Friday, February 24, 2017

Engineering Trump's European Wall

From CNN.

Awards to IoT Innovation Projects

SMEs awarded £50,000 to solve London problems including noise and safe cycling using IoT - IoT Now - How to run an IoT enabled business: Six small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from across the UK have been awarded a share of £50,000 (€58,000) funding by Future Cities Catapult, the UK Go

Regulation of the Day

Who Makes a Better Doctor?

‘Replace male doctors with female ones and save at least 32,000 lives each year’?: Critically examines a high profile article claiming replacing men with women doctors would save 32,000 lives a year.

Understanding Border Adjustment Tax Plans

Our Uncomfortable Future - Police Retireees vs. Practicing Civil Engineers

From the Dallas Morning News - - report on the scenario that would refund the City of Dallas pension plan with cuts in DART operations and capital investments.  I fear this is the future in locales with a public pension crisis (which is numerous locations) - - paying for the past by cutting investment in the future.

"Griggs' aim is to ask voters in November to make the choice between using money for DART's future or for public safety workers' retirements.
DART, of course, never thought it would be part of the pension mess. Agency spokesman Morgan Lyons said such a move is "potentially devastating for transit operations." 
Lyons said DART officials would have to consider cuts to train and bus service and perhaps even reconsider their ambitions to simultaneously build a second downtown Dallas rail line, a streetcar and a new suburban rail line to DFW International Airport."

Do We Understand the Numbers Behind Transit Ridership?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Random Attacks on Engineers

"A Kansas man allegedly shot two Indian-American men and a bystander after yelling anti-immigrant slurs Wednesday night.
Adam Purinton, 51, allegedly opened fire on the two Indian-American engineers in an Olathe, Kansas, bar, in an incident Kansas police say was premeditated. Purinton then left the bar and traveled to a nearby Applebee’s in Clinton, Missouri, where he allegedly remarked that he had shot two Middle Eastern men, and that he needed a place to hide.
Purinton confronted the men while drinking at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe around 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday. “Get out of my country,” Purinton allegedly told the two Indian-American men, according to at least one witness. Others told the Kansas City Star that he had been making racial slurs before he allegedly shot and killed Srinivas Kuchibhotla and injured Alok Madasani, who worked with Kuchibhotla at Garmin International. A bystander, Ian Grillot, attempted to intervene, and was shot non-fatally in the hand and shoulder."

Is Trump Planning a Canadian Style FAA?

Texans Don't Like Border Walls and Bullet Trains for the Same Reasons

Civil Engineering and the Municipal Bond Dependency Problem

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

BNSF and the Pathfinder Program

Morgan Stanley On the Future of the Car

Skagit River Bridge Replacement

I-5 Skagit River Bridge Collapse Review | Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities | Vol 30, No 6

I-5 Skagit River Bridge Collapse Review | Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities | Vol 30, No 6

Trump versus the Markets

From Fortune:

"Trump has a totally different vision. In his mind, the plan will create a virtuous cycle of investment and durable growth. Companies will spend heavily on capital investment, and as they expand, pull millions of working-age folks who've quit the labor force back into offices and factories. The surge in capex will raise productivity through purchases of efficient machinery, and innovative technology that makes supply chains more efficient. That combination would cause production and the labor force to expand in tandem with demand for both products and workers, thus holding real prices in check. It's obvious, however, that both investors and the Fed think that a surge is prices is far more likely than the supply side revolution that Trump promises. The evidence is the rate rise that's already occurred as a harbinger of inflation to come. If a surge in the labor and output doesn't occur, the spike in growth will fade quickly. "You're juicing the economy for a short period," says Ashworth, "but it can't grow at 3% without high inflation because productivity and labor can't keep up. You run up against hard constraints." In that scenario, the Fed is forced to raise rates even further to stanch inflation, causing a recession. "We haven't repealed the business cycle," says Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae. "This is already one of the longest expansions on record.""

