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.

 

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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.

 

 

WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY

January 12, 2019


Wearable technology’s evolution is not about the gadget on the wrist or the arm but what is done with the data these devices collect, say most computational biologist. I think before we go on, let’s define wearable technology as:

“Wearable technology (also called wearable gadgets) is a category of technology devices that can be worn by a consumer and often include tracking information related to health and fitness. Other wearable tech gadgets include devices that have small motion sensors to take photos and sync with your mobile devices.”

Several examples of wearable technology may be seen by the following digital photographs.

You can all recognize the “watches” shown above. I have one on right now.  For Christmas this year, my wife gave me a Fitbit Charge 3.  I can monitor: 1.) Number of steps per day, 2.) Pulse rate, 3.) Calories burned during the day, 4.) Time of day, 5.) Number of stairs climbed per day, 6.) Miles walked or run per day, and 7.) Several items I can program in from the app on my digital phone.  It is truly a marvelous device.

Other wearables provide very different information and accomplish data of much greater import.

The device above is manufactured by a company called Lumus.  This company focusses on products that provide new dimensions for the human visual experience. It offers cutting-edge eyewear displays that can be used in various applications including gaming, movie watching, text reading, web browsing, and interaction with the interface of wearable computers. Lumus does not aim to produce self-branded products. Instead, the company wants to work with various original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to enable the wider use of its technologies.  This is truly ground-breaking technology being used today on a limited basis.

Wearable technology is aiding individuals of decreasing eyesight to see as most people see.  The methodology is explained with the following digital.

Glucose levels may be monitored by the device shown above. No longer is it necessary to prick your finger to draw a small droplet of blood to determine glucose levels.  The device below can do that on a continuous basis and without a cumbersome test device.

There are many over the world suffering from “A-fib”.  Periodic monitoring becomes a necessity and one of the best methods of accomplishing that is shown by the devices below. A watch monitors pulse rate and sends that information via blue tooth to an app downloaded on your cell phone.

Four Benefits of Wearable Health Technology are as follows:

  • Real Time Data collection. Wearables can already collect an array of data like activity levels, sleep and heart rate, among others. …
  • Continuous Monitoring. …
  • Predict and alerting. …
  • Empowering patients.

Major advances in sensor and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technologies are allowing much more accurate measurements and facilitating believable data that can be used to track movements and health conditions on any one given day.  In many cases, the data captured can be downloaded into a computer and transmitted to a medical practitioner for documentation.

Sensor miniaturization is a key driver for space-constrained wearable design.  Motion sensors are now available in tiny packages measuring 2 x 2 millimeters.  As mentioned, specific medical sensors can be used to track 1.) Heart rate variability, 2.) Oxygen levels, 3.) Cardiac health, 4.) Blood pressure, 5.) Hemoglobin, 6.) Glucose levels and 7.) Body temperature.  These medical devices represent a growing market due to their higher accuracy and greater performance.  These facts make them less prone to price pressures that designers commonly face with designing consumer wearables.

One great advantage for these devices now is the ability to hold a charge for a much longer period of time.  My Fitbit has a battery life of seven (7) days.  That’s really unheard of relative to times past.

CONCLUSION:  Wearable designs are building a whole new industry one gadget at a time.  MEMS sensors represent an intrinsic part of this design movement. Wearable designs have come a long way from counting steps in fitness trackers, and they are already applying machine-learning algorithms to classify and analyze data.

MERCEDES-BENZ STADIUM

November 6, 2018


Atlanta is the host city for one of the most beautiful stadiums in our country.  Also, from an engineering standpoint, one of the most complex.  You can see from the digital above the stadium at night.

My wife and I traveled to ATL recently to visit our granddaughters and thought we would take a tour of the stadium prior to our visit.  The Atlanta Falcons were not playing so things were relatively quiet; otherwise, you could not get within ten (10) feet of the places we were allowed to go on the tour.  The prices for a tour are as follows:

  • Adult Ticket-$25.00
  • Senior Adult Ticket: $20.00
  • Parking: $15.00 (In the parking garage.)

I don’t think this is too bad for the “look” we got.  The entire tour is about one hour and twenty minutes.

STATISTICS:

Let’s take a look at several statistics to get some idea as to the immense project this was.

  • Arthur Blank indicated the groundbreaking of the stadium would be conducted the last week of March 2014. The stadium opened in 2017.
  • Cost to build: $1.15 Billion (Yes that’s billion with a “B”.)
  • Construction time: Thirty-nine (39) months
  • Parking space: 21,000
  • Stadium height: 305 Feet
  • Field level: 1018 Feet above sea level.
  • Total stadium footage: 2,000,000 Square Feet
  • Total concrete: 150,000 Cubic Yards
  • Total structural steel: 27,000 Tons
  • Roof size: 14.5 acres
  • Total seating capacity: 71,000 expandable to 75,000
  • Club seats: 7,600
  • Number of suites: 190
  • Concession points of sale: 673
  • Bars and restaurants: 24
  • Beer taps: 1,264
  • Escalators: 25
  • Scoreboard: 63,800 Square Feet

In other words, this is one big place.  Let’s now take a digital tour.  I made all of these pictures so please forgive, in some cases, the armature nature.

