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Thursday, July 14, 2011

First Fisker Karma To DiCaprio, 3,000 Orders Behind Him, CEO Says


By John Voelcker

Fisker Automotive says it will, finally, deliver its first 2011 Fisker Karma range-extended electric sports sedan later this month.

The lucky recipient, it turns out, will be none other than actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

He's the man who kicked off the whole hybrids-for-Hollywood-stars trend, by showing up at the Academy Awards red carpet several years ago not in a limousine but driving his own humble Toyota Prius.

And DiCaprio is at the head of a list of 3,000 Fisker buyers, according to founder Henrik Fisker, that includes former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, General Colin Powell, and other luminaries.

Early production at the Valmet plant in Finland is now just five cars a week, but that will rise to 300 cars each week once the assembly line is running at full speed. Fisker estimates that production is sold out through early next year.

The 2011 Fisker Karma is a plug-in hybrid that runs on power from its lithium-ion battery pack for up to 50 miles, after which a 260-horsepower, 2.0-liter engine switches on to generate electricity.

The rear-wheel-drive luxury sports sedan is powered by a pair of electric motors, one ahead of the differential and one behind. The car's space frame is aluminum and it competes in roughly the same class as the BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS, and other mid-size luxury sedans.

Only a handful of journalists have driven the Fisker Karma thus far, and only on a closed track.

Drivers thus far, in fact, would indicate Fisker has a taste for royalty. First, His Royal Highness Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark, had an had a brief drive back in December 2009.

More recently, His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco drove two laps of the Monaco Grand Prix circuit with Fisker in the passenger seat.

We look forward to more comprehensive drive reports from mere mortals.

Last December, Fisker raised the price of the 2011 Karma sedan. For DiCaprio and other early buyers, the car will have a base price of $95,900.

This story, originally written by John Voelcker, was originally posted on, an editorial partner of Talking Points Memo.

Space Shuttle Discovery - 360VR Images
Space Shuttle Discovery's flight deck during decommissioning in the Orbiter Processing Facility
Try to find launch button

Car2go Brings First All-Electric Car-Sharing Service To The U.S.

BY Ariel Schwartz

Get ready for the newest way to grab some wheels when you need them. The service, launching in November in San Diego, is gunning for Zipcar by making it easier to pay for and drop off your borrowed car.

Smart electric Fortwo
Zipcar has long dominated the city car-sharing space. But Car2go, a program from Daimler AG that allows users to rent Smart cars by the minute, recently popped up in Austin, Texas to challenge the larger company's dominance. Now Car2go is set to gain even more attention as it launches the country's first large-scale electric car-sharing program in San Diego.

It makes sense on a number of levels to start an all-electric service in San Diego, explains Car2go CEO Nicholas Cole. "It's a bit of a tech hub, and one of the great things is that ECOtality and the EV Project are in the process of installing 1,000 charging stations in the city by the end of the fourth quarter in 2011. Car2go will have direct access."

Car2go's model is simpler than competitors like Zipcar. Whereas Zipcar requires members to pick up and return cars from the same location, make reservations to rent vehicles in advance, and pay by the hour, Car2go members can rent vehicles by the minute without reservations--and drop off the vehicles at designated points throughout the city.

If members in the San Diego program discover that their electric vehicle has a low charge, they will be asked to drop it off at a charge station. Car2go will also have a third-party maintenance fleet to move the vehicles to charge points at the end of the day so that they can juice up overnight.

Cole is confident that members won't run out of charge on their journeys. "We took a hard look at our current model from a use standpoint in Austin. We see the average trip is less than five miles for our members, and the Smart Fortwo is rated at 84 miles per charge," he says. "We're confident that we'll be able to shift that charging burden to evenings." Members will also be able to see how much charge each vehicle has using the Car2go website and iPhone app. That way, users can opt to take fully charged vehicles if they know they will be taking longer trips.

The San Diego program, which will feature 300 electric Smart Fortwo vehicles when it launches in November, is Car2go's second announced all-electric fleet--the company is also launching an electric car-sharing service in Amsterdam later this year. The company's other programs in Hamburg, Germany, and Austin use gasoline-powered cars.

