Engineering a Better Football
Posted on December 28, 2009 Comments (5)
The football (soccer ball) for the 2010 FIFA World Cup features completely new, ground-breaking technology. Eight 3-D spherically formed panels are moulded together, harmoniously enveloping the inner carcass. The result is an energetic unit combined with perfect roundness.
Aero grooves create the clearly visible profile on the ball’s surface. The Grip’n'Groove profile circles around the entire ball in an optimal aerodynamic way. The integrated grooves provide unmatched flight characteristics, making this the most stable and most accurate Adidas football. The ground breaking performance features have been confirmed in comprehensive comparison tests at Loughborough University in England and countless checks in wind tunnel and the Adidas football laboratory in Scheinfeld, Germany.
The process, shown in the video, for manufacturing the footballs is way more complicate than I thought it would be.
Microcosm by Carl Zimmer
Posted on December 26, 2009 Comments (0)
Microcosm: E. Coli and the New Science of Life by Carl Zimmer is an excellent book. It is full of fascinating information and as usual Carl Zimmer’s writing is engaging and makes complex topics clear.
E-coli keep the level of oxygen low in the gut making the resident microbes comfortable. At any time a person will have as many as 30 strains of E. coli in their gut and it is very rare for someone ever to be free of E. coli. [page 53]
In 1943, Luria and Delbruck published the results that won them the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in which they showed that bacteria and viruses pass down their traits using genes (though it took quite some time for the scientific community at large to accept this). [page 70]
Hybridization is not the only way foreign DNA got into our cells. Some 3 billion years ago our single-celled ancestors engulfed oxygen-breathing bacteria, which became the mitochondria on which we depend. And, like E. coli, our genomes have taken in virus upon virus. Scientists have identified more than 98,000 viruses in the human genome, along with our mutant vestiges of 150,00 others… If we were to strip out all our transgenic DNA, we would become extinct.
Related: Bacteriophages: The Most Common Life-Like Form on Earth – Foreign Cells Outnumber Human Cells in Our Bodies – Amazing Designs of Life – Amazing Science: Retroviruses – One Species’ Genome Discovered Inside Another’s
How the Practice and Instruction of Engineering Must Change
Posted on December 23, 2009 Comments (0)
Chief Scientist for the Rocky Mountain Institute and MacArthur Fellow, Amory Lovins, describes how small gains in efficiency at the consumption point can trigger gains that are magnitudes larger at higher levels and discusses how engineering must be practiced and taught fundamentally different.
Posted on December 22, 2009 Comments (6)
In his early 2008 lab tests, rabbits safely wore contact lenses with metal connectors for electronic circuits. The prototype lenses contained an electric circuit as well as red light-emitting diodes for a display. The lenses were tested on rabbits for up to 20 minutes and the animals showed no adverse effects.
Contact lenses as replacements for smart phone displays — even to monitor blood glucose levels — might best be done while not operating heavy equipment. “The true promise of this research is not just the actual system we end up making, whether it’s a display, a biosensor, or both,” comments Dr. Parviz. “We already see a future in which the humble contact lens becomes a real platform, like the iPhone is today, with lots of developers contributing their ideas and inventions. As far as we’re concerned, the possibilities extend as far as the eye can see, and beyond.”
Soren Bisgaard 1951-2009
Posted on December 20, 2009 Comments (3)
Soren Bisgaard died earlier this month of cancer. Soren was a student (Ph.D., statistics) of my father’s who shared the commitment to using applied statistics to improve people’s lives. I know this seem odd to many (I tried to describe this idea previously and read his acceptance of the 2002 William G. Hunter award).
Most recently Soren Bisgaard, Ph.D. was Professor of technology management at Eugene M. Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. He was an ASQ Fellow; recipient of Shewart Medal, Hunter Award, George Box Medal, among many others awards. Soren also served as the director of the Center for Quality and Productivity Improvement at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (founded by William Hunter and George Box) for several years.
I will remember the passion he brought to his work. He reminded me of my father in his desire to improve how things are done and provide people the opportunity to lead better lives. Those that bring passion to their work in management improvement are unsung heroes. It seems odd, to many, to see that you can bring improvement to people’s lives through work. But we spend huge amounts of our time at work. And by improving the systems we work in we can improve people’s lives. Soren will be missed, by those who knew him and those who didn’t (even if they never realize it).
The Future of Quality Technology: From a Manufacturing to a Knowledge Economy and From Defects to Innovations (pdf) by Soren Bisgaard. Read more articles by Søren Bisgaard.
Related: The Work of Peter Scholtes – Mistakes in Experimental Design and Interpretation – The Scientific Context of Quality Improvement by George Box and Soren Bisgaard, 1987 – William G. Hunter Award 2008: Ronald Does
Briggs-Rauscher Oscillating Reaction
Posted on December 18, 2009 Comments (0)
video showing the Briggs-Rauscher Oscillating Reaction. From Wikipedia:
The first known homogeneous oscillating chemical reaction, reported by W. C. Bray in 1921, was between hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and iodate (IO3−) in acidic solution. Due to experimental difficulty, it attracted little attention and was unsuitable as a demonstration. In 1958 B. P. Belousov in the Soviet Union discovered the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction (BZ reaction), is suitable as a demonstration, but it too met with skepticism (largely because such oscillatory behavior was unheard of up to that time) until A. M. Zhabotinsky, also in the USSR, learned of it and in 1964 published his research. In May of 1972 a pair of articles in the Journal of Chemical Education brought it to the attention of two science instructors at Galileo High School in San Francisco. They discovered the Briggs–Rauscher oscillating reaction by replacing bromate (BrO3−) in the BZ reaction by iodate and adding hydrogen peroxide. They produced the striking visual demonstration by adding starch indicator.
