MotoGP Technology and Motorcycle Dynamics

Neil Spalding‘s MotoGP Technology is a dense read.  I got it in September and I’m still only two thirds of the way through.  I read a bit, then chase down details so I make sure I’ve got the concepts understood.  This approach isn’t very efficient, but it is thorough, and I’ve got fuck all else to do motorcycle wise over this long, cold, Canadian winter.

I’ve been an avid watcher of MotoGP for seven years now, including riding down to the last Indianapolis MotoGP race in 2015, but this book has made me literate in the mechanics of grand prix bike racing in a way that I never was before.

I’ve also spent a fair amount of time coming to terms with motorcycle dynamics and especially how these bizarre machines move around corners.  From watching Keith Code and reading Twist of the Wrist 2, I’ve tried to understand the inputs I need to make to control a bike effectively.

After all the team histories that kick off MotoGP Technology, Spalding goes after the various technical tricks that make a grand prix bike move like a jet plane, at least in the hands of the maestros.  The last chapter was on reverse rotating crankshafts, which led to a look at the complex gyroscopic effects happening on race bikes.  Spalding suggested looking up Eric Laithwaite and gyroscopic procession, which led me to this!

As Professor Laithwaite describes it, the spinning weight already has a path it wants to follow, he simple lets it follow it.  In doing so what was suddenly a difficult to lift weight becomes effortless.  There are a lot of gyroscopic forces happening on a motorcycle in motion, and Spalding addresses this in the later chapters of the book.

Curiously, considering it’s 2020 and we have computer technology that can accurately model complex physics, it arises in the book that what’s happening on a motorcycle in extreme cornering is more a matter of educated conjecture than known fact.  Our best guesses are still what drives our understanding of the complexities of motorcycle dynamics, which is an incredible thing to realize.

As has often happened when reading MotoGP Technology, the suggestions for finding online resources to better understand a problem lead to other online resources that weren’t necessarily part of the original search (which might be part of the reason why it’s taking me so long to read the book!).  In talking about gyroscopic forces acting on the bike I ended up stumbling across this information packed piece by on how to ride more quickly safely:

Recently I’ve become increasingly frustrated by the sheer amount of shitty media there is online, but this is a good example of a well edited, erudite video that doesn’t waste my time with other people’s inanity.  Just because the majority of people online are a waste of time (read any comments anywhere), doesn’t mean there aren’t gems out there.

Speaking of which, Neil Spalding’s MotoGP Technology is super current (just got updated in the summer), written by an expert with decades of experience and insider knowledge, and delves deep not only into recent MotoGP technical history, but also into the physics that this technology is up against.  If you’re interested in taking your understanding of one of the most extreme sports on earth to the next level, MotoGP Technology will help you get there.

With mysterious physics happening underneath them, what do MotoGP riders do?  They drift 250+ horsepower prototype racing machines… with their elbows AND knees on the deck!  MotoGP Technology will take you a step closer to wrapping your head around this genius.

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Refresh 1

Computer refreshes approach!  An ideal opportunity to reconsider all the bad habits we have in educational technology!  @banana29 had the following questions for her admin which might help frame a discussion around where we might go with our edtech:

What are the conditions under which students in 2013 learn best?
How will these conditions change by 2033?
How does the way we organize our school computers resemble/support those learning conditions?
What are the competencies/values that we want our students to learn?
How does the way we organize our school computers affect those competencies/values?

Some interesting ideas there. What can we do to present relevant learning situations to our students (how can we begin to join the disparities between the information rich world in which they live outside with the information poor one we present them with in class? What trends are we following into the future? How to we develop useful learning habits in digitally swamped students? How can we organize our digital tools to that optimize learning? 

These questions lead to some other questions around digitized pedagogy: how can digitization assist in learning? How can it hurt learning? What does good pedagogy look like in a digitally enhanced learning environment? Between the ‘gee-wiz ipad’ crowd and the ‘it’s paper and lectures or nothing’ crowd, there has been precious little consideration of how the digital revolution we’re in the middle of is affecting learning. The forces trying to monetize the process further muddy these waters.

These big questions lead to some awkward realizations.  What occurs to me first is that we have adopted educational technology following a business I.T. model rather than pushing for an educational focus. The private businesses that circle education hoping for a quick sale are quick to fill educational CTO positions in school boards.  Put another way, find a CTO in Ontario who was ever a teacher.  Education has different goals than business.  Modelling our I.T. on a business model has created foundations that lead educational technology as a whole in the wrong direction.