Car2go doesn't have any plans to expand the all-electric car-sharing model to other U.S. cities--yet. "Our expansion focus is on identifying markets for combustion engines," says Cole. "But if a city determines the investment [in an EV infrastructure] is worthwhile, that could change over the coming months."
[Image: Daimler]

Crash test mummies: Egypt's oldest pyramid saved from collapse by giant airbags

By Daily Mail Reporter

Egypt's oldest pyramid has been saved from collapse by giant airbags which have been used to prop up the ceilings.

The 4,700-year-old building has been stabilised so engineers can carry out permanent repairs.

The giant structure was built as a burial place for Pharaoh Djoser, a warrior who reigned in the third dynasty for 19 years but has been damaged in an earthquake.

Top support: The Pyramid of Djoser in Memphis, north-west Egypt, was likely to collapse before giant airbags were used to support the ceiling
Top support: The Pyramid of Djoser in Memphis, north-west Egypt, was likely to collapse before giant airbags were used to support the ceiling


The 4,700-year-old pyramid for Pharoah Djoser which is undergoing restoration work is a step pyramid. Originally it would have been covered by layers of limestone.

As one of the earliest ones created by the Egyptians, it was made from compacted mud brick layers with smaller layers built on top of each other. The square Djoser Pyramid is around 60 metres tall and has six steps.

Later came the bent pyramids which were built in much the same way but had their sides covered with smooth rock to give them angled rules. However, they did not go up at precisely the same angle all the way.

Finally came the true pyramids with the smooth walls rising at the same angle all the way to the top. They had their steps filled in with masonry.
The British team - who helped repair Windsor Castle after it was damaged by fire in 1993 - used technology first developed to aid in the safer disposal of improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan.

Engineering boss Peter James said: 'The entire structure could be destroyed at any point due to the damage caused by the earthquake.

'But we have stabilised the roof with these inflatable airbags and we will soon start repairing this magnificent building.'

The historic pyramid was feared to be so unstable that no-one has taken on the challenge of securing it in the last 19 years.

Peter James, a former Royal Navy lieutenant-commander who served in the Falklands War, has won a £1.8million contract to carry out the repairs.

His company Cintec adapted the airbags used by the British army to support the buidling.

The water filled bags work by surrounding an explosive with a bag which cushions the blast. But for the pyramid Mr James adapted his technology by substituting compressed air for water.

The British engineering firm that used airbags to support the structure are now going to carry out permanent repairs to the pyramid of Djoser now that these airbags are in place
The British engineering firm that used airbags to support the structure are now going to carry out permanent repairs to the pyramid of Djoser now that these airbags are in place

The specialist structural engineers have previously worked on Buckingham Palace, Iron Bridge Gorge and The White House.

Mr James said:'It was very unstable when we got in there.

'The earthquake in 1992 had shifted everything sideways and it was a massive task trying to hold everything up without dislodging anything further.

'Until we got the scaffolding in place, we had no idea what was holding up the remaining 60m of stone.' 

'It was a lethal and massive game of Ker-Plunk - trying to hold everything up, without dislodging anything further.' 

He said: 'We had planned to use our water system but as soon as we got a good look at the chamber it was clear that inflating the bags with water wasn't going to work.

Pharoah dynamics: These airbags first used in Afghanistan to help with the disposal of roadside bombs have been used to support the 4,700-year-old pyramid
Pharoah dynamics: These airbags first used in Afghanistan to help with the disposal of roadside bombs have been used to support the 4,700-year-old pyramid

'The rocks in the ceiling were too jagged and there was a risk of deluging the pyramid which has been bone dry since it was built.' 

The team will now thread thermo-dynamic steel rods diagonally through the steps of the pyramid to stabilise the roof.

Mr James said: 'The really tricky parts are the visible bits of the pyramid.' 

'Underneath the surface we're able to use 21st Century technology to make it as strong as we know how to - but on the outside it needs to be per cent authentic.' 

'That's involved finding the strongest blend - by using components which would have been available to the ancient Egyptians.'

10 Houses You Won't Believe People Actually Live In


Part of the appeal of being a homeowner is the ability to customize your house the way you like it. For some, that means adding a deck, repainting or expanding the bathroom. For others, it means entering the realm of madness and becoming its eternal ruler. We know all of these houses make you want to scream, "Fake!" but we promise: They're all astoundingly, inexplicably real.

