Power to the princesses

In a landmark decision made by Commonwealth powers it has been agreed that first-born daughters of the British Royal family are going to be allowed to succeed to the throne.

The old succession laws date back more than 300 years and decreed that it would always be the eldest boy born to the monarch who would succeed upon the end of previous reign, but after 16 Commonwealth countries agreed that succession laws should be changed this will no longer be the case.

Previously, only where there were no sons born to a monarch would a daughter be crowned as queen.

David Cameron hailed the landmark change by saying, "The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter simply because he is a man... this way of thinking is at odds with the modern countries that we have become."

Australia's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said, "I'm very enthusiastic about it. You would expect the first Australian woman prime minister to be very enthusiastic about a change which equals equality for women in a new area."

So, if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, were to have a daughter as their first child, then she could become Queen in precedence of any later siblings who were boys.

And I think it’s about time too – if we’re about to have gender differentiation scrapped in car insurance, then why should boys get a better deal than girls when it comes to ruling the land!

Image © rjrgmc28 via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Put your car on a diet for cheaper car insurance

Despite the rise in popularity of the compact car, it appears that vehicles are getting fatter because the size of the average driver is increasing.

According to recent newspaper reports, in 1953 a Ford Prefect car was 4ft 9inches wide and its seat cushions measured 18inches long. Today, a 2011 Ford Focus measures 6ft 1inch wide and has a 23inch long seat cushions.

As the world’s bottoms and bellies are expanding cars have become bigger as a result, and heavier too, to cope with the strain of having to transport obese passengers.

And now, it appears, some manufacturers are recruiting volunteers, ranging from slim to overweight, to help them study how today’s larger drivers cope behind the wheel and to gauge what functions and additions their cars need to be equipped with in order to be driven by heavier motorists.

Personally, I think this is crazy, because as the cars get bigger, they will get less efficient and more costly to run, which is unfair on those people who don’t need a reinforced floor in their vehicle or extra tummy space behind the steering.

Hopefully, manufacturers will also see a market for the “healthy-sized” car which will be slimmer, lighter, more manoeuvrable and less hungry at the fuel pump.

And maybe this amazing lightweight vehicle will qualify for cheaper car insurance as well &ndash: now that would be good!

Image © Stefan via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Why advertise on a car when you can use your face?

It’s not too unusual to spot a few vans and cars sporting advertisements for businesses when you go for a drive. It’s an excellent opportunity for businesses to make themselves known to potential customers.

However, it seems that two graduates have taken this method a few steps further. In order to pay off their university debts, they decided to sell some advertising space they had. Only, rather than using a car or shop window to advertise, they are using their faces.

Having created a combined student debt of almost £50,000, the two grew fed up with the graduate job market and became worried they would start careers they have no interest in.

They plan to make a living for a whole year by using their own faces as advertisements. Companies pay for the two to paint a specific logo on their faces for an entire day.

As the graduates go about their day-to-day life, everyone will be able to see the alternative advertising technique.

The business began at the beginning of October, and the two men are already overwhelmed with their success, making a phenomenal £3,500 in their first ten days.

At that rate it won’t be long until they can afford a fleet of cars and vans to create more advertising space.

Photo © rightee via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Making use of time with self-driving cars

According to the US car giant General Motors, cars will be able to drive themselves from as early as 2020, and the state-of-art vehicles are thought to be a much safer option than human drivers.

Here at duck2water we find the concept of a self-driving car very strange – for example, if the car drives itself well, does it work up to no-claim bonus car insurance?

However, the technicalities haven’t stopped us from daydreaming about the things we could do while our cars chauffeured us around.

Rather than making time in the mornings to prepare and eat breakfast, we could use the entire time to cook a full English breakfast and indulge ourselves on the journey to work.

Concerns about designating a sober driver on a night out could well be eliminated and trying to spot dark clothed pedestrians at night time would become a thing of the past as the vehicle sensors would automatically detect a person’s presence.

In fact, theoretically, we would be able to read a book, take a phone call, sip a coffee and do our hair without posing any type of risk on the road and saving ourselves heaps of time.

That is of course unless we accidentally hair-spray our book pages together and haphazardly drop our phone in the coffee. That would really defeat the object of using the time to become more organised!

We guess we’ll all have to wait at least another nine years until we can discover the true benefits of self-driving cars.

Photo © ianmunroe via flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Moscow’s first bicycle lane

Any cyclists living in Moscow, or UK cyclists planning on taking their bike on holiday to the city, may be happy to hear that Moscow has just installed a bicycle lane ‐ its first ever.

Well done Moscow!

It’s the Moscow State University campus’ bike lane and covers a large area, but riders may be very quickly under-whelmed by the efforts of the local Russian authorities.

The two-way cycle lane has so many things blocking it that, as one visiting Russian scientist stated, the lane is “a touching gesture, but absolutely useless”.

There are speed bumps, barriers, drains, kerbs (not lowered), and parked cars obstructing it too because many drivers don’t realise that the lane is only for cyclists and should be left clear for them.

According to one Russian bike rider, authorities would have been better off trying to tackle the bicycle theft problems faced by riders in Moscow. People reportedly don’t have many places to lock their bikes up at safely.

Not a success then…

Photo © jurvetson via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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My car broke – I’ll just print another one

Still waiting for your printer to finish printing the page you asked it for ten minutes ago? Or maybe your printer is fantastically fast? Either way – would your printer be able to print a car?

We don’t mean 2D. We mean a fully three dimensional vehicle.

A team of engineers has managed to create the world’s first printed car – the Urbee.

It took 15 years to make, is a three-wheeler, two-seater, and has a combustion engine in case it runs out of electricity. (It can charge up from sockets, solar panels, or a wind turbine.) Also, it can reach speeds of 70mph.

Instead of printing out layers of ink on paper, the team has printed out an ultra-thin composite material which is then fused together, meaning that the car ends up being made of one whole shell instead of different parts bolted together as is usually the case in standard vehicle manufacture.

Even more impressively, the engineers believe that the layers the car is made of will not break down for at least 30 years – so it will give other ‘normal’ cars a run for their money!

The project leader stated, “Making things this way could revolutionise how we produce things. It has certainly changed my way of thinking about manufacturing.”

We like the sound of it, and it looks quite good. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to arrive in car show rooms any time soon because the engineering team is still building prototypes.

Photo © utrebo via photobucket

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Super-car scenario

Note the photo of the sleek expensive McLaren super-car to the right.

Now imagine it in gleaming white fresh off the production line and imagine that you’re working for McLaren and you’ve just been handed the keys to this vehicle (the MP4-12C) and asked to take it for a test drive before it’s delivered to a customer.

(At this point we’d like to add that this car costs £170,000 and only 4,000 will be made throughout the next few years.)

Ok, so you’re driving the super-car on the A320 in Woking, Surrey. Everything’s going great. – keep driving. What a great job you have, testing super-cars. You’re so lucky.

And you just pull out of a lay-by and lose control of the car and collide with an oncoming VW Passat.


A nightmare? This was a terrible reality for one McLaren worker recently. Mechanics worked as hard as possible to salvage parts of the expensive vehicle – we wonder whether that staff member managed to salvage their job though…

On the plus side, no one was injured!

Photo © p_c_w via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Does every minute really count that much?

We all like it when journey times are shorter than we expected, unless we happen to be travelling in a limo complete with jacuzzi, massage therapist, with five-star food available on demand, which doesn’t happen every often.

However, if we’re not in that limo and it’s a matter of being one minute earlier than we would have been, we’re not that energised by the amount of time we’ve saved.

Nevertheless, the Department for Transport seems very pleased that by removing the bus lane from the M4 from Heathrow to London, it has cut the journey time between the two destinations by a whole minute.

That’s 20 seconds more than they had thought previously.


Well we found it difficult to throw a party in celebration of it too – but as the head of road safety at the AA highlighted, “At least people queuing to get onto the elevated section don’t have to endure the frustration of seeing an empty lane alongside them.”

We suppose that is a plus, it’s annoying seeing an empty lane and knowing that you can’t use it.

