Monday, April 27, 2009

FUNdamentals


Folks have said a lot of things about engineering over the years. Here are just a few quotes... most of them from unlikely sources.




* To define it rudely but not ineptly, engineering is the art of doing for 10 shillings what any fool can do for a pound
- Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

* A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible. There are no prima donnas in engineering.
- Dyson, Freeman

*My advice is to look out for engineers. They begin with sewing machines and end up with nuclear bombs.
- Pagnol, Marcel

* For 'Tis the sport to have the engineer hoisted with his own petard.
Shakespeare, William

* Engineering -- The human nervous system studying and improving itself: intelligence studying and improving intelligence. Why be depressed, dumb, and agitated when you can be happy, smart, and tranquil?
- Wilson, Robert

* (while watching a new machine) For a moment, nothing happened.Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.
- Douglas Adams

* The south produced statesmen and soldiers, planters and doctors and lawyers and poets, but certainly no engineers and mechanics. Let Yankees adopt such low callings.
- Gone With The Wind

* Death and taxes are unsolved ENGINEERING problems
- Romana Machado

FUNdamentals


Folks have said a lot of things about engineering over the years. Here are just a few quotes... most of them from unlikely sources.




* To define it rudely but not ineptly, engineering is the art of doing for 10 shillings what any fool can do for a pound
- Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

* A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible. There are no prima donnas in engineering.
- Dyson, Freeman

*My advice is to look out for engineers. They begin with sewing machines and end up with nuclear bombs.
- Pagnol, Marcel

* For 'Tis the sport to have the engineer hoisted with his own petard.
Shakespeare, William

* Engineering -- The human nervous system studying and improving itself: intelligence studying and improving intelligence. Why be depressed, dumb, and agitated when you can be happy, smart, and tranquil?
- Wilson, Robert

* (while watching a new machine) For a moment, nothing happened.Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.
- Douglas Adams

* The south produced statesmen and soldiers, planters and doctors and lawyers and poets, but certainly no engineers and mechanics. Let Yankees adopt such low callings.
- Gone With The Wind

* Death and taxes are unsolved ENGINEERING problems
- Romana Machado

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Last Frog Standing

Before desulfurization filters were installed,...
Frogs are today’s canary in the coalmine. If projections are right, more than 2,000 species of frogs and other delicate water creatures could disappear in our lifetime, and if that day arrives -- if we ever see the last frog standing -- we might want to get our affairs in order. Why? Because it’s likely that homo sapiens won’t be far behind.

If and when that day DOES arrive, the fault will be ours – we're our own worst enemy. We've poisoned our water so badly that it kills 2.2 million people each year - that's the equivalent of wiping out the population of Toronto every 365 days. Six-legged frogs and male frogs with ovaries have been seen hopping along the Potomac River. Startling numbers of notable life forms are facing extinction. About 24 percent of the world’s reefs are under imminent risk of collapse due to human activity. Nearly 4.6 million people - enough to populate Los Angeles and Detroit - die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution. Yet, the world's population continues to rise - if current trends continue, the number will increase from today's 6.4 billion to 7.9 billion in 2025, and 9.3 billion in 2050. So there'll be even less potable water and less clean air available, but more competition for these resources as well as for food.

We are, in no uncertain terms, the worst pestilence to hit this planet. But technology and right-minded politicians can save us.

Current off-the-shelf clean energy technology can cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels by at least 23 percent from current levels by 2020 and 85 percent by 2050. Smart-grid technologies can cut CO2 emissions by 15 percent. There are more than 81 million buildings in the United States and, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, they consume more energy than any other economic category - including transportation and industry - and almost half of it goes into heating and cooling. But engineers have been looking for new ways to make buildings less wasteful and kinder to the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency has developed programs that promote environmentally- and economically-sound building practices and energy efficiency. Universities have kicked their research into high gear and established their own highly focused centers, such as the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, which fosters cross-disciplinary collaboration to explore the complexities of environmental sustainability. ALL energy issues are environmental issues, and there’s plenty of green-energy development underway.

As for political contributions to the resolution of ecological problems... Thomas Friedman, the author of Hot, Flat, and Crowded, might've said it best: "Change your leaders, not your light bulbs." And in case you missed it, we recently made a significant change.

The Obama administration has already indicated that it’ll
cut greenhouse gases and tighten controls on mercury pollution from the nation's power plants. A federal appeals court has ordered the oil and gas industries to abandon drilling in the fertile energy-producing regions in the seas north of Alaska until additional studies can be completed. The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration is implementing a strategy for the restoration, protection and sustainable use of the Great Lakes. The list goes on, and its message is clear: There’s growing political and public support for getting serious -- real serious -- about environmental issues. The time is right to look at the ecology in much the way that Kennedy looked at the moon in 1961 when he challenged a joint session of Congress, saying, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth." He lit a fire under engineers and, eight years later, Neil Armstrong took a giant step for all of us. We need that same urgency as we take on ecological challenges.