#9. Ultra-Small Home

The economy is tough right now, and we all have to cut back. For most folks, that means going out less or securing a lucrative second job in the organ-harvesting market. To others, it means building your entire home in a parking space so tight you might circle the block to look for a better one. Thirty-nine-year-old Fuyuhito Moriya decided to do just that, saving a lot of money and a ton of virginity by purchasing a 30-square-meter parking space on which to build a three-story home for himself ... and his mother.


Well, hello there, tiny sardine people!
To make it work, the Moriyas undertook every space-saving measure imaginable, like using a triangular staircase instead of the normal spiral one (thus saving precious inches), stashing appliances in sliding cabinets and even sharing a bedroom. Though it looks like a bizarre prison crammed into the space between dimensions, the house is functional and livable -- and it only set Moriya back a measly $500,000.

That's right: In Tokyo, a cool half a million dollars gets you a house that looks like an ancient booby trap in mid-crush and a bed that you have to share with your mother.

#8. Just Room Enough

This house is cutely titled Just Room Enough. At first sight, it looks a picture taken 30 seconds before somebody died in a flood, but the structure is actually built on an island exactly the size of the house. Located between Canada and America on the St. Lawrence River, Just Room Enough was bought by the Sizeland family in the 1950s. They purchased the little parcel of land in the hopes of having somewhere to go to to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and they figured an inaccessible island fortress with literally no earth around it on which strangers could stand would work nicely. Instead, due to the novelty of the house, the island quickly became a tourist magnet.
Via Life

Somewhere in the river, irony is giggling in its tiny rowboat.

#7. House Between Two Rocks

This real-life Flintstones house stands in Nas Montanhas de Fafe, Portugal. It was built in 1974 and used as a family's rural retreat. Even though the house is next to several immense wind turbines, it still has no running water or electricity. Instead, all of their appliances have been replaced by repurposed animals that spout smarmy one-liners like "it's a living" when in use.
Once the home started appearing on obnoxious "comedy" websites running lists of stupid crap like "weird houses," hundreds of tourists showed up at the remote location, some even trying to break in. Now all windows in the Boulder House have been converted to bulletproof glass, and the front door was replaced with a slab of solid steel. See? You really can have it both crazy ways: You can live like a character from The Lord of the Rings while still preparing for the zombie apocalypse.

Nothing says prehistoric like blast-proof shielding.
Speaking of both those kinds of lunacy ...

#6. Ultramodern Hobbit House

The Hobbit House stands in Switzerland, near the famed Vals thermal baths. The building was supposedly built this way -- sunk into the mountain -- so as not to disturb the natural environment ...
... of typical suburbia?
The home is only accessible via a secret entrance in a nearby barn or by, you know, walking up to the big conspicuous hole in the ground and jumping in.


"Watch out for that hole, dude." "What h--" Thump!

#5. Zombie-Proof House
You might wonder how the Safety House in Warsaw, Poland got its name if you catch it when it's open for business. But check it out after something spooks the inhabitants ...

There's nothing anywhere saying it was specifically designed to be zombie-proof, but what else would the owners possibly be trying to keep out? Last time we checked, Jehovah's Witnesses could be deterred by some firm words and impromptu nudity -- a transforming concrete bunker just seems like overkill. The Safety House lacks no essential feature for the paranoid psychotic: The exterior walls open and shut at the touch of a button so that the residents can live somewhat normally during the day, then shutter up for the night (or whenever the trees start whispering). The immovable walls are made of pure concrete, while the sliding portions are made of lighter -- but plenty strong -- steel. And until the zombie apocalypse does arise, the massive security door doubles as a projection screen!

The house also features a retractable drawbridge, secret openings and a sliding security gate that seals off the entire property -- not just the home. BAM! While those suckers outside have their entrails feasted upon, the owners are playing bocce and disc golf safe behind the walls of their Paranoia Cube.

