Monday, May 18, 2009

Airport security bares all, or does it?

By Jessica Ravitz

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Privacy advocates plan to call on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to suspend use of "whole-body imaging," the airport security technology that critics say performs "a virtual strip search" and produces "naked" pictures of passengers, CNN has learned.

A TSA employee, shown from the back, as he stands in an airport whole-body imaging machine.

A TSA employee, shown from the back, as he stands in an airport whole-body imaging machine.

The national campaign, which will gather signatures from organizations and relevant professionals, is set to launch this week with the hope that it will go "viral," said Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which plans to lead the charge.

"People need to know what's happening, with no sugar-coating and no spinning," said Coney, who is also coordinator of the Privacy Coalition, a conglomerate of 42 member organizations. She expects other groups to sign on in the push for the technology's suspension until privacy safeguards are in place.

Right now, without regulations on what the Transportation Security Administration does with this technology, she said, "We don't have the policy to hold them to what they say. They're writing their own rule book at this point."

The machines "detect both metallic and nonmetallic threat items to keep passengers safe," said Kristin Lee, spokeswoman for TSA, in a written statement. "It is proven technology, and we are highly confident in its detection capability."

Late last month, freshman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced legislation to ban these machines. Of concern to him, Coney and others is not just what TSA officials say, it's also what they see. iReport: Tell us what you think about these scanners

The sci-fi-looking whole-body imaging machine -- think "Beam me up, Scotty" -- was first introduced at an airport in Phoenix, Arizona, in November 2007. There are now 40 machines, which cost $170,000 each, being tested and used in 19 airports, said TSA's Lee.

Whole-Body Imaging

These six airports are using whole-body imaging as a primary security measure, according to TSA:

  • San Francisco, California
  • Miami, Florida
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Six of these airports are testing the machines as a primary security check option, instead of metal detectors followed by a pat-down, she said. The rest present them as a voluntary secondary security option in lieu of a pat-down, which is protocol for those who've repeatedly set off the metal detector or have been randomly selected for additional screening.

    So far, the testing phase has been promising, said Lee. When given the choice, "over 99 percent of passengers choose this technology over other screening options," she said.

    A big advantage of the technology is the speed, said Jon Allen, another TSA spokesperson, who's based in Atlanta, Georgia. A body scan takes between 15 and 30 seconds, while a full pat-down can take from two to four minutes. And for those who cringe at the idea of being touched by a security official, or are forever assigned to a pat-down because they had hip replacements, for example, the machine is a quick and easy way to avoid that contact and hassle, he said.

    Using millimeter wave technology, which the TSA says emits 10,000 times less radio frequency than a cell phone, the machine scans a traveler and a robotic image is generated that allows security personnel to detect potential threats -- and, some fear, more -- beneath a person's clothes.

    TSA officials say privacy concerns are addressed in a number of ways.

    The system uses a pair of security officers. The one working the machine never sees the image, which appears on a computer screen behind closed doors elsewhere; and the remotely located officer who sees the image never sees the passenger.

    As further protection, a passenger's face is blurred and the image as a whole "resembles a fuzzy negative," said TSA's Lee. The officers monitoring images aren't allowed to bring cameras, cell phones or any recording device into the room, and the computers have been programmed so they have "zero storage capability" and images are "automatically deleted," she added.

    But this is of little comfort to Coney, the privacy advocate with EPIC, a public interest research group in Washington. She said she's seen whole-body images captured by similar technology dating back to 2004 that were much clearer than what's represented by the airport machines.

    "What they're showing you now is a dumbed-down version of what this technology is capable of doing," she said. "Having blurry images shouldn't blur the issue."

    Lee of TSA emphasized that the images Coney refers to do not represent millimeter wave technology but rather "backscatter" technology, which she said TSA is not using at this time.

    Coney said she and other privacy advocates want more oversight, full disclosure for air travelers, and legal language to protect passengers and keep TSA from changing policy down the road.

    For example, she wants to know what's to stop TSA from using clearer images or different technology later. The computers can't store images now, but what if that changes?

    "TSA will always be committed to respecting passenger privacy, regardless of whether a regulation is in place or not," Lee said.

    She added that the long-term goal is not to see more of people, but rather to advance the technology so that the human image is like a stick-figure and any anomalies are auto-detected and highlighted.

    But Coney knows only about what's out there now, and she worries that as the equipment gets cheaper, it will become more pervasive and harder to regulate. Already it is used in a handful of U.S. courthouses and in airports in the United Kingdom, Spain, Japan, Australia, Mexico, Thailand and the Netherlands. She wonders whether the machines will someday show up in malls.

    The option of walking through a whole-body scanner or taking a pat-down shouldn't be the final answer, said Chris Calabrese, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.

