Timothy B. Lee
Timothy B. Lee
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The story of cheaper batteries, from smartphones to Teslas

The story of cheaper batteries, from smartphones to Teslas

In 2010, a lithium-ion battery pack with 1 kWh of capacity—enough to power an electric car for three or four miles—cost more than $1,000. By 2019, the figure had fallen to $156, according to compiled by BloombergNEF. That's a massive drop, and experts expect continued—though perhaps not as rapid—progress in the coming decade. Several forecasters project the average cost of a kilowatt-hour of lithium-ion battery capacity to fall below $100 by the mid-2020s.That's the result of a virtuous circle where better, cheaper batteries expand the market, which in turn drives investments that produce...

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Timothy B. Lee
4d ago
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Google pledges not to make custom software for oil and gas extraction

Google pledges not to make custom software for oil and gas extraction

Google says that it will not "build custom AI/ML algorithms to facilitate upstream extraction in the oil and gas industry," the company announced on Tuesday. This represents a small but significant win for climate activists.Google's comment coincided with the release of a highlighting the role of the three leading cloud-computing services—Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure—in helping companies find and extract oil and gas. Greenpeace notes that extracting known fossil fuel reserves would already be sufficient to push the world over 2 degrees of warming. Uncovering...

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Timothy B. Lee
6d ago
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Man shoots down drone, gets hit with felony charges in Minnesota

Man shoots down drone, gets hit with felony charges in Minnesota

A Minnesota man is facing two felony charges for shooting down a drone, .The incident began when an unnamed man flew a drone over Butterfield Foods, a producer of meat products—including chicken—in the Southern Minnesota town of Butterfield. The man later told a sheriff's deputy he was trying to prove that chickens were being slaughtered because of the pandemic.Two employees approached the man and asked him what he was doing. Soon afterwards, someone else shot the drone out of the sky. The man says his drone cost $1,900.The authorities arrested 34-year-old Travis Duane Winters and charged...

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Timothy B. Lee
May 16
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Senate passes spying bill without search and browsing history protections [Updated]

Senate passes spying bill without search and browsing history protections [Updated]

Update (3:15pm ET): The Senate has extending FBI spying powers by an 80-16 vote. Because it was amended, it must go back to the House of Representatives for another vote.Original story (12:30pm ET) follows:An effort to protect Americans' browsing and search histories from warrantless government surveillance failed by a single vote in the Senate on Wednesday. The privacy measure, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) got 59 votes, one vote fewer than was needed to overcome a filibuster.The vote was over a section of federal surveillance law that was originally part...

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Timothy B. Lee
May 14
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Sorry, Mr. President, America’s testing capacity isn’t “unrivaled”

Sorry, Mr. President, America’s testing capacity isn’t “unrivaled”

President Donald Trump believes that America is the world's champion when it comes to coronavirus testing."In the span of just a few short months, we’ve developed a testing capacity unmatched and unrivaled anywhere in the world, and it’s not even close," in a Monday press conference. He noted that daily testing has risen from around 150,000 per day three weeks ago to around 300,000 per day this week and that the US was on track to surpass 10 million tests this week (we ).Trump is correct in one respect: the US has performed more coronavirus tests than any other country with the possible...

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Timothy B. Lee
May 15
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Musk dares county officials to arrest him as he reopens Fremont factory

Musk dares county officials to arrest him as he reopens Fremont factory

Elon Musk is planning to defy county officials as he battles to reopen Tesla's Fremont factory in the face of a continued shelter-in-place order in Alameda County, California, Musk on Monday."Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules," Musk tweeted. "I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me."Tesla has also  against public health officials in Alameda County. County officials have ordered Tesla to keep the factory closed under a county-wide shelter-in-place order. Tesla argues the order contradicts instructions from...

