2019 World Solar Challenge revised teams list


The race runs from 13–20 October

Here is a further update on the 47 teams (29 Challengers, 17 Cruisers, and 1 Adventure car) from 23 countries aiming for the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia this October. Below is my best understanding of the current team status, updated to match the official list of teams. Teams are sorted in team number order. As always, you can click the social media links, and click images to zoom. I have also put together a Twitter list for the event.

There is an ASC-style documentation progress chart this year. In terms of physical progress, teams are starting to arrive in Darwin. The pie chart below summarises the field.

US    University of Michigan 

Monohull GaAs challenger (new car: Electrum) – their car name is the name of a gold/silver alloy famous in antiquity. They revealed their car on 19 July (video). They are now in Adelaide.

Previously, Michigan came 9th at WSC 13; came 4th at WSC 15; came 2nd at WSC 17; won ASC 14; won ASC 16; came 2nd at ASC 18; and won Abu Dhabi 15. Their team number (2) is a long-standing tradition.

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

NL    Vattenfall Solar Team (Delft) 

Asymmetric GaAs challenger (new car: Nuna X) – these are the champions formerly known as Nuon. See their 2017 aftermovie. The new car weighs just 135 kg (298 lbs) and has a unique asymmetrical rear (designed to take advantage of October winds coming primarily from the east). The car has clocked up many test kilometres. They revealed their car on 16 July (video). Part of their team was assigned to do a detailed Adelaide-to-Darwin reverse route survey. As always, their main pre-race base is Nightcliff Primary School in Darwin. They are now in Darwin.

Previously, Vattenfall won WSC 13; won WSC 15; won WSC 17; won SASOL 14; won SASOL 16; and won SASOL 18. Their team number (3) is a long-standing tradition.

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

CL    Antakari Solar Team 

Monohull challenger (new car: Intikallpa V) – they have been working hard getting their car finished. They revealed their car on 13 September (pic). Painted on the side of the car is an Andean condor (Vultur gryphus).

Previously, Antakari participated in the WSC 13 Adventure class and came 10th at WSC 17.

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

SG    Singapore Polytechnic 

Two-seat cruiser (SunSPEC 6) – their 2019 car is a modified version of their 2017 car SunSPEC 5. They revealed their car on 30 July (pic). They are now in Adelaide.

Previously, Singapore came 16th at WSC 13; participated in the WSC 15 Cruiser class; and participated in the WSC 17 Cruiser class.

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

NL    Top Dutch Solar Racing 

Monohull single junction GaAs challenger (new team with car: Green Lightning) – their car is a bullet car resembling Michigan’s 2017 Novum. It looks so good that at this stage I’m calling them “best new team.” Their car has four-wheel steering at low speed and two-wheel steering at high speed. There are Dutch media reports about their plans, and they are vlogging weekly (in Dutch, but they have started adding English subtitles). They revealed their car on 12 June (video). The Netherlands 11th Airmobile Brigade provided some final training on dealing with unusual challenges. They are now in Coober Pedy. They plan to be in Darwin on 28 September.

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

AU    Adelaide University 

Asymmetric challenger (Lumen II Mk II) – they have been doing a lot of testing.

Previously, Adelaide came 21st at WSC 15 and participated at WSC 17.


picture credit (click to zoom)

BE    Agoria Solar Team (KU Leuven) 

Asymmetric GaAs challenger (new car: BluePoint) – they are now sponsored by Agoria. They held a mock race with the old car. Their new car looks very similar. They revealed their car on 3 July (video). Their main pre-race base is Casuarina Senior College in Darwin. They are now in Darwin.

Previously, Agoria came 6th at WSC 13; came 5th at WSC 15; came 3rd at WSC 17; came 3rd at Abu Dhabi 15; came 2nd at iESC 16; and came 6th at iESC 18. Their team number (8) is a long-standing tradition.

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

IT    Onda Solare 

Four-seat cruiser (Emilia 4 LT) – they won the American Solar Challenge (Cruiser class) last year, 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. They shipped their car on the MSC Loretta (as did SER).

