Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A dream-liner of the sky

Boeing have officially handed over the first 787 Dreamliner to Japan's All Nippon Airways. The 787 programme began back in 2003 and will compete with their European rivals Airbus A350. The Dreamliner is "The most technologically advanced commercial airplane in history" according to Boeing 787 Chief Project Engineer Mike Sinnett.
Artist impression of Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.Image via Wikipedia

The Dreamliner is a twin-engine, bendy winged, widebody craft that has raised the bar for fuel efficiency. Some 50 percent of the weight of the 787 airframe is lightweight carbon-fibre composites that could, Boeing says, help reduce fuel costs by 20 percent. Whether travellers will benefit from the lower fuel consumption will depend on how greedy the airlines are.

The Dreamliner was in part designed to be a panacea to passenger discomfort. Numerous new technologies and design effects have allowed the Dreamliner to become more passenger friendly. Boeing spent years researching their customer's customer, us. Their research resulted in a number of design tweaks and improvements.
787 mockupImage via Wikipedia

The initial boarding was found to be of utmost importance so Boeing worked with artists and architects to create arched entranceways which provide a relaxing contrast to the "stress of pre-flight security." Not only this but you can expect roomier seats, more storage and larger, manually dimmable windows. Even economy class will see some luxury additions, with a bar, female-only lavatories and Panasonic entertainment on demand for every passenger.

Older technology has also been re-purposed such as LED lights installed in the 787 cabin, allowing the ceiling to appear higher, lighting can be controlled to make the transition between day and night easier.

One of the biggest technological advancements is the cabin pressure within the Dreamliner. The Dreamliner allows for a more comfortable cabin pressure. The pressure inside the cabin is the equivalent of 6,000 feet and not the normal 8,000 feet. The air can be recycled more frequently due to the composite body of the plane. There is also more humidty in the air reducing symptoms related to dryness.

The single aisled Dreamliner, seats between 210-290 passengers and has an asking price of $202m. Boeing estimate the potential market to be about 3300 units. Boeing already has 821 orders worth $150bn for the plane in the pipeline. Although it has endured many delays from its start to now, Boeing hope to build up to 10, 787 Dreamliners per month by the end of 2013.

For those that are interested Boeing shares, were up 3.3 percent at $61.49 on Monday morning on the New York Stock Exchange.

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Monday, 26 September 2011

Advertisements - are they getting better?

We are most probably all annoyed when watching our favourite TV programmes and those infernal television advertisements come on. Generally if you are watching a tv channel like our SABC then the ad break would happen at the most inopportune time and the volume of the advertisement always seems louder than the programme you are watching.

The ad break often leads to channel surfing, where most likely you are going to find adverts on the other channels on at the exact same time. Annoying as the break is, what is more annoying is the often pathethic advert that seem to be stuck on a loop. These are the advert's played after every other ad at every ad break at the exact same time. Thank goodness for PVR's.

For those people that do not have PVR's and are forced to put up with adverts ruining our tv viewing pleasure there is not much to be done except to sit back and grit your teeth. However, over the last few months the adverts on tv do seem to be of better quality?

There are some adverts in my opinion that are quite bereable to watch. There is the brilliant Tracker advert that goes backwards from an old lady right back to when the lady was a baby. This is an excellent example of looking at a service or product out-of-the-box so to speak. The focus here is not on the 'what' as in recovering stolen vehicles but rather on the 'why'. Why does Tracker recover vehicles - to save lives?

There are many other great adverts that have graced the smaller screens, such as the Berocca advert with two lumberjacks dancing on a log in the water with the payoff line being 'You, but on a good day.' OMO also have a decent ad running with their 'Just one small cap is enough' where the domestic helper smacks the hand of the 'madam' and says the pay off line.

Some other good adverts is the launch of the Heita cellphone network ealier this year - not my personal favourite but the ad was well done. Other popular adverts are for liquor brands like Johnny Walker, Hennessy and the Hansa ads with 'Vuyo'.

