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.

 

Advertisements

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.

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.

 

 

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?

December 15, 2018


How many “screen-time” hours do you spend each day?  Any idea? Now, let’s face facts, an adult working a full-time job requiring daily hour-long screen time may be a necessity.  We all know that but how about our children and grandchildren?

I’m old enough to remember when television was a laboratory novelty and telephones were “ringer-types” affixed to the cleanest wall in the house.  No laptops, no desktops, no cell phones, no Gameboys, etc etc.  You get the picture.  That, as we all know, is a far cry from where we are today.

Today’s children have grown up with a vast array of electronic devices at their fingertips. They can’t imagine a world without smartphones, tablets, and the internet.  If you do not believe this just ask them. One of my younger grandkids asked me what we did before the internet.  ANSWER: we played outside, did our chores, called our friends and family members.

The advances in technology mean today’s parents are the first generation who have to figure out how to limit screen-time for children.  This is a growing requirement for reasons we will discuss later.  While digital devices can provide endless hours of entertainment and they can offer educational content, unlimited screen time can be harmful. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents place a reasonable limit on entertainment media. Despite those recommendations, children between the ages of eight (8) and eighteen (18) average seven and one-half (7 ½) hours of entertainment media per day, according to a 2010 study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.  Can you imagine over seven (7) hours per day?  When I read this it just blew my mind.

But it’s not just kids who are getting too much screen time. Many parents struggle to impose healthy limits on themselves too. The average adult spends over eleven (11) hours per day behind a screen, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  I’m very sure that most of this is job related but most people do not work eleven hours behind their desk each day.

Let’s now look at what the experts say:

  • Childrenunder age two (2) spend about forty-two (42) minutes, children ages two (2) to four (4) spend two (2) hours and forty (40) minutes, and kids ages five (5) to eight (8) spend nearly three (3) hours (2:58) with screen media daily. About thirty-five (35) percent of children’s screen time is spent with a mobile device, compared to four (4) percent in 2011. Oct 19, 2017
  • Children aged eighteen (18) monthsto two (2) years can watch or use high-quality programs or apps if adults watch or play with them to help them understand what they’re seeing. children aged two to five (2-5) years should have no more than one hour a day of screen time with adults watching or playing with them.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines on how much screen timeis appropriate for children. … Excessive screen time can also lead to “Computer Vision Syndrome” which is a combination of headaches, eye strain, fatigue, blurry vision for distance, and excessive dry eyes. August 21, 2017
  • Pediatricians: No More than two (2) HoursScreen Time Daily for Kids. Children should be limited to less than two hours of entertainment-based screen time per day, and shouldn’t have TVs or Internet access in their bedrooms, according to new guidelines from pediatricians. October 28, 2013

OK, why?

  • Obesity: Too much time engaging in sedentary activity, such as watching TV and playing video games, can be a risk factor for becoming overweight.
  • Sleep Problems:  Although many parents use TV to wind down before bed, screen time before bed can backfire. The light emitted from screens interferes with the sleep cycle in the brain and can lead to insomnia.
  • Behavioral Problems: Elementary school-age children who watch TV or use a computer more than two hours per day are more likely to have emotional, social, and attention problems. Excessive TV viewing has even been linked to increased bullying behavior.
  • Educational problems: Elementary school-age children who have televisions in their bedrooms do worse on academic testing.  This is an established fact—established.  At this time in our history we need educated adults that can get the job done.  We do not need dummies.
  • Violence: Exposure to violent TV shows, movies, music, and video games can cause children to become desensitized to it. Eventually, they may use violence to solve problems and may imitate what they see on TV, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

When very small children get hooked on tablets and smartphones, says Dr. Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, they can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brains. Too much screen time too soon, he says, “is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed.”

Between birth and age three, for example, our brains develop quickly and are particularly sensitive to the environment around us. In medical circles, this is called the critical period, because the changes that happen in the brain during these first tender years become the permanent foundation upon which all later brain function is built. In order for the brain’s neural networks to develop normally during the critical period, a child needs specific stimuli from the outside environment. These are rules that have evolved over centuries of human evolution, but—not surprisingly—these essential stimuli are not found on today’s tablet screens. When a young child spends too much time in front of a screen and not enough getting required stimuli from the real world, her development becomes stunted.

CONCLUSION: This digital age is wonderful if used properly and recognized as having hazards that may create lasting negative effects.  Use wisely.