    "A choice between being groped and being stripped, I don't think we should pretend those are the only choices," he said. "People shouldn't be humiliated by their government" in the name of security, nor should they trust that the images will always be kept private.

    "Screeners at LAX [Los Angeles International Airport]," he speculated, "could make a fortune off naked virtual images of celebrities."

    Bruce Schneier, an internationally recognized security technologist, said whole-body imaging technology "works pretty well," privacy rights aside. But he thinks the financial investment was a mistake. In a post-9/11 world, he said, he knows his position isn't "politically tenable," but he believes money would be better spent on intelligence-gathering and investigations.

    "It's stupid to spend money so terrorists can change plans," he said by phone from Poland, where he was speaking at a conference. If terrorists are swayed from going through airports, they'll just target other locations, such as a hotel in Mumbai, India, he said.

    "We'd be much better off going after bad guys ... and back to pre-9/11 levels of airport security," he said. "There's a huge 'cover your ass' factor in politics, but unfortunately, it doesn't make us safer."

    Meantime, TSA's Lee says the whole-body imaging machines remain in the pilot phase. Given what the organization has gleaned so far, she said additional deployments are anticipated.

    Original here

    Candy Bar From Mars Aims For Women From Venus

    The Fling. Image courtesy of Taylor Global, Inc.

    The "Fling" is the first new chocolate bar Mars has introduced in more than 20 years. Courtesy of Taylor Global Inc.

    The Fling. Image courtesy of Taylor Global, Inc.

    The word "finger" is an industry term for a long, slim confection, Mars spokesman Ryan Bowling says. Courtesy of Taylor Global Inc.

    Promotional postcard for the Fling. Image courtesy of Taylor Global, Inc.

    A promotional postcard for the Fling. Courtesy of Taylor Global Inc.

    All Things Considered The Snickers bar has a new sibling, and it's a girl.

    She's sexual, uninhibited — and only 85 calories. The "Fling" is the first new chocolate bar Mars has introduced in more than 20 years.

    Wrapped in a shiny pink and sliver package, this delicate "chocolate finger" is intended for women. The word "finger" is an industry term for a long, slim confection, Mars spokesman Ryan Bowling says, but with ads that invite you to "Pleasure yourself" in pink lettering, consumers might come to other conclusions.

    The tag line on the package is "Naughty, but not that naughty." A TV spot starts with what looks like strangers having sex in a store dressing room. Currently the candy bar can be bought only California and online, but if all goes well, Mars is hoping women will be having Flings all across the country. But is this hyper-feminine, hyper-sexualized marketing coming on too strong?

    "The overall campaign feels weird," Lisa Johnson says. "It feels creepy." Johnson is the co-author of Don't Think Pink: What Really Makes Women Buy — and How to Increase Your Share of This Crucial Market. She describes the marketing as a "full-frontal attack."

    "The language of it has so much sexual innuendo, you could pack it into a trashy novel." Johnson says marketers are taking the connection women often make between chocolate and sensuality too literally. "There are other things you can do that can hit this note without banging on it."

    Bowling says the campaign has been received well so far. Whether the Fling will keep calling itself a "finger," however, remains to be seen.

    Original here

    Shoppers of the future will 'pick' fruit from supermarket shelves

    By Harry Wallop, Consumer Affairs Editor

    Hand picking oranges: Shoppers of the future will 'pick' fruit from supermarket shelves
    Produce out of season takes about three or four days to travel from field to supermarket shelf Photo: GETTY

    Instead of buying pre-packaged packs of tomatoes or strawberries, they will be able to "harvest" as much or as little as they like – introducing the concept of "harvest by" dates rather than "best before" dates.

    The idea has been proposed by Futurelab, a company that helps businesses predict trends of the future, and was part of a report commissioned by Sainsbury, the supermarket chain.

    Lucy MacLennan, Sainsbury's technical manager, said: "This would completely change how we sell produce to our customers. It would get rid of best before dates and allow shoppers to buy the freshest possible fruit and vegetables."

    Currently, produce out of season takes about three or four days to travel from field to supermarket shelf, but under the futuristic plan the plants would be grown in hydroponic pods.

    These are special mini greenhouses that allow plants to grow without the need for soil; they grow in a special nutrient-enriched solution, cutting down on pesticides.

    The pods would be very light and would allow the farmer to transport the plant from his farm to the supermarket while it is still growing.

    Ms MacLennan said that shoppers picking their own crops in-store would, realistically, not happen for another ten years at least.

    "It could cut right down on wastage and packaging. It would make not just environmental sense, but economic sense too so we are looking at it seriously," she said.