#4. Bubble House

This settlement on Tatooine -- sorry, this "totally a home on Earth, for real" called the Bubble Palace was conceived in the 1970s by architect Antti Lovag. He was commissioned to design the home near Tourrettes-sur-Loup in France by an eccentric wealthy industrialist, but when the deal fell through, designer Pierre Cardin, the fashion guru who created the bubble dress, took on the house in 1989. That's right: Not one, but two separate people not only immediately loved the idea of living in a bubble bath but also were actually in the position to finance said sprawling bubble compound.

All the rooms in the villa are round, with no straight edges anywhere in the house -- not even the beds. Cardin says it's because, "The circle is my symbol; the sphere represents the creation of the world and the mother's womb. Holes, cones, breasts -- I've always used them in my designs." The architect who built the house says it's because straight lines are "an aggression against nature ... human beings have confined themselves to cubes full of dead ends and angles that impede our movement and break our harmony."

So there you go, totally legit reasoning: They had to build this house so they could live inside a boob and put an end to the race war against Gaia.
Hehehe. Boobs.

#3. Extreme Treehouse

This is just one example of the typical dwelling used by the Korowai tribe of New Guinea, who had no idea the outside world even existed until 1970. Instead of building treehouses 10 feet off the ground for their kids, stalling out halfway through and just living with a plank in their trees for the next few decades, the Korowai build their treehouses like real men: To the finish, and up to 165 feet in the air. They do this to avoid predators, floods and ant swarms, and also because it just looks ... so awesome.

Seriously, we would abandon our civilized lives in a heartbeat to live in that thing. We would take zip lines everywhere, we would befriend an Ewok and name him Jarvis, and we would spend the rest of our days fighting lions together.

#2. Sidewalk Egg House

Dai Haifei is a Chinese architect. He works for a company whose slogan is "Our Buildings Are Eggs Laid by City," and apparently nothing was lost in translation there -- seeing as how Dai now lives in an egg-shaped house small enough to fit on the sidewalk.

He built this pod on a bamboo frame insulated with wood chips, with bags of sprouting grass on the outside. Total Cost: $964. Though quite small, the pod is big enough to house a bed, a water tank, a night table and a crushing sense of claustrophobia. Dai says he typically works at his architectural firm until midnight and only uses his home for sleep anyway, allowing him to save a ton of money that he can hopefully use one day to escape that incredibly sad-sounding existence.

#1. Broken Column House

The aristocracy in pre-revolutionary France had way too much time, way too much money and by the looks of things, way too much laudanum. The hot new thing to do as a drug-addled European hedonist back in the day was build yourself a themed garden, like the Desert de Retz, constructed by aristocrat Francois Nicolas Henri Racine de Monville. The centerpiece was the Broken Column mansion, designed to look like it was all that remained of a column from a gargantuan, destroyed, ancient temple.

The building as it stands now, fully restored.

It wasn't just decoration, either: Monville lived in the building himself and hosted esteemed individuals like Thomas Jefferson there. Jefferson visited the Desert while serving as a minister to France and borrowed some design elements of the Broken Column for the rotunda of the University of Virginia.
Via Narratingwaste

"Yes! This is just the kind of crazy bullshit America needs to thrive as a foundling nation!" -- Thomas Jefferson

Honorable Mention:  Xanadu of Sedona
Name: Xanadu of Sedona
Built: 1993
Square Footage: 5685
How Many Domes: 10 Amazing Features:
Tornado Proof
Hurricane Proof
Fire Proof
Earthquake Resistant
Super Energy Efficient
Save 50% on Heating/Cooling
Amazing Domes:
Sunken Dining Room Dome
Champagne Glass Bed Dome
Great Room Fountain Dome
Entertainment Dome
Home School Dome