Previously, Onda came 10th at WSC 13; won the ASC 18 Cruiser class; came 10th at Abu Dhabi 15; and came 6th at iESC 16. 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 to zoom)

10  JP    Tokai University 

Monohull challenger (new car: Tokai Challenger) – their new car looks almost identical to the old one, but with optimisations following aerodynamic analysis. They are also using a lithium polymer battery pack instead of lithium-ion, and Sunpower solar cells instead of Panasonic HIT cells this year. They are reporting an unchanged solar cell efficiency of 24.1%, although this seems inconsistent with what Sunpower says. They revealed their car on 3 September. They plan to be in Darwin on 3 October.

Previously, Tokai came 2nd at WSC 13; came 3rd at WSC 15; came 4th at WSC 17; came 7th at Abu Dhabi 15; came 2nd at SASOL 16; and came 2nd at SASOL 18.

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

11  DE    Bochum University of Applied Sciences 

Two-seat cruiser (thyssenkrupp SunRiser) – Bochum is not building a new WSC car, but are improving their sexy 2-seater SunRiser, which came 3rd in 2015. They also have a solar buggy team. Their thyssenkrupp SunRiser reached Sydney on the ship Al Bahia on 27 August. They are now in Darwin.

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 3rd, 4th, and 5th at iESC 16; came 2nd, 3rd, and 5th in the iESC 18 Cruiser class; came 1st and 7th at Albi Eco 18; and came 1st and 2nd at Albi Eco 19.

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

12  GB    Cambridge University 

Four-seat cruiser (new car: Helia) – they have had motor problems. They revealed their car on 15 August (pic).

Previously, Cambridge came 22nd at WSC 15 and came 10th at iESC 16.

 
Left: Nigel / Right: Nigel (click to zoom)

14  AU    Flinders University 

Two-seat cruiser (Investigator Mk 3) – they were planning to improve aerodynamics, reduce weight, and make some other changes. They have taken an unusual approach to the motor.

Previously, Flinders participated in the WSC 17 Cruiser class.

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

15  AU    Western Sydney Solar Team 

Monohull GaAs challenger (new car: Unlimited 3.0) – they won the American Solar Challenge last year (with their car Unlimited 2.0), but have built a hot new “bullet car” this year. They revealed their car on 7 August (pic). They are now in Coober Pedy.

Previously, WSU came 11th at WSC 13; came 10th at WSC 15; came 6th at WSC 17; and won ASC 18.

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

16  US    Stanford Solar Car Project 

Monohull challenger (new car: Black Mamba) – they first showed us their shell, which is a unique asymmetric bullet car. They revealed their car on 21 July (pic). They are now in Darwin.

Previously, Stanford came 4th at WSC 13; came 6th at WSC 15; and came 9th at WSC 17.

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

18  MY    EcoPhoton (UiTM) 

Asymmetric challenger (new car: Tigris) – they revealed their car on Malaysian television on the morning of 20 August.

Previously, EcoPhoton came 26th at WSC 15 and participated at WSC 17.

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

20  GB    Durham University 

Asymmetric challenger (new car: Ortus) – they report 24% lower drag and 28% lower weight than their previous car. They revealed their car on 12 August (pic).

Previously, Durham came 27th at WSC 15 and participated at WSC 17.

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

21  NL    Solar Team Twente 

Asymmetric GaAs challenger (new car: RED E) – they are already producing regular vlogs (in Dutch), and have also produced an (English) day-in-the-life blog post. Their design is an incredibly tiny GaAs catamaran with shingled solar cells. They developed a MOOC explaining the design of their 2015 car, and there is an online game of their new car. They revealed their car on 21 June (video). They have, once again, run an excellent simulated race. They are now in Darwin.

Previously, Twente came 3rd at WSC 13; came 2nd at WSC 15; came 5th at WSC 17; won iESC 16; and came 1st and 2nd at iESC 18. Their team number (21) is a pun and a wish for success in the race (“Twente-One”).

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

22  SE    MDH Solar Team 

Classic symmetric challenger (Viking) – this year’s car is an improved version of their 2017 car, with better aerodynamics and electronics. In particular, the two “bites” on the side have been filled in. They revealed their car on 29 June (pic).

Previously, MDH participated at WSC 17.

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

23  SE    Halmstad University Solar Team 

Outrigger challenger (new team with car: Heart Three) – their render showed a bullet car, much like Michigan’s 2017 entry, but they have built a car with outriggers (with the associated drag issues). They revealed their car on 11 June (pic).


picture credit (click to zoom)

25  HK    Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education 

Two-seat cruiser (Sophie 6s) – their car is a modification of Sophie 6 from 2017. They revealed their car on 6 July (pic).