    The produce most likely to be sold this way would be light-weight crops such as peppers, strawberries, raspberries, beans, peas, tomatoes and mushrooms.

    Original here

    Top 5 Of The Gnarliest College Drinks Known To Man

    by Ned Hepburn


    The world is full of rough drinks. As most of us can attest to, we’ve all been at “that point” somewhere in our early years - the point where you only have cheap alcohol and hardly anything to mix it with. These are the drinks that put hair on your chest and gravel in your voice. They are also the stupidest drinks known to man - but really, is there anything more freeing than being broke and happy? You got to be like the MacGuyver of alcohol there for a little while. Or maybe you still are. I know a guy that can make a great cocktail out of D-grade vodka and a whole orange and a handful of ice cubes and some hot sauce, no joke.

    And they’re also the most thoroughly fun to make, too. There’s nothing - absolutely nothing - more aggravating than a bartender (or “mixologist”) that takes themselves too seriously. While I love a well made Jack & Coke, I also enjoy the weird drinks that only three guys know to make. Guys with scars and beards and stories - not some white collar jackass who took a class on bar-tending at the YMCA.

    While this list is here for humorous purposes, these are all drinks that we here at Manolith have actually made at some point in our lives. So, enjoy.

    5. The Gambler


    While in college I had a speciality drink I called “The Gambler” (named after the Kenny Rogers opus). It consisted of:

    • Half filling the glass with ice
    • Half filling the glass with Smirnoff
    • Half filling the rest with blue Gatorade. Only blue. No other kind worked.

    4. The Lazy Susan


    • Fill a glass with crushed ice.
    • One can of Dr Pepper. Fill glass 3/4 of the way, drink the rest of what is left in the can.
    • Fill the rest of the glass with cheap rum.
    • Unwrap a Hostess™ Sno-Ball. Preferably the pink one.
    • Take a large swig of your drink, and follow it with a large bite of the Sno-Ball. The trick is to finish both at the same time.

    3. The Intervention.


    Modified from the popular joke about the sexual position. Google it. My boss would shoot me point blank if I typed out the whole thing.

    This particular drink has a history of a bet I lost while watching a certain episode of A&E’s “Intervention”. However, it’s a lot of fun.

    • You will need one bottle of Peppermint Schnapps, and one can full of whipped cream, and a TV showing “Intervention”. That is how the original game was played - in a basement apartment, too.
    • Take shots of Peppermint Schnapps alternated with a mouthful of whipped cream every time a family member cries.

    2. The Bacontini


    This was made after me and my roommate at the time had literally nothing to do nor drink except the ingredients to a martini and bacon. I’ve actually seen this served in a real bar in New York - somewhat different.

    • Cook 3 strips of bacon until crisp.
    • Immediately eat one. Why? Just because.
    • Crumble up the second one, put into ice in the Martini shaker.
    • Strain the gin and vermouth through one of those Martini shaker things.
    • Place other bacon strip into this new drink.
    • Congratulate yourself.

    1. The Quantum Leap


    • One tall can of PBR
    • One shot of vodka.
    • One shot of Jack Daniels.
    • One half can of Red Bull.
    • Mix.
    • Drink.
    • If you can drink this, Dean Stockwell will advise you to leap into the next body, as your job is done here.

    (Photo By Tranchis and NoalseGolden)

    Original here

    How to Fix Squeaky Brakes: DIY Auto

    By Mike Allen

    The solution: This anaerobic adhesive will make the pad stick to the caliper, hopefully reducing squeal.

    It’s the first nice day of summer; you’ve taken the convertible out of winter storage and you’re ready to hit the road. The stereo is cranking sweet guitar riffs as you cruise the beach, but for some reason the feedback on Wayne Kramer’s ax (Motor City 5, for the uninitiated) starts to sound more like the drone string on Ravi Shankar’s sitar. And that’s not good. Changing tracks, you find that same droning noise, and it isn’t coming from your high-end stereo—in fact, it’s your brakes. They are squealing. By the time you get back home, the noise has become so shrill it makes the dog hide under the porch and bark. The brakes seem to work just fine, but any application of pedal immediately makes the noise louder. Owww, it’s hurting your ears. Time to check the brakes.

    It’s Music, Man

    Let’s make one thing clear right up front: Sometimes your brakes will make noise. If you expect supreme silence, or expect your mechanic to make your brakes totally mute in every circumstance—that just may not be possible. Relax, don’t worry. A squeaking brake can stop a vehicle as quickly as a quiet one.

