State of the Art

Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking Glass 150 150 IEEE Pulse
What is “real world”? My students used to talk often about the “real world.” “The real world,” they would say, “would be a lot different from the life that they had as engineering students. read more

The Miraculous Pale Blue Dot

The Miraculous Pale Blue Dot 150 150 IEEE Pulse

On October 13, 2021, Star Trek’s Captain James Tiberius Kirk, in the guise of 90-year-old actor William Shatner, rode aboard a Blue Origin rocket ship 67 miles to the edge…

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TLAs: Are Common These Days

Author(s): Art Johnson
TLAs: Are Common These Days 150 150 IEEE Pulse
Three-Letter Acronyms (TLAs) are very popular, and can be found in almost everything written or spoken these days. Why? Perhaps it is because we are busy, lazy, or maybe there is just a fascination with things that come in threes. Most likely, we write or speak in TLAs because it makes our language more efficient at conveying information with the least possible cost. TLAs transform largely redundant information into a more expeditious form. read more

Disrupting the Normal Routine

Author(s): Art Johnson
Disrupting the Normal Routine 150 150 IEEE Pulse
My secretary at the University of Maryland labeled it Working Away From the Office (WAFO). It was my routine to stay home on Wednesdays and write papers, author books, make teaching plans, or grade papers and reports. I would be in my office Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, but everyone in our department soon got used to my absence on Wednesday. read more

Alone With My Thoughts

Author(s): Art Johnson
Alone With My Thoughts 150 150 IEEE Pulse
They call them earworms, those songs and ditties that roll around in your head whenever there is nothing else going on. Even when you want to be alone, they are always there, whether one wants them or not. And they resist being forgotten. Some are simple little things, jingles that keep ringing in my ears all day and all night long. They can be triggered by some simple reminder, like catching a television or radio ad, hearing children singing familiar songs, or listening to a choir sing a catchy gospel melody. “It’s A Small World” is particularly deadly. read more

Getting Past the Know-It-All Stage

Author(s): Art Johnson
Getting Past the Know-It-All Stage 150 150 IEEE Pulse
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Most of us have heard of this admonition, and it applies directly to engineering education. It turns out that people who know just a little about a subject greatly overestimate their understanding and abilities. “The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people wrongly overestimate their knowledge or ability in a specific area. This tends to occur because a lack of self-awareness prevents them from accurately assessing their own skills”. read more

Are Viruses Just Spores?

Author(s): Art Johnson
Are Viruses Just Spores? 150 150 IEEE Pulse
Something amazing happened early in the history of the Earth. Molecules were formed that had the unusual capacity to reproduce. And, not only that, but these molecules reproduced to the limit of the resources available and competed with other, similar, molecules to utilize every available reserve necessary to their growth and reproduction. These molecules were nucleic acids. read more

Innovation Is Tied to Optimism

Author(s): Art Johnson
Innovation Is Tied to Optimism 150 150 IEEE Pulse
I wonder, when this coronavirus pandemic is finally behind us, if we will have seen a pause in the technological and social progress that had been happening at such a breakneck pace before the illness had spread throughout the world. I wonder if the attention that we have been forced to place on our own survival has stolen from our ability to innovate and create. This, despite the extra time that many of us have had to endure away from our jobs and normal activities, and the time that we would now have to dream up new ­possibilities. read more

Best If Used by Date

Author(s): Art Johnson
Best If Used by Date 150 150 IEEE Pulse
We have likely all seen the dates stamped on food packages in the United States that say “Best if used by …” or “Sell by …” or some other phrase that suggests that the food item is not to be consumed after the date specified. It is not really clear by the phrase used if the food item becomes poison after this date, or if the food quality declines after this date, or if the date is just a convenience for the seller to move the product. There is a great deal of confusion about what to do with the product after the date given. Should it be thrown away or can it still be consumed safely but with some degradation of its quality? read more