Another Sign of Blade Runner 2049

From the New Yorker by Kelly Clancy - A Computer to Rival the Brain:

"Building on decades of work by Mead and others, engineers have been racing to roll out the first so-called neuromorphic chips for consumer use. Kwabena Boahen’s research group at Stanford unveiled its low-power Neurogrid chip in 2014, and Qualcomm has announced that its brain-inspired Zeroth processor will reach the market in 2018. Another model, I.B.M.’s TrueNorth, only recently moved from digital prototype to usable product. It consists of a million silicon neurons, tiny cores that communicate directly with one another using synapse-like connections. Here, the medium is the message; each neuron is both program and processing unit. The sensory data that the chip receives, rather than marching along single file, fan out through its synaptic networks. TrueNorth ultimately arrives at a decision—say, classifying the emotional timbre of its user’s voice—by group vote, as a choir of individual singers might strike on a harmony. I.B.M. claims the chip is useful in real-time pattern recognition, as for speech processing or image classification. But the biggest advance is its energy efficiency: it uses twenty milliwatts per square centimetre, more than a thousand times less than a traditional chip."

Drone Wars

The Midwest, Redefined

From NewGeography - The Midwest, Redefined

23 Ways to Use Alexa in Your Office

Good Update on Battery Technology

Is AI the Future of Growth?

A new report from Accenture and Frontier Economics.  Can AI help to double our economic growth rate by 2035?

Highly Recommended for Engineers - MIT Essential Knowledge Series

Machine Learning

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rise of the Robots in West Virginia

From a report by Brookings:

"In the next decade, the coal mining industry will likely lose even more jobs to automation. According to a report  from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in Winnipeg, Canada, the mining industry is primed for automation. It is highly capital intensive, pays relatively well, and buys expensive equipment. The industry has already adopted various automated technologies, including autonomous haul trucks and loaders; autonomous long-distance haul trains; semi-autonomous crushers, rock breakers, and shovel swings; automated drilling and tunnel-boring systems; automated long-wall plough and shearers; autonomous equipment monitoring; and GIS and GPS technologies. All of these technologies are already in use, and their deployment will be ramped up in the next 10–15 years."

Should a Terminator (T-800) be Taxed Like Humans?

What Bill Gates is thinking - - 

“Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, Social  Security tax, all those things,” he said. “If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d  think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”


Would an Infrastructure Investment Plan Help the Forgotten-Men Index?

Has America Turned Against (Engineering) Experts?

Tom Nichols has a troubling article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs - How America Lost Faith in Expertise: And Why That's a Giant Problem.  The P.E. behind (and the Dr. before) my name puts me squarely in the cross hairs of the anti-expert movement.  To quote Nichols, "We are moving toward a Google-fueled, Wikipedia based collapse of any division between professionals and laypeople." Make no mistake, engineers are in the same professional expert category reserved for doctors, lawyers, and teachers.

From the closing of the article:

"Experts need to remember, always, that they are the servants of a democratic society and a republican government.  Their citizen masters, however, must equip themselves not just with education but also with the kind of civic virtue that keeps them involved in the running of their own country.  Laypeople cannot do with experts, and they must accept this reality without rancor.  Experts, likewise, must accept that they get a hearing, not a veto, and that their advice will not always to taken.  At this point, the bonds tying the system together are dangerously frayed.  Unless some sort of trust and mutual respect can be restored, public discourse will be polluted by unearned respect for unfounded opinions.  And in such an environment, anything and everything becomes possible, including the end of democracy and republican government itself."

Engineering In Our Miserable 21st Century

From Commentary - - hard to argue with the facts that suggest this century is off to a bad start.  
"In our era of no more than indifferent economic growth, 21st–century America has somehow managed to produce markedly more wealth for its wealthholders even as it provided markedly less work for its workers. And trends for paid hours of work look even worse than the work rates themselves. Between 2000 and 2015, according to the BEA, total paid hours of work in America increased by just 4 percent (as against a 35 percent increase for 1985–2000, the 15-year period immediately preceding this one). Over the 2000–2015 period, however, the adult civilian population rose by almost 18 percent—meaning that paid hours of work per adult civilian have plummeted by a shocking 12 percent thus far in our new American century.
This is the terrible contradiction of economic life in what we might call America’s Second Gilded Age (2000—). It is a paradox that may help us understand a number of overarching features of our new century. These include the consistent findings that public trust in almost all U.S. institutions has sharply declined since 2000, even as growing majorities hold that America is “heading in the wrong direction.” It provides an immediate answer to why overwhelming majorities of respondents in public-opinion surveys continue to tell pollsters, year after year, that our ever-richer America is still stuck in the middle of a recession. The mounting economic woes of the “little people” may not have been generally recognized by those inside the bubble, or even by many bubble inhabitants who claimed to be economic specialists—but they proved to be potent fuel for the populist fire that raged through American politics in 2016."

