Engineering – Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net Science and Engineering: Innovation, Research, Education and Economics Thu, 16 Apr 2020 15:50:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4 I Just Finished Statistics for Experimenters and I Cannot Praise it Enough https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2020/04/15/i-just-finished-statistics-for-experimenters-and-i-cannot-praise-it-enough/ https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2020/04/15/i-just-finished-statistics-for-experimenters-and-i-cannot-praise-it-enough/#respond Wed, 15 Apr 2020 17:19:48 +0000 https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/?p=5701 Continue reading ]]> Guest post by Michael Betancourt.

I just finished Box, Hunter, and Hunter (Statistics for Experimenters) and I cannot praise it enough. There were multiple passages where I literally giggled. In fact I may have been a bit too enthusiastic about tagging quotes beyond “all models are wrong but some are useful” that I can’t share them all.

I wish someone had shared this with me when I was first learning statistics instead of the usual statistics textbooks that treat model development as an irrelevant detail. So many of the elements that make this book are extremely relevant to statistics today. Some examples:

• The perspective of learning from data only through the lens of the statistical model. The emphasis on sequential modeling, using previous fits to direct better models, and sequential experiments, using past fits to direct better targeted experiments.
• The fixation on checking model assumptions, especially with interpretable visual diagnostics that capture not only residuals but also meaningful scales of deviation. Proto visual predictive checks as I use them today.
• The distinction between empirical models and mechanistic models, and the treatment of empirical linear models as Taylor expansions of mechanistic models with covariates as _deviations_ around some nominal value. Those who have taken my course know how important I think this is.
• The emphasis that every model, even mechanistic models, are approximations and should be treated as such.
• The reframing of frequentist statistical tests as measures of signal to noise ratios.
• The importance of process drift and autocorrelation in data when experimental configurations are not or cannot be arbitrarily randomized.
• The diversity of examples and exercises using real data from real applications with detailed contexts, including units everywhere.

Really the only reason why I wouldn’t recommend this as an absolute must read is that the focus on linear models and use of frequentist methods does limit the relevance of the text to contemporary Bayesian applications a bit.

Texts like these make me even more frustrated by the desire to frame movements like data science as revolutions that give people the justification to ignore the accumulated knowledge of applied statisticians.

Academic statistics has no doubt largely withdrawn into theory with increasingly smaller overlap with applications, but there is so much relevant wisdom in older applied statistics texts like these that doesn’t need to be rediscovered just reframed in a contemporary context.

Oh, I forgot perhaps the best part! BHH continuously emphasizes the importance of working with domain experts in the design and through the entire analysis with lots of anecdotal examples demonstrating how powerful that collaboration can be.

I felt so much less alone every time they talked about experimental designs not being implemented properly andthe subtle effects that can have in the data, and serious effects in the resulting inferences, if not taken into account.

Michael Betancourt, PhD, Applied Statistician – long story short, I am a once and future physicist currently masquerading as a statistician in order to expose the secrets of inference that statisticians have long kept from scientists. More seriously, my research focuses on the development of robust statistical workflows, computational tools, and pedagogical resources that bridge statistical theory and practice and enable scientists to make the most out of their data.
Website: betanalpha
Patreon: Michael Betancourt

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John Hunter, Olympic National Park (where the mountain peaks are colder and covered in snow)

The year the posts were written

2018: 2 posts
2017: 1

2015: 3

2012: 1
2011: 3
2010: 2
2009: 3
2008: 3
2007: 1

2005: 1

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Appropriate Technology: a Microscope and Centrifuge for Under \$1 https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2019/03/24/appropriate-technology-a-microscope-and-centrifuge-for-under-1/ https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2019/03/24/appropriate-technology-a-microscope-and-centrifuge-for-under-1/#comments Sun, 24 Mar 2019 22:16:00 +0000 https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/?p=5644 Continue reading ]]> Malaria is estimated to have killed more than half the people that have ever lived. And it continues to kill millions. One big challenge is diagnosing malaria is difficult (those infected have flu like symptoms).

The video shows two great appropriate technology solutions to help diagnose malaria and save millions of lives. Manu Prakash from Stanford talks about 2 of his labs’ inventions the Foldscope and the Paperfuge. Combined these cost only 68 cents and they can be used to diagnose Malaria. Both of these are examples not only of simple, brilliant design, but of how engineering is used to make a positive dent in the world.

