Showing posts with label STEM. Show all posts
Showing posts with label STEM. Show all posts

October 8, 2019

Interplanetary Travel - Coming Soon


Awesome presentation on Interplanetary Travel by Charlie Kuehmann, VP Materials Engineering at SpaceX and Tesla. 

Interplanetary travel and colonization is one of the most exciting possibilities for mankind.  

It's all just beginning (we've only been in orbit for about 50 years). 

One of the keys Charlie mentioned at SpaceX and Telsa is how quickly we learn. 

It's okay to fail, as long as we learn quickly and progress from it.  

The progress with reusable rockets at SpaceX is impressive. 

Can't wait for more to come soon.  ;-)

(Credit Video: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 27, 2019

That Decisive Qualitative Edge

So I am reading this book called "Israel's Edge."

It's basically about their elite genius program, "Talpiot," in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).  

Each year the program accepts only the top 50 out of 100,000 graduating high school students for a 9-year commitment. 

There are the mathematicians, physicists, and computer scientists that help give the IDF the cutting edge in military R&D and other innovations. 

These are the brain trust behind Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system and Trophy tank active protection system and many more both military and industrial advances. 

This program was born after the almost disastrous 1973 Yom Kippur War where Israel misjudged the intelligence and the advances in their enemies capability and almost lost the war. 

I like the philosophy of General Yitzhak Ben-Israel who understands the importance of challenging the status quo and looking differently at critical situations and avoiding confirmation bias:
My method is not to look for supporting evidence. I look for refuting evidence...you see one white swan, then a second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. You still can't conclude that all swans are white...nature builds us to be inductive, to make generalizations from past experience...this standard way of scientific thinking can be limiting and destructive."
Instead we must be continuously curious, think outside the box, be creative, and innovate. 

Especially, where we don't have a quantitative advantage like with Israel surrounded by many enemies, then we must rely on a very sharp qualitative edge. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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September 26, 2019

Beautiful Measurements

This is a beautiful set of nested brass weights from France. 

It dates back to 1852!

The weights range from 1 gram to 500 grams. 

These are weights, but also a form of art. 

It is located at the NIST Museum.


There is something comforting about weights, measures, and standards.

It puts an organized construct unto our universe and creates some objective scientific reality to our world. 

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 23, 2019

Cool Atom Puzzle

Thought this was a pretty stunning puzzle of The Atom

With sections for: composition, atomic model, thermonuclear fusion, periodic table, radioactivity, positron emission tomography, fission of uranium, nuclear reactor, and atomic scientists. 

Wow that's a lot of information for a Puzzle and one very nicely designed at that. 

Congrats on putting this 1,000 piece beauty together. 

These things make me realize how very much I still have to learn--and in this case, it starts with all these small things. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 28, 2019

Rockville Science Fair - 30th Year!















(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 6, 2018

Radio-Activity

So earlier in the week, I had a great opportunity to visit the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR). 

It was fascinating to see the reactor, control room, and all the cool experiments--not things you see every day, right? 

For safety, we had to wear devices that measured radioactivity and also go through machines that checked us afterward. 

When one person in our group went through the scanner, it went off with a red alert, and the poor individual obviously got really scared--like OMG is there some contamination on me or something.

But they went through again and it turned out it was just a false positive, thank G-d. 

I guess these really can be dangerous substances to work around, but still so marvelous how the scientists harness these neutron beams and direct them to all sort of fascinating scientific experiments. 

Being around all this science makes me think whether if I could do it all again--wondering aloud--whether I would pursue an education in one of these amazing scientific disciplines and work in the lab like a "mad scientist"--exploring and discovering new things and figuring out the mysteries of the universe and how the world really works. 

What a fun, fun field to work in!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal and Art by 4th grader, Phillip Kenney)
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February 18, 2017

Sleepy Education USA

Education is fundamental to learning, development and preparation for career and life. 

We've always believed that if you invest in anything, invest in education!

However, despite initiatives like No Child Left Behind and Every Child Succeeds Act, scores in the fundamentals like reading, math, and science all lag behind other advanced industrialized nations.



However, the comparison is flawed because university rankings are based not on student academic performance, but rather on research performance, including things like journal articles published and Noble Prize winners. 

