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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships

Ah, one of my favorite whipping boys:

Next Championships: 25th August 2007

Once there was a little paper company in Finland called Nokia. They started making plastic boots, and that didn't work out too well, and then decided to give mobile phones a shot. Soon, everyone in the country had one, and soon, everyone was having that love-hate relationship with this technology. In 2000 Finns started getting even with the first Mobile Phone Throwing World Championship, held in Savonlinna, Finland.

There are traditional "over the shoulder" distance throws; pictured is Eija Laakso, women's world champion. More recently Freestyle was added, where aesthetics, style and creative choreographics and Naomi Campbell imitations are judged.
         (Lloyd Alter)

I propose a new category: participants are judged on how flat they can smash a cellphone with a 40 lb sledgehammer in 30 seconds :-P

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Tooled around Fremantle today. Check out this really nice Ford Falcon GT! Also a spotted a very nice, fully restored, Jaguar E-type V12 in royal blue but it disappeared round the corner before I could whip out my camera.

It's easy to stay connected — if one so desires — these days.

Next stop: Warren's Ultra Fast Karts @ Barbagallo Raceway, Wanneroo. 57 km north.

VROOM! VROOM! Putt! Putt! Putt!

These AUD$10,000 twin-engine babies have more power than Ivy — or, more accurately, my tummy — and can easily hit speeds in excess of 100 km/h (62.5 mph). Ivy regularly hit 64 mph (102.4 km/h) going down the straights on Black Mountain, Cupertino in the late 90s, but ah! I was young and foolish then. (Now I'm just foolish :-P )

Unlike the single-engine gokarts I driven in the US, these vehicles have a lot more torque, enabling one to zip up the hill.

Suiting up. The Auzzies are hardcore; it was raining and it was still a "Go." We found out real quickly that the suits are not water resistant. By the 15th lap, we were soaked, racing in the dark, and slipping in the rain. Woot! Quite a number of drivers spun out, or slid right off the track.

Satellite photo of Barbagallo Raceway (31°39'51"S 115°47'23"E).

We were doing this in the wet and at night! Woot!

1st heat (5 laps):   1st lap timing.
2nd heat (5 laps):  1st lap timing.
3rd heat (5 laps):   1st lap timing.

8th  (1:22.325)
2nd (1:20.720)
16th (1:20.838 SPIN)
Overall 11th.
Incidents: Spun out once in 3rd heat.

19th (1:56.991)
19th (1:50.000)
18th (1:44.331)
Overall: 19th.
Incidents: none.
Special Awards: Best Gas Mileage Driver; Least Brake Wear Driver.
Ugh! Not exactly awards to brag about.
I get the Pinky GoKart Honors :-P

Outside the gilded cage

Nota bene: blinkered, nationalistic lemmings should skip this post.

My post for National Day 2007:

Singapore success slung on scrapheap

Jim Pollard
The Sunday Times, The West Australian
July 29, 2007

Singapore, the modern city-state renowned for its authoritarian ways and conservative government, has a reputation for functional efficiency and capitalist success.

The smallest territorial member of ASEAN, at the southern end of the Malay peninsular, is often touted as one of Asia's great success stories — a gleaming city that emerged from the tropical swamps under a strict but wise autocrat, Lee Kuan Yee.

But a fascinating book by WA writer Rodney King looks deeper into the "Singapore Miracle" and reveals in his view that a lot of the city's supposed successes are, in fact, hot air.

Reports of Singapore being a dynamic commercial melting pot are, King says, simply the oft-repeated claims of a government that tolerates little dissent.

The city-state's leaders may, in reality, have actually stifled the sort of true entrepreneurial dynamism found in places such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taiwan, and even Bangkok.

King is a Perth journalist who lived in Singapore for some time and worked briefly on the Straits Times. Now back in WA, he has had a long-time interest in South-East Asia.

His book, The Singapore Miracle — Myth and Reality, casts doubt on the city state's claims of cutting-edge efficiency, global competitiveness, economic freedom and transparency.