A Paragraph to Ponder

From the David Brooks column in the New York Times:
"Slow growth strains everything else — meaning less opportunity, less optimism and more of the sort of zero-sum, grab-what-you-can thinking that Donald Trump specializes in. The slowdown has devastated American workers. Between 1985 and 2000, the total hours of paid work in America increased by 35 percent. Over the next 15 years, they increased by only 4 percent.
For every one American man aged 25 to 55 looking for work, there are three who have dropped out of the labor force. If Americans were working at the same rates they were when this century started, over 10 million more people would have jobs. As Eberstadt puts it, “The plain fact is that 21st-century America has witnessed a dreadful collapse of work.”"

Urban Manufacturing Alliance

Link to their website.

Blockchain Technology: Implications and Opportunities for Professional Engineers

Link to the NSPE white paper.  From the report:

"By contrast, the US system for licensure of professional engineers (Professional Engineering Protocol) with its own model law, is effective in bridging the capitalization gap—i.e., that long period of time between money flowing to a product or structure and the time that project produces revenue. Within this capitalization gap, the engineer’s stamp holds the asset in suspension during the design and construction phases, serving as a proxy for the finished project on the accounting balance sheet. Upon closer comparison, there appears to be significant functional similarities between the mechanics of the Professional Engineering Protocol and the mechanics of Blockchain Protocol for achieving security, consensus among stakeholders, and validation of transactions. Professional engineering licensure has proven effective for over 100 years, but few people are aware of the role that PEs play in an economic system. Today, the institution of professional engineering is struggling for an interface with the digital world."

Sunday, February 19, 2017

What If Microsoft Designed Your Driverless Operating System?

From Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman:
  • Automobiles would frequently crash for no apparent reason.  This would be so common that motorists would simply accept it, restart their car, and continue driving.
  • Occasionally all the car's doors would lock, and motorists could enter their vehicle only by simultaneously lifting the door handle, turning the key, and holding the radio antenna.
  • Vehicles would occasionally shut down completely and refuse to restart, requiring motorists to reinstall their engine.
  • Every time a car company introduced a new model, car buyers would have to relearn to drive because all controls would operate in a new manner.
  • Whenever roadway lines were repainted motorists would need to purchase a new car that could accommodate the new "operating system."
  • Cars could carry only one passenger unless the driver paid extra for a multipassenger license.
  • Oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single, all-purpose "general car fault" warning light.
  • Airbags would ask, "Are you sure?" before deployment.

Another Sign of Blade Runner 2049

Now You Can 'Build Your Own' Bio-Bot: A team of researchers has released a protocol for designing and building "bio-bots" powered by muscle cells and controlled with light and electrical signals.

Should You Have to Pay a Tax If You Replace Workers with Robots?

Integrating Facility Management and IoT

Cavitation and the Risk of Spillway Failure

Link to the report.

Engineering Term of the Week - - Cavitation

Introducing GITA

The Accidents of Driverless Cars

From the excellent Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman:

Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead"At the time this book was written, Google's driverless cars had a total of seventeen minor fender benders and one low-speed collision with a bus.  In the seventeen fender benders,  the culprit was not the not driverless car, but the other human drivers.  On February 14, 2016, however, Google's car had its first significant accident when it "made contact" with the side of a city bus.  Unlike the previous seventeen minor collisions, this accident was the fault of the car's software because it erroneously predicted that if the car rolled forward, the bus would stop.

With the exception of the run-in with the bus, the rest of Google's accidents have happened because, ironically, Google's car drive too well.  A well-programmed autonomous vehicle follows driving rules to the letter, confusing human drivers who tend to be less meticulous behind the wheel, and not always so law-abiding.  The typical accident scenario involves one of Google's obedient driverless cars trying to merge onto a highway or turn right at a busy intersection on a red light.  Impatient human drivers, not understanding the car's precise adherence to speed limits or lane-keeping rules, accidentally run into the driverless car."