Then again there are still the horrible ones like 'Dettol', especially the one where the little boy sneezes all over his lunch and then hands one of his sandwiches to the girl next to him. Not to forget the pathetic 'Mr Muscle' cleaning product adverts with the supposed superhero himself 'Mr Muscle'.

The Loerie awards, held in Cape Town recently, recognises the best of television advertising and other communication mediums the Oscar's of television advertising in Africa and the Middle East. The finalists for 2011 are listed here. http://www.theloerieawards.co.za/ Some of them, I cannot understand but then again I am no expert - I just like what I like.

What are your favourite or best adverts presently on tv?

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Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Who will win the IRB Rugby World Cup 2011?

There are undoubtedly favourites for the IRB Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. I have taken a different angle at trying to predict the winners of this years’ world cup. Based on a previous  piece  I wrote earlier this year for the ICC Cricket World Cup hosted by India. The article, Outliers – applied to the Cricket World Cup, explains the basis for this discussion. .

For the premise of this article, I have taken the principle proposed in the book ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell. The idea is that successful sports teams and the team member’s date of birth have a strong correlation to each other. Those born in the first few months after the age group cut-off were bound to be more successful than their team mates born later in the same year, i.e. players born in January through March are more likely to make it to top level sport than those born in December.

There are numerous reasons and studies into this phenomenon which is termed the ‘Relative Age Effect’. This article is not going to delve into that but rather look at the facts and see if it can predict who is going to win the World Cup.

I have already tried this with the Cricket World Cup. In this instance, India, who had over 60% of the team born in the first three months of the year, won the World Cup.  The theory seems to hold true.
Could the same process work and predict the winner of the Rugby World Cup before the tournament starts? I have worked this out based solely on the first few months and the makeup of the team who will possibly win the World Cup.
Let’s take one step back and look at the last two finals that South Africa have played in (and won). The 1995 Springbok side that played in the final had a makeup of 40% of the starting XV born between January and April. New Zealand had 27% of their starting XV born in the first few months.
In 2007 when South Africa beat England, (twice in France - once in the round robin stage and then in the final) for their second World Cup victory South Africa had 41% to England’s 27%. In both of the above examples South Africa won the World Cup final match and had the majority of players born within the first few months of the respective age-group cut-off date.
The age group cut-off dates for the two hemispheres vary. Keep in mind that age-groups do not apply to senior teams. The age-group applies to the grounding and support a player receives when playing age-group rugby. The cut-off for the Northern Hemispere teams is 31 August and for the Southern hemisphere teams it is 1 January. Northern Hemispere first few months would be September through to the end of December and for the Southern Hemisphere teams, January through April.
With this in mind I took the top seven International Rugby Board rated teams in rugby as of 22 August 2011 and looked at their official world cup squads. The top seven teams are:

1.       New Zealand
2.       Australia
3.       South Africa
4.       France
5.       England
6.       Wales
7.       Ireland
Based on the premise that teams composed of more players born in the first months of the year are more likely to succeed than others - the winner of the IRB Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, 2011 will be for the third time most likely - Australia.
Australia has the most players in their squad born in the first few months. Australia has 17 players born between January and April - this equates to 57% of the side. The next highest is France with 53%.
If it were a perfect science we should see an Australia versus France final with New Zealand coming third. The remaining teams would be in fourth -Ireland, fifth – Wales, sixth – England, seventh – South Africa. This is based exclusively on the first few months premise.