But wait! The lane will be reinstated in 2012 so that the ‘Olympic Family’ can use it to get to their events in good time – so other road users will have that achingly long minute put back onto their journey time soon anyway.

Photo © nikoretro via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Oh ok! – We’ll title this post ‘Trunk Road’

Usually when there’s a traffic jam it’s because there are road-works or an accident ahead, but that isn’t always the case.

Recently in West Midland Safari Park, Worcs, motorists driving through the animal enclosure had their root blocked by a five and a half ton (about 785 stone) elephant.

Twenty year old pachyderm, Five, must have decided that enough was enough and it was time for a rest on the nice soft…tarmac.

The head keeper said, “There was a bit of a traffic jam which lasted a fair amount of time as Five was out for the count and there are rocks along the road to stop drivers leaving the track.

“I think the sun was getting a bit too much for him and he simply had no energy left and just settled down where he was.

“When I arrived there was a queue of traffic forming and it just got bigger – he's a bit of a character so I'm not surprised he decided to crash out on a road.

“When he eventually woke up I don't think he knew what all the fuss was about. There was a big cheer and he just wandered off looking for somewhere else to sleep.

“We all had a good laugh about it for the rest of the day.”

Well, they did come to see animals. They probably didn’t think they’d be seeing so much of one flank of one elephant for the majority of the visit though.

Photo © Trubble via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Caffeinated car

Do you need coffee to get you up and running? Well a car which shares that trait with many people has just broken the world speed record for organic waste-fuelled vehicles.

The British-made car, a modified Rover SD1, managed to beat the previous title holder by reaching an average speed of 66.5mph. The vehicle pushed from the top spot, a wood-pellet fuelled car, only managed 47mph by comparison.

The engineers of the caffeine-fuelled car used waste coffee granules which would otherwise be dumped into landfill.

This coffee car isn’t the only one around though. BBC’s Bang Goes the Theory showed a similar vehicle off on their show. It was a Volkswagen Sirocco and it is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the organic waste-fuelled vehicle to have travelled the furthest (London to Manchester).

One of the presenters explained how the car worked. “It’s like an old charcoal burner. The coffee is heated up like charcoal. Then the combustion gases, which are generally carbon dioxide and water vapour, are reduced by hot carbon to carbon monoxide and hydrogen.

“This is then filtered by a cyclone filter and a rock wool filter and cooled down by a radiator. By the end the gas is a lot cooler and cleaner and is piped through to the engine. The coffee gas, the carbon monoxide and hydrogen, goes in the cylinders and the explosion drives the engine.”

Both these cars would be great for coffee lovers. In the morning they could make their brew to wake themselves up, and then go and use the left-overs to wake their car up!

Photo © saturn via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Why fresh food is not always appetising

In some places in the world the biggest factor on the cost of car insurance is not the risk of theft or the risk of accident with another vehicle – instead, it’s the risk of running into wildlife.

In Britain, it’s most likely to be a fox or a badger or, particularly dangerously, a deer. In Australia, famously, it’s the kangaroo, while in Africa it is likely to be one of many potential candidates, ranging from a monkey to rhinoceros.

There’s an argument that if you get lucky and don’t end up suffering serious injury when you run over wildlife, you should take the animal home and cook it – unless it’s still alive and able to be rehabilitated, of course.

Proponents of roadkill eating say that it’s ethical and, furthermore, delicious. I don’t know about the ethical arguments for eating maimed badger, squirrel or deer, but I’m pretty certain that my wife wouldn’t be amenable if I came home on a Friday night and said, “Good news, I picked up some food on the way home.”

“Oh, did you darling? Where from.”

“The road, literally. I had to unpeel it”

But perhaps she’d be converted, and myself as well, if I took her to West Virginia for this month’s RoadKill Cook-off and Autumn Harvest Festival, where all manner of roadkill will be sampled by local drivers and tourists alike.

What’s on the menu, you ask? Well, deer, turtle, armadillo, alligator and buffalo are just some of the fare on offer.

Image © Michael_Lehet via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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