HERE WE GO AGAIN

April 6, 2019


If you read my posts you know that I rarely “do politics”.  Politicians are very interesting people only because I find all people interesting.  Everyone has a story to tell.  Everyone has at least one good book in them and that is their life story.   With that being the case, I’m going to break with tradition by taking a look at the “2020” presidential lineup.  I think it’s a given that Donald John Trump will run again but have you looked at the Democratic lineup lately?  I am assuming with the list below that former Vice President Joe Biden will run so he, even though unannounced to date, will eventually make that probability known.

  • Joe Biden—AGE 76
  • Bernie Sanders—AGE 77
  • Kamala Harris—AGE 54
  • Beto O’Rourke—AGE 46
  • Elizabeth Warren—AGE 69
  • Cory Booker—AGE 49
  • Amy Klobuchar—AGE 58
  • Pete Buttigieg—AGE 37
  • Julian Castro—AGE 44
  • Kirsten Gillibrand—AGE 52
  • Jay Inslee—AGE 68
  • John Hickenlooper—AGE 67
  • John Delaney—AGE 55
  • Tulsi Gabbard—AGE 37
  • Tim Ryan—AGE 45
  • Andrew Yang—AGE 44
  • Marianne Williamson—AGE 66
  • Wayne Messam—AGE 44

 CANDIDATES NOW EXPLORING THE POSSIBILITIES:

  • William F. Weld—AGE 73
  • Michael Bennett—AGE 33
  • Eric Swalwell—AGE 38
  • Steve Bullock—AGE 52
  • Bill DeBlasio—AGE 57
  • Terry McAuliffe—AGE 62
  • Howard Schultz—AGE 65

Eighteen (18) people have declared already and I’m sure there will be others as time goes by. If we slice and dice, we see the following:

  • Six (6) women or 33.33 %—Which is the greatest number to ever declare for a presidential election.
  • AGE GROUPS
    • 70-80: 2              11 %
    • 60-70: 4             22 %
    • 50-60: 4              22 %
    • 40-50:  6              33 %
    • Younger than 40: 2         11 %

I am somewhat amazed that these people, declared and undeclared, feel they can do what is required to be a successful president.  In other words, they think they have what it takes to be the Chief Executive of this country.  When I look at the list, I see people whose name I do NOT recognize at all and I wonder, just who would want the tremendous headaches the job will certainly bring?  And the scrutiny—who needs that?  The President of the United States is in the fishbowl from dawn to dusk.  Complete loss of privacy. Let’s looks at some of the perks the job provides:

  • The job pays $400,000.00 per year.
  • The president is also granted a $50,000 annual expense account, $100,000 nontaxable travel account, and $19,000 for entertainment.
  • Former presidents receive a pension equal to the pay that the head of an executive department (Executive Level I) would be paid; as of 2017, it is $207,800 per year. The pension begins immediately after a president’s departure from office.
  • The Presidents gets to fly on Air Force 1 and Marine 1. (That was 43’s best perk according to him.)
  • You get to ride in the “BEAST”.
  • Free room and board at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
  • Access to Camp David
  • The hired help is always around catering to your every need.
  • Incredible security
  • You have access to a personal trainer if so desired
  • Free and unfettered medical
  • The White House has a movie theater
  • You are a life-time member of the “President’s Club”
  • The President has access to a great guest house—The Blair House.
  • You get a state funeral. (OK this might not be considered a perk relative to our list.)

The real question:  Are all of these perks worth the trouble?  President George Bush (43) could not wait to move back to Texas.  Other than Air Force 1, he really hated the job.  President Bill Clinton loved the job and would still be president if our constitution would allow it.

SPACEIL’s BERESHEET

March 5, 2019


If you read my posts at all you know I am solidly behind our space efforts by NASA or even private companies.  In my opinion, the United States of America made a HUGE mistake in withdrawing financed manned missions AND discontinuing efforts to colonize the moon.  We now are dependent upon Russia to take our astronauts to the ISS.   That may end soon with successful launches from SpaceX and Virgin Galactic.  The headway they are making is very interesting.

Israel has also made headline news just recently with their successful launch and landing on the moon’s surface.   A digital photograph of the lander is shown below.

The story of this effort is fascinating and started in 2010 with a Facebook post. “Who wants to go to the moon?” wrote Yariv Bash, a computer engineer. A couple of friends, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub responded, and the three met at a bar in Holon, a city south of Tel Aviv. At 30, Mr. Bash was the oldest. “As the alcohol levels in our blood increased, we became more determined,” Mr. Winetraub recalled.  They formed a nonprofit, SpaceIL, to undertake the task. More than eight years later, the product of their dreams, a small spacecraft called Beresheet, blasted off this past Thursday night atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.  Beresheet is a joint project of the nonprofit group SpaceIL and the company Israel Aerospace Industries.