Organizations such as the National Science Foundation are on the band wagon -- the NSF developed its Environmental Sustainability program to encourage green engineering, ecological engineering and earth systems engineering, all with the ultimate goal of creating engineered systems that provide ecological protection and maintain stable economic conditions. And the Ecological Society of America put together a project
to nudge the environmental scientific community to step up the pace in identifying specific technological needs and to encourage the use and development of technologies that aid in ecological research.

We're doing a lot. But not enough. And what are the stakes? If we fail, WE might turn out to be the last frog standing. And although our collective ego might not want to hear this, the Earth would get along just fine without us.
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The Last Frog Standing

Before desulfurization filters were installed,...
Frogs are today’s canary in the coalmine. If projections are right, more than 2,000 species of frogs and other delicate water creatures could disappear in our lifetime, and if that day arrives -- if we ever see the last frog standing -- we might want to get our affairs in order. Why? Because it’s likely that homo sapiens won’t be far behind.

If and when that day DOES arrive, the fault will be ours – we're our own worst enemy. We've poisoned our water so badly that it kills 2.2 million people each year - that's the equivalent of wiping out the population of Toronto every 365 days. Six-legged frogs and male frogs with ovaries have been seen hopping along the Potomac River. Startling numbers of notable life forms are facing extinction. About 24 percent of the world’s reefs are under imminent risk of collapse due to human activity. Nearly 4.6 million people - enough to populate Los Angeles and Detroit - die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution. Yet, the world's population continues to rise - if current trends continue, the number will increase from today's 6.4 billion to 7.9 billion in 2025, and 9.3 billion in 2050. So there'll be even less potable water and less clean air available, but more competition for these resources as well as for food.

We are, in no uncertain terms, the worst pestilence to hit this planet. But technology and right-minded politicians can save us.

Current off-the-shelf clean energy technology can cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels by at least 23 percent from current levels by 2020 and 85 percent by 2050. Smart-grid technologies can cut CO2 emissions by 15 percent. There are more than 81 million buildings in the United States and, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, they consume more energy than any other economic category - including transportation and industry - and almost half of it goes into heating and cooling. But engineers have been looking for new ways to make buildings less wasteful and kinder to the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency has developed programs that promote environmentally- and economically-sound building practices and energy efficiency. Universities have kicked their research into high gear and established their own highly focused centers, such as the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, which fosters cross-disciplinary collaboration to explore the complexities of environmental sustainability. ALL energy issues are environmental issues, and there’s plenty of green-energy development underway.

As for political contributions to the resolution of ecological problems... Thomas Friedman, the author of Hot, Flat, and Crowded, might've said it best: "Change your leaders, not your light bulbs." And in case you missed it, we recently made a significant change.

The Obama administration has already indicated that it’ll
cut greenhouse gases and tighten controls on mercury pollution from the nation's power plants. A federal appeals court has ordered the oil and gas industries to abandon drilling in the fertile energy-producing regions in the seas north of Alaska until additional studies can be completed. The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration is implementing a strategy for the restoration, protection and sustainable use of the Great Lakes. The list goes on, and its message is clear: There’s growing political and public support for getting serious -- real serious -- about environmental issues. The time is right to look at the ecology in much the way that Kennedy looked at the moon in 1961 when he challenged a joint session of Congress, saying, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth." He lit a fire under engineers and, eight years later, Neil Armstrong took a giant step for all of us. We need that same urgency as we take on ecological challenges.

Organizations such as the National Science Foundation are on the band wagon -- the NSF developed its Environmental Sustainability program to encourage green engineering, ecological engineering and earth systems engineering, all with the ultimate goal of creating engineered systems that provide ecological protection and maintain stable economic conditions. And the Ecological Society of America put together a project
to nudge the environmental scientific community to step up the pace in identifying specific technological needs and to encourage the use and development of technologies that aid in ecological research.

We're doing a lot. But not enough. And what are the stakes? If we fail, WE might turn out to be the last frog standing. And although our collective ego might not want to hear this, the Earth would get along just fine without us.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

FUNdamental Engineering: a Smile or Two for the Technically-minded


A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I’d meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

Craning her neck and shielding her eyes from the sun, the woman replied, “You’re in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You’re between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude.”

The balloonist smiled. “You must be an engineer.”

“I am,” said the woman. “How did you know?”

“Well,” said the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct, but I’m not a technical person, so I don’t know what to make of your information, and the fact is I’m still lost. Frankly, you haven’t been much help to me. If anything, you’ve delayed my trip.”

The woman, obviously indignant, put her hands on her hips and said, “You must be in Management.”