A good place to start would be to introduce Chief Technology Officers in school boards who are actually educators.  Another good place to start is to begin building educational technology in terms of skills development in a broad sense across many platforms with a focus on general literacy and responsibility of access rather than the paranoid, closed model that has been adopted from private business I.T..  Without a continuum of digital learning that produces students familiar with a variety of tools and responsible for their own access to and presentation of information baked into curriculum, we’ll continue to graduate digital serfs instead of citizens capable of working effectively in digitally networked workplaces.

Alanna asks some good questions that need serious consideration by edtech managers.  I consider my side of things in Refresh 2

It Has Begun!

MotoGP starts this weekend in Qatar.  Maverick Viñales has launched his first season on the championship capable Yamaha with zeal, topping the time sheets in early free practice.

This year’s shakeup, with new riders in many teams, promises to stir in some chaos.  Marquez doesn’t seem to be able to catch Viñales and this tends to make the volatile Spaniard crashy and dangerous.  A newer, more mature Marques appeared last year more intent on getting points than always being out front, but that was tempered by him actually being out front sometimes.  If Maverick runs away and Marc gets frustrated, this could make for a very interesting season.

I think Lorenzo will only improve as he develops the Ducati into the instrument he needs it to be.  He might be a surprise on Sunday.  I’m a Rossi fan through and through, but unless he can sort out the bike (and if anyone can the Doctor can), he will be an afterthought.  Speculation is already rife around that, but don’t give up on the old dog yet, he’s still got some new tricks I think.

Not to wish ill on anyone, but if Maverick can knock the cocky Marques back a step,  Lorenzo sorts out his Ducati and Rossi does what he always does and remains relevant against all odds, this could turn into a four-or-more-way run at the championship across at least three manufacturers.  That would be epic.  If Dani and Iannone could find form and the rookies (especially Zarco, I love Zarco) keep nipping at their heels, this could be a perfect storm.

… and there’s always Cal Crutchlow to shock and awe when no one thinks he will.  This year might be one for the history books.

Marc has put me off and I’ve always found it difficult to like Lorenzo, but Maverick is much like Dani Pedrosa. I’d be happy with either of these gentlemen winning a championship, though it looks like Maverick is leading the charge.


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Is Simple Better?

Once again Twitter teacher chat raises some interesting educational technology questions.  Chromebooks or ipads?  Louise’s question had me asking questions about the question.  Why have we come to a place where we’re asking which incomplete but branded and popular technology should we buy for schools?  Google and Apple have spent a lot of money locking in educators to their brand.  To me, that question signals a marketing victory for both of them.

Later in the conversation Julie asked what Chromebooks can’t do.  At three hundred bucks a pop I’d hope they can do everything a comparably priced netbook could, but they can’t.  They can’t print, they can’t connect to a projector to share a presentation, they can’t install drivers so you can’t use any peripherals on them (one wonders why they have usb ports at all).  Want to plug a scanner in to your chromebook?  No.  Want to plug in an Arduino?  No.  Want to install a decent graphics editor?  Sorry.  Want to install a fully fledged word processor instead of frustrating yourself with what g-docs still can’t do?  Sorry.  Want to install an IDE and do some programming?  Nope.  Want to try a different operating system, or even dual boot into multiple environments?  Definitely not, that is the whole reason ipads and Chromebooks exist, to keep you in a closed ecosystem; you give away usefulness for simplicity’s sake.

It was suggested that Chromebooks are much cheaper than laptops, but this isn’t true either.  The much maligned netbook has grown up.  What used to be a single core, stodgy little laptop is now a dual core machine that starts with much more memory than it used to.  Taking the $300 per Chromebook cost I went looking for a comparable netbook in the fall and found the ruggedized, student ready Lenovo X131 retailing for about $250.  For $300 I’d add another 4 gigs of RAM to it and have an 8gb of RAM multicore netbook for the same price as a glorified browser.  It’ll run the Windows version of your choice, and any Linux distro you could throw at it all off the same hard drive… oh, and you can install Chrome and still do everything a Chromebook can.

OK, it might be a bit unfair to call iOS a pointy stick,
but calling Linux needlessly complicated isn’t.

I find the limited OSes in tablets and Chromebooks very frustrating.  I’ll put up with it in a phone for mobility’s sake, but in a day to day device for learning?  I’ll admit, Linux is daunting, but Windows & OSx offer full operating systems with many uses.  If we’re evolving into simpler and simpler OSes, what does that say about how we are using (and teaching) our technology? is doing their hour of coding this week.  I got my nine year old doing it last night.  After we gave up on his ipad not being able to run the site we went to… yep, a regular old Windows machine.  You can’t even expect an ipad to display a website properly.  Won’t that be fun in a class of thirty kids?  At least it would have worked on a Chromebook.

During the conversation it was suggested that expecting teachers to understand the basic limitations of technology is exclusionary and doesn’t allow them to focus on teaching.  I’d argue the opposite: selecting minimally functional technology to begin with is the problem, especially when we do it through the brand moderated ecosystems offered by Google and Apple.  Teachers don’t all need to edit their own kernel in Linux, but they should have an understanding of how various technologies enable and limit their ability to perform basic functions (like opening a website properly), especially in a learning space.  Asking for basic digital fluency in teachers isn’t asking too much in 2014.  We can then ask for it (by extension) in our students.

This may all sound anti-Google, but I assure you it isn’t.  I’ve had a gmail account since it came out and I’ve got gigs of data in various Google drives (Dusty World is written in Blogger!).  I own an Android phone because it offers the most open ecosystem.  I value the tools Google offers, but I feel like the Chromebook is a tool designed to close off digital opportunities and drive everyone into a Google-centric cloud.  It follows ipad down the same closed-system dead-end that Windows is flirting with now.

When I’m using peripherals I need a computer, not a glorified web browser.  When I am setting up a complex document I need a proper word processor.  I can’t do graphics and video editing in the cloud, I need a general purpose computer, and your students will too, even if that does mean teaching them how to maintain a more administratively complicated machine.

I’d argue for as big a tool-kit that offers as many digital opportunities as you can afford, something the question, “ipads or Chromebooks” doesn’t begin to consider.

The Great Escape

This time of year always feels like Groundhog Day – go to  work, go to sleep, wake up, do it again.  It becomes so repetitive that it leaks into your mind, filling your thoughts so there is little room for anything else.  This year it’s amplified by the negativity surrounding my work.  All that combined with no riding for dark months on end and it’s hard not to get jammed.

If I time it right I can sneak out of Ontario on an above zero, dry road day.  You can still find double digital daily highs in Cincinatti and south.  A plugged in electric kit bonzai ride to Cinci and I’m out of the snowbelt.  From there it’s a less ragged ride south to New Orleans.  From Cinci I’d angle over to Memphis and follow the Mississipi down to the Big Easy…

After reading books like Todd Blubaugh’s Too Far Gone and watching Austin Vince Mondo Enduro the planet, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to get lost on the road.  Once out of the snowbelt, I’d be in no rush to be somewhere.  Without that very Western time fixation, I wouldn’t have to get wound up over deadlines.

If I’m not fixated on a destination the daily goals might not be that linear.  With local knowledge I’d hope to find things off the beaten path as I meander…

Off the top of my head, I’d leave New Orleans along the Gulf, visit Austin and then ride the Twisted Sisters in Texas Hill Country.  Austin’s also the home of the only North American MotoGP race, so if I timed my return with the race, I could be passing back through Austin on the way home in early April and catch Marc and the rest of the aliens doing their thing.  The goal on the way south would be to get familiar with Austin’s weirdness for the return stop.

After wandering Texas I’d take a run up to the Very Large Array in New Mexico and do my best Jodi Foster immitation.  New Mexico and Arizona have a pile of strange sites to see, so the wandering would get intense.  Norman Reedus did a Ride episode in New Mexico that does a good job of showing what’s on hand out there.

Even that far south the mountains can also catch you out with northern temperatures as we found out a couple of years ago in the Superstition Mountains just outside of Phoenix in early January, so not rushing and timing your rides is important when at altitude.  There are pile of old western towns and ruins in the US South West, along with some astonishing pieces of engineering.  Meandering from photo opportunity to photo opportunity would be a nice way to ease into this slow motion ride.

Tuscon is home of the Aeroplane Boneyard where thousands of retired air force planes sit in the desert.   A wander around there at sunset would be a glorious thing.  I’ve done the Phoenix area a couple of times and travelled from the north end of Arizona from Las Vegas, but haven’t travelled as far south as Tuscon.  From there I’d head across to Yuma, another famous western US location, before diving south into the Baja Penninsula.  A desert riding tour would be a pretty cool way of seeing Baja.

Mexico is a whole other world.  Most riding-the-Americas types blitz through it looking for a fast route south,but Mexico (with a final lunge into Belize) is where I’d wrap up this great escape from the never ending Canadian winter.  Some crystal caves, Mesoamerican pyramids and Belize beaches during the deep freeze and then working my way back up to Austin for early April…

Seeing the Ozarks and the Tail of the Dragon during the weeks after the race would be a nice way to wind up this great escape, getting back to the frozen north just as it’s not frozen anymore.

