American Solar Challenge Construction Progress

As I watch the lead-up to the American Solar Challenge next July, the chart above (click to zoom) shows the teams currently registered, with my estimate of current construction progress (based on a combination of social media reports and official paperwork). Team colours in the chart are my best guess in some cases. The University of Minnesota (Team 35) is in the lead (with an existing car and with most of the race paperwork done). Among teams building new cars, Italian team Onda Solare (559) and Canadian team Poly Montreal (55) lead the pack.

My ASC race information page will be updated from time to time with information on the progress of these and all the other teams. It also decodes the team numbers.

Render of Esteban9, the solar car being built by Polytechnique Montréal (picture credit)


Solar cars – From the Outback to the Oregon Trail

As I watch the lead-up to the American Solar Challenge next July, above are the entries that previously raced in the World Solar Challenge in Australia last year. Left to right from the top, they are Michigan (came 2nd), Iowa State University / PrISUm (raced in the Cruiser class), Western Sydney (came 6th), Illini (participated in the Adventure class), Principia (raced, but trailered after 2390 km), and Minnesota (raced in the Cruiser class).

Several different approaches are visible here to building a car for both races. It’s easier to do so in the Cruiser class, for a start. Illini chose to build their car for the ASC and race it non-competitively in Australia. Principia built their car for both events (unveiling it at FSGP 2017). Michigan and Western Sydney built their cars specifically for the WSC, and may have to adapt the cars for the American race (last ASC, Michigan had to modify their car, and then incurred a daily 6-minute race penalty because the modifications made the car too wide).

My ASC race information page will be updated from time to time with information on the progress of these and all the other teams.

American Solar Challenge status check

Just a quick status check on the lead-up to the American Solar Challenge next July. As my race information page indicates, we still have 39 solar car teams from 8 countries registered. But when we check the status of pre-race documents due last December, another story emerges:

The histogram is tri-modal. First, there is a group of 21 teams that are on schedule, or close to it. Most of them also show good signs of progress on social media. Then there are 12 teams that are well behind schedule. And finally, there are 6 teams that have submitted almost none of the required documents, raising serious doubts as to whether they will actually turn up.

My race information page will be updated from time to time with information on the progress of these teams. In July, I plan to blog about the race itself.

Model of the Italian Cruiser-class entry (picture credit)


Upcoming solar car races for 2018

photo: Anthony Dekker

I am aware of four major solar car races this year (not including the Japanese races):

photo: SASOL Solar Challenge


American Solar Challenge: 6 months to go

Scrutineering for the 2018 American Solar Challenge starts on July 6. The chart below summarises the 39 solar car teams from 8 countries which have registered for the race. Many of them are frantically building or modifying cars – see my race information page. The race will run through the mountains from Omaha, Nebraska to Bend, Oregon. Follow the leadup to the race here and on the official ASC Facebook at  


MODSIM Conference, Day 1

I am attending the MODSIM International Congress on Modelling and Simulation in Hobart, Tasmania. It promises to be another great event.

I spoke today on “Sampling bias and implicit knowledge in ecological niche modelling.” Out of the many interesting talks I listened to, one that stands out is “The Waroona fire: extreme fire behaviour and simulations with a coupled fire-atmosphere model” by Mika Peace. It introduced me to “pyrocumulonimbus clouds,” and some of the complex weather–fire interactions in severe bushfires. This is certainly a phenomenon that needs to be better understood.


Democracy, Religion, and Same-Sex Marriage in Australia

The results of the postal survey are in, and Australia has voted 61.6% “Yes” to same-sex marriage. Or rather, it seems that two Australias voted. The official results have been made available by electorate, which means that they can be correlated with demographic factors (and my readers know that I love doing that). The average age of each electorate had no effect, but religious composition certainly did.

According to the 2016 census, Australia’s stated religious composition looks like this (where the 33.3% “Secular” includes Agnostic, Atheist, Humanist, New Age, and Unitarian Universalist):

The chart below shows a strong correlation (0.82) between the percentage of “Secular” people in an electorate, and the size of the “Yes” vote. If all the “Secular” people voted “Yes” (as seems likely), this means that 58% of the religious people voted “No.” Doing some simple multiple linear regression, there was a statistically significant link between religion and voting “No” for every major religious group. This link was strongest for Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Orthodox, the Uniting Church, and other non-Anglican Protestants. It was a little weaker for Anglicans and even more for Catholics, although the Anglican link was quite strong in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland. The Catholic link was quite strong in the last three of those states.

Electorates in the chart are coloured according to the largest religious group within them. Sydney is 52.7% Secular, for example (as well as 8.6% Buddhist, 1.7% Muslim, 1.7% Hindu, 1% Jewish, 17.9% Catholic, 2.4% Orthodox, 13.5% Protestant, and 0.5% Other Religion). It voted 83.7% “Yes.”

Blaxland is 32.2% Muslim (as well as 9% Buddhist, 3.3% Hindu, 21.2% Catholic, 5.5% Orthodox, 13.2% Protestant, 0.7% Other Religion, and 14.9% Secular). It voted 73.9% “No.”

McMahon is 39% Catholic (as well as 5.9% Buddhist, 12.4% Muslim, 2.9% Hindu, 6.9% Orthodox, 18.5% Protestant, 1.4% Other Religion, and 13.2% Secular). It voted 64.9% “No.”

Barton is multi-religious with 28.1% Secular being the largest group (as well as 5.6% Buddhist, 8.4% Islam, 5.6% Hindu, 0.2% Jewish, 22.6% Catholic, 15.7% Orthodox, 13.3% Protestant, and 0.5% Other Religion). It voted 56.4% “No.”

It does seem that there is a secular Australia, which voted overwhelmingly “Yes,” and a religious Australia of twice the size, which voted mostly “No.” If the disparate religious communities in Australia realise that they have more in common than they have thought, that could have quite a significant influence on Australian politics in the future.

A (distorted) geographical view of the postal survey results