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Ford postpones new EVs once more, demonstrating the necessity for established automakers to embrace a startup mindset

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Ford has officially said that it will postpone the manufacturing of two electric vehicles, specifically a cutting-edge EV truck and a three-row EV SUV. The duo is now scheduled to arrive in 2026 and 2027, experiencing delays of one and two years, respectively. Instead, the company will replace them with hybrids in its entire U.S. range.

The CEO of Ford has been indicating delays for some months. In the previous autumn, it deferred $12 billion in scheduled investments. During a financial conference call in February, CEO Jim Farley indicated that hybrids will have a progressively significant impact on our industry’s shift and will remain a permanent fixture. That is the type of serious discussion that shareholders greatly appreciate.

The decision is expected to be well-received by Wall Street, particularly in light of Toyota’s announcement that its sales in the United States increased by 22% compared to the previous year, driven by high demand for hybrid vehicles. Ford’s strategic move seems to be aimed at enhancing cash flow and immediate profitability, a prudent decision for a firm of its magnitude, particularly during periods of unpredictability.

However, it is worth noting that Ford stands out from other well-established car manufacturers in its ability to excel by adopting a startup mentality, a mindset that it seems to have embraced more lately, despite the delays in electric vehicle production. It achieves greater success when it actively influences the market rather than simply reacting to it.

Recently, Ford showcased its startup attitude through the introduction of the Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric crossover. Initially, the intention was to create a practical crossover vehicle with an electric motor located in the front, when the concept of electric vehicles (EVs) first emerged about ten years ago. The design possessed aerodynamic qualities, although it lacked inspiration to such an extent that one of the company’s exterior designers expressed doubt about its marketability. Based on the appearance of the proposed design, it was reasonable to have misgivings.

However, the then-CEO, Jim Hackett, abandoned the concept and imposed a strict deadline of two years for the team to provide an alternative solution. Ford’s achievement of securing second place in U.S. EV sales for consecutive quarters can be attributed to the successful introduction of a crossover model.

The success of the Mustang Mach-E was not a result of luck or chance. Ford has a history of performing impressive feats or achieving unexpected successes. In the 1980s, when American automakers faced significant competition from Japanese imports, Ford abandoned its bulky and weighty designs and created the Taurus, which was introduced to the market in late 1985. The car, with its elegant design, spacious interior, and reasonable price, was a novelty for American buyers and quickly became popular. In the initial three years, Ford managed to sell one million units of the product, which may be considered a triumph that probably prevented the business from going bankrupt.

After a span of five years, Ford once again changed its direction by introducing the Explorer. Although SUVs were not a novel concept, at that period, the majority of them were two-door vehicles that prioritized practical features such as towing and off-roading. Automobiles continued to be the prevailing preference among customers. However, with the addition of rear doors and a wide range of amenities, Ford successfully converted the SUV into a vehicle that is suitable for transporting families. Although the debut of the Explorer may have negatively impacted the sales of the company’s automobiles, it turned out to be a wise decision. Not only did it drive the company’s growth for another ten years, but it also anticipated a future where SUVs would dominate the market.

Additionally, Ford employed a rapid and efficient strategy in the creation of the initial Mustang, enabling it to establish a completely novel classification of swift and costly “pony cars.” After World War II, the automaker created the ’49 Ford, a vehicle that defied traditional design and propelled the company to the forefront of sales. Additionally, it is important to acknowledge the original Ford assembly line, which, although not a tangible product, was undeniably a result of entrepreneurial innovation.

Farley is currently confronted with various obstacles. His predecessors were essentially combining and selecting designs, platforms, and manufacturing procedures, while the core component of each of those vehicles, the engine, stayed mostly unchanged. Manufacturers are faced with the task of completely rethinking their approach when it comes to electric vehicles, or at the very least, removing the core components without compromising the original vehicle’s exceptional qualities.

Ford has demonstrated exceptional proficiency in several endeavors. The Mustang Mach-E and the F-150 Lightning are widely regarded as not only outstanding electric vehicles but outstanding automobiles in general.