Most Singaporeans are not as affluent as their government makes out, King says in his extensively documented 500-page tome.

"Books about Singapore usually praise its achievements or criticise its authoritarian rule," he said. "But few ever probe its widely publicised claims that it is a brilliant success that other countries should follow."

King argues that Singapore's workforce productivity is often mediocre and well below that of the West and Asian economies, such as Hong Kong.

"The country also displays endemic inefficiencies at both macro and micro-economic levels," he said. "The performance of the construction, financial and service sectors is second-rate, while Singapore Airlines does not deserve the top rankings it receives."

Singapore, he says, has "a dependent and underdeveloped economy." Multinational companies and state enterprises predominate, and the economy has "low entrepreneurial and innovative capacities and an undereducated workforce."

The city state's supposed affluence was also largely a myth.

"About 30 percent of the population still lives in poverty by Western standards," King said.

And Singapore's Housing Development Board, Central Provident Fund and state-run health schemes have severe short-comings. What Singapore has been good at, King says, is marketing itself.

"Singapore has brilliantly sold itself to the world as an amazing success story to attract investment and talent," he said."

The Singapore Miracle — Myth and Reality is on sale for AUD$49.90 plus GST. The book can be bought online at the Australian Online Bookshop.

(Pollard, Jim.  "Singapore success slung on scrapheap."  The Sunday Times, The West Australian 29 July 2007: 82.)


And here is something from "the gloomiest man in rock" (they are actually playing his cover of Radiohead's "Creep" over the speakers now), Robert Smith, frontman of The Cure:

Smith is not motivated by money. As The Cure's manager, as well as their creative spine, he has a lot of offers come his way. The latest was a mobile phone sponsorship for looming dates in Singapore.

A swift personal email to the head of The Cure's record company in Singapore put an end to it.

"They are saying, "This is how we do it in Singapore' and I'm saying 'But The Cure don't do it that way and we're The Cure'," Smith says.

(Adams, Cameron.  "Pure Cure."  STM Entertainment 29 July 2007: 6.)


In my book, there's no loyalty — only opportunity. You can quote me on that.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Engine not included

On the road again
Just can't wait to get on the road again
. . .
Goin' places that I've never been
Seein' things that I may never see again,
And I can't wait to get on the road again...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pinchy growls... umm, grows

Pinchy molted again. Molting is a lobster's most vulnerable moment (a bad molt almost always kills them). She's exhausted right now; has absolutely no defences (her shell hasn't hardened yet); and is resting in her cave. I borrowed her old molt for a comparison with her first molt [LEFT] when I first brought her home. The scale is in centimeters (2.54 cm = 1 inch).

This is a molt of my largest Asian Fan Shrimp (Atyopsis moluccensis), Shrimpy. He died of a bad molt a couple months after this. Unlike ferocious Pinchy, Shrimpy has no pincers. Instead, He spends his day swishing through the water with his two pairs of fan-tipped claws to filter out algae and plankton for food. Also, unlike lobsters, shrimps do not consume their molts.

Related posts:

Lobster dinner

Two front teeth

It was a late evening in the midst of the work week when I boarded the bus bound for home. Inside, the pale, greenish florescent light overhead dripped a palpable weariness; quietly, sulkily glancing off the ooze of oily faces, heavy eye bags, and vacant eyes.

The long "bendy" bus shudders to another stop. A lady in her late thirties steps up and inquires if the route passes Sunset Way. The bus driver replies in the affirmative. Thanking him and turning around, she announces, "Children! It's okay. You may board the bus."

A boy, of perhaps eleven years of age, lifts his little sister onto the first step. Clambering up, the little girl greets the bus driver — big, cheery grin, lilt in her voice, and missing two front teeth, "Hello, Uncle Bus Driver!"

I have never seen a tired man smile so much.
I think more than a few passengers smiled too.

Less is more

I continue to be astounded by drop in prices for memory media.
My first digital camera is a Canon A510, purchased in fall 2005.
Costing me US$200, its maximum resolution is 2048 x 1536, or, in (predictably, less than honest) marketing math, 3.2 million pixels.

