In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

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Living in a launch platform

I’ve read about the security preparations for the London Olympics and one particular aspect that has piqued my interest is the MoD deployment of ground-to-air missile batteries in London. They can’t put them in the street, both for public safety, and because the surrounding buildings would severely limit their field of fire.

To address both problems, the MoD decided to put the batteries on the buildings. The Sun reported,

General Sir Nick Parker, in charge of the military’s Olympics role, said the security exercise would prepare for the possibility of “extreme threats”.

He said: “What we need to do is make sure we practise against those high-end threats but they are not considered to be likely.

“What I’m doing is testing my systems so I’m reassured that, should they become more likely, we can react.”

He added: “One would want the world to know that we are taking security for the Olympics seriously.”

I wonder if his last comment isn’t the key to the point behind the missiles. That is, to make sure everyone knows the UK is deadly serious about securing the games in the hopes that any groups thinking about causing trouble will decide not to bother.

I base my conclusion on two thoughts. My main thought is that the real world doesn’t work like the movies. When the explosives in a missile detonate near a flying aircraft, the end-product is not limited to a pretty explosion with crowds of people cheering because they’ve been saved. Rather, the missile explodes and if successful, the explosion renders the aircraft unable to fly. The fuel aboard the aircraft may explode, but the dry mass of the aircraft remains. Since it can no longer fly, it falls to the ground. Whether the bulk of the aircraft remains in one piece or breaks up, it’s coming down.

With some or all the missile batteries stationed within the city, it’s not impossible that a downed aircraft would fall into the city, causing who know how much damage. Both missile systems the MoD has deployed have 7 km ranges, increasing that possibility, in my opinion.

My other thought is regarding the buildings used for the missile batteries. The specific locations mentioned in news articles are either apartment buildings, or other structures in plain public view. One of the latter is a water-tower, for instance.

Surely the MoD isn’t so out of touch that they can’t imagine the inhabitants of these apartment buildings might have strong feelings about having their homes thrust to the front line in the defence against a possible terrorist attack. The residents were informed of their building’s new defence role in a flyer. According to The Sun,

It said the GBAD — Ground-Based Air Defence — weapons will be operated by “fully trained and experienced soldiers” and added: “Having a 24/7 armed forces and police presence will improve your security and will not make you a terrorist target.”

One has to wonder how they can be so certain that a group intent on an air attack wouldn’t think it prudent to deal with the defences they’re likely to meet.

It’s so ridiculous that I can’t help but believe the military wants this splashed all over the news in the hopes that it will scare off potential attackers, or that the publicised missile launchers are no-where near to total number that will be used in London’s defence. Below is a photo of a mobile Rapier missile launcher. It looks no larger than a small U‑Haul trailer.


The newer Starstreak missile can be fired from a similarly sized launcher or a portable launcher that MoD personnel can carry into the field.

How will this all work out? We’ll have to wait and see.

Rapier launcher photo by Wikipedia user Desmoh, used under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Rabies and the Leafs

This morning The Voice introduced The Current with this quip:

Toronto has the first recorded case of rabies in a human in more than 80 years. Doctors at first thought it was “playoff fever” … then remembered they were in Toronto…


Politics versus hockey

James Fitz-Morris wrote, in his CBC News article, “How Canadian: NHL trumps debate date,”

Politics and hockey went head to head Sunday and, in the end, the nation’s winter pastime held the bigger stick.

The parties and the broadcast consortium producing this week’s televised leaders debates have agreed to move the French-language debate — originally scheduled for Thursday — up a day after a conflict arose with the NHL playoffs.

Make no mistake, this decision was not imposed on the politicians. Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe said,

I want Quebecers to have the same opportunity to listen to that debate that Canadians will have. We all know hockey is very popular in Canada, and also in Quebec, and I think it would be a better choice to have that debate on Wednesday, so that people who like hockey and (will) have the full opportunity to see the debate and then listen to the hockey game on Thursday night.”

NDP party leader Jack Layton agreed than in the case of a conflict, a very large number of people would choose to watch hockey. He went further, saying,

Were I not in this election, I might well make the same decision

I’m amused.

It is true that it’s in everyone’s best interest to have as many Canadians as possible involved in the political process, so I see no problem with moving the debate.

The English debate will air on Tuesday evening at 7, and I plan to have a fisk-ridden post up within a day or so.

Race the Base

CFB Cold Lake, Alberta, will be an interesting place this weekend. Zahir Rana, owner of ZR Auto, an exotic car tuner, has teamed up with Lt.-Col. Rob Carter to present the “Race the Base” charity event at the base.

For $1500, you can take your car and show what it can do on the base airstrip. It’s nearly four kilometres long and eight lanes wide, so there’s plenty of room! For an extra $500, you can have a passenger along for your speed runs, though the extra weight will certainly affect your time.

I read about this on the Ottawa Citizen site and as of yesterday, when the article was posted, 75 drivers had signed up. In addition to the drivers, spectators can attend for a far more reasonable fee. Proceeds go to four charities: Military Families Support Society, Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation, Bonnyville Health Foundation and Hearts for Health Care.