THE MOST UNRELIABLE

November 7, 2018


One of the things I like to do with my posts is deliver information you can use in your daily life. “Stuff” that just mike make a difference.  I certainly hope this one does.    Some of the information you will read is taken from Consumer Reports Magazine and Design News Daily Magazine.

Consumer Reports recently published information regarding the reliability of automobiles offered for sale in the United States.  They drew their conclusions from owner surveys of more than five hundred thousand (500,000) people. The surveys look at numerous problem areas including engine, transmission, suspension, cooling, electrical, climate, brakes, exhaust, paint, trim, noises, leaks, power equipment, and in-car electronics, among others.  We will highlight now those automobiles considered to be the most unreliable.  This list may surprise you as it did me.

I would say that if you are looking for new wheels you heed the information given by Consumer Magazine.  They accept no advertisements and generally conduct their research by interviewing consumers and actually testing the products they report on.

BORDER SECURITY

October 27, 2018


Some information for this post is taken from the publication “Military & Aerospace Electronics”, October 18, 2018.

For more than a week, thousands of migrants from Central America have been marching north towards the United States. They say they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence in their countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The journey poses a host of dangers, such as dehydration and criminal gangs.   Many of the migrants say they feel safer travelling in numbers and I am certain they are correct. One can only guess as to how many will die along the way but there is safety in numbers.

On 12 October, in the crime-ridden Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, a group of one hundred and sixty (160) people gathered at a bus terminal and prepared to set off on the dangerous journey.  By the time the group set off in the early hours of 13 October, more than one thousand (1,000) Hondurans had joined. Honduras, which has a population of about nine million, has endemic problems with gang violence, drug wars and corruption. The wider region has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

I will not debate the pros and cons of allowing them into the United States but our federal government is positioned to stop as many as possible from entering.  This post will strive to detail the methodology used by our military and the Office of Homeland Security to facilitate that effort. The technology is striking and, for the most part, developed by the military.  Homeland Security is using that technology.  Please keep in mind, these programs have been developed over the years and not specifically for the caravan slowly approaching our boarders.  Let us now take a very quick look at some of the methods used.

  • Air-based technology
  • Apex border situational awareness
  • Artic communications and technologies
  • Biometric technology engine
  • Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAISE)
  • Countering violent extremism—actionable indicators and countermeasures project
  • Data analytics engine
  • Eye-dentify
  • Future Attribute Screening Techniques (FAST)
  • Ground-based technologies
  • Identity and access management engine
  • Low-light internet protocol cameras
  • Pat-Down Accuracy Training Tool (PATT)
  • Polar Scout
  • Space-based technology
  • Port of entry-based technology
  • Port and waterway resiliency
  • Port of entry people screening
  • Port and coastal surveillance
  • Port of entry forensics and investigations
  • Post Tracking System (PTS)
  • Small dart aircraft, or the hunt for drug-smuggling aircraft at the borders
  • Tunnel detection and surveillance
  • Video-based training for border patrol trackers
  • Virtual shooter

For the sake of time, I will let you discover the specifics of the list above but as you can see, it is very extensive and laden with cutting-edge technology.  Most of the technology, if not all, was developed for the U.S. military but adopted by Homeland Security.

If members of the caravan are successful they will be on U.S. soil. In the very near future The Border Patrol will have to take them into custody and unless Mexico agrees to take them back, the migrants will be held in detention until they can be deported.   If the migrants are accompanied by children, the government has virtually nowhere to put them.  Let’s just hope there is no more separating children from mothers and fathers.

The Trump administration has been preparing to expand family detention capacity by housing detainees on military bases, but those facilities do not appear to be ready. And once asylum-seeking migrants are on U.S. soil, it becomes significantly harder for the government to deny them access to the legal system, with the rights and protections it affords, in accordance with international laws and norms.

At this writing the caravan is still more than one thousand (1,000) miles away from U.S. territory, and there is a great deal of Mexico left to traverse. If the group manages to advance fifteen (15) miles per day, it would take more than two months for the caravan to arrive at the Rio Grande.  That timeline changes significantly if caravan members manage to board buses, trucks or freight trains, in which case they could reach the U.S. border in less than a week. But that’s a major if, absent a significant fundraising effort to provide mass motorized transport.

I cannot imagine living in a country in which it is unsafe to go to the market, making a doctor’s appointment or visiting a family member.  This is the condition that seemingly exist in the three countries mentioned earlier.  Then again, look at the southside of Chicago on any one given weekend.

As always, I welcome your comments.

%d bloggers like this: