Unsprung Components

The unsprung mass in a car includes the mass of every component that is no controlled by the spings and dampers in the suspension. This includes the tires, the wheels, the brakes (if they are outboard, rather than inboard), the uprights and wheel bearings, the pushrods, as well as a portion of the mass of the the suspension links and tie rods, the half shafts and the springs and dampers. A key design goal is to reduce the unsprung mass of the car to lowest level possible. A lower unsprung mass gives two main advantages:

  1. Better grip – with less mass to move up and down, the springs and dampers don’t have to work as hard and can keep the tires in contact with the road more of the time, increasing grip.
  2. Better braking and acceleration – by lowering the mass of unsprung rotating components like wheels, tires and break disks, there is less mass to spin up and spin down (lower rotational moment of inertia to overcome). This improves acceleration and braking. Lowering unsprung mass is 1.7 more effective at improving acceleration and braking than reducing sprung mass.

The simplest way to reduce the unsprung mass of a car is to use smaller diameter wheels and tires. Reductio ad absurdum this would mean using tiny little wheels the size of a coffee mug. Obviously there is a trade off with reducing the wheel and tire sizes. First, smaller wheels don’t handle road imperfections (like potholes!) as well – this can actually decrease road holding capability. Second, when using outboard brakes, smaller diameter wheels require smaller diameter tires, which reduce braking ability. So if you want to keep your wheel tire diameters big, the only way to reduce your unsprung mass is to simplify the design and “add lightness” through the use of high-tech materials like carbon fiber.

Comfort is an ancillary benefit of lowering the unsprung mass of a car. In the automotive industry, comfort is known as “NHV”: Noise, Harshness and Vibration. By lowering the unsprung mass of the car, it is often possible to lower the spring rate, which lowers the suspension frequency and makes the ride more comfortable.

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Unsprung Components: Wheels


The stock Ducati 1198 rear wheel has the following dimensions:

  • Width: 6 inches – 152.4 mm
  • Diameter: 17 inches – 431.8 mm
  • Wheel Offset: 22 mm?


The stock rear wheel rim of the Ducati 1198 weights 5.51 kilograms. BST makes carbon fiber wheels that weighs 2.79 kilograms. That is a unsprung weight savings of 6 lbs per corner. Imagine driving with a sack of potatoes strapped on each wheel and you get an idea of how that much unsprung mass can affect handling. These wheels have a static load rating of 550 lbs each – allowing for a 1650 lb total weight for the car. I’m hoping to keep the total weight of the car below 1,000 lbs. The battery pack should be the heaviest component and should weigh less than 500 lbs, leaving 500 lbs for all of the other components. Even with two riders, the total weight should still be well below the load rating of these wheels.

Stock Ducati 1199 Rear Wheel – 5.51 kg:


BST Carbon Fiber Rear Wheel – 2.79 kg:


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Unsprung Components: Brakes

Inboard Brakes


Brake Cooling

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Unsprung Components: Tires


I’m planning to use a Ducati 1198 rear suspension for my car in order to minimize the number of custom-manufactured parts. In order to further simplify the design, I’m planning to use the same wheels and tires of all three corners. The standard tire for the Ducati 1198 is the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP 190/55 ZR17.

This means the tire dimensions are:

  • Tire Width – 190 mm
  • Aspect Ratio (Height/Width) – 55%
  • Speed Rating – ZR – at least 149 MPH
  • Wheel Diameter – 17 inches – 431.8 mm
  • Tire Height – 104.5 mm
  • Tire Diameter – 640.8 mm
  • Revolutions Per Mile = 799.42


One of my key design principles is to minimize the unsprung mass of the car. The stock Pirelli tires weigh 13.61 kilograms each. The lightest alternative I could find that fits the Ducati 1198 wheels are the Michelin Power Pure 190/55 Zr17. Here’s a video explaining the technology behind them:

These Michelin tires were specifically designed for low mass and weigh just 6.4 kilograms each. Combined, these three Michelin tires will reduce the unsprung mass of the car by an amazing 21.63 kilograms. That’s a reduction of nearly 16 lbs per corner. Imagine strapping two 1-gallon jugs of milk to each of your tires and you get a sense of how that much unsprung mass can affect handling.

Stock Ducati 1999 Rear Tire:

Michelin Power Pure Lightweight Tire:



Camber Thrust

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Music-Responsive Arduino Laser Helmet Mercury Astronaut Costume

Idea: Mercury seven astronaut costume with 64 lasers that fire out of the helmet in sync with the music in the room

Parts List:
* Adult Astronaut Space Helmet (1)
* Silver lame pants (1)
* Silver lame jacket (1)
* Nasa/American Flag/Mercury Astronaut patches (3)
* LASERS – 650nm 6mm 3V 5mW Laser Dot Diode Module Red Copper Head (64)
* 22 Gauge insulated wire (200 feet)
* 22 Gauge Insulated Crimp-On Connectors (128)
* Arduino Uno R3 (Atmega328 – assembled) (1)
* Half-size breadboard (1)
* Breadboarding wire bundle (1)
* Adafruit Mini 8×8 LED Matrix w/I2C Backpack (1) – discard LEDs – using only the backpack
* Electret Microphone Amplifier MAX4466 with Adjustable Gain (1)
* Wizard Stick Fog Generator (1)
* Code for the “Piccolo Tiny Arduino Music Visualizer”: http://learn.adafruit.com/piccolo/overview
* Battery Holder 4xAA to Barrel Jack Connector (1)
* Enclosure for pcDuino/Arduino Clear (1)

Measuring holes for the lasers:

Drilling holes for the lasers:

64 laser installed:

Soldering a mess of wires:

64 lasers wired up – 128 wires & 256 connections crimped and soldered:

Testing the lasers:

Chrome paint job:

Partying down:

Martin Brothers T-Shirt Company

My brother and I are fans of geographic puns.  Buy our t-shirts here: http://www.cafepress.com/kuwaitkuwait

Our current list of geographic puns:

  1. Crimea River
  2. Kuwait Kuwait… Don’t Tell Me
  3. You Better Belize It
  4. Czech Me Out
  5. Fade Into Bolivia
  6. Kenya Dig It?
  7. Uganda Believe
  8. No Sudan Movements
  9. Making It Bahrain
  10. Aruba-en Serious?
  11. I Want Peru to Want Me, I Need Peru to Need Me
  12. Jamaican Me Crazy
  13. I Botswana Be a Billionaire
  14. Tibet You Can’t Eat Just One
  15. Haitians Gonna Hate
  16. Guinea a Break
  17. Kenya Feel The Love Tonight?
  18. Hungary Like The Wolf
  19. Greece Lightning
  20. Keepin Isreal
  21. Jakarta Be Kidding Me
  22. Serbs You Right
  23. Georgia the Jungle
  24. Off to Never-Netherlands
  25. What Are You China Say?
  26. Holland Oates
  27. Hi What Suriname?
  28. Djiboutilicious
  29. Alaska Me About My T-Shirt
  30. Yukon Do It!
  31. Qatar Hero
  32. I Kazakhstan It No More
  33. You’ve Got Togo!
  34. Iran So Far Away
  35. I’ll Have Nunavut
  36. Om Nom Vietnam
  37. We Gaza Get out of This Place
  38. We’re Havana Party
  39. Like a Virginian
  40. Idaho? No You Da Ho
  41. Make Love, Not Warsaw
  42. Let’s Get It Gabon
  43. I’m a Seoul Man
  44. Rome If You Want To Rome Around The World
  45. Wherever I May Rome
  46. Lagos My Eggo
  47. Everybody France Now!
  48. Tahoe, Tahoe, It’s Off To Work We Go
  49. Bern, Baby Bern
  50. The Winner Takes Nepal
  51. Macho Mach-Oman
  52. Moroccan In The Free World
  53. Time For A Korea Change
  54. Red Hot Chile Peppers
  55. I’m Ghana Get You Sucka
  56. Beam Me Up, Scotland
  57. I’m Gay, Uruguay, Everybody’s Gay!
  58. Iraq the Casbah
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Aluminum Cornhole Boards

We have a great patio for playing cornhole. Here’s the view from our patio on a clear day:


We started out by buying a “Franklin Sports Fold-N-Go Bean Bag” set:

Franklin Sports Fold-N-Go Bean Bag

The problem is that we left them outside 24/7.  Since they are made of very low-quality wood, they quickly began to rot.  I attempted to prevent further deterioration by sanding and painting them with a waterproof paint that matched our patio furniture, but eventually mother nature broke them down and now they look like this:

2014-02-09 16.10.042014-02-09 16.10.18

Very sad.

So I decided to design a new set of cornhole boards that would be impervious to the elements. At the same time, I wanted to design them to be completely sustainable by applying cradle-to-cradle design principles. My thought is if someone like me (who is not a professional engineer) can design and build a product that is completely sustainable, then real engineers who work at real companies have no excuse to not build products to such a high design standard.

Before I got started, I laid out my key design criteria:

  1. Completely weatherproof – can be left outside in the elements for years without any deterioration
  2. All materials must be sustainable “technical nutrients” that are infinitely recyclable with no degradation (no “downcycling” or C2C Banned Chemicals)
  3. No manufacturing waste – all manufacturing byproducts must be completely recycled.
  4. Simple to manufacture – I should be able to manufacture the boards in just a few hours using simple machine shop tools.
  5. Aesthetically pleasing – hopefully they will still be nice to look at if form follows function.

Sustainable Materials

To be truly “cradle-to-cradle” the board must be made out of a material that produces very little damage during its initial production, has a nearly infinite usable life, and can be infinitely recycled after its useful life.

Materials like plastic and uncertified hardwoods fail the first criteria – they produce too much environmental impact during their initial production. On the other hand, using recycled plastic or recycled hardwood would eliminate this concern.

Materials like iron or steel fail the second criteria – they will corrode over time and thus don’t have an infinite usable life.

Finally some plastics and softer woods that must be lacquered or painted to prevent rot fail the third criteria – they are not able to be 100% recycled.

There are a number of material options for building a sustainable cornhole board.

  • Aluminum – aluminum is infinitely recyclable without any degradation. It never needs to be “downcycled.” Aluminum is also extremely resistant to corrosion, as aluminum oxide produces a thin protective layer, leading to a dull finish but production against further corrosion.
  • Stainless steel – stainless steel is infinitely recyclable and extremely resistant to corrosion.
  • Certified wood – wood is renewable and can be grown sustainably.
  • Bioplastics – Instead of being made from oil, bioplastics are made from plant starch. Parts can be 3D printed from bioplastics, eliminating manufacturing waste.

Out of these options I chose to use aluminum, as it is easy to work with, can be left outside for millennia without corroding and is 100% recyclable at the end of life.

Galvanic Corrosion

Any time you put dissimilar metals in contact with each other, you create the potential for galvanic corrosion. Essentially, galvanic corrosion happens because different metals have different electrode potentials. When you put dissimilar metals with different electrode potentials together inside of an electrolyte, electrons flow from the more cathodic metal to the more anodic metal, causing corrosion in the anodic metal. This is exactly what is happening inside of a AA battery. In a standard alkaline battery, the positive terminal is made out of manganese dioxide, a highly cathodic metal, while the negative terminal is made out of zinc, a highly anodic metal. The two metals are immersed in potassium hydroxide, a highly basic alkaline electrolyte. Electrons flow from the manganese to the zinc, corroding the zinc and producing an electrical current.

