Sep 22, 2009 | 22
“Are you ready?” the young driver beside me asked, as we sat in the two-seat Tesla Roadster convertible, facing a straight, steep, quarter-mile road that rises from the water of San Francisco Bay up the headland to the Golden Gate Bridge. Then he floored the accelerator. I was driven into the seat-back behind me—and I mean driven, like I was strapped into some insane amusement park ride—for several full seconds as the car accelerated and accelerated like a rocket up the climb. Only there was no screaming flame blasting behind us. There was no engine roaring either. I was being shot up this road so fast my emergency senses were on full alert, yet all was eerily quiet.
The Tesla Motors roadster is an all-electric vehicle. Which means zero emissions. There’s no engine, no fuel tank, just a deep bank of lithium-ion batteries and a single-gear, direct-drive motor that hits maximum torque instantly (that’s the beauty of electric propulsion). The car is blistering fast; the sport edition goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds. Not up on car specs? The Chevy Corvette, with a monster 6.2 liter, eight cylinder, 430 horsepower engine takes 4.6 seconds. The Tesla accelerates faster than the Porsche 911. Faster than the Ferrari Spider. The typical sedan takes a good 6.0 seconds or more to reach the same speed.
Mar 9, 2009 | 12
CAMBRIDGE, MASS.—You could be forgiven for showing up to the M.I.T. Energy Conference here this past weekend looking forward to hearing how clean energy was going to take the world by storm. After all, Friday night, the exhibition hall was full of solar, small wind and cellulosic biofuel projects, sandwiched in between better batteries, fuel cells, nukes and algae. And the agenda was full of sessions on bioenergy, wind power, energy storage and smart grids.
But for a conference billed as "accelerating change in global energy," there was a consistent theme: Today's main sources of electricity—fossil fuels, particularly coal —are not going to stand aside for renewable sources without a significant shift in policy.
Jul 17, 2007
The first "tabulating machines" and "analytical engines" that would later be characterized as the earliest computers, however, date back to the late 1800s. James Thomson, brother of Lord Kelvin, conceived of a "differential analyzer" to solve differential equations, using a system of wheels, discs and levers. Vannevar Bush at MIT developed advanced analyzers beginning in the 1920s. Yet the contraptions drew international notoriety when Barnes Wallis in Surrey, England, tapped them to design "bouncing bombs," used in the famous dambusters raid that blew up major dams in Germany's industrial Ruhr valley during WWII.
Lost in all this military computing history is a little tale about rabbits.
As Rob O'Neill reported several days ago in Computerworld, the only original, complete differential analyzer left in the world--which was built in 1935 and was indeed part of the dambusters brigade--has been refurbished and put on display at New Zealand's Museum of Transport and Technology. How did it end up in New Zealand? First, engineers brought it there to help them harden the design of the Benmore Hydro Dam. Second, the country's Department of Scientific and Industrial Research wanted it to calculate rabbit populations.
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