As you approach the stadium you get an idea just how big it is. This is the walkway leading from underground parking.

The most prominent indicator announcing “we have arrived” is the Atlanta Falcon—otherwise known as the “dirty bird”.

We mentioned earlier the number of escalators used to access seating. From the JPEG below, you get some idea as to the layout.

With out a doubt, the most prominent feature of the stadium is the dome and the skylight.

As you might expect, the roof is an un-suspended design with no supporting internal posts or columns blocking view from any seat.  The complexly of the superstructure may be seen as follows:

This is a civil engineers dream, or nightmare.  Choose one.  There are eight (8) petals to the retractable dome and they actuate like the shutter on a camera lens.

CLUBS WITHIN THE STADIUM:

There are various clubs within the stadium, each bearing the name of the sponsor.

The AT & T Perch is the first you encounter.

Atlanta is the hub for Delta Airlines so you know they will be involved in a big way and support a club—a beautiful club at that.

Mercedes-Benz sponsors an equally beautiful restaurant and bar called the Gullwing.

 

Another “Benz” club is shown below with internal seating.

PLAYING FIELD:

OK, this is a football stadium.

LOCKER ROOM:

By far, the most disappointing aspect of the entire facility was the locker room.

We are taking bland and generic although, maybe for game day, things improve greatly.  After all, this was a guided tour.

CONCLUSION:

I can certainly recommend to you taking the tour the next time you are in Atlanta. It is well worth it to see the come by itself.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NASA

October 17, 2018


Some information for this post is taken from NASA Tech Briefs, Vol 42, No.10

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite.  I remember the announcement just as though it was yesterday.  Walter Cronkite announced the “event” on the CBS evening news.  That single event was a game-changer and sent the United States into action. That’s when we realized we were definitely behind the curve.  The launch provided the impetus for increased spending for aerospace endeavors, technical and scientific educational programs, and the chartering of a new federal agency to manage air and space research and development. The United States and Russia were engaged in a Cold War, and during this period of time, space exploration emerged as a major area of concern.  In short, they beat us to the punch and caught us with our pants down.

As a result, President Dwight David Eisenhower created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA.  NASA opened for business on October 1, 1958, with T. Keith Glenman, president of the Case Institute of Technology, as its first administrator.  NASA’s primary goal was to “provide research into the problems of flight within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere, and other purposes. “(Not too sure the “other purposes” was fully explained but that’s no real problem.  The “spooks” had input into the overall mission of NASA due to the Cold War.)

NASA absorbed NACA (National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics) including three major research laboratories: 1.) Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, 2.) Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, and 3.) the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory.  There were two smaller laboratories included with the new Federal branch also.  NASA quickly incorporated other organizations into its new agency, notably the space science group of the Naval Research Laboratory in Maryland, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed by Caltech for the Army and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama. As you recall, Dr. Werner von Braun’s team of engineers were at that time engaged in the development of very large rockets.

The very first launch for NASA was from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  It was the Pioneer I, which launched on October 11, 1958. In May of 1959, Pioneer 4 was launched to the Moon, successfully making the first U.S. lunar flyby.

NASA’s first high-profile program involving human spaceflight was Project Mercury, an effort to learn if humans could survive the rigors of spaceflight.  On May 5, 1961, Alan B. Shepard Jr. became the first American to fly into space.  He rode his Mercury capsule on a fifteen (15) minute suborbital mission.

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the goal of sending astronauts to the moon and back before the end of the decade.  To facilitate this goal, NASA expanded the existing manned spaceflight program in December 1961 to include the development of a two-man spacecraft. The program was officially designated Gemini and represented a necessary intermediate step in sending men to the moon on what became known as the Apollo Missions.  I had the great pleasure of being in the Air Force at that period of history and worked on the Titan II Missile.  The Titan II shot the Mercury astronauts into orbit.  Every launch was a specular success for our team at the Ogden Air Material Area located at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah.  The missile has since been made obsolete by other larger and more powerful rockets but it was the “ride” back in those days.

One thing I greatly regret is the cessation of maned-flight by our government.  All of the efforts expended during the days of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo have not been totally lost but we definitely have relinquished our dominance in manned space travel.  Once again, you can thank your “local politicians” for that great lack of vision.

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