Obviously we don’t want our cornhole boards to corrode, because then they wouldn’t last forever and thus wouldn’t be a “sustainable” product. So we should do everything we can to prevent galvanic corrosion.

In order for galvanic corrosion to happen, you need four things:

  1. An anode (a metal with a high anodic index, like aluminum)
  2. A cathode (a metal with a lower relative anodic index, like steel)
  3. An electrical path between the two metals (two metals in direct contact each other)
  4. An electrolyte surrounding these two metals (which can be rain, fog, dew or simply the air itself)

If you prevent any one of these four things from occurring, you will prevent galvanic corrosion.

You could prevent the fourth criteria from occurring by sealing the whole thing inside a “clean room” and never letting it go outside – but obviously we want to keep our cornhole boards outside through all types or fog and rain.

You could prevent the third criteria from occurring by electrically isolating the dissimilar metals. For example, if you want to put a steel bolt through an aluminum hole, you could electrically insulate the bolt with a plastic bolt sleeve. Or you could slather a corrosion-inhibiting agent like Loctite Zinc Anti-Seize on the bolt shank. But then you would be violating the other design principle of making the entire product completely cradle-to-cradle sustainable.

So we are left with choosing materials that have the same anodic index, so that we don’t have an anode and a cathode in the first place. This means if we make the board out of aluminum, we will also have to use the same grade of aluminum for the bolts.

Examples of Cradle-to-Cradle Products

My favorite example of a cradle-to-cradle product (which hasn’t been C2C certified) is the Klean Kanteen Reflect water bottle. The bottle is made of just three materials: Stainless Steel, Bamboo (for the cap) and Silicone Rubber (for the seal). Stainless steel is infinitely recyclable and doesn’t leech estrogenic hormones into your body like almost all plastic water bottles. Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing woods, so it is extremely easy to grow it sustainably. Silicone rubber is also completely recyclable.




I designed the board in Solidworks. Here’s what the final result looks like:



Bill of Materials for Bolted-Together Boards:

  • Side Beams: (4) Unpolished 6061 Aluminum Bar without Certification –  1/2″ Thick, 3″ Width, 36″ Length – $37.00 Each on McMaster Carr, $31.15 Each on Amazon (w/ free shipping!) = $124.60
  • Cross Beams: (4)  Unpolished 6061 Aluminum Bar without Certification –  1/2″ Thick, 3″ Width, 72″ Length  –$64.91 Each on McMaster Carr, $49.69 Each on Amazon (w/ free shipping!)  = $198.76
  • Top Beams: (4) Unpolished 6061 Aluminum Bar without Certification – 1/2″ Thick, 3″ Width, 24″ Length – no cost – taken from each cross beam (72″-43″=29″ remaining)
  • Legs: (1)  Unpolished 6061 Aluminum Bar without Certification –  1/2″ Thick, 2″ Width, 72″ Length  – $39.82 on McMaster Carr, $40.70 on Amazon (w/ free shipping!)  = $40.70
  • Sheets: (2) Unpolished 6061 Aluminum Sheet – 0.050″ Thick, 48″ Width × 48″ Length – $155.53 on McMaster Carr = $311.06
  • Bolts: (48) Aluminum Hex Head Cap Screw – 1/4″-20 Thread, 1-1/4″ Length, Fully Threaded – $10.21 per pack of 25 = $20.42
  • Nuts: (48) Aluminum Hex Nut – 1/4″-20 Thread Size, 7/16″ Width, 7/32″ Height – $6.41 per pack of 100 on McMaster Carr = $6.41
  • Locking Washers: (48) Aluminum Split Lock Washer – 1/4″ Screw Size, .49″ OD, .06″ min Thick – $8.22 per pack of 100 on McMaster Carr = $8.22
  • Total Material Cost: $710.17

Bill of Materials for Welded Boards (no bolts):

  • Side Beams: (4) Unpolished 6061 Aluminum Bar without Certification –  1/2″ Thick, 3″ Width, 36″ Length – $37.00 Each on McMaster Carr, $31.15 Each on Amazon (w/ free shipping!) = $124.60
  • Cross Beams: (4)  Unpolished 6061 Aluminum Bar without Certification –  1/2″ Thick, 3″ Width, 72″ Length  –$64.91 Each on McMaster Carr, $49.69 Each on Amazon (w/ free shipping!)  = $198.76
  • Top Beams: (4) Unpolished 6061 Aluminum Bar without Certification – 1/2″ Thick, 3″ Width, 24″ Length – no cost – taken from each cross beam (72″-43″=29″ remaining)
  • Legs: (1)  Unpolished 6061 Aluminum Bar without Certification –  1/2″ Thick, 3″ Width, 36″ Length  – $40.70 on Amazon (w/ free shipping!)  = $40.70
  • Sheets” (2) Ultra-Corrosion-Resistant 1100 Aluminum Sheet – 0.050″ Thick, 24″ Wide x 36″ Long – $28.37 Each on McMaster Carr = $56.74
  • Total Material Cost: $420.80

Bill of Materials for 1/4″ Welded Boards:

  • Side Beams: (4) Unpolished 6061 Aluminum Bar without Certification –  1/4″ Thick, 3″ Width, 36″ Length –$27.27 Each on Amazon (w/ free shipping!) = $109.08
  • Cross Beams: (4)  Unpolished 6061 Aluminum Bar without Certification –  1/4″ Thick, 3″ Width, 72″ Length  – $30.55 Each on Amazon (w/ free shipping!)  = $122.20
  • Top Beams: (4) Unpolished 6061 Aluminum Bar without Certification – 1/4″ Thick, 3″ Width, 24″ Length – no cost – taken from each cross beam (72″-43″=29″ remaining)
  • Legs: (1)  Unpolished 6061 Aluminum Bar without Certification –  1/4″ Thick, 2″ Width, 72″ Length  – $20.28 on Amazon (w/ free shipping!)  = $20.28
  • Sheets” (2) Ultra-Corrosion-Resistant 1100 Aluminum Sheet – 0.050″ Thick, 24″ Wide x 36″ Long – $28.37 Each on McMaster Carr = $56.74
  • Total Material Cost: $308.30


I bought the aluminum from McMaster Carr.

