Craig Nance: Engineer to the Stars

At world-class astronomical observatories, the scientists may grab the spotlight, but it’s engineers like Nance who keep things running

4 min read
Photo of Craig Nance
Eyes on the Sky: Craig Nance turned his boyhood love of astronomy and electronics into a career.
Photo: Macario

As far back as he can remember, has loved two things: astronomy and electronics. So as the facility engineer for the world’s largest optical/infrared telescopes, he is a happy man indeed. The fact that the telescopes, known as the W.M. Keck Observatory, happen to be in one of the loveliest places on the planet, namely on the Big Island of Hawaii, just seems like overkill.

This engineer does work hard. At the office by 7 a.m. most days, Nance is never quite sure what the day will throw his way. Install a dye-laser system to help correct for atmospheric distortion to incoming starlight? Figure out how to run a ground wire into arid rocky terrain at 4200 meters above sea level? Damp vibrations from dozens of machines and industrial motors along an 85-meter path? Nance has worked on all that and more.

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Video Friday: Turkey Sandwich

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read
A teleoperated humanoid robot torso stands in a kitchen assembling a turkey sandwich from ingredients on a tray

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Enjoy today's videos!

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New AI Speeds Computer Graphics by Up to 5x

Neural rendering harnesses machine learning to paint pixels

5 min read
Four examples of Nvidia's Instant NeRF 2D-to-3D machine learning model placed side-by-side.

Nvidia Instant NeRF uses neural rendering to generate 3D visuals from 2D images.


On 20 September, Nvidia’s Vice President of Applied Deep Learning, Bryan Cantanzaro, went to Twitter with a bold claim: In certain GPU-heavy games, like the classic first-person platformer Portal, seven out of eight pixels on the screen are generated by a new machine-learning algorithm. That’s enough, he said, to accelerate rendering by up to 5x.

This impressive feat is currently limited to a few dozen 3D games, but it’s a hint at the gains neural rendering will soon deliver. The technique will unlock new potential in everyday consumer electronics.

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Get the Coursera Campus Skills Report 2022

Download the report to learn which job skills students need to build high-growth careers

1 min read

Get comprehensive insights into higher education skill trends based on data from 3.8M registered learners on Coursera, and learn clear steps you can take to ensure your institution's engineering curriculum is aligned with the needs of the current and future job market. Download the report now!