More World Solar Challenge progress

The open road is calling teams for the 2017 World Solar Challenge, and JU Solar Team (battery box ready for shipping), Lodz Solar Team (battery box), Nuon Solar Team (world record attempt), Solar Team BE (unveiling Punch 2), and Singapore (dashboard design) are hearing that call.

In other news, Solar Team GB have pulled out of the race, and Eindhoven are due to unveil their car in a few hours.

Education in the USA

The pie chart above shows the breakdown of elementary and secondary students in the USA. Data is for 2013, from the National Center for Education Statistics (with homeschooling numbers extrapolated from 2012 data). Educational options are a hot political issue right now, with changes to education policy likely under the Trump administration. What those changes will be is unclear.

Of course, the US educational system does need some improvement. In the 2015 PISA global education survey, the US ranked equal 23th in reading, 25th in science, and only equal 39th in mathematics. Canada did much better (2nd, 7th, and 10th), and Singapore came 1st in all three categories.

Looking back: 1991


In 1991, I started my second lecturing job, at the National University of Singapore. I was to spend three years in Singapore, and a great experience it was – culturally, intellectually, and (of course) gastronomically. That year saw the launch of the World Wide Web on the Internet (although it was to be almost three years before I realised that the WWW existed). The arXiv launched in 1991 as well (I was unaware of that too). Linux was released later in the year (but I was already using other flavours of Unix, so it wasn’t really relevant). That year saw the release of several bad films, but also the long-awaited Terminator 2:

Also in 1991, Eugenio Moggi developed a confusing functional programming construct, which shared the name of an confusing concept in the philosophy of Leibniz. Robin Milner, who indirectly influenced my career in several ways, won a well-deserved Turing Award.

Replica of Ötzi in the Smithsonian Museum (my photo)

In what was to prove a very significant discovery, Sumio Iijima observed carbon nanotubes for the first time. In the Ötztal Alps, a mummified man from around 3300 BC was discovered. Examination of “Ötzi” taught us a great deal about life in Chalcolithic Europe.

Mount Pinatubo erupts

World events of 1991 included Operation Desert Storm (responding to the invasion of Kuwait), the eruption of Mount Pinatubo (the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century), and the dissolution of the Soviet Union (which recreated forgotten nations like Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia).

Books published in 1991 included the unusual Empire of the Ants, the interesting The Infinite Plan, the underrated Jurassic Park, and the delightful Sophie’s World. I enjoyed all of those (although I did not read them all that year).

World Solar Challenge: More Gem Awards

Two more of my Scientific Gems “gem awards” today. The “never give up” gem goes to Singapore Polytechnic, for not giving in to despair when fire destroyed their car before the race. They rebuilt it in just a month!

The “never give up” gem goes to Team 28, Singapore Polytechnic

The “media excellence” gem goes to the Twente media team ( They did it all – Dutch coverage for the fans at home, and English coverage for the international community. Technical material on topics like aerodynamics, as well as human interest stories. Photos, videos, text, and infographics (like the one below). A superb job!

The “media excellence” gem goes to the Twente media team

World Solar Challenge: Fire at Singapore Polytechnic

There are media reports of a fire at Singapore Polytechnic, home of Team 28 in the WSC. Apparently the fire “involved a solar car model.” Three security officers who responded to the fire were treated for smoke inhalation. The students are OK, but it is unclear how seriously the solar car SunSPEC4 was damaged.

World Solar Challenge: Team 28

Singapore Polytechnic’s SunSPEC4

28  Singapore Polytechnic (SunSPEC4)

The team from Singapore Polytechnic has been racing solar cars for a while. They competed in the Challenger class in the 2013 World Solar Challenge, but have entered the Cruiser class this year. They have been working hard building their new car for the event, blogging extensively on the technical details of the process. They have not discussed their design philosophy, but it appears to be that of a sports car, though one quite different in appearance from Sunswift’s eVe. We will see how SunSPEC4 performs, I guess. Good luck, team 28!

Singapore Polytechnic campus (photo: Chen Siyuan)

Update: the car was damaged in a fire at Singapore Polytechnic, but they have risen again from the ashes.

For up-to-date lists of all World Solar Challenge 2015 teams, see: