The coolest video you’ll see today

SpaceX has been doing tests of a rocket capable of landing vertically (i.e. as opposed to splashdown). In this video, you get to watch a 2,440 foot test flight and subsequent landing from the vantage point of a hovering hexacopter with an HD camera.

To break this down for you even more: this is high-def video of a civilian space vehicle shot from a flying robot. Maybe we do live in the future after all.

In any case, it is very, very cool, and you will not find a better way to spend a minute and a half this morning.

What racing yachts look like now.

We had a great time on NerdCruise on the sailing excursion in St Maarten, wherein we got to crew a no-shit America’s Cup champion boat. The Stars and Stripes is the boat that Dennis Connor used to redeem himself in the sailing world; it’s also the last of the 12-meter monohull boats to win the Cup — which is to say, the racing boats of her era don’t look all that different from the day sailers you see at your local marina.

Times change. Nowadays, the race uses very, very different boats, with spectacular results. While the 12-meter class tooled around at 12-15 knots, the new catamaran multihull designs can nearly triple that.

Have a look at Oracle Team USA‘s craft.

(h/t: @hedrives)

What happened to Willis & Geiger?

I know at least two Heathen will be interested to read the history of the firm, and account of its loss.

The “modern” W&G was the work of Burt Avedon:

Burt Avedon (cousin of the famous fashion photographer Richard Avedon) revived the company two years after it went out of business in 1977 and helmed it until it was liquidated in 1999. Now 89 years old, Burt is one of the last remaining people to have hands-on experience with the brand. His bio reads like a Most Interesting Man in the World skit: He was a pilot by age 12, raced cars, played football for UCLA, fought at Iwo Jima, was awarded a Purple Heart in the Navy, went from Harvard Business School into cosmetics and fashion, married an Italian princess, and later led attempts to excavate downed World War II planes from Greenland ice. After a short search, I tracked him down at his home in Verona, Wisconsin, to find out what had happened to what many consider to be the greatest outdoor-clothing brand of all time.

Go read the whole thing.

Glass.

Over at the Verge, they’ve got the first real coverage of what it’s like to use Google Glass. I’d really love to try one — especially for navigation when driving or biking.

I just wonder how they’ll deal with the fact that much of their market already wears glasses.

I’ll be in my bunk.

Porsche is letting journalists see its new hybrid supercar, the 918 Spyder.

First, the bad news: it’ll cost a million bucks when it’s introduced next year. But, oh my God, this car…

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The 4.6-liter dry-sump V8, mid-mounted in the chassis, generates 580 horsepower at 8,500 rpm and 370 pound-feet of torque at 6,500 rpm. Redline is 9,000 rpm. Mounted to the V8, actually bolted together to form a single drive unit, is a 95 kW (127 horsepower) electric motor. The centrally located engine and motor send their power through a seven-speed PDK dual clutch gearbox, rotated 180 degrees on its longitudinal axis (lowering its mass closer to the pavement), driving only the rear wheels. . . . But there is more to the powertrain, as the 918 Spyder is actually all-wheel drive. Mounted on the front axle is an 85-kW (114 horsepower) electric motor, sending power to both front wheels completely independent of the rear powertrain.

And:

Add up the output from the one combustion engine and the two electric motors and the 918 Spyder’s total system power is 795 horsepower and 575 pound-feet of torque. According to Porsche, the 918 will rocket to 60 mph in fewer than three seconds and reach a top speed in excess of 200 mph in its most aggressive setting. On the famed north loop (Nordschleife) at the Nürburgring, one of Porsche’s 918 Spyder concepts ran a 7:14 less than two weeks ago (for comparison, Porsche’s limited production Carrera GT, introduced in 2004, circled the same loop with a best time of 7:32). When it hits showrooms, the 918 Spyder will be one of the fastest street-legal vehicles in the world.

The performance numbers are impressive, but keep in mind the 918 Spyder is a hybrid – Porsche says it is capable of a scarcely believable 78 mpg on the highway.

Attention: Dudes My Age

The nearly-exhaustive Bionic Wiki might well eat your afternoon if you ever had one of these or one of these. The level of attention to detail — plot summaries! discussions of contradictions! chronologies! — is astonishing.

Incidentally, the list of toys hilariously confirms my recent recollection of the fundamentally sexist divide between Six Million Dollar Man toys and counterparts created for The Bionic Woman. In lieu of the Command Center, for example, Ms Sommers had to make do with a Bionic Beauty Salon.

Via this excellent Mefi post.

The coolest thing on the Internet last week

You may have seen it elsewhere, but the Metafilter thread is where I first encountered the story of Kathryn, the 12-year-old Michigan girl who convinced her parents to let her buy a beater Fiero with her babysitting money, and then restore it herself. Two years later, and she’s still at it.

The original thread on a Fiero board has many, many pages, but read the first one at least to set the stage. There’s a shorter summary at Jalopnik.

Coolest 12 year old EVER.

There’s a whole lot of cool to unpack here

Some apparently very smart people went to Kickstarter to fund the production of their new intelligent watch design, Pebble. They sought $100,000 in backing.

With 25 days to go, in excess of six million dollars has been pledged, or 6,000% of their goal.

First, while the official Heathen position for many years has been “watches need springs,” but Pebble does enough cool stuff that I definitely see myself making an exception. (They won me over with the open SDK.)

Second, HOLY CRAP SIX MILLION DOLLARS. Kickstarter may be the most interesting development to come out of the Internet yet. It’s not microfinance, exactly, but it’s hard to see the ease with which Pebble reached 40,000 backers as anything but an enormously disruptive and powerful change in the way interesting things get funded.

Vroom Vroom Sob.

And now, an even MORE iconic obituary: Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the man who designed the most beautiful car in the world, has passed away at 76.

Butzi was the third “Ferdinand Porsche,” and should not be confused with either of the other two.

The first was his grandfather, born in 1875, who founded the company and gained fame otherwise by designing (for the Nazis) the Volkswagen Beetle in 1934. He also had a hand in a number of German war machines, and was imprisoned for a time as a war criminal. Porsche the elder died in 1951.

The second was known as Ferry (b. 1909). Ferry designed the 356, and ran the company for many years including the critical postwar period. Ferry died in 1998.

I think I’ll go to lunch in my 911 now.

(h/t: Captain Butler)

Today in Heathen Deals

I don’t need one, since I already have a very similar watch from Oris, but if you’re in the market for a decent automatic wristwatch, Amazon has a good Seiko for less than $60.

Spring-driven (“real”) watches with decent movements don’t usually get this cheap, so if you’re considering jumping into the world of Proper Wristwatches, this is a great place to start.

HOWTO: Whip a Bugatti

Buy a Hennessey Venom GT. It sports 1,200 HP. It weighs less than 2,700 pounds with a full tank of gas. The 0 to 60 time is 2.5, but it’s interesting also to note that it goes from 0 to 200MPH in under 16 seconds. And it’s street legal, and apparently corners like it’s on rails.

Price unavailable, but my guess is that if you have to ask…