    So what makes the squeal, then? Modern brakes use a cast-iron disc squeezed between two brake pads lined with friction material. Under the right conditions, the disc, the pads and the caliper they’re mounted in can start to vibrate—in exactly the same way a violin’s string vibrates when stroked by the horsehairs on the bow. The violin’s pitch is controlled by the position of the violinist’s finger on the string, not by how hard or fast the bow is stroked. Similarly, most brake squeals occur at a single discrete frequency. The speed of the vehicle and how hard you press down on the left pedal will only change the volume of noise, because the pitch is controlled by the stiffness and mass of the pad and disc.

    Inadequate development at the manufacturer that leaves brake systems prone to noise can usually be overcome by a Saturday mechanic without totally re-engineering the caliper/mount/pad/disc system. We can try to damp out the noise, or simply change the resonant frequency of the whole arrangement until it stops singing in any audible frequency. Here’s how.

    Normal Pad Noises

    Many brake pad compositions will make a swishing or grinding noise for the first few stops in the morning until the pads warm up and drive off any moisture they’ve accumulated overnight. Ever notice a hissing or grinding noise on some rainy or dewy mornings? It’s the pads sweeping a thin film of rust that’s formed on the iron discs, and it’s perfectly normal.

    In the past, brake pad friction material relied heavily on asbestos. Unfortunately, asbestos tended to give asbestos workers and brake mechanics lung cancer, so the industry has almost completely changed over to less dangerous alternatives. Kevlar is one material that’s seen a lot of use, but it tends to be dusty. Improved brake performance is more important nowadays because of increased safety requirements and equipment—and the extra road-hugging weight that comes along with these. That leads to the increased use of metallics and ceramics in the brake pad friction material. And this stuff can make the brakes hiss or even grind a little as you slow down. It’s a small price to pay for increased performance. So all pad noise is fine, right? Hold up there, Sparky, there’s one brake noise you need to pay attention to right away. Many brake pads have a small finger of spring steel that will scrape on the disc as the pad reaches its wear limit. This tells you that it’s time to change pads for fresh, thicker ones before the friction material wears completely away, and you’re trying to slow down on the metal backing plates. It’s a sound not easily confused with brake squeal—it’s more of a ripping-sheet-metal noise, not a single, high-pitched note.

    Silence, Please

    Okay, let’s dig in and silence our brake noise. One fix is to simply change pads to a different type of friction material. It’s usually hard to beat the original-equipment pads for a good compromise of pad life, noise, grip, dust creation and price, but changing to an aftermarket premium metallic or ceramic pad just might change the interaction that affects the resonant frequency of the pad and disc and, literally, change its tune.

    Go into any auto parts store and you’ll see a shelf full of potions and widgets claiming to cure squeaks. One class of products I’m leery of is simple aerosols that you spray onto the pad’s friction material. I have no idea if they actually make the squeak go away, because I’m unwilling to try anything that changes the friction characteristics of the pad. Let’s not forget, the first reason your brake system exists is, in fact, to make your car slow down. Anything that could reduce that system’s effectiveness in any way is probably not a good idea.

    Still got noise? Or still have plenty of pad material remaining and don’t want to drop fifty or a hundred bucks on a fresh set? You may be able to decouple the piston acoustically from the pad by purchasing shims made of Teflon, which are intended to go between the pad and the caliper’s hydraulic piston. I’ve tried those shims with middling success—sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Warning: Some calipers will not have enough extra travel in the piston bore to allow any shimming without making the brakes drag, at least with fresh, unworn pads.

    You can achieve a similar decoupling without Teflon shims by simply coating the back face of the pad’s backing plates with high-temp brake grease or even antiseize compound. Unlike shims, this tweak won’t last forever, as water and road dirt will wash it away eventually.

    We chose high-end ceramic-based pads for our brake job, hoping the different friction characteristics would cure the squeal. Surprise, the new pads came out of the box fitted with Teflon-coated shims already installed.

    Sticky Solution

    Our favorite tweak for squeaks relies on a different principle: Instead of using shims or lubricants to decouple the pad from the caliper, stick the backing plate to the piston or caliper housing, effectively making its mass far larger. That will move the system’s resonant frequency out of the range that squeals. A smear of Super Glue won’t do it: You need something that will withstand the water, salt, filth and especially the heat that cars see in hard everyday use. How hot do brake systems get? I’ve seen brake discs glowing bright orange at the bottom of Pikes Peak, and flames shooting out of the brake drums of trucks descending Donner Pass. I’ve seen the brakes on my own race car visibly glow right after a few hot laps.

    I’ve used several products over the years, but they’re all basically anaerobic adhesives, applied as either a lipstick-style film or a toothpaste-style goo. The application of this product is simple: Remove and clean up the old pads, or use new pads. Clean the area on the piston and caliper where the pad backing plate touches. Apply the antisqueal adhesive, reinstall the pads and button up. These anaerobic products will stay gummy until you apply the brakes and squeeze out the oxygen. Then they stick like, well, glue.

