Sunday, April 30, 2017

What is it Like to be a Student?

Can You Make Your Own iPhone?

The Inability to Get Things Done

"Recall the development of the Polaris nuclear-missile system in the late 1950s. The whole package—a nuclear submarine, a solid-fuel missile, an underwater launch system, a nuclear warhead and a guidance system—went from the drawing board to deployment in four years (and using slide rules).
Today, according to the Defense Business Board, the average development timeline for much less complex weapons is 22.5 years. A case in point is the Ford-class aircraft carrier. The program is two years delayed and $2.4 billion over budget."

Robert Bea Looks at the Oroville Spillway Failure

Link to his complete independent report.

The Master of Disaster

After the lecture: Bob Bea and a lifetime spent outwitting disaster | NSF - National Science Foundation

Arup on the Future of Airports

Future of airports: Our specialists discuss how air travel can be transformed into a more human experience.

Why Automate Now?

Check Out USAFacts

The 10 Largest-Capacity Refineries in the World

The 10 Largest-Capacity Refineries in the World: Refinery construction is primarily driven by demand for oil products. ENR takes a look at some of the largest-capacity refineries in the world.

The Global Diversity Poll

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Elon Musk's LA Underground Mobility Plans

Declining Foreign Students and Lost Revenue

It will interesting to see the decline in foreign students - first indicator could be the Fall 2017 enrollment numbers.  Currently we have foreign student enrollment across the United States in the one million range.  Assume during eight years of a Trump administration and we have a 50% drop in foreign students.  Most of the foreign students pay out-of-state tuition - assume the average is $25,000 per year.  Lost revenue per year in today's dollars would be $12.5 billion per year.  Dear state legislatures and trustees - your foreign students subsidize your U.S. students.

Link to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

What the Heck is Blockchain?

Housing Constraints in the Information Age

From a Brookings Research report:

"America’s affordability problem is local, not national, but that doesn’t mean that land use regulations don’t have national implications. Historically, when parts of America experienced outsized economic success, they built enormous amounts of housing. New housing allowed thousands of Americans to participate in the productivity of that locality. Between 1880 and 1910, bustling Chicago’s population grew by an average of 56,000 each year. Today, San Francisco is one of the great capitals of the information age, yet from 1980 to 2010, that city’s population grew by only 4200 people per year."

Engineers Need to Be More Afraid

From the current issue of Bloomberg Business - BMW to Staff: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid:

"Since January, the carmaker has cycled 14,000 engineers, marketers, and factory managers - through daylong events to prepare them for a time when customers may order a robo-taxi by app instead of buying a car.  In a temporary building at a BMW test track, they participate in workshops and discussions of car-sharing apps, laser sensors, and batteries. In the corners, BMW shows off the vehicles it sees as key to its future:  a self-driving iNext with a retractable steering wheel; a Rolls-Royce whose roof and sides swing open to allow a comfortable exit; a Mini designed for sharing that changes color to suit the driver's mood. "It's easy to fall into a closed way of thinking," says Jutta Schwerdtle who works in market research.  "This helps push people our of that."

Engineering Consulting Makes Breitbart News!!!

A Paragraph to Ponder

From Tyler Cowen's Bloomberg column:

"Sometimes significant news doesn’t make much of a splash, and that was the case for a major transaction last week. PetSmart Inc. announced the acquisition of LLC for $3.35 billion, the largest e-commerce deal ever. Also notable is that, which sells pet products online, is based near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, rather than San Francisco or Seattle or New York. Might we be at a point where startups and e-commerce drive economic growth and job creation in many regions of the country, not just a few of the more famous (and expensive) areas?"

The Ford - Civil Engineering Interface / Who Will Control Mobility

Add Political Risk to Your Evaluation Matrix

From Democracy in Decline: Rebuilding its Future by Philip Kotler - fourteen short comings in our democracy:

  1. Low voter literacy, turnout, and engagement.
  2. Shortage of highly qualified and visionary candidates.
  3. Blind belief in American exceptionalism.
  4. Growing public antipathy toward government.
  5. Two-party gridlock preventing needed legislation.
  6. Growing role of money in politics.
  7. Gerrymandering empowering incumbents to get re-elected forever.
  8. Caucuses and primaries leading candidates to adopt more extreme positions.
  9. Continuous conflict between the President and Congress.
  10. Continuous conflict between the federal and state governments.
  11. The Supreme Court's readiness to revise legislative actions.
  12. The difficulty of passing new amendments.
  13. The difficulty of developing a sound foreign policy.
  14. Making government agencies more accountable.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Paragraph to Ponder

From Arup:

"Arup’s internal research shows that 40% of all packages received at the firm’s offices are employees’ personal purchases, increasing to 60% during the festive season. It’s a worldwide problem, causing traffic congestion on American city streets such as New York and San Francisco."

