Thursday, October 14, 2004

Aerodynamics of Formula One (F1)

In modern Formula One (F1), aerodynamics are the field in which the biggest steps forward in performance are to be made. Ever since the introduction of the first wings by Lotus and Ferrari in the 1960s, what was formerly a hit and miss technique has evolved into a near-exact science. Every square centimetre of today's cars is carefully honed to optimise airflow. The basic equation engineers face is simple: to inverse the physical principle that enables a plane to stay airborne.

The work of aerodynamicists is to find downforce – the vertical force that pushes cars to the ground by forming a zone of low pressure underneath its wings – and to minimise drag, the associated longitudinal force that resists the car's forward movement. The performance of any single-seater car is a function of this inevitable standoff. Accordingly, engineers have become obsessed with the tiniest of details, and that's no surprise when you consider that a nosecone-mounted aerial with an excessively big diameter can cost the equivalent of around 10bhp in engine power. Yet this spectacular example does not mean that Formula 1 cars are profiled like razor-sharp arrows. On the contrary. Their large, exposed wheels produce turbulence that makes them as about as aerodynamic as a tank. The drag coefficient of an everyday Clio is much lower… but a Clio generates significantly less downforce. Launched at full song at 250kph, a Formula 1 car benefits from more than a tonne of aerodynamic load.

Over the past thirty years or so, engineers haven't left a single stone unturned in their quest for downforce. Successive inventions such as fan cars, skirts, so-called side pod-mounted penguin flaps, vanes on engine covers or deformable body components that flex at speed all brought spectacular performance gains before leading the sport's governing body to step in. Today's regulations mean that aerodynamicists must work within a restrictive, strictly pegged out framework. The most recent rule changes introduced before the start of the 2001 season dictated an increase of 50mm in front wing height and a maximum limit to the number of elements that can make up rear wing. When the regulations are stable, however, engineers are capable of finding between 5% and 10% extra downforce each year, a rule of thumb that applies equally to the Renault F1 Team. Outwardly, the R202 might seem very similar to its predecessor, the B201, yet the efficiency of its aerodynamic package has progressed significantly. And so, in turn, has its performance.

Aerodynamics are just as fundamental for the drivers. In the same way that an airplane is not able to take off in the immediate wake of another, it is not possible for two single-seater cars to follow each other too closely through a corner because of the turbulence produced by the leading car. The risk for the second car is quite simply sliding off the track. Along straights, however, it is possible for the chasing car to benefit from the slipstream of the one in front, a phenomenon that can facilitate overtaking.

Finally, the efficiency of an aerodynamic package is only revealed at full song since downforce increases exponentially with speed. Ironically, a corner that may not be particularly difficult at 250kph can pose a problem at 180kph. Aerodynamics and driver bravery are intimately intertwined.

Two years ago, aerodynamics were the principal shortcoming of the Benetton team. Today, this department has been significantly reinforced since the arrival of Mike Gascoyne as Technical Director. A staff of over forty currently works on Renault F1 Team's aerodynamics programme under the leadership of John Iley. Although the way it is organised may not be unique to Enstone, it is worth highlighting all the same, its most notable feature being the fact that two distinct shifts work out of the team's ultra-modern wind tunnel facilities. "Competition in F1 today is such that our wind tunnel functions 17 hours a day," explains John Iley. "It's impossible to get our engineers to work that long! So we have decided to split the staff into two teams. Each shift is independent and is given a precise programme to work on." Doesn't that run the risk of creating rivalry between the two? "I wouldn't call it rivalry. More a sort of emulation. Each one wants to outdo the other," smiles Iley. "And that can only be beneficial for results."

The engineers give their maximum but they also have a free reign as far as their research goes. Having said that, many of their ideas never get used. Less than 20% of the aerodynamic solutions examined actually ever find their way on to the race car. That doesn't mean the engineers aren't up to the job; it's just that every avenue is considered to be worth exploring. "The technical regulations are so restrictive today that it is no longer possible to make a single major stride forward. We progress bit by bit in all areas, which means it's the teams with the biggest budgets and best infrastructures that have the edge," underlines Head of Aerodynamics John Iley. Certain teams are effectively thinking in terms of a second wind tunnel to function in parallel to the first and there is already talk of annual aerodynamics research programmes based on 5,000 hours of wind tunnel time. At Renault F1 Team, the plan is to introduce regular modifications to the R202 as the season progresses. Even as early as the second Grand Prix of the year, at Sepang, the cars featured a new rear wing and a new extractor.

There is little to be gained from spying. "Each car has to be considered as a complete package," comments Iley. "What works for one team doesn't necessarily work for everyone. Obviously, we all observe what everybody else is up to, and if an idea proves effective it will always turn up sooner or later on all the cars."

And what about looks? Here again, aesthetics tend not to weight heavily in the balance. Efficiency is all that counts. "A car that wins is always beautiful", quips John Iley. "OK, if two solutions produce identical results, then we will go for the most stylish solution, but such cases are rare."

Although Formula 1 cars obey precise physical laws, they cannot take their inspiration from nature, despite the temptation to look at windswept landscapes or the fins and wings of certain animals. "It's true that an organ is dictated by its function and there could be something to be gained from looking at nature," smiles John Iley. "Unfortunately, nature doesn't have to work to Formula 1's technical regulations…" Pity!