    Whenever you’re installing any brake parts, be sure you remove any corrosion or road dirt from the mating parts—the brake pad or caliper housing needs to be able to slide in and out to compensate for wear. Clean up any sliding parts, which may require a wire brush or a file, until you can push the pads in and out with your bare hands. I prefer to replace any brake hardware (especially on drum brakes) that isn’t in perfect condition—hey, it’s cheap insurance. Apply a thin film of high-temp brake grease to any sliding surfaces. Obviously, avoid getting anything like grease or antiseize on the pad or disc, and clean any greasy handprints off the disc surface before you hang the wheel on too.

    Brake Hardware Nitty Gritty

    Brake hardware

    1. This is one product we’ve tried that usually works to bond brake pads to the caliper and reduce or eliminate squeal.

    2. This sheet-metal finger is just long enough to contact the disc when the pads are mostly worn out. The noise is calculated to make you replace the pads.

    3. Here are two different compositions of brake pads. The one on the left is the stock pad installed by the factory, with a high concentration of organic fibers and brass particles. The aftermarket pad uses less brass and more ceramics for longer wear and improved braking.

    high-temp brake grease
    4. When installing new or old pads, sparingly coat all of the sliding surfaces on the pads, pins and hardware with high-temp brake grease. Use sparingly, and—duh—don’t get any on the pads or discs.

    File, sandpaper or grind any burrs, extra paint, rust or high spots off the pads
    5. File, sandpaper or grind any burrs, extra paint, rust or high spots off the pads, new or old, to be sure the pad will slide easily in and out as the brakes are applied and released.

    Check out the raised areas—leftovers from the manufacturing process
    6. Check out the raised areas—leftovers from the manufacturing process. We had to file down the steel backing plate on this aftermarket pad.

    Original here

    CEO Promises GM Has New Vehicles That Will Blow You Away

    Posted in: Next Generation

    Facing a fast approaching deadline of June 1st by which GM either restructures or enters bankruptcy, GM CEO Fritz Henderson took to he web to field questions from the public. There are more Q and As on the Fastlane site, but the following exchanges were particularly interesting.

    Henderson was asked by one consumer who needs to replace his first generation Prius, why he should “wait” for the Volt.

    Henderson responded “I would love to take you out of your prius! so why wait for the volt? the car will be beautiful, a great driving experience, and if you commute less than 40 miles per day, the car should deliver a totally electric experience to the owner without using any gas at all.”

    Next he was asked what GM has planned for its next green initiative beyond the Volt and 2-mode plugin. Henderson wrote “the volt needs to be launched by year end 2010, which means we still have work in front of us. we have a separate team looking at gen II erev technologies while looking at other potential vehicle applications. alongside the volt we have a host of other technology initiatives underway, from second gen biofuels, to hybrids, etc.”

    Finally Henderson was asked about how GM will flesh out its new lower number of brands and what each brand’s flagships might be.

    He replied “We have big product and technology plans for all our brands. Chevrolet is already loaded with great cars, crossovers and trucks with a lot more coming like the Cruze, Spark and Orlando - and of course, the Volt. And we’ve got some great new Cadillacs, as well as Buicks and GMC cars in trucks in the works. Each week I join our Design chief Ed Welburn, the head of GM Product Development Tom Stephens and a few others to tour GM design and look at future cars and trucks. It’s great to be reminded what this business is all about, and it fills me with optimism about the new GM. I promise you that we have new vehicles that will blow you away.”

    Source (GM)

    The Last of the Power Rangers?


    SINCE the automobile got its first taste of gasoline, drivers’ need for speed has often trumped other considerations, including money, safety and common sense. Over just five years from 1895 to 1900, ingenious racecar builders tripled top speeds from 15 miles an hour to a maniacal 50 m.p.h.

    From top, the BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V, Jaguar XF Supercharged, Lexus IS-F and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. More Photos »

    Today, safety is paramount. But money and sense can still get blown into the weeds by street-going supersedans that can exceed 180 or even 190 m.p.h. Such speeds are legal only on racetracks, of course.

    With 400 or 500 horsepower — and more — these cars aren’t just fast by four-door standards. Some rank among the most formidable production cars in history.

    With a four-decade edge in technology, these four-doors could embarrass any muscle car of the 1960s and ’70s. But like the fast cars of the previous golden era of speed, the latest versions could be rendered extinct by volatile fuel prices and tougher emissions controls — not to mention an economic climate in which frugality seems on the upswing. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine mainstream cars becoming much stronger unless they are driven by electricity, hydrogen or other gas alternatives.

