Monthly Archives: February 2017

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For $21.6 Billion You Just Could Pay a Line of Dudes To Stand on the Border Some quick math shows the absurdity of Trump’s wall. According to a leaked Department of Homeland Security report, completing Donald Trump’s wall along the US-Mexico border will cost $21.6 billion. Give or take. That’s about twice that of Trump’s own estimate. Because money is kind of hard to imagine at the scale of governmental budgets, I did some quick math that might put things into perspective. For $21.6 billion dollars, you could hire about 65,000 border patrol agents at $40,000 per year for 10 years. Add in the 20,000 agents already patrolling the border and staffing checkpoints, and we have 85,000 agents in all to span a roughly 2,000 mile border. Subtract the 700 or so miles that are currently already fenced, and the open range needing to be patrolled is down to 1,300 miles, […]

Meet the Record-Pressing Robot Fueling Vinyl’s Comeback In the mid-20th century, when the LP was the medium of choice, massive hydraulic-powered vinyl pressing machines—manufactured by long-forgotten companies like SMT, Lened, and Toolex—pumped out the endless stream of grooved discs that became the lifeblood of the booming post-war music industry.When CDs emerged in the mid-1980s, most of those aging LP presses ended up in landfills and warehouses. The rest of the plot unspools like a stale Wes Anderson ensemble. Fueled by millennials feeling nostalgic for something they never experienced, vinyl enjoyed a stunning revival and, defying all pundit predictions, became more than a passing format fad. Smelling money, the Big Three labels rereleased their legacy acts on hot wax, Technics started making SL-1200 turntables again, and vinyl got its own global holiday. The first new record-pressing machines built in over 30 years are finally online. Suddenly those old record presses were […]

The Numbers Don’t Lie: Self-Driving Cars Are Getting Good It’s report card time for the automakers and Silicon Valley denizens studying the tricky problem of making cars drive themselves, and everyone is passing. The California DMV just released its annual slate of “disengagement reports,” documents provided by the 11 companies that received state permits to test autonomous vehicles by the end of 2015. The results, summarized below, reveal how often humans had to wrest control away from the computer, and why (sort of). Although the reports are an imperfect measure of how the technology performs, they do reveal rapid progress toward the day when you are no longer needed behind the wheel. Google and General Motors are leading the class with cars capable of driving hundreds of miles at a stretch without trouble. But even those who don’t make the honor roll show impressive gains. Nissan’s robocars, for example, needed human intervention once every […]