"Xanadu of Sedona" is a Monolithic Concrete Dome Home that is practically indestructible! It was originally designed and modeled after "Xanadu, The Computerized Home of Tomorrow" built in Orlando Florida over fifty years ago. "Xanadu of Sedona" is one of the most unique Dome structures you will ever see! It is located in Sedona, Arizona and was voted in USA Weekend's Magazine as the number 1 most beautiful place in the world! As you walk into this 5685 sq. ft. home you feel as if you are in another world!!! The 10 connecting domes each have their own size, shape and feel. High ceilings and skylights throughout give a sense of space and the natural lighting and the indoor water fountain brings the sounds of nature indoors. You will be amazed at the first Dome you enter! It has a towering height of 30 feet. In this dome a spiral staircase takes you up to a 500 sq. ft. open area loft called our Health and Healing Room. The "Great Room Dome" is your next surprise, a very spacious room with a height of 25 ft., 3 skylights, a sunken sitting and lounging area and a beautiful red rock indoor fountain. There is also a private guest bedroom and full bath off of the "Great Room Dome". From the "Great Room Dome" you can either go left into the "Formal Sunken Dining Room Dome" or to the right into the "Master Bedroom Dome Suite". The Master Bedroom suite consists of 3 connecting domes. Two bedrooms and a beautifully designed "Master Bath Dome". This unique master bath has a walk-in glass block shower, a Jacuzzi spa bathtub and a 6 ft. portal-like window looking out into a courtyard with a fountain and beautiful gardens. Another surprise awaits you as you enter the second bedroom. Not only is there a 6 foot round skylight above, but a 10 foot round "Champaign Glass Shaped Bed", built-in directly underneath it! Perfect for viewing spectacular starlit Sedona skies! Next, you enter into the "Entertainment Dome" with state of the art surround sound, giant screen TV, DVD, and Stereo equipment. "The Kitchen, Formal Dining and Home Office Domes" are so unique; you won't ever want to leave this one of a kind home! Xanadu is also networked throughout for Computers and Internet access. This home sits on 3.63 acres and is the first piece of property on the west side of Highway 179 coming into Sedona, Arizona.

The 6 Most Remote Inhabited Islands on Earth

People have been traveling the seas for thousands of years. We have inhabited nearly every corner of the Earth, and we’ve done so with gusto. Humans have a long history of making incredible journeys and carving out a living in even the most inhospitable and unforgiving environments Earth has to offer. The vast oceans of Earth are filled with countless remote islands, and many are still uninhabited. Here are 6 islands that just a few people have chosen to call home: the 6 most remote inhabited islands on Earth:

Tristan da Cunha

Location: South Atlantic Ocean
tristan da cunha
Tristan da Cunha is the main populated island in a small archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located about 1,750 miles away from South Africa. First discovered by the Portuguese in 1506, this lonely island outpost was permanently settled in 1810, when a rogue American named Jonathan Lambert claimed de facto ownership of the island and its small population of whalers (which is such an American thing to do). This nonsense claim to ownership obviously didn’t last long, and the British Empire formally annexed Tristan in 1816. The island currently has a population of 275, and immigration to Tristan da Cunha is strictly prohibited. In fact, there are only 7 surnames among its current residents. Due to the small population, marriage between cousins is fairly common on the island, and this has led to widespread genetic asthma (which is one of the better side effects of rampant inbreeding). Tristan has no airport and can only be reached by sea. As of 2001, the residents of Tristan da Cunha are finally able to enjoy television. Sure, it’s the British Armed Forces Television Network, but it’s better than having no TV at all while you’re suffering from an inbred asthma attack.

North Sentinel Island

Location: Indian Ocean
north sentinel island
North Sentinel Island is a small speck in the large Andaman Island chain just off the coast of India in the Bay of Bengal. The island is unique because it has remained unsettled by modern society. Instead, it’s inhabited exclusively by an uncontacted tribe called the Sentinelese, who have resisted contact with modern people, often times violently. In 1974, a film crew from National Geographic attempted to make peaceful first-contact with the tribe by bringing gifts to the natives. As a token of their gratitude, the Sentinelese shot the crew’s director through the thigh with an arrow. Dozens of expeditions have met with similar results, and the natives have even been known to kill illegal fishermen who are dumb enough to set up camp on their island. The Sentinelese have posted a proverbial “Do Not Disturb” sign on their metaphorical doorknob. In fact, so little is known about the violent Sentinelese people that nobody even knows what they call themselves, or even what language they speak. After the devastating tsunami of 2004, experts speculated that the small Sentinelese population had probably been wiped out. However, images from subsequent flyovers have proven that the isolated tribe is fairing just fine on their own.


