More in Editorial Comment

  • Aug 12, 2014

    Something Rotten in the Valley of Silicon 1

    What's going down in Silicon Valley: "Cool" companies show their true colors...More
  • Aug 11, 2014

    A billion here, a billion there... 2

    Everett Dirksen, the late Senator from Illinois, is famously quoted as saying, "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you're talking real money." Anyone who follows Washington politics is probably numb to the sums that kicked around and how much the government spends. But when you step back and look at the big picture, a billion is a really big number. Consider: If you earn $50,000 per year, it will take 20,000 years to earn a billion dollars....More
  • Jul 31, 2014

    The 7 Warning Signs of B(ogus) S(cience) 3

    For the past 17 years, Dr. Robert Park has been the leading force behind Quackwatch, a popular website that explores medical myths ranging from acupuncture to weight control gimmicks. He is also a professor of physics at the University of Maryland and director of public information for the American Physical Society. He developed a list of seven warning signs that indicate a claim is outside the bounds of scientific discourse and a good candidate for being a scam....More
  • Jul 25, 2014

    How to boost U.S. manufacturing jobs: Fake them 2

    Sometimes news coming out of Washington D.C. seems to defy common sense. At least that was my reaction to word about a proposal to call American firms that send production offshore “factoryless goods” producers. The problem is that if this idea gets implemented,  the value of U.S. brand-name products made elsewhere and imported here would be counted as manufacturing “services” imports, not imported goods. In other words, it would inflate figures for goods manufactured in the U.S....More
  • Jul 21, 2014

    Nine hardware pitches at San Francisco ‘Maker’ Startup Weekend 2

    Startup Weekend events are now pumping out hardware devices such as a NEST for pools and just-in-time liquor delivery systems....More
  • Jul 17, 2014

    Drones learn to observe environment and steer clear 1

    Late in 2012, maker-tinkerer and technical writer Paul Wallich created a buzz when he wrote about the drone he built to walk his son to the bus stop each morning. Fast-forward to 2014: Now researchers think they have a new way to make such UAVs and other vehicles more nimble in the face of environmental variables. The design uses neuromorphic sensors (that get triggered by sudden events) instead of the standard inertia-measuring sensors (such as accelerometers and gyroscopes) to track motion....More
  • Jul 17, 2014

    Today's STEM Students Are lucky

    Back in the age of dinosaurs when I was an engineering undergrad, the lab work generally ranged between uninspiring and discouraging....More
  • Jul 14, 2014

    Movie shows how Vermeer used engineering to paint perfection

    A movie is by inventor Tim Jenison and his friend Penn Jillette (the Vegas magician) documents eight years of work to recreate art by 17th-Century artist Johannes Vermeer. The art was most likely created through the use of a camera obscura....More
  • Jul 8, 2014

    3D Printing for Hire: The Case of the Persnickety Prop 3

    Metrology and 3D-printing distributor Burton Precision helped University of Michigan researchers solve three major CAD problems, so they could make a plastic propeller for a human-powered submarine....More
  • Jul 8, 2014

    When a liberal arts degree isn't enough, bring on “experiential learning”

    There are unavoidable constants in life that usually are said to include death and taxes. To this list we should add old people complaining about younger generations. But when the complainers are business executives, a few entrepreneurial-minded educators sense an opportunity....More
  • Jul 3, 2014

    More automakers going with fiberglass springs 3

    Audi is in the news this week because it plans to start using suspension springs made of glass fiber-reinforced polymer (GFRP) in one of its cars before the end of the year. Audi says it developed the spring in collaboration with an Italian supplier....More
  • Jun 27, 2014

    Ten for STEM - Ten developments promoting science & technology learning 1

    Education in the area of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has been in the headlines as employers find it tough to uncover potential employees having STEM backgrounds. Efforts are underway to rectify perceived shortages in STEM fields. Notice of several such initiatives recently crossed our desk. Here is a quick update on what's going on:...More
  • Jun 24, 2014

    6 Engineering Challenge Websites 5

    Global collaboration is now in full swing as open innovation network challenges appear all over the web. Have you stepped up to solve an online engineering challenge?...More
  • Jun 17, 2014

    Why more investors aren't millionaires and more engineers aren't innovators

    Every once in a while you'll find commentary in the finanical community that has insights applying equally well to other areas. That is the case for a recent essay in Barron's. Stephen Mauzy, an equity analyst at Wyatt Investment Research, was trying to explain why many professional investors have lousy track records making investments. He claims that most explanations of this phenomenon miss a key point: that investing is entrepreneurial....More
  • Jun 13, 2014

    Mainstreaming alert: 3D-printed parts in GE engines and X-ray machines 1

    When General Electric puts metal 3D-printed parts in its X-ray machines, you know it's gone mainstream. That's what the research summarized in this year's Wohler’s Report on 3D printing also suggests. Here, I explain one application that proves how far 3D printing has come....More
  • Jun 12, 2014

    A lot of industrial networks have a big hole in their cyber security

    Despite the fact that the Stuxnet virus made headlines when it attacked programmable logic controllers running Iran's nuclear centrifuges,  a similar attack on industrial facilities in the U.S. would be remarkably easy to pull off....More
  • Jun 10, 2014

    RAPID 2014 takes the 3D printing world to Detroit

    This year's RAPID show will be the largest in over 24 years....More
  • solar roadways panel
    Jun 3, 2014

    .....Solar Roadways? Only One Way to Find Out If They Are a Pipe Dream 10

    An outfit called Solar Roadways wants to replace asphalt roads and parking lots with solar cells and claims this idea is practical based on the tests it has run so far. The company has received some SBIR money and has given a TEDx talk on the subject which is viewable on its web site. ...More
  • May 29, 2014

    Wind turbines for low wind speeds defy Betz limit efficiency 13

    Many designers of utility scale wind turbines dismiss the idea of using turbines to capture energy from light breezes and in areas where there isn't a lot of wind. Their argument comes from Betz's law which calculates the maximum power available from the wind. The law uses principles of conservation of mass and momentum of the air stream flowing through an idealized cylinder that extracts energy from the wind stream. Importantly, it assumes the use of aerodynamic propeller blades in the turbine....More
  • May 28, 2014

    Rant: Spray and gascan nozzles equally idiotic

    Last weekend, in a bizarre burst of energy that had me motivated me enough to spraypaint a rusty old Charmglow grill that had become a certifiable eyesore, I dug up an old can of barbecue black Rustoleum spraypaint from our garage. In a development that added insult to injury, I'd soon discover that the nozzle on this spraycan is a Contraption of Infuriation that rivals the Grand Champion of Horrible Designs, the nefarious late-model Blitz nozzle. I'd soon discover that the nozzle on this spraycan is a Contraption of Infuriation that rivals the Grand Champion of Horrible Designs, the nefarious late-model Blitz nozzle....More
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