Grand Challenges for Engineering - Dec 11, 2013
The century ahead poses challenges as formidable as any from millennia past.
Here are the Grand Challenges for engineering as determined by a committee of the National Academy of Engineering:
Find out what committee members said about the challenges at the news conference where they were unveiled.
Vast array of efficient solar panels can be utilized in powering cities and still the natural heating utilized in desalinating sea water, both with same system -- that's sustainability.
I'm an electrical&electronics engineering student, with concentration on Communications. My field seems to be saddled with much of the challenges. I'll look dedicate my skills in solving much of these problems to ensure a more promising future for all.
For the nuclear terror one, I'd say the first thing is to provide better security on all places that contain nuclear materials, and band countries together to sign a treaty saying they will do so. For number two, they should try to detect the radiation given off by the nukes in the air, but not to high because Nova radiation could interfere with this. 3) If we destroy the object in the air the pulse is the only thing besides radiation that will hurt anyone. 4) Make sure every national guard has a place with emergency response supplies so they don't have to be shipped far to reach the effected.
the new world need moral relation. everybody must concern about dignity and enviroment. engineers must be carefull that we have just an erth no more and remember that an individual human is unique then we must respect to each person. engineers have so many co-work that respect to them and take their idea to performe the best result. ethics is the goal of new world...
Virtual reality can be taken off soon :D
EVERYBODY HAS THE RIGHT TO COMMENT HOW TO FACE THESE CHALLENGES ,BUT ONLY THOSE WHO HAVE GOT THE GOLDEN IQ'S HAVE THE CAPABILITIES TO MAKE LARGER TRANSFORMATIONS .OTHERS CAN ONLY CONTRIBUTE TO MAKE THESE TRANSFORMATIONS MORE EFFICIENT .SO THE FIRST STEP IS TO COMPILE THE GOLDEN BRAINS OF THIS WORLD.
Engineering is cool
science is cool
can we make the body of economical (low price)car very strong demage resistance.
What would be a grand challenge in Aerospace and Architectural ?
We all know whats more important: http://engineeringchallenges.org/cms/8996/9136.aspx
Restoring urban Infrastructure!
we should focus on mass water purification so that people in poorer countries don't die from the diseases in the water.
very helpfull information xD
I think enineering is awesome
If they wish to make virtual reality more real they should make a animus for AC
I wish for engineers
We can definitely use some of these amazing ideas in this world today as engineers
Guys can you help me to make a plane that use less fuel and stop polluting air as an Aeronautical enginer
Make a car that runs on solar power, with batteries to store the power, then have a engine that runs on compressed air (ive already patented my own) use the air engine at night and the solar power during the day (Make solar energy economical)
I am a very inspiring young and reckless engineer trying to engineer a very slippery substance... help?
I'm a high school student and am doing a project on industrial engineering, would this be a engineering challenge an industrial engineer would preform? If not, which challenge might the knowledge from an industrial engineer be resourceful?
What if you use carbon dioxide to produce fresh air but for that you would need a air purifier.
Could you harness Nuclear energy into smaller amounts, that way we could use it for other purposes, like say power a vehicle?
For reverse-engineering the brain, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has stated this, but wouldn't it be a good place to start by creating something that can reactivate a dead brain? I figured that maybe a computer chip or something that discharges small bursts of controlled electricity could work. Then, if whatever procedure works, then start from there. In my opinion, I think designing something to revive a brain and then actually reviving it would actually open a lot more doors than studying a living brain, but that's just me...
I would like to find out more on computer Engineers
I'm disappointed that none of these challenges have anything to do with space exploration, which I believe to be a vital part of the future.
you should try making a computer which reacts to what we sense and our movements i mean like galaxy s4 if we move out of the computer it sleeps and etc it could change the technology and save more electricity
I would like to see the Virtusl Reality to come to life. I would really love to be in the "Matrix."
We should focus our efforts on developing a nuclear fusion reaction that gives out more energy than we input. our fission reactors days are numbered, they're outdated, and also hazardous.
Lol engineering is so cool
How about a way to rebuild the ozne at a faster rate by absorbing the carbon dioxide in the air?
Engineering is a great science. I myself am a Mech. Eng. and I love my job. There are many things i am concerned about though, like the pollution. I believe we should make machinery that is gas powered run off of vegie oil like people are allowed to do with their cars now
I have hard time undertanding the american issues..
could you maybe boil water with reflections of the sun and make the steam off of it turn a turbine? (make solar energy economical)
i think that scientists should try to solve the green house problem before we all die because of it! It is a problem that can carode the ozone and allow solar flares to strike the earths surface!!!
hi .. i m an civil engineer student ...is ter anythin special to do and any challenges facing in civil branch
guys i m an engineer student ...i gt an seminar to speak some words......well i hav decided to speak to an students regarding still what d engineers r faceing challenges to discover .....plz help me out frm this problem ....
I think that it would be very important for the engineering faculties all around the world to include these and other "fundamental" challenges for the sustainability of the humankind as developers and integrators subjects of the different engineering programs ...
I want an engineering solution for overcoming issues regarding Ri currents which are highly dangerous. Please suggest few permanent solutions!!!!
im thinking about minimize cost of using solar energy guys help me out!!!!!!!!!!!
If a device gets 99% efficiency on earth what would the percent be on mars? Think perpetual motion as the example. Would less gravity reduce friction or would less gravity reduce efficiency from less acceleration?
i am kenyan boy i like engineering most. And i make a solar panel to my own experinces at age of 16 years. I like to further my interest and my dreams towards engineering. And come with more changes please make my talents and skill to be true.
Let's make the world shake.....ENGINEERS!
it is important to make new strategy for more discoveries in medical field we have to make more afordable things which could reach to a middle class family in low expences by duing this work we can save and increase our humanity and life who is important for his family.... So think about it
I like engineering
I would like to make an observation about the 'Secure Cyberspace' Challenge. I have recently talked to a grey hat friend of mine and asked him about the chance of securing Cyberspace. He proclaimed that it would be fundamentally impossible, as the state of the art is always evolving in computer science, thus making it literally impossible to find a permanent fix short of not being on the internet in the first place.
Observe not to destruct the environment
can any one provide me the design calculations of FOUR WHEEL STEERING MECHANISM?????
Technology Submission - Novel Rotary-Turbo-InFlow Tech / Featured Development
Atypical InFlow Thermodynamic
Technology Proposal Submission
Novel Fueled Motor Engine Type
*State of the art Innovative concept Top system Higher efficient percent.
Have similar system of the Aeolipile Heron Steam device from Alexandria 10-70 AD.
YouTube; * Atypical New • GEARTURBINE / Retrodynamic = DextroRPM=> VS to <=front; "Collision-Interaction Type" - inflow vs. blades-gear-move. Technical unique dynamic innovative motion mode. [Retrodynamic Reaction = When the inflow have more velocity the rotor have more RPM Acceleration, with high (XY Position) Momentum] Which the internal flow (and rotor) duplicate its speed, when activated being in a rotor (and inflow) with [inverse] opposite Turns. A very strong Novel concept of torque power thrust.
-Non-waste parasitic looses system for cooling, lubrication & combustion.
-Shape-Mass + Rotary-Motion = Inertia-Dynamic / Form-Function Wide [Flat] Cylindrical shape + positive dynamic rotary mass = continue Inertia kinetic positive tendency motion.
-Combustion 2Two continue circular [Rockets] flames. [ying yang] opposite to the other. – With 2TWO very long distance INFLOW [inside propulsion] CONDUITS. -4 TURBOS Rotary Total Thrust-Power Regeneration Power System. -Mechanical direct 2two [Small] Planetary Gears at polar position. -Like the Ying Yang Symbol/Concept. -Wide out the Rotor circumference were have much more lever [HIGH Torque] POWER THRUST. -Military benefits; No blade erosion by sand & very low heat target profile. -3 points of power thrust; 1-flow way, 2-gear, 3-turbine. *Patent; Dic. 1991 IMPI Mexico #197187 All Rights Reserved. Carlos Barrera.
above all conserve nature and bring peace
I need a clear explanation of “challenges of bipomedical engineer” thanks for support!
Ya'll need to start solving these here problems!
Let's work together for safe future.
Rather than just focusing on solar energy, I suggest the topic be broadened to green/sustainable energy, thus allowing for several more topics to be included. Another option would be to add more topics that fall under this category such as improving wind turbine technology, further development of geothermal energy or even creating new ways to make sustainability more affordable for middle class families (just a few potential examples). The deterioration of our environment is an event that is becoming increasingly more alarming within our society. It has fallen upon the upcoming generation (currently college students) to work towards lowering our environmental impact to slow the hastening process of global climate change.
solar energy and fusion energy are the most important to me
Engineering is a home for the wise i make this positive contribution to the world we live in acording to iso standard that they ensure vital features such as quality,ecology,safety,ec onomy,reliability,compati bility,interoperability,e fficiency and effectiveness.They facilitate trade,spread knowledge and share technological advances and good management and leadership practices wit the application this bodies we excel.
i am fascinated about the chemical engineering and i wont to
more about it.
Let's resolve them!
Name & explain twenty areas or application of a Robot in Agricultural Engeineering
I agree that solar energy should be high on the list of alternative energy sources, and all that that entails. However, virtually every discussion on this topic is restricted to the planet's surface. I believe the REAL challenge is to collect the solar energy in orbit and transmit this to the surface. In doing this we can tackle a number of issues facing humanity other than just meeting the increasing energy requirements of the world. (Estimated to be 29petaWh by 2030, up from 14.5petaWh in 2009.) The logical way to do this is throught establishing space colonies which could economically build and maintain these orbiting power plants. These in turn, like every other exploration in history, will provide numerous further benefits. These include ensuring sufficient food to feed the expanding world population, (According to Sir John Beddington where, this needs to increase by 40% over the next 20 years.); and the ability to explore and exploit the resources beyond our planet, thus allowing the planet to recover from the necessary depravations of the past. A costed proposal for doing just this was presented to a US Senate subcommittee hearing in 1976 using the technology available at the time. Surely with the advances in technology since then this should be even more cost effective.
This website is really motivating. It has a lot of smart ideas from smart people. I think that Ebuka Araka kid really has a bright future. A lot of universities have their students share ideas here. A lot of challenges are being solved. This is a really motivating website. Keep it up!!!
I have to write a essay over world problems that can be solved with Aerospace Engineering, but i need somewhere to start. Does anybody know of anything?
Hey. You know what? I thought about making a cure for HIV/Aids. But it isn't coming out as expected and I need more help. The virus for HIV ( well all viruses) has a protein coat, so I thought that we should just inject ourselves with pepsin, trypsin, and chymotrypsin which catalyzes the hydrolysis of proteins. But then I realized that they are a lot of proteins in our body, like hormones and haemoglobin. I am stuck at this point.
If you make virtual reality more realistic people may become dependent upon it to be a better person in their mind than in real life thus making them addicted to virtual reality so I think That that field is fine where it is. It should be kept where people feel safe, but don't believe it's so real that it's a replacement life for them
Making the environment pollution free
i wish i knew about this page earlier.
Last winter myself and another professor used the grand challenge, restoring and improve urban infrastructure, as the catalyse for a 10 day (130 hour) workshop for first and second year engineers. You can check out a short video about the program at:
Out of this workshop came a number if interesting potential products. For example, a new bus seat that would fold up during rush hour to make more standing room on the bus. Another was a simple modification to the subway lines near the stations that would reduce noise by 30dB.
Many students have cited this experience as an eye opening in that it helped them understand not simply what engineers do, but the impact they can have on the world around them.
I'm willing to go ahead and take next phase in my occupation and after working security for several years, I would love to improve up on my current expertise and also gain a few new ones.
Could we as engineers do something to restore the noticeable poor ethics and to encourage the peace and equality worldwide?, Is it possible to do something to ensure the discovered "grand challenges" will be successful at these levels? I thing yes, and I will start working as soon as possible in projects like "engineering of God" of course by using disciplines like systems engineering and including a truly multidisciplinary team from all the physical, mental, social and even spiritual research disciplines. For now I have only this and a few other ideas in my brain, God willing soon I be able to perform any of these emerging projects. In God we trust, in God we work, create and help to restore His creation, that is the goal, No more increase in entropy. God bless you.
for virtual reality, if possible, inject thoughts into a persons head while thier sleeping. that takes care of all the sense problems because then its like a dream
its a challenging website for an engineers.......engineers should try to overcome this challenges.....as i am engineering student i am trying......
I've just spent about 30 minutes reviewing and analyzing the "Engineer Better Medicines" portion of the Engineering Challenges, and I must say it is very simplistic and general in its information. More in-depth details should be given about how to improve upon generalizing medicines. If it were that straight-forward, we would have already made standard medicines obsolete. As Charles F. Kettering once said, "Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail." We must continue our research in this field to make progression in our modern world. Overall, great article.
Our water problem today is either not enough people are getting adequet water or not enough fresh water to the world. One way we could provide more fresh water to the world is to increase the number of water purification plants on the coast. Another way is to recycle more water, instead of using clean water lets say in our toilet, why not use recycled waste water instead of fresh drinking water. As far as transporting water, you need better water pipes to take water to point A to point B.
for the carbon problem wouldnt it be best if you were to put a fliter like screen on top of them or create a secondary magent like
affect to store and capture it
make a machine that produces fresh air
there needs to be engineering challenges for the other branches of engineering. such as Mining engineering, just to name one.
Engineering class is a lot of fun. But difficult for me to understand!
How about a spacecraft that can travel to Mars faster than normal? (say.... 2 months instead of 6?)
The next thing that should happin is to put nulear power plants everywhere
What happens in military engineering?
i like aerospace engineering. sence i love planes and jets i might soon be one.
as in a book i read my favorite quote was
"a bad start is still a start"
it goes for all engineering disiplines
how about a safer inviroment for the oilers so they wouldnt have to put there line on the risk.
how do you make a roller coster
hologram comunication. THAT would be fasinating.
I was told to go here by my teacher, choose a field of engineering i wanted to go into, and none of these challanges really apply to aerospace engineering
they need to find a way to send food, clothes, toys, etc. over the internet. just imagine, clicking your mouse to order pizza, and poof, out of your printer comes a hot-n-ready pizza ready to eat!!!
How very amusing, pathetic, and introverted. The only thing I remotely see as a legitimate Grand challenge in this list is Fusion energy. Everything else is simple integrated incremental advancements of what already exists. Hardly a challenge. Has it occurred to anyone that what is outside our biosphere presents the greatest engineering challenge to all of the greatest minds our world has to offer? Conquering existence without the umbilical cord of our planets awesome life sustaining system presents the real challenge. How disappointing that the best challenges todays engineers could come up with is so tiny in vision. When I graduate and complete my PE I hope those with me share a far grander vision than what is contained in this ridiculous list.
Make a solar powered airplane.
What about automotive challenges?
My son is currently studying engineering at UMass. It is very difficult. When things get crazy, I remind him that it will be his priviledge and responsibility to make this world a better place for all of us!
What about to make holograms?
to make a building which cannot be destroyed by anything....
i like this challence so i need it.
Lets try to make a machine for peeling of cassava. Because there is too much stress there
I think that with hard work we can fix these problems our world presents to us. We need to work together, in the words of Henry Ford " Whether you think that you can ,or you can't, you're usually right." Now is the time for a firm hold, later we may rest but now is the time to act.
Dr. Radesonn Yorre, Aerospace Engineer from Indionesia.
federal & state government should provide latest industrial automation & robotic machines/ equipments for real practical in all nigeria tertiary institution. consider germany,japan institution),so that graduate can be self employment rather than jobless.
As an engineering undergrad, I have gained a greater sense of purpose through this video because it has helped to inform me of technological problems and challenges of the future that I will be able to work on in my career.
Lack of practical facilites for students and lack of committed teachers.the belive by students that subjects like futher mathematics,physics,techn ical drawing and chemistry are difficult, thereby creating fear in them.