Israel’s first lunar lander has notched another important milestone — its first in-space selfie. The newly released photo shows the robotic lander, known as Beresheet, looking back at Earth from a distance of 23,363.5 miles (37,600 kilometers).

“In the photo of Earth, taken during a slow spin of the spacecraft, Australia is clearly visible,” mission team members wrote in an image description today (March 5). “Also seen is the plaque installed on the spacecraft, with the Israeli flag and the inscriptions ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ and ‘Small Country, Big Dreams.'”

The entire Beresheet mission, including launch, costs about $100 million, team members have said.

Beresheet’s ride through space hasn’t been entirely smooth. Shortly after liftoff, team members noticed that the craft’s star trackers, which are critical to navigation, are susceptible to blinding by solar radiation. And Beresheet’s computer performed a reset unexpectedly just before the craft’s second planned engine burn.

Mission team members have overcome these issues. For example, they traced the computer reset to cosmic radiation and firmed up Beresheet’s defenses with a software update. The lander was then able to execute the engine burn, which put Beresheet back on track toward the moon.  This reset indicates complete control of the mission and the ability to make a mid-course correction if needed.  In other words, they know what they are doing.

I would be very surprised if Israel stopped with this success.  I am sure they have other missions they are considering.  They do have competition. Prior to Israel’s landing, there were only three other countries to “soft-land” a lunar lander:  USA, Russia and China.  The Chinese have already stated they want to colonize the moon and make that their base for further exploration.  We know the direction they are going.  I just hope we get serious about a colony on the moon and give up, for the present time, sending men and women to Mars.  Any Mars mission at this time would be nuts.

 

As always, I welcome your opinion.


With the federal government pulling out of manned space flight, it gave private companies ample opportunity to fill in the gaps.  Of course, these companies MUST have adequate funding, trained personnel and proper facilities to launch their version(s) of equipment, support and otherwise that will take man and equipment to the outer reaches of space.  The list of companies was quite surprising to me.  Let’s take a look.

These are just the launch vehicles.  There is also a huge list of manufacturers making man-rovers and orbiters, research craft and tech demonstrators, propulsion manufacturers, satellite launchers, space manufacturing, space mining, space stations, space settlements, spacecraft component manufacturers and developers, and spaceliner companies.   I will not publish that list but these companies are available for discovery by putting in the heading for each category.  To think we are not involved in space is obviously a misnomer.

 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

February 12, 2019


Just what do we know about Artificial Intelligence or AI?  Portions of this post were taken from Forbes Magazine.

John McCarthy first coined the term artificial intelligence in 1956 when he invited a group of researchers from a variety of disciplines including language simulation, neuron nets, complexity theory and more to a summer workshop called the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence to discuss what would ultimately become the field of AI. At that time, the researchers came together to clarify and develop the concepts around “thinking machines” which up to this point had been quite divergent. McCarthy is said to have picked the name artificial intelligence for its neutrality; to avoid highlighting one of the tracks being pursued at the time for the field of “thinking machines” that included cybernetics, automation theory and complex information processing. The proposal for the conference said, “The study is to proceed on the basis of the conjecture that every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.”

Today, modern dictionary definitions focus on AI being a sub-field of computer science and how machines can imitate human intelligence (being human-like rather than becoming human). The English Oxford Living Dictionary gives this definition: “The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”

Merriam-Webster defines artificial intelligence this way:

  1. A branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers.
  2. The capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.

About thirty (30) year ago, a professor at the Harvard Business School (Dr. Shoshana Zuboff) articulated three laws based on research into the consequences that widespread computing would have on society. Dr. Zuboff had degrees in philosophy and social psychology so she was definitely ahead of her time relative to the unknown field of AI.  Her document “In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power”, she postulated the following three laws:

  • Everything that can be automated will be automated
  • Everything that can be informated will be informated. (NOTE: Informated was coined by Zuboff to describe the process of turning descriptions and measurements of activities, events and objects into information.)
  • In the absence of countervailing restrictions and sanctions, every digital application that can be sued for surveillance and control will be used for surveillance and control, irrespective of its originating intention.

At that time there was definitely a significant lack of computing power.  That ship has sailed and is no longer a great hinderance to AI advancement that it certainly once was.

 

WHERE ARE WE?

