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Economic Strength Through Technology Leadership

One of the topics I keep coming back to is the future economic impact of science, engineering, technology and the supporting structures in countries for the same. I believe a significant part of the benefit we enjoy today and will enjoy in the future is tied to how well those areas are integrated with economic factors (raising capital, open financial markets, infrastructure…). Some past posts include: The Future is Engineering, U.S. Slipping on Science, Diplomacy and Science Research, Shrinking Science Gap and Engineering the Future Economy. Fortune discusses the issue in – The United States of Technology?:

As we celebrated the nation’s birthday, I asked myself a patriotic question: Does the United States still lead in tech? As an American myself, my lens is inevitably distorted. Even so, the answer is hardly an unqualified yes.

I agree. While I still think the USA leads the question is debatable in various fields and as I have said before the future looks to be moving in the other direction. This is more due to the rest of the World improving than the USA failing. The continued reduction in advanced science and engineering degrees awarded to USA citizens compared to the rest of the world is a leading indicator I believe. Along with my belief that we will attract fewer leaders to the USA than we have in the past.

No other country can duplicate the American environment of tech creativity, which arises from a unique stew of entrepreneurs, academics, engineers, imaginative marketers and savvy financiers packed together in an atmosphere of risk-taking and plentiful capital. There is nowhere outside the United States remotely like the three places where this formula is most clearly at work – Silicon Valley of course, plus Austin and Boston.

True but the precursors for doing so are being created, the question is whether countries can pull all of it together. If only one country had a shot, I would guess that they would fail, because it is a difficult thing to do. But given how many places have a chance (including: China, Japan, UK, Singapore, France, India, Germany, Korea, Canada, Finland…) it seems very possible other centers of such excellence will appear. I must admit I would not put Austin in such a class, but maybe I am uninformed…

Related: Education, Entrepreneurship and ImmigrationGlobal Technology LeadershipThe World’s Best Research UniversitiesAussies Look to Finnish Innovation ModelScience, Engineering and the Future of the American EconomyChina challenges dominance of USA, Europe and JapanChina and USA Basic Science ResearchAsia: Rising Stars of Science and EngineeringBasic Science Research Funding

S&P 500 CEOs – Again Engineering Graduates Lead

2006 Data from Spencer Stuart on S&P 500 CEO (pdf document) shows once again more have bachelors degrees in engineering than any other field.

% of CEOs
Engineering 23%
Economics 13%
Business Administration 12%
Liberal Arts 8%
Accounting 8%
No degree or no data 3%

This data only shows the data for 65% of CEOs, I would like to see the rest of the data but it is not provide in this report. 41% of S&P CEOs have MBAs. 27% have other advanced degrees.

Related: Top degree for S&P 500 CEOs? Engineering (2005 study)Science and Engineering Degrees lead to Career SuccessUSA Engineering JobsCurious Cat Management Improvement Blog

Awesome Cat Cam

CatCam - photo of the famous cat photographer CatCam - cat photographer on the run CatCam - cat photographer get picture of another cat

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CatCam by Juergen Perthold – this great project involved taking a digital camera and some additional equipment to create a camera that his cat wore around his neck which took pictures every 3 minutes. The pictures are great. The cat got photos of several other cats and seemed to like cars.

See more cool gadgets, See our other popular posts and our cat related posts.

Sometimes I have some challenging ideas, or crazy like some other people would say. This time I thought about our cat who is the whole day out, returning sometimes hungry sometimes not, sometimes with traces of fights, sometimes he stay also the night out. When he finally returns, I wonder where he was and what he did during his day. This brought me to the idea to equip the cat with a camera. The plan was to put a little camera around his neck which takes every few minutes a picture. After he is returning, the camera would show his day.

The VistaQuest made it very easy for me, because it is able to supply my circuit also if switched off. This is because of an internal DC/DC converter which boosts the voltage from the 1.5V battery to 3.3V. The DC/DC converter is always working because of the internal SRAM which holds the pictures. I just had to hook the microcontroller to the internal camera supply.

Well, I thought the hardest part is done by developing the software and soldering the controller board. But it is more the housing to protect the camera. You can not imagine what kind of requirements have to be fulfilled if you want to equip your cat with a camera. I built a small housing out of plastic plates and put it on the collar of the cat for evaluation purpose. This housing was last seen as the cat walked out of the door… Probably the wires I used for attaching were not strong enough. Or someone released the cat from the interesting looking piece.

For the second try I used the plastic package of a child toy (Kinderueberraschung), put a stone in it for loading it with some weight and attached it again to the cat collar. This time the part returned – dirty and scratched outside, water inside. What the hell is the cat doing !? This raised the requirements for the camera protective housing a lot

Big moment no. 1: attach the collar with the camera to the cat. The reaction was not very happy but finally accepted. Reality check passed 🙂

This is my favorite home engineering project. The concept is great. The explanation of the technology is great. The adjustment to real life situations is great. The end result (the photos) is great. This wins the non-existent Curious Cat Cool Contraption award. If someone doesn’t start selling prefabricated cat cameras I will be very surprised (if I was more enterprising I would do it myself). Maybe J. Perthold will, in any event he should inspire many to try making their own.

Related: The Cat and a Black BearAutomatic Cat FeederThe sub-$1,000 UAV Project
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Educating the Engineer of 2020: NAE Report

Educating the Engineer of 2020:

The BS degree should be considered as a pre-engineering or “engineer in training” degree.