The Information Highway Circa 1994

From 1994 by Arthur Ochs Sulzberger after stepping down from the New York Times:

"Far from resembling a modern interstate, it will more likely approach a roadway in India: chaotic , crowded, and swarming with cows."

Black Sage Technologies

Link to their website - - drone tracking system.

A Trump Performance Metric - Lancaster,Ohio

This is another Trump KPI that we should occasionally check on - - the revival of Lancaster, Ohio:

"The median income for a household in the city was $33,321, and the median income for a family was $39,773. Males had a median income of $30,462 versus $23,023 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,648. About 8.7% of families and 10.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.8% of those under age 18 and 8.1% of those age 65 or over."

I just ordered Glass House, the history of the decline of Lancaster, Ohio.

The Best of Pothole Art

Image result for pothole art

Another Sign of Blade Runner 2049

Link to the Cyborg Nest website.

Image result for cyborg nest pictures

The Oak Mirror

Climate Change Migration from Mexico

From the New York Times today by Michael Kimmelman - A Parched and Sinking Capital: Mexico City's Water Crisis Pushes It Toward the Brink - -

"One study predicts that 10 percent of Mexicans ages 15 to 65 could eventually try to emigrate north as a result of rising temperatures, drought and floods, potentially scattering millions of people and heightening already extreme political tensions over immigration."

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Cheering for Team Iguana and the Wonder of Planet Earth II

Questions Regarding Our Self-Driving Future

I attended the Northeast Tarrant County Transportation Summit in Hurst, Texas last Friday.  Around 700 professional and politicians attended the conference.  The theme of the conference was our autonomous transportation future.  Everyone seems to be moving toward a future in which 10% of auto sales by 2030 will be self-driving.

This may happen, but I have serious concerns regarding our autonomous future.  The latest presidential election highlighted the notion that people were voting for a return to the certainties of the 1950s.  This sounds like a 427 cubic inch Mustang made 100% in America with gas prices rolling in at $0.40 per gallon.  People want 1950 and yet we are thinking futuristic 2050.  Squaring self-driving technology with cultural constraints and a political desire to slow things down and invest in stability seems hugely problematic.  This is just one side of the coin.  The other side looks even more problematic.  America is aging and older societies take fewer risks.  What is more riskier than changing our primary mode of transportation that has been somewhat unchanged since 1920?

I love the idea of autonomous vehicles and flying cars - - if we can develop the technology, it will be a huge plus for society.  But we have very strong political, cultural, and demographic headwinds to overcome.

Musk on Boring

A Paragraph to Ponder

From Medium:

"Donald Trump won more than three-quarters of counties with a Cracker Barrel, while winning just 22 percent of counties with a Whole Foods. That 54 percent gap is not an aberration. David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report has found a similar divide going back over two decades."

Trail-Oriented Development

Another Sign of Blade Runner 2049

From Immature Boys to Successful Adult Engineers

From Medium - 10 Habits That Change Boys Into Men.  The STEM professions need greater diversity - - and this has been a successful focus.  But the professions also need better students and practitioners overall.  A focus on the ten recommendations produce better citizens and better engineers.

9. Fall In Love With Learning

Ordinary people seek entertainment. Extraordinary people seek education and learning. We now live in a world where you no longer need to go to college (or high school) to become educated. At your fingertips is an unlimited and ever-increasingly well of information. You can become an expert at anything.
Many of the world’s most successful people attribute their success to a love for learning. They often read one or more books per week. With a few books, you can learn how to build wealth, healthy relationships, and the life of your dreams.
With more information and education, you will make better lifestyle choices. You’ll be less likely to have destructive addictions and make ignorant decisions.
You’ll be more likely to surround yourself with brilliant people, learn new languages and explore the world, come up with solutions to the world’s problems, and have passion and zest for life.
Stop gaming and start reading. The real world awaits. And it’s amazing.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Living Around Floods

County Flood Claims Map

Engineering the World of Psychographics

California Reservoir Update

Brookings on Dam Infrastructure

Big Data Innovation Team Comes to Transportation

Data Mining Gains More Cachet in Construction Sector

Data Mining Gains More Cachet in Construction Sector: Firms, IT vendors and professionals seek buried treasure in volumes of big data for infrastructure projects.

Key question looking into the future - - will big data generate big benefits for the AEC industry?

The Future Is Looking Up - Part 2

From The Guardian - - demonstrates the power and promise (and potential peril) of our genetically modified future.  My thought is far more power than peril.  
"The woolly mammoth vanished from the Earth 4,000 years ago, but now scientists say they are on the brink of resurrecting the ancient beast in a revised form, through an ambitious feat of genetic engineering.
Speaking ahead of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston this week, the scientist leading the “de-extinction” effort said the Harvard team is just two years away from creating a hybrid embryo, in which mammoth traits would be programmed into an Asian elephant.
“Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo,” said Prof George Church. “Actually, it would be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits. We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.”"
Image result for picture of wooly mammoth

The Future Is Looking Up - Part 1

A flying car or similar future bodes well for society - -

Thinking About Managing Your Mechanical Employees

TruMpISSION: Impossible - Border Wall |

Great analysis of the Trump Wall - TruMpISSION: Impossible - Border Wall |

Seven Fatal Flaws of Innovation

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The High Cost of Economic Transitions

From economist Tyler Cowen:

"By the estimates of Gregory Clark, economic historian at the University of California at Davis, English real wages may have fallen about 10 percent from 1770 to 1810, a 40-year period. Clark also estimates that it took 60 to 70 years of transition, after the onset of industrialization, for English workers to see sustained real wage gains at all.

If we imagine the contemporary U.S. experiencing similar wage patterns, most of us would expect political trouble, and hardly anyone would call that a successful transition. Yet that may be the track we are on. Median household income is down since 1999, and by some accounts median male wages were higher in 1969 than today. The more pessimistic of those estimates are the subject of contentious debate (are we really adjusting for inflation properly?), but the very fact that the numbers are capable of yielding such gloomy results suggests transition costs are higher than many economists like to think."

AI versus the Human Brain - - A Matter of Watts

From The New Yorker - - it will be interesting to see if the "watt metric" becomes a KPI.

"A.I. owes much of its recent success to biological metaphors. Deep learning, for example, which underlies technologies from Siri to Google Translate, uses several interconnected processing layers, modelled after the neuronal strata that compose the cortex. Still, given that even the most advanced neural networks are run on von Neumann machines, they are computationally intensive and energy-greedy. Last March, AlphaGo, a program created by Google DeepMind, was able to beat a world-champion human player of Go, but only after it had trained on a database of thirty million moves, running on approximately a million watts. (Its opponent’s brain, by contrast, would have been about fifty thousand times more energy-thrifty, consuming twenty watts.) Likewise, several years ago, Google’s brain simulator taught itself to identify cats in YouTube videos using sixteen thousand core processors and all the wattage that came with them. Now companies want to endow our personal devices with intelligence, to let our smartphones recognize our family members, anticipate our moods, and suggest adjustments to our medications. To do so, A.I. will need to move beyond algorithms run on supercomputers and become embodied in silico."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Era of Extreme Weather and the Exhaustion of Emergency Spillways

Cassie - And It Comes in Brown (Just Like the UPS Guy)

Emotion Detection Software

From Chain Store Age - - Is Facial Recognition in Retail Market Research the Next Big Thing?

A Paragraph to Ponder

From Politico:

"The vast quantity of agricultural products that North Dakota exports is a story shared by farm states across the country. American agriculture sent $129 billion worth of goods abroad in fiscal 2016 – more than 20 percent of all the food grown in the United States. That number has more than doubled over the past decade, making agriculture a rare bright spot in the U.S. trade accounts. When President Donald Trump and free-trade critics fret about the United States’ $500 billion trade deficit, it’s often lost that American farmers run a large and growing surplus, and have been since the 1960s. Last year the surplus was $16.6 billion. The USDA projects it will rise to $21.5 billion this year."

The Participatory Aquifer Mapping Project

Link to the project site.

