August 28, 2009

Nanotechnology is one of the most fascinating “new” technologies that has surfaced in recent years.  The possibilities for growth and usefulness to mankind are evolving at an extremely rapid rate.  The “science” has been called a disruptive technology because it has the possibility of being a “game changer” for so much of what we call common-place in today’s world of fabrication and manufacturing.  The technology allows for completely new methods of producing a product.

The definition of nanotechnology is “the study and control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale”.  The purpose is to assemble every atom, locating them in their proper places, to make ANY structure behave in a fashion consistent with the laws of nature.  When this becomes possible on a large scale, the cost of assembly and fabrication will essentially be equivalent to the cost of the raw materials used for the process.  A remarkable possibly for providing products with minimal cost.

OK, what is a nanometer?  A nanometer is on billionth of a meter.  A meter is 39.37 inches or to put this into perspective, if a marble represents a nanometer, then the diameter of the earth would represent a meter.  Here are several ways to look at this and put a nm into scale:

  • The diameter of ragweed pollen measures approximately 20,000 nm
  • One red blood cell measures approximately 2,500 nm
  • The width of a human hair measures about 100,000 nm
  • A germ cell is approximately 1,000 nm
  • A water molecule is less than 1 nm
  • Shaquille O’Neal is 2,160,000,000 nms tall


Already, manufacturing companies are providing products for the following industry categories:

  • Medicine
  • Electronics
  • Space
  • Food and food services
  • Fuel cells
  • Solar cells
  • Batteries
  • Fuels
  • Air quality
  • Chemical sensors
  • Sporting goods
  • Fabrics


Items such as flash memory cards, floor cleaners, degreasers, carbon fibers, golf shafts, epoxy coatings, air purifiers, sun care products, electronic processors and antibacterial medicines and ceramics are being produced by incorporating processes using nanotechnology.  One of the greatest possibilities for nanotechnology is treating the most aggressive diseases, such as cancer.   This process would involve the delivery of drugs and medicines to cancer cells otherwise unreachable using current techniques.  This process uses “Q-bots” as the delivery tool, providing chemotherapy where it’s needed and can do the most good.


One other area with great possibilities is material science.  Nanotubes and Bucky Balls can provide a remarkable increase in the structural strength of carbon fibers and composite fibers.  Infusion of these structures into steels and polymers can greatly improve the yield strength, Young’s Modulus, shear strength, rupture strength etc of materials formulated for purposes requiring greater “allowable”.


In short, nanotechnology is in its infancy with limitless possibilities.


My wife and I love to see movies, although she usually falls asleep during the last half of even the best, most action-packed blockbuster.  Anyone you know who slept through “Mary Poppins”, “Independence Day”, “The Terminator”, etc? ( I think it’s genetic !!!!! ) Of course, when you think about it, it’s quiet, cool and dark; no phones, no screaming kids, etc etc.   A perfect place to take a nap.

This past Saturday we saw “Inglorious Bastards”, written and produced by Quentin Tarantino and staring:

Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Ray

Christopher Waltz as Col Hans Landa

Melanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus

Of course there were others in the movie and they did an excellent job of acting and provided a great ensemble cast of characters.  Brad Pitt did a marvelous job with his southern accent and 15 nanoseconds after I saw Col. Hans Landa I really hated the guy.  His special assignment was hunting Jews for immediate execution or shipment to the gas chambers. 

The story occurred in France during the Second World War.  Our Department of Defense structured a special “band” of assins whose sole responsibility was to brutally execute German soldiers—any German soldiers.    They were not only killed but scalped and left to die.  Each American was charged with providing for Lt. Ray, 100 German scalps.  That was their quota for the duration of the war.  The object was to terrorize the Nazis and let them know that they could run but never hide.  Their exploits quickly became legend and with each engagement their deeds and exploits spread.  Those soldiers allowed to live had carved into their heads a swistka–just as a reminder.

The story climaxed when it was discovered that Hitler himself was to attend a showing at a small theater in a fairly remote village in France.  You guessed it; the owner of the theater was Shosanna Dreyfus.  Her entire family had been killed ( earlier in picture ) by Col. Hans Landa.  She was determined to kill Landa as well as Hitler and his band of demons.  Good plot but with no regard to history.  That’s Tarantino for you.

Good movie.  Will never win the Oscar but, a good way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon.  I recommend it to you.


August 5, 2009

My family and I, eleven strong, recently ventured south to New Orleans to celebrate three birthdays and one wedding anniversary.  All came within the month of July so, traditionally, we all get together for one big celebration.    New Orleans is a great destination city although the remnants of Katrina are certainly still visible in some parts of the Garden District, the Ninth Ward and along several canals radiating east.  Our second son graduated from Tulane University AND had his 40th birthday during our visit so it was an appropriate destination for our little band of travelers.  We were there four days and found a great “deal” on a rental in the Garden District. Five bedrooms, four baths, a game room, a marvelous patio and only two blocks from St. Charles Avenue.  The accommodations were completely adequate for our needs and the logistics to and from the French Quarter were quite satisfactory. 

