Mel’s Picks June 2008

Online Flowmeter Resource 1. Online Flowmeter Resource
This site is for those of you who may need to track down flowmeters of various types. The Flowmeter Directory is a vast repository of information on flowmeters. When last I looked they listed some 25+ different types. If you've figured out what type you need and you now need to discover who makes them, under each type of flowmeter is a list of featured suppliers. While it isn't an exhaustive list it is an excellent starting point. Check out the technical articles and online calculators as well!

Tech Transfer Site 2. Tech Transfer Site
If you're interested in technology transfer, you may want to visit the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer. Working through the organization gives you access to the more than 250 laboratories and research centers run by the U.S. government, to technologies the labs would like to see commercialized, and to the labs' expertise. For SBIR news, visit The SBIR Gateway, a site maintained by Zyn Systems and designed to collate all the news pertaining to the SBIR program.

Build Your Own Rapid Prototyper 3. Build Your Own Rapid Prototyper
RepRap is a rather cool project to design and build an open-source 3D printer capable of building a working replica of itself. The aim is to put this technology, cheap rapid prototyping, into the hands of anyone who's interested, including communities in the developing world. Check it out.

New to Bookshelves

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without ThinkingBlink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Publisher: Back Bay Books
ISBN: 978-0-316-01066-5
Page count: 296

Occasionally I review non-engineering books and this month is one of those times. I am fascinated with how the brain works and this particular book deals with how we make snap decisions both in situations where our built-in decision-making processes work beautifully and those situations where it screws up.

There are six chapters, with an introduction and a conclusion and—in my paperback copy—a reading group guide in addition to the afterword and notes. The first chapter, The Theory of Thin Slices: How a Little Bit of Knowledge Goes a Long Way, deals with our innate ability to sift through a lot of information and zero in on the little bits that are most important. Chapter two, The Locked Door: The Secret Life of Snap Decisions, digs into the unconscious nature of our snap decisions and the fact that we may not be able to explain just how we've made them. Chapter three, The Warren Harding Error: Why We Fall For Tall, Dark, and Handsome Men deals with unconscious biases and how they can—and do— trip us up. Chapter four, Paul van Riper's Big Victory: Creating Structure for Spontaneity, discusses how, by building up expertise and knowledge, we can achieve quick, seemingly spontaneous decisions. Chapter five, Kenna's Dilemma: The Right—and Wrong—Way to Ask People What They Want explains why, when our knowledge of a subject is shallow, our reactions aren't particularly nuanced and can be less than useful. Finally, Seven Seconds in the Bronx: The Delicate Art of Mind Reading is about our ability to correctly judge someone else's facial expressions. (This chapter was amazing, by the way.)

Malcolm Gladwell is an excellent writer. This engaging, frequently funny, and always thought-provoking book will give you a new appreciation for what we know (and don't know) about rapid decision making.