As the stock 16 MB memory card only holds 9 pictures at maximum resolution, I spent another US$29.90 on another 16 MB memory card. (Yes, I am old school; still operating on the price-of-camera-to-price-of-one-film-roll ratio.)

Capacity     No. of Pics       Purchased On        Price Paid
 16 MB               9 pics                Fall 2005        US$29.90
128 MB            69 pics             Winter 2006        US$48.00
256 MB         150 pics            Spring 2006        US$29.90
    2 GB        1192 pics        Summer 2007        US$25.90

This is nothing short of amazing.

I must admit that (with a little embarrassment) the affordability of massive storage has degraded the care with which I take pictures. When I had to make do with 18 (two 16 MB cards) or 69 shots (a single 128 MB card), I would scout around for the best vantage point; compose the best frame; shoot, examine; and, if necessary, delete and retake — come rain, fog, hail, wind, snow, sleet, or dusk. Every picture had to count (and you know what? Curiously, they did).

However, once I had the luxury of storing shots in the triple digits, I became complacent, even lazy: I would shoot a barrage of pics at whatever remotely interested me, secure in the knowledge that I would have the luxury of sorting them out later on the computer; or, I would demur from getting off the trail (and risk ticks, thorns, and rattlesnakes) but instead take the picture from far away, knowing full well that with the higher resolution shot, I can zoom and crop the picture later on the laptop.

Now, with ability to hold 1192 shots in my camera, I wonder what will my picture taking routine degenerate to.

I gravitate towards purists.
I tend to fall in love with the ideal.
(Or maybe I'm just an incurable romantic.)

Thus, bracketing (taking many shots of the same subject, from the same perspective, in hopes that one will turn out good) shots ranks very low in my esteem. And that, is what I found myself doing of late.

Gorgeous photographs are — and, in my humble opinion, should be — painstakingly composed, framed, and then finally taken with just one shot. That was how Ansel Adams did it, lugging a bulky and heavy large format camera (one shot per sheet film holder) up and down the hills, vale, dale, and cliffs of Yosemite. Despite hordes of tourists, photo-enthusiasts, and professionals with 12+ megapixel SLRs; image stabilized, multi-coated lenses; spirit-level tripods, and 8 GB memory cards; crowding the valley today, no one has bested Adams' images.

Adams couldn't be lying (Adobe Photoshop™ didn't exist until 1990).

Or, was the world simply more beautiful then?

Or, is it just us?

As soon as I saw the moon coming up by Half Dome I had visualized the image. …I have photographed Half Dome innumerable times, but it is never the same Half Dome, never the same light or the same mood. …Half Dome is a great mountain with endless variations of lighting and sky situations and seasonal characteristics; the many images I have made reflect my varied creative responses to this remarkable granite monolith.

Ansel Adams made this image at 4:14 the afternoon of December 28, 1960 with a Hasselblad camera and 250mm Zeiss Sonnar lens, releasing the mirror before operating the shutter to minimize vibration.

One shot.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rod Stewart's voice is sexy???

Mmm'kay... I would have preferred Al Pacino, but hey, I'm not complaining  :-)

I guess I shouldn't have gone falsetto this morning. It totally killed me.

You dig raspy voices?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The rot within

It is astounding how the local reading public tolerates the abysmal standard of English practiced by The Straits Times Propaganda Daily The Shitty Times. Read the following excerpt and note how many mistakes you can spot.


Boeing's new B-787 Dreamliner jet, which was unveiled early this month, promises to be 20 per cent more fuel-efficient and less noisy than a similar-sized plane. Built from parts sourced from around the world, the aircraft also boasts a new standard of comfort for passengers and is Boeing's most successful plane launch ever with more than 600 orders.

Less fuel burn from:

1.  Less complex wing flaps with fewer separate segments that also cut weight because fewer bolts for example are needed to hold the parts together.

2.  Modern aerodynamics in the design of the wings and nose.

3.  The new fuel-efficient engines powered by Rolls-Royce and GE electric.

4.  Increased use of light-weight composite materials instead of aluminium, to build the plane.

5.  A droopy nose which reduces friction so that there is less drag.

Less waste

The plane is made primarily of carbon-fibre composite materials, which are more flexible and can be trimmed like cloth so that the manufacturing processes produce less scrap material and waste.

Less noise

The sound footprint, which is the distance across which the noise is heard, is 60 per cent smaller for the B-787 compared to comparable jets today.

Less emissions

Lower fuel burn means a 20 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide and nitrogen emissions.

The 787 has no window shades. Dimness or brightness is controlled electronically by cabin brew. The windows are bigger than those found on any aircraft today.

Toilets in the 787 are larger and wheelchair-accessible.

Overhead bins are big enough to fit three large cabin bags and three laptops.

(Kaur, Karamjit.  "Boeing's green jet."  Straits Times [Singapore] 16 July 2007: 14.)


Punctuation and capitalization distinguish, "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse," from, "i helped my uncle jack off a horse."

"The sound footprint, which is the distance across which the noise is heard, is 60 per cent smaller for the B-787 compared to comparable jets today" (italics mine) — this is the standard of English coming from an award-winning, best-selling, newspaper (or so they claim) in Singapore.

The venerable Doctor Samuel Johnson labeled such hacks, "butchers of the language" — I couldn't agree more; there are those who wield pens with the deftness and skill of a surgeon, and there are those who dream themselves surgeons with a couple of six-packs and a chainsaw.

For what it is worth, Penthouse and Playboy practice a higher standard of English.

In the late 1990s, due to budget constraints and privatization of public schools, the standard of English language instruction fell, leading to confusion of grammar and vocabulary. Hence, in an unregulated socio-linguistic environment, the spontaneous varieties of a creolized English began to form after the 1960s.

Clive James' scathing expostulation, "The Continuing Insult to the English Language," laments that the situation in the United Kingdom fares no better.

God help us all.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Ioci terribiles

Had a late lunch with an old friend. He's the most secular Muslim (does such a phrase exist?) I know. He drinks; he swears; he...  I call him, "My friendly infidel." We give each other grief all the time. The repartee is fast-paced, vicious, and refreshing.

Scene I   Holland Village Starbucks

[RASHID leans comfortably back in an overstuffed chair, sipping his hippie, organic, non-fat, low carbon footprint, sustainable trade, Che Guevara approved, overpriced, latté — freshly brewed from coffee beans tenderly squeezed between the thighs of young Russian virgins (paid a living wage, of course).]

[Enter BEN, with scrapes and gashes on his right leg.]

RASHID:  Holy crap! What happened to you? Did you fall off your bike or something?

BEN:  No, I was attacked by a Muslim terrorist.

RASHID:  ...

[Nearby patrons glare at the duo.]


Scene II   Holland Village Food Court

RASHID:  Auntie, two wanton mee. Both want chilli.

HAWKER:  Hah? Wanton mee? You cannot eat pork, you know!

RASHID:  Shhh! The pig doesn't know.

I love this guy  :-D

Yes, yes, I did crash.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Congratulations, mon petit oiseau des iles...

I always knew you had it in you.

Enjoy the victory lap (that's my phrase for doing the footnotes).


Friday, July 06, 2007

Global Warming cranks up a notch

Police in California have arrested former vice-president Al Gore's son, also named Albert Gore, after finding marijuana and narcotics in his low-emissions car.

Orange County Sheriff's deputies spotted Gore's blue Toyota Prius going more than 160kmh on the I-5, the main north-south highway on the west coast, early today, police said.

When they pulled him over, police smelled marijuana, searched the car and allegedly found more of the drug, as well as vicodin, valium, xantax, and adderal, which is used to treat attention deficit disorder.

"He did not have prescriptions for any of these medications," said sheriff's department spokesman Jim Amormino.

Gore was arrested and is being held on $US20,000 ($23,445) bail.

"He is still in custody," Amormino said.

Gore, 24, lives in Los Angeles and told authorities he was headed south to San Diego, Amormino said.

The arrest comes just days before Al Gore senior is due to join a series of Live Earth concerts to raise awareness of global warming.

Gore Jr.'s girlfriend?

The younger Gore has a history of drug and driving violations.


Unidentified sources reveal that Gore Senior is so mad, the projected average global temperature for 2007 may go up by as much as half a degree.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Get Fuzzy

This had me rolling in stitches.

Touché! Touché!


Pelican Ballet

What I used to do on lazy weekends: take the CalTrain up to San Francisco; ride up Hawk Hill; fire up my mini stove to make a large mug of spiced cider; and watch Pelicans fly laps around the Golden Gate Bridge all afternoon, until the sun sets.

These large birds — weighing up to 33 lbs (15 kg), and with a wingspan of 11 feet (3.3 m) — are gorgeous to behold.

The feathers on the tips of the wings increase aerodynamic efficiency. For the same reason, wingtips were retrofitted to airliners this century.


Our memories reach back no further than yesterday; we are, as it were, strangers to ourselves. . . . That is but a natural consequence of a culture that consists entirely of imports and imitation. . . . We absorb all our ideas ready-made, and therefore the indelible trace left in the mind by a progressive movement of ideas, which gives it strength, does not shape our intellect. . . . We are like children who have not been taught to think for ourselves; when they become adults, they have nothing of their own — all their knowledge is on the surface of their being; their soul is not within them.

A most apt and pithy description of Singapore and Singaporeans, one might be tempted to conclude. However, this passage is an excerpt of a letter by one Russian aristocrat and former army officer, Pyotr Chaadaev, published in the Russian review journal, Telescope, in 1836.

Applying Chaadaev's letter to 21st century Singapore is an anachronism, but the sociological, cultural, and psychological relevance — and dare I say, veracity — of his sentiments and observations still hold. ku10, who spent a year here, felt the same way:

Singapore is boring. Really, it is, and not for lack of things to do. Singapore has everything you’d expect in a major Western city: stores, clubs, fancy restaurants, art galleries, museums, movie theaters, F1 racing, F1 powerboat racing, an aquarium, concert halls, even a really big Ferris wheel. And that’s the problem: Singapore has a huge, generic crush on the West. It’s clear, with its constant “biggest, tallest, most,” it aches for international approval. It’s obsessed with buying what all the other cool cities have, and that’s about it. Sometimes it feels like the founders threw a bunch of Lonely Planet Best of… guides at the city planners and said “I want to see every single one of those bullet points right here! We’re going to be world class!”

The wisdom of the aphorism, "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it," is lost on this nation of culturally-insecure lemmings fixated on acquiring their first million, attracting a mate, rutting, and then scheduling an endless parade of tutors for their brats, to land a place in a SAP school.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Simulator gets nod from courts

Helping the police with their inquiries

Software developed for designing car safety systems is finding a new role in forensic engineering, writes Ben Hargreaves

When the accident happened, one of the occupants of the car was thrown through the passenger window with such force that he died. The other man in the vehicle – the dead man’s brother – survived. He had not been thrown from the car, but remained inside.

When he came round, he insisted to sceptical police officers that he was not the driver. The police, wearily accustomed to such denials, began to prepare to prosecute him for causing death by dangerous driving. His story seemed implausible. Was there any way to prove or disprove it?

The scene of the incident yielded some clues. Tyre marks, debris from the vehicle – the forensic details that police note down as they try to build up a picture of what happened. But something else was needed to construct the case. It was time to enlist the help of engineers.

Advanced Simtech has been working with police forces for the past four years, using simulation software originally designed to help automotive companies reconstruct accidents to improve car safety. In this case, staff at the company ran several hundred simulations of what could have occurred, carefully varying parameters, until they matched the real-world evidence.

         Time = 3.500000

         Time = 4.400000

         Time = 4.900000

The police, on this occasion, were wrong. The simulation demonstrated that the man was telling the truth. The driver had been thrown from the car. The case never went to court, and the dead man’s family were grateful that the surviving son had been absolved of blame. The simulation was even presented to them as proof.
“The files were shown to the mother,” says Mike Brown, managing director of Advanced Simtech. “She was able to see what happened and understand that her son wasn’t at fault. For her, it was part of closure.”

