Monday, March 31, 2014

Engineering and the Culture of No-Hope, No-Heroes, No-Future

Interesting that the genre of no-hope, no-heroes, and no-future shows - from the Walking Dead to Game of Thrones - rule the ratings. It is also interesting that engineering is the profession of hope, heroes, and futures.  Both WD and GOT have similar themes - power turns people into monsters.  Technology and innovation can do good - it can also do bad.  People and the paths matter a lot.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Israeli Sniper's Anguished Look Into Crosshairs

Israeli Sniper's Anguished Look Into Crosshairs

Infrastructure Investment in the Era of Choices

Art, Detroit, and fixing infrastructure - from the New York Times:
"Fortunately, costs are easier to estimate, and those for displaying a painting derive largely from its market value. Consider “The Wedding Dance,” a 16th-century work by the Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Detroit museum visitors have enjoyed this painting since 1930. How much would it cost to preserve that privilege for future generations?
A tidy sum, as it turns out. According to Christie’s, this canvas alone could fetch up to $200 million. Once interest rates return to normal levels — say, 6 percent — the forgone interest on that amount would be approximately $12 million a year.
If we assume that the museum would be open 2,000 hours a year, and ignore the cost of gallery space and other indirect expenses, the cost of keeping the painting on display would be more than $6,000 an hour. Assuming that an average of five people would view it per hour, all year long, it would still cost more than $1,200 an hour to provide the experience for each visitor."

Graph of the Week

National Security and the Threat of Climate Change

The Institute for Public Research at CNA Corp., a non-profit research and analysis organization in Alexandria, VA has published a new white paper - National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.  The national security-climate change nexus is gaining more attention and traction.  From natural and humanitarian disasters on a scale beyond those we see today, to stressing already fragile economic and political systems in may parts of the world, to maintenance and operation activities in and around low-lying coastal areas, to new strategic objectives in places like the Artic, to less fuel and training opportunities - when the Department of Defense starts thinking about the ramifications of climate change, the rest of us would be wise to also start thinking about various climate change scenarios.

Engineering needs to get better about thinking and coping with environmental risks.  When you examine SEC filings, less than 2/3 of insurance companies made any climate-change disclosures in 2012.  This from an industry that has considerable risk exposure - they collectively paid out $30 billion after Hurricane Sandy.

A Really Bad Idea to Get Traffic Moving Faster

A Really Bad Idea to Get Traffic Moving Faster

Thinking About Water

I am about halfway through David Sedlak's excellent Water 4.0: The Past, Present, and Future of the World's Most Vital Resource.  This is one of the more interesting things I have read about water resources management:

"Let's take my local water utility as an example.  The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) provides water for about 1.3 million people and wastewater treatment for about 650,000 people in and around Oakland, California.  It has approximately two thousand full-time staff members, which makes it one of the largest employers in the area.  Put another way, about one of every five hundred people in my community works for the water utility.  If we were to count the people who rebuild reservoirs and treatment plants - workers who are often employed as contractors - the number would be considerably higher.  For comparison, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there is about one doctor for every five hundred people in the United States.  This means that the chances are about equal that a child born in my city will grow up to work for EBMUD or will become a doctor."

The New York Times also had a story today regarding water issues in San Antonio - Growing Water Needs Test San Antonio's Conservation.  From the article:

"Under pressure, Mr. Puente (the utility's president) agreed to reconsider a proposal to pipe water from underneath rural lands northeast of Austin.  But he also said the project would cost the utility $2.8 billion over 30 years and could require a 12 percent increase in water rates in just one year.  That would not be an easy sell in a region where water rates have jumped more that 50 percent in 10 years.  Some of the rate increases are paying for $1 billion ins sewer improvements after leaky pipes spilled more than 20 million gallons of raw sewage from 2006 to 2012."

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Engineering and A Tale of Two Cities

The National Intelligence Council has published their 160-page assessment of what the world might look like in 2030 - the report is entitled A Tale of Two Cities.  The report, like Charles Dickens, can stir optimism and pessimism in equal measure.  All of the trends outlined in the study impact engineering.  But the trend and game changer trends of changing demographic patterns, the food-water-energy nexus, and the disruptive impacts of new technologies should be watched closely by engineers.

Understanding Europe in Three Minutes

What is the cost every time you flush?

Great post from a student - link.

Friday, March 28, 2014

America's Biggest Metros Are Growing Much Faster Than Other Cities

America's Biggest Metros Are Growing Much Faster Than Other Cities

Texas Water Development Board - Water Loss Symposium

Link to the presentation.

