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Will future technology herald "the end of insight"?

March 11, 2013 9:08 am | by Chris Fox, Managing Editor | Blogs | Comments

We all know the cliché regarding the robot apocalypse – we’ve even taken a few stabs at it on the Engineering Newswire. As we broach the crest of technology that operates upon the barrier between autonomous and thinking, it is easy to see the inevitability of crossing over. Immersing ourselves in a world not far off from Futurama, where robots have personalities and rights (sort of).

Array fracking extracts oil safely and effectively

March 8, 2013 12:27 pm | by M. Simon, Technical Contributor | Blogs | Comments

It looks like we may have more available oil than we thought, thanks to a new procedure called array fracking. What does that mean? It means that the oil boys are drilling the oil holes closer together. And since fracking is about horizontal drilling, that means the wells are parallel to each other.

Robotic bartender uses Raspberry Pi to dispense perfect drinks

March 7, 2013 4:08 pm | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

"Let our bot get you drunk!" If there’s a better sales pitch for the seamless integration of consumer robotics into our everyday lives, I don’t know it. "Bartendro" is a godsend for those who enjoy a good cocktail but don’t like to fiddle with precise measurements (or obscene bar tabs).

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The Microsoft vision for 2018

March 7, 2013 3:08 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Blogs | Comments

A few weeks ago, we took a look at Walter Cronkite’s 1967 prediction of a media room in the year 2001 and, setting aside the 1960s aesthetics, he wasn’t too far off. Humans are always trying to figure out what the future of technology will be. It’s fun to imagine what would happen if Google Glass became the new iPhone or 3D printing allowed for on-site organ creation. These things could change the world as we know it.  

A bug in the drone wars

March 7, 2013 12:52 pm | by M. Simon, Technical Contributor | Blogs | Comments

A new element is being added to the drone wars: Micro Drones. You can watch a five-minute video by the Air Force that looks at the development of M.A.V - Micro Killer Drones. Done in the usual dominating voice that the people promoting superior military technology seem to like for their videos.

Learn from success too

March 7, 2013 9:20 am | by Alan Nicol, Executive Member, AlanNicolSolutions | Blogs | Comments

Too easily, we forget that we should also examine how we achieve those occasional perfect outcomes. As we immerse ourselves in continuous process improvement, we get in the habit of tearing down and examining everything that doesn’t meet expectations, go according to plan, or work efficiently enough.

Forget 3D, say hello to 4D

March 6, 2013 12:08 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Blogs | Comments

Leave it to MIT to come out with 4D printing, just as 3D printing seems to be really hitting its stride. They can’t just leave well enough alone, can they? We’ve talked a little bit about the potential of 3D printing and the pretty amazing things they can do, so now we’re moving on to 4D.

USA claims dubious honor: World's top spammer

March 5, 2013 5:29 pm | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

That slick email from the Nigerian prince promising fabulous riches just might originate from Peoria, USA. According to research from SophosLabs, the United States of America – home of baseball, apple pie, and spam, apparently – sent 18.3% of the world’s junk mail.

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Marketing schemes through the Google [looking] glass

March 5, 2013 9:14 am | by Chris Fox, Managing Editor | Blogs | Comments

Last June, Google announced a unique device that is supposed to incorporate their technology into your everyday life. In fact, their sights seem to be set on invading every moment your eyes are open with convenient updates, recording capabilities, and, of course, an easy-to-use search engine.

Obama’s brain project: A hall of mirrors?

March 5, 2013 9:04 am | by Karl Stephan, Consulting Engineer, Texas State University, San Marcos | Blogs | Comments

One of the famous line drawings of the artist M. C. Escher portrays a realistically drawn hand holding a pencil. The line drawn by the pen turns out to be the cuff of a shirt sleeve, from which emerges a second hand ... which grows out of the paper somehow and holds a pencil, whose line is the cuff of a shirt sleeve, from which emerges the first hand.

A drag on windpower

March 1, 2013 5:02 pm | by M. Simon, Technical Contributor | Blogs | Comments

ECN recently published an article from Eurekalert! on the limits of large scale wind power. I thought it might be a good idea to go to the source to find out if the posted article reflected the actual paper. The first thing I found without any effort at all (it was in the abstract) is that the Eureka people got the previous maximum-estimated wind source number wrong.

Agita over 3D printed guns is absurd

March 1, 2013 4:26 pm | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

Hobbyists, tinkers, and DIYers are the unsung heroes of our industry — "hackers" in the original sense of the word. But conflating "hobbyists" with "guns" causes fits of hysteria. And it’s entirely unwarranted. The handwringing over the imagined capability to print 3D guns and the associated moral implications is absolutely absurd and betrays a basic misunderstanding of firearms and physics.

