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Why Plug-Ins Will Make (Dollars and) Sense

Q&A With the Electric Power Research Institute's Mark Duvall

7 min read

John Voelcker’s article ”How Green Is My Plug-In?” delves into the carbon impact of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and it generated quite a bit of discussion. After that article appeared in March 2009,IEEE Spectrum’s David Schneider spoke with Jeremy Michalek, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Michalek’s upcoming study in Energy Policy looks at the sizing of batteries for such cars; in it, he calculates that plug-in hybrids with large battery packs—like the 2011 Chevrolet Volt—may never save consumers any money.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has a different view of the future than Michalek does. Here, in an interview with Voelcker, Mark Duvall, director of electric transportation at EPRI, explains the results of his organization’s detailed analyses of the environmental and energy impacts of PHEVs—which were conducted with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)—and relates some of the experiences developing models of the impact of plug-in hybrid technology.

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Meta Aims to Build the World’s Fastest AI Supercomputer

The AI Research SuperCluster could help the company develop real-time voice translations

3 min read
A brightly lit, high-ceilinged room with rows of silvery-black cabinets and yellow pipes near the ceiling.

Meta's new AI supercomputer.

Meta

Meta, parent company of Facebook, says it has built a research supercomputer that is among the fastest on the planet. By the middle of this year, when an expansion of the system is complete, it will be the fastest, Meta researchers Kevin Lee and Shubho Sengupta write in a blog post today. The AI Research SuperCluster (RSC) will one day work with neural networks with trillions of parameters, they write. The number of parameters in neural network models have been rapidly growing. The natural language processor GPT-3, for example, has 175 billion parameters, and such sophisticated AIs are only expected to grow.

RSC is meant to address a critical limit to this growth, the time it takes to train a neural network. Generally, training involves testing a neural network against a large data set, measuring how far it is from doing its job accurately, using that error signal to tweak the network’s parameters, and repeating the cycle until the neural network reaches the needed level of accuracy. It can take weeks of computing for large networks, limiting how many new networks can be trialed in a given year. Several well-funded startups, such as Cerebras and SambaNova, were launched in part to address training times.

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Rooftop Drones for Autonomous Pigeon Harassment

Have invasive flying rats met their match?

3 min read
A pigeon on a poop covered wooden plank.
iStock photo

Feral pigeons are responsible for over a billion dollars of economic losses here in the United States every year. They’re especially annoying because the species isn’t native to this country—they were brought over from Europe (where they’re known as rock doves and are still quite annoying) because you can eat them, but enough of the birds escaped and liked it here that there are now stable populations all over the country, being gross.

In addition to carrying diseases (some of which can occasionally infect humans), pigeons are prolific and inconvenient urban poopers, deploying their acidic droppings in places that are exceptionally difficult to clean. Rooftops, as well as ledges and overhangs on building facades, are full of cozy nooks and crannies, and despite some attempts to brute-force the problem by putting metal or plastic spikes on every horizontal surface, there are usually more surfaces (and pigeons) than can be reasonably bespiked.

Researchers at EPFL in Switzerland believe that besting an aerial adversary requires an aerial approach, and so they’ve deployed an autonomous system that can identify roof-invading pigeons and then send a drone over to chase them away.

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Electric utility infrastructure habitually falls prey to overgrown Right-of-Way, high winds, and harsh weather. Impactful events causing outages are increasing in frequency, and need to be endured without major disruptions in electric service. This webinar will discuss the application of covered aerial conductor to "harden" the electric utility grid so that unpredictable events don't result in unsustainable outages.

Speaker:

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