21st century engineering challenges

The National Academy of Engineering (U.S.) identified 14 challenges in this century that need engineering solutions.  These challenges are:

Three minutes to explain yourself

Can you explain your research activities or thesis in 3 minutes to someone outside your field?  Jinna Kim in University Affairs reports that many universities are holding prize-winning competitions that require graduate student participants to communicate their work to judges and an audience in just 3 minutes.  The idea is to teach students how to promote themselves and their research.

McGill University has an annual event called, “3 Minutes to Change the World” that provides a non-competitive opportunity for graduate students to present their research to a general audience.  Below is an example of a presentation from this event:

Star Trek and science

I liked watching “Star Trek: The Next Generation” when I was a teenager.  I liked the character of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, who was a scientist, diplomat, and Shakespeare-lover all rolled into one.

The film, “Star Trek into Darkness,” started playing in cinemas this past weekend.  As a homage to the movie, Phil Plait provides an amusing look at the science errors in the Star Trek franchise in his blog post, “The Top 6 Star Trek Science Mistakes.”

The raising of our roof

Look up to your right when you enter the Frank Dawson Adams Building from the campus side (or from the Roddick Gates side).  There’s a shiny new cupola that was placed on the roof of the Macdonald Stewart Library Building this week.  Read more about the raising of our roof, and see a brief video of the installation, in the McGill Reporter.

Can serious research be funny?

While readimascotng the newspaper, I came across a reference to the Ig Noble Prizes, which celebrates research that makes people laugh and then think.  The organization, Improbable Research, also publishes a bi-monthly magazine called, Annals of Improbable Research.  Check it out to laugh and for thought-provoking studies.

Image of “The Stinker,” the official mascot of the Ig Noble Prizes, from www.improbable.com/ig/

Top 15 websites in science

According to the Internet watcher, eBizMBA.com, the 15 science websites that receive the most monthly visits are:

1 – howstuffworks

2 – NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S.)

3 – Discovery

4 – NASA

5 – ScienceDirect

6 – ScienceDaily

7 – Nature

8 – Treehugger

9 – PopSci

10 – ScienceBlogs

11 – PhysOrg

12 – NewScientist

13 – LiveScience

14 – Space

15 – RedOrbit

Have you visited any of these sites?  What is your favourite science website?

Making life easier with assistive technology

I came across an interesting new blog called, The Assistive Technology Daily, which discusses assistive technology devices that can help make life easier for people of all ages and abilities, such as the:

Visit The Assistive Technology Daily to discover more of these helpful devices.

Reading journal articles

I have had a few interesting discussions with students about reading journal articles.  Specifically, we discussed how to read journal articles in order to make them understandable and how to extract relevant information from the contents of an article.  There is a great online tutorial from Purdue University Libraries that explains How to Read a Scientific Paper, which I find useful for both teaching and learning this subject.

Stargazing in the winter

NightSkyI’m fortunate enough to be part of a friendly walking group.  We take evening walks in the winter to look at the stars.  We usually take our walks in one of Montreal’s beautiful nature parks, such as Parc-Nature de l’Île-de-la-Visitation, which is located on the north side of the island.  We are able to enjoy the night sky, while being surrounded by trees, water, and white snow all around.  The scene is spectacular.  The next time you are out on a winter night, look up and see if you can recognize Orion, The Hunter.

The BBC has some brief video clips on how to identify some interesting features of the winter night sky.  For more details, take a look at Patrick Moore’s book, The sky at night.

Image of Orion from H. Raab