However, these products have not achieved the level of success that Ford had anticipated. One reason for their lack of popularity is their high cost; however, recent price reductions have demonstrated that there is still a desire for them. Another contributing factor is the insufficient development of the charging infrastructure needed to support these vehicles. If the act of charging is impeding Ford’s ability to sell more electric vehicles, perhaps the company should directly confront and resolve this issue. If Ford is unable to price its electric vehicles competitively while maintaining profitability, it may be necessary for the company to explore other cost-effective methods of manufacturing.

The corporation has initiated the process by establishing Skunkworks, headed by former Tesla executive Alan Clarke, with the objective of creating an affordable electric vehicle. If the team successfully introduces a product to the market, there is a possibility that some of the entrepreneurial energy will be present at Ford.

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

Engineering

Testing the longest quantum network on existing fiber optics in Boston

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Imagine a world where information can be transmitted securely across the globe, free from the prying eyes of hackers. Its incredible power lies in the realm of quantum mechanics, making it a groundbreaking advancement with immense potential for the future of telecommunications. There have been obstacles to conquer, but there has also been notable progress, exemplified by a recent achievement from researchers at Harvard University.

Using the existing fiber optics within the city of Boston, the team successfully demonstrated the longest transmission between two nodes. The fiber path covered a total distance of 35 kilometers (22 miles), encircling the entire city. The two nodes that connected to the close path were situated on different floors, making the fiber route not the shortest but rather an intriguing one.

Quantum information has been successfully transmitted over longer distances, showcasing remarkable advancements in this experiment that bring us closer to the realization of a practical quantum internet. The real breakthrough lies in the nodes, going beyond the mere utilization of optical fibers.

A typical network utilizes signal repeaters made of optical fiber. These devices incorporate optical receivers, electrical amplifiers, and optical transmitters. The signal is received, transformed into an electrical form, and subsequently converted back into light before being transmitted. They play a crucial role in expanding the reach of the original signal. And in its present state, this is not suitable for quantum internet.

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The issue lies not in the technology, but rather in the fundamental principles of physics. Copying quantum information is not possible in that manner. Quantum information is highly secure due to its entangled state. The Harvard system operates by utilizing individual nodes that function as miniature quantum computers, responsible for storing, processing, and transferring information. This quantum network, consisting of only two nodes, is currently the most extensive one ever achieved, with nodes capable of such remarkable functionality.

“Demonstrating the ability to entangle quantum network nodes in a bustling urban environment is a significant milestone in enabling practical networking between quantum computers,” stated Professor Mikhail Lukin, the senior author.

At each node, a tiny quantum computer is constructed using a small piece of diamond that contains a flaw in its atomic arrangement known as a silicon vacancy center. At temperatures close to absolute zero, the silicon vacancy has the remarkable ability to capture, retain, and interconnect pieces of data, making it an ideal choice for a node.

“Given the existing entanglement between the light and the first node, it has the capability to transmit this entanglement to the second node,” elucidated Can Knaut, a graduate researcher in Lukin’s lab. “This phenomenon is known as photon-mediated entanglement.”

The study has been published in the prestigious journal Nature.

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Astronomy

NASA’s flyby of Europa shows that “something” is moving under the ice

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Europa’s surface has marks that show the icy crust is vulnerable to the water below. The most important thing is that Juno’s recent visit shows what might be plume activity. If this is real, it would let future missions take samples of the ocean inside the planet without having to land.

Even though it’s been almost two years since Juno got the closest to Europa, its data is still being looked at. Even though Juno has been going around Jupiter since 2016, the five pictures it took on September 29, 2022, were the closest views of Europa since Galileo’s last visit in 2000.

Some might say that’s a shocking lack of interest in one of the Solar System’s most interesting worlds, but it could also have been a good way to see how things had changed over time.

Europa is the smoothest object in the solar system because its ocean keeps it from sinking to the surface. Still, it’s not featureless; Juno saw some deep depressions with steep walls that are 20 to 50 kilometers (12 to 31 miles) wide, as well as fracture patterns that are thought to show “true polar wander.

In a statement, Dr. Candy Hansen of the Planetary Science Institute said, “True polar wander occurs if Europa’s icy shell is separated from its rocky interior. This puts a lot of stress on the shell, which causes it to break in predictable ways.”

The shell that sits on top of Europa’s ocean is thought to be rotating faster than the rest of the moon. This is what true polar wandering means. People think that the water below is moving and pulling the shell along with it. Ocean currents are thought to be causing this. The currents are most likely a result of heat inside Europa’s rocky core, which is heated up as a result of Jupiter and its larger moons pulling on Europa and turning it into a large stress ball.

