Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Label Your Chemicals

Tasty Science


Petri Dish Cookies

China vs. Copenhagen

I turn to James Fallows from the Atlantic for more analysis on the hubbub over China wrecking the Copenhagen climate talks.

The comments of the original article are very interesting, actually. For one thing, very few people support the author's version of what happened.

notbored writes

The fact of having been present somewhere is obviously a powerful device to employ to lend credibility to your account, and Lynas is playing that particular card to the full here. Yet various aspects of his account amount to little more than his own guesswork. He has no idea what China's overall "agenda" was, particularly as it conerned the PR battle with NGOs and Western leaders. He has no idea what Sudan's overall motivations were. He is offering his own speculative interpretation of events, and giving it rhetorical force with the vocal declaration that "I was there". But the mere fact of presence does not give you the ability to read minds. And that is what most of this account (read it carefully) consists of.

Other parts of this account give cause for serious skepticism. Mark suggests, extraordinarily, that the US's offer was "serious" - even though, as David Wearing has very rightly pointed out above, all they were offering was a 4% cut on the 1990 baseline, and in the context of all the issues of historical responsibility, equity and relative per capita emissions we should all be well aware of by now. It's not difficult to see how and why that might reasonably be construed as a pretty insulting offer.

Mark also suggests that the US "was obviously prepared to up its offer". So what's the evidence for this? It certainly seems to conflict with the details reported by this paper in the late stages of the summit, which point to the fact that the US was simply not budging on what it had already offered. If there's real, substantive evidence to the contrary I'd love to hear it, but all we seem to have at the moment is Mark's reading of what was "obvious". And given his highly flattering reading of what was "serious" in the US's proposal, I'm frankly inclined to take that with more than a pinch of salt.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Gingerbread Circuits



Smark and I made gingerbread circuits. Well, Smark's mom made the gingerbread, and then we put candy on it. We actually made them to resemble actual units from my work. The smaller one is a DC-DC converter and the larger one is part of a Max Power Point Tracker for solar panels to charge batteries.

Lynn at Smark's House!


Always up to no good

Good Times Keep Rolling


Smark's Grammy

Smark's Mom's tasty food

Smark and Lynn



Priorities

Vaca in LA


Disneyland!



Salvador SKA (sometimes known as) Sebastian


fat cat

I forgot to take pictures of the things I drew, though. Oh well.

Intellectual Ventures Lab

Jenny Hu interviewed and got an offer from this company Intellectual Ventures Lab. It sounds like a stimulating and quirky place to work. They are based in Seattle. Some of their projects sound a little crazy, though, like Stratoshield, which is a geoengineering project.

America's Banker

clip from Marketplace today about China and its economic recovery.

First Night Boston

I'm thinking of going to Boston's New Year's Eve celebrations on Thurs. Whooo, last day of the decade, although they say "officially" the last day is 2010 New Year's eve, but I'm not sure who that official is. Some things I kind of want to check out are Otis House Museum, Urban Dance, and Bhangra dance. I'm kind of disappointed there is not more restaurant discounts, though.

Krugman wrote a column about how this decade sucked economically. China did well, though, but maybe their time will come later.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Smart or evil?

article in the NYTimes about Goldman Sachs and the bundled securities. i haven't read the whole thing yet, but i wonder how much deception there really was in peddling these bundled securities. how much can you blame someone for being clever? on the other hand, so much of the economy went down. there is definitely something wrong with the system.

Merry Christmas!

posting from Smark's house in LA! his parent even got me a stocking for Christmas! I've never had a stocking before. it was fun exchanging presents. i can post some pictures later.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Career Development

I signed up for the conference in DC in Jan on the New Green Economy, and I bought plane tickets already, too. It's BOS to BWI so I'll need to figure out how to get from there to wherever I end up staying. Looks like I'll be couchsurfing!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Evaluation of the Reagan Economic Proposals

A presentation made by Jay Forrester and Nathaniel Mass in 1981.

conclusions are that

1. The best way to combat inflation in the long run is to reduce government spending. That is, "reducing the share of GNP demanded by government so that a larger share can be retained in the private sector as incentive for greater output and an improved standard of living.
2. Cutting taxes while there is a deficit "will strongly increase the risk of money creation and inflation." "The effect on wages and prices will be just enough to cancel the apparent direct supply-side incentives offered by the tax reduction."