Thes grand challenges are great. Solving them will do nothing to hekp the poor. First the people from the rich countries must be shown and made to understand poor peoples problems. I live in CA today I had lunch outside ib a tee shirt. I can not comprehend 20 delow zero some place else. I knoe it exsits but I still do not comprehend until I experiance it. We need help in sicoligy to really understand other peoples problems.
use 3R'S FORMULA.retest-recycle-re use.by recycling and reusing everything in the earth we can prevent pollution.mainly plastic.
After Fukushima nuclear disaster, some populace is opposing nuclear power generation. But until new methods to harness solar energy are developed it is better to continue operation of nuclear power stations.
Collaborative efforts are needed internationally to invent new technologies to make use of the abundantly available solar energy.
As i am engineering student i like to reading the same.the starting of WHAT DO TO TIHNG its realy creat a thing to read this..see that spelling mistake in my commant
As the human population on this planet has just passed 7,000,000,000 it seems to me that the most pressing problem for our species is how to avoid eradicating ourselves.
We need not save the planet. If we don't limit our population, nature will do it for us, in ways we may not like, and the planet will shrug us off like fleas from a dog.
Engineers need to push back on those who look to us to keep pulling rabbits out of the hat to put yet another bandaid on the fatally flawed economy based on consumption.
The elephant in the corner - overpopulation - is THE problem to solve and it is hard to see how the grand challenges have much to do with this.
Until we get serious about population control, we are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, regardless of how amazing the technology we engineers are able to create.
I believe that one of the largest problems we are facing today is the lack of food sources in third world countries. Finding reliable food sources should be one of the Grand Challenges. There are millions of acres of land in the US and thousands of farmers to work on them, like myself, so why can't some of the surplus go to feed those who don't have enough to provide for themselves. Also, finding a way to grow crops in desert areas would be another Grand Challenge.
I have no engineering background, but found all the comments to be very interesting. However, I agree with Nick Polimeni. The wherewithall to solving most of the critical issues identified, depends on the health of the economy. If engineering can come up with a sound economic model, give it a shot.
I believe that gains in efficiently controlling these grand challenges will be essential to both our future and to engineering. But as always, to offer value to people, companies, industries, and governments, much more will be required.
Our ability to economically harness these gains, make them portable and interoperable across a wide spectrum of forms, and provide real solutions to address legitimate societal needs, will be critical to our continued leadership status as a nation.
The challenges you have listed would be amazing to solve and discover. I did notice that there was nothing listed for space travel and exploration. By understanding the universe I think we would be understand more about many other things. How they form, new minerals, possibly even new life. I am confused as to how conquering space travel is not a grand challenge.
Also why not include transportation. It is neither economical or efficient currently. If a new method of travel could be produced, it could be a huge energy saver along with health improvement device and environmental improvement.
I like all the pics except certain ones thats just about it.
Im sorry but as an engineer myself i can honestly say we have a bigger priority than this at this moment in time. our biggest priority in my opinion is mass awareness and focus in terms of engineering and scientific research. Universities and colleges, and scientists with a phd in gobbledegook all look towards the 'life is beautiful side', however, the rest AND the majority of the engineering population are stuck here making things like forged and machined rolls for generators. however, most of the populations engineers sit here doing their job and machining a bore or a finishing cut on these rolls and they sit there thinking, 'this would be so much more effective at providing power if we did this to it etc.' these engineers need to speak up more, and global research companies need a larger workforce.
i think this project is quite challenging, but i guess there are lots of people with ideas out there, and hope some great ones are found
amazing ,where i get these courses,can i get these courses from Top Engineering Colleges. if yes plz reply.
Ok... This iis me Kayla again... Engineerinq can be really fun... As lonq as u kno how to do it u will achiieve iit--- siqned, Mrs.'OH' SO PREETTYYY....
Hi I am Kayla from Sherwood middle school in Columbus... I like engiineeriing and.... quess what i am mad right now i cant q3t my jacket from my class and i miight miiss the bus... theey wont l3t m3 qo now so i cant qet it i sure wiill tell my momma... BY3!... siqned, I'Lhady Siinqlee!!!
advance health informatics number of diseases and disorders are increasing there is an urgent need for advance health.hypertensions are two major probem which affect about 50 percent of people.
advance health informatics:as number of disease and disorders are increasing there is an urgent need for advance health informatics.diabetis and hypertension are two major probleam which affect about 50% people in the world.there should be regular update on paremeters like fasting blood sugar and blood pressure preferebly per year for those who are below 45 years and per 6 months for those who are above 45 years.there should be unique coding systeam for each and every disease and disorder which is able to reduce the burden of health care professionals and also increase the accuracy.according my opinion in country like USA, data management and health informatics work should be given to paramedical staff to reduce the burden of doctors.prescription must be given in printed form only in order to reduce overdose and drug interaction.label on drug product must be in two language including region and international language.
Just happened to read your article in this month's PE magazine. Didn't say a except to beg engineers to listen to your committee. As a matter of fact the article was a lot of gobble-dy-gook. But at then end I decided to vist your web site to perhaps find out way people and enhineers have ignored you pleas and there the answers were in typical Washington double speak. Of the 14 challenges a bunch are just political bunk and follow the dwindling money.
Written by liberal academics the challenges don't contain a lot of practical engineering or bring significant engineering to the table.
The really bad challenges are:
1. Make solar economical. That was tried by Carter back in the 1970 and is now a big government program of subsidies. Don't hold yiur breath to long while you develop that solar airplane, or truck.
2. Carbon crap. Again a political pile of bunk. Man made global warming. Al Gore bunk. Read his statement in the Congressional Record in Sept. of 1991 and tell yourself that he was talking real science. Bunk.
Many of the other challenges are just I feel good and want the world to feel giood and kind og "green" junk. Talk about a profession be sucked in it's engineering and green.
make something that cleans saltwater to make drinkable water. i mean, if we have so little fresh water why not do something like that?
Solar energy make economical by deep reserch on soller cell.
Soller cell which convert the solar energy in to electrical energy.efficiency of solar cell is very low.foundatin cost for solar system is high.
Solar cell is freely available on earth and it is pollution free energy.
effeciency and manufacturing cost of sollar systems are disadvantages of solar system.we can reduce this drawback by new innovation on sollarcell.
With innovation and winning the future as our President's call to action, and the most harmful engineering related problem today being structural failures of buildings and structures in natural and environmental disasters; I'd recommend Improving the Structural Performances of building and structure frames and shells as the next big Engineering Challenge.
Historical fact: Building and structure frames are designed and constructed under the concept of single-tributary, single force-load pathed, and single force-loads dissipation mechanisms, with isolated frame location reinforcing added, as it has been since the very first building was ever built!! This makes structural frame technology the oldest applied science technology in practice today.
The challenge should call for new concepts, like dual-tributary structural frames that can structurally perform in multiple beneficial force resistance and adapting ways. Thank you for your consideration; Randy Dube, innovator of Continuous Structural Frame Reinforcing Methods (2005-2007).
water crisis in Africa should be declared a disaster. as an young water engineer, i have a vision of forming an association for upcoming water engineers in Africa that will have the mandate of coming up with the solutions to water crisis. the only problem is lack of funds to communicate/ reach other fellow university students via the internate because i need to design the website to the association. please let me know if there is anybody willing to support the idea. thanks
Our understanding of the underlying mechanisms that bring about consciousness - that awareness of our self - still eludes humankind. Over the millenia we've wrestled with its definition and with its description. Still to no avail. It ranks among the great unsolved mysteries that humankind has confronted since philosophers first began to muse about reality. I believe that the root to understanding who we are as beings lies in understanding this phenomenon.
Yet it eludes us because we have not been able to model it in any way. Until now, that is. We now have a tool at our disposal that can help us make strides towards resolving this mystery. Immersive Virtual Reality technology gives us the ability to manipulate consciousness. It enables us to translate our mental presence to a remote location outside of our physical body. While third person experimentation is inconclusive, the ability to manipulate the first person experience, I think, will be fruitful. That may be the 'handle' we've needed all along to finally grasp the subtle nuances of consciousness.
And so, I would hope that IVR technology will be exploited as an aid in more in-depth research in the study of consciousness.
Besides clean water, these challenges largely effect the top 20% of the world's population. There needs to be a focus on the engineering challenges that face the the majority of the world's population.
I would suggest sentient AI (or human, AI enhancements) and nano level, rapid prototypng as my suggestions for the GC. The first would allow breakthroughs for the other GCs, and the later would allow us to create almost anything we can imagine!
The issue of solar is actually a subset of a larger, more important challenge when it comes to renewable energy.
There are plenty of natural energy sources all around us - solar, wind, wave. The big problem is securing an energy infrastructure that can 1) deal with the significant fluctuations in these power sources and/or 2) solve the issue of large scale energy storage.
Solve THAT problem, and renewable energy would become a commodity for almost all - unlike fossil fuels.
My comments are best seen here in my blog post on the topic:
Not to be disrespectful, but none of the challenges on your final llist is nearly as important as making our infrastructure resilient to natural and human made disruptions. See the work of The Infrastructure Security Partnership (TISP) (www.tisp.org) and the White House Office of Resilience, Darrell Darnell, Director. Read Stephen Flynn's books The Edge of Disaster and America the Vulnerable. Disruptions include nuclear terrorism (on your list), earthquakes, tsunammis, hurricanes, etc.
I think providing access to clean water is probably at the top of the list for the Grand Challenges. Everyone needs water to live and some places around the world still do not have reliable resources to give them clean water, which means they are more susceptible to diseases. Clean water needs to be considered at the top of the list so we can provide people in every location around the world.
Thank you Grand Challenges for your tech sc
Solar power, advanced personalized learning, and engineering better medicines are three tpics that are very important to me.
First of all solar power needs to be more afordable because if it is then more people will be willing to invest in it. If more people invest in it then the Earth will be around for a while longer, plus not many of us wants to see childeren wear gas masks to play outside.
If we advance personalized learning then we can reach greater hights, students wont feel "stupid" because they learn differently. I have a sister who has a very different was of learning and for a long time she was placed in remeidial classes and was even required to repeat a grade, when all she needed was a different explination of the same material.
Lastly, by creating medicines in a better way we can treat illnesses faster and put an end to any uprising that could lead to a pandemic. and spcifically find a cure to the "incureable"
If the Focus of the Future is to SERIOUSLY address Energy and Climate, and reduce or eliminate fossil fuels, ...
There is NO WAY for us to KEEP the Infrastructure, ... our homes and businesses, and THEIR logistics one to the other. ... that is impossible.
Just take away the fossil fuels, and see what happens. Battery powered vehicles on the same roads, what a JOKE that is.
So, ... New Communities, self-sustaining and walkable, with ALL Zero Energy structures, will be required.
Again, there is NO WAY you can RETROFIT existing structures and make them work, without fossil fuels, in their present locations.
What does that say about Home monetary VALUES as they exist today, and in the future ?
Is there anyone smart enough to answer ?
"Can designers and engineers alone solve the world's environmental problems??? wat do you think ??"
As a part of new product design and development initiative for pure water production with water dispensers.
Create a economical and practical, renewable transport system. Ideally this would also be more efficient that existing transport by caring people aloft rather than over roads and rail, both of which are a wasteful use of valuable space.
the world we live in today is a mess.wars at every corner and hudreds die everyday.wtf potential Albert Einstein has died in this mess?So this is the biggest chalenge ever to bring peace so everybody can think and focus on those challenges.NOT figuring out how to survive. This way we can advance our lives twice as we imagine!!!
Why not have a site to post ideas on how to gain control of oil leak in Gulf of Mexico? Example: Use parachute-like tarp,deployed by compressed gas release,then weigh it down with sediments. Tarp should have a vent with large fabric duct with floats to keep upwright and take it from there....It can be conveyed by topedo-like vehicle gided by GPS to exact coordinates of well head and deployed.automatically
The Grand Grandest Challenge of this century should be slowing down/stopping aging process.
Desalination: The first with cellulose acetate RO was $8.00/1000 gallons. Second was RO thin film RO with 25% thruput at $6.00/1000 gallons. $3.00/1000 gallons with thin film RO at 50% thruput. $2.00/1000 gallons RO thin film with energy recovery by DWEER. The next possible and being worked on is Forward Osmosis at Yale Univ. with CO2 and ammonia to draw fresh water thru at $1.50/1000 gallons. You might research this. Richard R.McIver
this is so cool! i wanna be a hippie and fight the poeple polluting our waters!
i love this class!
I have an idea of developing cfc free refrigerators to avoid the depletion of ozone layer going on, by using the elements having the boiling and melting points lower than cfc..is it possible??
More attention and funding should be given to developing and implementing productive and beneficial uses of CO2. Why does geologic sequstration get 99% of the attention and funding?
I agree 100% with Christopher Skinner. I believe these would all be valuable challenges to complete, but I think we need a deeper focus on ending poverty and providing basic human needs to all. I am a big supporter of the weakest link theory, that being that we need to focus our efforts where they are needed to provide the greatest improvements. Industrial Systems engineers, Biological Engineers, and Biomedical Engineers need to work together to focus their efforts on the distribution of healthcare, foodstuffs, and water to those places in the world that do not have adequate access. That said, this is a multidimensional problem and the solution cannot be to simply catch the problems downstream. Language and sustainable agriculture education are just some of the ways in which we can help to stop this problem at its source. I am an engineering student at NC State and would love to start thinking about any of these problems with anyone and everyone who is interested. My email is email@example.com
I have a vision that energy per se, can be drawn out from the most basic motions and movements...... I hope to one day engineer something small which can be fitted on to vehicles , which will use the latent wind energy to propel it and in doing so generate electricity which can be stored in the vehicle.... Perhaps such a device could be strategically placed on the rear end of a vehicle ( so that it does not further induce drag and diminish the vehicles aerodynamics), at a location which still gets a good flow of air....
The book ENGINEERING PROJECTS FOR THE 21 CENTURY includes sixteen futuristic engineering projects, it shows preliminary design engineering drawings with maximum detail. Usually similar books are prepared and created with the help of large number of engineering groups and specialists, each one in a different branch of technology or science. . . The author of the book is Walter F. Laredo, he did the necessary R&D, the analysis and the engineering drawings for each project of the whole book, . . . . In 1999 President Clinton in his speach expressed that NASA and the aerospace companies should start to design the Aerospace hypersonic airplane with scramjet propulsion, a program that would create few thousands of jobs. . . . I was entusiast with the idea, so I developed just by myself, the conceptual and the preliminary design of project number 11, which is among other several projects, those those are indicated in the table of contents of my book as the following: 1. Futuristic mansion(classic super modern architecture) - - - 2. Advanced personal jet (aeronautics) - - - 3. Small commuter twin jet transport - - - 4.Lightweight jet fighter aircraft - - - 5. Flying-car - - - 6. Two legged giant robot, to be use as an off road worker transport. - - - 7.Conceptual design of interplanetary spaceship for round trips to planet Mars. - - - 8. Cargo flying boat with nuclear propulsion - - - 9. Flying wing large airliner - - - 10.High speed train, hanging on twin cable rail. - - - 11. Hypersonic aircraft with scramjet propulsion, - - - 12. Hypersonic piggyback carrier plane for the Space Shuttle, - - - 13.New Space shuttle design for passengers only, - - - 14. A flying sport motorcycle, - - - 15. A six legged mountain climbing robot, to find water on Mars, - - - A sketch of a futuristic fighter aircraft, carrying laser weapons.
The missing challenge = a civilization for people to live in Basic industrial engineering (process and performance) is needed to identify and support implementation of a civilization designed for maximum human prosperity. This work is underway, but not really organized. It is not only possible, but on the cusp of being in our vision in truths such as: "There is only one party in interest."
i think everything you do is a way to make our present and future life better.however you should differentiate much between aprofessional physicist and a chemical engineer so as to shun any kind of contradiction between each other work.i say this because less difference is made in most african countries and this discourages division of labour.