When academic proficiency is tested for American adults, the rankings again lag and are at best mediocre. 

While there are many dedicated and good teachers, still too many teachers and unions continue to fight testing and reform so that progress of our education system continues to fail our children and our nation.

We need to end education by memorization, and focus instead on hands-on learning (by doing), critical thinking and problem-solving.

Sleeping through a lecture may not mean a student is missing squat in the current failed education system. 

(Source Photo: The Blumenthals)

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August 17, 2016

Robots, They Are Coming

I was so excited by this photo in the Wall Street Journal today.

YuMi, an industrial robot by ABB, is adroitly writing Chinese calligraphy. 

If you look at the photo and think for a moment, the notion of the robot doing and the person watching is truly prophetic of how we are evolving technologically and as a species. 

Yumi is made by ABB, a leading robotics company headquartered in Switzerland, that on one hand has over 300,000 robots installed worldwide, but on the other hand needs only 4,600 employees in 53 countries to produce all these fantastic and productive droids.  

This robot is a work of not just incredible science and engineering, but of art and beauty. 

It's sleek black and white build with two incredibly agile arms and hands plus a viewing camera, enables it to do small parts assembly or even fine calligraphic work. 

YuMi stands for "You and Me" working together, collaboratively. 

While we surely will work together, the flip side is that with robotics, some people (who don't make the transition to STEM) may not be working much at all. 

But of course, the positive side is that we are looking at an incredible capacity to do more and better with less! 

Leaving the innovation to humans, and the assembly and service to the bots, the bar will be raised on everything--both good and bad.

We will build greater things, travel and explore further, and discover ever new depths of understanding and opportunities to exploit.

But we will also edge people out of work and comfort zones, and be able to engage in new forms of conflict and war that only the power and skill of (semi-) autonomous machines could inflict. 

The robots are here, however, they are coming in much greater numbers, capabilities, and impact then we can currently fully comprehend. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal via WSJ)
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August 1, 2016

Technology Hope For The Future

Ok, this gives me tremendous technology hope for the future. 

This 4-year old kid is working diligently on her smartphone, while her mom is shopping not far away in the clothing store at the mall. 

She didn't seem to care about the clothes hanging all around her or the fun in the mall or really anything else at all...she was content with her tech!

And while I certainly believe in work-life balance and in kids being able to really jsut be kids, there was just something so amazing about the promise of technology, especially for those who are now growing up with it. 

After all, it was very cute how intent this kid was with all the technology power right in the palm of her hands, and I could easily see a budding CIO in the making here. 

And of course, with even better and more capable technology in the future. 

Through technology and belief, we can find hope in the impossible. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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July 18, 2016

When It Comes To Education, We're Just Playing Around

So I overhead a conversation of 2 young women in Starbucks talking about their college education. 

One of them while acknowledging that she enjoys her classes, says, "But I still don't feel that I am learning anything practical!"

He friends responds saying, "Yeah, all we learn is X+Y, but what does that do for us in real life?"

The first young women says, "They need to emphasize the practical things and teach us personal finances, fitness, healthy cooking, and so on."

The second young women starts repeating, "X+Y, X+Y, that's all they teach us!"
I couldn't help but chuckle at this point, even though it was sort of sad. 

The education system is known to be so bad in this country, especially until you get to college. 

We've gone from No Child Left Behind to Every Student Succeeds, but no matter what you call it--it's still a big C-R-I-S-I-S. 

According to Ranking America, the US ranks 14 out of 40 countries in education--behind Netherlands and Poland.

Moreover, we rank 2nd in ignorance about social statistics like teen pregnancy, unemployment rates, and voting patterns. 

Moreover, we are falling behind in our competitiveness ranking in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and are now 27th in math and 20th in science out of 34 countries.

We can't innovate, improve productivity, and effectively compete if we are just playing around with our education system. 

If we don't change, X+Y may soon equal the bottom of the education barrel. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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May 18, 2016

State Of Education

So here's a sign at on the miserable state of education in America. 

"Develop Your English Skills For A Career In The Federal Government"

An advertisement in downtown, Washington, DC.

It's amazing that we can't assume proficiency in basic English skills.