The detailed mechanism of this reaction is quite complex. Nevertheless, a good general explanation can be given.
Cuts for British Science
Posted on December 17, 2009 Comments (1)
Fellowships and student grants for PhD projects will be cut by 25% from next year. The announcement has appalled senior physicists who warn the cuts threaten Britain’s future as a leading player in science.
In February, Gordon Brown delivered his first speech on science in Oxford and stated: “The downturn is no time to slow down our investment in science but to build more vigorously for the future.”
Politicians like to talk about funding science investment. And they do so to some extent. However, they are more reluctant to actually spend money than to talk about the wonders of science. Several countries in Asia are not just talking, they continue to invest, large amounts of money. The USA seems to be willing to put some money (not the kind of funds paid to protect bankers bonuses but significant amounts). Still the amounts the USA is investing is, I believe, falling as a percentage of global investment.
Related: posts on funding investments in science – Britain’s Doctors of Innovation – Economic Strength Through Technology Leadership – Science and Engineering in Global Economics – Science and Engineering Workforce Indicators – The value of investing in science and engineering – Saving Fermilab – Nanotechnology Investment as Strategic National Economic Policy
10 Simple Science Tricks for Parties
Posted on December 16, 2009 Comments (3)
Fun video by Richard Wiseman on his top 10 science stunts for Christmas parties.
Posted on December 10, 2009 Comments (2)
Being naturally shy, the colobus initially stared at the bridges gadgets with disdain until the more inquisitive and daring Sykes monkey began to see the logic. Once the Sykes and even vervet monkeys started using the bridges, the colobus followed suit, and are now very comfortable with their arboreal walkways.
Unless We Take Decisive Action, Climate Change Will Ravage Our Planet
Posted on December 6, 2009 Comments (6)
Tomorrow 56 newspapers, in 45 countries, are taking the unprecedented step of publishing the same editorial. The editorial will appear in 20 languages, as the United Nations Climate Change Conference is set to begin in Copenhagen.
Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.
The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years.
Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.
the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.
The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.
Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.
Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.
The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.
Most of the newspapers have taken the unusual step of featuring the editorial on their front page. Even with the overwhelming evidence and tremendous consequences I don’t expect politicians to make the right decisions. We know full well what the choices are. We just choice to avoid the unpleasant choices. To bad so many that don’t get to choose are going to suffer. The politicians will be weak. They will play to those that pay them money. They will delay taking important steps now. We have chosen to elect non-leaders for quite some time. We can’t really expect them to act with courage, vision, wisdom and leadership given who we elect. The politicians are responsible for their failing but we are more responsible for electing them. Some politicians, even now, do possess fine qualities but not nearly enough. Maybe I will be proven wrong, but I doubt it.
Related: What’s Up With the Weather? – Arctic System on Trajectory to New, Seasonally Ice-Free State – Scientists Denounce Global Warming Report Edits – Deforestation and Global Warming – MIT’s Energy ‘Manhattan Project’ – Global Installed Wind Power Now Over 1.5% of Global Electricity Demand – Bigger Impact: 15 to 18 mpg or 50 to 100 mpg? – Solar Thermal in Desert, to Beat Coal by 2020 – 76 Nobel Laureates in Science Endorse Obama
Statistics Insights for Scientists and Engineers
Posted on December 5, 2009 Comments (2)
My father was a engineer and statistician. Along with George Box and Stu Hunter (no relation) they wrote Statistics for Experimenters (one of the potential titles had been Statistics for Engineers). They had an interest in bringing applied statistics to the work of scientists and engineers and I have that interest also. To me the key trait for applied statistics is to help experimenters learn quickly: it is an aid in the discovery process. It should not be a passive tool for analysis (which is how people often think of statistics).
José Ramírez studied applied and industrial statistics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison with my father and George Box. And now has a book and blog on taking statistics to engineers and scientists
For those who want a reference for how to solve common problems using statistics and JMP, we walk through different case studies using a seven-step problem-solving framework, with heavy emphasis on the problem setup, interpretation, and translation of the results in the context of the problem.
For those who want to learn more about the statistical techniques and concepts, we provide a practical overview of the underpinnings and provide appropriate references. Finally, for those who want to learn how to benefit from the power of JMP, we have loaded the book with many step-by-step instructions and tips and tricks.
Related: Highlights from George Box Speech at JMP conference Nov 2009 – Controlled Experiments for Software Solutions – Mistakes in Experimental Design and Interpretation – Florence Nightingale: The passionate statistician
Stat Insights is a blog by José and Brenda Ramírez.
Analyzing and Interpreting Continuous Data Using JMP by José and Brenda Ramírez. view chapter 1 online.