Hang around on this planet long enough and some pretty strange tales are bound to come your way. A while back, one strange tale was sent in by reader Batshitbox. It’s the strange tale of the very first measurable sample of Plutonium 239 and how it was lost, then found again. All thanks to some quick thinking by a University of California employee that saved it from potential destruction.

Continue reading Forgotten History – The Strange Tale of Seaborg’s Plutonium

Atomic Awesome

Why The World Needs Nuclear Power

Nuclear_Power_Plant[Editor’s Note: Nuclear Science Week was pointed out to us on the tips line by Elizabeth Eckhart, along with a commitment to contribute. If you’d like to see AtomicToasters come back from its Chernobyl-like radioactive slumber, you should follow Elizabeth’s lead, and send in stuff for the rest of us to discuss. You can also follow Elizabeth’s Twitter account at @elizeckhart]

Continue reading Why The World Needs Nuclear Power

Atomic Awesome

User Input: Polarizing Energy

(Image source:

(Image source:

In the United States this week, the Smithsonian Institute is sponsoring Nuclear Science Week, a program to educate students — and the general public at large — about the whole picture surrounding nuclear energy. It’s an admirable program, because it’s not shying away from discussing the negatives, while taking a realistic approach. Let’s face it, nuclear power is still a crucial part of our power generation mosaic. We still need it, because renewable energy is quite a few years from being able to take over as a mainstream source of power. Hydroelectric generation (which sits somewhere between “clean” and “conventional” energy) still has a significant impact on the environment — albeit not through greenhouse gases — and is heavily geographically restricted. And burning fossil fuels to generate electricity is simply not a viable long-term solution.

Thanks to Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island, there is a massive stigma surrounding nuclear power. Nuclear Science Week aims to explore both the positives and negatives of nuclear power, and help students and the public to determine for themselves which aspects of this stigma are deserved, and which are not.

So where do you stand on the matter? Is nuclear energy too scary for you to tolerate? Or do the benefits outweigh the risks? Or, like so many things, is it simply NIMBY syndrome? And if nuclear energy still scares you, what do you plan to do with your Atomic Toaster?

Moments in History, Uncategorized

May 28, 1906 – San Francisco in Ruins


San Francisco in Ruins (Clicken to enbiggenate)


This amazingly detailed, panoramic high resolution photograph shows just how completely devastated 4 days and 4 nights of fires left San Francisco after the Great 1906 Earthquake.

6 weeks later smoke still hangs in the air as people begin the long, mammoth task of cleaning up.

More than just a historical snapshot of one of the most famous natural disasters, this photo also serves as a window back into another time… Life on the waterfront is nearly unrecognizable to a visitor today but for a few surviving landmarks, while action on the wharf and piers show how SF was once a bustling working-class sea-port, far from it’s modern gentrified persona as a tourist destination.

If you have some time to really zoom in on the details, there are new things to see anywhere you may care to look.

Caption: “Photograph of San Francisco in Ruins From Lawrence Captive Airship 2000 feet above San Francisco Bay overlooking waterfront. Sunset over Golden Gate.”

(Image Source: Wikipedia Commons and Public domain)

Military-Grade Awesome, Uncategorized

Top Gun Day – Behind the Scenes (Visual Effects)

Famous Control Tower at NAS Miramar - aka Top Gun

Famous Control Tower at NAS Miramar – aka Top Gun


Today, May 13 marks the 7th annual “Top Gun Day”, where you too have permission to buzz the tower and quote cheesy lines from the megahit 1986 jet-fighter flick.

(or better yet, just mill about yelling “DANGER-ZONE!!” at random)

And in celebration of this “Need for Speed” filled day, may we present to you a behind the scenes look at how the movie was made. The entire series is fascinating, but the visual effects portion is the most intriguing. Be warned however, it’s kinda like peeking behind the screen in the Land of OZ… a little bit of the magic gets revealed in the process… however the technical aspect is still just as cool. Continue reading Top Gun Day – Behind the Scenes (Visual Effects)

expensive mistakes

May 9th, 1980 – Skyway Bridge Collapse

Richard Hornbuckle's car rests where it skidded to a stop just14 inches from the edge of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which was struck by the freighter Summit Venture on May 9, 1980. The freighter rammed the southbound span of the bridge, collapsing a 1,200 foot length of the bridge and sending several cars and a Greyhound bus into the water. Thirty-five people died. Times photo by Eric Mencher.

Richard Hornbuckle’s car rests where it skidded to a stop just14 inches from the edge of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which was struck by the freighter Summit Venture on May 9, 1980.  Times photo by Eric Mencher.

35 years ago, on the Friday before Mother’s Day – a blue 1974 Ford Courier driven by 56 year old Wesley MacIntire slowly and cautiously makes its way across the fabled Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay, Florida. Mr MacIntire has made the journey countless times over the years.

Only today there will be no sunshine. It has been swept aside with black skies and torrential rain,  whipped sporadically with an intensely fierce wind.

And soon, there will be no bridge. Continue reading May 9th, 1980 – Skyway Bridge Collapse

Old School Gaming

Unified Theory of Racing Maps

Auto Racing

Did you ever play a racing game and wonder just what the world of the tracks might look like? One fine denizen of the interwebs wondered just that, way back in the early days of home gaming consoles. But better than just wondering, he was motivated to follow through, all these years later.

When I was very young, back in the late seventies and early eighties, my friends and I loved playing games for the Atari 2600, the Intellivision, and the ColecoVision. My family owned the Intelivision and one of our favorite games for that system was Auto Racing.

At some point, my friends and I discovered that if one drove carefully off-road, it was possible to reach one of the other tracks from the one you were currently driving on. And then we realized that the tracks listed in the manual existed inside one giant map and all were interconnected. To my ten year old mind, this was fascinating… it was like discovering a treasure map. We tried to draw out the map as we explored but with limited success.

As years passed I would from time to time think of our virtual explorations, still curious as to what that hidden, giant map really looked like.

Continue reading Unified Theory of Racing Maps

Weekend Entertainment

Home Movies, Now In Theaters

Just like RPGs, your party is brainless, heartless, and cowardly.

Still need to try this with Dark Side Of The Moon.

My mom looked forward to the Wizard of Oz coming on TV once a year, never knowing that the land of Oz changed to color, because they only rented a color TV once a year for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. I came along well after VHS defeated Betamax. She would tape Sesame Street to play on Saturdays, because I didn’t understand weekend TV schedules. It was no use arguing with me.
Continue reading Home Movies, Now In Theaters