One event is of particular interest. Rana has a tricked-out twin-turbo Ferrari Enzo, an Enzo XX Evolution and he’s going to race this car against one of the CF-18 Hornets stationed at the base.

I think he’s going to lose. Why? I recall having seen bizarre drag races like this in the past and the car always loses. Case in point, when Chevrolet came out with the Corvette ZR1 in 2008, Motortrend arranged a drag-race between an F/A‑18 Hornet and the ZR1. The car lost. Yes, the Ferrari is more car, but it may not be enough.

Motortrend was kind enough to publish “Blue Devil vs. Blue Angel” on the web, with the numbers. The reasons weren’t made entirely clear, but the drag race was a mile long and not the traditional ¼ mile. Drag racers know how to get their car down the strip to the finish as quickly as possible while pilots seldom concern themselves only with the first part of the runway, so they made two runs. For the first, the pilot spooled the engines up to 87% thrust, and held the aircraft in place with the wheel brakes. The article isn’t clear about what he did when the flag dropped, but he won. Easily.

For the second run, the pilot did not spool up the engines at all. Instead, when the flag dropped, he pushed the throttle forward to full-afterburner. This was even faster. The Corvette crossed the finish line at over 170 mph, by which time the Hornet was up onto the clouds, having already crossed the finish-line at 345 mph and indulging in a vertical climb. The article doesn’t give each vehicle’s finishing time, but they do offer speed timings. Here’s a table of the time to speed of each vehicle for the second run:

Speed  F18  ZR1
-----  ---  ---
0-30   1.9  1.6
0-40   2.5  2.1
0-50   3.1  2.7
0-60   3.6  3.3
0-70   4.1  4.1
0-80   4.7  4.9
0-90   5.3  5.8
0-100  5.8  7.0
0-110  6.4  8.1
0-120  7.0  9.5
0-130  7.6 11.1
0-140  8.3 13.0
0-150  8.9 15.8
0-160  9.5 18.9
0-170 10.1 23.1

So, for example, you can see that the F‑18 took 5.8 seconds to get to 100 mph from a stand-still while the Corvette took 7.0 seconds to reach the same speed. Looking over the numbers, the Corvette immediately pulled ahead and stayed there until automobile and aircraft reached 70 mph. At that point the automobile’s acceleration began to fall off and the aircraft’s did not.

I don’t know if there’s any significant performance difference between the CF-18 and the F/A‑18. I suspect not, but it’s possible. Also, as I mentioned, I don’t have the performance numbers for Rana’s Enzo. The stock Enzo is a smidge faster than the ZR1, but he claims his Enzo delivers 860bhp versus the stock Enzo’s 650 and the ZR1’s 638.

I think the biggest factor will be the length of the race. The fact that his Enzo can reach 392 km/h (244 mph) will not matter because he won’t have the time to get there, and the aircraft can go much faster, anyway. If they limit the run to a ¼ mile, he might beat the aircraft. The Motortrend drag race had the aircraft finish the ¼ in 10.3 seconds at 173.9 mph. The ZR1 did it in 11.2 seconds at 130.5 mph. A stock Enzo can do it in 11.1 seconds at 133.0 mph. All he needs do is shave about a second off the stock Enzo’s ¼ mile time.

It depends on the length of the race. It depends on how good Rana is at launching as quickly as possible with minimal wheel-spin. It depends on how well the pilot can get the 20 ton aircraft quickly off the start.

Arg! I want to know!

I’ll keep an eye on the papers and the ‘net. If I find any results, I’ll let you know.

Enzo XX Evolution photo by Philipp Lücke. Used according to the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic licence.

CF-18 photo by Patrick Cardinal. Used according to the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Winter games

So that’s it. The 2010 Winter Olympic Games are over.

As you might imagine, I have some things to say about them, but not now. Earlier this evening, as I watched the closing ceremonies, I got sucked into the Wikipedia entries for the previous Winter Games. Here are some facts that I found interesting, starting with the first Winter Games:

The first Winter Olympic Games were given that title only afterwards. In 1921, the IOC decided to give winter sports equal standing, and in conjunction with the 1924 Summer Games in Paris, France held what was originally called Semaine Internationale des Sports d’Hiver (International Winter Sports Week) in Chamonix.

In those 1924 games, the Canadian hockey team finished the four qualifying games with a combined score of 110 – 3 against Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, and Great Britain.

Military patrol was a part of the first winter olympics in 1924. It became an official sport in the 1960 games as the biathlon.

In 1925, the IOC decided to have a Winter Olympic Games every four years, and retroactively recognize the Semaine Internationale des Sports d’Hiver as the first Winter Games.

In the 1928 Winter Games, held in St. Moritz, Switzerland, Skijoring was a demonstration sport. It involves a skier being pulled by a horse.

The last time the United States led the medal standings, before Vancouver in 2010, was in Lake Placid Winter Games in 1932.

Sled dog racing was a demontration sport.

The 1936 Winter Games were held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. This was the last winter games held in the same country as the summer games of the same year.

