Monday, June 06, 2005

Hot Electric Robot Love

Hey hey, folks -- typing's still impaired, but I'm doing better. Stitches should be pulled Wednesday.

I wanted to shoot a link over while it's still piping hot. Peter Huber and Mark Mills, who dropped the excellent "Why the U.S. Needs Nuclear Power" article in March (about which I blogged here), have cranked out another sizzling, engineering-porn-meets-new-tech-policy state-of-the-union, this time on electricity in automobiles. It's titled "The End of the M.E.?" and it appears in this month's Mechanical Engineering magazine. (And no, I haven't taken to reading engineering mags -- I found it via A&L daily.)

If I were writing with Huber and Mills, I would have titled the paper "The End of the M.E. Century," and indeed, the authors close with a brief historical prospectus of mechanical engineering and its twined fate with the combustion engine. The age ahead of us belongs to the electrical engineer, and not just because we shoot zeros and ones across continents; no, it's because they're making new, super-efficient electric motors the size of coffee cans.

I seriously dig the way that Huber and Mills write. Peep this paragraph:

At kilowatt and megawatt power levels, lasers don't move bits, they move material. They fuse powdered metals into finished parts, without any machining, cutting, or joining. They supply ultra-fine heating, soldering, drilling, cutting, and materials processing, with fantastic improvements in speed, precision, and efficiency. They create thermal pulses that can blast metals and other materials off a source and deposit them on a target to create entire new classes of material coatings. They move ink in printers—not just desktop devices, but also the mammoth machines used to produce newspapers. They solder optoelectronic chips without destroying the silicon real estate around them, and they supply unequaled precision in the bulk processing of workaday materials—heat treating, welding, polymer bonding, sintering, soldering, epoxy curing, and the hardening, abrading, and milling of surfaces.
At a certain level, I don't think it would really matter to me whether anything these guys told me were really happening -- it just all sounds so cool. It lulls, it trances, and then it pops.

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