The Honda UX-3 Not-A-Segway

My dad sent me this. I missed it the first time around… it looks like this first hit the news about a year ago. Honda has made a nifty little indoor Segway-like thingy. Here’s their corporate marketing piece for it. Cheesy but informative. Below is a test drive video from Engadget.

It looks like a good idea to me, but I can imagine that Honda is scared of making too much noise and pulling a Segway. The Segway was supposed to be the device that everyone would want, but instead it became the device that, having spent $5000 for the privilege, makes everyone look like a dork. Do a Google image search for Segway dork and you’ll see what I mean.

The obvious market for the UX-3, despite the lovely young models in the marketing video, is seniors. And Japan has a bumper crop, so I’m guessing this and products like it have bright future in elder care. And for some reason it’s not as dorky as a Segway. The sideways zooming is cool, but I think the main thing is that you don’t have to wear a helmet. The Segway makes you stand on a little platform and wear a helmet, and that combination just destroys your dignity. Segway polo is the sport of rich geeks. But indoor UX-3 polo would be excellent.

L-5 in 1995

Were you ever an idealistic young space geek? If you’re old enough, you might even remember some of these space station images from when they went by the first time. Boing Boing has put a bunch of them in a gallery: Totally Awesome Space Colonies.

In the mid 1970s there was a bloom of space colony utopianism that grew under the leadership of Gerard K. O’Neill. NASA funded some significant studies, including this one from 1975: Space Settlements: A Design Study. The idea was to build a giant space station out between the earth and the moon at a place called the L-5 Lagrangian libration point. Enthusiasts coined the slogan “L-5 in 1995”, because surely only 20 years would be required to launch our first colony in space. There’s a lot of work in that study, but probably the most significant thing they did, from a PR point of view, was hire Rick Guidice and Don Davis to do the gorgeous paintings featured on the Boing Boing page. I remember staring at those images as a kid. And dig this scene from the study:

Stopping for a mug of Space Blitz on the way back to your apartment you happen to catch the Princeton-Stanford ball game on television from Earth and learn that, to everyone at the bar, the three-dimensional ball game played in the central hub is much more thrilling. You find that … the liberating effects of low gravity and the Coriolis accelerations make all shots longer, faster, and curved, thus completely changing the rules and the tactics of the game.

Mmm… Space Blitz. Is that like Schlitz, I wonder? Anyway, space optimism began to wane in the late 70s as oil crises and Iran crises and the endless wait for the Space Shuttle took their toll. Senator William Proxmire, he of the Golden Fleece award, captured the sentiment about the space station proposal thus: “it’s the best argument yet for chopping NASA’s funding to the bone …. I say not a penny for this nutty fantasy.”

Space enthusiasm seems to be at a low ebb now too. Perhaps space exploration is so boring and commercial now that it will actually happen.

The leggy hamster ball

Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, likes to talk about how human culture encourages ideas to have sex. He means this in a good way, but the idea in this video is clearly the love child of two ideas who met in a bar and should have known better. But they were drunk and lonely, and it seemed like a good idea at the time…

The two ideas in question are the venerable hamster ball and Theo Jansen’s astonishing walking sculptures as documented on his Strandbeest site. The deranged match maker/master mind behind this odd couple is the inimitable Crabfu. (Spotted on BotJunkie.)

Happy Groundhog Day!

If you hold my blog up to your ear, you can hear a great fat snowstorm pacing up and down outside my house. Things are quiet right now, but she’s going to get mad again real soon, and then there’ll be nothing to do but shovel, shovel, shovel. So on this Groundhog Day I’m thinking about warmer places. Maybe our favorite prognosticating marmot is too.

In honor of this special occasion, I encourage you to indulge in the grand groundhoggian tradition of pulling down the Christmas decorations that your neighbors still have in their yard. If a surfeit of snow prevents this, you can amuse yourself with this old story by Paracelsus from our first year of operation: At the Sign of the Scarf and Bolt. It was inspired by the bar and restaurant where the Star Chamber first convened. Also from the same week, don’t miss the Treatise on the Natural Limits of Self Publishing in a Web-based Medium. It’s worth slogging through just to read the Errata page.