European Solar Challenge: the Turkish cars

Two Turkish teams (see below) are registered for the 24-hour iLumen European Solar Challenge to be held at Circuit Zolder in Belgium on 18–20 September. Unfortunately, although both teams are still hoping for a last-minute reprieve, Covid-related travel regulations seem to preclude their attending. This is a shame, because both teams are running excellent cars. Team Solaris might have another chance to shine next February in South Africa, however.

See this page for details on other teams.

TR  Istanbul Technical University (ITU) 

Challenger (B.O.W.) – “B.O.W.” stands for “Bees On Wheels,” from the ITU logo. This is B.O.W.’s last race, and the car has been getting some pre-iESC testing. They even ran their own 24-hour test race (although battery problems forced a premature finish after 11 hours). Their base is about 2,610 km from Zolder by road. However, I understand that there are still travel restrictions into Europe for Turkey. See their iESC team profile here.

Previously, ITU came 17th at WSC 13; participated at WSC 17; and came 7th at iESC 16.

Left: Anthony Dekker / Right: credit (click images to zoom)

TR  Dokuz Eylül University (Solaris) 

Asymmetric challenger (S10) – they believe the new car to be 44% more efficient than the 2015 model. Given the overlap with WSC 2021, I am not sure if they will still compete in South Africa as they had planned. They have been doing some pre-iESC testing. Their base is about 3,080 km from Zolder by road. However, I understand that there are still travel restrictions into Europe for Turkey. See their iESC team profile here.

Previously, Solaris participated in the WSC 13 Adventure class; came 25th at WSC 15; came 18th at WSC 19; came 9th at iESC 16; came 2nd at Albi Eco 18; and came 2nd at MSRC 19.

Left: credit / Right: credit (click images to zoom)

European Solar Challenge: update

Below (click to zoom) is my best guess at the field of cars for the 24-hour iLumen European Solar Challenge to be held at Circuit Zolder in Belgium on 18–20 September (taking into account EU travel rules and team statements on social media). All car photographs except the Swiss one are mine (taken at WSC). See this page for updated team details and further iESC information.

In other news, the long-range weather forecast is for mostly sunny weather on the 18th and 19th, but clouds on the 20th. Coronavirus rules rule out spectators, so I will attempt to give the best coverage that I can during the race (given that I am following it from Australia).

Meanwhile, teams are preparing for the race. Durham has been doing some testing at Shobdon Aerodrome, and Agoria have been taking advantage of their proximity to test at Zolder itself. The programme calls for teams to arrive at the track on 16 September. Some teams may have already left home, if they are subject to quarantine restrictions (see the latest travel advice here).

Below are some pictures from recent team social media (use the picture above to identify teams):

Board games!

I love board games. I really, really, love them. The chart below shows my least favourite game (Monopoly) and some personal favourites:

The chart shows the rating on, the age range, the number of players, the approximate time to play the game (games with a predictable duration are better in social terms – particularly if you want to finish a game before dinner), and three other quality characteristics:

  • Artistic quality: I am rating this subjectively, but it’s always nice to have something beatiful to look at while you are waiting for your turn.
  • Educational value: Ticket to Ride and Pandemic teach geography, 7 Wonders teaches something about history (especially with the Leaders expansion), and Kingdomino teaches multiplication (I give partial credit to Forbidden Island for being a collaborative game, and negative credit to Monopoly for teaching that money is the most important thing in life).
  • Winning: ideally, all players have a chance of winning right up to the end (I give extra credit to Kingdomino for having a mechanism that helps players that “missed out” on a good tile, and to Pandemic and Forbidden Island for being collaborative).

It can be seen that Monopoly scores badly in every possible way: it can take forever; the artwork is poor; it teaches bad moral lessons; and players are actually eliminated from the game during play. That is why I dislike it.

The “America the Beautiful” quarters

Just for fun (click to zoom), a map of 49 of the 56 U.S. National Parks, National Forests, and National Wildlife Refuges shown on the “America the Beautiful” quarters. How many have you visited?

Locations auto-extracted from Wikipedia pages using R, and colours indicating elevation, using an elevation dataset from (a dataset which treats the Great Lakes as land) and a palette I knocked together.

European Solar Challenge: the field

Below (click to zoom) is the field of cars for the 24-hour iLumen European Solar Challenge to be held at Circuit Zolder in Belgium on 18–20 September, along with national flags (some cars are still under construction). The first 15 photographs are mine (taken at WSC). See this page for team details and further iESC information.

Edit 1: due to EU travel restrictions, a serious question mark hangs over participation by Colombia and Turkey. Social media suggests that the two registered Colombian teams do not intend to participate. The two Turkish teams appear ready to participate, should there be a last-minute relaxation of entry restrictions.

I have some doubts in my mind about Futuro (Italy), since they have not discussed participation on social media, and do not seem to have completed their vehicle (however, they could attend with their old car). Ardingly (UK) are unlikely to attend, going by their upcoming events list. Consequently, the cars of which I’m reasonably confident are the 13 highlighted below:

Edit 2: I am very happy to see that Solar Team Eindhoven is now registered as well! That helps to make up for some of teams that probably will not make it.

Edit 3: Sadly, however, JU Solar Team will not make it.

Edit 4: Nor will Futuro Solare Onlus, unfortunately.

What is Magic?

I have been reading some interesting fantasy novels recently by Rabia Gale: novels which blur the line between magic and technology (four stars for Mourning Cloak, by the way). That prompted me to ask: where does that line actually fall? Arthur C. Clarke once said, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” So is there a line at all? What is magic, exactly?

One might perhaps define magic as the manipulation of the world using forces other than those commonly recognised. Exactly what that involves depends on where one thinks magic comes from.

(A): One might consider magical abilities to be divine gifts. God gives Moses the ability to carve a path through the Red Sea, for example. In practice, this category of activity is not normally called “magic,” and is more likely to go under the name of “miracle.” Generally, it is understood as divine manipulation of the world through a person, rather than by that person.

(B): The opposite scenario is where the magical gifts come from some darker power. In Navajo mythology, for example, witches gain their power by committing intrinsically evil acts, such as murder or incest. Obviously, magic of this kind must be avoided. Indeed, the Navajo prefer not even to speak of it. However, some form of this kind of magic is often used by the “bad guys” in fantasy.

(C): A third option is that some individuals are simply born with magical abilities. This is distinguished from case (A) in that there is normally an entire class of magical people or beings, and these people or beings have some form of free will regarding the use of their abilities. In the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, the Maiar (angels) and the Valar (archangels) fall into this category, as do the elves. Free will implies that some of these entities turn to evil: in the works of Tolkien, this includes Melkor or Morgoth (one of the Valar), and Saruman, Sauron, and the Balrogs (all Maiar of various kinds).

This approach to magic is a staple of young adult (YA) literature, in part because it encourages adolescents to think about the talents that they may have been born with, and how those talents will (or should) influence the trajectory of their lives. One thinks of Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea, for example, or of Pug in Feist’s Magician. Indeed, it is not only young adults who find this theme compelling.

(D): The fourth approach to magic is that it is a totally natural part of the universe. Anyone can learn to manipulate the universe with magic, just as one can learn electrochemistry or thermodynamics. Approached in this way, magic simply becomes a kind of fictional science.

There is also a combination of (C) and (D) where magic requires a combination of study and natural talent. This naturally leads to a “school for mages” novel, which can be a little dull (in my opinion, at least), unless the author finds a way of extracting the protagonist from the school (as in A Wizard of Earthsea), or of creatively subverting the whole idea of the school (as in The Bards of Bone Plain).

Human magic in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien seems in most cases to be a combination of (B) and (D). When human beings attempt to seize what comes naturally to elves, the outcome seems to inevitably be one of darkness and shadow, with the Nazgûl (Ringwraiths) being the extreme example. There is a parable here which applies also to technology, much like Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and his other cautionary tales. Any sufficiently misguided technology, it seems, is indistinguishable from black magic.

Vattenfall Solar Team world record attempt

In 2017, Vattenfall (then Nuon) Solar Team in their car Nuna8S set a solar racing endurance record at the RDW (Netherlands Vehicle Authority) test track in Lelystad, NL of 882 km in 12 hours or 73.5 km/h (see Dutch video here).

On Saturday 8 August this year they hope to break their own record in the Nuna Phoenix which they originally intended to race at the now-cancelled American Solar Challenge (this car is, I understand, Nuna9S with a variety of changes made specifically for ASC, including a metal roll cage and a motor suitable for climbing mountains).

According to media reports, they will begin with a full battery, but then run only on solar power for the next 12 hours (this is in contrast to the 24-hour European Solar Challenge, where two recharges are permitted during the night). For their event, Vattenfall Solar Team will have four drivers, each taking on a 3-hour stint (Marloes Nanninga, Maxime Croft, Sylke van der Kleij, and Mees van Vliet). Nuna Phoenix will begin driving at around 7:00 local time. I understand from live streams that they are also water-cooling the panel at driver changes.

The weather forecast is for sun (with increasing clouds). This webcam and this one show weather at the harbour nearby (looking away from the track). For updates, see the team social media at 

Previously, Vattenfall won WSC 13; won WSC 15; won WSC 17; came 12th at WSC 19 (after their NunaX was destroyed by fire); won SASOL 14; won SASOL 16; and won SASOL 18.

Edit 1: This 12-hour endurance event also includes the first public reveal of Nuna Phoenix. The event has now begun.

Edit 2: Nuna Phoenix has clocked up approximately 126 km in 90 minutes so far (84 km/h).

Edit 3: Now it’s approximately 238 km in 3 hours (79.3 km/h).

Edit 4: Nuna Phoenix has now clocked up 355 km in 285 minutes (74.7 km/h, which suggests that they are being cautious about possible clouds coming in).

Edit 5: Now it’s approximately 538 km in 7 hours (76.9 km/h).

Edit 6: At the last driver change (9 hours) it’s 670 km (74.4 km/h).

Edit 7: After 12 hours, Vattenfall Solar Team have indeed set a new world record of 924 km (77 km/h), following a late sprint (reaching at least 97 km/h). Well done!

For teams interested in challenging this record, my proposal would be that the format used by Vattenfall Solar Team be followed, in a car designed for (and ideally, having passed scrutineering in) either WSC, ASC, or SSC within the previous 3 years (I exclude ESC from that list, because of its different format). Not that many teams have a car as fast as Nuna Phoenix, of course!

European Solar Challenge: modelling strategy

The iLumen European Solar Challenge at Circuit Zolder in Belgium is still expected to go ahead on 18–20 September (see my list of teams here). Following up on my earlier post about the sun at Zolder, here is a simplistic model of a hypothetical car under plausible (partly sunny) weather conditions:

The blue lines show energy output (in kWh) at three different speeds. Notice that the car is stationary during two charging periods (under regulation 3.10.1, each Challenger-class car may make two recharge stops, of at least one hour each; the timing of these is an important strategy choice). The car speed is assumed to be constant. In other words, variation in speed as the car drives around the circuit is completely ignored (see the circuit map below by Will Pittenger). For this hypothetical car, 52 km/h is the maximum speed.

The orange lines show corresponding energy input, from initial battery charge, two recharges, and solar panels. The iLumen European Solar Challenge (iESC) is a 24-hour race, with just under 12 hours taking place in the dark (grey area on the chart). On past trends, during September, the sun at Zolder shines for about 6 hours a day, and there is rain on one day in two. Only a few kWh therefore comes from the sun at the iESC. The race is, in fact, mostly won on aerodynamics, the rolling resistance of tyres, regenerative braking, and driving skill. The iESC organisers can, therefore, allow a mixture of different solar panel sizes without any unfairness, because smaller cars with smaller panels also have lower aerodynamic drag. I look forward to seeing how the various teams cope with this challenging race.