Location: Arctic Ocean
The perpetually frozen Norwegian island of Spitsbergen has been tasked with a very important job: saving the entire planet. This remote island at the top of the world is home to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (colloquially known as “The Doomsday Vault”). This vault contains a countless variety of seeds from across the world, and is intended to be used to rekindle society in the event of a devastating global apocalypse. So why is the fate of the planet buried on Spitsbergen? Because Spitsbergen is incredibly far away from EVERYTHING. The island is so remote that (it’s believed) if the rest of the world were decaying from atomic fallout, Spitsbergen would probably remain unfazed. The island itself is kind of like a Scandinavian Wild West. Reindeer exist in abundance, and polar bears are a genuine threat. Citizens who populate the island must routinely carry rifles to defend against possible Polar Bear attacks. There are also no roads connecting the various villages on Spitsbergen. To get around the island, one must rely on snowmobiles, cross-country skiis, or perhaps reindeer wrangling. This out-of-the-way chunk of frozen land is perfect for Nordic Survivalists and James Bond villains alike.

Pitcairn Island

Location: South Pacific Ocean

pitcairn island
The story of Pitcairn Island is one of mystery, high-seas intrigue, and good ol’ fashioned murder. The tropical paradise of the South Pacific was home to a Polynesian culture that had inexplicably disappeared by the 1400′s, but the island is best-known for being the location where the mutinous Bounty crew settled with their Tahitian womenfolk in 1790, after abandoning their British ship’s captain and 18 crew members at sea to enjoy the idyllic island life forever. The small band of rapscallions was getting along very well, until they decided to start killing each other over the limited supply of women on the island. This cycle of murder, sex, and more murder continued for some time, until most of the mutineers decided to mellow out and just enjoy their bizarre little slice of blood-soaked quasi-paradise. After years of isolation, an American sailing vessel randomly happened upon the island in 1808. The American sailors expected to meet a tribe of primal natives, but were instead greeted by a canoe loaded with super-friendly English speaking Anglo-Tahitian mutineer children. That’s how Pitcairn Island was re-introduced to the rest of the world, and its strange story could again be told. Today, the island has a population of about 50 people, most of whom are the descendants of the original Bounty mutineers. It also has the distinction of being the least-populated political jurisdiction on Earth.

Easter Island

Location: South Pacific Ocean

easter island
Truly the gold standard for all far flung bastions of humanity, Easter Island defies easy explanation. Easter Island (referred to as “Rapanui” by the island’s native population) is quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Located in the South Pacific, its nearest neighbor is Pitcairn Island, which is 1,300 miles away. Some time around the 3rd century A.D, Polynesians first sailed to the island. The world famous, highly recognizable statues on Easter Island are called Moai, and they were carved by islanders from a quarry of soft rock on the island. They were not, as is commonly believed, carved by aliens). The statues are believed to represent deceased clan leaders (again, not aliens). In 1722, Europeans began visiting Easter Island, bringing with them the usual colonial comforts of slavery, disease, and forced religious conversion. In the ensuing chaotic decades, the indigenous population ebbed and the island faded into obscurity, until it was annexed by Chile in 1888. Today, Easter Island has a population of about 5,000. It boasts a thriving tourism industry, and a healthy export of pseudo-scientific UFO documentaries.

The Island

Location: Unknown

the island from lost
Okay, this one is super weird. It doesn’t have a name, nor does it have a fixed location. It has a tendency to hop around space and time and can only be accurately located from a church basement in Los Angeles, California. The Island was first discovered in 2004, and then it infuriated people for the next 6 years. At the heart of the island lies a source of strange energy that might be electromagnetism, or the physical manifestation of the delicate balance between good and evil. It has been home to numerous ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians, Romans, Sumerians, and various Southeast Asian cultures, each of whom have disappeared mysteriously. The Island is home to various sects of violent people who are at constant odds with one another. Islanders report that they have been repeatedly terrorized by a smoke monster, but it was recently discovered that the smoke monster was just a mutated form of one of the ageless residents who came too close to the energy source at the heart of the island, thereby obtaining the ability to morph into smoke, animals, and even dead people (obviously). In fact, this island is so absolutely crazy that you’d have to sit around for six years making up crazy things that could happen on a crazy island just to come up with all the crazy things that happen on this crazy island. But don’t let any of this deter you from visiting! Even with all of the terrible, confusing, nonsensical, elaborately far-fetched things that happen there, The Island is still probably way safer than Aruba.