Pretty interesting combination of liberal and conservative economic policies. I wonder what it means for climate change policy, though. Does this mean it's bad if the government funds programs for technology research and development? If so, then what can the government do instead?

Turkey and stuffing

I tried this recipe for stuffing and turkey, and it turned out really well! I actually didn't use a whole bird, though, just the thighs.

RIP Samuelson

NYT has a really good article about Paul Samuelson, the economist who died recently. He made the economics field more mathematically rigorous, and he was a Keynsian economist. He became a professor at MIT. I want to read his book Economics now. It's expensive, though. Maybe I can just borrow it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

History of the American Economy

Paul Krugman gives a history lesson. For some reason, it's a partisan version of history.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Copenhagen

I haven't really been following, and it was surprisingly difficult to find the official site, haha. http://en.cop15.dk/

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mint Chutney

I made mint chutney yesterday, and it was awesome! Even my mom liked it, although she preferred to eat it with potato chips.

New Green Economy Conference

I'm seriously taking some days off and attending this conference hosted by the National Council for Science and the Environment, the New Green Economy Conference in D.C.

They are asking exactly the questions I want to answer.

LA food

I'm going to LA for a winter vacation, and Alicia says I should check out Tamara's Tamales.

Poorly Made in China Review

I finished that book recently, and I have some comments on it.

First of all, it's important to note that the author has been working with Chinese factories on the importer side so he's pretty jaded by it by now. At the same time, no one knows about working with these factories as well as he does.

He talks mainly about "qualify fade," and how Chinese factories have very low prices in the beginning but they end up playing all kinds of games to maximize their own profits without passing on any benefits to the importer. Once they have more customers they no longer treat individual importers very well, and they begin to demand higher prices. Midler describes them as "playing chess, while importers are still playing checkers." The main reason Chinese factories are able to do this, though, is the lack of a good legal system. Midler acknowledges this and says that the West has opened up trade with China "too soon." At the same time, I would say that these issues probably accelerate the development of the Chinese legal code. I think I remember from the Rise of China class that the most developed parts of the Chinese legal system are those related to trade and commerce, especially with multinational companies. I doubt that it would be developed at all if China was not heavily trading with multinational and foreign companies. Midler also sometimes seems to be arguing against working with Chinese companies because it will not ultimately be a good deal even though it sounds like a good deal. I think this is just a case of "you get what you pay for." The fact is that China has made very cheap production of many good possible, and I'm sure many foreign companies and importers have made a lot of money. Is it a surprise that Chinese factories are raising prices and becoming more difficult to work with as they become more affluent? I think there is another way to read this, and that is that the times are changing. Chinese manufacturers had previously offered American companies very good deals because they were still in the beginning of the learning curve. They also needed American consumers because no one in China could afford to buy anything. Now many Chinese manufacturers consider themselves caught up and the Chinese consumer now has more buying power. In the end, it may be true that Chinese manufacturers are not good to work with anymore, and it could be a good thing. On the other hand, I am not sure it is good for China to become more powerful. They may become just as arrogant and shortsighted as the US is now.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sloan PhD Personal Statement

prompt:
Your task in writing this statement is to convince the MIT Sloan School's PhD Program that your plans are cogent, your motivation strong, and that your background and personal qualities promise excellent doctoral work. Your statement is to be no longer than three pages (50 lines per page).

You may organize the statement as you like, provided it is reasonably concise. Include whatever information you think relevant. Below are some examples of the kinds of specific questions you may wish to address.

Plans: What are your short-term and long-term goals? Why is a PhD necessary to achieve them? Are there specific reasons why you want to enter the MIT Sloan PhD Program instead of some other program?

Interests: In what major field do you now plan to work? What sort of research topic or topics excite you intellectually? Be as specific as you can.

Background: How did you come to decide on your long-term objectives? How have your activities to date advanced you towards these objectives? Are there any aspects of your past record to which the MIT Sloan PhD Program ought to give special attention?




I’m an engineer interested in policy issues. Rather than continue to pursue a career in electrical engineering, I’ve decided I want to work on policymaking using analytical methods. Instead of troubleshooting circuits, I want to troubleshoot social and economic systems. I’m particularly interested in environmentally sustainable business and clean energy. I helped organize the 2009 MIT Sustainability Summit and through the conference I was introduced to system dynamics as a way of approaching complex problems such as climate change. I want to combine my interests in social issues, math, and engineering by becoming a systems engineer, designing technology policy about energy usage and generation using mathematical modeling.