As you might suspect, the food in New Orleans is one of the main attractions for the city and the number and verity of restaurants is truly mind-blowing.   We did not hesitate to “eat our way” from the river to Bourbon Street, and frequently.  One of the most pleasant surprises was the WWII Museum.  Even the grandkids were impressed and it’s very difficult these days to impress teenagers.  The museum is fairly new and details our involvement in WWII from Pearl Harbor to VE Day.  The exhibits are divided in to two sections, the European Theater and the Pacific Theater with ample descriptive information; both visual and text.  The stories were very inspiring, yet heart rending and covered both sides of the effort; i.e. the Allied Powers and the Axis Powers. My father served in the Pacific Theater so it was very interesting to see pictures of the locations he worked while involve those three years. There were many personal letters, memos, documents, artifacts and pictures presented in the museum and you definitely realize that tragedy existed on both sides of the conflict.    In closing, I can definitely recommend to you a visit to the museum if you are  in New Orleans.  Go when you have about three hours because it will take that much time to absorb the complexities of the presentations.  No pictures are allowed but there are many books available as you leave the facility.

Visit to WWII Museum in NO

Visit to WWII Museum in NO

This past week the Chattanooga Times-Free Press published a document called “ Regional School Achievement—By the Numbers”.    The study listed all of the schools; elementary, middle and high school that exist within the “tri-state” region for the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee.   Chattanooga has a population of approximately 170,880 people as of July 2008.  This is a 9.90% increase from the 2000 census numbers.  We are a growing community and will grow even more when the VW facility begins production in 2011.  This will add approximately 2,000 direct production jobs to the area with, what is felt to be, a total of 10,000 jobs overall.  This accounts for new vendors, the need for housing, restaurants, drug stores, etc.  In other words, all of those good things required to support a quality life.  Our economic health seems to be on the mend, relative to our national economy, but our educational system is definitely dysfunctional and in a state of chaos relative to what is traditionally felt to be necessary for a “good sound education”.   I would like to give you data and ask for your response; comparing our educational “situation” with the one in your area.  Here we go.

  • The 2009-2010 Hamilton County Board of Education is staffed with nine (9) board members; one from each of the nine school districts.  There is one superintendent of schools that oversees the board and helps to fashion all school policy.  They frequently “make the news” and generally there is an “us-vs-them” mentality.  These positions are elected so the public does decide on who staffs the board.
  • Hamilton County is operating with a $20 million budget deficit (2009 figures).  This is the worst ever for our county and for east Tennessee as a whole. The 2008-2009 school year operated with a $12 million reduced budget.  This was accomplished by reducing educational programs, cancelling student trips, dropping various sports programs, eliminating summer educational programs, postponing maintenance on facilities, eliminating art and music from some schedules and, last but not least, removing teachers and teaching assistants from the school rolls. Also, the number of counseling teachers was drastically reduced.
  •  Two schools were merged.   These schools were only one mile apart and experienced dropping enrollments in both cases.  This was basically a “slam-dunk” and there was little controversy. 
  • One school was created; an all-girls charter school that offers science, mathematics, engineering and technical subjects for young ladies.  There was a great deal of discussion about the need for this type of program but it was felt that good things could come from this charter school.  (Being a mechanical engineer, I welcome any effort to broaden science, math and technical subjects into any course of study and to have those subjects presented to young ladies is just fine with me.  Please note that I did not get a vote, but in this case, the Hamilton County Board did the right thing. ) It was felt by the board  that an all-girls school would encourage needed development in the area of mathematics and technology for ladies who might otherwise be inclined to go into “traditional gender-specific subjects”.  I agree completely.
  • Since VW is entering our county, they have agreed to contribute $5 million to regional education and $800,000 to Hamilton County.  Please note that this includes funding for a regional two-year technical community college.
  • Our student-teacher ratio is 14.13.  ( This was a great surprise to me.  I thought it would be upwards to 25 or even 30, specifically with an increasing population. )
  • Average teacher salary: $44,820 per year.  I might mention that the turnover rate for Hamilton County is fairly high and teacher retention is a real problem.  Also, the number of teachers retiring is another problem the “Board” has to contend with.  There are not enough individuals entering the teaching profession to keep up with retirements.  It’s a real problem for Hamilton County.
  • Average spending per student: $8,344
  • Average ACT test score: 20.7 for Tennessee and 20.6 for north Georgia.  These scores are a bit lower than our national average.  As you know, a perfect ACT score is 36. (NOTE:  The SAT scores were not available.  This was very interesting to me. )
  • Average graduation rate: 82% for Tennessee and 78% for north Georgia
  •  In looking at the school principals for the elementary students, there are 44; eleven male and thirty-three female.  Middle school and high school data exhibits a similar profile.
  • The number of economically disadvantages students approaches 62% of the total student population.  An economically disadvantaged student is defined as “students whose families meet income criteria making them eligible to receive free or reduced meals at school, as determined by Federal guidelines”.  (This number was a big surprise to me. I had no idea the rate was as high as it apparently is. )
  • The success or failure of the “no child left behind” program was not addressed in this write-up so I really can’t comment on how the teachers feel about the benefits of the program.

I think we should all be very concerned with the condition of education in our country and I get the impression that other countries simply “do it better”.  We are living in an era where competition is not just from the next city, next county, next state, but from all over the world.  I definitely know the education process is very complicated in our country but we had better address our short-comings or we face real difficulties down the road.  Please let me have your thoughts.

%d bloggers like this: