* Posts by Ian Johnston

742 posts • joined 28 Sep 2007

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SpaceX touches down in California as Voyager 2 spies interstellar space

Ian Johnston
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Have you noticed that every time NASA's budget is up for review, one or other Voyager enters a new definition of interstellar space?

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Self-driving cars may not have steering wheels in future, dev preview for PyTorch 1.0 is here, etc

Ian Johnston
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Re: No wheel is one thing

It might look like when Airbus ditched the traditional yoke for the sidestick. I think Tesla might seize this moment.

Ford, Mercedes, Saab and Honda have all experimented with joystick-controlled cars. All gave up: you simply cannot achieve the precision required, or the haptic feedback needed, with a stick. Although yokes were traditional on modern airliners, sticks work fine on light aircraft - and remember that an Airbus is flying itself for perhaps 95% of the time.

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On the seventh anniversary of Steve Jobs' death, we give you 7 times he served humanity and acted as an example to others

Ian Johnston
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You bitches. I love you.

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JAXA probe's lucky MASCOT plonks down on space rock Ryugu without a hitch

Ian Johnston
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Meanwhile, religion is worrying about same sex couples getting married.

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Holy smokes! US watchdog sues Elon Musk after he makes hash of $420 Tesla tweet

Ian Johnston
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Re: 5 minute recharge time

It's also impossible to charge duty on electricity used to drive a car without charging duty on other electricity.

'Course it's possible. Duty is charged on diesel-is-diesel for cars but not for tractors. Duty is charged on LPG-is-LPG for cars but not for cooking. All electric cars know how much energy has been put into them.

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Ian Johnston
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Re: Maximum Hubris

But the power to weight ratio of the latest batteries isn't that much greater than for good old lead acid batteries

Modern li-ion batteries manage about ten times the energy density (in J/kg) of lead-acid.

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Ian Johnston
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Re: 5 minute recharge time

And to travel that 250 miles has cost you a lot less than if you had used a petrol engined car.

In refuelling charges, maybe. But when you take fixed costs into account, the electric car is vastly more expensive. A couple of years ago the one Tesla driver I know - he's a complete arsehole - had a go at me for wasting money filling up my old Golf with diesel. Why on earth didn't people save money by going electric, he asked, leaning against his £100k roadster ...

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Ian Johnston
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Re: Maximum Hubris

The vast majority of journeys are much less than 300 miles, so the limit is really whatever people consider the acceptable time for refuelling.

The vast majority of journeys are made with one or possibly two people on board, yet hardly anyone (statistically) buys two seater cars.

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Enigma message crack honours pioneering Polish codebreakers

Ian Johnston
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Re: Saving Private Lion

Tragically, when the time came, Britain was unable to rescue Poland either from the Nazis or the Soviet Union. I'm still surprised they've forgiven us.

Britain was never particularly concerned with Poland. It was more concerned that Germany would interfere with Briain's ability to keep half the world under military subjugation.

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Fallover Friday: NatWest, RBS and Ulster Bank go TITSUP*

Ian Johnston
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FlyBe's online check-in system is dead as well. Lotsa cross people queuing at airports.

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TV Licensing admits: We directed 25,000 people to send their bank details in the clear

Ian Johnston
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Re: So, where's the fine from the ICO?

And in this case there doesn't seem to have been any breach. They may have left the front door on the latch, but their is no evidence that anybody tried it and walked in.

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Revealed: The billionaire baron who’ll ride Elon’s thrusting erection to the Moon and back

Ian Johnston
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Typical Muskery

When everything is going wrong in one part of the business ("We can't make cars") announce something else for the fanboiz to slaver over ("Look! A Truck!"). In this case he's about to have his arse handed to him on a plate by the libel courts so of course he has found a passenger for a rocket which hasn't even been designed yet, let alone tested and certified for human flight.

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NHS smacks down hundreds of staffers for dodgy use of social media, messaging apps

Ian Johnston
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Remember that that the NHS has two categories of medical staff:

(1) Those too stupid to be doctors and

(2) Those too arrogant to be anything else

and that it's the least competent from both these groups who move into NHS management.

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First it was hashtags – now Amber Rudd gives us Brits knowledge on national ID cards

Ian Johnston
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I already have a UK state-issued ID card. Mind you, I live in Scotland.

