The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom

I am enjoying reading Michael Shermer’s new book “The Moral Acr: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom.” In this book Shermer discusses his research in the area of humanity’s increasing morality beginning from the Age of Enlightenment. With the advent of the scientific method and associated skeptical and critical thinking culture shifts, humans have moved towards ever increasing moral truths and understanding. In particular, we now live in the golden age of humanity with fewer violent deaths, more wealth and prosperity, and an increased awareness of our impact on our environment. We so often hear or read in the news about all the terrible things happening in the world, but it is important to know that in fact, we are living in amazingly peaceful and prosperous times.

Buy book on Amazon.

Is the Nuclear Industry Ready for 3D Printing?

Additive manufacturing or more popularly known as 3D printing is starting to gain traction in a number of industries. But is the highly-regulated nuclear industry ready for this type of advanced manufacturing technique? Some think so like Sellafield LTD  who’s in charge of decommissioning the UK’s Windscale and Calder Hall nuclear reactors. They are using 3D printing to build parts critical to the cleanup efforts. Additive manufacturing is a good way to make complicated parts with high strength and quality, but they take time. How much would a nuclear plant pay for an outdated part that is no longer available from the vendor but critical to keep the plant online? No one really knows, but additive manufacturing may play a key role in the supply chain of aging nuclear power plants and even small modular nuclear reactors.

Is the Gap Between the Rich and Poor Actually Getting Smaller?

In a previous post on visualizing data in our world, I provided some links to amazing tools where you can look at many different types of data in graphical form. Richard Wilkinson did a TED talk  on inequality where he challenges our perceptions using visual data in such a way as to feel like not a talk on global socioeconomics seminar but a day at the races. One of the most fun TED talks I’ve seen in a while.

Skeptics Society

THE SKEPTICS SOCIETY is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) scientific and educational organization whose mission is to engage leading experts in investigating the paranormal, fringe science, pseudoscience, and extraordinary claims of all kinds, promote critical thinking, and serve as an educational tool for those seeking a sound scientific viewpoint. Our contributors—leading scientists, scholars, investigative journalists, historians, professors and teachers—are top experts in their fields. It is our hope that our efforts go a long way in promoting critical thinking and lifelong inquisitiveness in all individuals

Panel on Application of Systems Engineering for Safety Analysis of Small Modular Reactors

I recently had the pleasure to help organize and participate on a panel at the American Nuclear Society‘s Winter meeting in Anaheim, California. As a panel, we discussed  growing body of knowledge and technology focused on complex system safety analysis as applied to small modular reactors.

The panel consisted of myself, Dr. Ben Amaba of IBM, Dr. Kristiina Soderholm of Fortum, and Dr. Irem Tumer of Oregon State University. During the panel we each gave an introduction and background and then posed several questions or comments to the audience on the topic of systems engineering and nuclear safety. Dr. Tumer started the panel and described her ground-break research at OSU in the area of complex systems analysis. I then followed and spoke about some of the techniques that are being used in the nuclear industry for analyzing nuclear safety. Dr. Soderholm wrapped up the panel by speaking about her work at Fortum in the area of small modular reactor licensing.

Dr. Amaba had prepared some stock questions ahead of time in case the audience wasn’t very engaged but hands went up as soon as we were done and the Q&A lasted more than 45 minutes without a pause!

The initial questions from the audience focused on small modular reactor licensing in the US and associated challenges. The audience also asked questions about university-industry collaborations in the area of complexity research and hybrid energy systems and associated safety analyses.

I had a great time as a member on the panel and look forward to more of the same in the future! Included in this post is our “Jazz Hands” picture of the panel at the local New Orlean’s-style restaurant.

ANS panel

Left-to-right: Dr. Kristiina Soderholm, Dr. Irem Tumer, Dr. Ben Amaba, and Dr. Kent Welter (ANS Panel, Anaheim, CA)

Panel on Productivity, Retention, and Positive Workforce

I had a great time as a panelist for the Willamette Innovators Network September Pub Talk on workplace culture. Thanks to Betty and Amy for inviting me to present at their event! There were a lot of good questions and dialogue around positive workplace culture. I found the presentation from my fellow panelist on Dutch Brothers Coffee culture to be particularly informative and interesting.

How well do you sleep?

I’ve been obsessed with sleep over the past 5-6 years. Good sleep that is and how to get it. I have tried many things and then stumbled upon a book called Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep. In this book the author explores sleep research to gain insights on how people can learn to sleep better. It really opened my eyes to some fundamental facts about the science of sleep. Fact #1: the average nightly sleep cycle is broken into two 4 hr pieces not one continues period. If your eyes seem to spring open around 1-2 am every night, it is not because you have insomnia, it is because that is a natural phenomena of the human sleep cycle. Fact #2: the light bulb (or artificial light) is the single biggest technological barrier to a good night’s sleep.

Understanding these two fundamental facts of the human sleep cycle is the starting point to a great nights sleep. Now what did I do after I learned about these facts? First thing I did is when I wake up in the middle of the night I get up! That’s right, the best thing for me (and many other people) is to get out of bed. Walk around, eat a light snack, stretch, check the door locks, whatever. Then snuggle back into bed with a book or journal. 15-30 mins later turn off the light and I’m snoring like a baby. DON’T lie there in bed upset that you can’t go back to sleep. That is just the worst thing to do.

Number 2! When the sun starts to set, turn the lights off around the house. Artificial light messes with your natural circadian rhythms. To ensure you don’t bash your foot into a nearby table leg, buy cheap little sconces that plug into outlets to get around. The final note is no TV or computers 30 mins before you go to bed, that includes ipads. Artificial light really messes things up. Turn on a low light next to your bed and curl up with a book. You could also try some simple and effective relaxing body scan meditations.