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Made in America: The world's fastest electric car

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Some of you who've been with us from the beginning might recall Mangesh's post a couple years back about Tesla's high-end electric sports car, made in Silicon Valley. In the post, Mango wrote mental_floss' favorite inventor Nikola Tesla, who famously dreamed up AC current amongst a million other things, and inspired the names for the rock bands Tesla and AC/DC (or at least the first-half of the name AC/DC), now has a ridiculously cool electric car named for him"¦[Tesla] even plans on releasing a family sedan by 2008.

And while the sedan is still a couple years off, the Roadster, which Mangesh referred to, is not only selling pretty well (for a vehicle with a base sticker price that's more than $100K), but showrooms are slowly starting to open outside Silicon Valley. One opened in L.A. not too long ago and I had the privilege of interviewing the guy who runs it, Jeremy Snyder. So if you're into really fast cars, really expensive cars, or just environmentally friendly cars, read on for the lowdown on Tesla, right from the manager's mouth.

DI: So where exactly is Tesla based?

JS: San Carlos, California, though the cars are assembled in Menlo Park.

DI: The parts are made here too?

JS: The final assembly is here in California. We're an American car company. While the parts are from all over the world, the battery pack, which is a big part of the car, is made here in California.

DI: And how many different models are there at the moment?

JS: Just the Roadster right now, which is our flagship model. But we've got a four-door, five-passenger sedan coming out called Model S, which will be available in a couple years.

DI: So let's talk about the Roadster. What's all the hubbub?

JS: It's a very important car because it's 100% electric. We wanted to enter the market place and shatter any preconceived notions. Efficiency and performance need not be mutually exclusive. The car was designed with three principles in mind: Great design, ultra-high performance, while being the most efficient car in the world. It does 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, has a range of 244 miles per charge, charges in 3-4 hours, and costs about two cents per mile to operate.

DI: Fantastic. And all that will cost us how much?

JS: $109,000 base price, fully loaded is about $125K.

DI: What kind of extras are we talking about?

JS: Premium leather interior, carbon-fiber hard top, and a high-powered connector, which is installed in your home, which allows you to charge in 3-4 hours.

DI: How would people charge it otherwise?

JS: There's an extension cord that you can plug into any standard 110 outlet.

DI: How long does it take to charge with the cord?

JS: At half-charge, it will take overnight to recharge. If you're totally empty, it could take a lot longer than that.

DI: So how many of these babies have you sold to date?

JS: More than 1,300.

DI: Let's talk about the motor. Is it as silent as my little hybrid when I cruise to a stop?

JS: Well the electric motor is a helluva lot bigger than in a Prius, so you hear a very pleasant turbine-type sound when you're accelerating hard. But when you're accelerating at a slow pace, it's completely silent.

DI: Who's the engineer behind it?

JS: J.B. Strobel. He's our chief technology officer. He invented the battery pack, which is liquid-cooled, which allows the car to exist as it does. The power-electronics, the battery technology and the motor work in harmony, and that's what gives the car it's high-performance and range.

DI: What do you drive?

JS: A Tesla.

DI: Really? To and from work?

JS: Yeah. Either my Tesla or my bicycle.

DI: Do you get a lot of people stopping you in supermarket parking lots with questions?

JS: Of course. Yeah.

DI: You must be sick of that by now.

JS: Not at all. It's a very special car, and a very important one.
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DI: Let's talk about maintenance. What are we talking?

JS: Well, there are no oil changes because there's no oil in the car. So it's essentially firmware updates, suspension, brakes, tires, the cooling system that cools the batteries, which is very important and that's about it. All in all it's about a six-hour service. We're opening service centers in New York City, Miami, Chicago, D.C., and Seattle over the next 12 months. It's only a once-a-year maintenance program, but this way they won't have to ship the car back to us here.

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environment
The Roomba's Creator Invented an Underwater Vacuum That Sucks Up Invasive Lionfish
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Invasive fish can be a major issue for waterways, since they can devastate native species and take a toll on environmental diversity. The red shiner, for instance, is a hardy fish that can survive basically anywhere, and in the process, outcompete and kill native fish species. Invasive species can travel far and wide, hopping across continents with human help (whether on purpose or by accident).

Colin Angle, who co-founded iRobot, the company that invented the Roomba, has an answer. It’s kind of like a robot vacuum, but for invasive fish, according to Fast Company. The Guardian, developed by Angle’s nonprofit Robots in Service of the Environment, is an underwater robot designed to stun lionfish, suck them up, and bring them to the surface.

Lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific, are considered an invasive species in the Atlantic and the Caribbean, where they have few predators and huge appetites for both crustaceans and other fish. The fish can eat up to 20 other fish in half an hour, lay up to 40,000 eggs every few days, and live up to 30 years, making them a formidable foe for environmentalists. They may have been introduced in the mid-1980s by personal aquarium owners in Florida releasing pets that got too big for their tanks.

As part of the effort to rid Atlantic waterways of lionfish, the U.S. government has tried to encourage people to catch and eat them. If other species can be overfished, couldn’t lionfish?

The Guardian isn’t the only robot with a mission to eradicate invasive fish. Queensland University of Technology’s COTSbot is designed to kill crown of thorns starfish in the Great Barrier Reef. Unlike COTSbot, though, The Guardian isn’t autonomous. Someone above the water has to control it remotely, directing it toward fish to suck up using a camera feed.

That’s by design, though. The idea is that like the Roomba, the Guardian will be affordable enough for fishermen to use so they can hunt the fish and sell them in restaurants. (One unit currently costs about $1000.) The Guardian's ability to reach depths of up to 400 feet will aid fishermen in waters and reefs that can't be easily accessed.

Each Guardian can bring up about 10 live lionfish at a time. And while one robot cannot eradicate lionfish from the ocean alone, a huge number of them could make a dent.

The Guardian is currently in testing in Bermuda.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Climate Change Could Resurrect the Dust Bowl
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Three Lions / Stringer / Getty Images

The billowing dust storms we know from black-and-white photos of the Great Depression could become a reality for future generations, scientists warn. As Gizmodo reports, climate change is grooming the southwest and central Great Plains for a new version of the Dust Bowl that plagued the region in the 1930s.

After gathering 12 years of satellite data (2003–2015), researchers at Princeton University and NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory predict that dust clouds will increase in parts of the U.S. in the latter half of this century. As they lay out in their study in Scientific Reports, prolonged drought and barren landscapes caused by deforestation are set to create the perfect conditions for the same type of storms that drove people from the Great Plains nine decades ago. At its worst, this phenomenon could be deadly; when they're not breathing in dust, residents in the affected areas could be exposed to dangerous pathogens and chemicals carried by air currents.

Dust storms occur when winds stir up dirt particles into dark, massive clouds. During the so-called Dirty Thirties, soil loosened by over-tilling was a major contributor to the dust that enveloped land. Even with more sustainable farming practices, dry summers could create the same arid, dusty landscapes required for a repeat of the Dust Bowl.

While there's still much research to be done on the subject, the study authors hope their findings will get people thinking about how to prepare for the consequences. "Our specific projections may provide an early warning on erosion control, and help improve risk management and resource planning," co-author Bing Pu said in a Princeton University press statement.

That seems like an improvement over ideas for fighting the Dust Bowl that were proposed in the 1930s, which included paving over the Great Plains and bombing the sky. Fortunately, we still have a few decades to come up with better strategies this time around.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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