Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Grand Challenges Revisited

A while back, I posted about the National Academy of Engineering's quest to decide what the Grand Engineering Challenges for the 21st century are. As a refresher, users were asked to submit their ideas, and a panel of experts would consider the suggestions and pick the ones they believe were the truly great challenges that need to be resolved.

Well, the experts have spoken, and the list has been narrowed to fourteen challenges:
  • Make solar energy economical
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools of scientific discovery

The Grand Challenges site has lots of great information about each of these challenges, and I urge you to take a look for yourself.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Is Science Faith-Based?

Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, has a new post highlighting the differences between science and faith. And he does a much better job, in my opinon, than I did.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Atlantis Reaches Space

The weather turned out to be benign (at least at Cape Canaveral) and the fuel sensors worked successfully, allowing Atlantis to launch on-time at 2:45 PM EST. The shuttle reached space several minutes later and is on its way to the International Space Station carrying the Columbus science laboratory (Europe's single largest contribution to the station).

Columbus is about 23 feet long and 15 feet wide, allowing it to hold 10 "racks" of experiments, each approximately the size of a phone booth. Five NASA racks will be added to the laboratory once it is in orbit. Each rack provides independent controls for power and cooling, as well as communication links to earthbound controllers and researchers. These links will allow scientists all over Europe to participate in their own experiments in space from several user centers and, in some cases, even from their own work locations.

Atlantis Passes Fuel Sensor Checks; to Launch at 2:45 PM EST

Space Shuttle Atlantis passed all checks on the low-fuel sensors that failed in December, prompting NASA's two-month delay. The shuttle is due to launch in just a few minutes, at 2:45 PM EST, if the weather holds.