"Poverty is bad enough; malnutrition is unaccepteble in the 21st century and engineers are essential to meet this fundamental need "
I support all of the challenges that you have identified but there are others to be considered too, I believe: 1. The need for agriculture to biotechnology to be revolutionised to support the food needs of an expanded world population. Poverty is bad enough; malnutrition is unaccepteble in the 21st century and engineers are essential to meet this fundamental need 2. The most pressing need after food and water is energy and engineers need to do more to develop sustainable base-load energy sources. Renewables are mostly variable in supply and are unsuitable for base-load demand without massive storage capacity. The development of such electric or thermal capacitors is surely a major engineering challenge 3. Thirdly we need new ways for the community to work and to engage with society at all ages. We need engineers todevelop a new approach to how social intercourse for work, play and education can be achieved. This is an engineering challenge as well as a policy and challenge 4. Finally we need new approaches to personal mobility. It is not good enough to think only as far as electric vehicles. this will not solve the problems of road safety, congestion or entirely avoid carbon emissions. New engineering solutions are needed to the fundamntal human societal needs for movement.
It would have given me too a great pleasure to setup the grand challenge ... but looks like I was born in a timeline where I have to execute the challenges rather than set them up [ As I am not old enough ] . While I accept the challanges and would try my best to do our seniors proud by executing them, howeever, I have one wish that I would have added to the list: Design a game for life on earth so that human do everything except kill each other. Thanks Mohan
Item 1 (make solar energy economical)... This would make Item 2 (provide energy from fusion) and Item 3 (carbon sequestration) irrelevant. Low grade waste heat from Item 1 or from our daily activites can solve Item 5 (clean water) Item 6 (improve urban infrastructure): Key components of urban infrastructure are 1) electrical energy, 2) heating, 3) cooling, 4) clean water, 5) handling waste water. (4) and (5) can be a "pseudo closed circuit", i.e., with a reservoir/agricultural land/etc. in-between. It can also be a real closed circuit (like on the Int'l Space Station). The transmission of heating and cooling can be via the clean water supply as well, i.e., in summer, pipe chilled water to the home, after using it for airconditioning, drink/use the water. In winter... you get the idea. Vacuum insulated pipes can be used to minimise transmission loss. An integrated system using multiple thermal energy input (solar, biofuels, fuels from waste) driving a heat engine with waste heat use can produce all the components in item 6.
"Merely advancing a particular technology like solar or virtual reality seems to exercise little in the way of creativity and only serves to highlight efforts already underway. "
Many of these challenges are not posed as Engineering challenges, but rather problems whose solutions may or may not be technological. e.g. personal learning, carbon management and preventing nuclear terror all have political solutions as well as technological. Seems like the engineering challenge would need to propose a potential engineering solution to some of the problems facing us today and challenge the engineers to solve that challenge. Merely advancing a particular technology like solar or virtual reality seems to exercise little in the way of creativity and only serves to highlight efforts already underway. For example: engineering a rigid, lighter-than-air material with which we could construct transportation platforms or vehicles exponentially more efficient than today could solve a host of problems from carbon management to delivery of clean water to the world.
This is a great site with awesome topics on advance engineering. I did not see this site before I started my own website call: http://www.newtechnologie s101.com. My website is also geared to discuss future technical ideas organized in a forum format. I see alot of comments below that would be great topics to post on my site. It may be beneficial to link the two sites?
"Upon reviewing several Engineers Without Borders and United Nations projects I found that the most advanced technology is often being implemented in the most primitive conditions. I have found that the local people have adopted them and in some cases developed them further."
It is interesting that many of the comments are from other countries. This reflects the global need and perspective of engineering. I have been working on which emerging technologies and techniques to incorporate into engineering curricula as part of a Society of Manufacturing Engineers effort. To do this I looked at which fundamental engineering efforts are advancing the quality of life and found most of the answers in humanitarian efforts. Upon reviewing several Engineers Without Borders and United Nations projects I found that the most advanced technology is often being implemented in the most primitive conditions. Furthermore, I have found that the local people have adopted them and in some cases developed them further. The new developments are now starting to diffuse back into more developed nations. I think some insight can be gained by considering the list of technologies from the broader perspective of global engineering and humanitarian projects.
Domestic enrgy needs (urban and rural) are low intensity requirements - predominantly for lighting, heating and cooking. Solar collectors should be made popular and mandatory for all hot water needs. The immediate target should be to convert any requirement that is met by single-phase electrical power, to energy from solar collectors/simple cells. This must become policy through a time-bound discussion amongst planners (Govt), academicians (Researchers), Professionals (Architects and Engineers) and industry (Thermal Engg industry).
Very Exciting! It appears our president has given this list some attention; how joyous. "I hope we've all done the same reading; it will be on the test." ~ Any Teacher
what about engineer challanges with management? how can they adapt with real life of organization?
"Why only focus on SOLAR energy when we seem to not think about creating electricity in smaller simpler ways such as the way we make electricity for a bicycle light when we pedal the bike. "
Why only focus on SOLAR energy when we seem to not think about creating electricity in smaller simpler ways such as the way we make electricity for a bicycle light when we pedal the bike. Surely this can be put onto car wheels as they turn and washing machines as they spin and create alittle more energy in these ways? As Tecso say 'Every little helps'
I recommend concentrating ongetting access to clean water is very important. Even rain water which was considered to be pure is most polluted now. No surprise, even a third world war for water. About 80% of diseases which affect the humans are water borne and we have to concentrate in getting pure water. Most of people in Africa and under developed countries in Asia are not getting pure water to drink. Some remedies are i)Not wasting the water ii)Pure water should not be polluted by industrial sewage iii)Desalination should be encouraged by the government By following these 3 points we would surely get access to pure water and we can preserve this invaluable gift to our next generation.
I think the challenge of making solar energy economical is the most worthy of pursuing b'coz it will solve many problems which are being faced at global level like global warming, oil politics and also it will give us a sustainable and perennial source of energy. with good energy source development of the world will be accelarated which will make the world a better place to live.
I believe that reverse engineering the brain would be the most beneficial to society because it could help us unlock a lot of the secrets of the human mind and possibly lead to a way to enhance and fully optimize the capabilities of the brain which could allow us to possibly further our progress in all of these other grand challenges.
I'm disappointed that these challenges are framed a little narrowly. For example, global warming is much more than just carbon sequestration. Reverse-engineering the brain may give us insights but may not necessarily be the way to implement artificial intelligence. Finding efficient catalysts for conversion should be a grand challenge. For example, the energy required to create ethanol fuels is too high. So is the energy required to crack shale oils. There are many processes that would benefit from discovering efficient catalysts to reduce the conversion energy required. The idea of a summit to examine these grand challenges is a great one to foster debate and changes.
This is wonderful. Please add this Challenge: Make a bicycle design that is as good and durable as cars for daily driving in traffic, in all weather conditions. The design will provide a certification model for mass public transportation bicycle designs for commuting that is light, efficient, and fully equipped with a smoothly integrated and well-mounted solar or mechanical generator, rechargable battery, permanent lights, signals, brake lights, mirrors, reflectors, and other driving safety and comfort features. This will bring bicycles from being casually configured vehicles, to first class traffic vehicles and enable much broader safe use by larger numbers of people. This is a significant Green initiative need because today very few bicycles are truly equipped off the showroom floor with the kind of lighting, safety, and durability that cars offer.
"What about getting rid of solid waste? Long poly-chained hydrocarbons are going to strangle us."
What about getting rid of solid waste? I'm sure that we can do that. Long poly-chained hydrocarbons are going to strangle us. Pollution in the form of plastic packaging is the biggest problem as I see it and it will take a huge amount of engineering talent to deal with it economically. Now we just hope it goes away, but it doesn't - just go down any street, in any country, over our whole planet. Plastic is everywhere and it sucks!
We should engineer a social system allowing people to lower their agressivity level whil keeping them motivated to evolve from their present situation. To do this we must ensure everybody on this planet that he will have his own part of the resources necessary to survive - at least. This is a non-sense to provide technical toys to the happyfews while most of the mankind keeps to dy because they cannot eat or drink. One day all these people will realize what we did, and they will come to ask us why we left them behind. With machetes. Tracks : Better learning, more efficient knowledge, food and resources repartition, basic medical support, better birth control (we must stop reproducing ourselves like rabbits). The other challenges are ongoing anyway. But this one is not purely technical.
I think that the Engineer better medicines is the best. This is going to help people all aroud the world get better and over sickness sooner!
I think that solar energy should be used in every house all over the world it helps out our economy and its natural. It would save alot of sources because of the way things are going it looks like all of our energy sources are going to run out and we wont have none left. we need to conserve our energy sources.
On the topic of Reverse-Engineer the brain, i don't understand why when your trying to create a machine that thinks like the average human brain , why wont you take the format of how the human brain works in account. I mean I know that a machine wont work exactly like a human, but you still could possibly get ideas from the human brain though.I think once they figure out the way we can somehow link a automated brain to a human brain, then making a “thinking machine” would be even easier.
I THINK THAT THE TOPIC ON PREVENTING NUCLEAR TERROR IS THE MOST IMPORTANT. BECUASE TERRIOST HAVE MANY WAYS OF PRODUCING NUCLEAR WEAPONS. IF THERE ISNT SOMETHING DONE ABOUT IT SOON THE U.S. OR ANY OTHER COUNTRY COULD HAVE A TERRIOST ATTACK AND COULD BE WORSE THAN SEPT 11. POSSIBLY KILL MILLIONS OF PEOPLE AND DESTROY THE WORLD. SO I THINK THAT THERE SHOULD BE SOMETHING DONE ABOUT IT NO MATTER WHAT THE COST IS.
I think that solar energy from the sun is something that is very important that needs to continue to be looked at for many reasons. The sun is more powerful than any man made object. Only 15 percent of the sun's light actually reaches the Earth and that is way more than any machine.Solar energy is safer for the environment and it can get us away from dependency of foreign fossil fuels.
TRANSPORTATION is the master key to survival, and cornerstone of the economy. Transportation depends on oil production, that is peaking. Travel through the evacuated environment of space is the most proven transportation. Every human who has lived travels in orbit around the Sun at 30 km/s (67,000 mph). And the sun orbits the galaxy 220km/s. 1970s patents disclosed maglev trains operating in underground tunnels with the air removed for speed and efficiency but this tripled the cost of maglev trains, and maglev trains are to costly compared to aircraft and automobiles. By reducing the cost by a factor of 30, Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT) offers the developing world a chance to develop their standard of living beyond what they are able to now only see on the village TV. Automation of transportation promises huge gains too. A global ETT network will allow more than 90% of the worlds population to directly participate in the new global community that has barely begun. http://www.et3.com http://www.linkedin.com/p ub/3/784/b22
"The challenges on there are amazing, yet to me some like "reversing the brain" can wait until we have secured a bright and healthy future by achieving larger amounts of clean water and more health informatics. "
I am amazed that the National Academy of Engineering took the iniative to make a "list" of grand challenges of the world's future. The challenges on there are amazing, yet to me some like "reversing the brain" can wait until we have secured a bright and healthy future by achieving larger amounts of clean water and more health informatics. - Thanks (Great ideas, too)!
"The Space Elevator was an obvious (not included) choice and will constitute, when completed, arguably the single greatest engineering achievement in the history of man. Affordable and reliable access to space will allow humans to become masters of our planet. "
There is one engineering challenge not mentioned that will have a profound impact on both the capabilities that it brings to the human technological pallet, but also the "vista" of our collective future and how we see ourselves. The Space Elevator was an obvious choice and will constitute, when completed, arguably the single greatest engineering achievement in the history of man. Affordable and reliable access to space will allow humans to become masters of our planet. It carries the possibility to afford free fusion energy released from the greatest local source, our sun, via orbiting solar panels. This also grants the control of earth as a thermodynamic system, affording worldwide climate and weather control. Space based health research on a grand scale becomes a reality. Virtually every proposed engineering challenge on this website would benefit. It unlocks the solar system and its abundant resources to be shaped by the will of our dreams and ambitions. The colonization of Venus, Mars and Jupiter become an eventuality within the 21st century, not a probability. Our world view dissolves as civilian transport to space elevates our perception of how we interact on a daily basis. We could begin to view ourselves as earthlings, ultimately embracing our cultural and ethnic differences as our community expands to the solar scale. "Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible." -T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia
Sixteen futuristic engineering projects, as shown below in the Table of contents of the book Engineering Projects for the 21st Century. LIST OF CONCEPTUAL AND PRELIMINARY DESIGNS 1. Futuristic mansion (architecture) 2. Advanced personal jet (aeronautics) 3. Small commuter twinjet transport 4. Lightweight fighter aircraft 5. Aerocar (flying-car) 6. Two legged giant robot, used as off-road transport 7. Conceptual design: Interplanetary "Mars Spaceship" 8. Cargo flying boat with nuclear propulsion 9. Blended wing-body airliner 10. Hanging high speed train, twin cable rail 11. Hypersonic aircraft with scramjet propulsion, M12 12. Hypersonic piggyback carrier plane for the Space Shuttle 13. New Space Shuttle design, to carry passengers only 14. Toys for the rich boys of the future, a flying motorcycle 15. Mountain climbing six legged robot, to find water on Mars 16. Concept for futuristic fighter aircraft, using laser weapons
Its all amazing. I saw this on science cheerleader
I was not only intrigued by the challeges listed, but by the comments as well. This is a great site, for the those of us who aren't as savvy in this realm, to broaden our views. Thanks to the Science Cheerleader site for the introduction!
It's all about communication. Today's technology can solve most engineering problems that exist today. We need more advanced way's of communicating with our technology. This will give us the ability to teach our technology how to solve these problems. To begin with, we need to create relational databases that represent real-life objects and ideas (XML is a great way to represent things). Data is being collected in many ways through the use of the internet, on a daily basis. However, I don't think we are properly capturing data that represents ideas, experiences, and the way people interact with their environments. Imagine having all the tools necessary to communicate anything that we can describe to our technology. Then at the same time, having tools that communicate those things from our technology to ourselves. This should be our focus. The internet browser is a tool that essentially puts data at the tip of our fingertips. However, This is not the most efficient method of communicating. This is because it's a slow and manual process, and the data may not be reliable. Engineers know the importance of documentation. This is a very simple concept that I believe is being neglected in the ways that humans interact with technology. Let's document our world, then use this data to help better our lives.
Some readers have noted that a new source of energy is essential. Energy is essential to pursue the other goals Full development of nuclear fission has been overlooked by the thinkers. It would be wise to get on with it.
I can not understand why non of challenges or related issues to prevent earth scale enviromental problems, e.g. negative climate changes. This is one of the most urgent matters. Numerous people has already been died in desert areas every day, and the areas are glowing up rapidly. Huricanes attack and killed many people, also bring a great negative effect on economies in some countries. This is an urgent matter to secure our long lasting future!
We should start energy saving with the help of large capacitors. Even we can harvest thunder and wind energy to generate charges.
Please i will like to make a reference to the point on supply of power, i have be able to design a way to supply electricity from a system without need for power from outside the system, but i am in search of project challenge or a project display seminar where i can present it for evaluation, Please i will like you to link to any one going one or any one which is about to happen.
Economical solar is important, BUT first we need to exploit other "low tech" energy soluions like wind, tidal and offshore wind. With just on-shore wind we could get rid of the massive need for fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas). But we need to store electrcity and transport it. That's where your priorites should be.
Change the governments of all countries from a bunch of idiots to a group of talented engineers... Everything will be alright, at least on the right path....