Interests
I like to think of problems as complex integrated systems and I am interested in ideas that foster a holistic world view. Solutions need to be designed with a better understanding of the whole system to ensure long term effectiveness and minimize adverse unintended consequences. My main interest is in building an environmentally sustainable economy and way of life. In addition to sustainability, I’m also interested in US-China relations and American domestic policy on education, health care, and taxes. For all of these issues, we need good long term strategies that guide more detailed projects that are more specific in scope.

I like the idea of integrated solutions for environmental sustainability. At the BreakThrough Institute, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus advocate a paradigm shift for environmentalists. They argue that widespread motivation for environmentalism is only possible if environmentalists’ goals are aligned with improving standard of living. The Triple Bottom Line for “social, economic, and environmental” progress is usually evoked to convince companies that they need to be environmentally and socially responsible in addition to profitable in order for lasting benefits to be realized by local communities. The BreakThrough Institute is instead persuading fellow environmentalists to make sure there are social and economic benefits when proposing solutions for the environment. Otherwise, solutions will not work, and environmentalism will be politically marginalized. I believe well-defined high level goals are critical to sustainability, and solutions will require cooperation across disciplines to achieve common goals.

Through working on the 2009 MIT Sustainability Summit, I learned about system dynamics and people using quantitative modeling methods to work on policy and technology. These methods seem perfectly suited for exploring my questions about sustainability and the economy. I have been following developments in sustainable business and technology. Paul Hawken and Amory Lovins recommend new business models for a sustainable world in Natural Capitalism. However, I felt that most descriptions of sustainable business cannot explain how resource use can level off given a growing population and the need for businesses and economies to “grow.” Even if people buy things that are made more sustainably, any given business would still do better if more products are consumed. I was very excited to read World Dynamics by Jay Forrester because the World model addresses this contradiction and argues that technology increasing resource productivity may only delay depletion of resources, pollution, and crowding if capital investment is still exponential. As an electrical engineer, thinking about systems in terms of feedback loops comes naturally to me, and I’m enthusiastic about being able to understand how large systems work.

Plans
The challenges facing the nation and the world today, such as the recession, national security, and high health care costs, need to be met without depleting the very resources required to maintain a high standard of living. I want to analyze long term effects of technology and policy, especially for issues that have a regional, national, or even global scope. I’m interested in the MIT Sloan PhD program because of the ready access to educational resources and access to the best thinkers in every field. I’m primarily interested in system dynamics modeling, which was invented at MIT, and MIT Sloan is still the leader in the field. As a trained electrical engineer, I’m interested in analytically rigorous methodology so the close proximity to the most advanced math and controls classes at the engineering school is another advantage. There are also many opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. Finally, I have thrived at MIT as an undergraduate because of its unique culture and style, and I know I will be able to do even better as a graduate student.

As a PhD student, I want to learn to use tools like system dynamics and agent based modeling effectively. I have been taking the System Dynamics Self Study online course created by Professor Jay Forrester and provided by MIT Open Courseware. The biggest advantages of system dynamics are that simple rules can model a very complex system, effects of exponential rates of change are better represented, and delays in the system can be accounted for. I’m interested in using these tools to research how we can establish a clean energy economy. I’d like to know what technologies need to be developed, what is the government’s role in developing technology, what regulations or other programs need to be put in place, and what kind of business models can bring about a sustainable way of life.

There are many resources available at MIT Sloan for the research I am interested in. Prof John Sterman has demonstrated the importance of including interactions with the economy when modeling the energy sector. Models contribute to a better understanding of the energy-climate-economy system to inform high level policy decisions such as carbon pricing. Many attribute the success of reducing air pollution in the United States to cap and trade programs for pollutants. While there have been significant technological advances in pollution control and prevention, much of the national reduction in pollution might have been a result of moving heavy industry overseas so there has not been a net global reduction in air emissions. Many environmentalists are now wavering in their support for cap and trade for carbon emissions, and implementing incentives for reducing emissions is definitely an exciting area of research right now.

Another area of research that I’m particularly interested in especially because of my experience in industry is how energy efficient appliances can reduce emissions. Technological advances in energy efficiency has potential for making a large impact, but energy consumption will only be reduced if the total number of appliances does not increase. According to World2, gains from energy efficient devices themselves may simply be offset by using an increased number of appliances and the carbon footprint of producing more products. At the same time, production and consumer spending is needed for economic growth. Evaluating new technology using system dynamics can revolutionize policymaking and help governments as well as the private sector invest in the most promising projects.

