WSC 2013: Thursday night

It’s official! Nuon Solar Team have won the World Solar Challenge at 10:03 ACST today (followed by Tokai University at 13:22, Solar Team Twente at 14:38, and Stanford at 16:31).

The race is far from over, however, so I’ve put together another race chart (from the timing tables), showing the top 12 Challenger Class entries, with a second chart showing the top 4 in the Cruiser Class and the top 2 in the Adventure Class. Once again, these charts are relative to a baseline average speed of 85 km/h, which includes wait time at checkpoints (this corresponds to a driving-only speed of about 97 km/h). This baseline is one that Nuon just barely exceeded when they travelled 953 km from Kulgera (at 12:53 on Tuesday) to Port Augusta (at 15:05 on Wednesday).

The left-hand axis of the charts(click to zoom) shows the number of hours that cars are (or were) running behind the baseline speed. Very noticeable is the delay that Tokai experienced when they ran out of power during rainy conditions this morning (which meant that Tokai, Twente, and Stanford will only cross the ceremonial finish line tomorrow). Nuon and Twente, on the other hand, planned for the weather very well.

Since the baseline speed is very close to finishing the race in exactly 4 days, arrival times (and, extrapolating the lines to the right, estimated arrival times for tomorrow) can be read off on the right-hand scale (for example, Nuon finished at 10:03 ACST this morning, and I expect Solar Energy Racers to finish just a few minutes after 8:00 tomorrow).

Solar Energy Racers and Punch Powertrain are camped out along the road south of Port Augusta, while Team Arrow, Blue Sky, the repaired Michigan car, Onda, UWS, and an apparently repaired Kanazawa car have yet to reach the town.

In the Cruiser Class, Sunswift has also reached Port Augusta, while Bochum, Eindhoven, and Minnesota are still on the approach. Those cars, of course, will be judged on a mixture of criteria, in which Eindhoven will have an advantage as a result of carrying an average of around three people for the trip.

Clarification: for the Cruiser class, the ETA is one hour earlier than indicated on the right-hand scale (because of the early 7:00 start on day 4). The second chart also underestimates the driving speed of the Cruiser Class, because of the end-of-stage wait times at Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, and Coober Pedy.

For a review of the day’s events, see this official WSC video:

There are also great visuals in this (Dutch) video from Team Twente:


The Chemistry Nobel gives hope to all simulation scientists

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has gone to three pioneers of molecular dynamicsMartin Karplus (Harvard/Strasbourg), Michael Levitt (Stanford), and Arieh Warshel (Southern California) – “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.”

This is the kind of thing their work made possible:

In particular, multi-level simulation is needed to simulate this kind of behaviour. Quantum theory has the finest resolution, but is computationally intractable. Classical models are more computationally tractable, but inaccurate. The solution is to combine the two approaches, working at two different levels.

Similar challenges occur in other areas, such as in the tension between micro and macro models of economics. For example, agent-based models of individual purchasing decisions can predict changes in prices. However, quite different models predict the behaviour of national economies as a whole. Adequately marrying the two levels is still an unsolved problem, but simulation scientists in all fields of endeavour can take heart from the successes of chemical simulation.

See Scientific American for more on this prize.