Wednesday, June 29, 2016

LAN and the Flint Water Crisis

A paragraph to ponder - link:

"The change in the 2013 contract means the company will collect a total of up to $3.8 million for its work on Flint water issues, an arrangement that started when the city agreed to pay LAN $1.3 million to study the feasibility and develop cost estimates for using its water plant as a primary water source."

Iris Automation

Bringing situational awareness to the UAV industry - link.


Link to the service - -

Understanding Brexit for the Masses

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Graphical Roadmap for the UK

Improving Your Intelligence and Success

A paragraph to ponder from Medium:

"Justine Musk, author and wife of tech mogul Elon Musk, wrote about this very topic on Quora. “Shift your focus away from what you want (a billion dollars) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world wants and needs. Ask yourself what you have the potential to offer that is so unique and compelling and helpful that no computer could replace you … Then develop that potential.”"

Negotiate Like the FBI

Graph of the Week

Engineers and Passports

To you have a passport?  A paragraph to ponder from Wonkblog:

"In one analysis by the Financial Times, the places that heavily voted to leave the E.U. were also those where people are least likely to have a passport. Another referendum-day poll found that that 81 percent of people opting to leave the E.U. believe that multiculturalism is a force for ill in Britain. Among "remain" supporters, 71 percent believe the opposite. Answers on the question of immigration mirror each other just the same."

The Rise of Generational Divides

Populist nationalism is back - - but so is a sharp divide between young and old.


No Stagnation

The Art of Not Thinking Things all the Way Through

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Total Design

Managing Complex Real Estate Projects

The Waze Left

Managing Organizational Time

EarthCam Air


The world of VR is coming to sports areas.

Graph of the Week

upper middle

Netflix As An Engineering Company

A paragraph to ponder via the New York Times Magazine by Joe Nocera - - Screen Grab:

"Although news coverage now tends to focus on its shows, Netflix remains every bit as much an engineering company as it is a content company.  There is reason that its shows rarely suffer from streaming glitches, even though, at peak times, they can sometimes account for 37 percent of internet traffic: in 2011 Netflix engineers set up their own content-delivery network, with servers in more than 1,000 locations.  Its user interface is relentlessly tested and tweaked to make it more appealing to users.  Netflix has the ability to track what people watch, at what time of day, whether they watch all the way through or stop after 10 minutes.  Netflix uses "personalization" algorithms to put shows in front of its subscribers that are likely to appeal to them.  Nathanson, the analyst, says: "They are a tech company.  Their strength is that they have a really good product.""


Design Thinking Graph of the Day

Link to the article.

Engineering in Cuba

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Drones to the Rescue

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016

China vs US in Terms of Infrastructure

A Paragraph to Ponder

From McKinsey:

"In a sense, the only thing worse for OPEC than very low prices is very high ones—a counterintuitive idea that is often underestimated. “We need to remember that low oil prices are bad for producers today and lead to situations that are bad for consumers tomorrow,” OPEC Secretary General Abdalla S. El-Badri said earlier this year.8 “And high oil prices are bad for consumers today and lead to situations that are bad for producers tomorrow.”"

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Engineering Bigness

The Smart Shopping Cart

Monday, June 13, 2016

Graph of the Week

US CO2 emissions from transport exceeded those from power gen in the 12 months thru Feb 2016.

What Is a Toilet Pavilion?

Things about Orlando

From Politico:

"But the shooting at the Pulse nightclub hit a city that was already, proudly, defying its resort-and-convention stereotype. Though still a tourist mecca, hosting a record 66 million visitors in 2015, it’s also developed a fast-growing biotech cluster, an up-and-coming video game sector, and an international virtual-reality hub. Its median age is only 33, and while it’s still a majority-white city, it’s getting more Hispanic every day, especially since the fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico has accelerated an influx from the island. Tragically, this new Orlando is also the kind of city where a murderer looking to unload his hatred can find a crowded gay club holding Latin Night."


The Amazon Audible Engineering Team

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Learning After College


Tech comes to agriculture in terms of monitoring water usage - website.

The Yield

Smart in Africa

Alaska Warming

How much spring temperatures differed from average during the spring in Alaska.

The Digital Telecooking Experience

Malcolm Gladwell Talks History

New Economics

What is CityMAP?

Saturday, June 11, 2016


Shake Research

Prime Time Watching

From the FT's Edward Luce - - 

"The presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will shatter all audience records... Tens of millions will tune in to watch our age’s most trigger-happy insulter denigrate one of the world’s most famous women. In ancient Rome gladiators slaughtered barbarians to keep the people entertained. In this case however, the barbarian has a shot at becoming emperor. Whether or not he succeeds, US democracy will never be the same."

The Coming Linkage Between Economic Prosperity and Elevation

From Environmental Research Letters:

"Proximity to the coast and elevation are important geographical considerations for human settlement. Little is known, however, about how spatial variation in these factors exactly relates to human settlements and activities, and how this has developed over time. Such knowledge is important for identifying vulnerable regions that are at risk from phenomena such as food shortages and water stress. Human activities are a key driving force in global change, and thus detailed information on population distribution is an important input to any research framework on global change. In this paper we assess the global geospatial patterns of the distribution of human population and related factors, with regard to the altitude above sea level and proximity to the coast. The investigated factors are physical conditions, urbanisation, agricultural practices, economy, and environmental stress. An important novel element in this study, is that we included the temporal evolution in various factors related to human settlements and agricultural practices over the 20th century, and used projections for some of these factors up to the year 2050. We found population pressure in the proximity of the coast to be somewhat greater than was found in other studies. Yet, the distribution of population, urbanisation and wealth are evolving to become more evenly spread across the globe than they were in the past. Therefore, the commonly believed tendency of accumulation of people and wealth along coasts is not supported by our results. At the same time, food production is becoming increasingly decoupled from the trends in population density. Croplands are spreading from highly populated coastal zones towards inland zones. Our results thus indicate that even though people and wealth continue to accumulate in proximity to the coast, population densities and economic productivity are becoming less diverse in relation to elevation and distance from the coast."

The End of Job Growth

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Scope AR

The Showdown States in 2016

Civil Engineering in the Era of Making Government for the People

A Paragraph to Ponder

From The Rise and Fall of Nations: Forces of Change in the Post-Crisis World by Ruchir Sharma:

"In the AC (after our 2008-2010 financial crisis), there are precious few nations that would qualify as rising stars by the standards of the BC (before crisis) era.  In 2007, the year before the global financial crisis hit, the number of economies growing faster than 7 percent reached a postwar peak at more than sixty, including China, India, and Russia.  Currently, there are only nine economies growing that fast, and only one of them is reasonably large: India.  The next largest is Ethiopia.  And India's growth rate is probably overstated, the result of dodgy new accounting methods used by the national statistics bureau."

The Rise of Smart Water Programs

Augmented Pixels

Link to their website.

The Economics of Hamilton


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

How to Design an App


Link to their website.

How Will Synthetic Biology Change Wastewater Treatment?

Georgia Tech - Study Sustainable Transportation

The Economics of Disasters

30 Days of Genius

We Need Stronger Global Capabilities in Infrastructure Development and Maintenance Management

Disaster Support Hubs

From the Vancouver Observer.

Is Crowdsourced Micro-Tasking the Future of Engineering?

From Medium - Say Goodbye To Your Highly Skilled Job.  It's How a "Human Intelligence Task" -
"Granted, Harry can’t perform most of the tasks in a pathologist’s repertoire. But in 2016 — 11 years after the launch of the ur-platform, Amazon Mechanical Turk — crowdworking (sometimes also called crowdsourcing) is eating into increasingly high-skilled jobs. The engineers who are developing this model of labor have a bold ambition to atomize entire careers into micro-tasks that almost anyone, anywhere in the world, can carry out online. They’re banking on the idea that any technology that can make a complex process 100 times cheaper, as in Harry’s case, will spread like wildfire.
Perhaps it’s inevitable that in a few years, software will swallow up these jobs, too. But as the tech conversation has fixated on how artificial intelligence will affect the job market, crowdwork has quietly grown in impact and scale.
The next jobs to receive the crowd treatment? Doctors, managers and teachers."

Waze Wars

Monday, June 6, 2016

Our Biophilic Future

Graph of the Week

How Will VR Impact Demand for Commercial Real Estate?

