Google buys Boston Dynamics, the world’s scariest robot developer

Google(s goog) revealed last week that it was getting into the robot-building game in a big way, in order to push into the manufacturing and logistics industries. Now it’s bought Boston Dynamics, probably the most high-profile maker of prototype robot soldiers both strong and speedy. The deal makes Google a defense contractor — for now at least, as the company says it will honor Boston Dynamics’ existing military contracts. We can only hope Google doesn’t have plans to raise an army of its own.

Israel and Twitter: Where does free speech end and violence begin?

Israel is waging war on Hamas, but it is also waging an information war using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other tools. How firmly do these networks support the principle of free speech, and how do they decide what content to permit and what to remove?

Why WikiLeaks is worth defending, despite all of its flaws

Most of the recent attention around WikiLeaks has been focused on the legal issues surrounding its controversial founder, Julian Assange. But we shouldn’t let that blind us to what the organization has accomplished and the critical role it plays as a “stateless news organization.”

Android in camouflage: How the military can utilize smartphone tech

Android could become the the ideal operating system for the world’s armies, navies and security agencies. The versatile, open and free OS already has most of the necessary pieces in place to power military-grade apps. The only thing Android is missing is security and ruggedization.

Cleantech: a question of national security

As the Solyndra fallout drags on, it’s clear that the government’s support of cleantech is becoming increasingly political — as it should be. After all, the value of developing an economy not dependent on fossil fuels is ultimately about national security, which means it should be held to a different standard than, say, an economic stimulus package. Otherwise we’re gambling with our own economic, social and political stability.

Today in Cleantech

The U.S. military is leading the charge in the development of an interesting subset of smart grid technology — the so-called microgrid. This morning, on-site power generation and management company PowerSecure announced the commissioning of its “Smart Charging Micro-Grid” for the U.S. Army — a platform meant to control generators, solar panels, plug-in vehicles and all that power-sucking equipment that Army units use in remote field encampments. A movable microgrid is about as “micro” as these systems get — most are built to control standing infrastructure, such as the U.S. Marine Corps’ Twentynine Palms base in California, which is being outfitted to run independently of the power grid by General Electric. Eaton is also working on a grant-funded military microgrid research project. Last month, the Department of Defense said it would work with the Energy Department’s ARPA-E program to figure out how to generate and store power at more than 500 military installations around the world. Those bases need to keep running during blackouts, which gives them an excuse to spend pretty freely on microgrid projects. While the world microgrid industry was worth about $4 billion last year, according to Pike Research, more integration is needed to make their blend of home-made power and islanding capabilities pencil out against grid power. Hospital distributed power and demand response technology company Blue Pillar is working on ways that U.S. Air Force base microgrids could feed their power back to the grid to help pay for their costs, for example.

Daily Sprout

“Carousel Fraud” Strikes Carbon Markets: Carbon credit fraudsters are increasingly “setting up complicated import and export schemes between EU member countries, charging buyers for value-added tax in the country of destination, and then absconding with the tax rather than handing it over to the governments.” — FT Energy Source
Low-Budget Fusion Power: “General Fusion, a startup in Vancouver, Canada, says it can build a prototype fusion power plant within the next decade and do it for less than a billion dollars. So far, it has raised $13.5 million.” — MIT’s Technology Review
Colorado Utility Considers Extra Fees for Solar Users: Colorado utility Xcel Energy has is toying with the idea of charging a fee to all customers who install solar systems after April 2010, supposedly in order to pay for transmission lines. — Denver Post via Fast Company
Carbon Capture Needs a Decade on the Dole: Carbon capture and storage technology will require government subsidies for at least a decade before it becomes economically viable, according to a researcher at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. — Bloomberg
Military Power: Army bases like Ft. Irwin in California, poised to snatch away from Nellis Air Force Base the title of the Pentagon’s biggest solar array, offer two big advantages to clean-energy developers: Lots of secure land and stable demand for electricity. — WSJ’s Environmental Capital