    These amped-up versions of everyday luxury sedans — with models from BMW, Cadillac, Jaguar, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and others — speak powerfully in English, German and Japanese. Audi’s entry, the S4, has been on hiatus this year, though a new version arrives this fall as a 2010 model.

    Many historians trace the sport sedan’s roots to BMW, which at the urging of its American importer, Max Hoffman, brought over its tiny, squarish 2002 model — with a powerful 2-liter 4-cylinder engine — in 1968. By 1971, the 2002tii was producing 130 horsepower, and BMW began building its image as the king of performance sedans.

    In 1986, BMW introduced the first M3, a 195-horsepower version of its 3 Series model. That 4-cylinder car breezed from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in 7.5 seconds and reached a top speed of 146 m.p.h. The M3 became a street and road-racing legend, and painted a bull’s-eye on BMW’s back at which rivals still take aim.

    Today, after escalating bouts of one-upmanship, 400 horsepower is the new minimum for membership in the club.

    The Mercedes C63 AMG, with 451 horsepower, rockets to 60 m.p.h. in less than 4 seconds — roughly half the time of the original M3. To keep pace, even BMW has abandoned its three-decade-long reliance on in-line 6-cylinder engines; for the latest M3, it developed its own V-8.

    Suffice to say when driven on public roads, these sedans push the limits of sanity with performance that scoffs at speed limits and social conventions — though some owners do explore the cars’ full performance potential by taking them to racetracks.

    These cars also gobble as much fuel as two typical family sedans. In my testing of five performance sedans, the Cadillac CTS-V proved the thirstiest at 11 m.p.g., with the Mercedes just behind at 12 m.p.g. Among these cars, only the Jaguar XF Supercharged and Lexus IS-F avoid the federal gas-guzzler penalty.

    Not only do they drink heavily, but each model demands premium fuel that, for a time last year, was selling for close to $5 a gallon.

    Even with a respite in fuel prices, skeptics might ask why these sedans’ creators are partying as if it’s 1999.

    First, these cars’ designs were set in motion years ago, before the current economic storms. Second, automakers and dealers still find a small but profitable niche in hopped-up sedans that command premiums of $20,000 to $40,000 over the price of mainstream versions of the same cars. (The exclusive $72,000 Audi RS4, not currently offered in the United States, was perhaps the most dubiously priced at more than double the A4’s base ticket.)

    To the added benefit of dealers, many early buyers happily fork over $5,000 or much more above the sticker price to be the first on their block with a limited-production model.

    Pressed on green responsibility, automakers respond that since they sell only a few thousand of each model, these cars’ environmental footprint is negligible. Yet it’s easy to see these g-force carnival rides being marginalized or legislated out of existence.

    Affluent owners may not fret over fuel bills, but demands for higher mileage and lower carbon-dioxide emissions could spell the end anyway. (In recent years, automakers with a heavy concentration of high-performance models have countered corporate average fuel economy requirements by paying millions of dollars in penalties to the government.)

    Looking ahead, if gas prices spike and the market continues to slump, these cars could become steals in the used market. Even in flush times, some of Mercedes’s high-performance AMG models have become notorious for their weak resale values. The market for used — and sometimes abused — luxury supersedans is limited. (And it is largely confined to men; sales data suggest that many women scoff at such over-the-top machines.)

    But for those who can still afford the payments, it’s possible to live fast even in a slowing economy. Owners of these powerful sedans can scribble the checks, fill ’em up and duke it out. Our own tests of the BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V, Jaguar XF Supercharged, Lexus IS-F and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG were like a bacchanal in Las Vegas: when you’re having so much fun, guilt and consequences seem a million miles away.

    Original here

    Stand Back for the Exploded View!

    by Phil Patton

    At the new Porsche Museum, outside Stuttgart, there are many clever displays, such as the overlapped silhouettes of iconic 911 models through the years, the empty fiberglass shell of a 356 America hung from wires to show its lightness and the racecar attached to the ceiling. But my favorite mode of display is the exploded view, used for the most powerful Porsche engine ever—the 12-cylinder racing engine. Its parts, though suspended manually, seem to hover in air.

    Decontructed V12 engine at the Porsche Museum

    The exploded Porsche 12-cylinder racing engine at the Porsche Museum, in Stuttgart.

    Porsche’s engine put me in mind of another “exploded diagram” I had seen recently, this one at the Harley-Davidson Museum, in Milwaukee. Abbott Miller designed the museum’s installations to complement the architecture of his fellow Pentagram partner James Biber. As one part of the display, he “cut up” a motorcycle into seven pieces. Seen head on, the pieces appear to be a single, solid bike. But seen from the side, they break up the frame, engine and other pieces. “As visitors enter the gallery,” Harley-Davidson’s publicity materials explain, “they see a motorcycle in profile, and as they move further into the space, the motorcycle is revealed as a series of ‘slices’ that coalesce into a unified image, with the V-twin engine at its center.” In other words, “A mechanical drawing brought to life.”