I intend to continue research after my studies, and I hope to move beyond understanding the system to designing policy and modeling solutions for the system. I hope to be involved in implementation of policies and programs I can vouch for. Meanwhile, I’m interested in developing tools for widespread use in industry as well as the research community. I also look forward to mentoring others on using system dynamics to solve problems through teaching and putting together talks. I’m drawn towards MIT Sloan’s commitment to research, and I look forward to participating in conferences and collaborating with other great thinkers, particularly in the system dynamics community.

Background
My family emigrated from mainland China to the United States when I was four, and growing up at the intersection of two cultures has helped me recognize that any given set of values exists within the context of one’s global perspective and historical narrative. That is why I like thinking about high level long term goals for society and whether actions are in line with those goals. At the same time, I have an understanding of different perspectives and the need to utilize the strengths of different value sets in solutions. I personally value being a useful and helpful member of society, making the system work better and participating in the community. Because of my strong analytical skills, I pursued a career in electrical engineering, and I now have substantial research experience through undergraduate research programs and industry. At the same time, I’ve organized many community events, continued to read about policy, and worked for various tutoring programs for low-income students and women. I have done well at each project and job because in addition to being technically skilled, I take initiative, and I persevere.

I took a year off from school after my junior year to work at various electrical engineering firms to explore the field. During this time, I considered wider impacts of my career and how to combine my broader interests in policy and social issues with engineering. I started a blog of ideas to practice communicating my thoughts and ambitions, which was really important to my personal development. I decided I wanted to develop technology for efficient resource use so when I went back to school, I studied power electronics and worked on wireless sensor networks at my UROP. Since graduating, I have been working at a power electronics company, Synqor, a leader in efficient power converters and inverters.

At Synqor I have shown I work well as a part of a team, and that I am thorough. One of the responsibilities of my team is to troubleshoot and fix units that have failed at the automatic testing stations. I have become very rigorous at collecting proof so that I can communicate my findings to others especially senior design engineers. I have taken a leadership role in making sure someone brings problems to the attention of the appropriate teams, and I sometimes act as a spokesperson for my team. One product line I brought to release earlier this year is now being used in a fuel cell drone by the Naval Research Lab, which recently completed a 23 hour flight.

When I worked in industry, I found that goals of funders and customers really influence research and technology development. Working at so many different places gives me insight into the industry. It has made me more interested in policy to identify research and technology needed for a sustainable world since I am no longer sure that the most needed technology gets the funding needed to get developed. I want to combine the skills I have acquired from engineering with my interest in policy to hopefully guide resources to the most promising and needed projects.

Besides engineering, I’ve always been interested in policy issues such as education. I tutored low income high school students at City on a Hill School and the MATCH School summer program. The summer program was for incoming freshmen who needed to be brought up to baseline math and reading levels. The theory is that the success of these students is most contingent on one-on-one attention and high expectations for them to live up to. The student I worked with scored a 54% on the math diagnostic at the beginning of the program, and at the end of the five week program she scored 94% on the same test. I worked for the MIT Women's Technology Program as a resident tutor. The program is for high school girls interested in math and science to come to MIT and take a few classes taught and tutored by female MIT students. WTP provides a safe environment for girls to practice taking risks without feeling intimidated by male colleagues. I’m also interested in education that can better prepare students to think critically, and I’m intrigued by the idea of using system dynamics for learning.

As an undergraduate, I organized many lecture events as a member of the Lecture Series Committee. I put together a lecture event in February 2008 called The Big Picture Panel on Sustainable Energy, which featured four MIT professors from different fields to talk about how their work is related to sustainability and climate change. I wanted to convince fellow students that they did not have to give up career aspirations to work on sustainability or environmentalism. In fact, they could have an edge since many businesses and governments are interested in sustainability. As a recent graduate, I was a lead organizer for the first student-run conference on sustainability, the MIT Sustainability Summit in April 2009. The conference was attended by over 250 people including students, faculty, business people, people working in the public sector, and alumni. I took a leadership role in developing the content, literature, and publicity for the summit. The Summit and the Big Picture Panel were exciting because I felt that I helped advance the discourse to talking about integrated solutions. Sustainability has become more relevant to the MIT community.