         Time = 3.100000

         Time = 4.200000

         Time = 4.550000

Brown’s company markets a product called Madymo – the acronym stands for Mathematical Dynamic Modelling – in the UK, Scandinavia and the Benelux region. Typically used by automotive designers, more recently Madymo has been employed by police to determine what happened in car accidents.

“It’s become an accepted tool in the legal system because the capabilities of our software are very well suited to this kind of work,” says Brown. “We specialise in the dynamics of what happens to the occupants of the vehicle, the bio-mechanics. We tend to get involved in crashes that involve single vehicles with multiple occupants.”

This area of “forensic engineering” goes far beyond mere visualisation to encompass the physics of a crash, explains Brown. “Our main strength is in bio-mechanics – there are a lot of packages out there that allow you to quickly visualise a crash. What we do is a very detailed analysis which specialises in focusing on the people inside the car. We can recreate the accident so that it correlates with the physical evidence at the scene.”

Madymo’s use by police forces comes as there is a greater drive to treat car accidents in which there are deaths as murder, meaning that determining who was driving becomes of prime importance. “They are dedicating more resources to deaths caused by dangerous driving and, whereas before they might have to put a halt to the investigation, they can now move it forward with the software.”

Data from the crash scene are handed to engineers at Advanced Simtech, who put them into a Madymo mathematical model. All the possible permutations of driver behaviour, passenger position, speed, braking, suspension and road conditions are considered through a number – often hundreds – of experimental simulation runs.

“Most people who carry out a basic simulation will start with deterministic values,” says Brown. “They will say: ‘the road friction is 0.7’, and ‘this person was sitting in this position’. But, in reality, we don’t know any of this. That’s making assumptions, and making assumptions too early means you are pushing yourself toward a certain position. We take all the possible parameters and give each of them a tolerance – say +/-10%. We know that, in terms of seating position, a seat has a certain range, but, because we don’t know whether its occupant was leaning forward or sitting back, we have to put a little bit of tolerance in there and let our predictive software tell us what would happen.

“Then you can say – OK, if you have the seat in a certain position, if you have the brakes applied at a certain percentage, and a particular steering input, then these factors will give you the answer you’re looking for, and match the evidence from the scene of the crash. We spend a lot of time just getting the motion of the vehicle right before we think about the occupants.”

One advantage of the software, compared with, say, a finite element analysis package, is that it can run quickly on a good spec PC, allowing users to do lots of simulations fast. Commercial director Bipin Patel says: “We might run 5,000 experiments for one case, and several hundred in an evening. Other packages might take 15 hours to do one. We can create a simulation in 20-25 minutes.”

As the software has been increasingly used by the police, it is now regarded with caution by lawyers for the defence, says Brown. “You can demonstrate the ‘what if?’ questions,” he says. “People say, well what if the car was going 5mph faster? What if the steering wheel turned here? What if the driver was leaning over to switch on the radio? We have simulations for all those eventualities and we can demonstrate what would have happened. It’s a powerful tool that doesn’t leave room for hypothesis.”
Patel adds: “There’s been cases where the defence admitted guilt before the case starts, and it’s all thanks to the simulation.”

PC Simon Edwards of Gloucestershire Police says he has been able to secure convictions thanks to Madymo. “It’s a fantastic tool. It allows us to achieve results that would otherwise be impossible, and see what version of events is correct,” he says.



Bio-mechanics boosts passenger safety

Madymo was developed by Dutch firm TNO Automotive Safety Solutions. According to Advanced Simtech, which had a seven-year history as TNO Automotive UK but underwent a recent rebranding, the software is used by 95% of vehicle manufacturers, as well as tier-one and two suppliers.

“It was developed to help the industry design restraint systems – seatbelts and airbags primarily,” says Bipin Patel. Madymo is used in the design cycle to simulate at low cost the way in which safety systems will interact in a crash.

