The world’s first plug-in hybrid supercar

…This is most definitely not a Prius.

The 918 prototype you see here was in bits and pieces just a few weeks ago, and it’s one of only three in existence. The Porsche team assigned with 918 development arrived in Italy in early January and furiously began testing all the components before slapping together an assortment of chopped and mismatched 911 bodywork to get it ready for the track. And us.

Few outsiders get access to a vehicle this early in the development process – not even a cheap econobox, let alone a next-generation halo vehicle in Frankenstein form. But Porsche wants to show off what it’s been up to and give us a taste of how it’s reworking the recipe for world-beating performance…

The formula for the 918 starts in stereotypical supercar fashion: mount a race-bred V8 amidships that sends power to the rear wheels. In this case, Porsche pulled a variant of the 4.6-liter V8 originally fitted to the three-time ALMS LMP2 Championship-winning RS Spyder. That engine put out a comparatively paltry 503 horsepower, but fitted to the 918, output is up to 570 hp. That figure is before you account for the 918′s two electric motors, and it’s also where the similarities to past supercars ends. Abruptly…

The 918 Spyder is a full parallel hybrid, with a 90 kW electric motor sandwiched between the engine and seven-speed transmission. Easy enough for a Toyota, but Porsche takes things three steps further.

Another 80 kW electric motor is mounted on the front axle, powering the two front wheels and effectively making the 918 all-wheel-drive on-demand. That motor alone is good enough to get the 918 up to speed and driving around town on just electricity for 16 miles, but the combination of the two electric motors – on their own more powerful than the 1974 911 Turbo – and the mid-engine V8 singing at 9,000 rpm brings total output up to 770 hp, with an even more impressive 553 pound-feet of torque available across the rev range.

Flick the steering wheel mounted switch into “Hot Lap” mode and in third gear Porsche claims you’ll be thrusted forward with an overboosted total of 700 lb-ft of twist. That’s good for a zero to 60 mph run of less than 3 seconds, 124 mph in less than 9 seconds and on to a top speed of 202 mph. And if you’ve got enough juice from the liquid-cooled, lithium-ion battery pack, you can hit 90 mph without using a single drop of fuel…

The entire chassis is a mix of carbon fiber and aluminum, including the passenger compartment and associated crash structure, which weighs in at a scant 485 pounds. Carbon fiber construction has come a long way since Porsche’s last super car, the Carrera GT, and Porsche illustrates that by pointing out that the passenger tub of the GT took five days to make. Today, they can crank out five 918 tubs a day thanks to new innovations in composites and assembly methods.

All told, the production version will tip the scales at less than 3,700 pounds – not bad for something packing a brace of batteries – but more importantly, nearly 80-percent of the weight is below the centerline of the car, giving the 918 the proper amount of grip to match it’s hybrid-electrified go.

Enjoy the tale of the ride. Let your brain spin over the engineering marvels Porsche has crafted together in a single example of sculpture in motion. Lots of photos and details in the article.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Vatican cancels stem cell forum when they learn real stem cell scientists might show up

Pope would rather have a conference on cowboys with no Indians invited
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The Vatican has abruptly cancelled a controversial stem-cell conference that was set to be attended by the Pope next month.

The Third International Congress on Responsible Stem Cell Research, scheduled for 25–28 April, was to focus on clinical applications of adult and reprogrammed stem cells. But a number of the invited speakers, including Alan Trounson, president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in San Francisco, and keynote speaker George Daley, a stem-cell scientist at Children’s Hospital Boston in Massachusetts, are involved in research using human embryonic stem cells, which the Catholic Church considers unethical…

The Catholic News Agency…quoted an unnamed academy member who called the cancellation an “enormous relief to many members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who felt that the presence on its program of so many speakers, including the keynote speaker, committed to embryonic stem cell research, was a betrayal of the mission of the Academy and a public scandal”.

I think the only interpretation is that we are being censored. It is very disappointing that they are unwilling to hear the truth,” says Trounson. He had hoped to provide a “balanced perspective” on the potential clinical applications of stem cells, both adult and embryonic.

Meanwhile, some European scientists, who had called for a boycott because they believed the conference unfairly maligned embryonic stem cell research, cheered its cancellation…

RTFA for all the thorny details. It reminds me of nothing more than that crap Congressional committee meeting called by Darrell Issa where a clot of backwards old men sat around and decided what women should – and mostly shouldn’t – have access to for birth control choices.

When the pope realized there were real scientists showing up who wouldn’t accede to limits placed on research by superstition – he took their marbles and went home to the Vatican.

Medicare for all. Why not?

