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A Less Well-Oiled War Machine

The high cost of petroleum is forcing the U.S. military to turn to solar, geothermal, and wind energy

13 min read
14-megawatt photovoltaic array
Fertile Land: The U.S. military is using some of its vast quantities of land to generate power, as it did for this 270-megawatt geothermal power plant and a 14-megawatt photovoltaic array (above), both located in the Mojave desert.
Photo: MMA Renewable Ventures

In the middle of the Mojave Desert, a nondescript two-story building behind a gated fence houses an unlikely group of geologists. Their lineage is strong: several generations of prospectors have been drawn to dig in this dry corner. Within 100 kilometers of the geologists’ base near China Lake, Calif., 19th-century gold diggers stumbled on riches, and later oilmen got lucky in the same inhospitable soil. Now these earth-minded fellows have grand ambitions of their own. Their aim is to turn the U.S. Department of Defense into one of the world’s largest users of geothermal energy.

Their vision isn’t all a pipe dream. The rising cost of fuel has the Pentagon pressuring the four branches of the armed services to cut their energy bills wherever they can. It’s easy to see why—every US $10 increase in the price of a barrel of oil costs the Air Force, for example, an extra $600 million. The Army, Navy, and Marines, too, are tearing through their budgets. In response, energy managers at bases across the country are reevaluating how they light, insulate, heat, and cool their buildings. The most ambitious of these managers have begun aggressively adopting renewable-energy technologies. Together they have emerged as a distributed network of clean-energy advocates. The irony, of course, is that these military men and women should form such a group at the heart of one of the most energy-intensive operations on the planet.

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For Better or Worse, Tesla Bot Is Exactly What We Expected

Tesla fails to show anything uniquely impressive with its new humanoid robot prototype

15 min read
A humanoid robot with metal and wires exposed stands on stage.

Elon Musk unveiled the Optimus humanoid robot at Tesla's AI Day 2022.

Tesla

At the end of Tesla’s 2021 AI Day last August, Elon Musk introduced a concept for “Tesla Bot,” an electromechanically-actuated, autonomous bipedal “general purpose” humanoid robot. Musk suggested that a prototype of Tesla Bot (also called “Optimus”) would be complete within the next year. After a lot of hype, a prototype of Tesla Bot was indeed unveiled last night at Tesla’s 2022 AI Day. And as it turns out, the hype was just that—hype.

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the humanoid robot that Musk very briefly demonstrated on stage, there’s nothing uniquely right, either. We were hoping for (if not necessarily expecting) more from Tesla. And while the robot isn’t exactly a disappointment, there’s very little to suggest that it disrupts robotics the way that SpaceX did for rockets or Tesla did for electric cars.

You can watch the entire 3+ hour livestream archived on YouTube here (which also includes car stuff and whatnot), but we’re just going to focus on the most interesting bits about Tesla Bot/Optimus.

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"Nothing About Us Without Us"

Assistive technologies are often designed without involving the people these technologies are supposed to help. That needs to change.

3 min read
A photo of two people holding signs outside.  One is in a wheelchair.
Erik McGregor/LightRocket/Getty Images

Before we redesigned our website a couple of years ago, we took pains to have some users show us how they navigate our content or complete specific tasks like leaving a comment or listening to a podcast. We queried them about what they liked or didn’t like about how our content is presented. And we took onboard their experiences and designed a site and a magazine based on that feedback.

So when I read this month’s cover story by Britt Young about using a variety of high- and low-tech prosthetic hands, I was surprised to learn that much bionic-hand development is conducted without taking the lived experience of people who use artificial hands into account.

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Exploring the Value of Power Modules

Learn how power modules can reduce power supply size, EMI, design time, and solution cost

1 min read
Texas Instruments

In this training series, we will discuss the high level of integration of DC/DC power modules and the significant implications that this has on power supply design.

Watch this free webinar now!

In addition to high power density and small solution size, modules can also simplify EMI mitigation and reduce power supply design time. And thanks to improved process and packaging technology, a power module may even provide all of these benefits with a lower overall solution cost as well.

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