Previously, HK IVE participated in the WSC 13 Adventure class; participated in the WSC 15 Cruiser class; and participated in the WSC 17 Cruiser class.

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

30  AU    Team Arrow 

Adventure (Arrow1) – because of damage to their Cruiser car during testing, they have transferred to the Adventure class with an older car.

Previously, Arrow came 7th at WSC 13; came 8th at WSC 15; came 3rd in the WSC 17 Cruiser class; came 5th at Abu Dhabi 15; and came 8th at iESC 18. Their team number (30) is the average age of people on the original team.


public domain photo

31  CH    Solar Energy Racers 

Asymmetric challenger (SER-3) – they raced this car in South Africa, but have made some improvements. They revealed the car on 10 July, prior to sending it to Australia by sea (on the MSC Loretta with Onda Solare’s car). They plan to be in Darwin on 6 October.

Previously, SER came 5th at WSC 13; came 2nd at ASC 16; came 11th at Abu Dhabi 15; came 3rd at SASOL 18; and came 8th at iESC 16.

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

35  US    University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project 

Two-seat cruiser (Eos II) – they are building a new car, but will race an upgraded version of their existing one for BWSC 19 (revealing the upgrade on 19 July).

Previously, Minnesota came 4th in the WSC 13 Cruiser class; came 5th in the WSC 15 Cruiser class; participated in the WSC 17 Cruiser class; came 2nd at ASC 14; came equal 10th at ASC 16; and came equal 2nd in the ASC 18 Cruiser class. Their team number (35) is derived from the Interstate 35 highway.

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

37  JP    Goko High School

Asymmetric challenger (Musoushin) – this high-school team always does very well.

Previously, Goko came 5th in the WSC 13 Cruiser class; came 14th at WSC 15; and participated at WSC 17.


picture credit (click to zoom)

40  NL    Solar Team Eindhoven 

Four-seat cruiser (new car: Stella Era) – their new car has many cool features and a range of 1200 km. They revealed their car on 4 July (video). Tragically, their solar panel was damaged in transit. They are now in Darwin.

Previously, Eindhoven won the WSC 13 Cruiser class; won the WSC 15 Cruiser class; won the WSC 17 Cruiser class; and came 7th in the iESC 18 Cruiser class. Their team number (40) is the Eindhoven telephone area code.

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

41  AU    Australian National University 

Asymmetric challenger (new car: MTAA Super Charge 2) – their shell was produced by Sydney Composites. They revealed their car on 12 September.

Previously, ANU participated at WSC 17.

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

42  AU    TAFE SA 

Two-seat cruiser (SAV) – this time they will tow the trailer that belongs with the car.

Previously, TAFE SA came 7th in the WSC 13 Cruiser class; participated in the WSC 15 Adventure class; and participated in the WSC 17 Cruiser class.

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

43  GB    Ardingly College 

Two-seat cruiser (Ardingly Solar Car) – this high-school team came 6th in the iESC Cruiser class, but have upgraded the car since then.

Previously, Ardingly participated in the WSC 15 Cruiser class; came 6th in the iESC 18 Cruiser class; and participated at Albi Eco 19.

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

45  PL    Lodz Solar Team 

Four-seat 60-kWh cruiser (Eagle Two) – they have upgraded and repainted their car, and improved the interior.

Previously, Lodz participated in the WSC 15 Cruiser class; participated in the WSC 17 Cruiser class; came 5th at SASOL 16; and won the iESC 18 Cruiser class. Their team number (45) is a tradition since 2015.

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

46  SE    JU Solar Team 

Asymmetric challenger (new car: Axelent) – after showing us a rolling test chassis, a body, and a battery, they revealed their car on 30 August (video).

Previously, JU came 20th at WSC 13; came 15th at WSC 15; and came 8th at WSC 17. Their team number (46) is the Swedish national telephone prefix.

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

47  JP    Nagoya Institute of Technology 

Monohull challenger (new car: Horizon Ace) – their car resembles Tokai’s 2017 vehicle. They revealed their car on 6 July (pic).

Previously, NITech came 16th at WSC 15 and came 12th at WSC 17.

