Saturday, July 12, 2008

Just Slightly Ahead of his Time

Tired of the carbon tax, SUVs, Climate change, David Suzuki? How about the greatest all-round genius of all time? Try the original Leo...

Leonardo's car brought to life
Open top three-wheeler. 2004 reg. Italian design and craftsmanship. Zero mpg. No emissions. Easy parking. Programmable steering
John Hooper in Rome
Saturday April 24 2004
The Guardian

It has taken more than 500 years to get from the drawing board to the showroom, but today the first working model of the "car" conceived by Leonardo da Vinci is to go on display at an exhibition in Florence.

Eight months' work by computer designers, engineers and joiners has proved something that had been doubted for centuries: the machine sketched by history's most versatile genius in or around 1478 actually moves.

"It was - or is - the world's first self-propelled vehicle," said Paolo Galluzzi, director of the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, who oversaw the project.

Perhaps sensibly, humanity waited for the invention of steam power and then the internal combustion engine. Leonardo's car, 1.68m long and 1.49m wide (5ft 6ins by 4ft 11ins), runs on clockwork. The springs are wound up by rotating the wheels in the opposite direction to the one in which it is meant to go.

"It is a very powerful machine," Professor Galluzzi said. So powerful that although they have made a full-scale "production model", they have not dared test it. "It could run into something and do serious damage," he said.

The vehicle demonstrated in Florence yesterday was a one-third scale replica.

Several attempts were made in the last century to construct the vehicle. None worked.

They were vitiated by a misunderstanding: that Leonardo powered his vehicle with the two big leaf springs, shaped like the arms of a crossbow, shown in his sketch on folio 812r of the Atlantic Codex, one of the great collections of his studies and sketches.

In 1975 Carlo Pedretti, director of the Armand Hammer Centre for Leonardo Studies in Los Angeles, published a paper showing early 15th century copies in the Uffizi archives of some early Da Vinci sketches. "Two of the drawings represent a view from above of the spring mechanism of the well-known self-propelled vehicle in the Atlantic Codex," he wrote.

Studying the copies, Prof Pedretti realised that the springs were not meant to drive the car but to regulate a drive mechanism located elsewhere. In 1996 his intuition was reported in a book by an American robotics expert, Mark Rosheim.

"He believes that motive power is provided by coiled springs inside the tambours", Mr Rosheim wrote.

The theory that the car's "engines" were sited in a couple of drum-like casings on the underside resolved many of the enigmas in Leonardo's design. But until Prof Galluzzi and his team got to work, it was still just a theory.

Their first step was to create a digital model by computer aided design.

"That took four months," Prof Galluzzi told the Guardian. "But at the end we had a machine which we knew ought to work."

To test Leonardo's genius to the limit it was decided to try to realise his vision with materials available to the craftsmen of his time. That meant mainly wood.

Florentine furniture restorers were asked which types their predecessors would have chosen for which parts of the vehicle.

"The biggest problem was to find a wood for the cogs, because that had to be hard and resistant.

The finished vehicle contains five sorts of wood and "mechanisms of extraordinary refinement".

Leonardo scholars have long believed the car was intended to provide special effects in some kind of performance.

It has a brake that can be released at distance by an operator with a hidden rope, so it would have appeared to start by itself.

A programmable steering mechanism allows it go straight, or turn at pre-set angles. But only to the right. Good in towns like today's Florence, with a one-way system. As ever, Leonardo was centuries ahead of his time.

Grumpy Hits Pay (and other) Dirt

Just a note on the Canada Line. Due to the cost of the Canada line escalating from $1.3 billion to over $2.4 billion (How many fast-ferry fiasco's does this equal?), the stations in the subway are a mere 50 metres in length, or just enough to fit a 3 car train.

This means that for $2.4 billion (and climbing) we have the world's smallest subway system with its maximum capacity held at 15,000 pphpd (and that is crush loading) and to increase capacity, larger stations must be built!

This means that to increase capacity, we have to to the cut-and-cover thing all over again on Cambie St., to increase the subterranean stations lengths.

Anyone want to tell this to Susan Heyes?

Two things come to mind with this idiocy:

1)In the real world, subways are not even considered unless ridership on a transit route exceeds 15,000 pphpd.

2) A simple LRT operating on the 'Arbutus' at a fraction of the cost of the Canada Line, could achieve capacities exceeding 20,000 pphpd!

That's right folks, step right up and see the world's smallest and most expensive subway, brought to you by Gordo & his pals, including Malcolm (not the Light Rail Guy) Brodie; Senator Larry (30 pieces of silver) Campbell ; Ken (lets shred those memos) Dobell; Jane ($20,000 a month) Bird; and not to forget Kevin (another bird brained) Falcon.

You just can't make this stuff up!

Light Rail Guy Posts in


Light Rail Guy...

Hey David, the Light Rail Guy & the Light Rail Committee were onto the RAV/Canada line hokum in 2000. not only did the LRC predict cut-and-cover subway construction, it also predicted that ridership will be about 10% greater than the 98-B Line & Cambie St. buses.

The LRC also predicts that Translink will lose the suburban ridership because of the forced transfer of 300 & 600 series of buses from South Surrey & Delta, at Casino Junction (just a few slots away from your destination).

Already in Tsawwassen there is a large number of wee "Smart" cars and many former bus riders will switch from transit to cars.

(Maybe we can get electric cars and hook up to the new high voltage power lines?)

RAV/Canada Line shows the complete folly of building metro/subway on a route that doesn't have the ridership to support it.

For about $1.5 billion less, we could have had a LRT line from Downtown Vancouver to Steveston & YVR and possibly to Ironwood mall @ #5 and Steveston highway.


Running just in from of the mouldy 'Speed Skating oval', is the remains of a former railway right-of-way which connected to the 'Arbutus' Line. If LRT had been built instead, we would have had a very speedy LRT service direct to the Oval's front door. But, no, Malcolm Brodie wanted a politically prestigious metro instead, so now the closest station is about 1.5 km. away. I'll just take the car instead!

I told you so!

Linda Y deserves another post

Hi David, I read the article in the Vancouver Sun before I read your blog.

I was going to sit down and pen a letter to the editor on this one.

Some of the residents of the building did not want to put a ramp in because it would make the lobby look like an "old folks home" !!!???

Hey, I work in a long term care facility (aka "old Folks Home). The building's lobby is beautiful and people walk by the front of the building (not knowing that it is an "old folks home" and ask about renting there - LOL!)

Anyways, what anti-accessibility people don't realize is that ramps are handy for EVERYONE. Ever try bringing your folding shopping cart loaded with groceries up a curb or a couple of steps? It's a lot easier with a ramp. Try negotiating a stroller up a couple of steps. As a mum with a DOUBLE stroller - I love ramps!! Ever had the unfortunate experience of having a leg cast. Ramps are great!

On of my favourite Vancouver Public Library branches is in my parents old neighbourhood. The Renfrew Branch on 22nd and Renfrew in Vancouver. This building was specifically designed to be accessible for everyone. I remember going there in my early twenties. It was spacious and comfortable to use. All people, young, elderly and people with disabilities can use this functional, esthetically pleasing library.

I am surprised that this strata council did not take the immediate and necessary steps to suppport a thirty year resident by making the lobby accessible.

I am 37 right now and able bodied. I could have an accident and find myself needing a walker, can or wheelchair anytime. In another 10, 20, 30, 40 years ... who knows. One day, If I live long enough, I will need an accessible home too.

We all will.

Let's make them accessible now for everybody.

Linda Y


Dear Bloggists,

Several of you have expressed problems reading yesterday's posting of The Province Column.

I've re-posted it today...way down there after all the other stuff.

Hope you can read it more clearly now.

Did You say, "Strict?"

Wally Opaque described the bail conditions of Reyat as "extremely strict."

We might describe the behaviour of our Attorney general as "extremely slick."

Reyat is free to do pretty much whatever he chooses, including cavorting with his former partners in crime...oh, excuse me, the men acquitted on all charges in the deaths of 331 people.

The geniuses at the prisons where reyat has been residing for th last 20 years say he is a low risk, and we know what a great batting average these guys have at assessing risk.

This case continues to insult any reasonable person's intelligence or sense of justice.

Ramp Up Their Values

Hail to the lovely folks in the strata council who spent $20,000 on lawyers fees arguing that they shouldn't put in a ramp for an old lady.

Talk about incivility.

The disgusting mess ca be read here.

Forgiveness may not be all it's cracked up to be

And from the Department of, I Admit I Don't Get It...

1. Mr. Wick spent 15 hours waiting outside to buy a new iPhone for himself and one for Mrs. Wick.
Write your own joke.

2. The missionary who was raped and hacked with machetes and had her face smashed in and her husband who is a mass of broken bones, they can't wait to get out of hospital after their many operations so they can get to the prison and forgive their assailants.

I appreciate this lack of comprehension makes me a lower form of life force, but so be it.

Run, Girl, Run!

One of the great Irving Berlin songs from "Annie Get Your Gun," which is now playing at TUTS, begins with the phrase, "Rumors fly and they often leave a doubt..."

Well, rumors fly these past few days that Kim Capripants wants to run for the provincial legislature.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha...or should I say, hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Please, run, Kim, please.

This will fell two birds with one peach pit.

First, we won't have to tolerate your silliness soaking up the air in City Council.

Second, you will bring such disgrace to Gordon Campbell's government, that you will help his Reign of Error end.

Georgia Straight Editor, Charrle Smith, Nails Translunk and Brodie

Stop the presses: Mayor Malcolm Brodie worries about transit finances

Today on the radio, I heard a clip of Richmond mayor Malcolm Brodie worrying about TransLink finances.

It was a stunning moment. Brodie, the former TransLink chair who helped foist the Canada Line on this region, is now concerned that property-tax payers might face higher costs because TransLink will run out of money in a while.

The Canada Line hasn't opened yet, so we don't know how much TransLink will have to pay the contractor if this Brodie-supported megaproject doesn't attract 100,000 riders per day.

When Brodie was on the TransLink board and voting consistently for the Canada Line, directors claimed that the estimated cost was $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion.

Back then, Cambie Street merchants were under the impression that it would be a bored-tunnel project, which wouldn't cause disruptions to their livelihoods.

Only later in the process did TransLink fess up that the cost was closer to $2 billion, and only then with a cut-and-cover tunnel that wreaked havoc on Cambie Street businesses.

Various concerned parties -- including veteran bus driver and union official Jim Houlahan -- made mincemeat of Canada Line ridership estimates in various presentations to Brodie and other politicians who sat on the TransLink board.

Too bad for Houlahan that he wasn't always supported by his friends in the labour movement, who thought that the long-term financial planning at TransLink was peachy keen.

In 2003, I wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek article predicting the bankruptcy of TransLink because the directors, including Brodie, didn't factor in rising oil prices into their financial planning.

Now, oil prices are US$140 per barrel -- almost seven times the price when that article appeared -- and Brodie's freaking out about the impact on property-tax payers in the region.

Maybe he should be freaking out about his job. It's time that someone with some planning ability -- hey, how about former mayor Greg Halsey-Brandt, a town planner by profession and someone who opposed the elevated line down Number 3 Road -- stepped up to run against Brodie in 2008.

That way when peak oil becomes a reality, someone else can manage the problem. And Brodie can disappear and avoid some of the blame for working to get Richmond land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve at the worst possible time in the region's history for doing this.

Politicians who screw up transit systems shouldn't be rewarded by constantly getting reelected. Nor should politicians who failed to anticipate rising oil prices when the evidence was staring them right in the face as far back as 2003.

Susan Greets the Good Doctor

To the Editor

Congratulations to Dr. Stilwell on her acclaimation to run as the Liberal
MLA for Vancouver Centre.

I would love to take her on a walk through her new riding, to see the impact
of the Canada Line construction first hand. I would like her to hear the
stories from those who still struggle to survive these 3 years, and hear how
so many of their neighbours did not.

Things are still not well, Dr. Stilwell. From one end of Cambie Street to
the other, families continue to face financial ruin after enduring financial
and personal hardship that would be difficult for most people to imagine.

This Several Billion dollar project failed to factor adequate mitigation
into the business plan - failed to ensure that those who would be impacted
the most would not lose their life's work as a result of this government
funded and driven mega-project. It is a disgrace.

The one day street parties, banners, baskets, and million dollar
self-promoting ad campaigns have obviously done nothing to stem the tide of
red ink. We require direct and immediate financial relief.

We deserve better than bancruptcy.

Kim Capri to run in Fairview? Good luck. She and her fellow NPA council
members voted as one - again and again - to oppose every motion put before
them to assist the small businesses who were dying right outside their
doors. Shame on all of them.