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Dust off that old Pentium, Linux fans: It's Elive

Ian Johnston
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I have Lubuntu running quite nicely on stuff almost as old as that. The killer is not the OS, though, it's the apps. Chrome/Chromium munch around 500MB for the first tab and 200MB per tab after that. Firefox used to be even worse but has improved enormously recently.

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Boffins bash Google Translate for sexism

Ian Johnston
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Re: gender-neutral languages

There is no concept of "gender" in Japanese. Obviously it has words for "man", "girl" and soon, but nouns and pronouns do not have grammatical gender and the word for "driver" or "bookseller" is the same whether the person in question is male, female or one of those strange things you find in universities these days.

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Ian Johnston
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Re: What's the problem here?

To refer to an unknown person: for ages. "Would they owner of car registration number AA123AAA please go to the car park as they have left their lights on." "I saw someone on the hilltop and waved to them but they didn't wave back"

To refer to a known individual, much more recently: "Jo can't afford a Goth costume to annoy their parents with, so they are identifying as non-binary for a bit."

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It's a mug's game: Watch AI robot grab a cuppa it hasn't seen before

Ian Johnston
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OK, so it seems that as long as it knows an object is a shoe, and as long as that shoe has a tongue, and as long as it can spend twenty minutes working out where the tongue is, it can pick up the shoe by the tongue. I'm astounded and I welcome our new robot overlords.

Anyone else thinking of the roman centurion in "Asterix the Gaul" who thinks he has drunk magic potion and shouts "I am a superman" when, after trying progressively smaller objects, he manages to pick up a fist-sized stone?

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A flash of inspiration sees techie get dirty to fix hospital's woes

Ian Johnston
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Re: Upsetting non-techies can be hard

I heard of a newish and innocent member at Booker Gliding Club who was persuaded that, when he borrowed a club glider for a competition, he should sandpaper the leading edges to improve boundary layer retention. He had to pay the £20k refinishing bill himself.

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Tesla's chief accounting officer drives off after just a month on the job

Ian Johnston
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I am pretty sure that however Elon Musk ends up, it will make Howard Hughes' final years seem sane and rational.

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Neutron star crash in a galaxy far, far... far away spews 'faster than light' radio signal jets at Earth

Ian Johnston
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Don't radio waves always move at the speed of light? I'm aware the local speed of light is variable but would the radio waves not always move at that local c?

EM radiation, whether light or radio, moves at c / square root of (relative permittivity x relative permeability). However, relative permittivity in particular can be frequency dependent in ionised systems, so you end up with different frequencies travelling at different speeds, in what is called a dispersive medium.

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Ian Johnston
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Re: Relativity - Great! But what about String Theory, Dark Matter and Dark Energy?

Dark matter is theorised to exist because it explains certain observations.

But it is ONLY hypothesised to exist as an explanation for these observations, What is dark matter? The stuff which explains the rate of expansion of the universe. What explains the rate of expansion of the universe? Dark matter. You could insert "sky pixies" or "demonic possession" and have a similarly precise and circular argument.

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Ian Johnston
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Scientists, on the other hand, know that what they do know is pretty solid ...

They always do, when approaching a dead end. That's what the term "paradigm shift" refers to - it's the point when science realises that what it thought was "pretty solid" was actually pretty dodgy.

It's pretty clear that particle physics is in deep doo-doo at the moment, and all the attempts to explain away problems with dark energy, dark matter and a host of exotic new particles looks very much like the desperate attempts to fix Ptolomeic cosmology with epicycles. Of course epicycles were really just Fourier series in disguise, but a fundamental change was needed to make everything work.

I strongly suspect that in a hundred years "dark matter" will be filed alongside "phologiston" and "aether".

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Ian Johnston
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Re: Just a side note

Utter nonsense. If it has any measurable effects, it can be studied and figured out. Throwing up your hands and deciding it's too difficult is for religion and philosophy, not science.

Only if you assume that the human brain is capable of understanding everything. That's a very anthropocentric view - it's entirely possible that some things will just turn out to be too hard. A bit like trying to teach string theory to a chimpanzee.