Again, forget perhaps more challenging fields of the present and future such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

We can't even assume proficient English language skills for the Federal government in the Capital of this great country. 

Certainly, would understand the need for people with specialized foreign language skills for domestic positions as intelligence analysts and various overseas positions, but English???

There are more advanced degrees and certifications out there than over before, but are people really any smarter or ready for successful careers, life skills, and survival in modern-day America and the broader world. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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May 12, 2016

From Top To Bottom


The the other day, I was walking through the grass.

I came across these toys horses that had been left in a pile.

I thought about the innocence and beauty of children.

How nice it is to just sit in the green grass and play with your horsies. 

Today, I was downtown and GWU has a big graduation going on.

This guy wrote on the bottom of his cap, "If youre reading this, I just graduated."

Of course, this is America, and so he left off the apostrophe (') in you're (you are).

Oh well--neither STEM nor spelling is apparently part of the education curriculum anymore. 

But how quickly the kids grow up and before we know they're college graduates. 

From childhood innocence and dependence to adulthood independence and its colorful assortment of sin. 

All grown up and what we hope happens next...

...off to start a big career, continue with graduate studies, marriage and kids of their own...the sky is the limit. 

We need smart and enthusiastic people coming of age with big ideas, teamwork, and precision execution to solve the ginormous problems we face.

Still huge debts, hunger and poverty, dreaded old to frighteningly new illnesses, a unsustainable use of our planet with tongue in cheek efforts to change, rising social inequity and racial tensions, and raging terrorism and WMD that is making a global and more deadly comeback.

I have no grads this year, but we sure as hell need every person coming off the assembly line to step up and make a difference. 

Right now, the leadership in the world (commercial, spiritual, and government) is overwhelmingly deadwood (people lacking in caliber and  integrity like Steve Jobs, the Lubavicher Rebbe, Nelson Mandela, and Ronald Reagan).

From failing products and falling profits, to "religious" sex abuse, demagogues overseas, and plenty of lying and corruption at home. We need and should expect more, demand more, perhaps in the young people there will be more--that is our hope and saving grace. 

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 29, 2016

STEM Lost And Found

So this was a shirt of a local college campus that I took yesterday. 

It shows aspirations to be all sorts of things...from a doctor and lawyer to a cowgirl and princess. 

However, in this list of  22 professional aspirations there is a noticeable lack of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). 

Yes, doctors do have to know science, but not necessarily the type that opens up the world of discovery and innovation like a researcher or scientist!

STEM are the fields that over and over again have been reported as grossly lacking in this country. 



Another article in IEEE Spectrum (August 2013) claims that while the "STEM crisis is a myth," still "we should figure out how to make all children literate in the sciences, technology, and the arts."

From my experience, while I certainly get to see a lot of awesome technical talent, I also see and hear too many moans and groans when it comes to a lot of basic skills in STEM.

One colleague said the other day (and in a public forum), "Oh, don't depend on my math skills for that!"

Others that I know have difficulty with everything from simple spreadsheets, backing up their computer files, or even balancing a checkbook, and other such fundamental skills. 

Growing up with a dad who was a math whiz, a sister with a PhD in bio-medical science, and me majoring in accounting, business, and later diving into IT, I learned to appreciate, on many fronts, how important basic STEM skills are, and I in turn used to drill my own kids with workbooks and worksheets--and they perhaps at the time resented me for it, and maybe only later in life, started to love me for caring and trying.

In school, I found a lot of the education in STEM to be lacking coming across too often as esoteric and disappointingly devoid of day-to-day meaning and application in the real world for the regular people not building bridges or spaceships, so I certainly understand the frustration of young people who while they may be interested in pursuing these critical areas of education, may be turned off at the way it's being presented to them. 

We need great teachers who not only know the material, but love what they do and know how to make the material come alive to their students. Also, we need jobs that pay commensurate to the value of the talent and not nickle and dime the developers, researchers, and engineers while lining the pockets of the executive suite. Finally, we should focus the hearts and minds of our people on the real meaning of the work they do and how it helps people and society, and not just on what often comes across as isolated tasks or the organization's free dry cleaning and all you can eat buffet lunches. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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August 8, 2015

What's The Capital Of The United States Again?