I agree with the Grand Challenges "picks". I would like to add a comment on "how engineering will achieve solutions to these challenges". I worked in the field for many years and now teach classes in Engineering Design and Development for Tulsa Tech. These classes are part of the Project Lead The Way program to prepare talented high school students for engineering school. I often tell my students to be creative and discount no "wild idea that may come into their head". You would think teenagers would embrace such a suggestion! I find though that this is often a difficult concept for them. It is my conclusion based on many years as an educator, that we are focusing so much on preparing students to do well on standardized tests that we allow students little opportunity to be creative and explore what interests them. I find many students believe that a good engineer is some sort of a "computational machine". I tell them we have machines that do a much better job than they ever will when it comes to doing computations and recalling facts. They are called "computers". I strongly believe we need to do a better job educating the public as to what engineers really do; or should do. Sure math and science are important, but perhaps the emphasis should be more on understanding concepts and how they can be used in the creative process. We also need to do a better job recruiting engineering students. I have seen exceptional students choose other careers because they didn't do well in algebra and calculus in high school. Perhaps they lacked exceptional teachers who instilled a passion for math and explained difficult concepts well. Perhaps they viewed math and science as boring, when an inspired teacher might have shown them how exciting these subjects can really be! I applaud this project but I would love to see an emphasis on exciting students to enter the profession. The future belongs to the youth of today. Lets concentrate on the affective domain along with the cognitive. These challenges will be met when we have engineers who are artistic (creative) as well as scientific. Passion is the ingredient that will ignite the solutions we seek. Jim Snow Tulsa Tech, Tulsa, OK formerly of; McDonnell Douglas, ARCO, Phelps Dodge Brass, etc.
Providing Clean Water for everyone on the planet is basic and the most important challenge to meet in the 21st Century.
"I really can not envision a solution to mankind's current major challenge, i.e. Food Production and Distribution Increase/Optimi zation, without the concurrence of Engineers and Engineering ways."
As a Stanford U. engineering alumnus, M.S. Industrial Engineering (Engineering-Economy) 1965, I was informed of Prof. William Perry's chaired distinguished team of Engineers that identified Engineering 14 Grand Challenges for the 21st Century. With all due respect to this cohort of leading thinkers and fully appreciating the importance of the challenges identified, I must express my perplexity regarding the absence of "Increasing/Optimizing Food Production and Distribution". For me this is truly the number one challenge that faces us in the present and future. Although some of the challenges mentioned have indeed points in common with the food production, they do not represent this crucial challenge entirely. Engineers can and must address this problem. Engineering approach to problem identification and solving, Engineering methods, Engineering concepts and many others are required to identify and improve the integration and the systemic use of manpower/soil/seeds/ferti lisers/water/equipment/en ergy/funding/wheater/dist ribution channels/transportation/w arehousing and a few other factors. I really can not envision a solution to mankind's current major challenge, i.e. Food Production and Distribution Increase/Optimization, without the concurrence of Engineers and Engineering ways.
now a days people are using more technical things, science now a days takes a lead in every field but environment are necessary. global warming are incerasing day by day, north pole ice are melting and sea level is incerasing. we should also take care of envionment. your site is good but we have to wake the country and tell them what is a happing in the world. cyber space is good which give us the knowledege about many things but it is dangerous also in many place cyber crime is also increasing. i hope i am not saying wrong your site is best which tell the every people about every thing
Depleting natural fuel resources, increasing global warming, need to conserve energy and natural resources - while still maintaining comfortable life for human beings. We learned perpetual motion machines are impossible to make. Can someone make a few environmentally sustainable physical or chemical systems - which work partially like perpetual motion machines? For eg: In a tropical country - with temperatures rising (due to global warming), more and more people need to cool their houses/offices. Today electrical energy is used, which is generated through fossil fuel or nuclear or such established commercial processes. This in turn leads to global warming. Instead - IF THERE WAS A CHEMICAL SPRAYED ON ROOF TOP, WHICH WILL ABSORB ENERGY FROM SUN and covert itself into ICE/SIMILAR substance, which could keep the house cool. Now this has to be environment safe and commercially viable. We can save lot of energy and make every house hold comfortable.
"the true challenge is to educate our successors..."
The challenges featured on the site thus far are projects. I cannot debate with the validity of the projects, but they are all founded on the assumption that we have addressed the fundamental challenge, in my opinion, of educating the engineers who will address these projects as true professional engineers. We have, in the past number of decades, seen our profession, at the education level, shift more and more to applied science. This leads to the much discussed "innovation gap" because our best and brightest are taught to seek out information, not to apply information. To me, Engineering is about design, and the true challenge is to educate our successors in a manner that has them accept the challenge of the design process as they address the projects listed.
"In addition to the mass transit systems currently in use, there are many possibilities, including an efficient and small 'personal commuter vehicle' (PCV), and vacuum tube transport of 'people mover modules'. "
Your website is what the world needs and hopefully will contribute by providing direction to world governments from scientists and engineers who have no limits in what is possible. There are technological solutions to most problems if govenments will let technology solve our problems instead of waging war and playing political games. Hopefully we can inspire more technological thinking to protect our world and bring a higher quality of life to all its citizens. Long before the current 'energy crisis' began, I began thinking of an alternative solution to get commuters to work each day. In addition to the mass transit systems currently in use, there are many possibilities, including an efficient and small 'personal commuter vehicle' (PCV), and vacuum tube transport of 'people mover modules'. My wish is to see some new ideas discussed and looked at to ascertain their feasibility. Thank-you and best wishes for future technological advancement for our world.
How about investing in this technology? http://www.valcent.net/s/ Home.asp Their ideas not only produce biofuel from algae (not a food base product) they also provide a way for larger crop yeilds for produce in a smaller amount of space - free from pesticides and chemical additives due to a controled enviroment. They also promote local produce production to avoid use of fuel for shipping produce, reduced waste from cross country travel and higher profits. With all those factories that are empty due to companies outsourcing and leaving. There are plenty of buildings that could be refitted to put this idea into production a.s.a.p. The U.N. is considering putting a ban on biofuel production because of the ethanol fiasco which is causing food crop shortages as well as animal feed shortages. If something isn't done soon to promote algae - biofuel production could come to a grinding halt. Can you do something to push this forward and get it he attention it deserves?
While each of these grand challenges may be important, I find it impossible to pick "Which is most important?" because the levels of these problems are too narrow and presuppose solutions. I would group the 14 into fewer categories. My recommendations: Energy, Security, Education, Environment, Health Care. This portfolio of five could be augmented with "Technology" that could be used as an interface between humans and the other five categories. If we focus on "Make solar energy affordable" we may miss the opportunities for other developing sources. Likewise for "Secure cycperspace" and "Prevent nuclear terror" where the solution might be able to counter both if we look at the problem in the right way. National and World policy priorities should support the five categories. If this happens, the rest of the world's problems will fall in line.
I think attention should be focused on the prevention of nuclear terror as an important engineering challenge today. The world lives in constant fear as the possibility of nuclear weapons getting into the possesion of Militant Goverments remain very high. The cry by popular Goverments against the imminent nuclear threats apparent in the far and middle east is certainly insufficient, as such, concerted engineering and technological efforts should be made as a matter of necessity to prevent nuclear terror given the fact that it constitute in my opinion, the world's most deadliest catastrophe. Relics of such terrors with its attendant consequences are still ever present around the globe.
Some of the Grand Challenges that were presented do not seem to be really important in terms of the well-being of the world. For example, virtual reality is a cool idea to explore, but the world will go on without it. We need to focus on the environment first because we can never help ourselves if there is not a world to live in.
"Such a technology would enable the engineering of molecular structure from the bottom-up. "
I can't think of a software technology with more broad impact than that of a feedback mechanism from the real world to the model world allowing the correction of computer simulations with real world data. Such a technology would enable the engineering of molecular structure from the bottom-up. For example, if the force equations used in molecular dynamics simulations were correct, then the simulations would be real because the mode mechanics would be real thus, making self-assembly real.
The engineering grand challenges should be presented in two categories: those challenges that are imperative to tackle now for the sake of the planet and those that will improve human life (which is also nice, but not as time critical).
These "Grand Challenges" seem very accurate in terms of what current engineers are challenged with. It is interesting to note that the concerns of engineers are constantly expanding to incorporate new fields (i.e. environment and health care) which were of much less concern several decades ago.
"The biggest challenges the world faces today is the negative impact on the environment due to our rapidly increasing use of energy. "
Enhancing virtual reality doesn't really fit on this list. It would most like end up being used for video games and things like that.
"Many of the challenges selected would not be needed if one had one simple device available -- a molecular nanoassembler. "
Many of the challenges selected would not be needed if one had one simple device available -- a molecular nanoassembler. Eric Drexler sketched the outline for such a device in Nanosystems in 1992, and went so far with Ralph Merkle as to design the fine motion controller it required. Since then little has been done to complete its 4 million atom design. If we had 1000 nanodesigners using the recently released (free) Nanoengineer-1 program from Nanorex, we could have a complete design within a year. Then there would be no need for fusion reactors as the nanoassemblers would pave the roads and cover the roofs with solar cells. There would be no need for carbon sequestration because nanomachinery would harvest the carbon they need directly from the atmosphere (there would be a risk of an atmospheric carbon shortage). Clean water access would be a given. Etc. You need to propose questions like this to people who have the background to know what is really possible.
"Why not make a collaborative effort between all states and the military to come up with a Large Heavy Duty Metal Compactor/Shred der..."
We all know water is not just for drinking, however it's one of the most valuable resources that mankind can attempt to save. My suggestion is due to the recent article that the airforce is about to sink yet another ship called the Vandenburg on May 15th off the coast of Florida. Why not make a collaborative effort between all states and the military to come up with a Large Heavy Duty Metal Compactor/Shredder built out several miles from shore (location of their choosing) and collect all that metal for other projects. The so-called Barge compactor shredder will attached to a land-based facotry via conveyers where all the metal is collected for distribution. If some parts have to be disassembled prior to being put through the shredder, then that is a plus because this project will create more jobs. Just a thought.
If population control can be considered an engineering challenge, it should be on the top of the list. Reversing the effects of climate change through engineering solutions is a fairly broad subject but if we don't manage this the bottom 6 challenges become irrelevant. Climate change will also alleviate any population issues as large areas will become uninhabitable and food production will be unsustainable
This seems to echo HIGHLY of Rome, but please bear with me. As we arrive at the dreaded 'peak-oil', this would put a limit/cap to any future [real] growth, a.k.a., recession. Furthermore, if the world's oil wells are indeed declining, this would lead to [real] resource depletion, a.k.a., depression. Ironically, as with the fall of Rome, it may again be the 'Instrument of the Church' that saves any hope for future civilization. But the reason for this may be slightly different than before, as 'life-on-earth' will be our primary concern with today's church. Assuming we hit the proverbial bottom, so to speak, of oil (and this means ALL resources in general), we would suddenly become VERY 'local' and hungry people. At least in this part of America, we seem to have ALOT of neighborhood churches, each within 'walking distance'. (Banks too, but they would be useless.) These churches tend to be fairly large buildings, designed to accommodate many people. They also tend to be located and sized according to the local population. One could surmise that these local churches would be the logical choice of foot-destination for assistance and local governance. They would also act as the local warehouses, barter shops, seed banks, farmers market, meeting hall, etc. They would tend to pull people AND local resources together, under the guidance of the elders and 'local experts', which would tend to better secure the local people's futures. These would also act as the local workshops, libraries, and training centers. (One may need to be re-trained in farming, smithing, or homemaking techniques!) So, at least in the not-too-distant-future, I suspect that very few people will fail to attend their local church. One's life-on-earth may depend upon it! Food-for-thought; Open-pollenated seeds would NOT be optional in the aforementioned scenario.
What about prepration for robotic engineering?
I believe that the greater engineering challenge is to develop methods and ways to make the technology affordable to mankind. The real focus of all this challenges is mankind, but what is the point to build a car that only a minority can afford? There is no point whatsoever.
I have an patented renewable energy power plant design that I believe could meet many of the challenges that are positted here. Please take a look at my flash presentation at www.seavac.org. There are many technical challenges associated with this design however it has the potential to meet the energy needs of our ever modernizing planet in sustainable way while at the same time providing a cabon dioxide sink.
As stated on this web site, engineering task are being broadened into new and different areas. In my opinion, engineers have yet to apply their knowledge, analytical techniques and methodology to the analysis of atoms and the formation of matter. The methods of quantum mechanics clashes with the classical and more advanced methodology of engineering, which is not good for the advancement of science. This is a subject that I have studied for some time, and this could (and should) be one of the highest priority engineering projects of the future. See www.science-site.net.
In my opinion the most important challenge is to make solar energy economical. The amount of energy that mankind uses in one year (about 25 TW) comes down to Earth as solar energy in about 1,5 hours. This alone is a fact that should be kept in mind when discussing the best and cleanest ways to produce energy. If we could get even a fraction of that energy with better ratio and keeping the costs down, the upcoming energy crisis would be much less frightening. Secondly, if we can't make solar energy more efficient and cheaper, it would be a major breakthrough if we found a way to separate the carbon dioxide from the exhaust fumes, whether they came from cars or factories. Maybe we still could turn the global warming before it's too late. Thirdly, if and when the energy crisis is somehow solved, the need for clean water would still exist, especially in Africa. Without water there can be no life on Earth, it is as simple as that.
#1 Challenge: The definitive answer lies with providing huge incentives for "capping" and decreasing human population AND converting totally away from the usage of all fossil material immediately. It is the economic mentality of always developing- : "More"; "Bigger"; "Faster" at an ever increasingly, exponential rate that has gotten us into this "FIX". And the atmospheric carbon issue is just one of the related, lethal threats against all life on this planet. Take a good look at "Endocrine/ DNA mutation" from long chain (carbons) and GLOBAL SEWAGE. If we don't spend all of our energy, talent and intelligence on this problem now, life on this planet won't be around long enough to be affected by the results of global warming. #2 and final Challenge: "Solar Energy" Enough solar energy strikes the surface of the earth every 24 hours to "power the world for a year. The math is easy. "Keywords": (2) #1"Sustainability"- (Within earth's renewable systems only). #2"Population Control"- Strict, incentive based control, flat growth/ replacement only. Plus the "gloom & doom" is and always will be a reality as long as contrived, inordinate material wealth and insatiable greed prevails within the human species. The Human will never get it "Right" until he has the comprehensive understanding that his true "wealth" is, and always was, in his sustainable relationship with all life systems of the planet- Nothing more, Nothing less. For the sole purpose of insatiable profit, That "understanding" has been completely bred out of him never to return within this block of earth's history. Have a nice day
I believe this study and poll is a good idea. The world needs to change something annually. We should choose one of these and make it happen one year then choose another and keep doing it. If we do not, nothing in the world will be fixed and the world will continually be harmed and it will eventually come to an end. I believe we should stop global warming by using the carbons that are being put into the air for something else.
Excellent choices - should be publicized because of the lack of appreciation of what engineering can do for these problems. The carbon sequestration and nitrogen management challenges have some interrelationships that should be realized. Simple example: Better fertilization of trees for lumber can result in faster growth, thus a higher rate of carbon sequestration within the wood itself (via photosynthesis). If this wood is used for construction, the carbon that it contains is taken out of the atmosphere for many years. Development and standardization of small nuclear power plants that can shown to be safe and reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Like everyone else, unfortunately, most scientists also have belief systems that get in the way of effectively solving problems. What is needed is a convention of scientists free of such systems. This matter is discussed in detail in a paper presented at ICAPE and AAAS(PD) in June of last year, Human Nature and Continuing Human Existence http://www.condition.org/ humexis.htm Perry Bezanis San Pedro, CA
Our social issues are the biggest impediment to our quality of life issues. We need to teach the world how to resist anger, greed, and selfishness and embrace humility and kindness. The world will be a much better place if people would do what's good for them and the world instead of just what is good for them. (Law of general dynamics)
I believe that these Grand Challenges are exactly what our world needs today. There are multiple challenges that cover every aspect of our lives. The top on my list is Make solar energy economical. Because the fuels that we use now won't be here for forever. Plus we'll be getting our energy from the sun, free of charge! Which means less money spent for us in that department!
My list is: 1. Make solar energy economical 2. Provide acces to clean water 3. Develop carbon sequestration metod 4. Manage the nitrogen cycle
Develop technology which reduces dependence on imported petroleum for transportation, power, and so on.
All issues are important. i think they should be first graded in three or four main categories, f.e. phisical health of man, mental health of man and environmental or earth protection, and then should be picked the most importent issues in each category and concentrate on at least three oft the most important issues of each category. only then you can expect good results in the (early?) future. when you do it like that or similar, i'm very happy about your efforts. a very important thing that isn't mentioned here (yet) is that the statistic methods have to be improved non-stop and this process has to start as soon as possible.
These are not the needed engineering challenges that would best benefit mankind. What about a replacement for the gasoline engine with fuel cells? Clean water is readily available with current technology.
As our scientists and engineers of the world are well aware, technology and energy are NOT interchangable, i.e., technology can only DIRECT energy, not produce it. One must have energy before one can drive an engine. With this in mind, we, as the people and it's future leaders, must come to terms with the ever accelerating decline of available energy. Perhaps we may find more efficient modes of living, which do not require excessive amounts of energy, such as in networks of self-sufficient cities/locales (see history). Actually, we may have no choice in this matter. In the future we may be forced to live simpler lives, in a more local manner, and farm/provide as best we can. As we may no longer destroy our environment without abundant cheap energy, nature may finally re-establish itself and provide a more pleasent future for our children and their children; i.e., trees, air, water, topsoil, etc. This is not to say that we will lose our technologies. One should expect that technology will continue it's advance in ingenuity, and by necessity, be more efficient, properly scaled, and more importantly, be more sane. Perhaps our children will have the best of both worlds. We should only hope so.
I think alternative energy is an essential challenge but I do not believe in presecribing solutions. Why say that solar energy is the only way to go? I'm convinced that only a combination of many approaches will work, given the huge amount of energy being consumed today and the currently known limitations of all the alternatives.
All these challenges are about mastering : mastering energy, resources, waste, dangers and. Producing energy needs resources, produces waste and create dangers. and who needs more and more energy ? We are the main danger for ourselves and if we discover how to leave peacefully, passionnately, happily and in good health with few energy and goods, then we will have probably discovered the essential. Finally it is above all "ourselves" the human beings that we should master...understanding psychology and social phenomenons, being able to simulate individual and collective behaviours in order to develop a "non-destructive freedom" way of life.
Unfortunately, engineering challenges cannot be accomplished if there is no one who can think in ways that enable solutions to these problems. We need to fix our healthcare, educational and media issues before we will be able to address engineering challenges. With fewer students able to think clearly and formally, with a constant need for strong stimulation and short attention spans, solutions to difficult problems will be in short supply.
"Future advancements in science and engineering will continue to be dependent on the minds of future generations."
Advancing personalized learning is perhaps the most important task ahead. Who knows what great solutions lie locked in the heads of those whose learning styles aren't compatible with today's teaching styles? Future advancements in science and engineering will continue to be dependent on the minds of future generations. A close second in the prioritization of these tasks would be clean drinking water for the world. The impact of readily available potable water would improve the quality of life for millions around the world. This is an environmental issue that seems to be frequently overlooked. While scientists wring their hands over global warming, seeking to impact that on which we have very little potential to greatly impact, the real environmental issue we can significantly impact is clean and available water.
Despite talking about the bad effects of engineering, if these engineering (the vast and tactical application of technology) could be used in a better manner there will not be any harm to us. Strictly speeking these engineers are to be changed, then definitely our technology will.....
Get the cost of Shipping to Low Earth Orbit to 10$/lb from current 500$+ (or am I out of date). That was the big challange, and if it is done - and the technologies that will do it are NOT dependent on space development dollars, but on communications technology development (i.e. there is a clear line to profit that has nothing to do with space development). When it gets done then the issue becomes - how fast can we depopulate the planet? Yours Ed Wilson
I want my AirCar. Where's my AirCar? I was supposed to have my AirCar by the 21st Century!
Cyber Security would rank as my #1 challenge.
Steve Villanueva and Peter Shearer both of Seattle seem to me to be the only guys commenting along the right lines. When space experts asked NASA to put a transponder on Asteroid Apophis, NASA answered that radar during a close pass in 2013 or 2014 would provide the data so this wasn't necessary. However the US National Science Foundation plans to close the radar facility at Arecibo in 2011 - and that is the only radar facility capable of checking as to whether or not Apophis will or will not hit Earth in 2036 possibly killing millions. On this being explained to the NSF and their being asked to reconsider their closure decision, they refused. Counteracting stupidity to ensure survival is our greatest challenge.
"There is so much discovery locked-up inside the collective human race..."
The #1 foundation for advancing engineering discovery is to promote human liberty throughout the world. There is so much discovery locked-up inside the collective human race due to tyranny, oppression, and excessive government regulation and control. The free market of ideas always produces the best and quickest solutions to the human condition - and some of those ideas turn out to be very simple ones rather than some of the complex ones promoted here.
We do not have good models of ice sheet dynamics. We do not have models that adequately couple ice sheet behavior to the other modules of the general circulation models. What we do know is that as ice approaches 0C it gets very weak and that large areas of the Greenland Ice Sheet now has liquid water below it and seasonal melt water above it. Major, rapid sea level rise would affect so many people, that it needs to be a major concern even if the odds of it happening are very remote. Given the violently non-linear nature of the behavior of ice as it warms, it is very difficult to have confidence that the odds of major, rapid sea level change from ice sheet collapse is a remote possibility. Rapid sea level rise would affect the systems that provide fuels for the transportation systems our civilization requires. Our agricultural system depends on those same fuels. Many of our cities would lose major infrastructure. For example, the flooding of the NYC subway would affect NYC residents -- and everyone that depends on services that the city provides such as the stock exchange. (Flooding NYC would affect capital around the world). Moreover, systems that we need to relocate infrastructure, would flood causing unpleasant feedback loops. Until we have good dynamic models that reliably model the behavior of ice sheets under current conditions, sea level rise is the number one challenge.
Invest more money towards understanding the human body better than towards understanding outer space. Whats the point trying to look out for the existence of life millions and millions of light years away when you cannot cure the most life threatening diseases in human beings like cancer and AIDS. And people talk about cloning of human beings when they don't know what to do and how to cure the largest killers of man. And to further add to the miseries of mankind, there is nuclear proliferation. What is the guarantee that nations developing nuclear weapons will not use them? Do you think there will be life on earth if some nation opens up a nuclear war? And you talk about life on Mars? The greatest challenge before engineers is to develop engineering tools to undo all the harmful effects caused by engineering and technology. Work towards developing a better, safer and peaceful earth where there is no pollution, global warming, life threatening diseases and war.
"Carbon can be sequestered with this new technology called Trees!" We have planted billions in the past 25 years, but then we cut them down to make paper. !?!?
Renewable energy should be near the top of our priorities (along with carbon sequestration), but I don't understand the relative emphasis on solar. We have many alternatives (wind, tidal, geothermal, solar etc.) only one of which is presented as an option here? Why be so specific? Someone has let an agenda slip into a room where it doesn't belong. Everyone is blushing. If we don't stop global warming (which it seems will require pro-active measures such as carbon sequestration rather than just passive energy use reductions), we will be living on a wetter, cloudier planet. Will solar be seen as a good investment then? We should be aggressively pursuing renewable energy sources with the goal being interoperability. Keep the energy source near its intended market: Let desert dwellers use solar generated power, and let cities near oceans rely on tidal or wind. Let everyone siphon excess power into the grid without regard to origin for regional use. Facilitate the development of an energy market that allows, and even encourages individuals to make their own energy and sell excess back to the power brokers.
How about developing a safe, high-speed method of space travel? Let's turn science fiction into science fact so future generations can explore deep into the unknown (and so there is a way to escape to a fresh, new world once we've completely destroyed the one we have).
Here are some specific thoughts about the meta-goal "Engineer the tools of scientific discovery". These thoughts are relevant to that goal in the same way and for the same reasons that libraries are "tools for scientific discovery". Imagine a project in which the goal-state is the existence of a humanity-wide network of indexing information in which whatever is thought to be known about any subject is immediately and directly accessible, once that subject has been found. "Oh," you say, "You mean the Semantic Web?" No, I don't. The "Semantic Web" brand-name is inseparably associated with the simplifying but ultimately pernicious assumption that there need be no distinction between the address of a node (a URI) and the address of the subject (confusingly called the "resource", in Web parlance) that is presumably represented by that node. One effect of this assumption is that responsibility for *subject* identification, and for maintaining any correspondence between node identity and subject identity, is necessarily centralized, rather than distributed. Responsibility for cataloging -- for deciding what's what, and more fundamentally for deciding how we know what's what -- is necessarily concentrated in the hands of those who operate centralized facilities. That's OK for now, I guess, but humanity probably cannot afford the ultimate consequences of such a concentration of power -- of control over what's thought to be what. Even the question, "What is a gene?" will elicit different answers from different researchers, or even the same researcher in different contexts. Are they all talking about the same thing? Well, no, not exactly. We can ignore the differences when we catalog their research, or we can pay attention to them; the catalogs we produce will differ, depending. In any turbulent, productive area of scientific endeavor, where cataloging is most important to the productivity of ongoing research, it's vital to encourage different catalogs -- based on different perspectives as to what's what -- to co-exist, to compete, and yet to be simultaneously available to all on a subject-by-subject basis. (The foregoing "What is a gene?" illustration is derived from actual experience at the National Center for Biomedical Information, where heroic efforts to provide comprehensive Web-based access to biological research are ongoing.) We know that in biology, diversity is strongly related to viability. But we haven't yet figured out how to preserve and respect the integrity and diversity of human cultures, while at the same time allowing all cultures to exploit each other's accomplishments and insights. The Grand Engineering Challenge here is to develop a distributed, peer-to-peer system for supporting the subject-oriented (not string-oriented) finding of information that inherently aggregates information around subjects, while at the same time *distributing* the franchises of (a) determining how the subjects are being identified, (b) what's related to them, and (c) how, to whomever wants to exercise those franchises. Some of the challenges include: (1) That the identities of subjects must be expressible in terms of the identities of arbitrary combinations of other subjects (remember: not nodes, but subjects). (2) That arbitrary data types/structures must be supportable. (3) That nodes and/or their addresses must be globally updateable and/or replaceable. (4) That the safe and reliable propagation and maintenance of trust are essential (this may be the mother of all cyber-security problems). (5) That the immune systems of such an approach must be sophisticated and highly adaptive. (6) That no traditional business model can justify the aggregation of capital around the problem. We're talking about *distributing* the franchise of ontological commitment, not merely taking the normal engineering/business approach of imposing some "universal" ontology. This idea is hard for some people even to grasp. (7) That the E2E (end-to-end) networking doctrine must be both preserved, philosophically, and yet understood in a radically different way, practically. Again, this idea is hard to grasp. E2E is a worthy and deeply-held religion, with a full complement of sensible and devoted adherents. It is hard to imagine a more challenging IT problem, nor one whose solution is likely to pay bigger dividends in terms of enhancing humanity's ability to figure out how to survive the complexities of the realities in which we find ourselves. And yet a solution, although itself complex, seems within the realm of possibility. It would be wise to develop such a solution even (and perhaps especially) if it were believed that its full deployment will depend on technological advancements that haven't yet been completely realized. (I'm thinking of things like quantum computing, single-photon signaling, etc.) America's existence is owed to the genius of its Founders, who realized the vital importance of dividing and decentralizing power, and who invented an astonishingly workable and viable system for doing exactly that. Now, having created technologies that visibly enable dangerous concentrations of power over whatever "truths" are available for the people's perception, we should invent ways to divide and decentralize that power, so that the franchise of deciding what's what will be distributable, and so that our adaptability to realities will be maximized. Steven R. Newcomb, Ph.D. Co-editor, Topic Maps Reference Model (ISO 13250-5)
The first three challenges address two related issues that together challenge the very existence of our technically-advanced society, global warming and declining oil and gas production. Coal, oil and gas have fueled an amazing burst of innovation that has brought the human race to our current level of technical sophistication. However, oil and natural gas production will soon peak, and the competition for the dwindling resources will drive prices very high. In addition, replacing oil and gas-derived energy with coal will greatly accelerate global warming. We may already have reached a point where sea level will rise at least to the level it stood at 125,000 years ago, or about 5-7 meters above current sea level. In the short term, we must capture and sequester carbon dioxide produced by burning coal and natural gas, and make more extensive use of solar and wind power. Fusion and the next generation of nuclear technologies must be developed if our technologies are to survive beyond the fossil fuel era, the end of which is approaching, and to bring our climate back under control before a climatic lurch threatens the stability of our society.
These things can all be solved with political reform. These are not engineering challenges. Carbon can be sequestered with this new technology called Trees! The sun is a fusion reaction. Developing engineering tools is too broad of a goal. Virtual reality is a waste of time and money.
While all of the challenges that are listed are important, perhaps the most critical challenge is limiting population growth. Most of these needed advances are only 'band-aids' for the symptoms of the real problem of overpopulation.
With the capture and conversion of the amount of solar energy you propose (for all our energy needs), how would that affect the normal heat sink of our planet? CS
I am awed that these technologies will be available in my lifetime -- my mind races just imagining how much more we humans can develop. However, I must ask myself, "Are humans taking technology for granted? Is our quest for knowledge and innovation distracting us from acknowledging the basic needs of our growing population?" There are many factors that have augmented our population. We see our planet straining to support us and point to overpopulation as the cause. But is overpopulation really the issue? Isn't overpopulation an indicator that our technological advances are capable of extending our lives and lessening our dependence on the natural cycles of our planet? If so, let us take a step back and try to pinpoint the real issue our societies currently face. I've thought about this quite a bit, and have come to the conclusion that the main factor -- the factor that links to overpopulation, straining of natural resources, and nearly every other issue we currently face -- is irresponsibility. We, as an innovative and intelligent species, have not taken responsibility for the effects of our technological advances. We are taking technology for granted by continuing to move forward without ameliorating and strengthening what we currently have. If we look around we see large segments of our societies left behind as we continue to sprint toward the next advancement. Not only underprivileged segments of our societies, but natural resources as well! By leaving them behind, we hinder ourselves as a whole from advancement. Think of a car that has wasted its gas and has missing parts -- will that car move forward, or will it just make noise and leak toxins in one spot forever? Keep in mind that in order to support complicated thought, we must satisfy our most basic needs first -- water, shelter, nourishment, and a supportive community. Technological advancements provided the foundations for population growth. As a whole, our species stepped away from living as hunter-gatherers. Hence, as a whole we must step away from living as farmers. I'm not sure what to call this next step in our development, but what I am sure of is that we cannot move forward without tuning up our parts. I voted for "Provide access to clean water." However, I do not feel that this covers the entire issue. I feel we humans should focus on "Strengthening our current technologies and natural resources." If we do not do this, then trying to develop the other engineering goals will ultimately lead us in a circular, destructive path.
I think trying to make solar energy economical is a fine goal, and I voted for it on this site, whatever that means. What I found interesting is that not nearly as many people voted for "manage the nitrogen cycle". Maybe I don't know enough, but that seems like an obvious priority. There's wasted fertilizer runoff that drastically affects river and ocean ecosystems... Global warming and the carbon cycle has been big news, but there are probably quite a few "cycles" that we humans have been affecting in a negative way since the start of the industrial revolution. Perhaps it is worth taking a broader view, and looking at reducing our overall impact on the earth.
As a researcher working on the political economy of global warming issues, I may be somewhat biased toward a focus on renewables (and not many of the other topics listed in your 14 point itinerary). That said, I was surprised that your categories only mention solar and not many of the other renewable technologies, in particular geothermal. While MIT, for example, suggests there are considerable advantages to improvements in the exploitation of geothermal energy, your categories exclude this technology? In the long run, I find this rather short-sighted. I would ultimately prefer to see a category dealing with all types of renewable technologies and not just one. The specific advantage of geothermal is its potential use both as a "base-load" source for power plants (most other renewables, except for the potential power that can be provided by the ocean, do not provide base-load) and as a resource that could be far more extensively used for home heating and cooling. Moreover, until complete grid-parity is achieved, all renewable technologies need continued research and development... So ultimately I would like to see this one "solar" category broadened to represent the relative diversity of renewables of power needs... David Ellison Institute for World Economics Budapest, Hungary
I think that the best thing we could do would be to improve ourselves. We need to make better decisions, act more in common cause, be more compasionate, visionary, and responsible. I feel very strongly that we need to grow biologically so that we can live together. The same survival instincts that got us to this point could likely tear us down. It's time to rewrite our own programing and upgrade our own hardware. I think this should be the first priority. I think this effort will be pursued regardless. Better that it be guided by the best minds, than by others with less altruistic interests in mind.
Is this the list that our supposedly best minds came up with? Some of these goals are less dependent on engineering innovation and more related to such things as political will (provide access to clean water, prevent nuclear terror), and some seem to be based on what's "chic" at the moment (unreliable solar energy rather than reliable geothermal.) Hey, guys, we're sitting on a GIGANTIC inexhaustible RED HOT energy source covered with a relatively THIN SKIN of rock. Let's tap into it already!
While all of the goal outlined here are indeed significant, I think emphasis should be placed on the development of knowledge and power globally. Learning to create fire and the written word are by far the two most towering achievements of our species and it was these which allowed the establishment of organized settlements (ie, civilization) and the ability to accurately pass down knowledge from one generation to the next. History has shown that when either one of these traits are removed from a civilization it collapses and only re-emerges from their Dark Ages when both are re-established. We must learn from history and endeavor to not repeat it because due to the heights to which we have climbed the next fall would be catastrophic beyond compare. Secure the internet, allow the world to learn for free and discover the secret of free and abundant power whether that be solar, fusion or both. These are what will prevent our species from entering a global Dark Age and allow us to grow and eventually leave the confines of our glorious blue marble world to become citizens of the universe and comprehend the mysteries which we cannot as yet even suspect.
They forgot to include the need to eliminate the dependence on politicians and lawyers.
While I don't believe that any technological fix is going to solve humanities problems, I do think that we will need good people, educated in all areas of science and engineering to support the way forward. I found the drop in graduation rates for engineers to be frightening, but not unexpected. I am afraid we are our own worse enemy in incouraging kids to take on the challenges of engineering. When you look at the drop in bachelor level engineering graduates, you should consider two big changes in the occupation and the education. First, wages are dropping in terms of real dollars. Engineering is tough and you can make more money with easier to get degrees. Coupled with job insecurity from lay-offs and production transfers to overseas sites engineering appears much less worthwhile as a career. The prestige isn't there either. Its just an higher level dirty factory job to many. Second, the requirements to get a degree have increased substantially. My father, a ME with his own business and multiple patents and publications, wouldn't qualify as an engineer now based on the courses he took. Neither would I. There are a large number of talented kids that wash out because of the increasing requirements that would otherwise make great manufacuring engineers and fill other engineering roles. Somehow we should be accomodating those talents as well. They made up a large portion of the scientists and engineers who graduated in the 1960's and 1970's. I am not suggesting we lower the bar, just make room at the table for all engineering levels. We will need everyone we can get to generate the ideas and to implement them.
I would like to share an idea how to make our people live a better life in which I think is to have a cheaper food to avoid hunger. Since our country is tropical, plants are easily grow. In that way, no problem to generate more food. But how?...first, to make a law that every empty land either private or government land must be planted with trees bearing fruits, root crops, rice, corn, or other trees that are good on that place based on scientific and engineering study... 1.) the government must hire workers in any place of the country or people who wants to voluntarily work for additional incomes 2.) no private land owners to convert from agricultural land in to housing, subdivision, or industrial land except if mostly along the way.or area that is rocky or poor soil. 3.) the government must built building for the poor to minimized the land area for food. 4.) the government must act right now or else, it's not too late...NOTE: this is not a communism idea, but for the good of all loving people living not even in the Philippines but to the rest of the wold... IDEAS HOW IT GOES LIKE THESE...because, most of our land in the Philippines right now! are owned by rich people who want their vacant land converted into other means...
The greatest Challenge humanity faces is technology, not how to make it, or make it better, but how to control it. We can think of solutions to a problem, but we can not always envision all the new problems created by our previous solutions. There is not a technical fix for everything, sometimes we need a spiritual or moral fix. We need to accept our condition and alter our habits rather than always trying to cheat life, which ultimately destroys its value. We need to think about how to live better, not longer. We need to employ the technologies we have instead of always chasing for the next thing. We need to think about how to give all people health care, not how to give a few people superhuman disease resistance. We need to consider the impact of growing population and dwindling natural resources and think about the legacy future generations will inherit. The discussion should not always be about what we must do, but also what we must NOT do. Instead of occupying every moment with consumption, perhaps we could relearn the great joy of sitting in quiet contemplation in nature - real, wild nature. Perhaps we could decide that all of our trinkets and toys are worth so much less than what the natural world has created for us. The world is harsh because out of struggle and demise comes rebirth and regeneration. To stop or hold back that cycle is to stop life itself from its beautiful, divine, perpetual progress. We should listen more to the wisdom of the woods, and the water and less to the Techno-deities we so adore.
A lot of the categories seem to me to be too myopic, too specific. Energy is a broader topic, and has many aspects, some of which were touched on -- getting the political will to ignore the omni-obstructionists and actually start building nuclear power plants again is near the top of the list in the medium term. Vastly improved energy storage is also a major need. A solution could be better batteries or ultracapacitors, but it may be something else entirely. There are known ways to reduce population. We do not want to go the "four horsemen" route. However, the best way seems to be secure prosperity. That has reduced birth rates to replacement or below in almost all of the developed world. The climate change we are observing may or may not have a significant human-caused part, but regardless of whether it does or not, climate change has been a constant throughout the history of this planet. We are going to want to be able to fine-tune the isolation the Earth receives, with a view to being able to both decrease and increase how much sunlight hits the Earth. An ice age would be every bit as devastating as rising sea levels. The sunshades/mirrors lend themselves nicely to being a base on which to build space-based solar power systems. Doing all this requires a much cheaper means of getting into low earth orbit. As has been observed, once you're in orbit, you're halfway to anywhere else in the solar system in energy terms. The isolation fine-tuning and power infrastructure requires enough material that it would be far more economical to build it from space based materials. And once you have an extraterrestrial infrastructure of that magnitude, you're in a position to deal with any threatening rocks coming our way, which is the most likely extinction-level scenario we don't currently have any control over.
I think fusion reactors will be crucial to have sufficient energy for basically everything. As long as we will not be able to produce enough energy, everything else is just a waste of time. On the other hand we should combine the experiences of the various scientific areas more effectively to solve specific problems. For example using solar energy as power source for water distiller plants, building stand-alone, independent units.
As is often commented, our technology achievements have surpassed our wisdom, my greatest concern is that our giddiness creates the next pandemic or catastrophe. We must create a vetting process that protects our fragile world. This should include responsible scientist, philosphers, religious leaders, and others. I leave you this quote: "Carson hoped that technology, eg. pesticides, would be used responsibility. She believed that the obligation to endure gave us the right to question government and the scientific establishment, and to ask not just whether a thing could be done, but whether it should be done. Her desire to perpetuate life is Carson's greatest legacy and it is the one we celebrate on her 100th birthday." -Linda Lear
* Make solar energy economical Solar energy is--even with the current state of research--already economical compared to other ways to produce energy. What is missing are the right political signals. Anyway, this is a top priority. * Provide energy from fusion Fusion energy is--at least in principle--a good idea. But the problem is that it won't work at time. Fusion energy will need at least some decades to develop, while alternatives are needed now. In my view, this is the lowest priority here. * Develop carbon sequestration methods Sequestration is in theory a good idea. But way not as good than avoid emissions at all. Remember: there is no such thing like a CO2 free coal plant. * Manage the nitrogen cycle Not an expert in this. But worth to take a look at. To me, this is a better than average priority. * Provide access to clean water Great. This is a very high priority. Also, the fresh water needs to get provided from dirty sources (salt water) and in an energy efficient and environment friendly way. * Restore and improve urban infrastructure Only repairing bridges seems to be a america-shovinism point of view to me and lacks the big picture. There are much more problems to solve. Improving urban infrastructure is generally a good idea. We really need that. Urbans need to be organized to work more efficient than currently. That means that there sould no sopping malls that are only reachable by a 5 miles travel with cars. Instead, the shop and living spaces should go hand in hand. Car sharing and using public transportation should be the standard. Peoples mostly don't need big cars. If they need they should borrow one. There are to many peoples with big cars these days. Another thing is good isolation. Even today, houses are getting built without thinking one thaught about energy consumption. Architects and Peoples really needs to rethink about this. This is a high priority issue. But not a technical one, but a problem of politics and society. * Advance health informatics * Engineer better medicines Good Point. Better healt technices are never false. * Reverse-engineer the brain Extreamly fascinating. On the one side, computers and machines will profit from this. But also medical diagnosis and threatment will improve. * Prevent nuclear terror High priority. Anyway, this is not a project for the next hundreds of years, but a issue for millions(!!!) of years. A very high price compared with the some decades of profit we can produce nuclear energy... * Secure cyberspace Securing cyberspace is gernerally a good idea. This has a medium priority to me. * Enhance virtual reality There is to much work done in the field of virtual reality, compared to the work that is done in the field of the semantic web. Specially if you compare the money that flows to the film and gaming industry with that of the science- and wiki-communities. Anyway, peoples love films and games... Anyway, there is also the field of medcine and engineering, which profits from augmented reality. * Advance personalized learning This is more a business application than of real use. For advaning personal learning, there is the need for a change in society rather than in engineering. There is the need for couraging peoples to want learning. And there is the need to provide them the possibilities to do so. This is not really a technical problem. * Engineer the tools of scientific discovery Engineers were always good in that issue. Good point. ================ Summary ================ Highest priority should be given to save the environment and invest into renewable energy at time. This is a problem that has to be solved within the next decades. That refers specially to solar energy, fresh water, and infrastructure. Carbon sequestration is a problem. It should be used mainly to remove CO2 from the athmosphere, rather than take it as excuse for building more coal plants. Only than it will be of the most value. Nuclear energy is simply to costly if you calculate the numbers. Anyway, it is still in use and has already produced waste that is extreamly dangerous, so it gets a high priority because of the dangers of its waste. Fusion energy will probably come to late to be useful and therefore gets lowest priority. All the other issues are nice-to-be issues in my eyes.
"Of course we need to find better ways to eliminate disease, but we also need to find ways to support all those additional person-years of life without taking resources away from the young and the poor of the world. "
I'm a PhD software engineer, and I believe in the power of engineering and inventiveness, but I remember from my university days the myopia of engineers who ignore the issues of human development. Of course it is worth finding new energy sources, but we also need to find ways to share it with those who cannot at present compete their way into the market. Of course we need to find better ways to eliminate disease, but we also need to find ways to support all those additional person-years of life without taking resources away from the young and the poor of the world. And unless people want to live forever (and never release their resources) they are going to die of SOMEthing, and maybe we should try not so much to extend life ad infinitum, but to raise its quality. Of course information technology can be a force for good. The email and internet protocols were designed with beautiful engineering flexibility that could have untold benefits if used by good-hearted people. But some people are not good-hearted, and as a result we have a system flooded with unwanted advertising and larceny. Of course nano-engineering can be good. But there are people of this world, many on pulpits, who also see them as God's way to destroy as many people as possible. A sneaky nano-engineered virus could make a nuclear bomb look like a firecracker. The industrial revolution brought about great scientific and engineering wonders, and the Third Reich was full of eager, talented engineers hungry to try out these ideas. My whole point is this: technology for its own sake, without humanity, will be worse than any the challenges we now face, no matter how "grand".
I was amazed that the choices offered to us as the "greatest" items humanity needs to work on did NOT include the challenge to REDUCE the population of humans on this planet. This in my opinion is our greatest challenge. Solve this and many of these other "problems" will diminish. Please, please, please work on population reduction FIRST and the other items on your list afterward. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. (PS: Want to know how many kids I've got? Answer: ZERO.)
I find it hard to believe that you've ignored a tremendous pressing problem: an unsustainable population. Just imagine, if there were half as many people in the world, we would consume half as much energy and goods.
I share the belief of many who have commented here that the greatest challenge we face is reducing the number of humans who inhabit our earth. Population stabilization is not primarily an engineering problem. On the other hand, what is the point of trying to solve the great engineering problems when unchecked population growth will quickly overwhelm the benefits of solving any one or even all of the challenges enumerated? The dialog around solving great engineering challenges would be enhanced by placing the challenges in the context of a rising, stable or declining world population. A truly powerful and productive dialog within the worldwide scientific and engineering community would be to frame and try to address the technical question of how large a human population our earth can possibly sustain for any given level of 'quality of life'. In parallel, politicians and social scientists must quicken their pace to developing solutions to reduce world population to a sustainable level. Failing that, disease, starvation, war and environmental collapse will resolve the human population problem, and those that remain will live a life to which none of us would voluntarily subscribe.
This global mind-pool, to address the great challenges currently before us, is a WONDERFUL idea. Your present list has some very lofty aspirations. BUT I was very dissapointed when I didn't see the great engineering challenge that I consider of extremely signicant importance: --- New breakthroughs in Energy STORAGE -- leading to MUCH better batteries, MUCH better energy conversion technology, MUCH better cell dynamics, MUCH greater capabilities in all remote energy availablity, MUCH greater advances in self-charging technologies...this list is a mere fragment and doesn't even start to bring to mind the potential improvements to our quality of life once we evolve a better battery. To me, BATTERY TECHNOLOGY is currently a MAJOR WEAK LINK in our present engineering capabilities -- ENERGY STORAGE is in great need of some MAJOR BREAKTHROUGHS for our imminent future. I HOPE IT IS ADDED TO YOUR LIST SO THAT IT WILL RECEIVE SOME MUCH NEEDED ATTENTION ON A GLOBAL SCALE. Thanking You in advance, LM Greiner
Where does the advancement of our ability to explore, occupy and exploit space and its resources fit into this list? Our collective eggs are in one basket, quite literally.
Please accept this addendum to my comments of Feb. 17. I had included statistics on population vs. consumption which I had intended to fact-check before submitting and forgot to do that. I apologize. I am including now the statistics from the website Global Issues (http://www.globalissues. org/TradeRelated/Consumpt ion.asp). "… Inequalities in consumption are stark. Globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures — the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%. More specifically, the richest fifth: Consume 45% of all meat and fish, the poorest fifth 5% Consume 58% of total energy, the poorest fifth less than 4% Have 74% of all telephone lines, the poorest fifth 1.5% Consume 84% of all paper, the poorest fifth 1.1% Own 87% of the world’s vehicle fleet, the poorest fifth less than 1% Runaway growth in consumption in the past 50 years is putting strains on the environment never before seen."
I think you should add grand challenge around education. In the United States, we are falling behind the rest of the world in educating our children. Everyone should watch http://www.2mminutes.com/ index.html
A useful list. People interested in this sort of thing may be interested in "High Noon: Twenty Global Problems and Twenty Years to Solve Them." by Jean-Francois Rischard www.nais.org/files/PDFs/2 0GlobalProblems.pdf And Robert Steele's concept of ten threats, twelve policies, and eight challengers: http://www.earth-intellig ence.net/extra/page/?acti on=page_show&id=52&am p;module_instance=12
I have access to technology to treat and prevent cancer. I'm not willing to share it until I meet someone who can get it out to the masses, who does not see it as a way to get rich quick but a way to improve the health of the planet. There is too much greed in the world today and motivation should be on a planentary scale not on a personal greed level. Sure everyone needs to make money, but not at the expense of the needy or sick. Humans need to evolve their way of thinking before this will change, meanwhile millions suffer while the drug companies make billions preying on the sick and dying.
I have read with interest your list of challenges for the future and agree that they are all important to consider. Also, I am not surprised to find this list on a website entitled "National Academy of Engineering." What is missing from your list, however, is any reference to spirituality and the question of whether we are spiritual beings. As far as I can see, this question has no place in your considerations, and that in itself, I think, is a major issue. It's the same issue we faced, of course, about the atomic bomb. Yes, we can create such a device, but should we and what are its implications for the people of the world. Today, this issue is even more profound. Our technological advances are so incredible across so many fields it is like a juggernaut that wants to take on every problem as a technical challenge. Engineering, biology, medicine, chemistry, ecology have already developed an incredible amount of knowledge and technology, enough to clothe, feed, and shelter the world. If we do not recognize the peoples of Darfur, though, as souls deserving of love and justice and the basic needs, how are we going to engineer an answer to the wanton death and destruction that goes on unabated in the face of our "advanced" culture and civilization? What does our engineering and technology propose about the problem of a corporate/consuming machine that seems never to question the implications of 10% of the world's population gobbling up 80% of its resources and implying that the rest of the world should aspire to such consumption as though there will never come a time of reckoning, as though 2+2 doesn't equal 4? Can we engineer an answer to the greed, corruption, and desire for power that seem to drive so many governments and their institutions (including the United States) so that all our engineering and technological marvels hardly ever make their way to the people who need them? I won't belabor the point. This list goes on and on. The greatest challenge we face, I think, is a spiritual awakening that recognizes that we are all spiritual beings, beyond any religion or doctrine. I mean no disrespect to your efforts and questions on the challenges to engineering. I am truly amazed by the technological advances I have seen in my lifetime. I am right now trying to grasp the possibilities of nanotechnology. At the same time, the greatest challenge seems to be how to bring the benefits of all these amazing accomplishments to meet the most basic needs of our brothers and sisters around the world. It seems to me that can only happen when we realize that we are truly all in this together and that we must rise above our egocentric attitudes that suggest that we are not integrally part of the whole..
When looking at these 14 Grand Challanges (or any list of this type), I always find it helpful to ask myself, "How will item number 2 (or 3,4,...14) help resolve the issue identified in item number 1?" I then go through the same process for each item listed and see if some of the other issues can be part of the solution(s) for each another. There is often linkage to these Grand Challenges and one need not look to far for the missing puzzle piece. For example, doesn't carbon filter water? Can massive carbon sequestration be aligned with other methods to provide clean water reclaimation at a large scale? Maybe yes, maybe no! Regardless, let's at least ask all the questions that might link or seem to have potential linkage to solving these complex issues. We know that in some instances the ultimate answer(s) may well provide very simple solutions.
These are all worthy challenges, but one that should have made the list is the building of the Space Elevator. It has the potential to open the solar system to us. It will bring the cost of putting objects into space from thousands of dollars a pound, to thirty or forty dollars a pound. Well worth the effort.
An impressive list. I would like to see a "prioritization" component here. For example the advent of machine consciousness will either emerge before or follow soon after a reverse engineering of the brain. Concious computers are likely to solve many of the other problems very quickly. Yet unless sensibilities change dramatically we are poised to devote trillions to CO2 reduction while spending little on AI and brain research.
There should be related studies linked to 'Reverse Engineering the Brain' as the brain has been optimized for human activity including motor, fight/flight, image processing balance, language generation and interpretation plus visualization of objects, but is not designed to solve very complex problems This will only be possible by combining a wide range of techniques such as: Evolutionary System Design Taguchi Design Techniques Bayesian Theory Advanced Neural Networks Multi Connection 3D Transistors Low level Distributed Processing These system could then be used to make complex but informed discussions and hopefully invent new ideas or at least select the best alternatives.
Perhaps we should look at the free energy available in deep sea methane,its clean ,available in huge amounts and in international waters,no more dealing with the Middle East. With our technology,we can surely find a way to make this happen
You should have added 2 more grand challenges in engineering. 1. Solar Power from lunar arrays (more important than a Mars expedition). 2.Transportation from electricity, with renewable/non-polluting fuels providing the juice.
I would divide the list into "Necessities" and "Niceties": Necessities Provide access to clean water Prevent nuclear terror Niceities Arguably, the rest.
I am very disappointed population is not addressed. I earned my B.S./M.S. in Civil & Environmental Engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and realized how long technological advances take to implement and make a difference. We quickly do harm to the Earth and we are very slow at truly reversing or fixing anything. We take one step forward and two steps back. I understand our population is not necessarily an "engineering challenge", but the effects of our existence will not be tackled in a timely enough fashion by our technological advances to ensure a "quality" life for ourselves or future generations. Getting a handle on population is the lowest hanging piece of fruit, and has a great potential to lower the rest of the branches.
I think your ideas are shallow and might be better titled as "the top 14 technological market opportunities for corporations."
On a global level, reducing population and reducing consumption are our greatest challenges. Solutions require disciplined thought and action, but not sophisticated engineering.
After centuries we take everything from nature, it's time we give all back. I think the number one Grand Challenge is restore and maintain the world forests. There's no technology that can stand against nature. Even Super Power countries can't stand against climate disaster! Why don't every countries give their lands at least 70% to make forests. Solar energy and green forest is the great combination to maintain the earth for very long time... Hey, just my imagination, ok! We already can transfer data through air. Why don't we make a device that can transfer our self from place to place. Just like "Beam me up Scotty!" No longer transportation, fuel, carbon dioxida hehehe. Just someone imagination...
What a waste of time and money. Instead of getting together, having a conference and deciding what needs to be discovered. Why don't you get to work. Most of the issues on the list are very noble causes. But, ulimately, if these things are discovered, it will be the consumers who decide whether, or not, we need it. I can't believe what some of the people responding say, Reduce the population of the world to the population of India and China ("Reduce the world's population to a sustainable level, probably one to two billion people")? That has to be the worst one. But the guy who says all our problems come from our technological advances (as he types at his computer in the comfort of his home). Most of them are more political problems than engineeering. Getting water and food to people could be solved if we could eliminate a few oppressive leaders, and religions so that the people can use their minds to their complete potential. Of course, then there is the problem of getting people to use, at least, their minds, say nothing about actually doing some work. Once there is productivity most problems tend to get solved. I would be willing to bet, even the ones on the list.
Couple of ideas that might merit consideration: a. more effecient transportation technologies, both for individuals and masses b. more effecient energy and power distribution networks, a portion dictated by the promise of super conductivity for distributing electricity from any energy source (solar, fusion, hydro-electric, oil, ...)
Our economy is dependent on secure supplies of liquid hydrocarbon fuels for transportation and petrochemical industries, at predictible costs. It does not appear likely that we can continue to increase dependence on imported petroleum. I was disappointed that this central issue was not addressed. The panel deserves only a grade of "C-".
The list of Great Engineering projects is sadly lacking in imagination. This is a list of projects for the next five to ten years, not for the whole century! Think big: - Extend productive human life another 20 years. - Nano-assembly manufacturing. - Low earth orbit catapult to make access to orbit inexpensive. - Lots more.... A century is a long time. By the end of this century, most of the items on your list will be insignificant or irrelevant.
The key word here is engineering ie: engineering challenges meaning other than social engineering!!! The most important challenge facing the world today is improving representative democratic government and world cooperation. Without improvements in this area breakthroughs in engineering technologies are academic because they will not be implemented in a way that will widely impact the human condition. That said, my selection for most important engineering challenge is a cheaper energy source that will not harm the environment. This means we must find a way to make solar energy economical and we must do it as soon as possible. Energy is the engine that drives the solution to all other engineering challenges. Fusion energy has severe waste disposal issues.
These are all great challenges, but as time goes by the most important initiatives will be those that enable society to leverage the production and exploitation of its intellectual capital, because that is the key to solving all challenges. Improvements to education and research should be our first priority.
You seem to be missing the single most important engineering challenge for our survival. The furtherance of manned spaceflight and exploration in the effort of eventually creating a self-sustaining colony apart from the Earth. In light of the multitude of scenarios in which Earth could sustain a catastrophic disaster kiiling all life (not just us little humans) we really do need a "backup disk" of our society, our history, plant and animal life etc. Nobody thinks they will need a backup disk until they've experienced a computer crash themselves... Unfortunately we won't survive to learn from our mistake. Cheers
Great try, but riddled with typical scientific myopia with every goal to fix something hard, yet doable. But these are not the great challenges which threaten to impede our development and survival. Global Warming is an immanent threat to mankind. Increased sea levels and increased storm power will jointly destroy our ability to produce food for our numbers, yet the solution - turn out the street lights and put solar power on every home will never be promoted by governments because it destroys their revenue stream which is based on taxing our energy use. The managed solution to GW is a controllable reflector at the Lagrange L1 point to enable us to mitigate for the increased retention of energy caused by atmospheric CO2 increases, yet this does not feature in the list of 14 goals. Running out of oil is going to be another destructor to our way of life, again because of the tax losses, moving to individual use of solar power will not be promoted and wars over the ownership of the dwindling oil resources will intensify. The technological solution depends on cheap solar and storage development, but the problem is political - how to make our governments act intelligently - obviously outside the scope of these scientist, or perhaps they just saw the problem as unsolvable. This brings me to the biggest issue War, Terrorism and Religion. A brilliant Roman General once posed a question to a trainee -- "After a journey of thousand miles, in preparing for battle, of what one thing must you be certain" -- The answer is "That it is your enemy who has just made the thousand mile journey". Putting this another way, the successful warmonger turns his adversaries efforts against themselves. 9/11 was a classic example of this imperative. We do not have to worry about stopping 'problem' nations from developing atomic weapons while we ourselves already stock sufficient resources which could be used to destroy ourselves many times over. The more industrious a nation is, the more it possesses the means for its own destruction. The goals here then are to address the two causes of these aggressive tenancies -- Greed and Religion. 80% of Americans depend on their belief in an imaginary friend. 50% of Americans believe this 'friend' will materialise in their lifetime and all of them are confident that morality issues can only be judged by those who acknowledge a religious belief. Against these we have the Muslim extremists who hold that all other faiths and those of no faith are abominations and shall be exterminated. Both these groups are winding one another up progressively, the Christians are using their material power to eliminate the Muslim extremists and the Muslims are using their intelligence to turn their enemies material wealth against themselves (vis 9/11). Approaching as unstoppably as Global Warming is Jihad who's consequences will be just as damaging as GW but seemingly impossible to halt by the equivalent of a simple expedient of a space parasol. It is scientific naivety to ignore problems like religion, perceived by many as 'outside of science'. But unless the brilliance of scientists is turned to recognising and solving this problem then there will be no stable society for them to work within to resolve the other 14 'major' issues. One can perhaps imagine Craig Ventner working away to create purely synthetic life while a tsunami raced towards him, or Nero playing his fiddle while Rome burned. Both indifferent to the impending destruction of their ways of life because those issues were beyond their control -- or were they??
A worthwhile challenge is to bring energy independence down to a personal scale. That is, to make each home, business and vehicle self-powering. Decentralized power generation reduces the need for huge electric plants and huge transmission infrastructure. Next, to make that affordable for all people, make that same goal an order of magnitude less costly for each generation, so that within a hundred years or so even the poorest have basic shelter and transportation. With energy like that available, seawater desalianation solves the water problem for many also. Still, the greatest challanges facing humankind are not technical, but problems of the human heart. That's where I want to invest.
Techno-engineering alone won't cope with all these challenges, it must be supported by value-oriented education for a sustainable future.
The scientists have neglected the most important of all: population. We must improve reproduction education to the point where the population stabilizes. The Earth will simply not support an ever-burgeoning population. If you solve the exploding population problem, most of the other challenges outlined by the scientists will be solved without resorting to new solutions. Furthermore, it is a tenet of business that "growth" is the all-important concern. Growth always implies more and more and more of everything. Perhaps zero growth should be emphasized.
I agree with your findings; however I think there is an important aspect of the developing energy crisis that has been omitted, but deserves special consideration - the modern tendency of civilians to need air travel and sea-transport (for distribution), inter-related with the energy requirements of these transportation options. I do not believe that solar or fusion is an option to the requirements of the airline industry, and fusion is not an option to the shipping industry due to safety reasons. The world is threatened with a major collision course from an interruption to travel patterns and supply chains. At the least, the costs will soar so high that new social classes will form, and families will be cut-off, from the inability to access goods and services. Economic consequences will cause a severe shift in world trade, free markets, productivity, and international culture. I urge you to add some focus to this specialized but complicated problem. Thank you. Coleman Inge
17 February, 2008 I searched the list of Grand Challenges and browsed the comments that precede mine. Even as I go with the idea of better harnessing of solar energy and better planning of urban infrastructure, I feel recycling is an issue that everyone seems to have missed. Of course, I admit, there are allusions to this idea in some of the comments and in the content that you have yourself generated. Yet, the focus is lacking. My point is simple. Stop scurrying more than a few metres of the earth's surface, for mining metal and fuel or drawing water! I feel we have drawn enough from below us, which have now taken different forms to be all around us, but are now declining and deteriorating. Instead of drawing more on resources, recycle what we already have. Metals and plastics are the best to start with. Cars, often ending up in junk yards after just a few years use, ought to be the major target. All future production of cars and other transportation vehicles should have a substantial content of recycled scrap in it, to claim a 'pedigree', 'descent' and 'heredity' than "brand-new nascence"! Also, we have to give the go-by to the assembly-line culture of the last century, creating parts all around for transport and final assembly virtually right before the eyes of the customer! That idea saves space in establishing elaborate factories with sprawling yards. The challenge is, in a way, to set the idea of "economy of scale" on its head. Dig no deeper than a few metres and stretch things no wider or longer than that many metres. If each of us can live on such a resolution, well, the threat to sustainability is substantially tackled.
" I vote for Fusion... "
I vote for Fusion as number one priority. Once that is solved we can have as much electricity as we need without producing green house gases. We can then use the grid to power desalination plants and reduce the need for dams around the coasts. This essentially ensures water for coastal cities. Ample electricity will also enable hybrid auto users to refil via plug-in-the-wall, which will take the presure off oil for automotive transportation. Summary, Fusion gives us ample electricity, and reduces uncertainty in terms of water for coastal cities, and reduces the pressure on oil for automotive transport, keeping costs affordable.
I love technology and I have worked in the high-tech sector for 25 years. But technology will NOT save us from an energy/environment crisis because almost every time we improve technology, we use it to consume MORE, not to close the gap between what we produce sustainably and what we consume. For example, my current computer uses much less electricity per calculation than my previous computer. But the newer computer has a bigger screen, 4 times more memory, and runs 2-4 times faster. As a result, despite efficiency improvements, it uses 3 times as much energy as its predecessor. Automobile engine efficiency rose 30% over the last 20 years, but 29/30 of that went into faster acceleration, and only 1/30 into better fuel economy. Similarly, aircraft fuel efficiency rises 1% per year, but passenger-miles rise 3-5% per year, so we use more jet fuel every year. As long as we use technology to consume more, not to consume less, technology will not solve our big problems.
I see there is already a comment on population control -- the most obvious of the challenges that are missing from the list, and to be sure it is the key one that is needed for a sustainable and healthy world. However, there is another serious challenge that awaits us: the power of controlling the world of conscious perception and its built-in rewards and punishments that act to control our behavior. As we increasingly dictate our world to ourselves, the more it will move out-of-sync with the normal feedback of results that we use to decide how to act. As the experienced world comes to reflect how we wish "reality" to be, the more inward and self-delusory it will become. If we think past delusions, drugs, and thought-control have been problems, I suspect we ain't seen anything yet because this soon-to-be-controllable system is in charge of all the rewards life can offer and people will not wish to voluntarily turn away from its pleasures.
Colonizing Mars would have been nice.
I think a critical point here has been missed. Enhancing urban infrastructures via more intelligent management and engineering more potent energy solutions (like solar, fusion) and more intelligent AI all point towards more promising human exploration of the solar system. If humans truly do become technically immortal or achieve the ability to traverse the vast distances of space more quickly, then not only do we continue to push these technologies and provide the intangible technologies that has been a hallmark of the space program. Not only that, we provide a "backup" for civilization by giving the means for settlements elsewhere.
A more general grand challenge than the solar and fusion challenges is to make sufficient energy available, through all of the available means--coal, nuclear, renewable, etc, to bring the world to up to the Western standard of living. This involves not a single scientific breakthrough but the development of a portfolio of strategies to generate more energy and use it more efficiently. This is engineering in its purest and most effective form: maximize benefit and minimize cost. The energy grand challenges noted, noble as they are, may not, in fact, have solutions this century, and in the meantime we need energy, now and in the next few decades.
None of these challenges are anywhere near as important as limiting population growth. All these things will do is allow population growth to continue until the eventual crisis is much much worse than it will already be. You must have mathematically literate (numerate) people who can tell you this. I was surprised to see your panel suggestions in the Financial Times article.
I know it's not the most original thing but I think our biggest threat is global warming yeah i now probably one fourth of these people have probably recomended it, and i know some theories say it will happen in 15 years or so others say in 70 and some crackpots think that it will never happen but i have been reading articals about it and i have watched An Inconvenient Truth and read the book and seen many documenturies. Well I personally think who honestly knows wahat will happen. Well here are my ideas 1. people say that we cannot use windmills, hydro and solar as our only source of electricity because it doesn't produce enough power and if we built enough then it would be to much money to pay, so instead of working on quantity work on quality like making a breeze enough to power a home or a stream or even sunrise. 2. You should make another car that ran on another non-polluting material like the electric car but the hard thing is to stay away from the range of the U.S Fedral Government like they killed the electric car. Maybe you should start it off in Germany or Japan then word will spread in America so then that will help the global warming incident more that ever. 3.don't buy things with lots of packaging or reduce packaging of products because if you don't then it has to go some where and there is a possibal outcome that it will have to be melted and all that smoke has to go somewhere and that's going to affect the o-zone. Well there is my preposition and did i mention that I am only 12.
Making solar power more economical and available for people sounds very interesting. I think a major challenge for engineers for the 21st century is how to use our technology and education in new, innovative ways to help those who are in the most poverty. We need to come up with solutions to provide economic opportunities for those less privileged and who need more immediate help; maybe those who need shelter and the basic necessities first should have our focus.
Combined compression and tension structure frames and bodies can solve many problems with hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, and numbers of physical force impacts on buildings and structures, if anyone cares about a real solution that is available to the public.
Let me introduce myself. Don Robertson, and I have lately taken to referring to myself as The American Philosopher. I stumbled upon your site via a Yahoo! link. Let me first say, I am astonished at the apparent lack of introspection. Are engineers and scienctists now portraying themselves like Roman gods? And are these gods prepared to rain down upon humanity whatever and what will? Of all the great challenges to engineering, I find the two the greatest, entirely missing, apparently unthought, and certainly unexpressed here. So, let me give these to you poste haste. 1) The first and greatest challenge given to engineering is to correct by undoing all engineering mistakes of the past. The pragmatic approach of applied science as it is given to us by a hydra of empirical sciences is destroying and has a continuing propensity to destroy the planet and further debase human existence beyond what is tenable. Life was simply better before there was science and engineering. You may doubt that statement. But what the assertion boils down to is that life was far less at risk before science. And WMDs can come from virtually any of the empirical sciences. And, the second greatest challenge given to engineers of the Twenty-first Century is: 2) To wholly accept scientific moral responsibilities. And, to cease from claiming science is amoral. Given the clear historic evidence, this amoral defense commonly set forth to defend the negative repercussions of invention and engineering is nothing less than a severely culpable fraud. As a moral philosopher, I can assure everyone here that since the discovery of the moral imperative of a life, a categrocially true statement presaged by Immanuel Kant 200 years ago, morality is no longer a relative phenomenon. The moral imperative of life is to live a life that detracts not at all from the lives available to those who will follow us into this world. This statement definitively provides us the base unit and the well-spring of all morality. It is furthermore a statement that is categorically true, meaning that if anyone in any field of stuidy ignores the truth of this statement, they do so at their own moral peril. Most importantly here, the moral imperative of life implies it is immoral to gamble where the wager of that gamble is a detriment to the future. These gambles are immoral because losses are cumulatively tolled upon the future. I can best encourage this group if it can contain its all too obviously unfettered enthusiasm for science and exist within a strong moral code of responsiblity. Don Robertson,The American Philosopher
You've laid out engineering challenges such as "Provide access to clean water". However the true challenge lies behind the reason water resources are so scarce in the areas most heavily affected. OVERPOPULATION. Humans need to slow their breeding. The desolate undernourished populations of the world that seamlessly double their headcount every 5-10 years despite AIDS, Famine and Genocide must somehow be stopped. Finding a humanitarian way of doing this is nearly impossible since the humanitarian organizations of the world insist having a child is a fundamental right. This is an excerpt from Overpopulation.org which fits this argument perfectly: The Union of Concerned Scientists, in 1992, delivered the World Scientists' Warning to Humanity, in which 1,700 of the world's leading scientists, warned: "Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. If not checked, many of our practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. In March 20, 2006, the UN Environment Programme delivered a similar message that warns that humans have provoked the worst spate of extinctions since the dinosaurs were wiped out sixty-five million years ago. We humans are responsible for the sixth major extinction event in the history of Earth. A rising human population of six and a half billion is destroying the environment, the global demand for biological resources now exceeding the planet's capacity to renew them by 20%.
I have two comments, one positive, one negative. There are maturing structural backfits, developed within the last decade, that hold the promise of making our old structures highly seismic resistant, at nominal costs. It might be possible to save San Fransisco, or LA, from the big one. It would take enormous political, financial, and construction commitments. NAE could play a role. This should be a Grand Challenge. The industrial revolution was, and is, based on the exothermic energy release of the reaction of carbon - oxygen, to carbon dioxide, combustion. Without this wide spread reaction, man must revert to animal power. Without this energy, 7 billion people can not sustain life. Hence, if anthropomorphic global warming (man's fault) is real, then most of mankind is doomed. There is no technical alternative, we lose the industrial revolution. (I am an energy engineer.) However, after much reading, I think we have little to worry about; CO2 is not a big threat. However, ethics demands that we quit wasting resources, and trashing the environment.
"Water is taken for granted in the western world, but elseware this is a rare comodity."
Providing access to clean water - I think this is one of the greatest challenges we face on this crowed and much polluted earth. Water is taken for granted in the western world, but elseware this is a rare comodity. This god's gift to all living thigs is now a commdity not free as mother nature intended. Parched a derilict lands throughout the world through lack of water, although we talk about clean (drinking) water!
In defining the challenges you need to distinguish clearly between what is a problem and what is a solution. "Solve the carbon crisis" is a problem - there are many way that could be achieved and "provide energy from fusion" would be lower on my personal list than industrialising geothermal energy. Some of your challenges are problems and some are solutions. Some of your solutions have assumptions in them that need to be teased out: "engineer better medicines" implies that health challenges can be met by better medicines. Not always: the solutions to some of the most serious health challenges have social and economic dependencies that need to be solved before solutions based on medical technology will work.
Energy is the most important & URGENT challenge. Solar & Fusion. We need solar to buy us enough time to do the really big one which is Helium3 & Duterium Fusion.
What about curing aging, SENS style?
I am reading the final Chapter of Alan Weiss' book THE WORLD WITHOUT US. It was hard to pick just one of these challenges as the dominant one after reading the book. Scientists have some BIG challenges ahead, but the first challenge is to commit every citizen of the planet to help meet these global challenges.
"A big challenge will be energy storage."
Carbon sequestration is just a patch to extend the life of the current fossile carbon sources. Engineering and scientific resources are better spent on development of non-carbon based energy sources. A big challenge will be energy storage. Already today, it is possible to generate most of the energy needed by direct conversion of solar power, but it is only available in remote areas. The challenge is to move it to the point of use, in particular vehicles. A 60~90% loss in conversion, transport and storage is too high. Last, not least, reducing the world population will help, but that is politics, not engineering.
While all of the items on your list are noble and worthy of development, the most important elements for man to sustain life are air, water and food. I would think that finding ways to come up with water in troubled areas is near the top of the list. De-carbonizing the planet and coming up with new altenatives for fuel in transportation and industry are on the top of the list. The rest of the problems have been making good progress on their own the way things are now, and do not warrant special consideration as much as pollution and the environment. I live in a city and am dying in the soot now; 10, 20 years from now... What about world population control?
The primary overriding requirement to enhance human life, reduce starvation and ensure the survival of the human race is to engineer the reduction of world population. Not quite as drastically as the Chinese by limiting families to one child, but by limiting any female to no more than two children.
"Just Google "Younger Dryas Impact" and try to imagine how we might even try to detect and deflect such an event today. "
As more and more evidence points to relatively recent and more frequent impacts on earth from meteoritic and cometary bodies, it is a global and species preserving priority to develop the technologies of early detection and possible interception and diversion to prevent such impacts in the future. Just Google "Younger Dryas Impact" and try to imagine how we might even try to detect and deflect such an event today. We're not even close! I was shocked to see that this was omitted from the engineering challenges... a gross oversight! rob ober, boulder colorado
"...if you do not handle the human factor, the rest of the solutions will eventually become irrelevant..."
You avoided the number one problem of them all. Global human overpopulation. It doesn't matter how well you solve most of these listed problems, if we do not put an upper limit on the number of people on the planet and soon, the rate of decline in nearly all problem areas will always be significantly faster than the rate of improvement. An engineering challenge for global 21st century problems is fine, but if you do not handle the human factor, the rest of the solutions will eventually become irrelevant. Solve the single most challenging problem we face and most of the rest will become less challenging by definition. And yes, there are ways to engineer a solution that will force politicians to follow the model laid out by engineers and not the other way around.
I find it interesting that most of these challenges are direct results of previous engineering break throughs. So the improvement in quality brought about by your predecessors now threaten our very existence. It doesn't give a warm and fuzzy to think that engineers still think they will save the world.
Solar energy is more important than most give it credit. It could be used to solve most of the other challenges on the list, either directly or indirectly.
A comprehensive systems engineering approach should be considered for restructing our existing urban and rural enviroments and managing all future growth. No matter where one travels around the globe, major metropoloitan areas are over crowded, polluted, and most often managed by an ineffective governmetnal infrastructure. Many rural areas are still stagnated in living standards comparable to the early 20th century or worse. Housing, transportation, medical and other community services are severly constrained and often totally lacking. Certainly engineering can take the lead to improve the daily life for all people, everywhere.
I think you missed one. A big one at that. Huge strides have been made within the last few years in the study of aging and life extension well beyond our current life expectancies. Have you considered additional focus in these areas and the huge bioethical challenges that we will face when these challenges have been met? Just a thought.
"As horrible as a nuclear terror incident would be, biological terror is a far greater concern to me. "
My comment is on nuclear terror, which I understand to mean a discrete terrorist incident rather than widespread nuclear attack or nuclear war. As horrible as a nuclear terror incident would be, biological terror is a far greater concern to me. A nuclear incident would affect a relatively small geographic area and number of people compared to say the type of catastrophic biological event described in books like "The Hot Zone." I suspect nuclear terror was chosen over biological terror by this organization because this list is aimed at engineering challenges, not medical ones. And with the ever-evoling nature of biology & biological weapons I imagine an end point is much more difficult to envision than those associated with preventing nuclear terror. But perhaps the engineering community does have something to offer to the important task of safeguarding our world from a catastrophic biological epidemic.
It was interesting to see the correlation of the challenges and the members of the committee. It was therefore not surprising to see the lack of challenges for logistics and distribution. All the clean water, nuclear power and better medicines are of no benefit if we can't figure out how to deliver these products to the people of the world, across borders and political boundaries.
Challenge? Reduce the world's population to a sustainable level, probably one to two billion people.
Wow...14 projects...time to get started! I remember back in college biology when we were taught about virus reproduction.... I remember thinking about how much it seemed like some kind of science fiction...invasion and body (cell) snatching! So, knowing how engineers think (problem solving), I think you may need a few science fiction writers on your team...just to make it more interesting and uh FANTASTIC.
"...we need to expand our use of existing nuclear technologies..."
These are great challenges for the 21st century, and I am glad to see them articulated by such a visible and well respected body. As an engineer myself I have felt, and expressed to others, the opinion that the majority of the problems we face as a society can be solved by engineering solutions. Our dilemma will probably come from a lack of political leadership and fortitude to fund and follow through with the solutions needed. In our "want it now" culture I fear that we may not have the societal resiliance to engage in another Manhatten Project type of effort that is requied for some of these projects. It is distressing that we borrow money to fund questionable military adventures, yet live in a state of denial about the long term damage we inflict on the planet, despite overwhelming scientific evidence. All of the initiatives described are worthy, but I feel some are more worthy than others.
From my perspective the most important of the issues addressed here are those dealing with energy production and mitigation of CO2. Development of high efficiency solar power, carbon sequestration, and nuclear fusion should be at the top of the list. I would like suggest another topice as well. The article implied that nuclear fusion is decades away from commercialization, yet the short to intermediate term need to produce large quantities of electricity without the consequent production of CO2 is evident to me. This has led me to conclude that we need to expand our use of existing nuclear technologies, yet a major impediment to its increasing use is the issue of diposal or economic reprocessing. Development of a (or multiple) politically and economically acceptable disposal method of spent nuclear fuel could promote the use of existing technologies, and help mitigate CO2 production in the very near term. Perhaps such a solution would not be available before nuclear fusion, but I should like to see it considered. I think the issue of global warming is so severe that I think the argument could be made that we should devote some number of nuclear power plants solely to the purpose of removing existing CO2. Thank you for work on these important and interesting topics. Dana Bowdish
"...if humanity truly wishes to survive indefinitely, we must spread ourselves about the stars."
It was asked of us, which of these fields of research is most important. My answer would be all of those that lead to the prime field: the exploration of space. The question of whether or not we're alone is minor compared to the need to have more than one place to live. If we are to survive as a species, we must inhabit multiple worlds in multiple star systems. The reason being that if anything should happen to the Earth that renders it inhospitable, we'll go the way of the dinosaurs. At that point, all the other topics discussed on this site will be irrelevant; thus, if humanity truly wishes to survive indefinitely, we must spread ourselves about the stars. A prime goal such as this would promote jobs for all of humanity and spur research into all of the other fields outlined by this site.
Why not eliminate "provide energy from fusion" project and concentrate on "make solar energy economical"? I am restating a very practical comment made during a recent NPR broadcast. There are huge resources currently invested in the US to develop fusion energy. We have access to a great fusion reactor.... the sun. Why not invest significantly in solar energy? The fusion is free.
"If we are to become sustainable, we MUST have viable alternatives in place like solar energy to support the drastically reduced population that I believe the Earth will ultimately be able to support. "
I am an environmental scientist both by profession and at heart. I just attended the National Council for Science and the Environment's 8th national conference. This one was specifically on climate change. Twelve hundred scientists from around the country and the world attended. The conference was wonderful and served to absolutely solidify my personal belief that within my lifetime, environment will be the ONLY thing that matters. The general consensus of the scientists at the conference is that things are much worse than the average person realizes. This was both discouraging and gratifying in that I have believed this to be the case for some time but sincerely hope that I am wrong.
One of the bright things to come out of the conference for me was discovering Congressman Jay Inslee's book, Apollo's Fire. This book discusses many of the technologies that are already in place to combat the environmental crisis we are facing. I believe completely that we are capable of rising to this challenge in terms of actual ability in techonological innovation. What remains to be seen is if the human species is mature enough and envolved enough to make the really hard choices that are going to have to be made.
Regrettfully, if I had to bet on it, I would say that we will be brilliant in our ability to come up with engineering innovations but will not be able to deal decisively with the issue of population and hence a decent standard of living for all. The result will be that nature will reduce our population for us. All the engineering/technological progress in the world is not going to allow 7 billion people to inhabit this planet and have anywhere near the standard of living that the western world currently enjoys. If we are to become sustainable, we MUST have viable alternatives in place like solar energy to support the drastically reduced population that I believe the Earth will ultimately be able to support. The train has already left the station as far as climate change is concernced. Let's try to catch it if we can by every discipline coordinating its efforts with others to make the transition as easy as possible. Kirsten L. Day Environmental Scientist Baltimore, Maryland