I am not convinced of this idea. It seems to me a BS degrees in engineering should be a full degree not some “pre” degree like pre-law. Obviously no engineering degree is an invitation to stop learning; life long learning is a requirement whether the engineering degree is earned in 4, 6, 8… years. Improving the life long learning methods is where effort should be focused in my opinion not in making the original degree take longer to earn.

The engineering education establishment should participate in efforts to improve public understanding of engineering and the technology literacy of the public and efforts to improve math, science and engineering education at the K-12 level.
NSF should collect or assist collection of data on program approach and student outcomes for engineering departments/schools so prospective freshman can

These seem like good ideas to me.

Related: Educating Engineers for 2020 and Beyond (speech)Global Engineering Education StudyEducating Scientists and EngineersApplied Engineering EducationMIT Engineering Education Changes

Other than trying to get people to buy the content that they provide for free I can’t understand why they present the material so poorly online. Once again basic web usability principles are lacking on their site.
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RNA interference webcast

If you are like me, it might take awhile to understand all that is said, it is packed with information.

via: Video of RNAi in action

Related: The Inner Life of a Cell, Animation2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or MedicineScientists discover new class of RNAscience webcast posts

Jetson Jetplane

photo of person flying a jet-pack with wings

Finally the Jetpacks we were promised by the Jetson’s 🙂 Well not really but still pretty cool. Many very cool videos (they broke link so I removed it 🙁 ) on the Jet-man website show the jetpack in action. The flight is controlled by body movements (not controls, other than the gas). To fly, currently, Yves Rossy jumps from a plane and then extends the wings turns on the jets. Some additional improvements are needed to allow Yves to achieve ground take-offs, aerobatic operations and vertical climbs.

Related: Robot postsA plane You Can PrintAutonomous Flying VehiclesThe Silent Aircraft Initiative

Disrupting the Replication of Bacteria

UW-Madison researchers develop novel method to find new antibiotics:

Filutowicz’s approach involves looking for new drugs that render bacteria harmless by blocking the replication of—and thus eliminating—some of their DNA.

Bacterial DNA comes in two forms: chromosomal DNA, which is required for life, and plasmid DNA, which is not. The nonessential plasmid DNA contains many undesirable bacterial genes, including those that confer antibiotic resistance or lead to the production of toxins.

Filutowicz is seeking antibiotics that would selectively disrupt the replication of plasmid DNA, so that when bacteria reproduce, they would produce plasmid-free offspring that are harmless or susceptible to traditional antibiotics. Such compounds could dramatically alter the character of some of our nastiest microbial adversaries.

Related: How do antibiotics kill bacteria?Entirely New Antibiotic DevelopedTop degree for S&P 500 CEOs? EngineeringAntibiotic Discovery Stagnates
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What Kids can Learn

This is a fascinating interview discussing what children can learn if given a computer and little, if any, instruction. Very Cool. Links on the progress since this interview are at the end of the post.

Q: This is your concept of minimally invasive education?

A: Yes. It started out as a joke but I’ve kept using the term … This is a system of education where you assume that children know how to put two and two together on their own. So you stand aside and intervene only if you see them going in a direction that might lead into a blind alley.

The interview explores what happened when:

Mitra simply left the computer on, connected to the Internet, and allowed any passerby to play with it. He monitored activity on the PC using a remote computer and a video camera mounted in a nearby tree.

What he discovered was that the most avid users of the machine were ghetto kids aged 6 to 12, most of whom have only the most rudimentary education and little knowledge of English. Yet within days, the kids had taught themselves to draw on the computer and to browse the Net. Some of the other things they learned, Mitra says, astonished him.

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The Inner Life of a Cell – Animation

Animation of the inside of a cell
The Inner Life of a Cell, an eight-minute animation created for Harvard biology students… illustrates unseen molecular mechanisms and the ones they trigger, specifically how white blood cells sense and respond to their surroundings and external stimuli.

The online video is beautiful, see – Cellular Visions: The Inner Life of a Cell. Update: Unfortunately the webcast links on that page are not working but you can see a longer version than was available via: Inner Life of a Cell – Full Version.
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‘Virtually untreatable’ TB found

‘Virtually untreatable’ TB found:

TB presently causes about 1.7 million deaths a year worldwide, but researchers are worried about the emergence of strains that are resistant to drugs.

Drug resistance is caused by poor TB control, through taking the wrong types of drugs for the incorrect duration.

Multi-drug resistant TB (MDR TB), which describes strains of TB that are resistant to at least two of the main first-line TB drugs, is already a growing concern.

Globally, the WHO estimates there are about 425,000 cases of MDR TB a year, mostly occurring in the former Soviet Union, China and India.

TB Related posts: Extensively Drug-resistant Tuberculosis (XDR TB), May 2007Deadly TB Strain is Spreading, WHO Warns, Mar 2007Tuberculosis Pandemic Threat, Jan 2007

Related: Evolution of Antibiotic ResistanceOveruse of Antibiotics

Open Access Education Materials

Watch a video of Richard Baraniuk (Rice University professor speaking at TED) discussing Connexions: an open-access education publishing system. The content available through Connexions includes short content modules such as:

What is Engineering??:

Engineering is the endeavor that creates, maintains, develops, and applies technology for societies’ needs and desires.

One of the first distinctions that must be made is between science and engineering.

Science is the study of what is and engineering is the creation of can be.

and: Protein Folding, as well as full courses, such as: Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering I and Physics for K-12.

Related: Google technical talk webcasts (including a presentation by Richard Baraniuk at Google) – podcasts of Technical Talks at Googlescience podcast postsBerkeley and MIT courses online

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