State of the Art

State of the Art May/June 2020
Ethics in the Era of Artificial Intelligence
Ethics can be interesting and fascinatingly compelling because of the subtle natures of its solutions in ambiguous situations. Articles on ethical issues and college courses on ethics rarely present answers to the questions that are posed. That is because ethical responses are highly situational and depend a lot on commonly accepted, but not codified, beliefs, and attitudes... Read more
State of the Art March/April 2020
Consciousness in Animals
Are humans the only species with a sense of consciousness? This question has intrigued me for most of my life. Having kept pets and livestock animals, and observed wild animals from both near and far, I have often wondered just how much they know about their surroundings and their place in it. Do they know how to reason out answers to questions important to them? Are they aware of the consequences of their actions? Can they anticipate what other animals, including those of close kin and other, more remote species, are likely to do in certain situations? Can they see themselves inside their minds, if they do, indeed, have minds? Do they dream?... Read more
State of the Art January/February 2020
School Security?
“Schools rethink security training” was the headline on page 1 of the 30 December 2019 issue of The Baltimore Sun daily newspaper. The accompanying article went on to explain that Maryland school students felt unsafe at school. Students on average... Read more
State of the Art November/December 2019
A War at All Costs?
War between the two worlds Eminiar VII and Vendikar had gone on for 500 years with no cessation in sight. This war was conducted by computer simulation, so that a virtual hit on one planet was retaliated by a computer-generated... Read more
State of the Art September/October 2019
We, as a society, have become too easily distracted. We are all suffering these days from lack of focus, and it could get worse. “TMI” stands for “too much information,” and it is too much information that contributes to our... Read more
State of the Art July/August 2019
There’s Nothing Like Real Experience: I
As the saying goes, the point on a pencil is the inspiration and the other end with the eraser is the experience. A pencil without an eraser is next to useless, as I have found out. Yes, I know that,... Read more
State of the Art May/June 2019
Fun in the Classroom
Each class session is a different performance. Whether the instructor is at the top of his or her form or feeling very low that day, a mask must come over him or her, and the show commences at the appointed... Read more
State of the Art March/April 2019
Written Communications
No matter if an engineer did the best job in the world with a design, if the person responsible for the design cannot communicate the design effectively, then the design effort was wasted. That’s the reason that I gave to... Read more
State of the Art January/February 2019
Just when it looked like there could be a breakthrough in the application of biotechnology to crops and food plants, a new wrinkle appeared in the form of a scientific development. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been planted for years... Read more
State of the Art November/December 2018
Adequate, Not Best
What almost all students and many faculty members don’t realize is that engineering design/application solutions are rarely the best (or optimal). Indeed, most engineering solutions could probably be described as adequate. The best solutions are too costly, either in terms... Read more
State of the Art July/August 2018
Retirement Is Hell
Kimmie Meissner was an Olympic figure skater from my home county in the state of Maryland. Figure skating had consumed both her days and aspirations throughout most of her young life. She practiced every day, traveling after school up the... Read more
State of the Art May/June 2018
The Shaming of the True
For a change of pace, I am presenting, here, “The Shaming of the True,” something I have given as a final examination in a graduate instrumentation systems course (ENBE 601). As you can see, near the end of the “drama,”... Read more
State of the Art March/April 2018
To Have or to Do
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your... Read more
State of the Art January/February 2018
Black and White and Shades of Gray
The only thing I can’t do in excess is moderation. —Baxter Black “Moderation in all things” is a popular saying that many of us have heard all our lives. Still, a good number of people seem to have forgotten the sentiment... Read more
State of the Art November/December 2017
Working from the Inside Out
Emily Schosid wanted to learn about sustainability, so she joined a small community called Lama in the mountains of rural New Mexico [1]. Lama is a spiritual community, an educational facility, and a retreat known for its ability to thrive... Read more
State of the Art September/October 2017
Exciting Times
What an exciting time to be a bio-based engineer! Biology is the new frontier of technological progress, and it is difficult to fathom how much is going on. Bioengineers, biomedical engineers, biological engineers, and a host of other engineers (whether... Read more
State of the Art July/August 2017
2D:4D Finger Ratio as an Indication of Prenatal Testosterone Exposure
The ratio of the length of the second (index) finger to the length of the fourth (ring) finger on the right hand is termed the 2D:4D ratio (Figure 1). This ratio has been shown to be different for male and... Read more
State of the Art May/June 2017
Presidents Have to Act Differently
I had seen it happen to almost all people elected to the highest office in their organization. They toned down their rhetoric and became much less forceful champions for pet issues. And I had chided them for that, because it... Read more
State of the Art March/April 2017
The Afterlife
On 6 August 2016, Jeni Stepien married Paul Maenner in Swissvale, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. The man who escorted the bride down the aisle was not exactly a relative: he had received her father’s heart in a transplant a... Read more