In recent speech, Russian president Vladimir Putin made an incredibly prescient statement: “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all of humankind.” He went on to highlight both the risks and rewards of AI and concluded by declaring that whatever country comes to dominate this technology will be the “ruler of the world.”

As someone who closely monitors global events and studies emerging technologies, I think Putin’s lofty rhetoric is entirely appropriate. Funding for global AI startups has grown at a sixty percent (60%) compound annual growth rate since 2010. More significantly, the international community is actively discussing the influence AI will exert over both global cooperation and national strength. In fact, the United Arab Emirates just recently appointed its first state minister responsible for AI.

Automation and digitalization have already had a radical effect on international systems and structures. And considering that this technology is still in its infancy, every new development will only deepen the effects. The question is: Which countries will lead the way, and which ones will follow behind?

If we look at criteria necessary for advancement, there are the seven countries in the best position to rule the world with the help of AI.  These countries are as follows:

  • Russia
  • The United States of America
  • China
  • Japan
  • Estonia
  • Israel
  • Canada

The United States and China are currently in the best position to reap the rewards of AI. These countries have the infrastructure, innovations and initiative necessary to evolve AI into something with broadly shared benefits. In fact, China expects to dominate AI globally by 2030. The United States could still maintain its lead if it makes AI a top priority and charges necessary investments while also pulling together all required government and private sector resources.

Ultimately, however, winning and losing will not be determined by which country gains the most growth through AI. It will be determined by how the entire global community chooses to leverage AI — as a tool of war or as a tool of progress.

Ideally, the country that uses AI to rule the world will do it through leadership and cooperation rather than automated domination.

CONCLUSIONS:  We dare not neglect this disruptive technology.  We cannot afford to lose this battle.

BENDABLE BATTERIES

February 1, 2019


I always marvel at the pace of technology and how that technology fills a definite need for products only dreamt of previously.   We all have heard that “necessity is the mother of invention” well, I believe that to a tee.  We need it, we can’t find it, no one makes it, let’s invent it.  This is the way adults solve problems.  Every week technology improves our lives giving us labor-saving devices that “tomorrow” will become commonplace.  All electro-mechanical devices run on amperage provided by voltage impressed.   Many of these devices use battery power for portability.   Lithium-ion batteries seem to be the batteries of choice right now due to their ability to hold a charge and their ability to fast-charge.

Pioneer work with the lithium battery began in 1912 under G.N. Lewis but it was not until the early 1970s when the first non-rechargeable lithium batteries became commercially available. lithium is the lightest of all metals, has the greatest electrochemical potential and provides the largest energy density for weight.

The energy density of lithium-ion is typically twice that of the standard nickel-cadmium. This is a huge advantage recognized by engineers and scientists the world over.  There is potential for higher energy densities. The load characteristics are reasonably good and behave similarly to nickel-cadmium in terms of discharge. The high cell voltage of 3.6 volts allows battery pack designs with only one cell. Most of today’s mobile phones run on a single cell. A nickel-based pack would require three 1.2-volt cells connected in series.

Lithium-ion is a low maintenance battery, an advantage that most other chemistries cannot claim. There is no memory and no scheduled cycling is required to prolong the battery’s life. In addition, the self-discharge is less than half compared to nickel-cadmium, making lithium-ion well suited for modern fuel gauge applications. lithium-ion cells cause little harm when disposed.

If we look at advantages and disadvantages, we see the following:

Advantages

  • High energy density – potential for yet higher capacities.
  • Does not need prolonged priming when new. One regular charge is all that’s needed.
  • Relatively low self-discharge – self-discharge is less than half that of nickel-based batteries.
  • Low Maintenance – no periodic discharge is needed; there is no memory.
  • Specialty cells can provide very high current to applications such as power tools.

Limitations

  • Requires protection circuit to maintain voltage and current within safe limits.
  • Subject to aging, even if not in use – storage in a cool place at 40% charge reduces the aging effect.
  • Transportation restrictions – shipment of larger quantities may be subject to regulatory control. This restriction does not apply to personal carry-on batteries.
  • Expensive to manufacture – about 40 percent higher in cost than nickel-cadmium.
  • Not fully mature – metals and chemicals are changing on a continuing basis.

One amazing property of Li-Ion batteries is their ability to be formed.  Let’s take a look.

Researchers have just published documentation relative to a new technology that will definitely fill a need.

ULSAN NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY:

Researchers at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in Korea have developed an imprintable and bendable lithium-ion battery they claim is the world’s first, and could hasten the introduction of flexible smart phones that leverage flexible display technology, such as Samsung’s Youm flexible OLED.

