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Comment Re:Elon Musk, Tesla, and Robotics (Score 1) 297

Why not direct some of your anti-government animus towards companies like Lockheed Martin (a military contractor) that receives almost all of its revenue from the government? Most of the sugar you eat is subsidized by the government through corn subsidies (why do you think it's so cheap?). General Motors would have gone bankrupt if it weren't for government money given after the 2008 crash. And of course the biggest one would be gasoline; fossil fuel companies receive massive direct and indirect government subsidies.

Comment Elon Musk, Tesla, and Robotics (Score 5, Interesting) 297

I don't see any mention of Elon Musk and Tesla in this discussion. Musk is bringing a new level of automation to his car factories. The interior of the new Model 3 will be designed for full robotic assembly. For example, typical wiring harnesses that appear in other cars will be avoided as they are not suitable for robotic manipulation. Instead, wiring connections are likely to be more pluggable by robots. Their new cars feature full glass roofs. I suspect this is because it will leave the top of the car open for robots to work until close to the end of assembly. Most cars weld their roofs on during frame assembly (which is typically robotic for most car manufacturers). This limits access to the interior during final assembly.

Musk has talked about the machine that makes the machine as the most important engineering challenge to be solved in manufacturing. He says the final version of his factories will look like an "alien dreadnought". Humans will be involved only in maintaining the robots, and not in the actual assembly process, since they slow the entire process down to "human speed". I'm not sure how many people are aware of the level of innovation that is occurring right now in America at Tesla's factories. There is no company in the world that is doing what Tesla is doing in automobile manufacturing.

Comment Re: Dont Buy It (Score 1) 641

The reason the engine revs constantly is because the Prius has a clever mechanism using two electric motors and a differential that keeps the gasoline engine reving at exactly its optimal RPM.

That said, yes, the Prius is slow as shit.

My 2010 Prius

does 0 to 60 in 9.7 seconds. Now that isn't massively fast, but I'm not sure I'd call it "slow as shit". I think I'd call the acceleration "average". It is certainly enough to safely merge on the freeway, and when I accelerate with passengers, they are usually surprised how fast it goes.


Can We Pollinate Flowers With Tiny Flying Drones? (economist.com) 130

An anonymous reader writes: An engineer in Japan has built a 1.6-inch "pollinator-bot" and successfully tested it in his lab. The drone's creator "has armed it with paintbrush hairs that are covered in a special gel sticky enough to pick pollen up, but not so sticky that it holds on to that pollen when it brushes up against something else," reports The Economist. They write that his experiments with the tiny drone "show that the drone can indeed carry pollen from flower to flower in the way an insect would -- though he has yet to confirm that seeds result from this pollination." While flown by a human pilot, next he hopes to equip the drones with their own flower-recognizing technology.

The Christian Science Monitor followed up with four experts, asking "Could a fleet of robo-pollinators replace, or at least supplement, the bees?" One said "There is no substitute for bees." Another pointed out that even if robo-bees are developed, some flowers will prove harder to pollinate than others. A third expert thought the technology could scale, though it would need to be mass-produced, and the engineers would need to develop a reusable pollen-collecting gel. But a fourth expert remained worried that it just couldn't scale without becoming too expensive. "I'm not sure that's going to be cheap enough to not make blueberries hundreds of dollars a pint."

Three of those experts also agreed that the best solution is just wild bees, because domesticated or not, "All they have to do is make sure to set aside enough land conducive to the bees' habitat."

Comment Re:This is not a serious issue. This is very minor (Score 2) 139

Yep. With non-recoverable rockets that end up on the ocean floor, we never know if the rocket engines were consistently on the edge of catastrophic failure. Without looking at the used engines, the only thing we really know about expendable rockets is that they generated nominal telemetry during operation.

Comment Re:Short-term numbers versus long-term (Score 1) 167

I'm not up on state of the art on computer image/object recognition but the experience I have from about 10 years ago leads me to believe that there are still challenges to be solved, especially when it comes to recognizing movements and intentions.

Neural networks have come a LONG way in ten years, due in large part to the exponential growth in processing power in GPU's. Neural nets can perform the same or better as humans in a variety of image recognition tasks. For example, neural nets have been trained to give the prognosis for cancer patients based on images of tumors. The networks were trained on thousands of known images of previous cancer patients along with medical histories. When new images were passed through the network, the prognosis, including likelihood of survival was given, based upon the images of previous patients.

If you really think about it, when humans drive, we are largely doing simple image recognition. White line, yellow line, double line, car in front, car in back, pedestrian about to cross, bicyclist riding on side of road, etc. There is some context, yes, but really in most cases the decisions we make in driving are quite automatic and shallow. They are in large part rule based, learned from long habit. There are still likely to be cases at times when simple image recognition and habitual rule based behaviour will not suffice; in such cases, yes self driving cars might have trouble. However I would assert that such corner cases are likely to be rare. The advantages of having a computer driving will be that they won't get drowsy or distracted, and will have far more information input about the surroundings of the car, gleaned from eight cameras, several ultrasound sensors, and a radar system that can detect cars in front of the car in front of you. To a certain extent, driving is simple. If there is an object in front of you, or beside you, don't hit it; stay in the correct lane; don't go too fast into corners. I think that on the whole, computers are likely to be better at this than humans.

Comment Re:WRONG! DO IT AGAIN! (Score 1) 148

I hate ads a lot...

I also hate ads, and not just because they are jarring to view. I hate them because they encourage broadcasting to the lowest common denominator viewer. Companies act as if ad revenue has to continually increase or something is wrong. They continually try to widen out their audience in a bit to increase ad revenue until we get TLC and The History Channel showing horrible formulaic reality TV shows that most viewers who have a half a brain and a soul find repugnant. I watch Netflix because I find many of the shows don't insult my intelligence. Not all of the shows mind you, but some.

Comment Re: Great strides (Score 5, Informative) 129

ULA, the launch consortium of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, got $1 billion dollars per year just to maintain "launch readiness". Then they charged $400 million or so for each launch. SpaceX charges about $130 million for cargo launches to the space station. Oh, and do you really think that Boeing or Lockheed Martin paid fully for the development of the Delta or Atlas rockets? SpaceX is providing an essential service for a fraction of the cost of "competitors". The Musk "government subsidy" meme has been a laughable piece of propaganda put forward by Musks competitors, who are themselves recipients of FAR MORE government largesse than Musk could ever hope for. For all I know, repeaters of this meme are in fact getting paid by ULA, GM, Ford, Exxon, or any number of competitors who are likely to lose billions to Musk's companies.

Comment Re:Then LG prada (Score 1) 35

From what I understand, Steve Jobs led a small group of engineers in designing the iPhone. It sounds like this was part of it; they apparently had competing teams of engineers trying to build a phone. The reason why the initial iPhone was so feature incomplete (e.g. no copy/paste) was that it was designed by such a small engineering team. I think Steve Job's greatest strengths as a CEO were (a) the ability to know what kind of a device he wanted, (b) the ability to know what was actually possible (possibly because of what he had seen elsewhere) and (c) the ability to say "NO that's shit...do it again". I don't think that having CEO's delegating grand strategic decisions leads to good results. The CEO must have a semblance of big picture knowledge.

Comment Apple's Problem: Shallow Business School Thinking (Score 1, Interesting) 293

Tim Cook is a business school type thinker. He is an accountant. He makes his business decisions as a pure profit maximization game, increasing profit margins and eeking out as much money from the market as he can. The problem with this type of thinking is that it ignores the subtle realities of the Apple computer market. Macs specifically have been perceived by many as "professional" machines. Graphical designers have used OSX because it has been a reliable and relatively trouble-free platform on which to create. Software developers have often used Macbooks to develop on because OSX is a fairly polished Unix platform (though they likely often use virtual machines). Myself, I have enjoyed using Macs because of features such as the outstanding integration of the pdf format into OSX. I often use Preview's ability to take vector based snippets of a pdf file. Doing this on other operating systems is impractical, but on OSX you just draw a box around a pdf graph, choose "copy", and then "New PDF from Clipboard". In other OS environments, you can only copy a bitmap version, but on OSX, you get the actual vector version.