Interesting post from the Environmental and Urban Economics blog:

"I live six miles east of the Pacific Ocean.  As I drive west to the beach along Wilshire blvd, there are many upscale car dealerships that take up a whole block because cars can't be stocked on top of each other. I have thought that this was an inefficient use of land.  In today's WSJ, I read that Cadillac will be getting rid of many of its showrooms and replacing the large showroom with a much smaller virtual reality setup.  So, a prospective buyer would put on one of these helmets and take a virtual tour to see what the car is like (and perhaps how it drives?).  The interesting urban economics here is whether this VR approach generalizes for other businesses such that their aggregate demand for commercial real estate will decline.  In 2016, who (besides for Amazon and Starbucks) needs physical space? Can all urban space just be converted into residential units?  Will VR reduce the need for face to face meetings as people can sit in their own house and pretend that they are having a face to face meeting because the VR places you into the same "room" with the other VR conference participants? In this case, carbon emissions from transport would fall and less time would be wasted commuting and offices would need fewer "conference rooms".     Information technology and urban economics represents a growth field!"

The Biggest Challange for Future Engineers - - Living Past 100-Years Old

From an interview by management consultant McKinsey:

"So what does this mean for corporations? The most obvious is, don’t retire people at 60. It’s the craziest idea there is. Stop doing it. It’s going to cause massive problems for the future. Let people work as long as they can, and that means that they have to be cognitively healthy.

Number two, realize that people aren’t going to have that three-stage career. They will want to hop out at times. They’ll want to rejuvenate. They’ll want to learn a new skill. They’ll want to go on sabbaticals. Academics go on sabbaticals. Why can’t consultants? Think more creatively about career paths.

One of the questions we asked ourselves is where is the change going to happen? Are governments going to change? No, they have to be elected. Most of this stuff is awful, which is why governments, if you notice, are not changing the pension age very much.

Is it going to be corporations? Yes, but probably very slowly. Change will happen at the level of the individual. We will see—and I can’t wait to see it, we’re already seeing it—lots and lots of experimentation as people, individually, in their communities, and in their families, begin to build lives that are sustainable for the long term. We are watching that with enormous interest, and we invite people to our website,, to share their stories."

The Power of the New Engineering Caste

This has been a great read - The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks by Joshua Cooper Ramo.  From the book:

"Think of this example from the world of technology.  Maybe one million people can write object-oriented code at a high level.  A hundred thousand of them can shape that code into some sort of innovative data structure.  A few thousand might be able to use it to build a large data center.  But get down to the couple of dozen who know how Google or Intel or Bitcoin really works, the group who can make machines seem to think, who really know and use back doors at the atomic level of hacking - well, then you have a tight elite.  If connections changes the mature of an object, it also elevates those who control that connection to a level of rare power and influence.  Though the networks and protocols and data they control, this group touches more parts of our lives than any group of elites ever has.  That many of them are billionaires as a result should hardly be a surprise."

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Making Pooping Great Again

From Foreign Policy -

FEMA's Disaster Deductible

Engineering in the Biological Century

From MIT Technology Review:

"The proposal, described today in a two-and-a-half-page letter being published in Science, is to string together synthetically made DNA and shape from it a human genome able to power a cell in a dish, according to lead authors Jef Boeke of New York University’s Langone Medical Center and biotechnologist George Church of Harvard Medical School."

Design Leadership in Context

Engineering for the New Normal

New USGS Groundwater Quality Study

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Mayors Are Key to Our Future

From Urbanomics:

"The modern world favours localism. Growing complexity and change, the clustering of the resources needed for innovation, and the diverse demands and expectations of modern citizens, all put a premium on getting decision-making closer to the people. Most national domestic policy fails. If this sounds like a sweeping statement, I offer in evidence decades of welfare reform, health reform, education reform, prison reform — and so on. Some local policy, in contrast, succeeds. Around the world, surveys show mayors to be more popular and effective than presidents and prime ministers. On the whole, local leaders are pragmatic dealmakers. Voters prefer politicians who are close to the action and keen to emphasise that geographical loyalty comes above political allegiance."

Advancing Waters

Link to the website.

Investing in Roads or Stormwater Management?

From CityLab - - a world of extremes with either too little or too much water could force an examination of how we allocate investments dollars under the infrastructure umbrella

"The investment must have seemed sound back in 1991, when the study for the first 14.5-mile stretch began. But today, the Grand Parkway looks like the Great Missed Opportunity. To consider just one angle—and there are many, from the benefits of smarter transit that won’t be realized to the possibility of driverless cars arriving before the tollway bonds are even repaid—Texas has not invested nearly so much research or resources into managing its floodplains. And now, Houston is experiencing historic flooding—flooding that would be uncharacteristic if floods weren’t so damned typical for the region these days."