Advanced Simtech is working on accident reconstruction with seven police forces, and its accurate bio-mechanics is also being used in other fields. A client called BioKinetics, for instance, has been using Madymo to work with soccer’s governing body FIFA to model the impact on the brain of heading a football.

Madymo was used by ITV London to simulate the effect of a commuter train crash on passengers, where it is commonly believed that, the more people there are, the safer it is. Mike Brown says: “We specialise in how people move, and how people interact with any kind of environment, so there are uses in terms of health and safety that have massive potential. We can look at the dynamics of a group of people in a small area in a crash, and see how they behave.”

The software has also been used to mimic the spinal loads experienced by a pilot when ejecting from a fighter jet. And defence manufacturers have been employing Madymo to assess the impact of mine blasts on the occupants of military vehicles. Brown says: “We look at what the likelihood is of personnel hitting rigid objects in the event of a blast, and what the injuries that might result are.”

(Hargreaves, Ben. "Helping the police with their inquires." Professional Engineer 20.11 (2007): 22 - 23.)


This is an interesting development. Of course, the old adage, "Garbage in, garbage out," still applies. E.g. the case of the ill-fated Mars Climate Orbiter probe, where Lockheed Martin engineers sent navigational data to NASA in English units instead of metric units. NASA engineers, on the other hand, had been expecting metric units. The mix up resulted in the probe dipping 60 miles (96 km) closer to the surface of Mars than planned. The craft was either torn apart by atmospheric forces or bounced off the Martian atmosphere, never to be seen again.

The Appetite for Destruction

From Lianhe Zaobao, June 30 2007:

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse.

Also known as the Ocean Sunfish, the Mola mola is the world's largest bony fish. It possesses 16 vertebrae, the fewest of any known fish. Growing to a gargantuan size of 10.5 feet (3.2 m) in height, a length of 11 feet (3.3 m), and weighing up to 5100 lbs (2300 kg), this oddly-shaped fish is totally harmless to humans. The Mola mola feeds primarily on jelly fish, which it sucks in through its mouth — actually a fused beak.

In between deep dives to 2000 feet (609 m), the Mola mola basks horizontally on the surface, nearly motionless, to thermally recharge.

Ocean Sunfish are gorgeous to behold. Curious towards divers, these gentle giants effortlessly glide through the open oceans in search of food.

In fact, the sheer size (and "bonyness") of the Mola Mola render it a greater hazard to shipping than to divers and swimmers.

On 13th October 1998, staff of the Australian Museum were called to examine an Ocean Sunfish, Mola mola, that was found stuck on the bulbous bow of the cement carrier, MV Goliath, as it tied up to the wharf in Sydney.

The huge fish, which weighed approximately 1400 kg was removed from the bow of the ship by the Sydney Waterways Authority. The fish became stuck on the bow off Jervis Bay, New South Wales. It caused the speed of the ship to slow from 14 to 11 knots. The skin of the Ocean Sunfish was so rough it wore the ship's paint work back to the bare metal.

Shipping traffic is not the only threat to the Mola mola; plastic bag litter, which, in the water resemble jellyfish, are often mistakenly consumed by the Ocean Sunfish. The unfortunate fish either choke or slowly starve to death when the plastic bags block their intestines.

But another threat — growing much faster — looms: Ocean Sunfish are increasingly being harvested for markets in Asia, where it is considered a delicacy. Often found basking on the surface, much like the Whale Shark, the Mola mola present an easy target for fishermen.

Ocean Sunfish are considered a commercial species in Japan.

They grow to the size of a car and can weigh as much as a large SUV.

As with the killing of Whale Sharks, even juveniles are not spared.

While the flesh of the Mola mola contains neurotoxins similar to the pufferfish (which is served in Japan as fugu), it exists in smaller, less deadly, concentrations. Perhaps therein lies its gastronomical appeal.

How long will it be before this creature becomes endangered?

Oh, yes, don't forget to buy a copy of the Lianhe Zaobao for the recipes to this wonderful and amazing fish.

Related posts:

Whale Sharks
Cultural immersion