I got the bars and sheets water-jetted at Precision H2O in Hayward, California.

Then I got them welded up at Ras-Co Manufacturing in Hayward, California.



To finish them off I went down to the Oakland Tool Lending Library and borrowed a buffer.

I polished them up using some buffing pads and some Brasso metal polish.


Finished Product

Aluminum Cornhole Boards

Aluminum Cornhole Boards


Aluminum Cornhole Boards

Aluminum Cornhole Boards


Metal Cornhole Boards

Metal Cornhole Boards

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Wine is a passion of mine. To me wine is an art and a game at the same time. It is a game to find wine you love and enjoy the art that went into making it. At Cornell I took professor Stephen Mutkoski‘s “Introduction to Wines” at the world-famous hospitality school. The class has been one of the most popular – and most failed – classes at Cornell since it was first taught in 1963. Luckily I managed to pass it! I still use a lot of the knowledge I gained in that class today and I thought I’d write a page about what I do when I’m faced with a massive wine menu at a restaurant.

How I Choose Wine at a Restaurant:

Before I start perusing the menu, I remind myself that restauranteurs are in the business of picking good wines, so it’s actually really hard to make a bad decision. There’s no pressure – it’s more like a scavenger hunt – you’re trying to find something interesting that everyone will enjoy.

First you have to determine what varietal of wine you want. This is the art of pairing. The simplest wine pairing is white wines with seafood and red wines with meat. After that, you can get really complicated with pairing. I’ve learned some wine pairing tips from the class and from my father’s friend Lou Bruno, like:

  • The acidity of the wine should match the acidity of the dish. White wines from cold regions (New Zealand, Chablis in France, Carneros in California, etc.) tend of have higher acidity. Acid mellows with time, so younger wines tend to be more acidic. Not all acid is the same (in fact there are four types or organic acids: Tartaric, Malic, Lactic and Citric). Cheeses have lactic acid and pair well with red wines that have undergone malolactic fermentation. Duck with orange will have citric acid and would pair well with a younger white wine.
  • Sweetness also needs to be matched – this is why sweet desserts and a sweet port wine go well together. Don’t mix a dry wine wine with a sweet dish.
  • There is a Salty-Sweet Affinity – a salty smoked salmon dish goes well with a sweet Gewürztraminer. Salt makes tannins bitter – so avoid a tannic Malbec if you’re eating something salty like Chinese food.
  • Salads are usually bad with wine because the vinegar in the dressing fights the wine.
  • Tannins in wine act like a “scrubber,” so you need a hearty meal to stand up to tannic wine. A Malbec, Zinfandel or Chianti would go well with a “rustic” dish like stew. Fatty foods also pair well with tannic wines.

In general some of my favorite meals are duck, lamb and steak, so I tend to go with cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir more than other varietals.

Once you’ve picked the varietal you want, you need to choose a wine of that varietal. This is where things get a bit more complicated because they involve deciphering labels. New world wines are labeled by their varietal (making it very simple), while old world wines are labeled by their geography (requiring you to memorize which varietals grow in each region). When you’re at a wine store, you get the advantage of looking at the full labels. A wine label is the “birth certificate” of the wine and tells you when, where, how and by whom the wine was made. In a restaurant you get far less data – often only the name of the wine and the vintage year – so you have to make a lot more assumptions. If you really want to look like a genius, many restaurants have their wine menus online (although they’re often not fully up to date), so you can do your research beforehand. Once you have a varietal in mind, it helps to narrow your search down to a region. After you’ve picked a region and found your varietal, you can choose from just a few bottles on the menu. At this point, it is helpful to know how wines are sorted geographically in each region. In general, the more specific the geography, the higher quality the wine. But unfortunately, there isn’t any standardized geographic labeling system around the world, so it helps to know a bit about each region:

For California wines, I first look at the varietal. By California law, 75% of the grapes must be of that varietal. Second, I look at geography. Generally speaking, the more specific they get, the better the wine. There are 4 ways to labels the geography of a California wine:

  1. California” means 100% of the grapes were grown in the state
  2. County like “Sonoma County” means 75% of the grapes were grown within that specific county
  3. AVA (American Viticultural Area) like “Carneros” or “Arroyo Grande Valley” – means 85% of the grapes were grown in that AVA. There are over 100 AVAs in California, so it pays to memorize the ones you like.
  4. Vineyard like “Hillcrest Vineyard” means 95% of the grapes come from that specific vineyard

After I’ve narrowed down the geography for a Califonria wine I look for details on the maker. Only three phrases in California are regulated and tell you who made the wine: “Estate Bottled,” “Produced by” and “Made by.” Other phrases like “bottled by,” “cellared by,” “vinted by” and “blended by” don’t actually tell you who made the wine. Also, the word “Reserve” is not a controlled term in California, so it’s basically meaningless.

For Oregon wines, the signature varietal is Pinot Noir and the Willamette Valley is Oregon’s best Wine region. BTW, Willamette rhymes with “damnit.” Oregon labeling laws are stricter than California. They require a 90% minimum varietal (vs California’s 75%), although cabernet sauvignon can be 75%. Labeled regions must have 100% of their grapes from that region. When looking at Oregon wines, the more specific the geography, the better. Oregon also doesn’t allow any generic names like “burgundy” to be used. I’m a big fan of Willamette pinot noirs, and have never been disappointed when choosing one at a restaurant.

The signature Washington varietal is Merlot and their biggest region is the Colombia Valley. Washington varietal labels must be 75% (like California) and AVAs must be 95%.

The Southern Hemisphere produces some great, under-appreciated wines. New Zealand is known for their Sauvignon Blanc but also makes some pretty nice Pinot Noir. Their most important wine region is Marlborough. Austrailia is known for their Chardonnay and Shiraz. South Africa is best known for “pinotage” (a cross of pinot noir and cinsault), which I personally don’t like. Uruguay produces a red called tannat. Argentina‘s signature red grape is Malbec, which is grown in two important regions: Mendoza and San Juan. Nicolas Cateneu has been called the “Robert Mondavi of Argentina” and makes great Malbecs. Chile produces some good Pinot Noir, but their signature red varietal is the Carmenére, which tastes like Merlot. Chile’s main wine region is Casablanca. Los Vascos is a Chilean vineyard owned by Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, which makes some great reds. The word “Reserve” is an unregulated term in places like New Zealand and South Africa, so it is basically meaningless.

Spain‘s most important region is Rioja, which has been called the “Napa Valley of Spain.” The most important Spanish red varietal is Tempranillo. The other Spanish varietals are sometimes hard to remember, but it helps to compare them to other more common varietals. Albariño tastes like a Riesling. Mencia tastes like Cabernet Franc. Parraleta tastes like a mix of Zinfandel and Syrah. Cava is one of the best Champagne alternatives you can buy. I’ve been told that if you see Godello or Txakoli varietals, buy them, because they are some of the best values in wine today. The Spanish geographic classification system, from least to most specific is:

  1. Vino de Mesa – “Table Wine”
  2. Vino de la Tierra
  3. Denominación de Origen (DO)
  4. Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa)

Portugal is obviously known for their port wines, but the Douro wines, which are fortified into port wine, are some of the best wines I know of. Portuguese geographic classifications are similar to Spain’s, with least to most specific:

  1. Vinho de Mesa – “Table Wine”
  2. Vinho Regional – Wines from 8 large regions
  3. Indicacão de Proveniência Regulamentada (IPR) – “Indication of Regulated Provenance”
  4. Denominacão de Origem Controlada (DOC)

Italy has three main wine regions, each with their own signature varietal. Tuscany has SangiovesePiedmont has Nebbiolo. Tre Venezie has Pinot Grigio. Tuscany is perhaps the most well known region, with famous DOCG sub-regions like Chianti. The lesser-known Piedmont region has some in notable sub-regions like Barolo, Barbera and Barbaresco. Some words to look out for with Italian wines, which can indicate superior quality are “Classico,” “Riserva” and “Superiore.”

Italy’s geographic classifications from least to most specific are:

  • Vino da Tavola (VDT) – “Table Wine”
  • Indicazione Geografiche Tipiche (IGT) – “Indication of Typical Geographic Origin”
  • Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) – “Denomination of Controlled Origin”
  • Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) – “Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin”

French wines are by far the most complicated in terms of understanding the labels. In general, they are regulated by the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC). This system has been copied throughout Europe, with the DOC in Italy, DO in Spain, and the DOC in Portugal. In order from least to most specific geography, French wines are labeled:

  1. Vins de Table – Table Wine (which can still be very good!) – grapes can be from anywhere in France
  2. Vins de Pays (d’Oc) – From a broad region of France
  3. Vins Delimites Qualite Superieure (VDQS) – from a region showing promise of becoming an AOC (only 1% of French wine is labeled as VDQS, so you’ll probably never see one)
  4. Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) – From a specific controlled region, like Burgundy or the Loire Valley

France also has a system of “négociants” who negotiate the purchase of grapes from vineyards and produce and sell bottles. The important word to watch out for is “par.” Bottles that were produced by négociants will say something like:

  • Mis en bouteilles par – bottled for
  • Mis en bouteille dans nos caves par – bottled in our cellars for
  • Élevé et mis bouteilles par – aged and bottled for
  • Vinifé, élevé et mis bouteilles par – made, aged and bottled for
  • Récolté, vinifié, élevé et mis en bouteilles par – Harvested, made, aged and bottled for

Bottles that are produced by the vineyard will say something like:

  • Mis en bouteille au domaine – Bottled at the estate
  • Mis au domaine – Bottled at the estate
  • Mis en bouteille à la propriété – Bottled at the property
  • Mis en bouteille au châteauBottled at the château
  • Mis du château – Bottled at the château
  • Mis par le propriétaire – Bottled by the proprietor

A few  words you’ve got to watch out for are “caves” or “chais” and “région de production” – this usually means the grapes were grown outside of the estate and aren’t of the same quality as an estate bottled wine. These bottles will say something like:

  • Mis en bouteille dans nos caves – Bottled in our cellars
  • Mis en bouteille dans nos chais – Bottled in our cellars
  • …dans la région de production – Means the wine was produced from grapes from a region

It helps to memorize the names of the négociants that you’ve enjoyed wine from before. Louis Jadot Is one of the largest négociants and I’ve always enjoyed their wines.

The French Loire Valley is known for white wines like Chenin Blanc, Vouvray, Muscadet, Sauvignon Blanc and Sancerre (opposite the river from Pouilly Fumé). The Alsace region is known for Geürztraminer.