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Dreaming Of A Representative Salary Grid

One of the reasons I became a teacher is because it seemed like a particularly credible profession.  The process of becoming a teacher appeared to have more in common with an apprenticeship than an abstract degree.  My teacher’s college in particular was focused on getting us as much in-class time with a working, mentor teacher as possible.  Once in the profession, it takes a teacher twelve years to earn full pay, once again implying that this is an apprenticeship that takes a great deal of time to come to fruition.

I’m in year eight of teaching and life on the ground has been somewhat less affirming.  The vast majority of teachers I’ve met do little to expand their teaching skills, unless they are new and so desperate for a position that they spend thousands of dollars collecting additional qualifications.  Many older teachers I know still have the two teachables they started with, and in some cases aren’t even actually qualified to teach the subjects they are teaching.  A surprising number have never updated to honours specialist so they could top out on the salary grid (though that would be hard to do if you don’t actually have a degree or any background in what you’re teaching).

Having found an online community of teachers who are actually interested in improving their craft (and recognizing the changes digitization is having on education and society in general) has been a saving grace, but I still face comments like, “why in God’s name would I want to talk about teaching when I’m not at work?” or “oh great, another pointless PD day” when I’m on the ground in school.

To that end, I’d like to consider revisions to the much maligned ‘grid’ that determines teacher salaries in Ontario.  Ranging from just over forty thousand a year (which isn’t an awful lot when you’ve just spent over one hundred thousands dollars on five years of university), to just over ninety thousand a year more than a decade into working, the grid relies mainly on years in the classroom as a justification for pay raises.  The difference between an honours specialist in a subject and a teacher who has never lifted a finger to try and improve is less than 5% of pay at the top of the grid.*

I would suggest that there is a lot more to the craft of teaching than years in the classroom, especially if you’re not one of those very special teachers who like to trot out the same old lesson, year in, year out (one you probably photocopied from someone else in the first place).  In the great scheme of becoming a master teacher, your activity both in and beyond the classroom are vital to your understanding of how your profession works as a whole.

Teachers who are active in their professional organizations (ECOO, OHASSTA, OLA, OAME, ELAN, OCTE, and others), are working to enhance their craft by working with colleagues in their various disciplines.  How this isn’t a consideration in a salary grid is beyond me.

Teachers who are active in school leadership roles (such as department heads, directions teams members, etc) are currently offered a rather silly little stipend to do what is essentially another part time job.  They do this with no time given from regular teacher duties, and for a couple of bucks a day.  Why these ‘positions of additional responsibility’ aren’t considered in the salary grid is beyond me.

Teachers who take on student teachers and do one of the most important jobs in our profession?  Nothing on the grid.

Teachers who spend time developing school teams and clubs over the long term?  Nothing on the grid.

Teachers who spend time developing school events like graduation or grade nine introductory programs?  Nothing on the grid.

Teachers who spend their own time and money away from home attending professional conferences to enhance their practice?  You got it, nothing on the grid.

I’m not advocating for a pay per-extracurricular approach here, but I am asking for a grid that works from something other than how long you’ve been doing the job.  If we graded students the same way we salary teachers, they’d get higher and higher grades the longer they are in school, regardless of what they are doing.

Talk of extending the grid from 11 to 15 years is as myopic as basing the grid primarily on years of teaching in the first place.  Seniority has its place in teaching, there is no doubt.  How long a teacher has been teaching is an important metric in determining their quality, but it certainly shouldn’t be the key factor in calculating their pay.

If we’re going to overhaul the salary grid, let’s really examine what determines a teacher who is trying to perfect their imperfectable craft, and then make a grid that isn’t solely based on how old you are as a teacher.  That grid would be fluid and flexible, with people moving up and down in various elements of it.  You’d still enjoy seniority bumps, but a senior teacher who does nothing other than show up and go home, offering no mentor-ship to younger teachers, no direction for their school, no enrichment for their students, and who has no specialization in the subject they teach, wouldn’t be able to make within 5% of the trained specialist who offers up their time to lead departments, train new teachers, or lead subject enrichment.

This kind of grid would encourage the kind of meta-cognition we expect to see in our students, and encourage senior teachers to mentor and improve the craft, rather than closing the door to their classroom five years early while they glide to retirement.  It would also support teachers who recognize how changeable the world is at the moment and who take steps to try and prepare students for a future that will be quite unlike the past.

If we’re going to fix the grid, let’s fix it.  Seniority is only one (relatively minor) metric in considering how hard a teacher is working at becoming a better teacher.