In principle the aerodynamic design has to take three things into account; Down force, suction and airflow. To produce down force and suction, the airflow has to be optimized around and under the car. The effectiveness of the down force is measured by the 'weight' that the airflow produces on the car. The amount of pressure that is produced is so great that, at approximately 250 KMH, an F1 racecar could drive inverted on the ceiling. The extremely fast air under the car is used to create a vacuum that, in addition to the down force, sucks the car onto the track.

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AcronymGenie (487 KB)

AcronymGenie is a simple little program that can be minimized to the System Tray for quick reference. It contains more than 17,000 acronyms/abbreviations. Just start typing letters into the search field and the acronym you're looking for will magically start filtering its way to the top of the list.

Be sure to click on the "Smiley" tab for the most comprehensive smiley dictionary I've ever seen. You'll be able to wow your chat buddies with all kinds of smiley emoticons.

Download a must-have app for any hard-core DOS gamer running Windows NT, 2000, or XP

VDMSound lets you run virtual DOS soundcard drivers within Windows, complete with sound drivers, DOS Himem support, and CPU slowdown.

To make the most of VDMSound you also need to download the VDMSound launchpad, a GUI front end for VDMSound that makes it easier to create a custom VDMSound setting for each game you wish to run.

1. Right-click the game executable and choose VDMSound.
2. Select Custom Configuration. I recommend this option over the default settings since not all DOS games work with the defaults.
3. You'll have the option to reuse an existing setup or create a new one from scratch. If you choose to create one from scratch, click the Advanced button on the next screen.
4. Set how much RAM to allocate VDMSound for the game, himem.sys options, MIDI emulation, and processor slowdown.

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N Korea has more capable missile, US officials say

North Korea has used Russian technology to develop a new intermediate range ballistic missile that may be the most capable and accurate system in Pyongyang's inventory, U.S. officials said.

There also are "indications" the North Koreans have begun limited production of the longer-range Taepo Dong 2 missile, which can reach the continental United States, and this could mean the weapon is nearly ready for export, a senior U.S. official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Experts said if the North has built a new missile based on a new design instead of the old Scud technology, this would be a significant development. But some were skeptical and one U.S. official said he believed the Bush administration remained divided on its assessments of Pyongyang's missile program.

In addition to working to improve the accuracy and range of all its three existing missile systems, the North Koreans have been "developing and perfecting a completely new and different missile system, an intermediate range missile system based on an improved different technology," one official said.

U.S. officials said the missile is based on Russia's SSN6, a submarine-launched ballistic missile deployed in 1969 with a range up to 3,400 miles. Other North Korean missiles -- the Scud, No Dong and Taepo Dong -- are based on Russia's Scud missile, which has a shorter-range and is less accurate.

One U.S. official said North Korea is believed to have acquired the SSN6 Russian missile expertise in the 1990s when post-Soviet Russia was a "free for all" bazaar and everything was for sale. "There is absolutely no indication that the Russians are now or have recently -- within the last couple of years -- been involved in this program," he said.


But other officials said this is not definitive. Russian officials deny cooperation with North Korea but they also deny cooperating with Iran, and Washington knows that Russia-Iran involvement is going on, they said.

The existence of a new missile was first reported in recent days by Asian media, including the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo. But U.S. officials revealed more details about the system, its military import and its impact on six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear crisis held in Beijing last week.

It was widely reported that Pyongyang was expected to showcase the new intermediate range missile during festivities marking the country's 55th anniversary.

That did not happen. U.S. officials said one reason is that participants in the Beijing talks -- especially Russia and China, the North's only allies -- strongly urged Pyongyang not to do anything provocative that might jeopardize the talks.

Also, U.S. intelligence sent a delegation to Moscow last week to urge Russia to lean harder on Pyongyang.

Like most other issues involving North Korea, this was hotly debated within the administration, officials said.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, leader of U.S. pro-engagement forces, backed the push to persuade Pyongyang not to display its new system while Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who have been hostile to negotiations, wanted to stand back and let the North do whatever it might choose to do.

Last month's six party talks in Beijing, designed to launch a negotiating process with Pyongyang, ended with no progress other than agreement to meet again, probably in November.

U.S. officials said there have been hints about the new intermediate range missile for several years but only in the past year has its existence and derivation been confirmed.

It shows Pyongyang can work with a much higher quality design, perfect and manufacture against that design, U.S. officials said. There is more confidence it will work because it is based on a well-established Russian design, they added.

But skeptics noted that, while it continues to ground test missile engines and other components, Pyongyang has observed a moratorium on missile test flights since 1999 and its 1998 test of a Taepo Dong 1 missile failed to achieve orbit.

Day to dance?

After coming back from dinner, my friend, Mr. L invited me to learn Sakura dance. He showed me the video clips that illustrate the steps of this unique dance. We both watched and try to remembered by heart. Ah, it was tough! Not simple at all.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Midterm on 14 October 2004 (subject M)

Three chapters are included.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Ghost Mouse

GhostMouse 2.0 records system-level mouse events that can be played back so the computer can execute and operate applications on its own. GhostMouse can be placed in the Windows startup group so preprogrammed tasks are carried out when Windows starts up. v2.0 offers improved performance, two new features, and smaller program size.

Hallo, I'm back!

Just came back from two-day holiday...
Nice to see you all again. Now, I've to start preparing my midterm exam.
However, I promise you all that I'll post articles from time to time.
So, remember to check back regularly...