Roosevelt signing the Social Security law in 1935. See any Republicans?

Not surprisingly…the Supreme Court argument over the so-called “individual mandate” requiring everyone to buy health insurance revolved around epistemological niceties such as the meaning of a “tax,” and the question of whether the issue is ripe for review.

Behind this judicial foreplay is the brute political fact that if the Court decides the individual mandate is an unconstitutional extension of federal authority, the entire law starts unraveling. But with a bit of political jujitsu, the President could turn any such defeat into a victory for a single-payer healthcare system – Medicare for all.

Here’s how. The dilemma at the heart of the new law is that it continues to depend on private health insurers, who have to make a profit or at least pay all their costs including marketing and advertising…On average more than 1000% of the cost of government’s managing of Social Security.

The President and the Democrats could have avoided this dilemma in the first place if they’d insisted on Medicare for all, or at least a public option.

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About half of Americans trust the White House, hardly anyone trusts Congress — how many trust the Supreme Court?

An overwhelming majority of Americans think that the Supreme Court justices’ political views will influence how they vote on the Obama health care reform cases…

Respondents were asked “The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide the constitutionality of the health care reform law signed by President Obama in 2010. Do you expect the Court will make this decision based solely on legal merits, or do you expect politics will influence how some justices vote? ”

The poll found 75 percent of Americans think politics will influence the justice’s votes, while 17 percent think they will vote solely on the legal merits, and 8 percent aren’t sure.

Respondents who described themselves as politically independent were most skeptical of the justices’ ability to keep politics out of their decision making process; 80 percent of independents thought politics would influence the justices. Of Republicans, 74 percent thought politics would play a factor, while just 65 percent of Democrats thought politics would influence the outcome.

This is the result of decades of Republicans making revision of the Supreme Court a central task of every Republican presidency – and Democrats lacking the backbone to fight for an independent judiciary. While we’ve seen dry academic polls lay out this change starting with the Reagan years — till now, there was some conviction that the conservatives on the bench would continue to spell the word with a small “c”. This poll demonstrates that the American people have no belief in that being true at all.

We all know the level of contempt felt for the corruption factory that is Congress. And the nation – divided as it is in response to the ideologues of the Right and Religion who preach division – stays divided over the residents of the White House. But, it is a new state of affairs when the third branch of our tripartite government has plunged to the same depths of perceived crony corruption as the rest of government.

I guess we can give special thanks to the Republican Party, once again, for the reintroduction of class warfare to the United States.

MP tells Commons how dying father took own life

Pauk Blomfield

An MP fought back tears last night as he told the Commons how his terminally ill father gassed himself alone in his car rather than die a “lingering, degrading death” from cancer.

Paul Blomfield said that the 87-year-old former RAF pilot, Harry Blomfield, had “lived life to the full right to the end” but had taken a conscious decision to take his own life last July.

There was silence in the Chamber as the Labour MP for Sheffield Central called for a change in the law on assisted suicide which he said would have at least allowed his father to say goodbye.

He was one of a series of MPs who spoke from personal experience as the Commons overwhelmingly backed legal guidelines limiting the chances of loved-ones being prosecuted for assisting someone set on taking their own life.

The motion…was the first time the Commons has debated the issue of assisted suicide for almost 40 years.

An unusually emotional debate heard passionate calls, on one hand, for the Government to launch a consultation on legalizing assisted suicide and, on the other, for legislation to prevent any further steps toward euthanasia.

MPs also backed an amendment calling for greater support for palliative care to reduce the pain suffered by the terminally ill…

Mr Blomfield said that he was convinced that his father had made up his mind to take his own life after being diagnosed with lung cancer and had often remarked that that would be his intention.

“He wasn’t afraid of pain but he couldn’t face the indignity of that lingering, degrading death,” he said. “I am sure that what drove him to end his life when he did was the fear that if he didn’t end his life when he could, he would lose the opportunity to act at all.

“If the law had made it possible he could, and I am sure he would, have shared his plans and he would have been able to say goodbye.

“He would have been able to die with his family around him and not alone in a carbon monoxide-filled garage.

He, and many more like him, deserve better.”

RTFA for more examples of the courage and hope and love of those who told their stories before their peers in Parliament. It takes a certain measure of bravery to support legislation which stands up for human dignity against the pious and smug pronouncements of those priests and pundits who feel charged by superstition to justify pain and an absence of personal liberty as we die.

Some of that blather is at the end of the article. I will not justify their cruelty by reprinting it.

Credit to Commons for examining the question and providing some aid. Our own Congress would be one of the last places on Earth where I would look for kindness and solace on such a topic.