Most users probably don't use this pdf feature. However I find it essential. Under current management, because few users make use of OSX advanced pdf features, it might be seen as something that can be neglected or removed. If they removed it, then I would lose much of my enthusiasm for OSX. And my enthusiasm matters, because I often pass that enthusiasm onto my students. In 2007 my enthusiasm for OSX resulted in at least 20 new Macbook purchases that I am directly aware of. As OSX shifts to MacOS and seems to go towards merging with iOS, I find my enthusiasm begin to wane.

As Apple continues to assert more and more control over how I use my machine, on the apps that I install and the settings I can change, I find I am becoming increasingly against the agenda of Apple. I believe that our computers should be Turing Complete, that we should have full control over our devices. My students are more likely to hear me grumble about my Mac than to wax poetic about its unique capabilities. Tim Cook doesn't seem to realize the importance of users like me. In my own localized way I had an outsized contribution to Apple's explosive growth in 2007-2010; I see 200+ students every year, and my enthusiasms and views rub off on many of them. Apple's seeming assumption that they can ignore the tails of the bell curve of their user base is short-sighted and in my opinion will eventually compromise Apple's valuable brand image.

Comment Re:I agree Apple is losing its' panache (Score 2, Insightful) 230

Its disappointing to watch Apple sh1t all over it self. OS X has been going down hill since 10.9, now the hardware is getting the same treatment.

That's what happens when your company is run by a "management professional" bean counter like Tim Cook. No imagination. He only sees his company through revenue and profit graphs.

Comment Re:Next step... (Score 5, Interesting) 478

I bought a Macbook Pro in 2007, and I'm using a Macbook Air right now. Apple's actions are really beginning to piss me off. The company is being run by a bean counter and it shows. Greedy greedy greedy. Gluing their batteries in. Soldering the SSD. I asked a student to save a document to Google Drive and then upload it from an iPad to my website. Apparently you can't upload files from Google Drive to a website on an iPad. Seriously. They just want you to use effing iCloud Drive. I get insult after insult from Apple when I want to do things my way. I want to set the battery warning percentage so that it is 20%, so that I don't kill my battery. Nope. No option to do that. So I end up running my battery down to 1% far too many times (which is exactly what they want). I want to change the colour profile on my wife's iPhone 5 to get some sort of a yellow coloured night mode. Nope. You can do it on an iPhone 6, but not on an iPhone 5. That is a bloody fake restriction, and it just pisses me off. I want control of my devices. I shouldn't have to jailbreak my device.

I used to be an Apple fanboy. They made damn good laptops. They sold excellent software...FCP was bloody awesome. If I'm going to pay a 30% or more premium for my laptop, I expect the freedom to control and upgrade my device. I did exactly that with my Macbook Pro. New batteries, new HD, memory upgraded to the maximum. Even with my Macbook Air, I have gotten around their stupid storage restrictions with a 128GB low profile USB drive and a 200GB flush mount microSD adapter. Now there is no SD slot. Now they expect me to pay their premium and get a locked in device. Well fuck you Apple!

Comment Re:Too bad (Score 2) 96

Autopilot is not full self-driving. It has one forward camera, radar, and ultrasound. They have updated the radar to make accidents such as the collision with the truck unlikely, even with the old autopilot. The newest system has eight cameras, including three forward cameras. The radar is now capable of seeing the car in front of the car in front of you, and it will react if that car begins to slow. Human drivers cannot always do this. Human drivers cannot constantly monitor the surroundings of the car. Human drivers will miss things. Human drivers do not "fleet learn". They do not incrementally find faults and eliminate them for all drivers.

Comment Real Conspiracies vs. Imagined Ones (Score 1) 680

It is actually comical that the views espoused by these nutty deniers are in fact part of an actual conspiracy amongst oil companies such as Exxon to delay action on climate change as much as possible. Their actions have deeply damaged the level of public discourse in America, and have thus damaged democracy itself.

Comment Re:Nah (Score 4, Insightful) 175

Here is a google search for "car fires". Thousands of pictures of gasoline cars on fire. Here is another search for "Lamborghini Fires". There are many. How many recent Tesla fires can you mention? I'll bet is is approximately two. And yet they are reported ad nauseum. And filthy trolls like you act as if they happen all the time. They don't.

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