Organic looking robots work smoother

As a layperson Geek watching the development of robots over the years, what fascinates me is the way engineering requirements — not aesthetics — are driving the evolution of some robots to *look* more organic.
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Why I’m against Tesla’s Boring company purpose

The whole ‘Tesla skate’ idea is to take electric cars stuck in traffic, put them on a high speed electric skate that shoots along a tunnel underground at 200mph!

Sounds like something cool from science fiction, right? Unfortunately, not all cool whizz bang techno-toys are a good idea. As much as I love Tesla and SpaceX, this idea of Elon’s is just plain wrong. This is just another road, a thing for moving cars around. An expensive way to move cars around. Fixing traffic by building new ‘roads’ — especially expensive underground skate tunnels — is out of date thinking.  Build a new road and it will be filled with traffic.

I say abandon new road, and use Elon’s “Boring” company to build bigger better Tunnel Boring Machines to dig proper subway tunnels for double decker trains. A full sized train  tunnel will be more expensive to dig, but have far better rewards. We can also recover about half the costs by selling the air above the future subway stations to developers who will be asked to build attractive New Urbanism above them.

Build a better city, and you might not need as many cars in the first place. Cars are just so yesterday. The future is healthier cities and attractive walkable neighbourhoods you want to participate in, not drive through — let alone skating along under at 200mph!

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Our world data confirms nuclear safest

Our World Data confirms it.

But all readers of … anything real… know that already, right?


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Brexit – what a mistake!

I really enjoyed this summary from “The Conversation” (a youtube channel, not the Australian think tank website).

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Could hypothetical aliens hide from us?

I’ve been reading sci-fi for decades, and yet 10 minutes into an Isaac Arthur video I realise I’m still not thinking BIG enough! Can we hide from alien civilisations? It’s already too late. Forget TV and radio shows. As the great Isaac Arthur says: “We were betrayed by our own atmosphere a BILLION YEARS before life crawled onto land.”
Another comment ran along the lines of “A single Dyson Sphere* could point a telescope at every planet in the entire galaxy.”
* Note: Isaac Arthur has repeatedly stated that we cannot build actual Dyson Spheres with any known or hypothetical substance due to the centrifugal forces required to simulate one gravity, but has repeatedly stated that we can build Dyson Swarms with today’s technologies.
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How Trump Junior’s emails change everything

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SOUTH AUSTRALIAN SUPER-BATTERY, or why I disagree with Elon Musk on batteries for renewables. (I disagree with great sadness, as you might have noted I love everything else Elon does. 😉 )
I don’t get it. Say we take Elon Musk’s price of $250 / kilowatt-hour for the capital cost of his battery system. (There’s good reason to think it might be $500 to $600 per Kwh!)
Let’s compare it to a 1 gigawatt nuclear power plant. $250 / kilowatt hour storage is one millionth of the output of a GIGAwatt power plant. So to scale up to one gigawatt, multiply the cost by a million which is $250 MILLION! But we can’t stop there, the figure is $250 million for just 1 hour of output at 1 Gigawatt.
A battery that can store about 16 hours (as solar PV only works about a third of a day) would be 16 * $250M = $4 BILLION dollars to store just 16 hours power of a 1 Gigawatt power plant.
That’s not all. You haven’t built the power source yet, this is just the battery! You’ve still got to build all the wind and solar you need to charge this beast. Remember the rough rule of 3. You’ve got to build at least 3 times the power you need (in this case 3 GIGS of wind and solar) so that 1 lot can run your town during the day, and the other 2/3rd’s can charge the batteries for night time. Add in some cloudy weather forecasting and you might actually have to overbuild your wind and solar by 4 or even 5 times to be sure!
Then there’s another problem. These batteries might only last 12 years, but nuclear power plants can last 60 years. So you’ve got to multiply that $4 billion by 5, bringing it up to $20 billion, just for batteries. (You still haven’t built the solar and wind farms yet!)
And this is based on Elon’s battery only price of $250 / kwh, not the full $500 to $600 per kwh that Forbes thinks is more likely given cooling and other infrastructure costs.
But despite American nuclear being legislated into oblivion, there are good examples around the world that show nuclear power could be built for $3 billion, maybe even $2 billion per GW.
A nuke will run all day and all night, no matter the time of year. We are still so, so far from anything being a ‘saviour’ for unreliable wind and solar energy. In contrast, there are future projections for various modular breeder reactors that eat nuclear waste to come off the line at about $1 billion / GW.
Posted in Renewable energy, storage, Uncategorized | Leave a comment