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Thursday, September 30, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Finally, we are living in a world where gigantic lasers can shoot down planes. It's been a sci-fi dream for ages, but now, Raytheon has a functioning anti-aircraft laser that can actually take planes out of the sky.
Dubbed the Laser Close-In Weapon System, Raytheon recently unveiled the new laser at an airshow in England. Using a 50 kilowatt beam, it's been tested against unmanned aircraft with great success. You wouldn't want to be targeted by this thing, that's for sure.
It's currently being incorporated into the Navy's anti-missile defense system by the company, so it's likely that we'll start seeing laser-based warfare in the very near future.
Via Fast Company
Thursday, July 1, 2010
The iPhone 4's reception issues, which involve losing signal strength when you, um, hold the phone, have been discussed far and wide now. But hey, complaining doesn't fix anything.
This slick Vapor4 bumper, made of aluminum and looking inspired by hot rods or spaceships, will keep you from touching the iPhone 4's wraparound antenna, solving the reception problem. It's also very solid, so it should help protect your phone if you drop it. Really paranoid? Well, you can get a carbon fiber back plate for it as well to really get complete protection.
It ain't cheap, unfortunately. The bumper is $80 and the bumper plus back plate is $100.
Monday, June 14, 2010
The Ikaros, launched back on May 21st, is safely in orbit and today Japan's space agency reports that the craft's solar sails are fully extended. The Ikaros's claim to fame is that it'll use only the sun to propel itself and continuously generate power, making it an ideal candidate for deep space missions.
The force with which Ikaros will propel itself, though, is admittedly tiny. It relies on particles of light impacting against its sail, which, all told, will apply about 7.5 microns of force against it. This force is continuous, however, and like an ion-propelled drive it should continue to pick up speed over time. It could even be considered "fast" after quite some time.
"Fast" is even the goal. After this acceleration test JAXA will know more, but the end goal is create lightweight, fast and fuel-saving ships based on the Ikaros that could explore deeper into space.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Iron Man 2 hits theaters today, telling a tale about a man in a suit of armor who flies around like a jet and shoots energy bolts from his palms. In the real world, we're not quite there yet, but you may be surprised just how close we are to an Iron Man of our own.
Powered exoskeletons are mostly sought after to enable the soldiers of tomorrow, who will be able to lift hundreds of pounds and run for miles without breaking a sweat. Beyond that, though, they could save lives in the wake of a terrible disaster, or even perform smaller miracles such as helping the paralyzed walk again.
Continue reading to check out five exoskeletons that do all that and more.
Creator: Lockheed Martin
Powered by: Four lithium ion batteries, 48-hour operation
What it does: Officially the Human Universal Load Carrier, Lockheed Martin's HULC system would allow a soldier to travel 10 miles an hour, even while carrying a 200-pound load. The best part? He would barely feel the excess weight.
The future: Soldiers in the future will be able to carry more complicated and powerful equipment without having to feel the added strain. Lockheed envisions soldiers being able to carry more than just weapons in that they could field more complex electronics to increase their awareness in the field.
Creator: Tsukuba University (Japan)
Powered by: Waist-mounted 100-volt battery pack
What it does: The Hybrid Assistive Limb, or HAL-5, distinguishes itself from almost every other exoskeleton in that it's available now and currently seeing limited use. It uses electrodes resting on the operator's skin to analyze muscle movements, and then enhances the wearer's strength by up to five times what it'd normally be.
The future: A company called Cyberdyne is mass-producing the suits, with early prototypes alreadyavailable for rental in Japan. The HAL-5 isn't designed for the battlefield. Instead, it was made with Japan's elderly-heavy workforce in mind, as laborers would be able to continue to perform with robotic assistance despite their age.
3. Trojan T Series
Creator: Troy Hurtubise
Powered by: Helmet-mounted, solar-powered battery packs
What it does: Troy Hurtubise's Trojan armor isn't a fully powered suit. Instead, battery packs on the helmet enable the five-way radio, a laser pointer for range-finding and spotting and even an air conditioner. It was popularly referred to as "Halo armor" thanks to its resemblance to the Spartan soldiers in the video game of the same name, and drew criticism for being impractical, despite Hurtubise's claims to its protective capability.