Sonja Henie won her third consecutive gold medal in woman’s figure skating. She also won in 1924, though it was a demonstration sport that year. She was eleven years old in 1924.

The 1940 and 1944 Winter Games were cancelled because of World War II.

Although St. Moritz, Switzerland hosted the winter games in 1928, it was selected to host the 1948 games, partly because Switzerland was neutral during the war.

Winter pentathlon was a demonstration sport in the 1948 winter games. It included cross-country skiing, shooting, downhill-skiing, fencing, and horse riding. This pentathlon didn’t appear in any subsequent winter games.

The ice hockey event of the 1948 games was almost cancelled after two teams arrived, both claiming to represent the United States.

In the 1952 winter games, held in Oslo, Norway, Antoin Miliordos competed in the slalom. He didn’t win, falling 18 times, and crossing the finish line backwards.

Bandy was one of the two demonstration sports. It looks a lot like field-hockey on skates, played on an ice rink the size of a soccer field. The other demonstration sport was pulka, in which a cross-country skier pulls a toboggan.

The 1956 winter games were held in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. This was the first games broadcast on television, and the first to rely heavily on corporate sponsorship.

The Cortina games were the last to have the figure skating event outdoors.

The 1956 winter games were the first winter games in which the Soviet Union participated. They won more medals than any other country during those Winter Games.

The 1960 winter games, held in Squaw Valley, California, was the first Winter Games held in North America in 28 years.

Squaw Valley built the first Olympic Village to house the athletes.

For the first time, officials asked the media if they could review a videotape of the men’s slalom because they were unsure if a skier had missed a gate.

The 1964 games, held in Innsbruck, Austria, was the first to feature the luge.

Drug and gender testing were first ordered during the 1968 games, held in Grenoble, France.

The bobsleigh runs were all scheduled just before or after dawn because the track didn’t have enough refrigeration to keep the ice solid during the day.

The 1964 games were the first broadcast in colour.

The 1972 games in Sapporo, Japan was the first winter games held outside Europe and North America.

This was the last winter games in which a gold medal winning skier used all-wooden skis.

Canada refused to send a hockey team because professional hockey players from Communist nations were allowed to compete.

The IOC president threatened to disqualify 40 alpine skiers because they had endorsement deals and the IOC president thought this invalidated their amateur status.

Security was a major concern for the first time during the 1976 winter games in Innsbruck, Austria. This was because of the eleven Israeli athletes and coaches that were killed during the 1972 summer games in Munich.

High tech equipment started to appear in skating and skiing.

Ice dancing appeared as an olympic sport.

Artificial snow was used for the first time during the 1980 games in Lake Placid, New York.

Eric Heiden won five speed skating gold medals making him the first person to five individual gold medals in one winter games.

The dorms in the Olympic village were later turned into a prison.

The 1984 games, held in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, was the first Winter Games hosted by a socialist country.

The closing ceremony was held indoors, and the next time this happened for a Winter Games was 2010.

During the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, no Canadians won gold medals. We’d have to wait until 2010, the third Olympic games held in Canada, to win gold at home.

East Germany came in second in the medal standings. This was their last Olympics before Germany unified in 1990.

The Super G debuted as an Olympic sport. Curling, Freestyle skiing, and short track speed skating were demonstration sports.

The 1992 games in Albertville, France, were the last to be held in the same year as the summer games.

Germany competed as a single team for the first time since the 1936 winter games.

The moguls, short-track speed skating, and women’s biathlon appeared as olympic sports.

American figure skater Midori Ito was the first woman to successfully land a triple axel at the Olympics.

Demonstration sports included curling, the freestyle skiing disciplines of ski ballet and aerials, and speed skiing.

To this day, the 1992 winter games were the last to feature any demonstration sports.

Speed skating was held in an outdoor venue for the last time.

The 1994 games, held in Lillehammer, Norway, occurred only two years after the 1992 games. The IOC decided to have the summer and winter games alternate every two years rather than occur during the same year, every four years. Making this change had the winter games happen twice in two years.

Curling and snowboarding debuted as Olympic sports in the 1998 Nagano, Japan winter games.

In the 2002 Salt Lake City winter games, skeleton was an Olympic sport for the first time since 1948.

Mass start biathlon, team sprint cross-country skiing, snowboard cross, and team pursuit speedskating debuted at the 2006 Winter Games held in Turin, Italy.

The 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver marked the first time the men’s and women’s hockey events were played on NHL-sized rinks rather than the 4 metre wider European rinks.

Skicross debuted as an Olympic sport.

Proposed and rejected events included biathlon mixed relay, mixed doubles curling, team alpine skiing, team bobsled and skeleton, team luge, and women’s ski jumping

For the first time, Canada won gold during games hosted in Canada.

Canada was the first host nation to lead the gold medal count since Norway in 1952.

Canada won the most gold medals at a single Winter Games with 14. The previous record was 13, set by the Soviet Union in 1976 and then tied by Norway in 2002.

The United States led the medal standings with a total of 37 medals. The last time they won the most medals at a Winter Games was in 1932.

The United States won 37 medals, the most won at any single Winter Games by one country.

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