Italian Solar Challenge 2022

Following the iLumen European Solar Challenge in Belgium will be the Italian Solar Challenge, from 25 to 30 September at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari near Bologna. Here is a list of 5 teams from 4 countries (3 Challenger teams and 2 Cruiser teams) intending to race in this event. See also the race social media at    

The ISC permits up to 6 m2 solar panels in both Challenger and Cruiser classes. Detailed regulations can be found on the ISC website.

IT  Onda Solare 

Four-seat cruiser (Emilia 4 LT) – they won the American Solar Challenge (Cruiser class) in 2018, and they have written up their design process here, but they have since made substantial improvements to the vehicle, including to the aerodynamics, suspension, battery, and solar panels. There is also an unusual open tail.

Previously, Onda came 10th at WSC 13; participated in the WSC 19 Cruiser class; won the ASC 18 Cruiser class; came 10th at Abu Dhabi 15; came 6th at iESC 16; won the iESC 21 Cruiser class; and came 2nd in the iESC 22 Cruiser class. Their team number (9) is taken from the SS 9, the highway through Bologna, which was once the Roman Via Aemilia (hence also the name of their vehicle).

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

11  DE  BoSolarCar Association (BOSolarCar e.V.) 

Two-seat cruiser (thyssenkrupp SunRiser) – BOSolarCar e.V. is an association of Bochum alumni that maintains and races old Bochum cars. They will also race their older SolarWorld GT in Italy.

Previously, Bochum came 2nd in the WSC 13 Cruiser class; came 3rd in the WSC 15 Cruiser class; came 2nd in the WSC 17 Cruiser class; came 4th in the WSC 19 Cruiser class; came 3rd, 4th, and 5th at iESC 16; came 2nd, 3rd, and 5th in the iESC 18 Cruiser class; came 3rd and 4th in the iESC 21 Cruiser class; came 4th in the iESC 22 Cruiser class; came 1st and 7th at Albi Eco 18; came 1st and 2nd at Albi Eco 19; and came 3rd at Albi Eco 22.

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

70  DE  Sonnenwagen Aachen 

Three-wheel (outrigger) challenger (Covestro Photon) – their older monohull, Covestro Sonnenwagen, will also be on track in Belgium.

Previously, Aachen participated at WSC 17; came 6th at WSC 19; came 3rd at iESC 18; came 5th and 8th at iESC 20; came 2nd and 6th at iESC 21; came 1st and 2nd at iESC 22; and came 5th at SCM 21. Their team number (70) is the number they raced with in 2017.

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

81  TR  Solar Team Solaris (Dokuz Eylül University) 

Challenger (S11) – they have replaced their old catamaran with a bullet car, which they will be racing again.

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 7th at iESC 21; came equal 8th at iESC 22; came 2nd at Albi Eco 18; and came 2nd at MSRC 19.

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

99  RO  Solis-EV (TU Cluj-Napoca) 

Challenger (Solis) – this is team is from Cluj-Napoca in Romania.

Previously, Solis-EV came 9th at iESC 21 and came equal 8th at iESC 22.

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

This page last updated 08:45 on 26 September 2022 AEST.

Planetary Intelligences

In a book review of Out of the Silent Planet, I mentioned last year that C. S. Lewis had pioneered the science fiction sub-genre of a planetary intelligence or sentient planet which resists outsiders. A planetary intelligence provides a way of exploring colonisation and other issues, while still having a positive ending to the story.

The chart above (click to zoom) shows a timeline of the concept. Although there are many other stories based on the idea, these six seemed particularly noteworthy (star ratings out of 5 are from GoodReads and RottenTomatoes):

Solaris was filmed in 1968, 1972 (★★★★☆), and 2002 (★★★☆). Here are trailers for the last two films:

Readers, how do you feel the various books and films compare?

Fictional Scientists and Mathematicians

I have been reflecting on fictional mathematicians and scientists. The image above shows four:

None of these are terribly good role models, it seems to me. Literature and cinema have some better examples, but on the whole, mathematicians and scientists are not treated well by fiction authors.

Milton Millhauser, in “Dr. Newton and Mr. Hyde: Scientists in Fiction from Swift to Stevenson” (Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 1973, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 287–304) notes that, in literature, “broadly speaking the scientist is either disregarded or held up to contempt and ridicule.” But perhaps that is because some writers (Michael Crichton is a notable example) see dangers and dilemmas that demand exploration.

However, female scientists and mathematicians seem to be portrayed somewhat more positively. For example:

  • Eleanor Arroway from Contact by Carl Sagan.
  • Sarah Harding from The Lost World by Michael Crichton.
  • Catherine Llewellyn from the play (and later film) Proof by David Auburn.
  • Grace Augustine from the film Avatar by James Cameron.

Brouwer and his fixed point theorem


The Brouwer fixed-point theorem is one of my favourite mathematical theorems. It is named after the Dutch mathematician Luitzen Egbertus Jan Brouwer (above right). Brouwer is also known for his work in Intuitionism. I have mentioned the Brouwer fixed-point theorem before.

The theorem states that any continuous function f on a compact convex set (and specifically, on a disc in the plane) will have at least one fixed point – that is, there will be at least one point p such that f(p) = p. The picture below is intended to illustrate the theorem; it is explained further down.

In the case of a disc, the theorem can be proved by contradiction. Assume that f(p) ≠ p for every point p. Then the pair of f(p) and p always defines a continuous mapping g from p to the boundary of the disc, as illustrated above (left). However, such a continuous mapping is impossible (for complex reasons, but in simple terms, because it creates a hole, which continuous mappings cannot do).

So what about that picture? It shows a continuous function f from the disc to itself, combining an irregular rotation about the centre (rotating least towards the east of the disc) with a “folding” operation that leaves the centre and boundary untouched. The picture below shows a cross-section of the folding in action. The shades of blue in the picture above show how far each point p is from f(p), with lighter colours representing smaller values. Arrows show the action of the function on 6 randomly chosen points. There are two fixed points, marked with black dots: the centre and one other point where the folding and the irregular rotation cancel each other out.

The three-dimensional version of the theorem tells us that, when I stir my morning cup of coffee, at least one speck of liquid will wind up exactly where it started.

Sasol Solar Challenge Update

The Sasol Solar Challenge is on again in September this year, with scrutineering beginning on the 4th. The chart above shows the teams registered for the event (the Dutch and Belgian teams have already arrived in South Africa). I also keep a more detailed annotated list of teams up to date.

Results of the 2018 race are shown below (the winners, now called Brunel, are back again, as are TUT, NWU, and CUT). The official race social media is at      

Solar racing car numbers

As in all races, solar racing cars are identified by number. Some solar car numbers are simply traditional, like the 8 for Agoria Solar Team from Belgium (above). Others have a specific meaning, as shown in the chart below.

Some numbers are lucky in some way, such as 21 = “Twente-One.” Some are coded references to solar technology, such as 55 = the year that Western Electric began to sell licenses for silicon PV technology. Alternatively, numbers indicate the team’s home base. This can be done by specifying a road, such as the the Interstate 35 or Strade Statali 9 = the Via Aemilia. More commonly, telephone country or area codes are used, such as 40 = Eindhoven, 46 = Sweden, 82 = South Korea, or 828 = western North Carolina. Not shown in the chart is 34 = the vehicle license plate prefix for Istanbul.

Mobile phone picture by Rafael Fernandez

Race the Sun: where are they now?

The 1996 movie Race the Sun is almost sacred in the solar car racing community. It fictionalises the true story of a Hawaiian high school team racing in the World Solar Challenge in Australia. But where is the cast now?


  • Halle Berry (Sandra Beecher): became a major star, playing Storm in X-Men, Ginger Knowles in Swordfish, and many other roles.
  • Jim Belushi (Frank Machi): already well known in 1996, he has acted in multiple later films, such as The Ghost Writer.

Left: Halle Berry at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con (cropped from a photo by Gage Skidmore); Centre: Pritzker School of Medicine in Chicago, where Sara Tanaka did her initial medical training; Right: Casey Affleck in 2016 (cropped from a photo by Bex Walton)

Solar Car Race Team

  • Casey Affleck (Daniel Webster): has acted in multiple films. For his role in Manchester by the Sea, he won several awards.
  • Eliza Dushku (Cindy Johnson): continued on to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and various film and TV work. In later years, she became politically active.
  • Anthony Ruivivar (Eduardo Braz): has acted in various films and has frequently played policemen on television.
  • Sara Tanaka (Uni Kakamura): graduated in Medicine from the University of Chicago in 2008, and then specialised in cardiology. She now practices, I believe, in New York.
  • Dion Basco (Marco Quito): had a few other acting roles.
  • J. Moki Cho (Gilbert Tutu): became a musician, and is on Instagram and on YouTube.
  • Nadja Pionilla (Oni Nagano): had a few other acting roles, and is on Twitter.
  • Adriane Napualani Uganiza (Luana Kanahele): I don’t know what happened to her.

Other Characters

  • Steve Zahn (Hans Kooiman): various film and TV work, including a role as an ape in War for the Planet of the Apes (2017).
  • Joel Edgerton (Steve Fryman): acted in multiple films, including playing the young Owen Lars in several Star Wars films.
  • Kevin Tighe (Jack Fryman): acted in film and television, as well as on stage.
  • Bill Hunter (Commissioner Hawkes): after acting in numerous films, he died in 2011.
  • Jeff Truman (Ed Webster): after a career of acting and writing, he died in 2014.

With the obvious exceptions, I would like to see one of these people at the start (or finish) of a major solar car race.