France’s Bordeaux region in southwest is the largest AOC region in France and one of the largest wine producing regions on earth. Bordeaux produces mostly red wines from varietals like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdeaux. Bordeaux is broken up into the left bank and the right bank of the Gronne river. The important AOCs on the left bank are Médoc, Graves and Pessac-Léognan. The most important AOCs on the right bank are St. Emilion and Pomerol. St. Emilion is mostly Merlot. Médoc and Graves are mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. Bordeaux geographic labeling is, from least to most specific:

  1. Regional – like “AOC Bordeaux”
  2. Sub Regional – like “Haut Médoc”
  3. Commune – like “AOC Margaux”
  4. Chateau – like “Château d’Issan”

Bordeaux also has a highly selective club of 61 “growth” wines, dating from a highly-contested 1855 exposition. These range from “fifth growth” to “first growth.” Any Bordeaux wine that says “Grand Cru Classé” is a member of this club. The very best Bordeaux wines come from the five “first growth” chateaus:

  • Chateau Lafite-Rothschild
  • Chateau Latour
  • Chateau Margaux
  • Chateau Haut-Brion
  • Chateau Mouton-Rothschild (which was elevated from a second growth in 1973 and is a whole other complicated story)

Unless you’re some kind plutocrat, drinking a first growth wine is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But if you’re at a restaurant and see any “growth” wine for a reasonable price, you’re almost guaranteed it will be good. In 2007, while I was living in Singapore, I had the honor of enjoying a couple Chateau Lafite-Rothschild wines with Christophe Salin, the CEO of Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite. I was far too inexperienced to fully understand how amazing the wines were, but the experience has fueled my passion for wines since. I’ve even kept the menu all of these years.

The Burgundy AOC region in the Southeast of France is known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. People say that you buy Bordeaux wine with your head, but you buy Burgundy wine with your heart. Burgundy wine production is just 1/6th of Bordeaux production. Burgundy has its own subset of classifications, from least to most specific:

  1. Côteaux Bourguignons – the lowest classification – grapes can come from anywhere in Burgundy – the label will usually say “Appellation Bourgogne Contrôlée
  2. AOC Bourgogne – all grapes must come from a single AOC region – the label will have the name of the region, like “Pouilly Fuissé” or “Chablis”
  3. Commune or Village – there are 55 communes – the label will have the name of the village by itself, like “Chambolle-Musigny” – village names are hyphenated (Chambolle is the village, Musigny is the name of the villages most famous vineyard)
  4. Premier Cru – The “First Growth” wines – 562 vineyards – the label will have the name of the village and the vineyard together with the vineyard name on the line below the village name, like “Chambolle-Musigny / Les Charmes” or “Santeney / Clos De Malte” (BTW “Clos” means the vineyard is enclosed by a stone wall) – must be aged for 3 to 5 years
  5. Grand Cru – the “Great Growth” wines – 33 vineyards producing just 1.5% of Burgundy production – the label will have the name of the vineyard by itself without the village name above it, like “Musigny” – these are some of the best wines in the world and must be aged at least 5 to 7 years.

If I’ve narrowed down my varietal and my geography and I still can’t choose a wine, there are still a few tricks up my sleeve. One is to memorize the names of a few importers whose wine you’ve enjoyed. If you see their name again on a different wine, the odds are you will enjoy it. Sometimes menus will have a ranking of certain wines on a 100 point scale. There is almost no difference between a 89 point wine and a 92 point wine – anything past the 80s is going to be nice. If you see a wine labeled as organic, besides not being able to use pesticides, the grower is also not able to add sulfides. If I see a wine labeled as organic, I almost always buy it – mostly because I want to support the practice, but also because it’s been my experience that they’ve usually very good. If you’ve gotten through all of this and still haven’t figured out what you want to order, you can either ask your waiter for a recommendations or just take a wild guess – sometimes choosing a random wine allows you a serendipitous discovery of something wonderful. Again, restaurateurs are in the business of picking good wines, so it’s actually really hard to make a bad decision.

Once you’ve ordered the wine, you’re not out of the clear yet. There are still some things to do:

  • When the wine is presented to you by the waiter, check the label and vintage date to make sure they matched what you ordered. The last thing you want to do is order a $40 bottle and accidentally drink a $2000 bottle! Also check the space between the wine and the bottom of the cork – if it is too low, the wine may be bad.
  • Once the wine is opened, check the cork – if it is wet all the way up the side or crumbly, it’s likely that air got into the wine, causing oxidation. It is also smart to check that the labeling on the cork matches the wine – wine fraud is an increasing threat for high end wines.
  • When tasting the wine, I’m checking for the following defects:
    • Sulfur Dioxide – causes a stinging sensation in the nasal passage
    • Hydrogen Sulfide – smells like rotten eggs
    • Mercaptans – smells skunky or like rotten cabbage
    • Oxidation – tastes very bland
    • Maderized – tastes “cooked” – like sherry with nutty flavors
    • Corked – smells like a musty attic
    • Dekkera/Brettanomyces – smells like a barnyard – smells “mousey” or “horsey”
    • Sorbate – smells like Pez candy
    • Pediococcus – smells like dirty socks in an old gym

Wines do go bad. It’s rare, but eventually you will come across a bad bottle. Good etiquette is to ask for a second opinion before sending the wine back.

I keep track of the wines I’ve enjoyed here: http://www.snooth.com/profiles/WillMartin/

Here are some recent wines I’ve liked:

Snooth | Find better wines



I love to travel. I think the world would be a better place if everyone traveled more. Mark Twain once wrote “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I’ve visited or lived in the following countries:

  1. Argentina
  2. Aruba
  3. Barbados
  4. Belize
  5. Bulgaria
  6. Canada
  7. China
  8. Costa Rica
  9. Denmark
  10. Dominican Republic
  11. Estonia
  12. Finland
  13. France
  14. Germany
  15. Greece
  16. Guatemala
  17. Haiti
  18. Indonesia
  19. Ireland
  20. Italy
  21. Jamaica
  22. Kenya
  23. Malaysia
  24. Mexico
  25. Nepal
  26. Netherlands
  27. Nicaragua
  28. Norway
  29. Oman
  30. Poland
  31. Portugal
  32. Qatar
  33. Romania
  34. Russia
  35. Saint Lucia
  36. Saint Martin
  37. Singapore
  38. Spain
  39. Sweden
  40. Tanzania
  41. Thailand
  42. The Bahamas
  43. Turkey
  44. Ukraine
  45. United Arab Emirates
  46. United Kingdom
  47. United States of America

