November 15, 2012


Florida Everglades is the most engineered ecosystem, the largest laboratory, in the world.  And nowadays we know that a number of things are seriously wrong with it, endangering the very existence of millions of people inhabiting the Florida peninsula.  But let’s face it, the Everglades can be ‘restored’ as much as time could be reversed. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing that there is one. We do seem to know the problem and we could only hope, being (slowly) already on our way (e.g. CERP, Water Quality Plan, CEPP), to be able to correct the mistakes of our forefathers who drained a huge portion of the unique and vital Florida Everglades eco-system.
Unfortunately, in their quest for land and livelihood (greed ?) they did not know any better. 
Lake Okeechobee and the EAA south of it
Just let’s get our re-plumbing right ! Do the homework, listen to the relevant science, manage reasonably and cost-effectively. The problem seems to be in the very word used here – ‘reasonably’. Because people can hardly ever agree on just what is, or is not, ‘reasonable’ – under the circumstances. Let's avoid extreme and unrealistic positions, science is here to guide us, use it
By now, we learned that we need to re-establish the flow into and through the Everglades and manage the wild seasonal fluctuations in dwindling Florida fresh-water supply.  The focus must remain on flood control and cleansing the polluted water by both modes combined - prevention and cleaning up. Together with serious and forceful application of Best Management Practices, all that comes through building reservoirs with water-cleansing STAs with a priority of fixing the largest reservoir of them all, Lake Okeechobee and its Hoover Dike.
All these problems always boil down to just who will foot the bill for such undertakings. Amidst the squabbles, it is somehow escaping us that for a dollar invested in this, there are four dollars in future benefits. It is only hoped that all the stakeholders will come to their senses, the administration turf wars and wasteful law-suits will cease and through precious dollar-by-dollar real and meaningful steps we come closer to the correct solution.
Including enforcement of the Florida 'polluters pay’ constitutional amendment. Of course, the ultimate alternative always remains – just the way we flooded in – to evacuate South Florida as the ocean is pouring in.

Will south Floridians have to follow this classical bunch ? It would not be so funny.
("Hillbillies" from the TV comedy series)

November 6, 2012


Maybe the UN election observers should have been called in for the US election on November 6.  It seems that the world leading democracy and superpower that flies to the Moon, Mars and faraway planets is not capable of managing the most important democratic exercise, an election at home. Florida happens to be a shining example. Some voters are disenfranchised and reports of electoral fraud surfaced.  According to the latest election-day report, a “high-tech” voting machine in Philadelphia was found to have been rigged – persistently selecting candidate Romney when Obama was voted. Is this the only electoral machination or what’s next ? What is the matter ? 

The greatest democracy in the world, in debt up to its ears, is becoming paralyzed and gridlocked from Washington (D.C.) to the West, South and North. The whole election exercise has been getting out of hand – it is confusing and confused with electoral campaigns running forever, costing billions of secretive dollars going up in smoke in non-productive advertizing campaigns. The electoral lists are a mess and attempts are even being made to manipulate electoral districts, early voting with a wait for 9 hours ?

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 Every trick in the book is being used to confuse and manipulate the voter. Is this supposed to be the signature of “the greatest country in the world ” ? Click and watch a brilliant answer to that latter question -

Following the current great world robbery that is euphemistically called “the greatest recession since the Depression”, one cannot resist being suspicious about everything that is going on – whom to believe, if anyone ? Is the celebrated democracy itself, together with the greedy ‘market driven’ economy, just becoming unworkable ? Time will tell – unless the seas rise faster than we can run.

Of course, that aspect and environmental issues have hardly even been mentioned in the present campaign and presidential debates. Does anyone listen ?
And we are hoping to fix the Everglades in all this mess ? Drill, baby, drill - even in the Everglades ?!

November 2, 2012


(Understanding the others - an ode to engineering ??)

It seems that most outstanding challenges – and breakthroughs - are in between the conventional science disciplines as we know and practice them. As an example - it is not the solid-state physics, electrical engineering or mathematics alone where the computers popped up and surged ahead. Not biology, chemistry or genetics alone where bio-technology is now revealing the secrets of life. It is the pooling and cross-fertilization of the conventional disciplines that enables the interdisciplinary breakthroughs. Do we prepare and educate the new generation to fit in there and contribute ? Well, they seem to do that despite their largely mono-discipline education and training as provided by our more or less fossilized educational system.
Globalized education
North-American universities  are very international.  An unbelievable mix on the campus is comprised of the best brains from around the globe that are brought together by the desire to learn, to contribute and realize their dreams.  This is globalization in the best sense of the word. While this way the university campuses may be a mix, the disciplines there have a hard time to 'cross-fertilize'. Academic departments represent structures very rigidly engraved by history.
For the young -
Interdisciplinary training -
and an engineering plug.
The basis of everything is to learn – and to learn to think – flexibly, analytically and on a higher level. Learn to most effectively learn more and to recognize what is important and what is not. If you manage that – you will be good in anything and everything that you decide to do. Try to see beyond the individual horizons. Apart from specific professional skills, communication skills are extremely important too. Look and think “around the globe” - and outside of the box. While a student, absorb as much as you can and don’t be afraid to combine fields. That’s where the challenges are – engineering and biology, engineering and law, engineering and economy, engineering and business, engineering and genetics, engineering and medicine - - that all is open to engineers – and vice versa.
Note that I emphasize a solid and quantitative profession as the best educational basis. Professionals such as engineers can easily branch out – it is much more difficult the other way around. One does not see many biologists solving differential equations or lawyers understanding (let alone running) hydrological models.
It could easily be noted that I am convinced that engineering just provides the most useful, flexible and quantitative foundation. It is a highly creative profession. And a most wonderful basis for an exciting professional life.