The future: Undeterred, Hurtubise went on to create a second suit, not quite as flamboyant as the Trojan T series (pictured above with a shield), streamlining the suit and making it lighter. The Trojan suits represent his vision of the future soldier, who is more like a walking tank — something that the other exoskeletons on this list could make possible, as they'd allow a trooper to wield such heavy armor.
Powered by: External power supply via cable
What it does: The XOS is similar to the HULC in that it allows the wearer to lift upwards of 200 pounds without feeling any strain, thanks to hydraulic assistance and sensors attached to the hands and feet. (The XOS test pilot is said to have been able to perform over 500 reps at that weight, and still feel minimal strain.) Unlike the HULC, the XOS is tethered, meaning it has no onboard power supply. That allows its designers to continually build a more powerful suit without limiting it based on power concerns, though the wearer can't travel very far.
The future: The XOS is already one of the most advanced powered suits (if not the most advanced), though right now that's largely thanks to its tethered power source. A future soldier would not only enjoy increased strength and endurance, but also something just as important: reaction time. The researchers behind the XOS designed it to be responsive down to the second, without any lag, acting like a second skin.
5. Lifesuit (Prototype 14)
Creator: Monty Reed
Powered by: Compressed air allows the suit to move 2.5 miles per hour
What it does: To understand the Lifesuit, you have to know a little about Monty Reed. Once an Army Ranger, he suffered a severe back injury after a parachute crash and was told he'd never walk again. Now he's walking after extensive rehab, but he won't forget that experience — and so the idea of the Lifesuit was born. The latest iteration, Prototype 14 (or LS14), uses a system of compressed air that can automate the process as well as allow the wearer to pick up objects as heavy as 200 pounds, just like the XOS and the HULC.
The future: Unlike the XOS and the HULC, the Lifesuit isn't being produced with the military in mind. Instead, Monty Reed is looking to replace the wheelchair. His exoskeleton would let those who have lost the ability to walk or have been partially paralyzed get their mobility back. Three variants of the Lifesuit are planned, including the Home Suit, which would be like a walking wheelchair; the Rescue Suit, which would aid workers during disaster recovery, allowing them to lift and clear rubble with ease; and the Rehab Suit, which helps everyone from the elderly and paraplegics train their bodies.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Depending on how things went, this could have been an article detailing another one of DARPA'sinsane projects spreading its wings. Sadly, the maiden voyage of the agency's Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (or HTV-2) didn't go so smoothly.
The HTV-2 is a hypersonic glider, capable of traveling at speeds of over Mach 20. That's pretty damn fast, and maybe a little too fast, as nine minutes into its maiden voyage, whatever satellite or ground-based solution tracking the glider couldn't keep up and contact was lost.
The HTV-2 is designed to allow for "prompt global strike" options, or being able to deliver a payload of conventional weapons anywhere in the world in under an hour. It'd glide through the Earth's atmosphere, making it mighty hard to shoot down, and there's also the added benefit that other nations wouldn't mistake it for a nuclear missile.
Ideally, DARPA was looking for the autopilot test to see the HTV-2 through a series of maneuvers that would help it bleed off some energy while banking and turning, and then perform a controlled dive into the water. The agency will try again in 2011, when a second test is scheduled for the craft.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Motorola has a tricky 3D phone up its sleeve. Check out these unusually sharp spy shots of the Moto MT820 "Ming," a flip phone that uses two screens and glasses-free 3D in an attempt to distract you from the fact that you'll be carrying around a cellphone that's way too thick. Let's face it, RAZR-thin it ain't.
Gather what you can from these up close and personal photos, because there's not much more information available at this point. However, according to the dual-screen 3D patent Motorola applied for a few weeks ago, each screen displays 2D content, but when you close this clamshell, suddenly you'll see 3D in all its glory. It appears to employ a trick similar to the glasses-free "parallax barrier" touchscreen we showed you a few weeks ago from Sharp.
Why put 3D on a cellphone? Because they can. Might make a compelling parlor trick. Or who knows, perhaps in the future all phones will be capable of displaying 3D.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Say, wasn't the lack of finger-hover tracking one of the lame reasons Apple used for not having Flash on its iPhone or iPad touchscreens? Flash uses hovering extensively, so this new capability will come in handy on those no-excuses smartphones that are Flash capable. We love Apple's touchscreens, but it looks like their dominance might soon be eclipsed.