    Exploded motorcycle parts at the Harley-Davidson Museum

    An exploded motorcycle on display at the Harley-Davidson Museum, in Milwaukee.

    I thought of the vinyl layers in the Encyclopedia Britannicas of my childhood, with skin, muscles, organs and skeleton printed on overlaying sheets. And of course I thought of instructions and diagrams. These days one is as likely to find a working mechanic’s exploded diagram for a Harley part as a more playful interpretation of the idea, such as an illustration for the menu of a Brooklyn burger joint. The exploded drawing suggests the desire graphic designers feel to move into three dimensions.

    My own fascination with exploded diagrams on paper goes back to childhood and years spent playing with Erector sets or assembling plastic model airplanes and automobiles. (I think I fell in love with the idea of them following while assembling Hellcats and Flying Fortresses. Or maybe it was the glue...) Wonderful exploded views still show up Lego instructions.

    Lego instructions (left) and 67 Burger illustration (right)

    Building instructions for Brickster’s Trike by Lego (at left) and for 67 Burger, Brooklyn (right, designed by Heather Jones).

    Those instructions teach a wider lesson. The process of model-making leads you to focus on each part and their relation to the whole. It teaches you to concentrate on one step at a time, to have faith in the order to the steps and the result that would eventually emerge. (It was always hard not to simply start with the most interesting part of the assembly.) They taught not just patience but process.

    Car companies are good at slicing and breaking up their wares at car shows and museums, to show the internal power and mystery of their technology. I recall the Visible V8 model kit of my childhood—almost as fascinating as the Visible Woman! Since an engine’s basic job is to contain explosions and harvest their energy to make motion, there is a particular rightness to depicting one in exploded form.

    Rudolph de Harak's Exploded Diesel sculpture

    Exploded Diesel, by Rudolph de Harak (1985).

    The first example of an exploded engine in 3-D that I know of dates to 1985, when Rudolph de Harak created Exploded Diesel, what he called a sculpture, for the museum of the Cummins Engine Company, the maker of industrial machinery known for its enlightened patronage of architecture in its hometown of Columbus, Indiana.

    It is significant that it was a designer who first ventured into three dimensions, through exhibition design, to illustrate the exploded engine idea. The exploded diagram is a place where the graphic artist meets the sculptor. Citing de Harak’s achievements, Steve Heller wrote: “His exploded diesel engine, the centerpiece of the Cummins Engine Museum in Columbus, Indiana, in which almost every nut and bolt is deconstructed in midair, is evidence of the designer’s keen ability for extracting accessible information from even the most minute detail.”

    But the exploded diagrams speak of things beyond the mere parts. The Cummins engine appears to function as a social symbol as well—Heller notes the design of the museum was built on hours of interviews with employees. It is a morale-building model of the organization, a celebration of teamwork in which every part is shown and has its critical role to play. It was a positive representation of the worker who feels, “I am just a cog in the machine.”

    Not merely an engine or motorcycle but an entire vehicle was exploded by the artist Damián Ortega in Cosmic Thing, his 2002 sculpture in which the parts of a disassembled Volkswagen Beetle hang in space. London’s White Cube Gallery describes it as being “re-composed piece by piece, suspended from wire in midair, in the manner of a mechanic’s instruction manual.” (Cosmic Thing was shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia and later at the 50th Venice Biennale, in 2003.) “The result was both a diagram and a fragmented object that offered a new way of seeing the ‘people’s car’ first developed in Nazi Germany but now produced in Ortega’s native Mexico,” curators declared.

    Damian Ortega's exploded sculptures Cosmic Thing and Materialista

    (From left) Damián Ortega’s Cosmic Thing (2002) and Materialista (2009).

    In a show now on display at the Galeria Fortes Vilaça, in Sao Paulo, Ortega applied a similar technique to the chrome trim of a transfer truck. Trucks have become a subject of debate in relations between Mexico and the United States since NAFTA first allowed them to cross borders. The piece is called Materialista, which in Mexican Spanish means a truck that carries construction materials, but which also explores issues of how ideas achieve embodiment in materials.

    Honda took a page from Ortega’s book in 2006, when it hired Dutch artist Paul Veroude to create an exploded view of a Honda Formula One racecar for the British Motor Show, with all 3,200 bits and bolts hovering. This 3-D exploded diagram was designed to get spectators “closer than ever to the engineering secrets of the world’s most technically advanced sport.”

