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Another Extremist+Engineering Data Point?

Initial reports that the Yemeni bomb plotter was an engineering student were wrong

1 min read

The just-barely-thwarted printer cartridge bomb attempt of last week represents an interesting data point in the question of why Are So Many Political Extremists Engineers.

Hanan al-Samawi, the woman whose identity was used by the still-unknown shipper of the packages, is being variously termed a “22-year-old engineering student” and a “fifth-year computer science student,” both of which would fall under the general rubric of engineer+political extremist, if only she were the one to actually ship the carefully concealed bombs.

Spectrum has raised the question a couple of times, because the data, as compiled by political scientist Steffen Hertog and sociology professor Diego Gambetta, seems pretty solid. We reported on their original 2008 (“Extremist Engineers: Why are so many jihadis engineers?”) and again two months ago (“Why Are Terrorists Often Engineers? The database of engineering-savvy extremists grows” [podcast]), the two researchers having added two more years worth of bombings and other attacks to their database.

Is it just a coincidence that the identity papers photocopied and presented by whoever went to U.P.S. and FedEx offices in Yemen were those of an engineering student? Or does it suggest that whoever these would-be bombers are, they are nestled comfortably in halls of engineering academe, as they were in Germany leading up to the 9/11 bombings? 


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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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