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...And More Forum (June 2007)

3 min read

TIPS ON CHIPS

I believe the privacy issue for implanted chips could be solved with two implants, one in each palm. With proper hardware/software, the tags would transmit only when the hands are clasped. Involuntary clasping could be performed in the emergency room; otherwise it would be the individual’s choice.

Jay Lathrop

IEEE Life Fellow

Asheville, N.C.

IGNORANCE AND APATHY

I found ”Who Cares Whether Johnny Knows Science?” [Spectrum Online, April] interesting but think the question is broader than Francisco O. Ramirez’s area of study. While it might not be apparent from examining the past that an education in science and mathematics is necessary for economic well-being, our society is becoming more and more technology-based over time. Do we want politicians who are ignorant of those subjects making decisions about how these very topics are applied daily? Do we want those with ulterior motives to be able to mislead an unknowing jury about the causes and effects of the use and misuse of technology during a trial?

Robert L. Spooner

IEEE Member

State College, Pa.

I found Ramirez’s conclusions interesting. There are, however, other factors to consider. For example, economist Paul Romer from Stanford has shown that there is a correlation between economic growth and innovation in society. It is not clear how strong a correlation exists between innovation and proficiency in science and technology, since innovation involves both right- and left-brain activities (there is more to innovation than technology—for example, new business models) and, the study of science and technology is mostly left-brain oriented. One troubling correlation, which I suspect but have not seen any data for, is the one related to national security and the degree of math, science, and technological proficiency.

Given that advances in military technology appear to be correlated with the advancement of science and technology (think of nuclear technology, radar, communications, navigation, computing, and so on), it would appear that there would be a correlation between national security strength and the science and technology proficiency of a society.

If this is indeed the case, then the United States is heading for some choppy waters in the future. In today’s more integrated world, economic strength and national security are becoming more interdependent.

Luis Figueroa

IEEE Senior Member

Coronado, Calif.

In criticizing the need for excellence in math and science education, sociology professor Ramirez makes a dangerous generalization, based largely on correlations. A more scientifically credible statement would examine a causal [cause and effect] relationship. For example, it is well known that in the early part of the 20th century few university-level educators immigrated to the United States and educational standards were much higher at that time than in the last 30 years of that century. So is it not relevant to ask whether better-educated individuals from abroad, with higher performance in math and science, contributed as much to recent economic growth as native-born ones did in earlier times? Secondly, Ramirez’s criticism does injustice to the proven idea that a well-educated, rationally thinking population is more likely to share values, cooperate in building a civilized society, and less willing to destroy and undermine what it builds. That in turn promotes economic prosperity and world relations, in other words, a successful civilization, and nobody has proven that there can ever be too much of that. His reliance on arbitrary generalities does not prove anything, except perhaps that we are already losing it in math and science.

Marek Klemes

IEEE Member

Kanata, Ont., Canada

QUIET, PLEASE

While active noise-canceling headphones such as the Jabra C820s, described in ”Quiet on Demand” [April] can reduce noise by 10 decibels to 22 dB at best, another smaller class of in-ear earphones that look more like earplugs can reduce it by 20 to 30 dB and do not require batteries. I attempted to patent something like this about 15 years ago, motivated by the noise in some parts of the trains and stations in Osaka, Japan, but Matsushita blocked it. Now Etymotics sells its ER61 models for around US $100 each.

Ben Reaves

IEEE Member

Menlo Park, Calif.

A BETTER LITHIUM BATTERY

I read with interest John Voelcker’s ”Top 10 Tech Cars” [April]. I was disappointed, however, to see that he didn't cover Phoenix Motorcars and their SUT/SUV. Especially interesting is their use of Altairnano's lithium-titanate battery, which doesn't have the heat runaway problems of other lithium-ion batteries.

Jim Prewitt

IEEE Member

Albuquerque

According to ”Top 10 Tech Cars” [April], ”The Fiat 2007 Siena Tetrafuel stores...the natural gas in two 6.5-cubic-meter cylinders in the trunk.” That’s a total of 13 cubic meters—roughly the cargo capacity of a midsize delivery van. No compression is mentioned. Too bad no one stood next to the car in the picture to give us an idea of the scale of this monster.

Tom Brunson

IEEE Member

West Paterson, N.J.

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