Here's a video of the new tech in action:
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Most people are familiar with the various X Prizes that have been offered for achievements in flight and space travel, but how many know that the US Government has offered an L Prize for energy efficient lighting? The idea is to come up with a 21st century replacement for the 60 Watt light bulb, with the goal of saving 34 Terawatt-hours of power nationwide per year.
Entries must deliver at least 900 Lumens output, with a consumption of less than 10 watts, and must have a lifespan of at least 25,000 hours. There are also rules about light quality and color temperature. The top prize is $10 million.
Philips is the first company to submit an entry, and they showed off their baby Thursday evening at the EcoFocus event in New York.
I think the real question is how much the bulbs will cost to buy. It's hard to convince people to spend big bucks on a bulb, even after you explain the long term savings on their electric bill. I asked if they would sell me the prototype, and they said sure, but it would cost me $10 Million.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Here is a video of Michael Specter on the subject of fear and science.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Budget cuts recently spanked NASA's space program, reducing it to a ragtag fleet of space-faring robots, but wait. President Obama somehow found $6 billion for the beleaguered space agency, in the name of creating 2,500 additional jobs at NASA. The president has announced the "bold new course the administration is charting for NASA".
Mankind's arrival on Mars might happen faster if we use technology with which we're already familiar. The idea is to abandon the expensive Constellation program with its massively awesome Ares V rocket, and instead use old-timey vehicles based on '70s-era space shuttle technology.
The various configurations you see in the graphic above would lift interplanetary spacecraft into orbit, a staging area where they would be poised to explore new worlds and beyond. Exciting stuff.
Via Fast Company
Monday, April 19, 2010
I have a couple of friends who send out hundreds Tweets or Facebook updates every day. You probably know the type, the ones who think you really want to know every time they're crossing the road, or taking the dog out for a walk. What if there was a way for them to send all of those updates automatically, without having to wear out their thumbs?
That's the thinking behind Ping, a proposed line of tech enabled clothing from designer Jennifer Darmour. Ping has embedded electronics that can sense what your doing, then send updates automatically using an interface that runs Lilypad and Lilypad Xbee software. When somebody responds it can let you know with a gentle tap on the shoulder, and you can even assign different tapping patterns to different people. That way you'll know when the creepy guy from high school is excited that you've just unbuttoned your coat.
I'm all for social networking, but I think Ping takes keeping in touch with your friends to new levels of absurdity. It seems like this would be great for stalker types, but hopefully you haven't friended them, have you?
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Both humans and robots have explored the final frontier, but for the first time a human-like robot is going to be sent into space to aid the astronauts on the International Space Station. Known as Robonaut 2 (or endearingly, R2), the two-armed 'bot is the result of a venture by NASA and General Motors, and will help the researchers involved identify in what ways a robot could be a help to human explorers in space. Before it gets to go on its first space walk, however, it'll be monitored to see how well it deals with weightlessness.
It's worth noting that this isn't really the first "robotic man" to head to orbit, as R2 isn't bipedal — its lower body is commonly a set of four wheels instead of legs. It will be the first time a robot mimicking a human form is sent to help astronauts, however, and as robots are seen as the future of space exploration, it's a pretty big first step. R2 goes up to the ISS in September aboard Space Shuttle Discovery.
Via The New York Times
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
It's an electric scooter that's good for 36 holes (or around 13 miles) on a single charge, and tops out at 12 miles per hour, which should be more than enough for the green. The Mantys has space for your golf bag up front, storage area for your scorecard, balls and tees, and — of course — a cupholder. The only thing it doesn't have is a price, as it's call-to-order.
Check out a video of the Mantys in action down below.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Most of us grow up thinking that clean water is good, while polluted water is bad, but that's only because we approach these things from a human perspective. Just as plants rely on the carbon dioxide that we breathe out, each living thing exists in a biosystem where plants and animals need each other to survive. Mexican artist Gilberto Espaza has used this thinking to create his Nomadic Plants, and in the process, he teaches us something about the world we all live in.
Each plant is a self contained cyborg that holds both plants and micro-organisms, along with a microbial fuel cell that powers the robot. Whenever the robot senses that it needs nourishment, it will seek out a source of polluted water and take a drink. The robot uses the water to feed the plants and microbes, which in turn feed the microbial fuel cell that powers the mechanical parts of the Nomadic Plant.
Espaza's goal is not to actually solve our pollution issues, but more to demonstrate that solving the world's problems can involve thinking outside the box, something he's clearly pretty good at.
The Nomadic Plants are being exhibited at the Laboral Art and Industrial Creation Center in Gijon, Spain, through June 7th.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Toss those crappy, uncomfortable and expensive 3D glasses! All you have to do is get yourself halfway cross-eyed and these heavenly bodies will suddenly appear to pop out at you with a surprising amount of depth. Straight out of the Magic Eye stereogram craze of the '90s, now the phenomenon skips over all that tiresome modern 3D paraphernalia and takes you far, far away into deep space.
Go ahead, try it. To see these pics in 3D, let your eyes slightly cross, and then move your head closer to or away from the screen. You'll get a cheap thrill when the image suddenly locks on, appearing in all its 3D glory. Check out the gallery, with even larger and more thrilling images. Careful, though — stare too long, and those crossed eyes might just stay that way (not really).
This monstrosity of garish plastic is the Young Explorer workstation by Little Tikes, and it costs more than your home computer. Why? Well, uh... Hey, look over there!
Now that you're good and distracted, we can get back to the Young Explorer. It's got a 160GB hard drive your child won't be able to figure out how to fill, a roomy 19-inch screen and even an Internet connection. See that big bulge in the back? That's where the computer goes, and the workstation even has blinder-like side-wings to improve productivity — just like a tiny cubicle!
To make it more kid-friendly, it has a special keyboard and mouse and a bunch of learning software pre-loaded. To make it less adult-friendly, it's $2,600. Computer education is important, sure, but this isn't the way, my friends. By the time your kid can take advantage of something like this, your home computer should suffice.
If you do end up buying this, though, drop us a line. I'd drive pretty far to shake the hand of the biggest sucker in the world.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Still on the fence about whether or not to get Apple's shiny new iPad? We've gone ahead and sifted through every darn review we could find, and compiled here the biggest gripes folks have had after getting some hands-on time. Quick note: the lack of multitasking and a camera has been written about to death, so we've left them off the list.
What are you waiting for? Continue reading to see 20 of the biggest complaints reviewers have with the iPad.
1. Upscaling makes old iPhone/iPod Touch apps ugly.
"Here's the problem: It looks terrible… What we're left with is a feature [to use old apps] that I — and I suspect most people — will use one or twice, and never revisit again." - John Hermann, Gizmodo
2. No GPS for the Wi-Fi iPad
"Never have I seen such a fast, intuitive piece of technology for geographical navigation… For that reason alone, to me the lack of GPS in the Wi-Fi iPad is a dealbreaker." - Brian Chen, Wired
3. Apple's oleophobic coating doesn't get rid of distracting fingerprints
"Apple has removed screen protectors from their stores. Apparently they interfere with the new oleophobic covering. But it is clear (pun intended) to me that I will need a screen protector. This thing has my fingerprints all over it!" - Todd Bernhard, iPhone Life
4. The screen is unreadable in direct sunlight
"Unfortunately, the touch screen is so highly reflective that it kicks up a vicious glare in a well-lit room, and practically doubles as a mirror in full sunlight." - Robert Strohmeyer, PCWorld
5. The iPad's missing USB port and SD card slot come as separate $30 adapters
"Some will decry the absence of a USB port or other connectors, which might let you hook up a printer or bolster storage. Everything comes through the standard iPod-like dock connector on the bottom of the iPad." - Ed Baig, USA Today
6. The virtual keyboard still doesn't beat a physical one
"The on-screen QWERTY keyboard is more finger-sized than iPhone… but I didn't find myself using the device for lots of text input (email, blog post composing) without the aid of the keyboard dock — pretty much exactly like the standard Mac keyboard." Xeni Jardin, Boing Boing
7. YouTube looks ugly on the big screen
"On the iPad, YouTube looks like, well, YouTube. Just as HD television doesn't do good things for bad skin, the iPad's glorious screen merely serves to make low-resolution YouTube video content look worse than it does on the iPhone or other smaller screens." - Tim Gideon, PC Magazine
8. Even at 1.5 pounds, the iPad feels heavy to hold
"My first reaction when picking up the gorgeous device was how heavy it was. Apple lists the device at over a pound, which doesn't sound like a lot. But when picking an iPad up, the weight is more than one would expect." - Matt Brewer, Mac Fanatic
9. Charging the iPad via USB on a PC has been shaky at best
"Here's where the iPad did not charge: Front and rear USB ports on a variety of Windows computers; USB port on an Apple wired keyboard attached to an iMac." Jeff Fox, Consumer Reports
10. The headphone jack up top is awkward
"…it would've been better on the bottom so that pesky cable would stay out of the way. But then maybe Apple was thinking you'd be using it in horizontal mode when you need the headphones." - Charlie White, DVICE
11. The Home button gets in the way while holding the iPad horizontally
"Held horizontally, it's on the left or right side, which also happens to be where your fingers are while playing many games. Hitting it closes the game you are playing, causing you to shout obscenities while neighbor children are playing outside your open window." - Mike Fahey, Kotaku
12. Some Apps have been found to be unstable
"After a few hours of playing with the device, Westerhold encountered some minor glitches. His Wikipedia app crashed, and the Netflix app was a little slow." - Henrick Karoliszyn and Larry McShane, NY Daily News
13. The battery is not replaceable
"As on all Apple portable devices, the battery is sealed in and nonreplaceable." - Walt Mossberg, AllThingsD
14. The iBookstore only works with the iPad
"There's an e-book reader app, but it's not going to rescue the newspaper and book industries (sorry, media pundits)… And you can't read books from the Apple bookstore on any other machine — not even a Mac or iPhone." - David Pogue, The New York Times
15. The iPad's App Store layout feels unwieldy compared to its predecessors
"The new App Store is a step backwards from the iPhone version, unless I'm missing something. There's no good way to browse all the apps in the store anymore… There's a heavy focus on popularity and featured apps, without an easy way to drill down on the store." - Will Smith, Tested
16. Built-in Mail falls short compared to fully featured computer email
"…we love the split screen displays and real estate for composing, but still feel like we're floating out in the ether when managing our email. It works, it's fast, it's consistent... it's just not what it could be." - Joshua Topolsky, Engadget
17. The iPad lacks a proper filing system
"…the iPad offers no conventional system of files and folders for storing work… The iPad was able to quickly and gracefully open my emailed PDFs but offered no way to save the files to the iPad for future access. Consequently, to read one PDF over several days, I had to repeatedly search for an archived email, re-download the PDF and then open it as if for the first time." Omar Wasow, The Root
18. The HD apps are expensive
"Twice the pixels for twice the price? Come on, guys. This isn't science of the rockets. Why do I need to pay $4 for an HD version of Fieldrunners? Gold rush much?" - John Biggs, CrunchGear
19. Pages, Apple's $10 iPad word processor, doesn't work well with professional standards
"…only the word processor exports to Microsoft's formats, and not always accurately. In one case, the exported Word file had misaligned text. When I then tried exporting the document as a PDF file, it was unreadable." - Walt Mossberg, AllThingsD
20. The iPad is for consuming, not creating
"…the iPad is not a laptop. It's not nearly as good for creating stuff. On the other hand, it's infinitely more convenient for consuming it -- books, music, video, photos, Web, e-mail and so on." - David Pogue, The New York Times
Monday, April 5, 2010
Now that the iPad is out and into the hot little hands — or surprisingly cool hands, as you'll find out on this list — of the masses, Apple's much-anticipated tablet is getting put through the paces: displays are getting tapped, apps downloaded, pictures pinched, movies watched from laps.
What surprised folks? Continue reading to check out five awesome things about the iPad no one saw coming.