State of the Art January/February 2017
My Best Example
What is the best illustration you use in class? While conversing with a faculty member at another educational institution, I asked him this question (answers to which sometimes trigger ideas for examples I can use in my classes or, at... Read more
State of the Art November/December 2016
Interviewing Well
So, why do you want to work for our organization? The answer to that question could cement your position in that company, or, maybe not, and so, like all the other answers you give during an interview, they need prior... Read more
State of the Art September/October 2016
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Modern medicine is overwhelmingly reactive rather than proactive. Get sick, seek medical help. How expensive that model is! If everyone only got sick and then sought medical assistance, we could not afford the bill. It is much better that most... Read more
State of the Art July/August 2016
Student Management Teams
It may seem like letting the fox in to guard the henhouse when students are asked to help with the way a class is taught, but it can be valuable to learn directly about student perceptions of course presentations. Having... Read more
State of the Art May/June 2016
Food for the Future
Food is national security. Food is economy. It is employment, energy, history. Food is everything. —Spanish chef José Andrés The supermarket in Tijuana had a display of fresh fruits and vegetables, but they looked nothing like those in supermarkets in the United States. The... Read more
State of the Art March/April 2016
“Fate loves the fearless.” That was the fortune inside my wife’s fortune cookie that had been brought to her after a satisfying Chinese meal. How appropriate was that fortune days after the terrorist attack in Paris, France, in November 2015... Read more
State of the Art January/February 2016
The Hygiene Hypothesis
Some call it the five-second rule, some extend that to five minutes, and some don’t care. This is the amount of time people are comfortable with picking up and eating food that has dropped to the floor. Of course, a... Read more
State of the Art November/December 2015
Develop the Foresight to Anticipate Hindsight
Shopping is not my favorite activity, but when I do have that opportunity, usually when on vacation, I often find myself in shops catering to tourists. Of course, the shop proprietors have filled their shelves with arts and crafts that... Read more
State of the Art September/October 2015
It Is Diversity of Experience That Counts
Isaac Asimov, the celebrated science fiction writer, once wrote an essay about creativity [1]. The truly creative mind, he wrote, is one that makes new connections between previously separated concepts. This new connection can only come from the mind of... Read more
State of the Art July/August 2015
The Raving
[In the early days of my teaching, when I taught a graduate-level instrumentation systems course in the department, I used to find means to challenge my students in unconventional ways and, at the same time, exercise my own creativity when... Read more
State of the Art May/June 2015
Why Are Our Teachers Taking It on the Chin?
Two headlines tell it all. The first, on the cover of the 3 November 2014 issue of Time, says, “Rotten Apples: It’s Nearly Impossible to Fire a Bad Teacher.” The second, on the front page of the October 2014 issue... Read more
State of the Art March/April 2015
The Technology Hype Cycle
It has been said that the Stone Age did not end because ancient humans ran out of stones. No, the key was that new technologies allowed them to advance to something better: first copper, next bronze, and then steel. There is a description of biological evolution called... Read more
State of the Art January/February 2015
Going Solar
Since 2008, the solar-generating capacity in the United States has increased by 1,200%, and the Johnson household is now one more. Last spring, we had solar panels installed on the roof of our house. Since then, sunny days have more... Read more
State of the Art November/December 2014
Genetic Discrimination and Racism
Discrimination seems to be an intrinsic trait inherent in our very being. We, as people, seem to be disposed to discriminate either for or against those who, for one reason or another, are unlike us. This dissimilarity may be recognized... Read more
State of the Art September/October 2014
Should Bioengineering Graduates Seek Employment in the Defense Industry?
They say that the difference between a mechanical engineer and a civil engineer is that the mechanical engineer develops weapons whereas a civil engineer designs targets. The implication is that some engineers are involved with building peaceful infrastructure whereas others... Read more
State of the Art July/August 2014
The Obvious Answer
In his book Everything Is Obvious: Once You Know the Answer, Duncan Watts posits that what we value as worthwhile is often determined by chance. He cites the case of the famous painting the Mona Lisa, which is now considered among the world’s masterpieces and hangs in... Read more
State of the Art May/June 2014
Hands are awesome. Hands are marvelous in every sense of the word and are as important to us collectively and individually as are our intellects. Hands are the difference between thinking and doing. There may be other creatures in this... Read more
State of the Art March/April 2014
The Fallacy of Genetic Selection
“Genetic elements … contribute to survival and reproduction of the organism. Those that do not are quickly weeded out by selection.” —Rob Dorit [1] This common statement, and ones like it, is grossly misleading. The assumption behind the assertion that genes are... Read more
State of the Art January/February 2014
Faith in Science
Skeptics deny the validity of religious beliefs, as if science is completely reasonable and only religion depends on faith. They ignore or deny that scientific beliefs also require faith in the sincerity and trustworthiness of the declarer of scientific truth. Faith... Read more