How Richard Longworth Predicted 20 Years Ago That Globalization Would Cause a Social Crisis

From NewGeography - - How Richard Longworth Predicted 20 Years Ago That Globalization Would Cause a Social Crisis

Moving Markets With a Tweet

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Being Assigned a Persona

A highly interesting interview with CIO magazine - - Dan Kieny, CIO of Black & Veatch.  Many great insights and predictions in the article - from the article:
"Let’s say you are a 23 year old who joins Black & Veatch as a junior CAD designer. In the old world, we would tell you, go to this SharePoint site and subscribe to a community of practice. We envision a new workplace where you will be assigned a persona based on your discipline: electrical, mechanical, or civil, for example. That persona will define the apps you will automatically have access to; and the people who are working on the most relevant work to you will be served up like an ad. Read this. Connect to this person. Here is what others in a similar role are working on.  And because all of this is in the cloud, it will continuously update, and can be accessed from any device.
In our next gen workplace, employees will be able to “like” each other’s work. We will be able to spin-up a new office anywhere in the world. Our vision is to move many of our professionals in the company to an asset-less organization scheme where IT doesn’t procure assets for new employees, we give them personas. Our employees will no longer be attached to a particular office with a workforce; they will be attached directly to people and information. On their very first day on the job, we will have them working -- from any device, connected to peers, expertise, tools and applications."

The Home Version of Augmented Reality

Lake Isabella dam concerns after recent winter storms

Lake Isabella dam concerns after recent winter storms: Although drought conditions are drastically improving, water is quickly filling Lake Isabella, putting more pressure on the dam.

Climate Change and Dam Safety

From the New York Times:

"But California’s most troubled large dam is at Lake Isabella, built in the 1950s on what was thought to be a dormant earthquake fault by the Army Corps of Engineers on the Kern River above Bakersfield. The fault has since been shown to be active, and out of concerns that the dam could fail, the authorities restricted the level of the lake behind it. This week, officials assured nearby residents that despite heavy rains, the lake levels, and the dam itself, remained safe.

But the dam will have to be rebuilt, with a new emergency spillway, at a cost expected to be about half a billion dollars. Construction is expected to start this year and to take at least five years. Isabella is an example of how dam spillways designed more than a half-century ago are now often inadequate, said Blake P. Tullis, a professor of civil engineering at Utah State University who has worked on the design of the new spillway. Climate change is part of the problem, he said, but other factors, like land use changes — more parking lots, for example, mean more runoff into rivers — and better weather data have also played a role. “Now, as you do your statistical analysis, the biggest flood you could predict actually happening is much bigger,” Dr. Tullis said. “People are scrambling a bit, asking how we maintain dam safety.”"

The Smart Contact Lens

The Economics of Roses

Thinking About Dams on Valentine's Day

“But love is much like a dam: if you allow a tiny crack to form through which only a trickle of water can pass, that trickle will quickly bring down the whole structure, and soon no one will be able to control the force of the current. For when those walls come down, then love takes over, and it no longer matters what is possible or impossible; it doesn't even matter whether we can keep the loved one at our side. To love is to lose control.” ― Paulo CoelhoBy the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

A Paragraph to Ponder

From Politico:

"Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, the head of DP World, a UAE-based ports conglomerate that operates in 40 countries, also disputed the assumption that Trump threatens global trade, noting that some 75 percent of the world’s economic growth is in emerging markets. Sulayem has his business down to a science—he rattled off statistics, such as how 1 percent growth in a country means a 3 percent growth in shipping containers. His company is focused on cracking open markets in hard-to-reach places like the interior of Africa, and doesn’t much worry about what the United States is doing."

Monday, February 13, 2017

Size of the Oroville Dam Spillway Sinkhole

Major sinkhole on spillway at Lake Oroville

Augmented Reality Could Be the Next Big Thing for Civil Engineering

Arup In 50 Years

A Water Utility Talks Sustainability

Civil Engineering Is The History Discipline

Spillway Breach Leads to Mass Evacuation in California

Spillway Breach Leads to Mass Evacuation in California: Tens of thousands of residents are ordered to evacuate near Sacramento as dam crisis reaches critical stage.