“That’s right,” the balloonist said, “but how did you know?”

The woman shook her finger at the balloonist. “Well, you don’t know where you are or where you’re going. A massive amount of hot hair accounts for how you got where you are, right now. You made a promise, which you’ve no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you’re in exactly the same position you were in before we met. But now, somehow, it’s my fault.”

**************************************************************************

One day, a mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, chemical engineer and computer engineer were driving down the street in the same car when it broke down.

The mechanical engineer said, "I think a rod broke."

The chemical engineer said, "The way it sputtered at the end, I think it's not getting enough gas."

The electrical engineer said, "I think there was a spark and something's wrong with the electrical system."

All three turned to the computer engineer and said, "What do you think?"

The computer engineer said, "I think we should all get out and then get back in."
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FUNdamental Engineering: a Smile or Two for the Technically-minded


A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I’d meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

Craning her neck and shielding her eyes from the sun, the woman replied, “You’re in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You’re between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude.”

The balloonist smiled. “You must be an engineer.”

“I am,” said the woman. “How did you know?”

“Well,” said the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct, but I’m not a technical person, so I don’t know what to make of your information, and the fact is I’m still lost. Frankly, you haven’t been much help to me. If anything, you’ve delayed my trip.”

The woman, obviously indignant, put her hands on her hips and said, “You must be in Management.”

“That’s right,” the balloonist said, “but how did you know?”

The woman shook her finger at the balloonist. “Well, you don’t know where you are or where you’re going. A massive amount of hot hair accounts for how you got where you are, right now. You made a promise, which you’ve no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you’re in exactly the same position you were in before we met. But now, somehow, it’s my fault.”

**************************************************************************

One day, a mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, chemical engineer and computer engineer were driving down the street in the same car when it broke down.

The mechanical engineer said, "I think a rod broke."

The chemical engineer said, "The way it sputtered at the end, I think it's not getting enough gas."

The electrical engineer said, "I think there was a spark and something's wrong with the electrical system."

All three turned to the computer engineer and said, "What do you think?"

The computer engineer said, "I think we should all get out and then get back in."
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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Plugging Away at Electric Cars

I watched a cop movie on the tube, last night. A pretty good one. Great getaway scene -- two bank robbers sprinted through a hail of bullets (untouched, of course) and piled into a car, one of them screaming, “Hit the gas!” I thought, if they remake that movie a few years from now, the guy would have to yell, “Give it the juice!” because they’d be bolting in an electric car. Right?
It made me wonder: Why couldn't they have shot that scene today? What IS the state of the electric car? I mean, it's been on the Human To-Do List for 100 years. Yet time has passed, the pressures to replace the internal combustion engine have turned into a perfect storm that’s producing volatile dialogue between those who supply oil and those who buy it, and fluctuating prices that – when high – can slow a mobile society to a crawl and drain a national economy, and toxic byproducts that are poisoning the globe.

So, with all of that motivation to get rid of carbon-based fuels, why haven’t we taken care of business? Because it ain’t easy being green (thank you, Kermit).

But folks ARE paying attention – the automobile industry is one good example. The key element to success is having an efficient, inexpensive, easily-produced battery.

GM, which has its corporate eyes on a lithium-ion version, recently tapped the University of Michigan for a joint venture: the Advanced Battery Coalition for Drivetrains (ABCD), which will work to advance battery technology and resolve issues related battery life and performance.

Ann Marie Sastry (left), an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of engineering at U-M, and U-M's co-director of the ABCD, said that batteries are the most important part of the electric drivetrain but they haven't been studied enough in the automotive world because of their limited role in gas-powered vehicles. The ABCD will allow Sastry and her colleagues to optimize batteries and predict how the batteries will behave over time.

Sastry, whose engineering expertise lies in mechanical, biomedical and materials science fields, said the ABCD would tackle problems that are hard but “worth the investment and risk, because the risk of doing nothing is much, much greater.”

General Motors, which sold 14,439 hybrid vehicles in 2008, is scheduled to introduce the Volt in 2011. Unlike current commercially available hybrids, the Volt is a plug-in hybrid that has an electric motor as its propulsion system. (The difference between a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid is significant and will have vastly different effects on the energy grid.) The Chrysler Aspen hybrid is buzzing around town, and the company intends to introduce two plug-in hybrids or an all-electric car by 2010. Ford has put 100,000 of its Escape hybrids on the road and says it’ll have plug-in hybrid vehicles in showrooms in 2012. These vehicles are part of the next big step toward an all-electric car.

President Barack Obama announced the availability of $2.4 billion to put America to work developing next generation plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and the advanced batteries that'll make them run. Michigan's governor Jennifer M. Granholm said that the carbon party is over and her state's future is battery-powered. China is positioning itself to become a leading producer of hybrid and all-electric vehicles within three years. Japan is the leading market leader in hybrids, today, and is working furiously to put an all-electric car on the streets.

The development of lithium-ion batters and electric cars means more than a world with a green transportation system. These batteries have the potential to store the carbon-free energy that people can harness with home-based solar cells and wind turbines – in a very real sense, lithium ion batteries of the future could be a home's energy-storage center.

It’ll take some time to realize the full promise of the battery in energy technology. But just as the space race of the ’60s and ’70s led to technical achievements no one had foreseen, so too might the development of electric vehicles take us to technologies that aren’t even a flicker in our imaginations, today. And I just might get to see an electric-car chase in the next cop shoot-em-up I watch at 2 a.m.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Plugging Away at Electric Cars

I watched a cop movie on the tube, last night. A pretty good one. Great getaway scene -- two bank robbers sprinted through a hail of bullets (untouched, of course) and piled into a car, one of them screaming, “Hit the gas!” I thought, if they remake that movie a few years from now, the guy would have to yell, “Give it the juice!” because they’d be bolting in an electric car. Right?
It made me wonder: Why couldn't they have shot that scene today? What IS the state of the electric car? I mean, it's been on the Human To-Do List for 100 years. Yet time has passed, the pressures to replace the internal combustion engine have turned into a perfect storm that’s producing volatile dialogue between those who supply oil and those who buy it, and fluctuating prices that – when high – can slow a mobile society to a crawl and drain a national economy, and toxic byproducts that are poisoning the globe.

So, with all of that motivation to get rid of carbon-based fuels, why haven’t we taken care of business? Because it ain’t easy being green (thank you, Kermit).

But folks ARE paying attention – the automobile industry is one good example. The key element to success is having an efficient, inexpensive, easily-produced battery.

GM, which has its corporate eyes on a lithium-ion version, recently tapped the University of Michigan for a joint venture: the Advanced Battery Coalition for Drivetrains (ABCD), which will work to advance battery technology and resolve issues related battery life and performance.

Ann Marie Sastry (left), an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of engineering at U-M, and U-M's co-director of the ABCD, said that batteries are the most important part of the electric drivetrain but they haven't been studied enough in the automotive world because of their limited role in gas-powered vehicles. The ABCD will allow Sastry and her colleagues to optimize batteries and predict how the batteries will behave over time.

Sastry, whose engineering expertise lies in mechanical, biomedical and materials science fields, said the ABCD would tackle problems that are hard but “worth the investment and risk, because the risk of doing nothing is much, much greater.”

General Motors, which sold 14,439 hybrid vehicles in 2008, is scheduled to introduce the Volt in 2011. Unlike current commercially available hybrids, the Volt is a plug-in hybrid that has an electric motor as its propulsion system. (The difference between a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid is significant and will have vastly different effects on the energy grid.) The Chrysler Aspen hybrid is buzzing around town, and the company intends to introduce two plug-in hybrids or an all-electric car by 2010. Ford has put 100,000 of its Escape hybrids on the road and says it’ll have plug-in hybrid vehicles in showrooms in 2012. These vehicles are part of the next big step toward an all-electric car.

President Barack Obama announced the availability of $2.4 billion to put America to work developing next generation plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and the advanced batteries that'll make them run. Michigan's governor Jennifer M. Granholm said that the carbon party is over and her state's future is battery-powered. China is positioning itself to become a leading producer of hybrid and all-electric vehicles within three years. Japan is the leading market leader in hybrids, today, and is working furiously to put an all-electric car on the streets.

The development of lithium-ion batters and electric cars means more than a world with a green transportation system. These batteries have the potential to store the carbon-free energy that people can harness with home-based solar cells and wind turbines – in a very real sense, lithium ion batteries of the future could be a home's energy-storage center.

It’ll take some time to realize the full promise of the battery in energy technology. But just as the space race of the ’60s and ’70s led to technical achievements no one had foreseen, so too might the development of electric vehicles take us to technologies that aren’t even a flicker in our imaginations, today. And I just might get to see an electric-car chase in the next cop shoot-em-up I watch at 2 a.m.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Engineers Who Wear Pink

Engineering doesn't discriminate. That's why you can cross any engineering campus and hear a half dozen languages, see several skin tones and a fairly equal distribution of men and women.

Why are women so hot about engineering? Check this out... The focus is on women at the University of Michigan, but there's plenty of general insight into why more women are getting into technology.






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Engineers Who Wear Pink

Engineering doesn't discriminate. That's why you can cross any engineering campus and hear a half dozen languages, see several skin tones and a fairly equal distribution of men and women.

Why are women so hot about engineering? Check this out... The focus is on women at the University of Michigan, but there's plenty of general insight into why more women are getting into technology.






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