There is a Compensation class action proposed from the Cambie Village
Business Association, as well as my case that was filed 3 years ago and set
to proceed in court for three weeks this November. Do small businesses that
have been double crossed by their own government really have to force
justice to happen through a costly lawsuit?

The solution to this crisis requires integrity and courage from our elected
Even Henry Lee at the Board of Trade said that just 3 cents a trip on
transit would give TransLink more than enough funds to compensate us for our
demolished livelihoods.

No one has sacrificed more for public transit than the merchants all along
the Canada Line.

There is a shameful precedent now set for future government mega-projects,
that the life's work of citizens can be expropriated and destroyed with
This is not what should happen in a democracy and must be made right with

Susan Heyes
3190 Cambie Street
604 687-0721

Big Pharma & The Shrinks

From the Department of Isn't It About Time, comes this headline in this morning's NY Times:
"Psychiatric Group Faces Scrutiny Over Drug Industry Ties"

An American senator is demanding that the American Psychiatric Association give an accounting of its financing.

Wasn't it just a few days ago that I wrote about the unholy alliance of Big Pharma and the Shrinks?

Which, by the way, is the name of my new garage band - Big Pharma & the Shrinks. We have hits like, "Eat me. I'll make you Small," and "Swallow me Whole with food."

Read the entire delicious story here.

Linda Y. on More Ill-mannered Louts

I have to agree with both David and Mr. Barker about poor manners.

I will tell everyone about an experience I had at a local library. I brought my own children, plus a four year old I was babysitting to the library. This community library is very child centered (almost half of the space is devoted to children's materials and they have many children's programs).

I admit - the four year old and the three year old ran around a bit (in the children's section only). They are both very high spirited. I don't pay too much mind, as long as they are not climbing the shelves or fighting or causing a danger to themselves or others.

I hurried as fast as I could to get my materials and proceeded to the checkout. Just as I was about to leave the library, my infant started to cry. I sat down near the front door at the magazine area and gave her a bottle.

Just as she started drinking, an older man charged up to me and said, "People like you make me should bring your kids to the playground and not a library. Shame on you!!!"

BTW, it was the second week of December and raining. I am not sure which playground would have been most appropriate....

I was so stunned, all I could utter was "have a nice day." After Mr. Angry left the front door of the library, the librarian approached me and assured me that my family was welcome to use the library and that Mr. Angry did not speak for anyone. She also handed me a Kleenex because I had trouble holding back tears...

I could understand people being upset if I was in the study area of the library. I can understand people being upset when small children are brought to an elegant restaurant (especially during a later seating). I can understand people being upset if I brought the kids to a PG 13 or R movie. But this was a CHILDREN'S LIBRARY!!!

What Mr. Angry forgot was that there are other people in the community besides middle aged ones.
These other people (i.e. kids) are at different developmental ages and they will behave accordingly (within reason).

What we have in this society is a voluntary segregation of people.

Older people choose to live in "adult only buildings." They want nothing to do with young adults or families with children.

In most mainstream organizations (churches, large clubs) participants are organized into specific groups (Childrens group, Young Adults, Young Couples, Older Singles, etc). We do not mix.

I am blessed to have lived for ten years in an affordable building in Vancouver's West End (a very rare thing these days). I rubbed shoulders with the young, the old, people with disabilies, rich and poor. When I moved from the area - I moved to a co-op in Champlain Heights. Here I rub shoulders with the young, the old, families, people with disabilities, the rich and the poor.

I am more aware of the feelings and needs of people around me because I choose to be with a variety of people. Others in my community are more aware of the unique needs of my family because they choose to be around me.

In our society we have 55+ buildings and communities. We have clubs like "No Kidding" devoted to adults of any age who choose not to have children (and frankly, don't like children). In churches and other large organizations, people are segregated to separate groups based on their demographic profiles (teens, young adult, adults with young children, older adult, seniors). People with disabilities are segregated into limited housing that is accessible.

We are not so much overtly rude - just extremely unaware of each other and the unique needs of each other.

I choose to be aware of others and respect them. I need others to be aware of me (and my young kids) and respect them.

We won't have any understanding and respect if we all choose to live in our own narrow worlds.

Linda Yuill