The 4th of July is a great time to reflect on what makes America special. This can be a very controversial subject. The purpose here is not particularly political, but to consider the values that make us who we are. Because who we are as people, what we believe, is part of what motivates us to do the things we do.
Do we believe in the importance of good health? Absolutely. The 12 axis DaVinci surgical robot is a major accomplishment in motion technology for the medical community. Closed loop haptic sensors are used to control high performance servo motors and amplifiers to execute surgery with precision beyond what the best surgeons are able to achieve. Imaging technology like MRI and CTI scanners require 4.5 foot diameter servomotors to rotate a 1400 pound electronic payload at over 300 RPM with amazing accuracy in order to generate the images so important to medical diagnostics.
Do we believe that people should have clean water? Sure. We have water treatment plants and distribution systems that bring quality water to practically anyone. Some of the latest improvements in water quality are ultraviolet and ozone treatment systems that kill bacteria in huge volumes of water. The water district where I live charges less than $5.00 per thousand gallons of water, less than half a cent per gallon, compared to $1 a gallon for drinking water at the grocery store.
Do we believe that people should have power to light, heat and air condition their homes? Yes. Power costs in the US are less than 9 cents per kilowatt hour on average. The internal cost of generating electricity is between 4 and 4.5 cents per kilowatt hour. An impressive accomplishment. 2 cents a kilowatt hour is paid for delivering the power, maintaining the transmission lines, etc. It should be noted that these rates are for electricity generated by coal, natural gas or nuclear power.
The power industry uses sources with primarily 100 percent availability which are the lowest cost and are the easiest to regulate to the demand for power. Alternative energy sources have the weakness that they are only available part of the time. In the case of solar, the power is most available during peak demand which would make solar a good load leveling source. Unfortunately, it’s a very expensive resource. Wind power is even more expensive. But that’s another story.
Do we believe people should have food to eat? Absolutely. We have automated the process of farming to the point where farm equipment can run using satellite navigation to optimize the process. The meat industry is highly automated so that we are able to deliver ground beef and sell it retail for $3. per pound. This kind of economy of scale is part of what keeps the fast food industry in business.
Are these systems perfect? Far from it. They are designed to serve the largest number of people at the lowest possible cost. For the most part, these systems fulfill needs as they are intended to and provide a great deal of benefit.
For which I am very thankful. Hope you had a great 4th of July and some things to be grateful for as well.