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Ian Johnston
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Re: Just a side note

Antimatter is just an atom, whose core contains the electrons while the orbits are filled with protons - in "normal" matter it is the other way around.

Antimatter has a nucleus comprising antiprotons and antineutrons, with positrons (aka antielectrons) orbiting it.

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TSB goes TITSUP: Total Inability To Surprise Users, Probably

Ian Johnston
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Re: what's the problem?

TSB is shite. But so are all the other banks.

I have a German (Sparkasse) account. Internet banking with them is easy: the interface is intuitive and far more powerful than anything I've seen from UK banks. The Co-Op, for example, has internet banking which can only store six months' worth of statements.

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ZX Spectrum Vega+ blows a FUSE: It runs open-source emulator

Ian Johnston
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You wait forever to get something which isn't what you expected and which doesn't work anyway. What could be a more authentic Sinclair experience?

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It's 2018 – so, of course, VMware is touting open-source blockchain code, Internet-of-Things tools

Ian Johnston
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Blockchain? Still?

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No, eight characters, some capital letters and numbers is not a good password policy

Ian Johnston
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He'd used his football team plus a number as a password. I had guessed that he'd used the year his football club was founded at the end.

The fault was not his. The fault was having a password policy which could be fully complied with in a way which left his password easily guessable.

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Ian Johnston
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Their corporate IT folks had a very strict password policy. They required a password change every 30 days, unique passwords, and over 10 characters. What this did however, is to create an environment where no one could remember their passwords.

I know an Oxford college which decided to boost security by having a different 4-digit access code for every door into the buildings, instead of one for all doors as previously. This meant that an average student needed to know codes for their staircase, both their tutors' staircases, the common room, the laundry, the library and as many staircases as they had friends on. The result was inevitable: within two days every lock had its code written beside it, usually in something indelible. They went back to one-code-for-all after three days.

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Ian Johnston
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Re: Over Your Head

As a sysadmin you don't need to make users care. Users should be following the policy, and the policy should have the backing of senior management. Anything else is doomed to failure.

And the policy should be sane. The danger is that some paranoid IT dweeb comes up with rules so arcane and so irritating to users that the begin to take a perverse delight in thwarting them. The toughest policy in the world is no good if it leads to passwords on post-it notes by screens.

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Use Debian? Want Intel's latest CPU patch? Small print sparks big problem

Ian Johnston
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It wouldn't be Linux if it wasn't inconsistent and interminable bickering over licensing terms and conditions.

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Linux 4.18 arrives fashionably late while Zorin OS shines up its Windows

Ian Johnston
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At last, it's the Year of Linux On The Desktop.

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Science fiction legend Harlan Ellison ends his short time on Earth

Ian Johnston
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That goes for almost all science fiction writers, though. They get an idea but run out of plot very quickly so they write short stories. Very occasionally, if they are feeling exceptionally bold, a "novella" (Spanish for "padded-out short story") which is almost unknown as a form in any other sphere of writing.

But then, they know their audience. Who wants plot or characterisation when you can get the hang of an idea in a few pages?

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Strip Capita of defence IT contract unless things improve – Brit MPs

Ian Johnston
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I thought Crapita was on the point of following Carillion down the tubes. With luck, all we have to do is wait, then when the euphoria is over, start shorting Serco.

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What's all the C Plus Fuss? Bjarne Stroustrup warns of dangerous future plans for his C++

Ian Johnston
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Obligatory:

https://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/susan/joke/cpp.htm

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Universal Credit has never delivered bang for buck, but now there's no turning back – watchdog

Ian Johnston
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Re: The government position:

You want to solve the problems? Put an IT guy in charge of the IT projects, not a minister

IT guys have proved utterly incapable of delivering this project. Why on earth should they be able to manage it as well?

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Ian Johnston
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Re: The government position:

The degree of incompetence demonstrated by the U.K. Govt. in its management of the U.C. project is astounding. It's a bizarre aspect of reality that those same people consider themselves capable of managing the country.

What about the degree of incompetence demonstrated by the IT professionals (sic) who are being paid by the barrowload to implement the project?