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

49  TH    Siam Technical College 

Three-seat 33-kWh cruiser (new car: STC-3) – they have a unique passengers-behind-driver Cruiser design, which they have tested on the highway. They have received extensive local news coverage in Thailand. They revealed their car on 8 August (video).

Previously, STC came 28th at WSC 15 and participated in the WSC 17 Cruiser class.

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

51  SE    Chalmers Solar Team 

Outrigger challenger (new team with car: Alfrödull) – their final render resembles the car of the South African NWU team. They have a rolling chassis, which they revealed in May. Their shipping date was in July. See their promo video here.


picture credit (click to zoom)

55  MA  Looks like they might not make WSC  Mines Rabat Solar Team 

Asymmetric challenger (new car: Eleadora 2) – they have a shell and a rolling chassis. However, they have decided to attend the Moroccan Solar Challenge instead.


picture credit (click to zoom)

63  SA    Alfaisal Solar Car Team 

Classic symmetric challenger (new car: Areej 1) – they had hoped to race at ASC 2018, but did not make it. They showed their rolling chassis but did not formally reveal the completed car. The car name is a pun: AREG/Areej is an acronym for Alfaisal Renewable Energy Group but also means “the scent of a flowery garden” in Arabic. Amjad Alamri appears to be one of the drivers.


picture credit (click to zoom)

66  US    Berkeley (CalSol) 

Four-seat 16-kWh cruiser (new car: Tachyon) – they revealed their new car at FSGP. Their average speed at FSGP was 46.3 km/h, compared to 52.8 km/h for Esteban (the leading single-occupant vehicle). This raises some doubts as to whether they can make the WSC on-road target speed of around 75 km/h.

Previously, CalSol came 15th at FSGP 14; came 7th at FSGP 15; came 9th at ASC 16; won FSGP 17; came 6th at ASC 18; and came 2nd in the FSGP 19 Cruiser class.

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

70  DE    Sonnenwagen Aachen 

Monohull GaAs challenger (new car: Covestro Sonnenwagen) – they have a car-racing game app starring their car. They revealed their car on 22 July (video). They did some testing around Coober Pedy. They are now in Coober Pedy.

Previously, Aachen participated at WSC 17 and came 3rd at iESC 18. Their team number (70) is the number they raced with in 2017.

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

75  AU    University of New South Wales (Sunswift) 

Four-seat 20-kWh cruiser (Violet) – they have been testing their car on the track. They also did some testing at Nyngan in Bogan Shire.

Previously, Sunswift came 3rd in the WSC 13 Cruiser class; came 4th in the WSC 15 Cruiser class; and participated in the WSC 17 Cruiser class.

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

77  CA    University of Toronto (Blue Sky) 

Monohull challenger (new car: Viridian) – they have a great-looking bullet car this year. They revealed their car on 24 June (video). They are now in Darwin.

Previously, Blue Sky came 8th at WSC 13; came 12th at WSC 15; came 11th at WSC 17; and came 3rd at ASC 16.

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

80  CN  Hmmm  Beijing Institute of Technology

Four-seat cruiser (new car: Sun Shuttle III). There has been no word on a car reveal.

Previously, Beijing came 19th at WSC 13 and came 24th at WSC 15.


picture credit (click to zoom)

82  KR    Kookmin University Solar Team 

Asymmetric challenger (new car: Man-Se) – they revealed their car in a private ceremony on 14 August.

Previously, KUST came 15th at WSC 13; came 20th at WSC 15; and participated at WSC 17. Their team number (82) is the Korean national telephone prefix.

 
Left: KUST / Right: KUST (click to zoom)

84  TR    Dokuz Eylül University (Solaris) 

Asymmetric challenger (new car: S10) – they expect the new car to be 44% more efficient than the 2015 model. They revealed their car on 19 July (pic). They are now in Melbourne.

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


picture credit (click to zoom)

86  IN  Looks like they might not make WSC  Sphuran Industries Private Limited (Dyuti) 

Four-seat cruiser (new team with car: WattSun) – I am not sure how much progress, if any, the company has made on a car (this small company was only registered in May, and appears to occupy co-working space above a shopping mall). There has been no word on a car reveal. In fact, “production is on a halt” – see here.


public domain photo

88  JP    Kogakuin University 

Monohull GaAs challenger (new car: Eagle) – once again they have a sleek and elegantly unique design. There is a good discussion with interior pics here. They revealed their car on 27 June (video). They are now in Adelaide.

