Monday, July 11, 2011

Not about cars

Few things on the agenda here.

First - I'm putting on some tunes. A pretty decent cover of one of my favorites from The Meters

Second - It would indeed appear that I've managed to inadvertently delete all the graphic content off the blog. Managed to do that while exploring all my automatically linked accounts on my Google+ page. Eek. My apologies! I do still have the raw images, suppose at some point I could go back through and reconnect all the graphics. May take time.

Third - Special congrats to Rachel, about to ship out and get her MSc in the UK and then on to F1.

Fourth - Recently I got to follower #100 here. That is pretty damn awesome. That one hundred people, internationally, have had some level of entertainment or interest out of this astounds me. I sincerely appreciate all the comments and questions along the way.

This made me think a bit about living in a crucial part of the explosion of the Information Age, which Wikipedia (good enough) describes as: idea that the current age will be characterized by the ability of individuals to transfer information freely, and to have instant access to knowledge that would have been difficult or impossible to find previously.

"Freely" and "instant" are a bit relative - I can't purchase and download an album quite in the snap of my fingers, but relative to a 28.8kbps line I had in high school it's pretty damn fast. The theme is there - characterizing an age by the rapid breakdown of agents limiting free communication and information exchange. It does amaze me that on a given night I could be blogging about mechanical design, reading what's on Mike Tyson's mind (which I honestly follow frequently - some of it is quite good), or not long ago hearing and reading messages left by protesters in Egypt.

Taking a step back, have we not been pushing for free and rapid communication for thousands of years? Written and verbal communication, couriers, general telegraphy, radio and television, the internet, and now the explosion of mobile communication via wireless broadband and smart phones. Seemingly then this has been a social "stress" (impetus and catalyst of change) for some time.

Furthermore, generally when I think of an environmental stress I'd imagine it as some exponential decay curve, tapering off to reach the desired equilibrium condition. In our case we seem to be in an increasing growth! Fifteen years ago it was a big deal if I called someone outside of my area code or had more than a few floppy disks worth of stuff worth having in digital format. Now, I think nothing of having a high resolution video chat across and ocean, carrying 16 GB of information in my hand, or 1TB in my pocket. As much as we expand our capabilities, we immediately fill them and push out further.

By the way, think about it - going from 1MB to 1TB is an outrageous jump in scale! In any other measure of a thing, that growth rate of 1,000,000x is almost impossible to fathom. We take for granted this growth of many orders of magnitude, when as followers of this blog likely know, a gain of a few tenths of a second (say on the order of one percent) in racing is enormous.

As an aside, if you want to find some interesting images, do a Google search for 'internet map' or something similar. Some of the results look almost cosmic. Interesting to think about what lives on each individual dendrite - be it a vehicle dynamics blog, a Nigerian bank scheme, a love letter, or a video of a crackhead chasing a laser like a cat.

In any event, thank you for following along over the past several years!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


While screwing around on Google+, which apparently ties all your Google-related things together... I may have accidentally deleted all the pictures from this blog.


Will see if that can be resolved...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Some decent reading material

A while back, Neil Roberts (of Swift Engineering) was nice enough to send a copy of Think Fast over here. I told Neil I'd give him a more in depth review once I got a good chunk of spare time - but that hasn't quite happened yet!

From what I did have the chance to read, I'd recommend it. Similar in some regards to what you'd find in the Carroll Smith series - maybe has a bit more "why" than just "what," but still reads well without getting bogged down. Has a lot of stuff I agree with, and a few subtle points I'm not entirely on board with (a couple tire specifics). Definitely some good driver points that I'm becoming more a fan of now that I'm working directly with a team. I also particularly liked some points on tire side-slip drag, as well as the entire section on cheating.

As far as target audience goes, is it probably a good pick up for the FSAE, SCCA, or semi-professional racer? Absolutely. Is it going to bring about some tremendous "ah-ha!" moments for well-established pro stock car or pro open wheel engineer? Probably not. But hey, Neil's still working professionally on this stuff, guy can't give away too much.

I should write a book one of these days - after we've won at least one pro level championship, and after I'm retired from competitive racing. If/when I do, it will probably be as thick as RCVD - or much more so. I want to have something for everyone:

  1. "Underclassman level" - the basics .Qualitative over quantitative. An important thing IMO is establishing how to approach problems of this nature (as I've said many times - top down rather than bottom up). 
  2. "Upperclassman level" - blending in more quantitative work, putting numbers on things, elaborating on theory, etc.
  3. "Graduate level" - Would assume there's already a firm understanding of concepts and focuses on novel applications, methods work, etc. Math heavy.
I feel as though there's a lot of material that blends #1 and #2. I might even break #3 into Masters and PhD. Masters level material would probably be along the lines of RCVD, and Tire and Vehicle Dynamics. If you have a pretty firm understanding of things at that level, you're probably doing alright for yourself. PhD level probably doesn't see the light of day, as it's the good shit that wins championships, and is what keeps me employed while trying to develop it!

Bit of a conundrum

Been a while. Turns out this NASCAR engineering thing keeps me busy all day, and some nights and weekends. However, I still enjoy it. Love it. Learning an absolutely immense amount of stuff seeing the other side of my previous employment.

Hopefully settling in a bit, at which point I can get back to this stuff. Here's the catch: at this point it would be tough not to use all my new knowledge in designing this thing, and blogging about all that shit has the potential to give away some competitive advantage. Hell, Ed Lover knows better than to do that.

"Givin away all the tricks? Get the fuck outta here widdat bullshit"
And speakin' of bullshit, y'all - we haven't won a race yet this season. Going to have to work on that. In any way, you see the source of my motherfuckin quandary .May have to limit future stuff here to just pictures of CAD, mechanical design, or other bits and pieces. Maybe even take a whole new direction on things? I'm open to suggestions. Comment away.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

After 2 weeks at a pro race team...

I tell ya what, it's been busy! Figure I'll give an update while I'm not doing design work in this transition period.

Par for the course is about a 7:00-6:00 or 6:30-6:30 (that's 0700-1800 or 0630-1830 for you military and central European types). I've also been doing a 7 hour drive between Charlotte and Akron every weekend to clean and pack stuff at my old apartment, since I had all of two days between ending my first job and starting my second.

It's fun though. Challenging, with an immense backlog of work to do. Pace is wild. Finally starting to do some work with an impact. Gave my report in advance of this weekend's race at Phoenix, where the #22 just qualified 2nd. Really had the pace to be a pole lap by a wide margin. Had the fastest car in first practice by half a second, so the up-front work by the race engineers can't be too far off.

Hopefully on Monday morning the feedback will be, "Tire info looked good," rather than, "Yeah that data was way off, we had to work with something completely different."

In any event, as I said, still in the process of moving shit down there. Hopefully I'll pick things up in another couple weeks.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Some of the best words in motorsport engineering

I started getting into suspension design and vehicle dynamics in late 2005 during an independent study (upright redesign). Going on early 2011, I'm just now getting comfortable with how to understand things at a total vehicle, "systems" level of engineering.

That's not to say I understand all the causes, effects, and relationships in tire / vehicle dynamics. That is far from the case. Read it again: it has taken me 5-6 years to figure out how to think about and understand things. How fucked up is that? 5+ years to learn how to learn. Admittedly this is on top of some specifics, and what I'm free to share in this blog probably amounts to 5-10% at best, and all public domain information.

As I had been alluding to in a previous post, to stay afloat in this business I think you need to be damn good at figuring shit out yourself - or at least having the balls to try. Anyway, the obvious question is - "What the hell takes so damn long?" For me - and I'm sure I've mentioned this before - it's been the lack of a teacher or an "all-knowing source" that has all the answers. Yes, even Google falls short sometimes. Unfortunately some engineers take what they hear for gospel (to a degree I suppose this is classroom mentality). As such, we come to some of the best words in motorsport engineering, and ultimately what has kinda become my MO. Stumbled across it when I opened up an old copy of Tune to Win, in the Preface of all damn things - which I probably never even read in college:

I am fully aware that much of what I have to say in this book is subjective. I wish that my knowledge and wisdom were such that this were not so. Many readers are going to disagree with my interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations. I offer no apology. In each case I will put forth my personal best shot on the subject at the time of writing. I reserve my right to change my thinking at any time.

Our knowledge of any field whose title includes the word dynamics should be constantly expanding. This is because, particularly in motor racing, we approach a complex subject from a base of abysmal ignorance and also because, in a field defined by compromises, knowledge gained in one area can and does modify our thinking in related areas.

IMO, that mentality is as important and relevant now in 2011 as it was in 1978.

It does make me think that it's a bit of a shame there's no definitive - or close to definitive - guide for all this stuff. Hell I don't think there's any publication that comes remotely close to touching tire data engineering well. This is good for my job security!! As much as I like the works of Smith, Milliken, and Rouelle... I feel as if each has their own strengths and weaknesses, but even in conjunction don't quite grasp it all. This is particularly true as I learn well with many examples anchored in hard data. I have yet to read over Neil Roberts' book.

At this point I am going on 4 years into a career in motorsport engineering, presumably with another 5+ ahead of me. Maybe one day I'll write a book - I'd enjoy it.

Until then, I should probably get back to designing this fucking F1000 / Formula B car, yeah?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Slow here the next days / weeks / ??

Let's talk about the future, shall we? Oh and pardon if I'm a little out of it today, drinking over the duration of the Super Bowl last night usually makes me a little foggy.

Anyway, got my move to North Carolina coming up, starting the new job, probably working a shit ton of hours (though thankfully not traveling too much - at least initially). May not have much activity here.

Additionally, given the nature of what I'll be working on, may have to cut out any of the vehicle dynamics / sim stuff and keep it a little more strictly to CAD. We'll see.