Timing & trends

A 150-Year Old Idea Could Lead To A Breakthrough In Space Travel

The increasing frequency of both natural and man-made catastrophes such as worldwide pandemics and climate catastrophes has re-validated the urgency to establish humanity as a multi-planet species. Indeed, the founding ethos of Elon Musk’s private spaceflight company SpaceX was to make life multi-planetary, partly motivated by existential threats such as large asteroid strikes capable of wiping out life on our planet. However, one of the biggest challenges to making this dream a reality is how to get to distant stars and planets within a human lifetime. Consider that with conventional fuel rockets, it takes about seven months just to get to Mars, and a ridiculous 80,000 years to get to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, using our fastest rockets. This means that ordinary rockets are simply out of the question for interstellar travel, and something a little bit more out there is needed.

Luckily, we might now have the answer to this space travel conundrum.

Once the exclusive province of science fiction films, space colonization has been moving closer to becoming a reality thanks to major advances in astronautics and astrophysics; rocket propulsion and design, robotics and medicine. Trekkies, along with the otherworldly technology featured in the Star Trek series, have helped define the science fiction universe. One of the most mind-boggling of these technologies from those shows is the “Impulse Drive,” a propulsion system used on the spaceships of many species to get across the galaxy in amazingly short timeframes measured in months or a few years rather than centuries or millennia…read more.

Elon’s AI-powered “Tesla Bots” can deadlift 150 lb and travel at speeds of up to 5 mph

Elon Musk says he’ll have a humanoid robot to show off next year, but the iconoclastic entrepreneur has a mixed record when it comes to promises and predictions. It’s worth revisiting them before you plan your next moving day around the Tesla Bot’s debut.

Last week at Tesla’s AI day event, Musk announced the auto company would have a prototype ready as soon as next year to help with tasks that are boring, repetitive or dangerous. As proof of concept, Musk shared a PowerPoint and welcomed a dancer in a Tesla Bot bodysuit on stage. It was all a bit reminiscent of the failed Cybertruck armor glass demonstration that resulted in two broken windows on stage.

The promise of a domestic robot is also a bit hard to swallow when Tesla is debuting in its cars a “full self-driving” option which, as my CNET colleague Brian Cooley argues, doesn’t deliver on its name. Even Musk himself admitted Monday that the current beta “is actually not great.”…read more.

“Directions to Alcatraz”: Waymo Launches Robotaxi Service in San Francisco

Waymo, Google’s sister company, started offering robotaxi rides to people in San Francisco yesterday. These vehicles do drive themselves, but beware: There will be a safety driver at the wheel, and they will pitch you their app idea.

SF becomes Waymo’s second market in its quest to build out a robotaxi network in cities across the globe. The company has been running a fully driverless ride-hailing service in the Phoenix area since last fall. But San Francisco, with its steep hills, trolley lines, and illustrious people-watching, presents a unique challenge for any driver, let alone a robot one…read more.

Justin Sun Buys NFT of a Rock for More Than Half a Million Dollars

Actually, 31-year-old crypto mogul Justin Sun spent $611,710 to buy an EtherRock NFT yesterday. And he can’t even take it home and pet it. Because it’s literally just a Clipart of a rock.

What’s going on: EtherRocks are one of the latest crazes in the world of NFTs (non-fungible tokens), which allow people to acquire ownership of digital assets using blockchain technology.

So why would you want to own one? The same reason you’d buy a rare baseball card—the originals are scarce and some people believe they have tremendous value. EtherRock was one of the earliest NFT projects from way back in 2017…read more.

Chip crisis threatens to cut auto output by 7.1M cars

The global shortage of semiconductors will cut worldwide auto production by as many as 7.1 million vehicles this year, and pandemic-related supply disruptions will hobble the industry well into next year, IHS Markit said.

The lack of chips won’t stabilize until the second quarter of next year, with recovery coming in the second half, IHS said in a report Thursday. The grim outlook is further proof that the chip crisis is far from over. And the research firm’s forecast doesn’t include the latest cuts from Toyota Motor Corp., which plans to briefly pause output at 14 plants next month and slash production 40 per cent.

“The situation is still fraught with challenges,”

IHS analysts Mark Fulthorpe and Phil Amsrud wrote in their report. “We are also seeing additional volatility due to COVID-19 lockdown measures in Malaysia where many back-end chip packaging and testing operations are performed.”…read more.

Fire At Tesla’s Mega Battery Finally Extinguished After Four Days Of Burning

Four days ago, we reported a shipping container-sized Tesla Megapack battery unit at the world’s largest energy storage project, operated by France’s Neoen SA, in Australia’s Victoria, dubbed “Victorian Big Battery,” caught fire during a test-run.

Victoria Country Fire Authority (CFA) published a statement Monday that said the 13-ton battery was finally extinguished after four days, according to Bloomberg.

“There was one battery pack on fire to start with, but it did spread to a second pack that was very close to it,” Chief CFA Fire Officer Ian Beswicke said in a statement. CFA has yet to determine the origins of what caused the Tesla battery to combust spontaneously.

On Friday, when the fire was first reported, CFA officials were so concerned about toxic fumes spewing from the battery unit that they issued air quality warnings for surrounding suburbs and urged people to move indoors…read more.