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Timothy B. Lee
May 11
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Volvo plans cars with lidar and “eyes off” highway driving by 2022

Volvo plans cars with lidar and “eyes off” highway driving by 2022

Volvo will begin producing vehicles with powerful lidar sensors from startup Luminar, the Swedish company . It's a significant milestone for the automotive industry as well as a major coup for Luminar. Volvo in 2018.Lidar sensors will be available starting in 2022 as part of the SPA 2 architecture—the successor to the SPA 1 architecture that underlies many of Volvo's cars today. While Volvo hasn't announced specific model information, this likely means that the lidar will be available on vehicles like the starting with the 2023 model year.While some leading high-end lidars spin 360 degrees,...

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Timothy B. Lee
May 6
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ICANN blocks controversial sale of .org domain to a private equity firm

ICANN blocks controversial sale of .org domain to a private equity firm

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the non-profit organization that oversees the Internet's domain name system, has rejected a controversial proposal to sell the .org domain to a private equity group for more than $1 billion. It's a serious—quite possibly fatal—blow to a proposal that had few supporters besides the organizations that proposed it.Currently, the .org domain registry is run by the Public Interest Registry, a non-profit subsidiary of another non-profit called the Internet Society. PIR was created in 2002 to run the .org domain and has been doing so ever...

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Timothy B. Lee
May 1
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Tesla stock plunges after Musk tweets “Tesla stock price is too high”

Tesla stock plunges after Musk tweets “Tesla stock price is too high”

Tesla's stock is down sharply in Friday trading. One likely reason for that: CEO Elon Musk that "Tesla stock price is too high imo."Musk posted that tweet at 11:11am Eastern time. At the time, Tesla's stock was worth around $760—down less than 3 percent from Thursday's closing price of $781.By 11:30, the stock plunged to $722, a 5 percent fall in 19 minutes. It has since fallen further to around $710—about 9 percent lower than Thursday's closing price. The broader stock market is down less than 3 percent today.Musk has long been known for his colorful and sometimes controversial Twitter...

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Timothy B. Lee
May 1
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Supreme Court rules Georgia can’t put the law behind a paywall

Supreme Court rules Georgia can’t put the law behind a paywall

A narrowly divided US Supreme Court on Monday to freely share the official law code of Georgia. The state claimed to own the copyright for the , and a nonprofit called Public.Resource.Org for publishing it online. Monday's ruling is not only a victory for the open-government group, it's an important precedent that will help secure the right to publish other legally significant public documents."Officials empowered to speak with the force of law cannot be the authors of—and therefore cannot copyright—the works they create in the course of their official duties," wrote Chief Justice John...

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Timothy B. Lee
Apr 28
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The pandemic is bringing us closer to our robot takeout future

The pandemic is bringing us closer to our robot takeout future

On the morning of March 30, I set out from my home in Washington, DC, to the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. In only a few hours, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam would issue coordinated stay-at-home orders. But I was going to GMU's campus to check out a new technology seemingly tailor-made for the moment—technology that could help people get food without the risks of face-to-face interactions.Campus was eerily quiet; most students and staff had long been sent home. But as I approached a Starbucks at the northern edge of GMU, I heard a faint...

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Timothy B. Lee
Apr 24
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Almost 8,000 could be affected by federal emergency loan data breach

Almost 8,000 could be affected by federal emergency loan data breach

Almost 8,000 business owners who applied for a loan from the Small Business Administration may have had their personal information exposed to other applicants, the SBA admitted on Tuesday.The breach relates to a long-standing SBA program called Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). It has traditionally been used to aid owners whose businesses are disrupted by hurricanes, tornadoes, or other disasters. It was recently expanded by Congress in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. In addition to loans, the law authorized grants of up to $10,000 that don't need to be paid back.The EIDL program is...