Distribution is the Kingdom

From the excellent Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in the Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson:

"Some people disdain distribution and marketing as pointless, boring, tawdry, or all three.  But they are the subterranean roots that push beautiful things to the surface, where audiences can see them.  It is not enough to study products themselves to understand their inherent appeal, because quite often the most popular things are hardly what anybody would consider the "best."  They are the most popular everywhere because they are, simply, everywhere.  Content might be king, but distribution is the kingdom."

The Choice: Make Coal Great Again—or Build New Industries?

The Choice: Make Coal Great Again—or Build New Industries?: A more likely path to good jobs lies in retraining workers in dying industries to acquire skills demanded by growing ones.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Graph of the Week

Public Intellectural vs Thought Leader

From The Ideas Industry by Daniel W. Drezner -

Public Intellectuals
Thought Leaders
Prioritizes Expertise
Prioritizes Experience

Testing Your Nonlinear Brain

Quiz of the day from Harvard Business Review - - Linear Thinking in a Nonlinear World by Bart De Langhe, Stefano Puntoni, and Richard Larrick.
"Imagine you're responsible for your company's car fleet.  You manage two models, an SUV that gets 10 miles to the gallon and a sedan that gets 20.  The fleet has equal numbers of each, and all the cars travel 10,000 miles a year.  You have enough capital to replace one model with more fuel-efficient vehicles to lower operational costs and help meet sustainability goals.
Which upgrade is better:
  1. Replacing the 10 MPG vehicles with 20 MPG vehicles.
  2. Replacing the 20 MPG vehicles with 50 MPG vehicles.

Engineering and the Challange of Explaining Things

What is a Datagrove?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Consuming Water Conservation

From Where The Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River by David Owen - -

"Still, the long-term consequences of efficiency improvements of all kinds depend on what happens to the savings.  Running a kitchen faucet or flushing a toilet in a municipality with a modern sewage-treatment system is mostly non-consumptive, because the wastewater is treated and used again.  Watering a lawn, in contrast, is almost entirely consumptive, because as far as the municipality is concerned that water disappears as soon as it hits the ground.  Popular conservation schemes can sometimes merely substitute consumptive uses for non-consumptive ones.  Imagine a municipality with so-called block, or tiered, water rates, which are kept low below some threshold, to make ordinary household use affordable, and then rise dramatically to discourage people from casually doing things like washing cars and watering grass.  If residents of that municipality now install bathroom and kitchen fixtures that use less water, they shrink their non-consumptive use - by reducing their wastewater return flows back into the system - while simultaneously making watering their lawns and washing their car more affordable since now they can do it with cheaper water.  They're using water more efficiently, because they're receiving more value from every gallon; but they've shrunk the available supply of the local water system.  The same efficiency efforts can cause operational problems for municipal sewage-treatment facilities, which require volume and dilution in order to function properly.  In 2015, prompted by the drought, Californians were remarkably successful at cutting domestic water use, but an unanticipated consequence in many cities are clogging, corrosion, intrusion by tree roots, and other damage within those cities' waste systems, which were not designed to function without big flows to keep everything moving.  These are problems that can be overcome, but overcoming them costs money.  Conservation increases a municipality's per-gallon cost of financing, building, and maintaining the infrastructure that moves water in both directions, consumers inevitably complain if their bills go up as their consumption goes down."

Climate Change and Singapore

From an excellent series of articles in the New York Times Magazine:

"Much of Singapore lies less than 50 feet above sea level. A third of the island sits around 16 feet above the water — low enough to give planners the jitters. Coastal roads are being raised; a new airport terminal is being built 18 feet above sea level. All the while, the island receives more and more rain each year. “If global temperatures continue to rise,” a government official said last year, “many parts of Singapore could eventually be submerged.”"

Demographics of World Urban Areas

Link to the report.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Water Math

The Next Episode of Billions?