The ocean and ice could stretch and compress parts of the ice, which is how the cracks and ridges that have been seen since Voyager 2 visited were made.

A group under the direction of Hansen is viewing images of Europa’s southern half. The scientist said, “This is the first time that these fracture patterns have been mapped in the southern hemisphere. This suggests that true polar wander has a bigger effect on Europa’s surface geology than was thought before.”

Ocean currents are not to blame for all of Europa’s map changes. It appears that optical tricks can even fool NASA. Hansen said, “Crater Gwern is no longer there.” “JunoCam data showed that Gwern, which was once thought to be a 13-mile-wide impact crater and one of Europa’s few known impact craters, was actually a group of ridges that crossed each other to make an oval shadow.”

But Juno gives more than it takes away. The team is interested in what they’re calling the Platypus because of its shape, not because it has a lot of parts that shouldn’t go together. Ridges on its edge look like they are collapsing into it. The scientists think this might be because pockets of salt water have partially broken through the icy shell.

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The Europa Clipper would find these pockets to be fascinating indirect targets for study, but the dark stains that cryovolcanic activity might have left behind are even more intriguing.

“These features suggest the possibility of current surface activity and the existence of liquid water beneath the surface on Europa,” stated Heidi Becker from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. There is evidence of such activity in the geysers of Enceladus, but there is still uncertainty regarding whether it is currently happening on Europa.

Engaging in such an endeavor would enable the sampling of the interior ocean to detect signs of life simply by flying through a plume and gathering ice flakes without the need for landing or drilling.

It seems that in the past, there was a significant shift of over 70 degrees in the locations of features on Europa’s surface, although the reasons for this remain unknown. However, at present, polar wander only leads to minor adjustments.

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Bionics

A new syndrome linked to COVID that could be fatal has appeared

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There is a new outbreak of a rare but deadly autoimmune disorder in the north of England. New research suggests that the outbreak may be linked to COVID-19. Anti-MDA5-positive dermatomyositis is the name of the disease. It was mostly found in Asian people before the pandemic, but now it’s becoming more common among white people in Yorkshire.

Antibodies that target the MDA5 (melanoma differentiation-associated protein 5) enzyme are what cause the illness. It is linked to progressive interstitial lung disease, which scars lung tissue. Between 2020 and 2022, doctors in Yorkshire reported 60 cases of MDA5 autoimmunity, which was the highest number ever. Eight people died as a result.

What the researchers found when they looked at this sudden rise in cases is that it happened at the same time as the main waves of COVID-19 infections during the pandemic’s peak years. This caught their attention right away because MDA5 is an RNA receptor that is very important for finding the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The study authors write, “This is to report a rise in the rate of anti-MDA5 positivity testing in our region (Yorkshire) in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was noteworthy because this entity is not commonly found in the UK.” They say this is likely a sign of “a distinct form of MDA5+ disease in the COVID-19 era.” They have named it “MDA5-autoimmunity and Interstitial Pneumonitis Contemporaneous with COVID-19” (MIP-C).

The researchers used tools that look for shared traits among people in the same medical cohort to figure out how this newly discovered symptom works. In this way, they found that people who had MDA5 autoimmunity also tended to have high levels of interleukin-15 (IL-15), a cytokine that causes inflammation.

The author of the study, Pradipta Ghosh, said in a statement that IL-15 “can push cells to the brink of exhaustion and create an immunologic phenotype that is very, very often seen as a hallmark of progressive interstitial lung disease, or fibrosis of the lung.”

Overall, only eight of the 60 patients had tested positive for COVID-19 before. This means that a lot of them may have had infections that didn’t cause any symptoms that they weren’t aware of. This means that even mild infections with no early symptoms might be enough to cause MDA5 autoimmunity.

The researchers say, “Given that the highest number of positive MDA5 tests happened after the highest number of COVID-19 cases in 2021 and at the same time as the highest number of vaccinations, these results suggest an immune reaction or autoimmunity against MDA5 after exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and/or vaccines.”

Ghosh says that the event probably isn’t just happening in Yorkshire. Reports on MIP-C are now coming in from all over the world.

The study was written up in the eBioMedicine journal.

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