World Bytes: The Day the Wall Fell

BY Terrance Malkinson Posted: 1 Nov 2014

9 November 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of when the people of East and West Germany together, literally, hammered the Berlin Wall to pieces.  The wall's construction by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) began 13 August 1961, and when completed, it impenetrably separated Germany into two regions: a democratic West Berlin, considered part of West Germany and a Communist-controlled East Berlin and East Germany. The Berlin Wall symbolized the "Iron Curtain" that separated Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. Thousands tried to escape to the west, few were successful, and many were killed.

In 1989, political changes occurred in the Eastern Bloc, particularly the liberalization of authoritarianism and the decline of political power in the pro-Soviet governments in nearby Poland and Hungary. Following weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on 9 November that all East German citizens could enter West Germany. Crowds passed in celebration. The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification, which occurred on 3 October 1990.  Germany was now one country and families were reunited. Many courageous government leaders from both the East and West labored at great risk to bring about unification.  The day the wall fell was a milestone in history on the path to a better world.

Today, there are still many “walls" that unjustly separate peoples of the world.  Political, military, physical, economic, educational, connectivity, health care, and ideological “walls" are but a few of these that generate ill-will and misunderstanding often resulting in tragic outcomes.

In June of 1991, the author visited East Germany on a scientific exchange which marked the start of a wonderful scientific collaboration with their scientists and which continues to this day.  It is through unrestricted travel exchanges with other nations -- particularly by young people -- that cultural understanding will be facilitated and the world will become a better place for everyone. IEEE, as an international network of professionals of many disciplines, is an important enabler of global understanding. Your membership and participation is important.

Other Bytes

Here are some of the things going on in and around the community:

  • “Turn Your Science into a Business” is the title of an article in Harvard Business Review by Reddi Kotha, Phillip Kim, and Oliver Alexy [92(11):106-114 November, 2014. www.hbr.com ].  The authors analyzed more than 1,000 inventions from the University of Wisconsin’s Technology transfer Office and identified seven intellectual property traps that unwary inventors fall into when developing their scientific discoveries and inventions for commercialization.  They describe these traps and provide advice on how to avoid them.

  • In a special Engineering News Record report [“The Top 600 Specialty Contractors”. 273(11):61-110. October, 2014. www.enr.com ] Gary Tulacz describes how specialty trade contractors are experiencing an expanding market while at the same time they are experiencing staff shortages. Challenges and forecasts for the construction industry are discussed in the article as well as rankings of the top contractors in many engineering disciplines.  Industry leaders provide their perspectives on issues and trends that are affecting contractors and on existing or new technologies that are helping to change construction practices.

  • In his article “Designs that Last” Phil Morehart discusses the 2014 Library Design Showcase that highlights examples of innovative architecture meeting library user needs [American Libraries. 45(9/10):32-45. September-October, 2014]. Descriptions of many new and renovated American libraries and the unique and effective ways that they have been designed to meet the needs of library patrons are provided.

  • The cover story of the October, 2014 issue of New Scientist [“Wonder Stuff.” pp. 36-41] Jon Cartwright et al. report on seven materials that are predicted to revolutionize materials science and lead to innovative applications.  Materials discussed include: Memory Glass (long-term data storage), Shrilk (strong and biodegradable plastic), Stanene (low heat producing electron conductor), Aerogels (solids lighter than air), Self-healing Polymers (regenerating-renewing materials), Skutterrudites (heat scavengers) and Wood Derivatives (cross-laminated timber).

  • Results from the 2014 salary survey of automation professionals are presented and discussed by Rick Zabel  the September-October issue of Intech  [“Your Recipe for Maximum Salary.” pp. 12-16. www.isa.org ]. From the information the author concludes that salaries for automation professionals are holding steady averaging $US 105,383 and that it is a good market for job-seekers, as there are more opportunities for employment than qualified automation professionals to fill them. Survey data is presented by geographic region, job function, level of education, industry segment, and years of experience.

  • Seven case studies of green sports facilities are provided in the October, 2014 issue of Buildings: Smarter Facility Management [“Tackle Sustainability.” pp. 24-30. www.buildings.com ].   Because of the unique intensity, variety, and occupancy of these sporting venues the author believes that the innovative design approaches used are transferable applications to other types of buildings.

  • Jenna Schnuer provides five ways to evaluate whether your idea could become a business in his article “Are We On to Something? – Five ways to evaluate whether your idea could become an actual business” [Entrepreneur. November, 2014 pp. 95-99. www.entrepreneur.com  ].

  • The price of oil has been steadily falling over the past few months.  In: “Cheaper Oil: Winners and Losers.” [The Economist. 62-64. October 25, 2014. www.econnomist.com ] the authors discuss the wide-ranging impact of this and particularly who benefits and who loses from lower prices.  Interesting graphical insets illustrate the ranking of oil producers and government budgets break-even oil prices.

  • Virtual Banking: A Guide to Innovation and Partnering is the title of a book in the Wiley Finance Series by Dan Schatt [2014. ISBN 9781118742471. John Wiley and Sons Publishing].  The author provides a hands-on approach to understanding and competing effectively in the modern electronic banking environment.  It details how to implement proven digital strategies and best practices that will lead to success.  Numerous case studies from industry leaders are provided. 

  • Entrepreneur provides profiles on two generations of entrepreneurs that have remolded industry and our world “A Network of Stars” [Inc. October, 2014. www.inc.com ] Twenty-two inspirational discussional profiles of men and women provide insights on the thrills and challenges of running your own company.  A second interesting graphical article in the same issue of Entrepreneur provides the results of new research on “Startups: Who Succeeds and Who Fails” [pp.20-21].  Factors discussed by Kris Frieswick and Kristin Lenz include; gender, age, race, startup capital, and intellectual property.

  • The spotlight of the November, 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review [92(11) www.hbr.com ] is on managing the internet of things.  Three articles “How Smart, Connected Products are Transforming Competition” [Michael Porter and James Heppelmann. pp. 64-88], “Digital Ubiquity: How Connections, Sensors, and Data Are Revolutionizing Business” [pp.90-99. Marco Iansiti and Karim Lakhani], and “With Big Data Comes Big Responsibility.” [pp. 100-104 .Alex Pentland]. Discussions include how smart connected products are changing how value is created, how companies compete, and employee self-control of data.

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Terrance Malkinson is a communications specialist, business analyst and futurist. He is an IEEE Senior Life Member and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and the World Future Society. He is currently an international correspondent for Today's Engineer, an associate editor for IEEE Canadian Review, and a member of the editorial advisory board of the IEEE Institute. He can be reached at todaysengineer@ieee.org or malkinst@telus.net.

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