Category Archives: Machines

War And Sports Shape Better Artificial Limbs

Last year I posted about the technological advancements of prosthetic limbs. Patients have been electing to remove more of their healthy flesh so that they can be fitted with more athletic and functional extremities. James Dao continues the story.

Rehabilitation programs that revolve around sports and athleticism help amputees emotionally recover from lost arms and legs. Even when wounded soldiers or civilians were not athletic before the injury, playing sports after sustaining one offers immense confidence and physical resilience. The reporter also discusses the scientific leap that has greatly improved the quality of prosthetics. “Computerized knees and ankles” Dao writes, “adjust to terrain and activity.” “Lighter and more malleable materials have allowed amputees to wear synthetic legs longer — and even run marathons.”

The author mentions two caveats to these developments. Quoting a physical therapist and an anthropological who studies military rehab programs, Dao reminds us that “traumatic stress disorder or anxieties about employment” cannot be treated with athletic programs alone. He also teaches us that the cost burden for soldiers is covered by the military, which offers extensive treatment and a variety of artificial limbs for various physical activity (skying, climbing, swimming.) For civilians however, their options are much more limited. “Buying an advanced device can cost more than $30,000; customizing them for various sports costs thousands more,” Dao reports.

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Sparks Fly Between The New York Times And Tesla Motors: A Critical Car Review Becomes A Flame War

Last week John Broder of The New York Times wrote a critical review of Tesla Motor’s Model S electric car and the charging stations the company installed on the East Coast. Due to unusually cold weather and software issues, Broder’s planned trip from DC up I-95 ended on the back of a flatbed truck. (Actually, the truck drove Broder to a charging station, where he then finished the journey.)

In response to this review Elon Musk, the head of Tesla, wrote a harsh rejoinder to the Times where he accused Broder of purposefully sabotaging the ride. Musk uses charts and graphs to display the car’s locations, speeds and battery life and alleges that Broder failed to charge the car properly, drove at high speeds to deplete the battery, and at one point, spun around in a parking lot—all to kill the car. (Musk is a popular entrepreneur and a technology icon. His other business endeavor, SpaceX, manufactures rocket ships.)

The flame war continues.

Broder responded twice today. His second, more fully developed comeback is evenhanded and earnest. After sketching out his background at the Times and how this car review came to be, Broder goes point-by-point addressing each of Musk’s accusations. Where Musk says Broder drove around in circles, Broder says he was driving around trying to find the electric charging dock. (Much of the car’s lack of range is explained by the cold weather sapping life from the battery.)

And where Musk makes Broder out to be a petrol-Hummer-loving saboteur, Broder merely says, you’re supercharger network kinda sucks.

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