So this is what the state of education in the United States has come to.

We were having dinner last night with another couple. 


They asked my daughter, "Do they still teach geography in school? They don't teach that anymore do they?"


My daughter said, "Yeah, we learned a lot of geography" and gave some good examples both modern and ancient. 


So the guy says, "Well I don't think a lot of other schools are teaching geography anymore, like they used to with us."


Then he tells us a story how someone they know was asked what the capital of China was.


And he goes to me, "You know, you know [he emphasizes again], what the guy said?"


I looked at him a little puzzled by this question, like what could someone possibly answer to such a simple question, so I said, "Well I hope they said Beijing."


He nods his head back and forth no, eyes closed, lips pursed, like we won't believe what he was about to say.


Then, he says, "The guy said that the capital of China is...JAPAN!"


I looked at him my eyes squinting in disbelief, like that can't be a for real answer, right?


"No," he says, "That was what this guy thought, can you believe it?"


I said sort of laughing out loud, "Well maybe if World War II had ended differently that would be correct."


It sort of reminds me of the famous goof when Clinton gave the Russians the now famous "Reset Button."


It was supposed to indicate a thawing and renewal of peaceful relations, only the word printed on the button was "Peregruzka" meaning a more hostile "Overcharge."


Oops! 


Maybe the overcharge referred to was prophetic of the West's losing the strategic Crimea to the Russian blitzkrieg in 2014. How much did that mistake cost us?


I guess it's not only STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) suffering in our educational system. 


How's that standards based education reform "No Child Left Behind" (2001) working out? 


It definitely seems like some folks are most definitely being left behind if not completely lost in the system.


At this rate, I fear the capital of the United States is now Iran. ;-)

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May 6, 2015

A Political Teddy Bear

Thought this was an awesome photograph.

Taken on the Washington, D.C. Mall...

You can see the Capitol of the United States in the background.

The gate is surrounding the construction being done.

On the fence is a Teddy Bear--representing so many of our national challenges--sort of just hanging there helpless.

This political bear looks like he's clutching for dear life, but unfortunately he is left hung out to dry as we just keep chugging away...but where is the real progress? 

- ISIS and radical Islam is still growing stronger.

- Iran continues building toward a nuclear WMD.

- China and Russia are "becoming [ever more] aggressive as they perceive U.S. pulling back."

- North Korea achieves capability for a "nuclear ICMB."

- Cyber insecurity is a "real and growing threat."

- There is a growing danger of a catastrophic EMP attack with a "staggering human cost."

- Immigration crisis remains in "limbo."

- Economic growth is "grinding to a halt."

- National deficit is "projected to skyrocket over next decade." 

- American economic competitiveness is in ongoing "slow decay."

- U.S. education "still lagging" significantly in science and mathematics. 

- Life expectancy in U.S. ranks 26th, "right behind Slovenia."

This doesn't mean that good things aren't continuing to happen especially with innovation despite all the gridlock...there is the Apple Watch (ok, the jury is still out on that one too).

Why don't we let the bear down gently please. ;-)

(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal)
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March 2, 2015

Orange Spiral, Going Up

What an absolutely gorgeous staircase.

A modern spiral with vivid orange and white. 

When I look at this, it's almost as if the staircase is in motion, like a spinning drill bit. 

The person sitting to the right of the stairs seems like they will be swept away or crushed in the next spin of the stairs.

Next to the big windows, the incoming light hits the stairs and creates shadows that give it even more life. 

Excellent job by GW University in their new Science and Engineering building. 

You'd expect to see something like this in the Museum of Modern Art...it's awesome! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 23, 2014

Freedom Pays

Another great article by Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal today.

The usual saying is that freedom is not free (i.e. that we must fight for it). 

But Stephens shows us that Freedom actually pays. 

It is our freedom that helps us to be creative and innovative like no others on this Earth.

Stephens comments on his growing up as an American abroad:

"I find it amazing that, in the U.S., I can drink water straight from a tap, that a policeman has never asked me for a 'contribution,' that my luggage has never been stolen, that notbody gets kidnapped for ransom, that Mao-esque political purges are conducted only inthe editorial of the New York Times."