The team breakdown is as follows:

New Zealand:
Age group cut-off date is 31 December. Thus those born Jan - Apr should be the more dominant age group.
53% of the New Zealand world cup squad is born during Jan-Apr, 13% in May-Sep and 33% Oct-Dec.
Age group cut-off date is 31 December. Thus those born Jan - Apr should be the more dominant age group.
57% of the Australian world cup squad is born during Jan-Apr, 37% in May-Sep and 7% Oct-Dec.
South Africa:
Age group cut-off date is 31 December. Thus those born Jan - Apr should be the more dominant age group.
33% of the South African world cup squad is born during Jan-Apr, 50% in May-Sep and 17% Oct-Dec.
Age group cut-off date is 31 August. Thus those born Sep - Dec should be the more dominant age group.
53% of the French world cup squad is born during Sep-Dec, 23% in Jan-Apr and 23% May-Oct.
Age group cut-off date is 31 August. Thus those born Sep - Dec should be the more dominant age group.
37% of the English world cup squad is born during Sep-Dec, 27% in Jan-Apr and 37% May-Oct.
Age group cut-off date is 31 August. Thus those born Sep - Dec should be the more dominant age group.
40% of the Welsh world cup squad is born during Sep-Dec, 30% in Jan-Apr and 30% May-Oct.
Age group cut-off date is 31 August. Thus those born Sep - Dec should be the more dominant age group.
43% of the French world cup squad is born during Sep-Dec, 33% in Jan-Apr and 23% May-Oct.
As patriotic as South Africans are – we are most obviously behind the Bokke bringing home the world cup for the third time in a row. But could statistics be the deciding factor when it comes to who wins world cups and who doesn’t. We always consider so many other factors – how many caps a player has, how long they have been playing, who their coach is, where they went to school and the list goes on. Could our support and spirit be enough to drive the Springboks further? Let’s see how it goes. Based on this, my money is on Australia – but I hope I’m wrong! Go Bokke!
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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

NASA – Gravitating to the Moon again

GRAIL lunar probesImage via Wikipedia NASA will be launching two robotic probes each about the size of a washing machine to the moon. The near identical probes called Grail-A and Grail-B, Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory are due to blast off from the Space Launch complex 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force station in Florida on Thursday.

The probes will lift off in an unmanned Delta II Heavy Rocket and will start its three month journey to the moon. NASA’s Apollo Astronauts used the Saturn V Rocket and covered the approximately 386,242 kilometres to the moon in a mere three days.  The ‘more economical’ rocket launch brings the cost of the mission from start to finish to US$ 496 million dollars.

Shortly after lift off the probes will separate from each other and travel independently to the moon.  Grail-A will arrive at the moon on New Year’s Eve with Grail-B arriving on New Year’s Day. They will go into orbit around the lunar poles and effectively chase one another around the moon. The probes will range in distance apart from each other from 64 kilometres to 225 kilometres. They will be bouncing radio signals between them providing their exact locations, even on the far side of the moon.

When the mission ends in late spring (northern hemisphere), Grail-A and Grail-B will be within 16 kilometres of the moon’s surface. Barring any changes, they will then eventually crash into the moon.

The mission aims to create the most precise lunar gravity map ever. Scientists are hoping to figure out what is beneath the lunar surface, all the way to the core. The moon actually has the most uneven gravitational field in the solar system, according to NASA. The moon’s gravity is about one-sixth or Earth’s pull.

Scientists will be able to measure even the slightest variations in the gap between the orbiting probes every single second. These changes as subtle as they may be will indicate shifting masses below the lunar surface: mountains in some places, lava tubes and craters in others. The probes will also help pinpoint the best landing sites for future explorers, whether human or mechanical.

A plan to put man back on the moon was scratched off in favour of an asteroid and Mars. There are three spacecraft currently orbiting the moon, making science observations. Since the Space Age began in 1957, 109 missions have targeted the moon. 12 men have walked on its surface in six separate landings. 342 kilograms of rock and soil has been brought back to earth and are still being analysed.

The launch of the GRAIL probes will be NASA’s second robotic mission since the end of the shuttle programme in July. A probe names Juno is headed for Jupiter following a successful launch on August 5. If the GRAIL is not launched on September 8, the mission’s launch period lasts until October 19.

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