Dr. Iain Corness

Thursday, 12 June 2014 14:06

Google it and HAL drives away without you

Autonomous cars seem to be the buzz words at present.  Have we the technology to build such cars that can drive by themselves, without hitting anything?  Have we the faith in our technology that we can sit in the passenger seat and let HAL 9000 do the driving?  (For those too young to know, HAL 9000 was the (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) and was a sentient computer (or artificial intelligence) that controlled the systems of the Discovery One spacecraft and interacts with the ship’s astronaut crew, in the movie 2001, A Space Odyssey.)

Thursday, 12 June 2014 14:04

Naza’s huge used car lot

Last month I had a trip to Kuala Lumpur, and whilst there it was suggested I visit Naza World’s car showroom.  The great majority are imported from the UK and Japan and there were literally hundreds of cars set out in an air-conditioned, tiled floored showroom.

Thursday, 12 June 2014 14:03

What did we learn from the Canadian GP?

Well we learned, if we didn’t know it already, Ricciardo (who must be sponsored by Colgate) is the ‘real deal’.  Starting from grid 6, Ricciardo in his Red Bull maintained position and chipped away, making sure he didn’t put a foot wrong, and then in the closing laps he took the advantages by clever driving, ending on the top step of the podium.  There will be more for this talented Aussie. The German driver and his team mate, previously known as The Finger, came third.

Mercedes showed it was not invincible, giving heart to the rest of the field.  And why did the Mercedes duo have brake problems during the race?  It was a “high-voltage control electronics failure led to a permanent loss of MGU-K drive” on both their cars in Montreal.  Does the average race fan even understand the MGU-K drive?  Simple answer - No.  However, a good second place for Rosberg, who leads the world championship by a healthy 22 points.

After the Red Bulls, Jenson Button in the McLaren lucked his way into fourth with Sergio Perez (Force India) entering the demolition derby with Massa (Williams).  Massa has, despite the pundits saying he has had his day, been rejuvenated and he must have enjoyed passing Alonso (Ferrari), and here’s one in the eye for you Fernando, my old mate!  Much controversy about the Perez/Massa accident, with Massa going free and Perez given a 5 grid slot penalty for the next GP.  Viewers pointing the finger at Massa, but the stewards pointed to Perez.

Raikkonen (Ferrari) once again went into ‘sleep’ mode and finished 40 seconds behind Alonso.  Afterwards he complained, “for one reason or another I was always stuck behind other cars.”  The most likely reason is that he just isn’t driving fast enough.  Not like a world champion.  Consulting my crystal ball, he will retire from F1 at the end of this year.

Lewis Hamilton is becoming known for sulky tantrums, both in the car and outside it.  A little more maturity is needed, and a little less of the ‘rapper’ image.  He is getting far too big for his boots.

Result:

01 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:39:12.830

02 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +4.2

03 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull +5.2

04 Jenson Button McLaren +11.7

05 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +12.7

06 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +14.7

07 Valtteri Bottas Williams +23.4

08 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso +27.7

09 Kevin Magnussen McLaren +28.9

10 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +53.3

11 Sergio Perez Force India

12 Felipe Massa Williams

13 Adrian Sutil Sauber

14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber

The retirements were too many

Romain Grosjean Lotus

Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes

Kamui Kobayashi Caterham

Pastor Maldonado Lotus

Jules Bianchi Marussia

Max Chilton Marussia

The next GP is at Austria on the 22nd of June.  The race time for us in Thailand will be a very convivial 7 p.m. seated in front of the big screen at Jameson’s.  The next silly hour race will be America in November, starting at 3 a.m. Thai time.

Thursday, 12 June 2014 14:01

Honda slows production

The downturn in new car demand has seen Honda drop its production to 60 percent of capacity, and the new USD 530 million plant it had started building this year in Prachinburi Province will be put on hold for between six months and a year.

Honda’s moves to reduce output are in reaction to the Thai domestic new car sales that fell 47 percent in Q1 2014 compared with the same period last year.

Exports, however, have not been affected, with Toyota, Mitsubishi, Isuzu, Mazda, GM and Ford claiming their numbers remain on target.

This was echoed in Japan by Honda chairman Fumihiko Ike - who is also head of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association - who was quoted as saying that even though Thai auto sales had plunged over the past year after a subsidy program ended, the investment into Thailand remained strong.

“Thailand of course poses risks as a country, but if you ask me whether they are major country risks, I personally do not think that they will have a very big impact on business activities,” he was quoted as saying.

Ike said Thailand’s auto sales decline since May 2013 has largely been due to the ending of a government subsidy program for first-car buyers, which ended in 2012.  The subsidy scheme has also had 10 percent of applicants default.

Thailand is now the second largest source of vehicles for the Australian market behind Japan, with 228,479 out of the 1,136,227 total vehicles sold here last year coming from the South East Asian nation.

The new plant, now in limbo was to supply the local market, and export to other ASEAN countries, the Middle East and Oceania.  The biggest market in Oceania is Australia, where more than 70 percent of Honda cars originate from Thailand.

It is currently unclear if the models planned for the new plant will also be delayed by the move, or perhaps shifted to Ayutthaya for production.

Thursday, 12 June 2014 13:58

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that an aeronautical engineer invented one of the most common items for bicycles, motorcycles and sports cars.  Exactly what did he invent?  He invented the wire spoked wheel!

So to this week.  I was pushed over a cliff to show how strong I was.  What was this car?

For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Wednesday, 11 June 2014 17:19

Liver, ethanol and toxins

Here is a simple test: Ask any man which is his most important organ and he will undoubtedly point to his bladder’s siphon hose.  Perhaps the magic symbol of masculinity, but it is certainly not the be all and end all.  (Though indiscriminate use can end all!)