Instead of having to focus on fear in everyday life--we can use our energies to plow creatively into the next great thing for mankind. 

In sync with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, when we are not scavaging for food and huttling in some abandoned building or cave to protect ourselves from marauding bandits or corrupt dictators, we can self-actualize ourselves by leaps and bound contributions through science, technology, engineering, mathematics, humanities and arts. 

Our society looks for opportunities, rather than having to look over our shoulder at daily threats.

We run to invest in great ideas, rather than have to use our money to escape the corruption and tyranny that surround us.

With the holidays are upon us, it's a perfect time to reflect on our good fortune at being part of a democracy where freedom and human rights power our success.

Thank G-d for where we live and what we are able to achieve. ;-)

(Source photo: here with attribution to Eric Magnuson)
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December 11, 2014

Finals Week

This was a funny (-sad) picture right outside the new Science and Engineering Building at the prestigious George Washington University today. 

It looks much like a noose and is lit up by the glass and modern finishes of this new building. 

So a colleague says jokingly to me "Is that because of [the stress of] finals week?"

Now execution and suicide are definitely not a laughing matter...

But what a juxtaposition of this gorgeous new building going up and the old time hangman's noose (almost) hanging down. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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January 23, 2014

From Memorization To Thinking

Our education system continues to suffer as we rank somewhere between 17th and 20th globally. 

This means that our economy will assuredly suffer in the future from the global competition that strangles us.

Some prominent experts in the field, like Walter Isaacson, say that innovation occurs at the intersection of arts and humanities meeting science and math--and I really like that. 

Personally, this inspires me to think about whether education reform is perhaps focused too much on the teachers, tests, and core curriculum, and less on changing the way we are approaching education in the first place. 

For as long as I can remember (i.e. even when I was in school way back when), we based our education on lots of memorization--multiplication tables, periodic tables, vocabulary, history, and much more. 

For those with great short term memory, you could do very well to memorize, spit it out, and forget it, so you can start all over again with the next great wave of facts and figures. 

The emphasis on memorization of basics, is important in getting a foundation of knowledge, but seems to me to come at the expense of critical thinking and problem solving skills. 

From my own experience and watching my kids in school, I often see boredom at raw facts, and excitement and self-satisfaction at figuring something out. 

Yet, too often students are asked to do rote memorization and test accordingly, rather than really think. 

You can't memorize innovation, but rather you need to be able to apply learning. 

In this day and age, where facts are but a Google search away, memorization is less important and real analytical, reasoning, problem solving, and communication skills (all anchored in solid core values) are more relevant to our national and personal success. 

Yet, have our school caught up with this?

Unfortunately, it seems most have not, and perhaps that is one reason that many of our preeminent innovators are dropouts--from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Ted Turner, etc. 

Will we ever get away completely from memorizing the basics? Certainly not. Do we need to spend so much of K-12 education and even college years playing instant recall? What a waste!

The best experience that I remember from my younger daughter in school was her activities in the Ethics Bowl, where schools competed in analyzing ethically challenging situations and arguing the merits of the various sides. They learned to think and articulate their reasoning and conclusions and that is the best education that I can imagine. 

Until we stop using education techniques from the dinosaur age--memorizing species and trying to recall where the eggs are buried, I fear we are doomed to subpar educational performance--in a boring, memorizing, and non-thinking way. 

No wonder the kids want to develop the next great iPhone app and use their textbooks as a handy-dandy booster seat. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Lansing Public Library)

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June 29, 2012

Becoming Technological Dinosaurs?

I was most impressed at the graduation of my daughter from Tech Camp today.

She became fairly proficient with Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop, and more, and built her own website with animation--it was really very cool. 

Here is a photo of kids at the computers--they are showing their parents how to tech.

It is truly the young teaching the old--no disrespect intended. 

But the kids are amazing--they are digital natives and are learning things quickly and with ease that prior generations still must struggle with. 

I joked with my friend who is also a CIO of another company--that we are not only "old farts," but tech dinosaurs as well. ;-)

Okay not quite--but what these kids can do is nothing short of amazing, eye-opening, and I think "we ain't seen nothing yet!"


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