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Comment Re:make the punishment fit the crime (Score 1) 122

Penalties of this size are entirely unjustified by the degree of harm.

Cratering the resale value of a few million vehicles, along with the stock value of the company, doesn't constitute harm? A corporate citizen deliberately cheating on tests, then covering it up, does not constitute harm? I get it, it's hard to pin a monetary damage to corporate malfeasance, but that doesn't mean that there's no harm.

Comment Re:Does this mean I get a TDI for cheap? (Score 3, Insightful) 122

I love the TDI engine, who cares if it pollutes? I have no kids and I'm over 50 -- I ain't living forever.

You own (lack of) progeny aside, you don't care about the general survival of the human race or stewardship of this one and only home we call Earth?

Obviously not, so here's something your shallow, selfish interests can grock: the known emissions problems for these vehicles will probably make them un-registerable in the United States, unless you get the performance-crippling ECU "fix".

Comment Re:Batteries (Score 4, Informative) 234

Electronics in automotive environments tend to be very well sealed, because they are exposed to all kinds of crap. Rain is the least of it: snow, salt, sand, mud, marine air, gasoline, motor oil, washer fluid - all of these would utterly destroy electronics if they were not well protected against it. The electronics enclosures, cabling, and connectors used in automobilies are typically rated to IP55 at least, and typically are IP67. Once you have sealed it well enough to keep out all the crap you'd encounter on the road, you get protection against temporary submersion more or less for free.

Comment Re: Must be a first for slashdot RTFA skimmed summ (Score 1) 298

Photons are their own antiparticle, so when they interact strongly with each other, the force drops to zero, so the pair doesnt interact with anything else.

[pedantic]
Be careful how you phrase that - photons have no interaction via the strong force. They cannot "strongly interact" in the way that, say, quarks strongly interact to create protons and the like.
[/pedantic]

I understand what you meant - that the photons are interacting with each other in a strong (i.e., powerful, tightly bound, significant, etc.) fashion. But since we're talking physics here, we should be careful about word choices.

Comment Re:No one hurt . (Score 3, Insightful) 596

I've only ever owned manual transmission cars. I've always liked the ability to feather the engine or disconnect it from the wheels entirely. Even today, the clutch and manual transmission are almost always mechanical assemblies, not fly-by-wire. When Toyota was having all those issues with unintended acceleration, I'll admit that I felt smug, knowing that I had the ability to disconnect the engine, coupled with decades of experience that makes depressing the clutch instinctual.

For various reasons, my next car is likely to be a plug-in hybrid or pure electric. I'm going to miss that capability.

Comment gobbledygook (Score 4, Interesting) 208

Brings to mind this quotation from IBM's Tom Watson Jr.:

A foreign language has been creeping into many of the presentations I hear and the memos I read. It adds nothing to a message but noise, and I want your help in stamping it out. It's called gobbledygook. There's no shortage of examples. Nothing seems to get finished anymore it gets "finalized." Things don't happen at the same time but "coincident with this action." Believe it or not, people will talk about taking a "commitment position" and then because of the "volatility of schedule changes" they will "decommit" so that our "posture vis-à-vis some data base that needs a sizing will be able to enhance competitive positions." That's gobbledygook. (February 19, 1970)

Also on topic: the turbo encabulator.

This is not a new phenomenon, unfortunately.

Comment Re:Mechanical storage (Score 4, Informative) 324

Beacon Power tried to commercialize that concept 5-10 years ago. Their flywheels were cylinders of spun carbon fiber, in vacuum chambers, and levitated on magnetic bearings. These were sunk into concrete silos - in case any one of them flew apart. The technology was used not so much for bulk storage, but rather for peak-shaving and arbitrage.

The company went bankrupt a couple of years ago after building their first 20 MW storage plant. They're now owned by a private equity firm and making another go of it, so there's hope yet.

Comment Re:When I was a kid... (Score 4, Interesting) 324

Actually, storing cold is an entirely viable strategy. Back in the 1800s, ice would be harvested from frozen ponds in New England, then packed in sawdust and stored in warehouses. That ice was later shipped to many place - the Carribean, the American West, even to India. Keeping ice cold and frozen is just a matter of proper insulation.

More recently, there are plenty of sizeable buildings that use ice storage as part of their HVAC system. During the night, when ambient temperatures are colder, building loads are minimized, and electricity is cheap, power is used to create tons of ice. The ice is then used to cool the building the following day.

Comment Re:Interesting technology... meh... (Score 1) 40

The iBot had potential, but was overpriced

It wasn't like DEKA and Johnson & Johnson were making a killing on the original iBot. The market price (north of $20k in 2005) reflected the fact that, compared to other powered wheelchairs, it was really expensive to develop and build. J&J lost tens of millions on the iBot program.

Another difficulty the original iBot faced was that, although it provided exceptional mobility and independence for its users, Medicare reimbursed it at the same rate as any other powered wheelchair - $5-10k, depending on configuration and options. In other words, the added features did not receive added reimbursement. So anyone who wanted one faced significant out-of-pocket expenses. To use a car analogy: let's say there was a government program that would purchase a $15k Honda Civic for everyone that needed to commute to work. Lots of people live at the end of dirt roads, for which a $25k 4x4 pickup would be necessary. The government wouldn't buy the pickup at that price, despite its utility, figuring that a Civic is good enough for everyone.

I wonder how much the original FDA certification added to the cost of an iBot

A lot - you can be sure. It was a device with no predicate, and provided ample opportunity to injure or kill the person using it. Satisfying the FDA that it was safe under all conditions (even to the point of having dual-everything, for fail-operative redundancy) probably took years.

Submission + - Toyota and Dean Kamen team up for Powered Wheelchair

necro81 writes: Most people know about the two-wheeled Segway invented by Dean Kamen. Most people don’t know that the two-wheeled balancing technology was first developed by Kamen’s company in the early 2000s for the iBot — an advanced wheelchair that could climb stairs and curbs, had 4-wheel drive, and could balance on its rear wheels. An impressive piece of technology, it was also a commercial flop: the iBot was discontinued in 2009 after selling hundreds of units (many still in operation a decade later). Today, however, Toyota announced a partnership with Dean Kamen to upgrade the iBot and bring it back to market.

Submission + - Toyota and Dean Kamen team up for Powered Wheelchair

An anonymous reader writes: Most people know about the two-wheeled Segway invented by Dean Kamen. Most people don’t know that the two-wheeled balancing technology was first developed by Kamen’s company in the early 2000s for the iBot — an advanced wheelchair that could climb stairs, had 4-wheel drive, and could balance on its rear wheels. An impressive piece of technology, it was also a commercial flop: the iBot was discontinued in 2009 after selling hundreds of units (many still in operation a decade later). Today, however, Toyota announced a partnership with Dean Kamen to upgrade the iBot and bring it back to market.

Comment Capturing the Unicorn (Score 2) 71

This brings back into my mind the photo-stitching work done by the Chudnovsky brothers about 15 years ago. Photo-stitching large mosaics has been around for a long time, but the work by these two mathematicians on the Unicorn Hunt tapestries rises to a much higher level.

The tapestries has been hanging for a very long time. During a restoration they were taken down, soaked clean, and photographed on both sides. (The back side, being against the wall and with a fabric backing on it, had much more vivid color.) But the resulting images were completely un-stitchable by conventional techniques - nothing lined up! The tapestry, being a textile, had relaxed and subtly distorted by being laid horizontal and cleaned. The tapestry was not a static image, but rather a dynamic, breathing object. The Chudnovskys applied serious math and computing power to subtly distort each image in the mosaic, cross-referencing the front and back sides, in order to get the threads to line up.

TL;DR. See this article for more details.

This Google camera, I'm sure, has very sophisticated stitching algorithms. But in the end, it is probably assuming that it is capturing images of a static object. I wonder how it would handle a similar challenge.

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