Top 10 must-read posts from February

March 1, 2013 3:12 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Blogs | Comments

Here’s a rundown of the most read, most popular, most awesome articles on the web. Take a look at what you missed the first time around or check up on an old favorite to see the conversation in the comments. Keep checking out the Lead at www.ecnmag.com and follow us on Twitter @ecnonline for our most up-to-date articles.

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Mayer’s memo ending telecommuting puts Yahoo in good company

March 1, 2013 12:27 pm | by Chris Warner, Executive Editor | Blogs | Comments

Marissa Mayer created quite a hornet’s nest when she issued a memo effectively ending the work-at-home option for Yahoo employees. In the memo, obtained by AllThingsD, Mayer writes, “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side."

Why 3D-printable guns are a terrible idea

March 1, 2013 9:45 am | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Blogs | Comments

Mention the words "3D printed guns" and you’ve got an instant, increasingly heated debate on your hands. When you consider there were 16 mass shootings—defined as a shooting with multiple, random victims—in 2012 with at least 88 people dead including children, it’s definitely a topic worth discussing. My take? No one needs a 3D printed gun or the ability to create one.

Big Brother makes our rational choices less rational

February 28, 2013 3:13 pm | by Chris Warner, Executive Editor | Articles | Comments

While writing my February 2013 column about EDRs (event data recorders, AKA “black boxes”), I came across an article on the same topic (http://bit.ly/12YX4Fe) by one of my colleagues. She commented on the reservations I share with many others about the use of the data derived from the black boxes.

University of Washington EcoCAR 2 Team midpoint update

February 28, 2013 10:40 am | by Communications Manager, UW EcoCAR 2 Team | Blogs | Comments

We’re now at the midpoint of Y2 of the 3 year EcoCAR 2 competition. In the last few months, the 2013 Chevy Malibu was disassembled– almost to the point of body-in-white. Further, much of the rear sub-frame was

Software patents are evil

February 28, 2013 10:08 am | by M. Simon, Technical Contributor | Blogs | Comments

I was planning to write about software patent trolls and was entering "software patents" in my search engine when it offered the suggestion "are evil" to complete the phrase. I'll buy that. So to encourage more traffic here, that is the title of this post. Yes. I have been blogging for quite some time.

Pass the Marketplace Fairness Act

February 27, 2013 3:35 pm | by Rex Solomon, Houston Chronicle | Blogs | Comments

On July 1, 2012, online retail giant Amazon.com began collecting and remitting state sales taxes in Texas. As a small-business owner and president of Houston Jewelry, I can say from experience that this was cause for celebration in the Texas retail community.

Hydrogen fuel cells get a lift

February 27, 2013 9:16 am | by M. Simon, Technical Contributor | Blogs | Comments

I was reading one of the logistics magazines I regularly get and found out something amazing. By about 2020, roughly 80 percent of the lift trucks in America will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The fuel cell advantage is constant voltage output and longer continuous run time.

The greatest use of (bus stop) technology ever

February 21, 2013 3:13 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Blogs | Comments

Companies often struggle with how to incorporate new technology in a useful way, but Qualcomm knocked it out of the park this week with their new bus stop surprise. Qualcomm, a company that specializes in wireless technology, decided that they could use the combination of smart phones and boredom at bus stops

Do drone pilots deserve higher medal than combat vets?

February 20, 2013 3:32 pm | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

Since when did waggling a joystick become more valorous than pulling a trigger? It hasn’t, you say? The newly-minted Distinguished Warfare Medal — created to honor cyberwarriors and drone pilots — would rank above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and the military community is incensed.

Re-understanding “integrated” supply chain

February 19, 2013 1:08 pm | by Alan Nicol, Executive Member, AlanNicolSolutions | Blogs | Comments

Somewhere along the way, it became the norm to give up control of component supply and call it “business improvement.” Re-think the standard mode of buying stuff from others if you can do it yourself.

Engineering the future: Do we know what we’re doing?

February 19, 2013 12:53 pm | by Karl Stephan, Consulting Engineer, Texas State University, San Marcos | Blogs | Comments

I assume many of my readers are either engineers or interested in engineering and its effects on society, so what I am about to say may surprise you. It is simply this: Engineers are playing a role in American society that may end American society as we have known it up to now. Let me explain.

Finding a needle in the solution

February 19, 2013 9:01 am | by M. Simon, Technical Contributor | Blogs | Comments

Back in 1968 when I was just starting out as a very junior engineer, I worked for Chromatronix designing sensors for and building High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) equipment. In those days, "High Pressure" was 500 psi going up to 1,000 psi with research on 3,000 psi equipment well underway.

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