Note:  teacher pay based on student test scores are another American myth that are designed to diminish the profession while cloaking justifications (usually financial) in fictional, statistical validity.  Standardized tests are inherently limited, and teachers who teach well to them are probably such compliant, mechanical creatures that they are actually poor teachers.  US world rankings would suggest that trying to standardize teaching around this kind of testing is a disaster.  A well designed salary grid would recognize the many individual ways that a teacher could improve their craft, without grossly simplifying the metrics for excellence (such as basing the grid almost entirely on seniority).

Dancing in the Datasphere

From the Prezi brainstorming graphical interface:

If we live in an increasingly data-rich, but resource poor world, what do we need to do as teachers to give our students a fighting chance?

There is no reason to assume that Eric Schmidt is blowing smoke.  If we really are generating this much information, and now have a means of saving, reviewing, organizing, and learning from it, we need to radically re-think how we educate our children.  Knowledge itself is now plentiful and accessible, teachers are no longer the font of knowledge.

Traditional classrooms work on a data-drip of information, out of the teacher’s mouth.  Many of these teachers are willfully ignorant of the radical revolutions going on in their disciplines as information is no longer confined to the limits of human specialists.  Interdisciplinary studies are prompting radical changes in how we understand just about everything.  Teaching your twenty year out of date university experience out of a ten year out of date text book makes you about as pertinent as a dodo.  Many of our current teaching habits assume nothing is changing, but it is, radically, quickly, meaningfully, everywhere but in the classroom.

When I was a kid I was an astronomy nut.  I memorized the nine planets, the meaningful moons, I knew distances, sizes; the universe was a (relatively) small solar system with stars beyond.  We currently know of over 600 planets, and discover an average of a dozen a week, every week.  We are discovering solar systems so bizarre in nature that they beggar belief; but none of that is in the text book, and most teachers won’t bother with it because accessing the datasphere is too difficult with limited technology access in school (fixable with this).

We are discovering these things with drastically improved sensing technology that has been accelerated by the information revolution.  We record this data in abundance using storage technology that has been accelerated by the information revolution.  We often fail to access it for years after the fact because we have not yet caught up with our ability to observe and record the universe around us.  Fortunately we’re now developing systems that sort their own data, and make connections without human oversight – the data itself is beginning to self organize.  The future will be smarter than we can imagine as individuals.

This acceleration is happening in all fields of human endeavor.  We are teasing free nuances in archaeology, history, and science.  We understand in greater detail how the masters painted five centuries ago, we have seen to the edge of reality and felt the remnants of the explosive expansion that started everything.  What we haven’t done is evolved education to prepare our students for this deluge of data.  We still mete out information because we define ourselves as holders of knowledge.  We’re holding a cup of water as the dam breaks around us.

We drip feed students information in class and then complain that they are unfocused, disinterested.  We then agonize over how to make our lessons more engaging.  We wring our hands over outright lies and insinuations instead of letting the datasphere show the truth; we cater to myth, habit and tradition of paper based learning.

In the meantime a steady stream of data overwhelms our students from social networks that dwarf in size any their parents or grandparents had.  We belittle their circumstance by demeaning their means of communication, and overvaluing our traditional modes of contact.  Because they don’t ‘pick up a phone’, they don’t demonstrate meaningful relationships like people of a certain age do (oddly similar to what the phone-people’s parents said about them when they couldn’t be bothered to go and visit people face to face any more).  Kids nowadays, their social networks are empty things devoid of real meaning.

Worst of all, we don’t teach them how to manage the avalanche of data that threatens to bury them; then we criticize them for not managing it well.  Many teachers manage it by ignoring it entirely

We spoon feed them vetted data in tiny amounts because we think that is credible, safe and real, but that isn’t the world they are going to graduate into.  Being able to manage multiple, often conflicting data, organize information out of the noise and critically analyze material is far more relevant than memorizing the right answers to the same questions we’ve been asking for years.

Until we take our responsibility to prepare our students for the 21st Century seriously, we will continue to think that slowing them down, unplugging them and ignoring the datasphere that continues to grow around us at a prodigious rate is not only the easier (cheaper) thing to do, but it is the right thing to do too.

What we aren’t doing is making them familiar with their likely future circumstances, and we do it because it’s easier to ignore a revolution than recognize it, even if it’s happening all around us.

Seven for Seven

Last week was a perfect 5 commutes on the bike.  This week I’m up to two already, though I got a bit wet on the way home.

If the weather holds I’m aiming for three weeks with the car parked!

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Snow Birds

Pre Christmas shots of local birds in our backyard in Elora, Ontario, Canada.

Taken with a Canon Rebel T6i using the stock 55-250mm zoom.  ISO 800, preset exposure from -2 to -1.  Images all tuned in Photoshop CS6.

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