Previously, Kogakuin came 14th at WSC 13; came 2nd in the WSC 15 Cruiser class; and came 7th at WSC 17. Their team number (88) is multi-faceted (88 is a lucky number in Japanese kanji; 4 wheels looks like 88; and the team garage is in Hachioji city, with ‘hachi’ meaning ‘eight’).


picture credit (click to zoom)

89  SA  Hmmm  Estidamah 

Asymmetric challenger (new car: Sana) – this was formerly the Seraaj team. There has been no word on a car reveal.


picture credit (click to zoom)

92  CA    ETS Quebec (Eclipse) 

Asymmetric challenger (Éclipse X.1) – they came an excellent 3rd in the ASC, 102 minutes behind Western Sydney, and hope to go even faster with the new battery pack in their modified car. Their improvements are summarised in their winter newsletter. They revealed their car on 10 June (pic). Their car was scheduled to arrive in Melbourne on 7 September.

Previously, Eclipse came 18th at WSC 13; came 10th at ASC 14; came 8th at ASC 16; came 4th at FSGP 17; and came 3rd at ASC 18.


picture credit (click to zoom)

98  AU    ATN Solar Car Team 

Two-seat cruiser (new team with car: Priscilla) – their team is a mixture of lecturers and students from five universities across Australia. They tested a model in a wind tunnel. They revealed their car on 17 September. At a casual glance, the car looks like it might have a rather large turning circle.

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

This page last updated 22:40 on 19 September 2019 AEST. Thanks to Nigel for several news items.


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Complexity in medicine: some thoughts

I have been thinking recently about medicine and complexity, as a result of several conversations over many years. In particular, the Cynefin framework developed by Dave Snowden (see diagram below) seems a useful lens to use (this thought is not original to me – see among others, the articles “The Cynefin framework: applying an understanding of complexity to medicine” by Ben Gray and “Cynefin as reference framework to facilitate insight and decision-making in complex contexts of biomedical research” by Gerd Kemperman). I will also refer to two case studies from the book Five Patients by Michael Crichton, which is still quite relevant, in spite of being written in 1969.


The Cynefin framework developed by Dave Snowden. The central dark area is that of Disorder/Confusion, where it is not clear which of the four quadrants apply (image: Dave Snowden).

The Cynefin framework divides problems into four quadrants: Obvious, Complicated, Complex, and Chaotic. In addition, the domain of Disorder/Confusion reflects problems where there is no clarity about which of the other domains apply. In medicine, this reflects cases where multiple factors are at work – potentially, multiple chronic conditions as well as one or more acute ones. These conditions can exist in all four quadrants. Ben Gray gives the example of a child with a broken arm linked to both a vitamin deficiency and an abusive home environment. Several quite different interventions may be required.

The Obvious Quadrant

The quadrant of the Obvious applies to conditions with clear cause and effect, where there is a single right answer. According to Dave Snowden, the appropriate response is to sense what is going on, categorise the situation as one on a standard list, and then to respond in the way that people have been trained to do. This response may be trivial (a band-aid, say), or it may involve enormous professional skill. In medicine, much of nursing falls in this quadrant, as does much of surgery.

Michael Crichton’s Five Patients discuses the case of Peter Luchesi, a man admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital during 1969 with a crushed arm and nearly severed hand, as the result of an industrial accident:

Three inches above the left wrist the forearm had been mashed. Bones stuck out at all angles; reddish areas of muscle with silver fascial coats were exposed in many places. The entire arm about the injury was badly swollen, but the hand was still normal size, although it looked shrunken and atrophic in comparison. The color of the hand was deep blue-gray.

Carefully, Appel picked up the hand, which flopped loosely at the wrist. He checked pulses and found none below the elbow. He touched the fingers of the hand with a pin and asked if Luchesi could feel it; results were confusing, but there appeared to be some loss of sensation. He asked if the patient could move any of his fingers; he could not.

Meanwhile, the orthopedic resident, Dr. Robert Hussey, arrived and examined the hand. He concluded that both bones in the forearm, the radius and ulna, were broken and suggested the hand be elevated; he proceeded to do this.

Outside the door to the room, one of the admitting men stopped Appel. ‘Are you going to take it, or try to keep it?’

