This week our favourite billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk tweeted news about the coming Tesla cheap-vehicle revolution: preorders for the $35,000 Tesla Mark III will begin in March. Production will start in about two years, he wrote. Why the wait? “fully operational Gigafactory needed,” he tweeted. The Gigafactory is Musk’s idea for a fully-replicable, “plonkable” battery factory that should allow for massive cost reductions due to economies of scale. He spoke about it during the unveiling of the Powerwall back in May:
“The way we’re approaching the Gigafactory is really like it’s a product, so we’re not really thinking of it in the traditional way that people think of it as a factory, like a building with a bunch of sort of off the shelf equipment in it. What we’re really designing in the Gigafactory is a giant machine, it’s really like a product of Tesla […] There will need to be many Gigafactories in the future […] this is not something that we think Tesla is going to do alone, we think there’s going to need to be many other companies building Gigafactory-class operations of their own, and we hope they do, and the Tesla policy of open-sourcing patents will continue for the Gigafactory as well as the powerpack and all these other things.”
Here’s hoping his vision for the future pans out. But in the meantime, the rather more expensive gull-wing doored Model X crossover should start shipping to customers ad the end of this month, with Musk tweeting that the first Model X will be handed over “on Sept 29 at our Fremont factory.”
The indispensable Phil Plait over at Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog brought something to my attention this week: global warming sea-rise? That’s already going on. Two-and-a-half to nine inches (depending where you are on Earth) in the last 23 years, in fact. And it looks like we may be “locked in” for three full feet over the next hundred years, even if we did the impossible and somehow stopped all further warming today. And sure, maybe three feet doesn’t sound like a lot to you, but remember, Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge was only six feet. An additional three feet on top of that makes you realize what a problem a permanent three foot sea-level rise is. Even if the rise itself is manageable, it makes high tides and storm surges start from a higher level. And that’s the best case scenario, now. Here’s hoping that the Paris climate talks in December go well. In the meantime, you can read all the gruesome details over at Bad Astronomy.
Coming Soon in Technicolor
This week’s Science Friday podcast brought to my attention the recent strides toward a cure for — wait for it — colour blindness. Red-green colour blindness, to be precise. The surprisingly-common condition (upwards of 7% of men in some populations) results in the inability to distinguish between red and green. It’s actually a few different conditions, in which individuals lack certain photoreceptors in the retina that allow them to perceive certain wavelengths of light, and now we might be rather close to a cure. By injecting the genetic data needed to grow the photoreceptors into a virus, and injecting the virus into the eye — similar to a technique already proven effective in humans for treating another kind of blindness — Maureen and Jay Neitz of the University of Washington have been able to restore the ability to see the colour red in squirrel monkeys. They’re waiting on FDA approval to try human tests now, which could mean that in the not too distant future, colour blindness could become a thing of the past. Check out Science Friday for more.
Google’s new logo
Okay, so, Google has a new logo. I have objections. Nobody’s happy. Sarah Larson thinks we hate it because it seems shifty. Others point out that it’s not just a new logo, it’s a whole new system of branding, with the “G” and the dots. Others point out how much digital space they save by dropping the serifs. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, and it doesn’t change the way I feel about the company. And the designers, god bless ’em, have put a lot of thought and work into it and it shows. I wasn’t going to talk about it, but people asked for my opinion. So, I suppose I’d better talk about it:
First, I hate sans-serif fonts. I’m willing to make an exception for Helvetica, because it’s a very well-balanced font. Arial is poor man’s substitute at best. At very small sizes Droid Sans is quite utilitarian and legible. But whatever font this is? It’s kind of terrible. At least, as far as I can see from this one word. The capital G is far too large. In the designers’ drive to stick with perfect circles, they’ve made a monstrosity of that capital G. It looms large and lords its weight over the rest of the word. The crossbar doesn’t seem to be at any particular height — it doesn’t line up with the top or bottom of any other part of the alphabet shown — not the tops or bottoms of the top of the lower-case Os, or the lower-case G. The lower-case E is a problem, too. That slanted crossbar is, again, not lined up with anything. If you look at the lower-case L as a divider between then G and E, you can see that that angle of the E is actually just a little off. And the E, as well, isn’t the perfect circle everything else is. And if they felt comfortable squishing the E a little, why didn’t they do the same with the capital G?
And yes, it looks like children’s fridge magnets.
So, no, I guess you could say I’m not a fan.
In other Google (or Alphabet) news — which, let’s be honest, is far more important than any logo redesign — the Alphabet-owned company Life Sciences is setting its sights on diabetes, working with pharmaceutical company Sanofi. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of that. You can read more about it at Wired.
Boeing has finally named its commercial crew transport ship — the equivalent of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule — and that name is “Starliner.” Boeing has previously used the “-liner” suffix for its passenger craft, like the beautifully chrome 1930s Stratoliner and the much more recent Dreamliner. Despite funding issues with the commercial crew program (Congress is just abysmally stupid on this) Boeing is still aiming for its first test flight in 2016. Meanwhile SpaceX is still grounded, while they address issues arising from the failure of their latest rocket in late June. You can read a lot more about the CST-100 over at Spaceflight Now (seriously, check that site out, it’s great).
Here’s the part of the roundup where I tell you all the things you missed if you haven’t been reading as religiously as we’ve been writing here at This Week In Tomorrow. On Monday, I posted a picture of a flying cat from Athanasius Kircher’s guidebook to China (a place he never went, I might add); on Tuesday, I covered how statistics can be easily misunderstood, explaining why women actually aren’t in disproportionate danger from murder in the workplace compared with men; on Wednesday, I mused about whether in this day and age anyone can be said to have a right not to be told the truth; on Thursday I posted a pretty picture of an exploded view of a plane called the Vought Corsair; and on Friday Lindsey celebrated the first two women to graduate from the US Army Ranger school. If you missed them, take a few minutes and have a look.
Best of the Rest
As ever, there’s more news in the week than I can cover, so here’s a point-form link dump of things I didn’t get to (but which you might want to):
- Here’s a whiskey glass for drinking in space
- Here’s a test for spooky action at a distance
- Here’s a global map of antineutrino emissions
- Here’s an article about Earth stealing Sedna from a passing star, and
- Here’s a poorly-parked rocket ship in China
I leave you with this wonderful image from South by Southwest of a full-scale mockup of the James Webb Space Telescope. Man, I can’t wait for that thing to get up there and start taking pictures.