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Comment: Re:Mercedes, BMW engineers are dimwits. (Score 1) 172

by Animats (#46783889) Attached to: Mercedes Pooh-Poohs Tesla, Says It Has "Limited Potential"

They saw diesel electric locomotives replace steam engines in just one decade in 1950s.

The reason was different. Diesels cost about 3x as much as steam locomotives pre-WWII. But by the 1950s, diesel engine manufacturing was a production line process and the price had come down.

The real advantage of diesel over steam was that steam locomotives are incredible maintenance-intensive. Here's daily maintenance. That's what had to be done every day, by a whole crew. That's just daily. Here's 120,000 mile maintenance, done about once a year for a road locomotive. This isn't an oil change; this is a full teardown, boiler replacement, and rebuild.

Electric cars don't have that big an edge over IC engines at this point.

Comment: Re:Tesla needs just a few more things (Score 4, Informative) 172

by AaronW (#46783227) Attached to: Mercedes Pooh-Poohs Tesla, Says It Has "Limited Potential"

1. While Tesla may not be able to charge in 10 minutes, they have been aggressively rolling out rapid charging with their superchargers. In their cross country trip they spent 20% of their time charging. In the next month or so they will be rolling out battery swapping between the Bay Area and LA. That takes about 90 seconds. When I drove to Reno from the Bay Area I stopped in Folsom long enough to get a burger. By the time I was done I had plenty of range to reach Reno. The hotel I stayed at had an RV park as well where I was able to plug in.

2. The charging infrastructure is filling out quickly. Regular J1772 chargers are popping up everywhere. Furthermore, the Tesla model S comes with a charging adapter allowing charging at any NEMA 14-50 50A outlet which is quite common at RV parks as well as a 110v plug (which is almost useless since 110v charges so slow).

3. The Tesla model S is priced similarly to other cars in its class. The model E is planned to be priced to cars similarly.

Generally the charging time is not an issue. It takes me 5 seconds to plug in at night and 5 seconds to unplug in the morning. Basically I have a full charge every day (or in my case about 70% since it's easier on the battery).

The existing and planned supercharger stations are shown at

They're first focusing on the major transportation corridors before branching out further. By the end of next year most of the US should be covered unless you're traveling off the beaten path. With the model X going in to production next year I expect them to add more chargers in more out of the way places. Tesla is also releasing an adapter for ChaDeMo and will release an adapter for the combo plug if and when it starts to be deployed (Tesla's signalling is already compatible with the combo plug).

Comment: Re:Old proverb (Score 1) 313

If _Europe_ had the balls to call Putin to task, the US would stand behind them. It gets a little hollow when all of Russia/Ukraine's neighbors are saying "lets negotiate" and the US comes in with bombers and gives them an attitude adjustment. We are working with the pieces that are on the table. Tell the EU to get their head out of their ass and start moving troops to match, if not exceed, what Russia has done. The,n we can see what Putin is made of. Until then (to return to the original Proverb) the US really does not have a dog in the fight because there is no fight; there is an antagonist whose victims are not giving an ounce of resistance.

If I wanted to describe how you would start WWIII I think this passage would be a good start. Remember Europe actually knows what a real war looks like, even if you could keep it conventional a military confrontation with Russia is going to result in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of deaths. Add nukes to the equation and you really want to get hesitant about calling Russia's bluffs.

Personally my vote is for UN peacekeeping troops in Eastern Ukraine, ideally made up of troops from anywhere except the US (and ideally Europe). It puts a neutral party with a good reputation in the crosshairs, it makes a military invasion by Russia extremely costly, but it doesn't embarrass Putin by being overly pro-West and in the worst case of an invasion it won't escalate into a major war.

Comment: Re:Useful Idiot (Score 2) 313

What China does in surveillance of their own citizens isn't acceptable in my opinion but how is "they're even worse" a valid defence for the US which has constantly acted like it stands apart on these matters. Secondly, and something I think Americans really don't appreciate, as someone from outside both China and the US I know China would probably try and intercept my calls etc, but at least they don't pretend to be my friend while they are at it which America has been.

I don't think China and Russia being worse is a valid defence for the US. But I do think it's a valid point of criticism for Snowden. It is a bit hypocritical to criticize the US's surveillance activities, and then flee to the only two major powers that are demonstrably worse.

That being said I think he did have understandable motives, he wanted to go to somewhere that wouldn't extradite him to the US. That means a country that is a) not particularly friendly with the US, and b) powerful enough to resist US pressure, that pretty much means China and Russia. As the Evo Morales grounding incident demonstrates Europe was not an option. Maybe Ecuador was but they may not have been big enough and he still had to get there.

It's still unfortunate that he's in Russia, I think the Ukraine incident has revealed that Putin is a bit crazier than anyone anticipated and Snowden's position more tenuous. The Russians may have been threatening to send him back to the US as a concession to ease the sanctions unless he starts cooperating in their propaganda.

Comment: Should we say hello? (Score 1) 164

by Animats (#46782353) Attached to: Kepler-186f: Most 'Earth-Like' Alien World Discovered

We could send radio signals that far, with the big dish at Arecibo. If they have intelligence, and radio, we can communicate with a 1000-year round trip time. Maybe we should transmit some of the proposed canned messages to other civilizations every month or so.

If there is other intelligent life out there, it looks like they're a very long way away. Too far to talk to round trip, even at light speed. None of the known extra-solar planets within a few light years look promising.

Comment: Re:Festo has been doing this for years. (Score 1) 36

by Animats (#46781831) Attached to: The Squishy Future of Robotics

Right. Traditional pneumatics is rather dumb - most of the time it's on/off, with air cylinders pushed up against hard limit stops. Positional control of pneumatic cylinders works fine, but it takes proportional valves, feedback sensors, and a fast control system. Until recently, industrial systems tended not to get that fancy.

I was interested in using pneumatics for running robots back in the 1990s, but the available proportional valves back then were big and expensive. One useful model of muscles is two opposed springs, and a double-ended pneumatic cylinder can do just that. You can change both position and stiffness, separately. You can simulate a spring, and recover energy. Someone did that at CWRU a decade ago, but the mechanics were clunky. Festo does that elegantly with their new kangaroo. Very nice mechanical engineering.

Shadow Robotics has a nice pneumatic robot hand. Shadow has been doing pneumatic flexible actuators for many years, but now they have good controllability.

The end of labor is to gain leisure.