‘Hell, we’re going to keep it,’ Appel said. ‘That’s a good hand.’

Once the surgeons had sensed the problem and categorised it as an arm reconstruction, a team of three surgeons, two nurses, and an anaesthetist (all highly trained in their respective fields) then spent more than 6 hours in the operating theatre, repairing bone, tendons, and blood vessels. Certainly not trivial, but a case of professionals doing what they were trained to do.

The Complicated Quadrant


Public Domain image

The Complicated quadrant is the realm of diagnosis. Information is collected – in medicine, that generally means patient history, blood tests, scans, etc. – and is then subjected to analysis. This identifies the nature of the problem (in an ideal world, at least), which in turn indicates the appropriate response.

Diagnosis by physicians typically searches for the cause of an illness, while diagnosis by nurses typically focuses on severity. This reflects differences in the responses that physicians and nurses have been trained to provide (the triage officer in a modern hospital is typically a nurse).

Decades of work have gone into automating the diagnosis process – initially using statistical analysis, later using expert systems, and most recently using machine learning. At present, the tool of choice is still the human brain.

In general, modern medicine excels when it operates in the Obvious and Complicated quadrants.

The Complex Quadrant

The Complex quadrant is the realm of interactions. It is inherently very difficult to deal with, and cause and effect are difficult to disentangle. The paradigm of information collection and analysis fails, because each probe of the system changes it in some way. The best approach is a sequence of experiments, following each probe with a response that seems reasonable, and hoping to find an underlying pattern or a treatment that works. Michael Crichton provides this example:

Until his admission, John O’Connor, a fifty-year-old railroad dispatcher from Charlestown, was in perfect health. He had never been sick a day in his life.

On the morning of his admission, he awoke early, complaining of vague abdominal pain. He vomited once, bringing up clear material, and had some diarrhea. He went to see his family doctor, who said that he had no fever and his white cell count was normal. He told Mr. O’Connor that it was probably gastroenteritis, and advised him to rest and take paregoric to settle his stomach.

In the afternoon, Mr. O’Connor began to feel warm. He then had two shaking chills. His wife suggested he call his doctor once again, but when Mr. O’Connor went to the phone, he collapsed. At 5 p.m. his wife brought him to the MGH emergency ward, where he was noted to have a temperature of 108 °F [42 °C] and a white count of 37,000 (normal count: 5,000–10,000).

The patient was wildly delirious; it required ten people to hold him down as he thrashed about. He spoke only nonsense words and groans, and did not respond to his name. …

One difficulty here was that John O’Connor could not speak, and so could not provide information about where he felt pain. He appeared to suffer from septicaemia (blood poisoning) due to a bacterial infection in his gall bladder, urinary tract, GI tract, pericardium, lungs, or some other organ. Antibiotics were given almost immediately, to save his life. These eliminated the bacteria from his blood, but did not tackle the root infection. They also made it difficult to identify the bacteria involved, or to locate the root infection, thus hampering any kind of targeted response. In the end (after 30 days in hospital!) John O’Connor was cured, but the hospital never did locate the original root infection.

Similar problems occur with infants (Michael Crichton notes that “Classically, the fever of unknown origin is a pediatric problem, and classically it is a problem for the same reasons it was a problem with Mr. O’Connor—the patient cannot tell you how he feels or what hurts”). As Kemperman notes, medical treatment of the elderly often also falls in the Complex domain, with multiple interacting chronic conditions, and multiple interacting drug treatments. Medical treatment of mental illness is also Complex, as the brain adapts to one treatment regimen, and the doctor must experiment to find another that stabilises the patient.

Similarly Complex is the day-to-day maintenance of wellness (see the Food and Wellness section below) which often falls outside of mainstream medicine.

The Chaotic Quadrant

The Chaotic quadrant is even more difficult than the Complex one. Things are changing so rapidly that information collection and experimentation are impossible. The only possible response is a dance of acting and reacting, attempting to stabilise the situation enough that it moves from Chaotic to Complex. Emergency medicine generally falls in this quadrant – immediate responses are necessary to stop the patient dying. In the airline industry, the ultimate (and extremely rare) nightmare of total engine failure shortly after takeoff (as in US Airways Flight 1549) sits here too – each second of delay sees gravity take its toll.

