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Mechanical Engineering. 2014;136(01):30-35. doi:10.1115/1.2014-Jan-4.
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This article explores various nanotechnology-based programs conducted by different teams to study the brain. In the United States, the National Institutes of Health is leading the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, a public–private program that will spend millions on research. The European Union has also proposed a similar effort that will focus on simulating the entire brain on supercomputers. Hongkun Park is developing nanowire arrays that can inject neurons with chemicals or measure electrical activity as it develops in the cell. Weiss and Anne Andrews, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA, have developed sensors that detect the important neurotransmitter, serotonin, by engineering surfaces that bond with it exclusively and not with related molecules. The next step is to create transducers that signal when sensors capture a serotonin molecule. Nanotechnology will play a vital role in that advance.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2014;136(01):32-37. doi:10.1115/1.2014-Jan-1.
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This article focuses on need of technical and industrial innovation in the U.S. Space Program. There is a need of a long-range national policy with clearly defined approaches to managing the evolution of the civil space sector and facilitating the growth of commercial space. It has been debated in the paper that in contrast to the ‘flags and footprints’ model, framing space strategy in terms of capabilities would bring benefits to earth and prepare to move outward to the rest of the solar system by first developing own back yard – the Earth–Moon System. Backed by billionaire investors, Planetary Resources, Inc. is developing space-based systems to identify and intercept mineral-rich asteroids. NASA is already working to identify potential targets, using the infrared cameras aboard the NEOWISE satellite to discover small bodies that come close enough to Earth to capture. Significantly, a capabilities-driven strategy would be the best way to get the commercial sector on board as indispensable partners. Private interests will have greater incentives to invest, and their partnership will eventually propel the movement beyond cislunar space.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2014;136(01):38-39. doi:10.1115/1.2014-Jan-2.
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This article presents an overview of the plan of the upcoming spaceport in Houston. The planned spaceport in Houston is designed to support vehicles that lift off and land horizontally, like conventional aircraft. Future expansion could see the construction of a passenger terminal. Instead of rockets, the plan is for the spaceport to be the take-off and landing spot for horizontally launched suborbital vehicles, such as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and XCOR’s Lynx. Horizontally launched vehicles have many advantages, according to Sirisha Bandla, assistant director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. The XCOR Lynx is a Concept X vehicle that can take off and land up to four times in one day. The industry wants to reduce that time to 12 to 18 months, including the six months it takes the Federal Aviation Administration to review an application.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2014;136(01):40-43. doi:10.1115/1.2014-Jan-3.
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This article discusses the evolving trend of mobile applications and their increasing use by engineers. With the help of mobile applications for smartphone and tablet, engineers are discovering innovative ways to work that don’t have them tied to their desks. Apps allow engineers to bring drawings with them while on the road, to collaborate with other engineers, and to access information on the shop floor or in the field. Due to the very nature of the mobile platform on which they sit, applications can’t be used at every job. Their adoption depends on the type of work, the work environment, and employees’ attitude. If enough employees do have their own personal devices, there are apps that let employers update employees on the shop floor or in the field. Many engineers use mobile applications to collaborate with their design-team members or to show others, like customers or suppliers, how a product will look or will function. Engineers can also share computer-aided design drawings, design work, spec sheets, and the like through the technology.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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