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Geographic Hints Help a Simple Robot Navigate for Kilometers

There are currently about 440 fission reactors operating worldwide, which together can generate about 400 gigawatts of power with zero carbon emissions. Yet these fission plants, for all their value, have considerable downsides. The enriched uranium fuel they use must be kept secure. Devastating accidents, like the one at Fukushima in Japan, can leave areas uninhabitable. Fission waste by-products need to be disposed of safely, and they remain radioactive for thousands of years. Consequently, governments, universities, and companies have long looked to fusion to remedy these ills. Among those interested…

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Ethiopian Dam Generates Power, but What’s Next?

There are currently about 440 fission reactors operating worldwide, which together can generate about 400 gigawatts of power with zero carbon emissions. Yet these fission plants, for all their value, have considerable downsides. The enriched uranium fuel they use must be kept secure. Devastating accidents, like the one at Fukushima in Japan, can leave areas uninhabitable. Fission waste by-products need to be disposed of safely, and they remain radioactive for thousands of years. Consequently, governments, universities, and companies have long looked to fusion to remedy these ills. Among those interested…

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Kawasaki’s Robot Ibex: Can It Be Tamed?

The ability to make decisions autonomously is not just what makes robots useful, it’s what makes robots robots. We value robots for their ability to sense what’s going on around them, make decisions based on that information, and then take useful actions without our input. In the past, robotic decision making followed highly structured rules—if you sense this, then do that. In structured environments like factories, this works well enough. But in chaotic, unfamiliar, or poorly defined settings, reliance on rules makes robots notoriously bad at dealing with anything that…

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What To Do With Captured CO2

Similar mismatches in supply and demand contributed to massive cascading blackouts in August 2003 in the northeastern United States and Canada, in July 2012 in India, and in March 2019 in Venezuela. The situation is unlikely to get better anytime soon, for three reasons. First, as countries everywhere move to decarbonize, the electrification of transportation, heating, and other sectors will cause electricity demand to soar. Second, conventional coal and nuclear plants are being retired for economic and policy reasons, removing stable sources from the grid. And third, while wind and…

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Standards Certification Testing: Bringing Order to the Internet of Things

These vendors initially opposed the scheme, called Open RAN, because they believed that if implemented, it would damage—if not destroy—their existing business model. But faced with the collective power of the operators clamoring for a new way to build wireless networks, these vendors have been left with few options, none of them very appealing. Some have responded by trying to set the terms for how Open RAN will be developed, while others continue to drag their feet, and risk being left behind. The technology underpinning a generation of wireless like…

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From Introvert to IEEE Influencer

There are currently about 440 fission reactors operating worldwide, which together can generate about 400 gigawatts of power with zero carbon emissions. Yet these fission plants, for all their value, have considerable downsides. The enriched uranium fuel they use must be kept secure. Devastating accidents, like the one at Fukushima in Japan, can leave areas uninhabitable. Fission waste by-products need to be disposed of safely, and they remain radioactive for thousands of years. Consequently, governments, universities, and companies have long looked to fusion to remedy these ills. Among those interested…

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Samsung and Omnivision Claim Smallest Camera Pixels

Last month, two companies said they have reached the next stage in shrinking the pixels on CMOS camera chips. Both Santa Clara–based Omnivision and South Korea’s Samsung claimed pixels with a pitch of just 0.56 micrometers (measured from the center of one pixel to the center of the next), which is about as large as the wavelength of green light. Samsung currently produces camera chips with 0.64-micrometer pixels, Omnivision released a 0.61-micrometer sensor in January. Omnivision says a 200-megapixel-resolution image sensor with the new 0.56-micrometer pitch will go to customers…

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Video Friday: Robot Friends – IEEE Spectrum

The ability to make decisions autonomously is not just what makes robots useful, it’s what makes robots robots. We value robots for their ability to sense what’s going on around them, make decisions based on that information, and then take useful actions without our input. In the past, robotic decision making followed highly structured rules—if you sense this, then do that. In structured environments like factories, this works well enough. But in chaotic, unfamiliar, or poorly defined settings, reliance on rules makes robots notoriously bad at dealing with anything that…

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To Catch a Falling Satellite

It is the fate of many a dead satellite to spend its last years tumbling out of control. A fuel line may burst, or solar wind may surge, or there may be drag from the outer reaches of the atmosphere—and unless a spacecraft has been designed in some way that keeps it naturally stable, chances are good that it will begin to turn end over end. That’s a problem, because Earth orbit is getting more and more crowded. Engineers would like to corral old pieces of space junk, but they…

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Convert Oil Wells to Solve the Solar Storage Problem

Similar mismatches in supply and demand contributed to massive cascading blackouts in August 2003 in the northeastern United States and Canada, in July 2012 in India, and in March 2019 in Venezuela. The situation is unlikely to get better anytime soon, for three reasons. First, as countries everywhere move to decarbonize, the electrification of transportation, heating, and other sectors will cause electricity demand to soar. Second, conventional coal and nuclear plants are being retired for economic and policy reasons, removing stable sources from the grid. And third, while wind and…

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