Success in the Chaotic domain requires considerable experience. In cases where the problem is a rare one, this experience must be created synthetically using simulation-based training.

Food and Wellness

Michael Crichton notes that “The hospital is oriented toward curative treatment of established disease at an advanced or critical stage. Increasingly, the hospital population tends to consist of patients with more and more acute illnesses, until even cancer must accept a somewhat secondary position.” There is, however, a need for managing the Complex space of minor variations from wellness, using low-impact forms of treatment, such as variations in diet. Some sections of this field are reasonably well understood, including:

Traditional culture often addresses this space as well. For example, Chinese culture classifies foods as Yin (cooling) or Yang (heaty) – although there is little formal evidence on the validity of this classification.

There remain many unknowns, however, and responses to food are highly individual anyway. There may be a place here for electronic apps that record daily food intake, medicine doses, activities, etc., along with a subjective wellness rating. Time series analysis may be able to find patterns in such data – for example, I might have an increased chance of a migraine two days after eating fish. Once identified, such patterns suggest obvious changes in one’s diet or daily schedule. Other techniques for managing this Complex healthcare space are also urgently needed.


Looking back: 2009


Washington, DC in June 2009

In 2009, I had the privilege of visiting the United States twice (in June and November).

This was the year that saw the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (which imaged, among other things, the Apollo 11 landing site), the Kepler space telescope (designed to look for exoplanets), the Herschel space observatory (an infrared telescope studying star formation), the Planck spaceprobe (which studied the cosmic microwave background), and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (an infrared telescope looking for minor planets and star clusters).


Apollo 11 landing site, imaged by the LRO (with photographs from 1969 inset)

More metaphorically, Bitcoin and the programming language Go were also launched. US Airways Flight 1549, on the other hand, was skillfully landed in a river. In archaeology, hoards were discovered in Staffordshire (gold and silver metalwork) and Shrewsbury (Roman coins). Australian Hospital Ship Centaur, torpedoed in 1943, was discovered off the Queensland coast.

Books of 2009 included Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (set in 1500–1535; a TV series of 2015), The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (dystopian science fiction; Nebula Award winner), and The Maze Runner by James Dashner (young adult dystopian sci-fi; a film of 2014). Books that I later reviewed include The Lassa Ward by Ross Donaldson and God’s Philosophers by James Hannam.

Movies of 2009 included Avatar (rather disappointing), 2012 (a little silly), Angels & Demons (a travesty), Up (Pixar/Disney), Coraline (designed to give children nightmares), District 9 (designed to give adults nightmares), Julie & Julia (a film about cooking), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (a film about mirrors), and Sherlock Holmes (a lot of fun). On the whole, a good year for films.

In this series: 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1989, 1991, 1994, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2009.


World Solar Challenge September 3 update

In the leadup to the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia this October, most cars have been revealed (see my recently updated illustrated list of teams), with JU’s reveal a few days ago (see below), and Tokai’s reveal due in a few hours.

There are now 9 international teams in Australia (more than the number of local teams). Eindhoven (#40), Agoria (#8), and part of Vattenfall (#3) are driving north to Darwin, while Top Dutch (#6) have a workshop in Port Augusta (and living quarters in Quorn).


JU’s solar car Axelent (photo credit)

The chart below shows progress in submitting compulsory design documents for the race. White numbers highlight eight teams with no visible car or no visible travel plans:

  • #86 Sphuran Industries Private Limited (Dyuti) – this team is probably not a serious entry. I will eat my hat if they turn up in Darwin.
  • #63 Alfaisal Solar Car Team – recently, they have gone rather quiet, but they have a working car.
  • #89 Estidamah – they have not responded to questions. They also might not turn up, although they have obtained several greens for compulsory documents.
  • #80 Beijing Institute of Technology – they never say much, but they always turn up in the end. I don’t expect this year to be any different.
  • #4 Antakari Solar Team – they are clearly behind schedule, but they are an experienced team. They will probably turn up. (edit: they have revealed a beautiful bullet car)
  • #55 Mines Rabat Solar Team – they seem to have run out of time. Can they finish the car and raise money for air freight? I’m not sure. (edit: it seems that they will attend the Moroccan Solar Challenge instead of WSC)
  • #98 ATN Solar Car Team and #41 Australian National University  – these teams are obviously in trouble but, being Australian, they should still turn up in Darwin with a car. (edit: both teams have since revealed cars)



