Newsletter 31

Understanding Ourselves

In some ways engineers have a reputation of sitting slightly outside mainstream society.  However, everything we do fits into, and affects, the populace in some way.  We need to have some understanding of the public’s expectations.  We also need to know, to some extent, how a civilization actually functions, even if most members of society don’t even know it themselves.  Happy reading.

Should a Self-Driving Car Kill the Baby or the Grandma? Depends on Where You’re From

Should a Self-Driving Car Kill the Baby or the Grandma? Depends on Where You’re From

The rise of the automated car has brought the “trolley problem” ethical dilemma into focus. Millions of people globally provided their opinions. People’s viewpoints differed depending on whether their native culture places greater value on individualism or collectivism, and also on the wealth of their countries.

Read More

MIT Technology Review, October 2018


Ice Stripes Could Mean the End of Frost on Airplanes, Cars, Wind Turbines

Ice Stripes Could Mean the End of Frost on Airplanes, Cars, Wind Turbines

Typically, de-icing a surface requires heat or chemicals, which have environmental consequences. However, researchers are working on a method to keep the majority of a surface ice-free, by seeding a fraction of the surface with ice. The attraction of water to this ice keeps the rest of the surface clear.

Read More

ASME, November 2018


Robots Programmed to Work Like Ants Get the Job Done

Robots Programmed to Work Like Ants Get the Job Done

When a group of fire ants digs, apparently most of them stand around doing nothing. Sound familiar? Various approaches to working at a collective task were trialed using robots, including ant-like tactics. “The lazy, ant-imitating robots… proved to be the fastest at completing the task.”

Read More

ASME, November 2018


Population Mountains

Population Mountains

How we view data has an effect on how we understand facts. Different concepts for visualizing figures allow us to comprehend the details in distinct ways. A clever presentation can make it easier to recognize a specific viewpoint. In other words, use coloured graphs in reports for managers.

Read More

The Pudding, December 2018