Engineering For Smallville

A paragraph to ponder from Neil Shah, Smallville, USA Fades Further, in the March 27th issue of the Wall Street Journal:

"Nearly 60% of rural countries shrank in population last year, up from 50% in 2009 and around 40% in the late 1990s.  In all, almost eight in 10 of the countries that lost population over the past three years were outside of metropolitan areas, according to an analysis of Census data by William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.  Over half of those counties were heavily dependent on farming, manufacturing or mining, he said."

Synthetic Biology is Coming to the Local Wastewater Treatment Plant - Part 3

Autodesk is not only interested in giving you the tools to design your new wastewater treatment plant, they also want to provide you with the new tools to design, visualize, and help you with the designer biology/bacteria - - one software company (Autodesk) helping with the software (DNA) of a plant.

This (synthetic biology) is setting up to be one of those disruptive innovations in a host of industries - including wastewater treatment.

Link to the Autodesk site.

Synthetic Biology is Coming to the Local Wastewater Treatment Plant - Part 2

DIY Chromosomes at the wastewater treatment plant - from the current issue of Bloomberg BusinessWeek:

"Meanwhile, young people are flooding the field [synthetic biology].  Even Bill Gates told Wired that if he were a kid today, he'd go into hacking biology."

Synthetic Biology is Coming to the Local Wastewater Treatment Plant

Very interesting press release from Cincinnati.  The world of synthetic biology is coming to the world of wastewater treatment.  Synthetic biology was a huge role to play in thinking of wastewater as a resource versus a waste.  Engineering and chemisty were always going to be limiting factors in terms of technology and economics in the new world of resource versus waste.  Treatment plants have been and will continue to be giant biological factories - - the path to greater and greater performance and efficiency rests with what you can do with the biology.

People are going to have to get comfortable with a world of "nanorobotics" and "BactoBots" - - our ability to fund and take advantage of the world of synthetic biology rests with our understanding the science behind it all.  Unfortunately, when people hear synthetic biology and wastewater treatment, their first reaction is this is how the Walking Dead all started - - at a tour of the Atlanta wastewater treatment plant.

The press release:

"CINCINNATI, March 26, Mar 26, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE via COMTEX) --Tauriga Sciences Inc. (otcqb:TAUG) or ("Tauriga" or "the Company"), a diversified life sciences company with key assets that include license agreements and a proprietary technology platform in the nanorobotics space, has today announced that its wholly owned subsidiary Pilus Energy LLC ("Pilus Energy") has commenced a five-phase, $1,700,000 USD commercial pilot test ("commercial pilot") with the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA"), utilizing Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. /quotes/zigman/226294/delayed/quotes/nls/cbiCBI+0.87% ("CB&I") Federal Services serving as the third-party-contractor through the EPA's Test and Evaluation ("T&E") facility. This five phase commercial pilot will include significant testing of the Pilus Energy Electrogenic Bioreactor ("EBR") synthetic biology platform for generating value from wastewater. This commercial pilot is of great importance to the Company, because it represents the scale up from the benchtop (laboratory) scale to commercial (industrial) scale. The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati ("MSDGR"), which is co-located with EPA's T&E facility, will host the commercial scale EBR prototype at its main treatment plant in Cincinnati.
Pilus Energy's EBR harnesses genetically enhanced bacteria, also known as bacterial robots ("BactoBot(TM)"), that remediate water, harvest direct current ("DC") electricity, and produce economically important gases and chemicals. This BactoBot(TM) powered EBR technology was originally developed by Cincinnati-based Pilus Energy and University of Cincinnati microbiology professor Daniel Hassett. The EPA became aware of Pilus Energy through Confluence, the regional water technology innovation cluster, and since then has been providing support to the company, in determining the long term potential of the proprietary EBR technology platform, with respect to more effectively remediating waste-water, while simultaneously harnessing the metabolic properties of bacteria to extract direct current electricity and/or hydrogen gas from various wastes.
Tauriga acquired the proprietary EBR technology platform through its completed acquisition of Pilus Energy, which took place on January 28, 2014. The global wastewater-to-value market is currently estimated at $10 billion and is projected to grow to $27 billion by the year 2021.
Tauriga CEO Dr. Stella M. Sung commented, "We are very pleased to commence this important commercial pilot test with the EPA and the MSDGR, which has the potential to provide commercial validation for our proprietary 'wastewater to value' platform and, importantly, potential long-lasting benefits for the city of Cincinnati. A successful commercial pilot would provide a critical step in achieving commercialization and economic development goals."
Biju George, Deputy Director, Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, stated, "The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati is excited to be the world's first deployment site for this innovative technology. Due to our location, partners, specialized facilities and personnel, we are perfectly suited to be the pilot site. The Tauriga Sciences value proposition has the promise to change the wastewater industry."
Additionally Sally Gutierrez, Director of the Environmental Technology Innovation Cluster Development and Support Program at the EPA also expressed support of the collaboration. Much of the initial work will be performed at the US EPA Test and Evaluation Facility in Cincinnati."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Researchers Examine Novel Desalination Method

Researchers Examine Novel Desalination Method

Where to Invest in a Driverless World

This is interesting - - would Hilton Hotels be a good or bad investment.

A Paragraph to Ponder

From the New Yorker in a book review of Thomas Riketty's Capital in the Twenty-first Century by John Cassidy:

"In the United States, for example, the share of income going to wages and other forms of labor compensation dropped from sixty-eight per cent in 1970 to sixty-two per cent in 2010 - a decline of close to a trillion dollars."

Monday, March 24, 2014

UAV Industrial Inspection Services

From the U.K. and the start of probably many more - Sky-Futures.

What Big City Mayors Need and Want

The current issue of Time has an excellent profile of Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles.  From the article:

"Garcetti wants L.A. to reclaim its reputation as the city of the future.  He has hired the city's first chief innovation technology officer and pledged to use data analytics to guide budget allocations."

I have also been watching the CNN Chicagoland series - - I would highly recommend it.  In one of the stories you see the Chicago Police Superintendent completely immersed in crime data and statistics.  You can see decision making based on numbers and analysis.  Big cities are increasingly becoming the laboratory for the era of data analytics - - data rich environments with plenty of skilled and young entrepreneurs to see complexity, problems, and opportunities. 

This like of data analytics, information based decision making, and decision support systems needs to come to the world of public works and infrastructure asset management.

Keep an eye on how Dallas, Houston, L.A., Chicago, and N.Y. invest resources in support of better data analytics and better decision making.

Last Call at the Oasis

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Graphic of the Week

No Stagnation In Innovation - Reading Dogs

The iDog Clinic for the gifted - link.

ENR Confidence Index Rises Dramatically | ENR: Engineering News Record | McGraw-Hill Construction

ENR Confidence Index Rises Dramatically | ENR: Engineering News Record | McGraw-Hill Construction

The Top 10 Engineering Blogs

#Blog TitleRSS RSSBadge
1stUrbanWorkbench2911,295,7293,801,0363 4rss100100 100
2ndChemical Engineering World1,451n/a7,918,6913 5rss95.3100 100
3rdCurious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Engineeringn/an/a175,9072 5rss91.2100 100
4thC&ENtral Sciencen/a370,420698,89715 7rss83.9100 100
5thChris Gammells Analog Lifen/a2,450,5733,177,10019 4rss80.24100 100
6thArchimessn/an/a5,930,9291 4rss71.87100 100
7thPower Oil and Gasn/a3,588,6501,136,2885 3rss69.08100 100
8thChemical Engineering Georgia Techn/an/a24,174,7944 4rss57.73100 100
9thWit and Wisdom of an Engineern/an/a15,519,9202 2rss56.18100 100
10thPackaging-Matters!n/an/a24,991,8531 2rss55.54100 100

An Update on U.S. Drilling Efficiency

From the EIA - link.

Engineering and the Science of Baseball

Explaining Your Project Ideas

Updated Drought Outlook

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Thames Garden Bridge

Vice President of Drone Fleet Operations

If you are in high school and considering a STEM career, this could be your career and title.  Check out your new management tools - link.

California's Drought: More Wildfires, Higher Food Prices

California's Drought: More Wildfires, Higher Food Prices

Security Guards and Welders

In the United States, which do we have more of - private security guards or welders?  We employ about two million private security guards - more than combined federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel. 

In 1988 there were 570,000 welders in the U.S.  By 2012, the number had dropped to less than 360,000.  The American Welding Society estimates that by 2020 there will be a shortage of 290,000 professionals including inspectors, engineers, and teachers.

We seemed concerned more about protecting and securing the past and present than in investing in the future.  The ledger on welding has been mixed - obvious declines due to our movement away from manufacturing - but huge potential increases due to our oil and gas expansions.

Robotics, Wearable Computing Coming in Five Years: Survey | ENR: Engineering News Record | McGraw-Hill Construction

Robotics, Wearable Computing Coming in Five Years: Survey | ENR: Engineering News Record | McGraw-Hill Construction

Friday, March 21, 2014

Motor City Mapping Project

The Era of the Expanding Relationship Flowchart

Great line from Of TIFIA, TIGER and Tolls: An era of federal funding gridlock gives rise to more creative project delivery methods in the current issue of Engineering News-Record:

"A P3 stretches the relationship flowchart even farther, notes Charles O'Reilly, transportation director for HDR Inc.  "New players may include financial institutions, developers, operators and maintenance providers," he says.  "Adding these players complicates many areas, including liability insurance and a desire to progress the job before financial close.""