These Motors Shift Gears On Their Own

In an era of megabit chips and gigabit fiber optics, the lowly electric motor is easy to overlook. Nothing "virtual" about a motor: It uses electricity to turn a shaft, which drives fans, pumps, compressors, and other holdovers from the Industrial Age. The basic science of motors isn't exactly racing forward either. Some of the best textbooks on it were written in the 1930s and '40s. In most motor purchases, the biggest factor is a rock-bottom price.

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