"German police arrested a man on Friday suspected of detonating three bombs that targeted the Borussia Dortmund soccer team bus in the hope of sending the club’s shares plummeting and making a profit on an investment, prosecutors said.

In a statement, the federal chief prosecutor said the 28-year old man, a dual German and Russian national identified as Sergei V., had bought options on Borussia Dortmund’s stock before the attack.
The team bus was heading to the club’s stadium for a Champions League match against AS Monaco on April 11 when the explosions went off, wounding Spanish defender Marc Bartra and delaying the match by a day.

Prosecutors last week expressed doubts about the authenticity of three letters left at the site of the attack that suggested that Islamist militants had carried it out.

The prosecutor’s office said the suspect had bought 15,000 put options, or contracts giving him the right to sell Borussia Dortmund’s shares at a pre-determined price, on the day of the attack, using a consumer loan he had signed a week earlier."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Engineering a Great Business Plan

Graph of the Week


Facebook Looks at AR


"Facebook hopes to take further advantage of developing technologies such as Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) which allows the camera to plot out where an object is in the real world so AR can seems to be placed accurately in the ‘real world’. Additionally, Facebook are working on technology that allows the conversion 2D stills mages into 3D representations that can be modified with AR. The object recognition that will be introduced to the app means that the camera can ‘recognise’ the size, depth and location of the object so the object can be manipulated within the AR space."

The Death of Loyality

Roman Roads

Link to a great set of slides on Roman roads.

A Paragraph to Ponder


"The Singapore E-Center will be the Cincinnati-based company’s (NYSE: PG) first of its kind outside the U.S. and is designed to fuel end-to-end digital innovation across its supply chain management, e-analytics and e-business by expanding partnerships with local small-medium enterprises and startups and supporting their development of digital solutions."

Monday, April 17, 2017

Engineering Warmth

Climate Change Population Migration

From Nature Climate Change:

"Many sea-level rise (SLR) assessments focus on populations presently inhabiting vulnerable coastal communities1, 2, 3, but to date no studies have attempted to model the destinations of these potentially displaced persons. With millions of potential future migrants in heavily populated coastal communities, SLR scholarship focusing solely on coastal communities characterizes SLR as primarily a coastal issue, obscuring the potential impacts in landlocked communities created by SLR-induced displacement. Here I address this issue by merging projected populations at risk of SLR1 with migration systems simulations to project future destinations of SLR migrants in the United States. I find that unmitigated SLR is expected to reshape the US population distribution, potentially stressing landlocked areas unprepared to accommodate this wave of coastal migrants—even after accounting for potential adaptation. These results provide the first glimpse of how climate change will reshape future population distributions and establish a new foundation for modelling potential migration destinations from climate stressors in an era of global environmental change."

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Paragraph to Ponder

From the Washington Post:

"Demand for flights to the United States has fallen in nearly every country since January, ­according to Hopper, a travel-booking app that analyzes more than 10 billion daily airfare price quotes to derive its data. Searches for U.S. flights from China and Iraq have dropped 40 percent since Trump’s inauguration, while demand in Ireland and New Zealand is down about 35 percent. (One exception: Russia, where searches for flights to the United States have surged 60 percent since January.)"

Clean Water Warrior Wins 2017 ENR Award of Excellence

Clean Water Warrior Wins 2017 ENR Award of Excellence: The inside story of how Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards helped propel the emergency of lead-tainted water in Flint, Michigan.

The Promise of Advanced Distribution

I Will be in Oslo in July

Saturday Fun With The Riddler

Self-Driving and Kalman Filters

Cell Phone Data and Predicting Pandemics

Introduction to the Peloton Platooning System

Graph of the Week

Two Laws for the 21st Century

Amara's Law states we tend to overestimate the effect of technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

Sturgeon's Law states that ninety percent of everything is crap.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Planet of the Cows

Planet of the Cows: Cows and people are the large animals that most dominate the environment

Depleting Groundwater

Graph of the Day

The Anti-Uber Quote of the Day

From the HBO show Veep - - Uber users are ". . . a bunch of dumbass millennials too lazy to learn how to drive drunk."

Uber Economics

We Move You

Better Call Saul

From the New York Times:
"In an hour long news conference that touched on race, policing and airline manners, a lawyer for the passenger dragged off a United flight on Sunday listed his client’s injuries: a broken nose, a concussion, two knocked-out teeth and sinus problems that may require reconstructive surgery.
“For a long time, airlines, United in particular, have bullied us,” the lawyer, Thomas A. Demetrio, said Thursday in downtown Chicago.
“Are we going to just continue to be treated like cattle — bullied, rude treatment?” asked Mr. Demetrio, who placed the blame for his client’s injuries on a “culture of disrespect” at United Airlines and overly aggressive tactics from Chicago aviation police officers. He said a lawsuit was likely.
The video of Dr. David Dao, 69, of Kentucky, being bloodied as he was pulled off the flight in order to make room for four United employees has ignited conversation and outrage around the world. The three Chicago aviation police officers who removed Dr. Dao from the plane have been placed on administrative leave."

Thoughts on Speed Bumps

From Tyler Cowen:

"By its very design, a speed bump is a deliberate obstruction with maximum transparency as such. It is sending a message that the social goals of safety or neighborhood quiet are sufficiently important that it is worth slowing people’s progress when they travel. There are many regulations that try to make our lives safer, but most of them are hidden, with nontransparent costs, such as auto-safety regulations as applied through crash tests. A speed bump, in contrast, can work only if people notice it each time. So to the extent a society accepts speed bumps, it is visibly advertising the notion that limits to fast transportation — a symbol of progress — are acceptable in the name of safety and cozy locality."

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bidders Shortlisted as Oroville Dam Work Schedule is Set

Bidders Shortlisted as Oroville Dam Work Schedule is Set: In a race to fix the damaged Oroville Dam’s main spillway by November, California Dept. of Water Resources, the operator of the country’s tallest dam, is going to bid with a 65%-complete design that breaks recovery efforts into three parts, with an ultimate goal of doubling the main spillway’s release

Artificial Intelligence and Engineering

Artificial Intelligence and Engineering

Monday, April 10, 2017

Thinking About the Future

Off to Texas Water 2017

A Paragraph to Ponder

From Arup Thoughts Column:

"The increasingly interconnectedness of today’s infrastructure networks poses additional risks to be overcome. In the event that a freak storm damages a key telecoms facility, the danger might be that the ensuing loss of connectivity creates cascading failures, such as suspending key systems at a local power plant or hospital. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 caused many such connected failures. It also damaged data centres relied on by media organisations like BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post. The issue of interconnected failures in vital aspects of our day-to-day infrastructure will require a ‘systems thinking’ response if climate change resilience is to be achieved."

Naturally Resilient Communities

Link to a guide to green infrastructure.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Post Fossil Fuel City Contest

Link to the contest.

The Importance of Engineering Resiliency this Century

From the New York Times:

"Prosperity will ultimately belong to cities and nations around the world that find ways to capitalize on strategies of resilience against the inevitable impact of climate change. Those cities will retool themselves for new technologies and global businesses whose employees, reflecting a growing worldwide generational shift, want to walk, ride bikes and take mass transit."

The Crowd & The Cloud

Map of the Week

Rising Waters and the Costs of Inaction

From the New York Times by Michael Kimmelman and Josh Haner - Rising China Waters Imperil a World of Progress:

"That’s a trillion-dollar question, according to the World Bank, which projected the potential cost of damage to coastal cities worldwide from rising seas to be somewhere near that figure. It estimates that China is already losing 1.4 percent of its annual G.D.P. to climate change. Last spring, residents in Guangzhou woke again to flooded streets after a furious downpour swept across the delta and drowned entire neighborhoods of the city. Local news media, once more, said that there had been nothing like it in years. And as usual, Chinese social media sites buzzed with posts of people trapped in flooded cars. One man, named Pang, became an overnight celebrity for catching a fish with his umbrella, then going home and making soup with the head and tail. “It was fresh and tender,” he told The Guangzhou Daily."

Bot Disruption of the Day

Engineering Competition

Fake News But Real Money

From the New York Times Magazine today - This is Great Television: Inside the Strange Symbiosis Between the CNN President Jeff Zucker and Donald Trump by Jonathan Mahler:

"Last year, CNN's average daytime audience was up more than 50 percent, and its prime-time audience 70 percent.  The network earned nearly $1 billion; it was the most profitable year in CNN's history."

Engineering Puzzle Solvers

"Two intelligent, honest students are sitting together at lunch one day when their math teacher hands them each a card. “Your cards each have an integer on them,” the teacher tells them. “The product of the two numbers is either 12, 15 or 18. The first to correctly guess the number on the other’s card wins.”
The first student looks at her card and says, “I don’t know what your number is.”
The second student looks at her card and says, “I don’t know what your number is, either.”
The first student then says, “Now I know your number.”
What number is on the loser’s card?"


Thursday, April 6, 2017

The New Dynamics Shaping Engineering

From the current issue of the Economist:

"Parking spaces seem innocuous, just a couple of lines painted on asphalt. Multiplied and mismanaged, though, they can create traffic jams, worsen air pollution and force cities to sprawl. The cost and availability of parking affects people’s commuting habits more than the rapid buses and light-rail lines that cities are so keen to build (see article). Next to other worthy policies like congestion-charging and road-tolling, parking is also easy to change. The fast-growing metropolises of Africa and Asia, especially, need to get it right, before they repeat the West’s debilitating mistakes."

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Civil Engineering for Shrinkage

Safer Cars Yet Higher Insurance Rates

From the WSJ:

"New cars loaded with high-tech crash-prevention gear are having a perverse effect on car-insurance costs: They are soaring.

Safety features such as autonomous braking and systems to prevent drivers from drifting out of their lanes are increasingly available on vehicles rolling off assembly lines. Auto companies and third-party researchers say these features help prevent crashes and are building blocks to self-driving cars. But progress comes with a price.

Enabling the safety tech are cameras, sensors, microprocessors and other hardware whose repair costs can be more than five times that of conventional parts. And the equipment is often located in bumpers, fenders and external mirrors—the very spots that tend to get hit in a crash. Insurance companies, unwilling to shoulder all the pain, are passing some of the cost off to buyers."

Era of the Engineer

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Consumer Neuroscience

Be Prepared to Stop Trailer

A Paragraph to Ponder

Image result for lithium element

From the current issue of Bloomberg Businessweek - Lithium Rush by Paul Tullis (the lightest metal on the periodic table and the stuff that powers all your electronics and maybe your car):

"Already, the four companies in 2015 provided 88 percent of the world's lithium can't keep up: Lithium contract prices have increased from $4,000 per metric ton in 2014 to as high as $20,000 today.  "From a lithium standpoint, we are pretty much sold out," Albemarle Chief Executive Officer Luke Kissam told investors on an earnings call last year."

Graph of the Week

Examples of How Companies are Managing AI

Leadership 101 - Don't Ignore the Obvious

Great observation from this blog post:
"For the last ten years, the low to mid-tier retailer Target has virtually ignored online shopping.  In fact, it continues to focus primarily on stores, very recently announcing a multi-billion dollar program to modernize 600 of its 1,800 locations and open more than 100 small format stores.  In recent years, they initiated an intensive online shopping effort, and are attempting to employ the Best Buy model of using stores as online distribution centers, but it’s late; Target is even behind Walmart.  Up until about 2 years ago, their bricks-and-mortar focus was serving them well.  More recently, things have gone downhill.  Specifically, Target stock is off 29% versus 12 months ago and is now below its stock price of 10 years ago.
There is no question that bricks-and-mortar retailers are suffering as fewer consumers are stepping foot into actual stores; more and more they are opting to shop online.  Department store sales in January fell 3.2% from a year earlier, continuing a downward trend for much of the past two years according to the U.S. Commerce Department.  Conversely, sales at non-store retailers, a category that includes online shopping and is dominated by, rose 12%.
Stepping back, the lesson is very clear.  Human beings are wired to sit back and enjoy any kind of success they achieve.  Success generates pride which can become a crippling mentality.  It often causes the individual to ignore the reality of what’s coming at them.  Target is simply the latest victim."

The End of the UPS Delivery Person

American Affairs Journal

Link to a new journal.

What I Learned From the Sunday Paper

My notes from the Dallas Morning News today - -

  • Economic growth is a demanding master - the more you have, the more you need.  Can Texas continue to draw large number of job seekers?
  • Dallas has a shortage of policemen and firefighters, and is having problems recruiting trainees because of the cloud over the pension fund.
  • Declining manufacturing employment and share of GDP are hurting the U.S. - without manufacturing you start to lose your position in the global value chain.  Finance, real estate, and the service sector have a daunting challenge to make up the difference.
  • What about hydrogen fuel cell powered cars that get their hydrogen from gasoline?
  • The median price of a house the U.S. is $234,900.  The median in Texas is $249,900.
  • Our sleep challenged society costs the U.S. economy $411 billion in lost productivity per year.