1. The battery lasts longer than expected
Apple's official battery life estimate for the iPad clocks in at 10 hours, though many reviewers are finding that even when actively browsing the web via the Wi-Fi, keeping the brightness for the screen high and watching movies, it will keep going and going. AllThingsD's Walt Mossberg managed to squeeze over 11 hours out of the device's battery: "The iPad lasted 11 hours and 28 minutes, about 15% more than Apple claimed. I was able to watch four feature-length movies, four TV episodes and a video of a 90-minute corporate presentation, before the battery died midway through an episode of 'The Closer.'"
He wasn't alone, either. David Pogue writing for The New York Times had similar results: "Speaking of video: Apple asserts that the iPad runs 10 hours on a charge of its nonremovable battery — but we all know you can't trust the manufacturer. And sure enough, in my own test, the iPad played movies continuously from 7:30 a.m. to 7:53 p.m. — more than 12 hours. That's four times as long as a typical laptop or portable DVD player."
2. The built-in, sorta-stereo speaker works surprisingly well
Speakers — and ones that work — probably aren't the first thing on your mind when you think about the iPad, but it has them. The two speaker grills aren't far enough apart that you'll be able to discern between the two different channels, but it does mean that the iPad plays through more than one channel, rather than trying to cram it down through mono and distort the sound.
"The built-in speaker surprised me--not with its excellent quality, but with its ability to get fairly loud and not sound horrifyingly awful," wrote PC Mag's Tim Gideon, though after trying Knife's "Silent Shout," he added, "The song's deep bass was too much for the built-in speaker, which distorted a bit at times, but through a good pair of headphones, I heard no horrible defects."
3. Wide viewing angle for movies and video
This is something I was personally wondering about. Sure, you could watch a movie in your lap, but why sit the iPad up in its stand? It's 9.7 inch display is no big-screen TV, but it's more than decent for a casual viewing experience. Well, turns out you could share said experience with some friends pretty easily.
"The fingerprint-resistant screen has an exceptionally wide viewing sweet spot for a movie and is terrific for showing off most of a Web page," Ed Baig wrote in his review for USA Today. That means you could be flanked by your friends and they should be able to enjoy the same quality you do when watching a movie — though the iPad probably won't be taking over any living rooms.
4. The iPad doesn't run hot
Apple has a reputation for burning laps. The newest generation of the company's laptops fare a little better, but let me tell you: my 3-year-old MacBook Pro can be downright scalding at times. That's why it's nice to know that the iPad won't melt any fingers.
"It's great in the lap," writes Tested's Will Smith. I love that the iPad doesn't get hot, even after hours of use. I love that I'm writing on the iPad right now, and I've been using it since 4PM nonstop, and I'm only down to 54% battery life."
5. Comic books look amazing
Everyone always touted the iPad's ability to represent magazines and newspapers faithfully, in color and in a more complex format than an e-reader can. There's one more class of printed periodical the iPad is perfect for: the comic book. Marvel has a free app for the device that'll let you buy comic classics, as well as newer titles.
Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin took it for a spin, offering up some early impressions: "I like it. Scrolling is intuitive, brisk, and elegant. I'm amazed at how smooth. The store interface makes sense to anyone familiar with iTunes and App store. Flipping and reading, one luminous full-color page at a time, I do not miss paper."
There did appear to be one drawback to reading comics on the iPad, however: "Unless I'm missing something, no way to view two pages at a time, as you might with a paper comic."
Bonus: 6. The iPad makes an amazing calculator
As tweeted by Conan O'Brien: "Just got the new iPad. This amazing device has already revolutionized the way I use a calculator."
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Humanitarians aim to bring light to the world, and this Solar Pebble could do literally that, charging up its batteries on sunny days and lighting up the night. Aimed at developing countries where electricity is often scarce, it's packing enough power to charge up cellphones and other small devices, too.
For easy carrying and more useful placement, there's a ratcheting stand/carrying handle on the back that helps tilt this sucker toward the sun for charging, also perfect for aiming its LED light right where it's wanted.
Adam Robinson of Plus Minus Solar designed his solar device as a low-cost convenience item for those who don't have access to the electrical grid. Unlike this $50 solar lantern, the Solar Pebble is designed to be dirt cheap; now all he needs is a humanitarian with deep pockets to ship millions of these babies where they're most needed.