Private Infrastructure and Public Risk

Our Three Most Challenging Economic Issues

My take - - (1.) Growing fastest than the annualized rates we have achieve over the last eight years, (2.) Rebalancing globalization so as to equalize the benefits between the winners and losers, and (3.) Selling active wear for $1.00 while maintaining viability.

Graph of the Week

Guessing Your Age

More Driverless Means More Drivers?

From SupplyChainDigest.

Thinking About Trade

Predisposed Platforms

From The Economist:
Airbnb’s inventory of 2.3m rooms makes it bigger than the three largest hotel chains—Hilton, Marriott and InterContinental—combined. Incumbents are demanding that online rivals obey rules that constrain everyone else... Airbnb stands accused of reducing the supply of affordable housing in big cities. Uber is said to worsen traffic problems and to weaken public-transport systems by luring away passengers. Facebook and Twitter are accused of enabling the spread of fake and biased news during America’s election. Such services have also become favourite hangouts for bullies and trolls...
It is also becoming exceedingly hard to maintain that platforms are—like telecoms networks—“neutral”. The argument that they do not interfere in the kind of content that is shown was a key rationale for exempting them from liability. But they are starting to resemble regulators themselves, which makes it odder still that they act outside legal limits. Facebook’s algorithms determine what members see in their news feeds. Uber’s software decides what drivers get paid. It is getting easier to police platforms, too, thanks to artificial-intelligence techniques which can recognise and predict patterns of bad user behaviour.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Oroville Dam Update

The Trump Wall - - Making It Childproof

Access in the City

From Newgeography - - Access in the City

Numbers Behind the Grammys

The current issue of the Economist has a special report on mass entertainment - Winner Takes All.  If you watch the Grammys tonight showcasing the winners - - keep in mind these facts from the report:

"Anita Elberse, of the Harvard Business School, working with data from Nielsen, notes that in 2007, 91% of the 3.9m different music tracks sold in America notched up fewer than 100 sales, and 24% only one each.  Just 36 best-selling tracks accounted for 7% of all sales.  By last year the tail had become yet longer but even thinner: of 8.7m different tracks that sold at least one copy, 96% sold fewer than 100 copies and 40% - 3.5m songs - were purchased just once."

The Decline of Dynamism

Taking the Intelligent Transportation Robot Out for a Spin

Drones and Bridge Inspections

CAD in the Cloud - The Onshape Story


The Billy Beane of Murder

Link to the data driven Murder Accountability Project and founder Thomas Hargrove.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Second Avenue Celebrity Engineer

From the New Yorker - All Aboard: On time or maddeningly late, the Second Avenue rolls in - - - 

"Horodniceanu, a courtly civil engineer who was born in Romania and later fought with the Israeli Army in the Six-Day War, took up the cause of community relations. He became something of a Second Avenue subway celebrity, known to all as Michael H., a bow tie among the hardhats and the lapel pins. The four-hundred-and-eighty-five-ton tunnel-boring machine was named after his granddaughter, Adi. He led seventy-three Saturday tours of the tunnels, went door to door to assuage local shopkeepers, and cooked for the construction workers at a neighborhood restaurant, though there wasn’t much he could do about a plague of flies—a result, he theorized, of the excavation of all the old hops the neighborhood’s long-gone breweries had dumped into the ground."

Profile of an Engineer - Second Avenue's Dr. Michael Horodniceanu

Trump's Wall Calculator

Very Important to Understand Border Trade Adjustment Tax

Good discussion - -

What is Set-Based Design?

Link to a good discussion regarding set and point based design - - applies to all engineering design disciplines.

The Latest on the Trump Wall

H-1B Visas - - The National Engineering Issue

From the Letters to the Editor column of the Wall Street Journal on February 9, 2017 - - comments from two engineers on the Journal article entitled "White House Takes On Working Visas," page one, February 2, 2017.

First comment - - 

"There are currently about 90 million people between the ages of 18 and 65 unemployed in the U.S.  What efforts are being made to train the workers that are needed?  The idea that the America worker is lazy and making no effort to improve isn't borne out by millions in night school or those working and volunteering.  It's closer to the truth to say that corporate America's leadership has abdicated its responsibility to the country and its workers."