Image result for pictures of houston floods

Investing in Salmon

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Drones to the Rescue

What Happens When Nemo is Flushed?

American Copper Buildings - NYC

Airports and Self-Driving Vehicles

From ENR:

"The increasing connectivity of devices and sensing systems, movement analytics and heat maps will influence airport asset maintenance, said Manik Arora, president and CEO of Arora Engineers, speaking on one of the many technology panels. Airports also are experimenting with facial recognition technologies to improve passenger flows and security.

Aviation-sector veterans cited driverless vehicles as perhaps the biggest game-changer ahead. “Of all the emerging technologies, the advent of autonomous vehicles … will have sustained impact on airport operations and finances,” says Allan Shapiro, senior management consultant at Ross & Baruzzini. “Airports will have to take into consideration the impact of passengers using autonomous vehicles to access and depart them,” he adds. “Driverless cars will impact major sources of revenue that airports once received from parking, car rental operations and taxis, as well as terminal curb-frontage management.” Driverless vehicles could spur the construction of remote smart garages in which the vehicles could park between trips, Shapiro notes.

Adds Siwinski, “Autonomous vehicles will be twice as disruptive as Uber.”"

Welcome to the Digital Industrial Revolution

How to Open a New Tunnel

Parvus Electric Grids Coming to Semper Fi

Placemeter - Urban Intelligence

Is It Time to Blow the Dam?

From the Marginal Revolution:

"Larry Summers asks:
How…could our society have regressed to the point where a bridge that could be built in less than a year one century ago takes five times as long to repair today?

As I wrote in Launching:
Our ancestors were bold and industrious–they built a significant portion of our energy and road infrastructure more than half a century ago. It would be almost impossible to build the system today. Unfortunately, we cannot rely on the infrastructure of our past to travel to our future.

Summers alludes to the regulatory thicket as a cause of the infrastructure slowdown but doesn’t have much to say about fixing the problem. Here’s a place to begin. Repeal all historic preservation laws. It’s one thing to require safety permits but no construction project should require a historic preservation permit. Here are three reasons:
First, it’s often the case that buildings of little historical worth are preserved by rules and regulations that are used as a pretext to slow competitors, maintain monopoly rents, and keep neighborhoods in a kind of aesthetic stasis that benefits a small number of people at the expense of many others.
Second, a confident nation builds so that future people may look back and marvel at their ancestors ingenuity and aesthetic vision. A nation in decline looks to the past in a vain attempt to “preserve” what was once great. Preservation is what you do to dead butterflies.

Ironically, if today’s rules for historical preservation had been in place in the past the buildings that some now want to preserve would never have been built at all. The opportunity cost of preservation is future greatness.
Third, repealing historic preservation laws does not mean ending historic preservation. There is a very simple way that truly great buildings can be preserved–they can be bought or their preservation rights paid for. The problem with historic preservation laws is not the goal but the methods. Historic preservation laws attempt to foist the cost of preservation on those who want to build (very much including builders of infrastructure such as the government). Attempting to foist costs on others, however, almost inevitably leads to a system full of lawyers, lobbying and rent seeking–and that leads to high transaction costs and delay. Richard Epstein advocated a compensation system for takings because takings violat ethics and constitutional law. But perhaps an even bigger virtue of a compensation system is that it’s quick. A building worth preserving is worth paying to preserve. A compensation system unites builders and those who want to preserve and thus allows for quick decisions about what will be preserved and what will not.

Some people will object that repealing historic preservation laws will lead to some lovely buildings being destroyed. Of course, it will. There is no point pretending otherwise. It will also lead to some lovely buildings being created. More generally, however, the logic of regulatory thickets tells us that we cannot have everything. As I argued in Launching:
There are good regulations and bad regulations and lots of debate over which is which. From an innovation perspective, however, this debate misses a key point. Let’s assume that all regulations are good. The problem is that even if each regulation is good, the net effect of all the regulations combined may be bad. A single pebble in a big stream doesn’t do much, but throw enough pebbles and the stream of innovation is dammed.

It’s time to blow the dam. Creative destruction requires some destruction."