Samsung first demonstrated this display technology at CES 2013 as the next step in the evolution of mobile-device displays. The battery could also potentially be used in other flexible devices that debuted at the show, such as a wristwatch and a tablet.

Ulsan researchers had help on the technology from Professor John A. Rogers of the University of Illinois, researchers Young-Gi Lee and Gwangman Kim of Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, and researcher Eunhae Gil of Kangwon National University. Rogers was also part of the team that developed a breakthrough in transient electronics, or electronics that dissolve inside the body.

The Korea JoongAng Daily newspaper first reported the story, citing the South Korea Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, which co-funded the research with the National Research Foundation of Korea.

The key to the flexible battery technology lies in nanomaterials that can be applied to any surface to create fluid-like polymer electrolytes that are solid, not liquid, according to Ulsan researchers. This is in contrast to typical device lithium-ion batteries, which use liquefied electrolytes that are put in square-shaped cases. Researchers say this also makes the flexible battery more stable and less prone to overheating.

“Conventional lithium-ion batteries that use liquefied electrolytes had problems with safety as the film that separates the electrolytes may melt under heat, in which case the positive and negative may come in contact, causing an explosion,” Lee told the Korean newspaper. “Because the new battery uses flexible but solid materials, and not liquids, it can be expected to show a much higher level of stability than conventional rechargeable batteries.”

This potential explosiveness of the materials in lithium-ion batteries — which in the past received attention because of exploding mobile devices — has been in the news again recently in the case of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which has had several instances of liquid leaking lithium-ion batteries. The problems have grounded Boeing’s next-generation jumbo jet until they are investigated and resolved.

This is a very short posting but one I felt would be of great interest to my readers.  New technology; i.e. cutting-edge stuff, etc. is fun to write about and possibly useful to learn.  Hope you enjoy this one.

Please send me your comments:  bobjengr@comcast.net.

WORDS OF WISDOM

January 28, 2019


If you are like me, you would hope that elected “public servants” at the federal level are as smart if not smarter than the average American.  Is that not too much to ask?  Coming home just now I listened to an XM Radio broadcast from the White House Media Room.  Questions and answerers, or the lack thereof, addressing difficulties with our immigration laws and what the Dems and Pubs will do in the next eighteen (18) days to fix it. If no fix results, we are shut down for another period of time—an expensive period of time.   Members of the media, Congress and the Oval Office always address the “broken immigration” problem and promise to fix it although they have not done so for decades.  The Oval Office tells us a border wall, a fence, a barrier, etc. will solve this problem.  I have no real idea. All I know is we have a back and forth that is very detrimental to our country and gets nothing accomplished.  In the southern part of our country we call this a pissing contest. Ego vs Ego.

I long for words of wisdom from our dumb-ass politicians realizing they are merely politicians and not statesmen. With this in mind, I sought out others noted for their wisdom.  Here is a small portion of what I found:

  • Accept challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory—George S. Patton.
  • If you must speak ill of another, do not speak it, write it in the sand near the water’s edge—Napoleon Hill.
  • The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up—Paul Valery.
  • Nothing is so frightening as ignorance in action—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
  • Two men working as a team will produce more than three men working as individuals—Charles P. McCormick.
  • Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when you only have one idea—Emile-Auguste Chartier.
  • An ambitions man can never know peace—J. Krishnamurti.
  • Never leave well enough alone—Raymond Loewy.
  • You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try—Beverly Sills.
  • Where would the gardener be if there were no weeds? —Chuang Tsu.
  • Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts—Winston Churchill.
  • We see things not as they are but as we are—H. M. Tomlinson.
  • Getting along with others is the essence of getting ahead, success being linked with cooperation—William Feather
  • Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there—John Wooden.
  • I’m not one of those whom expressing opinion confine themselves to facts—Mark Twain.
  • In great matters, men show themselves as they wish to be seen; in small matters, as they are—Gamaliel Bradford.
  • Work like you don’t need the money; love like you’ve never been hurt; dance like nobody’s watching—Satchel Paige.
  • The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing—Socrates.
  • If what you did yesterday seems big; you haven’t done anything today—Lou Holtz.
  • To conquer without risk is to triumph without glory—Pierre Corneille.
  • The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it—Terry Pratchett.
  • The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home—Confucius.

As you can see, we are a long way from wisdom relative to our three branches of government.

COMPUTER SIMULATION

January 20, 2019


More and more engineers, systems analysist, biochemists, city planners, medical practitioners, individuals in entertainment fields are moving towards computer simulation.  Let’s take a quick look at simulation then we will discover several examples of how very powerful this technology can be.

WHAT IS COMPUTER SIMULATION?

Simulation modelling is an excellent tool for analyzing and optimizing dynamic processes. Specifically, when mathematical optimization of complex systems becomes infeasible, and when conducting experiments within real systems is too expensive, time consuming, or dangerous, simulation becomes a powerful tool. The aim of simulation is to support objective decision making by means of dynamic analysis, to enable managers to safely plan their operations, and to save costs.

A computer simulation or a computer model is a computer program that attempts to simulate an abstract model of a particular system. … Computer simulations build on and are useful adjuncts to purely mathematical models in science, technology and entertainment.

Computer simulations have become a useful part of mathematical modelling of many natural systems in physics, chemistry and biology, human systems in economics, psychology, and social science and in the process of engineering new technology, to gain insight into the operation of those systems. They are also widely used in the entertainment fields.

Traditionally, the formal modeling of systems has been possible using mathematical models, which attempts to find analytical solutions to problems enabling the prediction of behavior of the system from a set of parameters and initial conditions.  The word prediction is a very important word in the overall process. One very critical part of the predictive process is designating the parameters properly.  Not only the upper and lower specifications but parameters that define intermediate processes.

The reliability and the trust people put in computer simulations depends on the validity of the simulation model.  The degree of trust is directly related to the software itself and the reputation of the company producing the software. There will considerably more in this course regarding vendors providing software to companies wishing to simulate processes and solve complex problems.

Computer simulations find use in the study of dynamic behavior in an environment that may be difficult or dangerous to implement in real life. Say, a nuclear blast may be represented with a mathematical model that takes into consideration various elements such as velocity, heat and radioactive emissions. Additionally, one may implement changes to the equation by changing certain other variables, like the amount of fissionable material used in the blast.  Another application involves predictive efforts relative to weather systems.  Mathematics involving these determinations are significantly complex and usually involve a branch of math called “chaos theory”.

Simulations largely help in determining behaviors when individual components of a system are altered. Simulations can also be used in engineering to determine potential effects, such as that of river systems for the construction of dams.  Some companies call these behaviors “what-if” scenarios because they allow the engineer or scientist to apply differing parameters to discern cause-effect interaction.

One great advantage a computer simulation has over a mathematical model is allowing a visual representation of events and time line. You can actually see the action and chain of events with simulation and investigate the parameters for acceptance.  You can examine the limits of acceptability using simulation.   All components and assemblies have upper and lower specification limits a and must perform within those limits.

Computer simulation is the discipline of designing a model of an actual or theoretical physical system, executing the model on a digital computer, and analyzing the execution output. Simulation embodies the principle of “learning by doing” — to learn about the system we must first build a model of some sort and then operate the model. The use of simulation is an activity that is as natural as a child who role plays. Children understand the world around them by simulating (with toys and figurines) most of their interactions with other people, animals and objects. As adults, we lose some of this childlike behavior but recapture it later on through computer simulation. To understand reality and all of its complexity, we must build artificial objects and dynamically act out roles with them. Computer simulation is the electronic equivalent of this type of role playing and it serves to drive synthetic environments and virtual worlds. Within the overall task of simulation, there are three primary sub-fields: model design, model execution and model analysis.

REAL-WORLD SIMULATION:

The following examples are taken from computer screen representing real-world situations and/or problems that need solutions.  As mentioned earlier, “what-ifs” may be realized by animating the computer model providing cause-effect and responses to desired inputs. Let’s take a look.

A great host of mechanical and structural problems may be solved by using computer simulation. The example above shows how the diameter of two matching holes may be affected by applying heat to the bracket

 

The Newtonian and non-Newtonian flow of fluids, i.e. liquids and gases, has always been a subject of concern within piping systems.  Flow related to pressure and temperature may be approximated by simulation.

 

The Newtonian and non-Newtonian flow of fluids, i.e. liquids and gases, has always been a subject of concern within piping systems.  Flow related to pressure and temperature may be approximated by simulation.

Electromagnetics is an extremely complex field. The digital above strives to show how a magnetic field reacts to applied voltage.

Chemical engineers are very concerned with reaction time when chemicals are mixed.  One example might be the ignition time when an oxidizer comes in contact with fuel.

Acoustics or how sound propagates through a physical device or structure.

The transfer of heat from a colder surface to a warmer surface has always come into question. Simulation programs are extremely valuable in visualizing this transfer.

 

Equation-based modeling can be simulated showing how a structure, in this case a metal plate, can be affected when forces are applied.

In addition to computer simulation, we have AR or augmented reality and VR virtual reality.  Those subjects are fascinating but will require another post for another day.  Hope you enjoy this one.

 

 

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