The liver is one of the more important organs you possess.  Without it you will die, whereas you can get by without a kidney, or a lung or a thyroid, or even Willy the wonder wand for example (a delicacy enjoyed by Isaan ducks, I believe)!  Yes, I’d rate my liver above my thyroid any day.

Think of your liver as a filtering and de-toxifying device.  Chemicals are taken up by the liver, to be broken down into non-toxic chemicals, all to protect your system.  Clever organ your liver, to know what’s good for you and what isn’t.

The most well known liver toxin is our old friend Ethanol, more usually referred to as booze.  There is “common wisdom” that says certain types of booze are more damaging than others, but that just isn’t so.  Irrespective of the color or shape of the bottle it came in, ethanol is ethanol, is ethanol.  It is the percentage of alcohol that is the important factor.  That alcohol affects the liver is generally accepted, with the end result being called Cirrhosis, a fibrous hardening of the liver which then becomes unable to carry out its job correctly.  Toxins build up.  You feel unwell and it’s all downhill from there.

Some proprietary or prescription drugs can produce an inflammation of the liver tissues too.  Or worse, produce a breakdown of the liver tissue itself.  Amongst these is the headache medication paracetamol (the ubiquitous medication you can even buy in the corner stores), but before you throw them out of your bathroom cabinet, it requires some heavy and very frequent dosage of paracetamol to do this.

Other prescription items that may produce liver problems include Methyldopa, several penicillins, Simvastatin (the cholesterol lowering drug), Diclofenac (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) and Ketoconazole (anti-fungal).  But it is rare - so don’t stop taking your prescriptions yet!

Prescription drugs can be dangerous (even though you can get most of them over the counter in Thailand), but that’s why they have a PI (patient information) leaflet inside the box (the bit you throw away and don’t read).  Probably if you read it, you wouldn’t take it!

However, what about “Health food” preparations?  The purveyors of these all cite the fact that the ingredients are “natural” so everyone assumes that this means “safe”.  Not so, I’m afraid.  Lead, for example, is a naturally occurring compound, and not much good for young kidneys.  However, since we are talking about liver problems, hands up all those of you who have heard of Echinacea?  Supposedly fixes everything from falling hair to fallen arches - but is it “safe”?  Well, Echinacea, along with Kombucha Tea are two of the commonest compounds showing a well documented history of being toxic to the liver.  So if you’re sipping Kombucha tea because you’ve drunk too much alcohol last night, I would suggest that you change to water, or go back to booze (stop hangovers - stay drunk)!

Others for sale in the Health Food shops with known toxic effects on the liver include Evening Primrose Oil, Valerian, Chaparral, Japanese Daisaiko-to (for dyspepsia), Chinese Jin-bu-huan and several forms of herbal teas such as those from Heliotroprium, Senecio Crotalaria and Symphytum.  Makes you think that the shops that sell them may be incorrectly named, doesn’t it!

But while the column this week seems to be spreading doom, gloom and disaster, it’s not quite that bad.  The liver is a very powerful organ and is capable of regenerating itself quite quickly, so in most cases of toxicity following ingestion of chemical compounds (including alcohol), by stopping taking it the liver recovers and the patient feels well again.

So remember that if you are taking anything regularly and you feel unwell, it may be the liver - but tell your doctor everything you have been taking, and there are specific tests available!  And no thanks, I’ll give the herbal tea a miss today.

Thursday, 05 June 2014 11:19

Canadian GP this weekend

The Grand Prix circus returns to Canada, a ‘real’ circuit for ‘real’ drivers, with none of the imitation glitz of the Monaco processions.  The Canadian raceway is the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit, constructed on a man-made island which had been used originally in the 1967 Expo.  Previously called the Ile Notre Dame circuit, it was renamed in Villeneuve’s memory after his death in 1982.  The location is one of the loveliest in Formula One since the track threads its way through lakes and parkland.  

Jaguar, the brainchild of Sir William Lyons is now owned by India’s Tata Motors, who have announced that they will build the six “missing” E-Type Jaguars that were due to be built in 1964.  These E-Types were destined to be race-bred Lightweight E-types that were to be built as ‘Special GT E-Type Cars’.

Thursday, 05 June 2014 11:17

Billycart Grand Prix

For longer than there had been motor cars, there had been billy carts, some even drawn by billy goats (hence the name).  In the UK and the USA these were also called soap-box carts.  However, the need for speed begins in childhood, and unofficial races down hills were soon the norm in all communities.

Today, that need for speed is still there, and so are the gravity powered billy carts.  In the UK, soap box derbies are still popular, such as the Red Bull race, held at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. (Is there anything that Red Bull doesn’t sponsor?)

This extends even to the Hill Tribes in Northern Thailand.  During the Hmong New Year celebrations, “race” carts fashioned from the wooden carts used for hauling produce are entered, where Hmong boys and men will race against members of the Lisu, Engor, and Muser hilltribes.  These races were sponsored by the Royal Project Foundation, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), and also the Red Bull brand energy drink.  (There really isn’t anywhere without Red Bull, is there?)

But what about children who lived in areas without hills?  Enterprising fathers began by putting car starter motors on the wooden carts, along with a car battery.  The electric powered cart was born, which amongst other things, gave birth to the go-kart (and the golf cart).

And of course, go-karts are where we once found Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton and most of the other F1 drivers of today, some of which are sponsored by Red Bull, so we’re back to where we started.

Followers of the iconic Morris Oxford from the early 50’s will be saddened to hear that the Hindustan Ambassador Mk III has been laid to rest.  At one stage, it was about the only sedan that one could buy in India, and all Indian politicians had white ones.  New Indian PM Nerendra Modi has one, and naturally white.

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