Recreational mathematics


The wolf, the goat, and the cabbages

Dancing alongside the more serious practitioners of mainstream mathematics are the purveyors of mathematical puzzles and problems. These go back at least as far as Diophantus (c. 200–284), the Alexandrian “father of algebra.” Alcuin of York (c. 735–804) produced a collection of problems that included the the wolf, the goat, and the cabbages (above); the three men who need to cross a river with their sisters; and problems similar to the bird puzzle published by Fibonacci a few centuries later. In more modern times, Martin Gardner (1914–2010) has done more than anyone else to popularise this offshoot of mathematics. It is often called “recreational mathematics,” because people do it for fun (in part because they are not told that it is mathematics).

Particularly popular in recent times have been Sudoku (which is really a network colouring problem in disguise) and the Rubik’s Cube (which illustrates many concepts of group theory, although it was not invented with that in mind). Sudoku puzzles have been printed in more than 600 newspapers worldwide, and more than 20 million copies of Sudoku books have been sold. The Rubik’s Cube has been even more popular: more than 350 million have been sold.


A Soma cube, assembled

Recreational puzzles may be based on networks, as in Hashi (“Bridges”). They may be based on fitting two-dimensional or three-dimensional shapes together, as in pentominoes or the Soma cube. They may be based on transformations, as in the Rubik’s Cube. They may even be based on arithmetic, as in Fibonacci’s problem of the birds, or the various barrel problems, which go back at least as far as the Middle Ages.

In one barrel problem, two men acquire an 8-gallon barrel of wine, which they wish to divide exactly in half. They have an empty 5-gallon barrel and an empty 3-gallon barrel to assist with this. How can this be done? It is impossible to accurately gauge how much wine is inside a barrel, so that all that the men can do is pour wine from one barrel to another, stopping when one barrel is empty, or the other is full [highlight to show solution → (8, 0, 0) → (3, 5, 0) → (3, 2, 3) → (6, 2, 0) → (6, 0, 2) → (1, 5, 2) → (1, 4, 3) → (4, 4, 0)]. There is a similar problem where the barrel sizes are 10, 7, and 3.


The barrels

Apart from being fun, puzzles of this kind have an educational benefit, training people to think. For this reason, Alcuin called his collection of problems Propositiones ad Acuendos Juvenes (Problems to Sharpen the Young). Problems like these may also benefit the elderly – the Alzheimer’s Association in the United States suggests that they may slow the onset of dementia. This is plausible, in that thinking hard boosts blood flow to the brain, and research supports the idea (playing board games and playing musical instruments are even better).


Some Oldest Manuscripts

The chart below (click to zoom) shows the dates of ten significant written works:

Each work is indicated by a vertical line, which runs from the date of writing to the date of the oldest surviving complete copy that I am aware of (marked by a dark circle). Open circles show some of the older partial or fragmentary manuscripts (these act as important checks on the reliability of later copies).

Two threshold periods (marked with arrow) are worth remarking on. First, Gutenberg’s printing press – after its invention, we still have at least one first edition for many important works. Second, the invention of Carolingian minuscule – many older works were re-copied into the new, legible script after that time. They were then widely distributed to monasteries around Europe, so that survival from that period has been fairly good. In the Byzantine Empire, Greek minuscule had a similar effect.

The Bible is a special case (I have highlighted one particular gospel on the chart). It was copied so widely (and so early) that many ancient manuscripts survive.


World Solar Challenge late August update

In the leadup to the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia this October, most cars have been revealed (see my recently updated illustrated list of teams), and the first few international teams (#2 Michigan, #3 Vattenfall, #6 Top Dutch, #8 Agoria, and #40 Eindhoven) have arrived in Australia (see map above). Bochum (#11), Twente (#21), and Sonnenwagen Aachen (#70) are not far behind. Eindhoven (#40) are currently engaged in a slow drive north, while Top Dutch (#6) have a workshop in Port Augusta (and living quarters in Quorn).

Meanwhile, pre-race paperwork is being filled in, with Bochum (#11) and Twente (#21) almost complete. Sphuran Industries from India (#86) is not looking like a serious entrant. On a more positive note, though, Jönköping University Solar Team (#46) is revealing their car later today!