Read more about the Paperfuge: an ultra-low cost, hand-powered centrifuge inspired by the mechanics of a whirligig toy (open access paper).

This solution also shows the huge benefit people everywhere have gained when immigrants can take their skills and desires to institutions like Stanford to create solutions that greatly benefit the world. This powerful force has been creating huge benefits that we all have enjoyed for decades.

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20 Most Popular Post on the Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog in 2018 https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2018/12/30/20-most-popular-post-on-the-curious-cat-science-and-engineering-blog-in-2018/ https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2018/12/30/20-most-popular-post-on-the-curious-cat-science-and-engineering-blog-in-2018/#comments Sun, 30 Dec 2018 16:39:10 +0000 http://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/?p=5625 Continue reading ]]> These were the most popular (by number of page views) posts on our blog in 2018.

Fire Rainbow, Johor Bahru by John Hunter

* new post to the top 20 list this year (8 blogs posts from 2009 [2], 2010, 2011, 2015 [2], 2018 [2])

This list shows how popular old posts can remain over time. and that old posts can also gain popularity (all those new posts in the top 20 from many years ago).

2018: 2
2017: 2

2015: 3

2012: 2
2011: 2
2010: 2
2009: 3
2008: 3

2005: 1

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Scientists and Engineers in Congress After the Recent Elections in the USA https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2018/11/12/scientists-and-engineers-in-congress-after-the-recent-elections-in-the-usa/ https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2018/11/12/scientists-and-engineers-in-congress-after-the-recent-elections-in-the-usa/#respond Mon, 12 Nov 2018 17:03:49 +0000 http://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/?p=5605 Continue reading ]]> The recent elections in the USA added to those serving in congress with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) backgrounds.

US Capital Building in Washington DC by John Hunter.

Here is a list of elected representatives in the USA congress with science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds (after the 2018 election).

Ralph Abraham Louisiana MD bio
Ami Bera California biological sciences MD bio
Tony Cárdenas California electrical engineering bio
Sen. Bill Cassidy Louisiana biochemistry MD bio
Sean Casten Illinois molecular biology and biochemistry MS biochemical engineering and engineering management, 2018* bio
Chris Collins New York mechanical engineering bio
Joe Cunningham South Carolina ocean engineering 2018* bio
Jeff Van Drew New Jersey D.D.S. (Dentist), 2018* bio
Bill Foster Illinois physics PhD physics bio
Brett Guthrie Virginia mathematical economics bio
Sen. Martin Heinrich New Mexico mechanical engineering bio
Kevin Hern Oklahoma electro-mechanical engineering 2018* bio
Chrissy Houlahan Pennsylvania engineering MS technology and policy, 2018* bio
Joe Kennedy III Massachusetts management science and engineering bio
Ted Lieu California computer science bio
Dan Lipinski Illinois mechanical engineering engineering-economic systems (MS) bio
Elaine Luria Virginia physics masters in engineering management, 2018* bio
Jerry McNerney California mathematics PhD bio
Seth Moulton Massachusetts physics bio
Pete Olson Texas computer science (BA)
Sen. Jacky Rosen Nevada psychology associat’s degree in computing and information technology
Raul Ruiz California MD, 2018* bio
Brad Schneider Illinois industrial engineering bio
Kurt Schrader Oregon Dr. of Veterinary Medicine bio
Kim Schrier Washington astrophysics MD, 2018* bio
John M. Shimkus Illinois general engineering bio
Paul Tonko New York mechanical and industrial engineering bio
Lauren Underwood Illinois nursing MS in Nursing and Master of Public Health, 2018* bio
Steve Watkins Kansas engineering 2018* bio

Those with notes including “2018*” means they were newly elected to the congress in 2018.

Please send any information on possible additions to this list (see the continually updated list).

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Protecting Cows with Lion Lights https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2018/10/21/protecting-cows-with-lion-lights/ https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2018/10/21/protecting-cows-with-lion-lights/#respond Sun, 21 Oct 2018 17:24:08 +0000 http://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/?p=5589 Continue reading ]]> It is wonderful to see what great things people accomplish to improve their lives using sensible, and fairly simple, engineering.

15 Year-Old Kenyan Prodigy, Richard Turere, Who Created “Lion Lights”

He fitted a series of flashing LED bulbs onto poles around the livestock enclosure, facing outward. The lights were wired to a box with switches and to an old car battery powered by a solar panel. They were designed to flicker on and off intermittently, thus tricking the lions into believing that someone was moving around carrying a flashlight.

The astonishing aspect of this is that Turere installed the whole system by himself, without receiving any training in electronics or engineering.

This is a great video which includes good examples of the value to experimenting, learning and adapting. Iteration is a critical skill when developing solutions. Try out prototypes and learn from what happens. Use that knowledge to develop new solutions or modify the existing solutions and experiment some more. Continue to iterate and improve.

This is another great example of people using their initiative, creativity and engineering talent to create appropriate technology solutions to create solutions that improve their lives. It is great to see how these efforts continue over time, this BBC article follows up on Richard Turere several years after his initial success:

What happened to the boy who chased away the lions?

The Lion Lights system is now in 750 homesteads in Richard’s community and beyond, with the innovator making small tweaks and improvements to each version.

Lion Lights 2.0 costs \$200 (£150) to install. Half of the money usually comes from NGOs while the rest is provided by the herder.

This version has 16 different flashing light settings and Richard’s latest update is a homemade wind turbine for days when clouds limit the solar power potential.

But while his idea has travelled, support for Richard as a young innovator and the implementation of his own Lion Lights has stalled in recent years. He thinks Kenya could do more to help young innovators like himself.

“There are many young people in Kenya with brilliant ideas, better even than mine – they just need support,” he says.

They need someone to be there to tell them, “this idea is really nice., let’s develop it to help communities”.

The efforts of so many great young people to create solutions that make the world a better place are inspiring.

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Growing Citrus in the Snow https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2018/05/27/growing-citrus-in-the-snow/ https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2018/05/27/growing-citrus-in-the-snow/#comments Sun, 27 May 2018 12:43:46 +0000 http://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/?p=5570 Continue reading ]]>

The system uses the constant ground temperature 2.5 meters (8 feet) below ground to heat a greenhouse. The underground-temperature on his farm is 11 degrees (52 degrees Fahrenheit). Other nearby areas range from 9 to 17 degrees (17 is near a hot spring).

Just circulating air through 64 meters (210 feet) of tubing buried 2.5 meters underground is enough to allow citrus and other plants to thrive. Selling at local farmer’s markets brings in a very high profit for farmers that can grow and sell locally.

Using the power of the sun to grow and the constant ground temperature to keep the air warm enough creates an opportunity to grow all year round. The same principles can be used to cool down indoor temperatures in very hot locations near the equator.

Due to the controlled environment growing organically is easy so that further increases the payoff for this type of farming.

The cost of the system can be as low as \$25,000 if you have access to a backhoe to dig the trenches for the air pipes and can do much of the labor yourself. That is the cost of just the heating systems for a conventional greenhouse.

I really like this type of intersection of engineering and business (as well as environment and health benefits – providing healthy local food) that creates value to society by using our knowledge effectively.

Learn more at Citrus in the Snow. The Nebraska farmer (seen in the video) has been growing Citrus in Nebraska this way since 1992.

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20 Most Popular Post on the Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog in 2017 https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2018/01/07/20-most-popular-post-on-the-curious-cat-science-and-engineering-blog-in-2017/ https://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2018/01/07/20-most-popular-post-on-the-curious-cat-science-and-engineering-blog-in-2017/#respond Sun, 07 Jan 2018 16:48:24 +0000 http://engineering.curiouscatblog.net/?p=5471 Continue reading ]]> These were the most popular (by number of page views) posts on our blog in 2017.

molten salt solar system diagram

* new to the top 20 list this year (blogs posts from 2008, 2011, 2017 [5])

This list shows how popular old posts can remain over time. Old posts can also gain popularity; I added the most popular post for this year in 2011 (and it wasn’t even in the top 20 previously).

9 of the top 10 this year were in the top 20 last year as were 13 of the top 20.

6 of the top 20 this year were also in the top 20 in 2014. The distribution over the years of publication of the posts in the list this year:

2017: 5
2015: 1

2012: 1
2011: 2
2010: 2
2009: 2
2008: 5
2007: 1

2005: 1

The slight increase in new posts from the current year is mainly due to fewer of the old posts gaining visits (changes in search engines algorithms is my guess on the likely cause). It wasn’t so much that the new posts this year had so many more readers than in the past but that the older posts didn’t get as many visitors (after you dropped out of the top 10).

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