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Schadenfreude for UK mobile networks over the tumult at Carphone

Ian Johnston
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I have a £60 Medion (=Lenovo) from Aldi. It has been working very nicely for 3.5 years and shows no signs of giving up. I'm buggered if I can see any reason to spend fifteen times as much on the latest shiny from Apple or Samsung.

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Automation won’t take your job until the next recession threatens it

Ian Johnston
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Economists can't predict economies. Why on earth would we trust them to predict technologies?

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Hear that? Of course it's Indiegogo's deadline for a Vega+ whooshing by

Ian Johnston
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A lot of people backed this was because:

a) Sir Clive Sinclair is linked to it.

And they are certainly getting an authentic Sinclair experience out of it, so what's the beef?

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Visa Europe fscks up Friday night with other GDPR: 'God Dammit, Payment Refused'

Ian Johnston
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It's a good job I didn't know this, because if I had known it I might not have been able to made several successful purchases with my Visa card on Friday (chip-and-pin, contactless and Amazon) as well as withdraw cash.

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Fake NIPS slip site scandalizes AI world

Ian Johnston
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"The real NIPS website is nips.cc. Please do not visit nips2018.org."

Why the hell would organisers of a reputable conference use such a fake sounding web address?

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Whois? Whowas. So what's next for ICANN and its vast database of domain-name owners?

Ian Johnston
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Re: Rejected one year moratorium oddly similar to 12 months they say they need to devise a new model

A whois search on my .uk domains now shows that they are registered by an individual, it doesn't give my name, and the only contact details are for the registrar.

Mine say "Data validation: Nominet was able to match the registrant's name and address against a 3rd party data source on 10-Dec-2012". There is nothing about whether I am an individual, corporation or super-intelligent shade of the colour blue.

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Ex-staffer of UK.gov dept bags payout after boss blabbed medical info to colleagues

Ian Johnston
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Re: balanced fact based reporting please

To be honest, sometimes I don't even see the need for the employer to know... "I'm having an operation" is perfectly acceptable. You don't need to know if that's a vasectomy, a circumcision, a hysterectomy or anything else unless that person chooses to tell you. But you certainly shouldn't be advertising whatever it is (even if the person in question is doing so themselves).

Many employers only give sick leave for illness, and using it for elective vasectomy, circumcision, or hysterectomy would be gross misconduct.

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People like convenience more than privacy – so no, blockchain will not 'decentralise the web'

Ian Johnston
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Re: Spot on

What makes you so sure that a "real email account" isn't a gmail one? I have several user@domain accounts which use gmail.

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As Tesla hits speed bump after speed bump, Elon Musk loses his mind in anti-media rant

Ian Johnston
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This sort of tantrum by Musk isn't new. Remember when a New York journalist borrowed a Model S and reported range problems, after being advised by a Tesla customer service advisor to warm the batteries with a quick charge before setting of in freezing conditions? Musk threw a total eppy, ranted about "big oil shills" and sacked the customer service advisor.

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Ian Johnston
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Re: Don't forget critics..

I mean... take the idea for the rocket which can also land itself: there was already an actual working concept around in the 90's.

Indeed, and there is a huge opportunity cost to retaining enough fuel to land the first stages. NASA and the Russkis aren't stupid - they could and would have done it years ago if it made economic sense.

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Ian Johnston
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Re: Can't have it both ways, guys.

You can't say "[all] journalists do [x,y,z]" and follow that with "the media is not a coherent whole".

Why not? Staff on the Guardian and the Mail work in very similar way but produce completely different results.

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Braking news: Tesla preps firmware fling to 'fix' Model 3's inability to stop in time

Ian Johnston
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Re: A different problem

Braking distance is more seriously affected by how much G you can subject the user to than anything else. You can make the car stop on a sixpence, it'll just break your neck and make you unconscious in your burning vehicle.

The maximum deceleration to which you can safely subject a sitting human is around 9G - above that and internal organs start tearing off their mountings, which is a Bad Thing. For normal driving, you won't get tyres with a higher coefficient of friction than 1, so 1G is your maximum. Do what you like with brakes, ABS and regeneration - you're not going to hurt the driver.

F1 cars manage about 5.5 deceleration at high speeds, by the way, but that's because (1) their slicks have a friction coefficient of around 1.5 and (b) aerodynamic downforce means they have several times their weight to play with.

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