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Timothy B. Lee
Apr 22
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Self-driving startup Zoox settles Tesla lawsuit, lays off 100 workers

Self-driving startup Zoox settles Tesla lawsuit, lays off 100 workers

The self-driving startup Zoox has settled claims that four Tesla employees stole trade secrets on the way out the door to new jobs at Zoox.Zoox has ambitious plans to build a vertically integrated taxi service, with Zoox engineers designing a vehicle, self-driving software, and a ride-hailing network. Zoox has raised hundreds of millions of dollars over the last five years; a  valued the company at more than $3 billion. However, the company has struggled in the last couple of years. Zoox's founding CEO was in 2018, which is never a good sign for a startup that hasn't launched a product....

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Timothy B. Lee
Apr 16
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John Conway, inventor of the Game of Life, has died of COVID-19

John Conway, inventor of the Game of Life, has died of COVID-19

COVID-19 has claimed the life of Princeton mathematician John Conway, his colleague Sam Wang on Saturday. He was 82 years old.The British-born Conway spent the early part of his career at Cambridge before moving to Princeton University in the 1980s. He made contributions in various areas of mathematics but is best known for his invention of Conway's Game of Life, a cellular automata in which simple rules give rise to surprisingly complex behaviors. It was made famous by a 1970 Scientific American article and has had a lively community around it ever since then. (Don't confuse it with of the...

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Timothy B. Lee
Apr 13
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IBM scrambles to find or train more COBOL programmers to help states

IBM scrambles to find or train more COBOL programmers to help states

The COBOL programming language was created in 1959 and has been widely seen as obsolete for decades. Yet there are still a fair number of software systems based on the language. The economic stresses of the coronavirus pandemic have created a surge in demand for COBOL programmers. Last week, for example, the governor of New Jersey for COBOL programmers to help fix problems with the software that runs the state's unemployment insurance system.A new initiative from IBM seeks to connect states with experienced COBOL programmers—and to train a new generation of them."In the midst of the...

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Timothy B. Lee
Apr 13
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COVID-19 tests are going unused due to hospital IT challenges

COVID-19 tests are going unused due to hospital IT challenges

Testing is one of the most important tools for getting the coronavirus pandemic under control in the United States. More than 160,000 COVID-19 tests were performed in the US on Thursday, according to the . But there's good reason to believe that there are still many people with the virus who have not been tested. More testing would help guide treatment and quarantine decisions and give government officials more data about the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak.At the same time, a has revealed that a number of academic labs capable of performing COVID-19 tests are operating well below capacity....

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Timothy B. Lee
Apr 10
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French regulator says Google must pay news sites to send them traffic

French regulator says Google must pay news sites to send them traffic

France's competition authority says that Google must to negotiate a rate that the search giant will pay to link to articles on French news sites. So far, Google has flatly refused to pay fees to link to news articles, despite a new  designed to force Google to do so.France was the first country to transpose the EU's order into national law. Google read the French law as allowing unlicensed use of the headline of a story, but not more than that. So in September, Google that often appears below headlines from its French news search results, as well as thumbnail images."We don't accept payment...

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Timothy B. Lee
Apr 9
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Bitcoin has a huge scaling problem—Lightning could be the solution

Bitcoin has a huge scaling problem—Lightning could be the solution

Three startups are getting ready to launch one of the most ambitious and important cryptocurrency experiments since the creation of bitcoin itself. Called Lightning, the project aims to build a fast, scalable, and cryptographically secure payment network layered on top of the existing bitcoin network.Essentially, Lightning aims to solve the big problem that has loomed over bitcoin in recent years: Satoshi Nakamoto's design for bitcoin is comically unscalable. It requires every full node in bitcoin's peer-to-peer network to receive and store a copy of every transaction ever made on the...

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Timothy B. Lee
Feb 4
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America is finally testing for coronavirus in significant volumes

America is finally testing for coronavirus in significant volumes

America is finally starting to test for the coronavirus in significant volumes. On Thursday, the total number of coronavirus tests conducted in America topped 100,000, according to the . That's a 10-fold increase from a week earlier. In the coming days, we can expect the pace of testing to continue increasing as more and more organizations—both academic labs and for-profit companies—ramp up testing efforts.This is important because America has a lot of catching up to do. A series of early missteps at the federal level hampered America's testing efforts in the early weeks of the coronavirus...