    While the floating parts in these works suggest a freeze frame of an explosion, the work of Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang uses a time-lapse approach to render the explosion itself. For his 2004 piece Inopportune: Stage One, displayed last year at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, he hung Chevrolets so they seemed to tumble through the spiraling atrium. All the cars are identical to suggest the flight of single vehicle, captured like sequential snap shots of a car bombing.

    Hermes print ad featuring an exploded watch

    A recent print ad for Hermès watches.

    Luxury brands have also used 3-D exploded diagrams to assert their technological power and boast of value hidden inside. Take for instance a recent advertisement for Hermès watches that reveals all the gears, escapements and jewels to convey the product’s importance and the preciousness of its complexity.

    In today’s world, the news is often punctuated by explosions, and increasingly there is a sense of the center losing grip and of things flying apart. The exploded diagram might make real life seem menacing. But dissection is also teaching, and showing the parts is a fundamental element of learning and study. The verb ‘articulate’ can mean identifying the bones of a skeleton or the segmented parts of something, as well as to make meaning clear. Exploded diagrams, whether on paper or in space, do something similar. They offer an exposition of a subject. Maybe a better word for the exploded view should be a hybrid—I propose explosition.

    About the Author: Phil Patton is the author of Dreamland: Inside the Secret World of Roswell and Area 51, Made in USA, Open Road and other books. He writes regularly for the “Design Notebook,” “Public Eye,” and the New York Times’ automotive columns, and is a contributing editor of I.D. magazine, Wired and Esquire, for which he writes on design and automobiles.

    So maybe the slackers had it right after all

    By David Scharfenberg

    WE MOVED to San Francisco and Brooklyn and Mission Hill. We jumped from job to job. Put off marriage. Never bought a place. And we never heard the end of it. We were drifters, they said. Layabouts. No respect for work and real estate or the value of a good pair of cufflinks.

    But now, in the cold glare of a recession, everything looks different: We've got no house to lose, no career to dash, no school-aged children in need of pricey Wii gaming systems.

    Not recession-proof, exactly, but recession-resistant, at least.

    Of course, it's not like we saw the crash coming. We didn't plan for this, didn't time the market. And we made some bad choices along the way: The persistent neglect of our 401(k)s, battered stock market notwithstanding, will catch up to us someday.

    But in retrospect, it's clear that we did something right. We lived a smaller life, a life we could afford. And as the country rebuilds the economy, as it tries to replace it with something more sustainable than a leaning tower of subprime mortgages and consumer binging, it is time to reevaluate that much-maligned Gen X archetype: the American Slacker.

    "Slacker," like most labels, has always been a crude and misleading shorthand. We were a bit aimless, us urban, liberal-arts types. We were a little too enamored of irony, perhaps. A little too frivolous.

    But there was something to be said for a life in the moment; for a dalliance in California, for concerts and failed screenplays, for a little fun before the fall. And the truth is, we were always more purposeful - more responsible - than our fathers and uncles and grandmothers realized.

    Those of us who took low-wage jobs were not just marking time. Not all of us, anyway. We were doing work we cared about, as journalists and teachers and social workers.

    All that job-hopping and freelancing? We were dilettantes, on some level, it's true. But we also understood, before most, that something had shifted - that we were moving to an economy of telecommuters and independent contractors and less-than-loyal employers.

    And while the best minds on Wall Street cooked up the real estate mess that destroyed a global economy, we were sensible enough to steer clear of that overpriced condo and move into a dingy, three-bedroom rental with a few of our meathead friends.

    You see, while Alan Greenspan and Countrywide Financial were creating a capitalism of disastrous excess, we were busy working on a more workable model. Not without its indulgences, of course. The exuberance of the dot-com bubble was undoubtedly irrational. But we did pretty well, this little slice of Generation X.

    We brought you the Internet, worked on green technology, and filled the ranks of Teach for America. We crossed the color line, ate local produce, and bought secondhand clothing. We lived in smaller spaces, drove smaller cars, and took the subway to work.

    It all seemed like a quaint liberal fantasy at the time. And on some level it was. But now, with a creaking economy and an overheated planet, it reads more like a survival manual: a guide to multicultural living in an increasingly diverse society, an incubator for the technology that might save the American auto industry, an antidote to our awful adventures in sprawl.

    Of course, we could abandon this life as we get older, I suppose. We could grow impatient with our little apartments and cramped hatchbacks. We could set our sights on the kind of suburban existence we've forsaken. But I'd like to think we're smarter than that.

    We created something worthwhile - a sustainable neighborhood, a tech future, a life we can manage. And we won't let it go too easily.

    At least I hope not. As the nation rebuilds a crumbling capitalism, it could use a little perspective, a little wisdom. Bet you didn't think you'd get it from us.

    Original here