Places I want to go next:

  1. Monaco – the Monaco Grand Prix is high up on my bucket list
  2. Brazil
  3. Japan
  4. India
  5. Australia
  6. South Korea
  7. Switzerland

I’ve also visited or lived in the following US States:

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona
  4. Arkansas
  5. California
  6. Colorado
  7. Connecticut
  8. Florida
  9. Georgia
  10. Hawaii
  11. Idaho
  12. Illinois
  13. Indiana
  14. Iowa
  15. Kansas
  16. Kentucky
  17. Louisiana
  18. Maryland
  19. Massachusetts
  20. Michigan
  21. Minnesota
  22. Mississippi
  23. Missouri
  24. Montana
  25. Nevada
  26. New Hampshire
  27. New Jersey
  28. New Mexico
  29. New York
  30. North Carolina
  31. North Dakota
  32. Ohio
  33. Oregon
  34. Pennsylvania
  35. Rhode Island
  36. South Carolina
  37. South Dakota
  38. Tennessee
  39. Texas
  40. Utah
  41. Vermont
  42. Virginia
  43. Washington
  44. West Virginia
  45. Wisconsin
  46. Wyoming

My Missing States:

  1. Delaware
  2. Maine
  3. Nebraska
  4. Oklahoma

US territories I’ve been to:

  1. Puerto Rico
  2. US Virgin Islands
  3. Washington DC

Missing US territories:

  1. Guam
  2. Northern Mariana Islands

Canadian Provinces and Territories I’ve Visited:

  1. Alberta
  2. British Columbia
  3. Manitoba
  4. Ontario
  5. Quebec
  6. Saskatchewan

Missing Canadian Provinces and Territories:

  1. Nova Scotia
  2. New Brunswick
  3. Prince Edward Island
  4. Newfoundland and Labrador
  5. Northwest Territories
  6. Yukon
  7. Nunavut
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Design Philosophy

When designing a car (or undertaking any large project) it is always wise to start with the end goal in mind. This is my end goal:


My main inspiration for the layout and body of my car is the Aprilia Magnet designed by the Finnish designer Heikki Naulapää. Heikki’s full design study is here:

Some obvious things that I would have to change from Heikki’s design are:

  • Wheels – no one manufacture hubless wheels, so I’ll have to use conventional motorcycle wheels
  • Steering wheel – a regular steering wheel is probably easier to design and more ergonomic than his two- post setup
  • Rear suspension – it will be easier and cheaper to just reuse an existing rear motorcycle suspension

But in general, I want to keep the overall design of a three-wheeled tilting car with a two-person tandem seating design similar to a motorcycle. To maximize acceleration, I want to make the car all wheel drive. I want the excitement and the feel of riding a motorcycle with the capability, safety and control of a car. People’s sense of riding a motorcycle is created by a number of factors. Firstly, the experience is very open – rather than seeing the world through the picture box of a car window, the motorcycle rider is out “in” the environment. In his book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, Robert Pirsig called this an overwhelming “sense of presence.” There is a sense of exposure and danger because riding a motorcycle is, in fact, dangerous. The exhilarating feeling of riding a motorcycle comes down to the high power-to-weight ratio and the sensation of leaning into corners. By giving the rider the stability of three wheels and tilting into corners, the car will give the driver the feeling of riding a motorcycle without the safety and stability drawbacks. Aesthetically, I think Heikki nailed it – the Magnet builds on the Scandinavian design tradition of simplicity and minimalism. Form follows function and nothing superfluous is added. I’m hoping that by following the same philosophy, my design will look just as beautiful.

Advantages of Electric Vehicles

  • 100% torque from zero RPM – instant acceleration of the line means better overall acceleration.
  • Flat torque curve – can provide massive power at nearly any speed without a transmission.
  • Virtually maintenance-free – only 1 main moving part. No need to change oil, oil filters, air filters, or spark plugs.
  • Reliable – fewer moving parts means electric drives can be more reliable than internal combustion engines.
  • Quiet – electric motors can be far quieter than internal combustion engines. This benefits everyone by cutting down on noise pollution. South Park literally did an entire episode about how much people hate loud Harley riders. It benefits the driver by being able to enjoy the sounds of their surroundings more.
  • Efficient – Electric motors can be over 90% efficient while internal combustion engines are usually around 20% efficient. Electric motors use no power when the car is stopped at a stoplight while most cars continue to idle.
  • Sustainable – can be charged with renewably-generated electricity. Even when charged with fossil-fuel-produced electricity, the high efficiency of electric motors makes the overall emissions far lower. No need to worry about contributing to pollution, climate change, peak oil or sending money to oil-producing countries that fund terrorists. Makes you more resilient to oil shocks and inevitable carbon taxes.

Disadvantages of Electric Vehicles

  • Range – Since gasoline is 32.5 times more energy dense as an energy carrier than lithium-ion batteries, electric cars are limited in how much energy then can carry.
  • Recharge time – Electric cars take far longer to charge than gasoline cars take to fill up.
  • Cost – While the lifetime cost of an electric car can be cheaper than a gasoline car, the up-front cost will almost always be higher due to the cost of batteries.

 Advantages of Tilting 3-Wheelers

  • Simplicity – A three wheeled vehicle has the fewest number of wheels while still being inherently stable. (of course for stability you need 2 wheels in the front and 1 in the back, not the other way around like the Reliant Robin) Three-wheelers can corner at up to 1.3 G’s while motorcycles rarely exceed 1 G. Three-Wheelers can also out-brake motorcycles. Simplicity of design also leads to lower cost and higher reliability.
  • Lightness – Having 1 less wheel than a car means the design can be lighter. All things equal a lighter car will be more efficient and have higher performance.
  • Registered as a motorcycle – In most states, 3-wheelers that weigh less than 1500 lbs are registered as motorcycles. This means they need to follow fewer regulations, which allows then to be simpler and lighter. Motorcycle insurance is also typically cheaper than car insurance.
  • HOV Lane Access – Since 3-wheelers are technically “motorcycles,” they are allowed access to the carpool lanes in most states.