Second comment - - 

"I don't think the engineering profession would agree with your H-1B assessment.  In my 40 years working in the aerospace industry, I have seen many ill effects of the program.  It's been used to depress American engineering salaries.  Its elimination or curtailment would greatly benefit American engineers.  It's partly been responsible for the dependence on foreign suppliers for key aspects of critical technologies required by the military that for national security purposes should be homegrown.  It's created a surplus of high-technology billionaires who have little allegiance to our country or its values.  It has also been partly responsible for our engineering and software jobs, with the exception of military programs, being outsourced to China and India."

Thursday, February 9, 2017

University of Texas Looks at Driverless Vehicle Testing

Texas AV Proving Ground Partnership

The Art of Growing Decline

The national water and wastewater markets have been in a state of dis-investment for many years - -

What's New in Mobility

List that was presented at the NCTCOG Regional Transportation Council meeting today - - 
  • Everything
  • Driverless
  • Batteries
  • Autonomous Goods Movement
  • Engineering-Construction Optimization
  • Multiple Funders
  • Don't Call It People Movers
  • Collection-Line-Haul-Distribution Operations 

Rule of 72 Applied to Water

Interesting line in the Dallas Business Journal - - "In the next seven years, officials [North Texas Municipal Water District] expect water rates to rise 10 percent a year."  The Rule of 72 is a quick tool to quantify what this means.  The Rule of 72 provides an estimate of when an investment/cost increase would double.  You divide 72 by the rate of return - - in the case of a 10% annual water rate increase - - your water bill will double in around seven years.

  Image result for rule of 72 table

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Poliiticalization of Concrete

Waterstone's - My Must Stop in London

Monday, February 6, 2017

Food Fights

From the Los Angeles Times.

A Wall Hits Texas the Hardest

Link to the Economist article.

The Journal of Alternative Facts

AI Assistants Coming to the Construction Site?

Strong Headwinds Against Infrastructure Investment

An elderly man with his home health care nurse in Central Park in New York CityFrom the Wall Street Journal today - Spending Math Promises Wider Deficits:

"Medicare and Social Security are the biggest projected drivers of spending.  Ten years ago, some 6,700 Americans turned 65 every day.  The number is now 9,800 Americans, and it will rise 11,700 by 2026."

The politics of this is really ugly - - to invest in the future you have to cut expenditures for the past.

The Problems of Life

From Robin Hanson:

"Some problems are often mentioned in media, such as global warming, war, medical funding, political conflicts. Some problems are less often mentioned in media, but still often discussed in academic publications: encouraging innovation, managing large organizations, extending lifespans, and setting the right amount of regulation. But some problems are obviously big, yet rarely much discussed in media or academia as problems to solve. They are neglected. Oh people on occasion lament such problems, but they don’t often talk seriously about how we might think systematically about solving or mitigating them.

In this post I’d just like to remind folks of a few big neglected problems. I’m not going to propose solutions to them here, though I wouldn’t mind inspiring others to think more about them. Most of them have to do with ancient inherited habits that don’t seem to work that well in the modern world.

Relearn Every GenerationWe must each relearn many basic life lessons during our individual lifetimes, lessons that millions or billions of others already learned in their previous lifetimes, or that millions or billions of others are currently learning in parallel with us. There seem huge potential gains from finding better ways to learn from our ancestors and colleagues.

Changing World – Early in life we read the world around us and choose life plans and paths matched to that world. During our life the world around us changes, and we make some adaptations to that, but they seem insufficient. For example, we often seek to achieve in ways that were awarded with high status when we were young, to find that our achievements are much less valued by the new world.

Poor Matching – We match people as friends, lovers, spouses, and workers. Our distant ancestors only had a few available options for matches, and we inherited many intuitive mechanisms appropriate for that situation. But we now have a vast world with far more matches possible, and it seems like we don’t use that larger scope very well. We still rely heavily on inherited informal mechanisms. I see so many lonely and otherwise mismatched people.

Varied Commitment – We must each choose how much to commit to our careers, friends, lovers, neighborhoods, brands, etc. We do commit somewhat, but we also switch on occasion. And it isn’t remotely clear that we do this well. We must each match our commitment to the commitment choices of folks around us, and we often lack ways to commit to avoid temptations. We could also do a lot better at predicting the future, to better inform our commitment choices."