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Timothy B. Lee
Mar 20
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Alameda County Sheriff pressures Tesla to shut down Fremont factory

Alameda County Sheriff pressures Tesla to shut down Fremont factory

The San Francisco Bay Area is in lockdown to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Under a "shelter in place" order , people in seven Bay Area counties are prohibited from leaving their homes except for essential activities like visiting the doctor or buying food.Tesla's Fremont car factory is in Alameda County, which is participating in the lockdown. But Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been defiant. In a , he told employees that they could stay home from work if they felt sick. However, he wrote, "I will personally be at work" on Tuesday.But late on Tuesday, the Alameda County Sheriff's office...

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Timothy B. Lee
Mar 18
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Firm wielding Theranos patents asks judge to block coronavirus test [Updated]

Firm wielding Theranos patents asks judge to block coronavirus test [Updated]

Back in 2018, the disgraced biotech company Theranos to Fortress Investment Group, a division of Softbank. Now two of those patents have wound up in the hands of a little-known firm called Labrador Diagnostics—and Labrador is a company called BioFire Diagnostics that makes medical testing equipment.And not just any medical testing equipment: BioFire recently it had developed three tests for COVID-19 using its hardware—tests that are due out later this month. But Labrador is asking a Delaware federal court to block the company from using its technology—presumably including the new...

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Timothy B. Lee
Mar 17
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Chelsea Manning is out of jail after almost a year

Chelsea Manning is out of jail after almost a year

Virginia federal judge Anthony Trenga  on Thursday after almost a year of confinement. The judge was holding Manning in contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury about matters related to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. But now that the grand jury has wrapped up its work, there's no longer a legal basis to hold Manning.In 2010, Manning was an army private with access to some of the US military's classified networks. Concerned about the conduct of America's wars in the Middle East, Manning leaked a vast trove of classified military documents to Wikileaks, hoping to spark a...

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Timothy B. Lee
Mar 13
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Before it sued Google for copying from Java, Oracle got rich copying IBM’s SQL

Before it sued Google for copying from Java, Oracle got rich copying IBM’s SQL

More than a decade ago, Google re-implemented the Java programming language as part of its new Android mobile operating system. Oracle, the owner of Java, then sued Google for copyright infringement in 2010. Later this month, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in this epic that will have huge implications for the entire software industry—and that could cost Google billions of dollars.Google says it has done nothing wrong. Copyright law specifically "systems" and "methods of operation" from copyright protection. Google argues that the aspects of Java it copied—function names,...

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Timothy B. Lee
Mar 10
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Amazon offers no-checkout technology to other retailers

Amazon offers no-checkout technology to other retailers

Amazon has made a splash in recent years with Amazon Go, a series of —and more recently a —in Seattle, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Now the company is offering to to other retailers.A explains how Amazon's Just Walk Out technology works."We built Just Walk Out technology leveraging the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning," Amazon's FAQ says. "We provide all the necessary technologies to enable checkout-free shopping in a retailer's store and offer retailers 24/7 support via phone and email."Amazon Go relies on an...

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Timothy B. Lee
Mar 10
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Companies are contracting out more jobs—that’s not great for workers

Companies are contracting out more jobs—that’s not great for workers

Until the 1980s, big companies in America tended to take a paternalistic attitude toward their workforce. Many corporate CEOs took pride in taking care of everyone who worked at their corporate campuses. Business leaders loved to tell stories about someone working their way up from the mailroom to a C-suite office.But this began to change in the 1980s. Wall Street investors demanded that companies focus more on maximizing returns for shareholders. An emerging corporate orthodoxy held that a company should focus on its "core competence"—the one or two functions that truly sets it apart from...

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Timothy B. Lee
Mar 3
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