Disadvantages of Tilting 3-Wheelers

  • Too different – When you drive down the street all of the cars look pretty much the same. When a Red Ferrari drives through the crowd of beige, it stands out. Most people don’t like to stand out. People also have a distrust of the unconventional. Jalopnik argues that 3-wheelers fail the “Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable” test.
  • Tandem seating – While motorcycle owners are used to this configuration, most car owners are not. People like to sit next to each other so it’s easy to talk.
  • You hit every bump – With a normal 4-wheeled car, when you see a pothole or a rock in the road you can simply aim so it passes under the center of your car. With a motorcycle you can swerve around them. With a 3-wheeler, there’s no avoiding every pothole and rock in the road. Also, if you drive in the snow or on a dirt road, 4-wheel cars put two ruts in the road, but the 3-wheeler’s back wheel will ride up on the center.
  • Low passive safety – While small nimble cars have higher “active safety” than larger vehicles, because they are better able to avoid collisions in the first place, vehicles with less mass usually have worse “passive safety” than vehicles with larger mass (Newton’s laws of motion).
  • Low space – most 3-wheelers offer about as much storage space as a motorcycle.

Engineering Goals

My engineering goals, in order of importance, are:

  1. Safety – safety should always the the #1 goal of any design. Do it safety or not at all. There’s always time to do it right – so even if it takes longer to design, it have to be designed with safety as the primary goal.
  2. Compliance – The vehcile must fully comply with all applicable rules and regulations for making it street legal.
  3. Excellent Handling – low overall mass, low unspring weight, low yaw polar moment of inertia, low center of mass, even weight distribution, low load transfer, optimized suspension geometry
  4. Good Acceleration and Braking – high power-to-weight ratio, efficient drivetrain, all wheel drive, advanced brakes and tires. I’d like to set a goal of 0-60 mph acceleration in less than 6.0 seconds.
  5. Reliability – standardized components, simplicity, redundancy, maintenance-free components
  6. Sustainability – I want to design and build the car to be as sustainable as possible – the manufacturing and use of the car should create zero pollution and the entire vehicle should be 100% recyclable
  7. Decent Range – I’d like to achieve a minimum range 150 miles. This is nearly double the Nissan Leaf range and is enough for most weekend trips.
  8. Decent Top Speed – While low-speed handling is more important, I’d like the car to have a top speed over 100 mph.
  9. Low Cost – standardized components, minimal manufacturing labor, low company overhead

Boiled down, this design philosophy is best described by the late Colin Chapman’s famous line “Simplify, then add lightness.” As Chapman went on to explain, “Adding power makes you faster on the straights, subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere.”

In quantifying the success of the design, we can follow Peter Drucker’s advice: “what gets measured gets managed.” We can measure success by a few simple measurements:

1. Minimize vehicle mass – the lower the better, particularly for unsprung mass.
2. Minimize total vehicle parts count – the lower the better. Avoid “feature creep” – if a component isn’t absolutely necessary to produce a the minimum viable product, it should be thrown out.

Fighting Automotive Obesity

Almost everywhere you look in modern car design, you see companies failing to follow Colin Chapman’s advice about simplicity and lightness. Feature creep, stricter safety requirements and a desire for more interior space has caused nearly every modern car grow fatter from its origins. The following list shows the lbs gained between a model’s first year in production and the current model:

  • Chverlet Suburban – 2.214
  • Toyota Land Cruiser – 2,039
  • Nissan GTR – 1,481
  • Ford F150 – 1,429
  • Toyota Carolla – 1,211
  • Mercedes E-class – 1,110
  • Honda Accord – 1,109
  • Honda Civic – 1,095
  • Mitsubishi Lancer – 1,025
  • BMW M3 – 915
  • Volkswagen Golf – 907
  • Toyota Camry – 886
  • Lotus Elise – 298
  • Subaru Impresa – 240
  • Smart Fortwo – 43
  • Audi S4 – lost 176

I own an Audi S4 (B7), which is one of the only cars I could find that lost weight between its introduction and the current model. Nevertheless, the car is still very heavy, tipping the scales at over 1.8 short tons. While the 340 horsepower V8 is able to overcome that weight and accelerate the car to crazy speeds, at low speeds the weight is very noticeable. The problem with trying to compensate for weight by adding horsepower is that at low speeds, the handling is still compromised by the weight. While it is exciting to drive at triple-digit MPH speeds, in real day-to-day driving I hardly ever take corners at speeds faster than 50 MPH. I believe that car companies have forgotten that truly “fun” cars need to have both a high horsepower-to-weight ratio and a low overall mass. A few cars, like the Subaru BRZ/Scion FRS, break this trend and provide exciting low-speed driving, but in general performance cars have gotten far too heavy. So I’m considering this project a 1-man crusade against automotive obesity.

Design Progression

The actual design work consists of selecting components by calculating loads, modeling those components in 3D Solidworks and assembling them virtually into a full vehicle model. This work can proceed in any order, but it makes the work far easier if it is done in a natural progression. I am starting from the tires and moving upwards and inwards. The tires are the most important component of any vehicle – they are the only component that touches the road and as such, they are responsible for all acceleration, braking and cornering. By designing inward from the tires, it keeps the focus on these components, creating a “tire-centric” design.

Metric System

I’m also planning to use all metric measurements and metric-sized parts, because the metric system is better.


Pinterest Board

I maintain a Pinterest board to help me organize my design thoughts.

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