Today, Rethink Robotics, a Boston-based start-up run by famous roboticist Rodney Brooks, has unveiled a manufacturing robot that can safely interact with humans, is easily programmable, and at $22,000 is pretty inexpensive, as industrial robots go. Brooks thinks that the robot, Baxter, which goes on sale in October, could revolutionize manufacturing by creating a new source of inexpensive factory labor.
The holidays are hard on Christmas lights. Exposed to the vagaries of small nephews and exuberant pets, most strings will experience a few casualties, and while a missing bulb no longer means the entire set stops working, Americans still throw out millions of pounds of lights a year. Adam Minter, who’s writing a book on the globalization of recycling, describes exactly what happens to your old lights when they’re shipped over to a concern in China, which, ironically, makes better use of minced-up lights than any US company could.
Workers untangle the lights and toss them into small shredders, where they are chopped into millimeter-sized fragments and mixed with water into a sticky mud-like substance. Next, they’re shoveled onto a large, downward-angled, vibrating table, covered in a thin sheen of flowing water.