I am a problem-solver at heart, and I want solutions to address the root cause rather than simply mitigate the symptoms, which can be expensive and may cause other symptoms. Because of my extensive experience with electronics companies, I am particularly interested in clean energy and new energy efficient technology. I have been part of almost every stage of innovation and product development, and I have worked at companies at different stages of growth. When designing electronic circuits, it’s important to have a good model to simulate the design on the computer. I want to apply this concept to policymaking and work in research to model the economy-climate-energy system. MIT Sloan would be the perfect place for me to do that. Armed with a good model and modeling tools, I can help take policy-making to the next level and hopefully bring about sustainable living within my lifetime.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Obama Peace Speech

to summarize

war is sometimes necessary for peace.

actually it's a pretty nuanced speech, and i generally agree with that statement anyway. at the same time, it seemed like a very defensive speech trying explain how he's not really as peaceful as Ghandi or King.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Artificial Intelligence Book

This book on artificial intelligence sounds pretty interesting. Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach by Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig. My dad has said he is interested in artificial intelligence, and he is working on a "knowledge base" program, which is kind of like a blog on steroids. I never was interested in the aspect of artificial intelligence where we try to make a machine "smart" by emulating how human brains work. However, it sounds like I had the wrong impression of artificial intelligence because it is always so closely associated with robotics. It sounds like it is more about logic and relating information, which is more interesting. This might not necessarily be that different from emulating how brains work, but the task seems more significant (helping people sort information) than having a robot that can do some random thing autonomously. Most things that you would want a robot to help with could be automated anyway or controlled without AI.

Nuclear Technology


Smark sent me this. It's a summary of some google tech talks on thorium, which could be an alternative to today's nuclear reactors. I'm sold! Where do I sign up?

Conspicuous Consumption

Cool MIT spotlight on Sloan research on demand for luxury goods.

Infiltrate

Next year I want to sign up to interview MIT undergraduates as an MIT Educational Counselor.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yang Sighting


Mikeyp saw me on the internet.

6 elaborate forms of suicide passed off as extreme sports.

Poorly Made in China



I'm reading this book right now by Paul Midler, an American who works in China with manufacturing. It's about "quality fade," and as the book goes on, the author gets more and more negative about China. It's still funny to read about all the crazy stuff that goes on there, though, although I'm starting to be wary that it might be another China bashing book. At the same time, he says he likes to live there, and I don't see what he likes about living there if he has so many complaints.

Model Economy as Physics Problem

University of Utah physicist Tim Garrett did a study and came to a conclusion similar to the WORLD model conclusions.

Perhaps the most provocative implication of Garrett's theory is that conserving energy doesn't reduce energy use, but spurs economic growth and more energy use.


It certainly challenges Amory Lovins' school of thought where sustainability can be achieved through new business models and practices. I don't think it necessarily precludes sustainable business, but it's not as straightforward as many sustainable business proponents would like to believe.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Senate Health Care Bill

I haven't had time lately to really research the health care bill, but I am going to make an effort to do that in the coming weeks.

NYTimes article "Obama Backs Senate on Health Bills' Disparities"
The current price tag of the health care of the Senate is $848 billion over 10 years. It's hard to understand what this means, though, because I'm not sure what our current trajectory costs. They say that the costs will not add to the deficit. But how much does it add to the deficit if we don't pass the health bill? I have a hard time believing it's zero.

Anyway, there are now four pillars of the health care bill

1. cadillac plans' excise tax
2. not adding to the deficit
3. Medicare commission
4. promote "delivery system reforms" for high quality care vs high quantity care

Labor unions are against the excise tax on expensive plans. Here is some more information on what it would do.
The Senate bill would impose an excise tax of 40 percent on the cost of employer-sponsored insurance policies above $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families. It provides for increasing those thresholds by $1,350 for individuals and $3,000 for families in cases where workers are in “a high-risk profession or employed to install electrical or telecommunications lines.” And there would be an additional increase in the thresholds, by the same amounts, in the 17 states where health insurance is most expensive.


More later on what these really all mean.

Your Disco Song

new song by Vitalic. I could have sworn Autotune the News used it, but now I can't find which one.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Civilization State

The LA Times recently had an article about Understanding China by Martin Jacques. I don't know that much about him, but he wrote "When China Rules the World: the End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order." I'm not sure how much credibility he has.

I like this characterization of the "civilization state," though. It is an idea that is often described and touched on when Chinese nationals try to explain the nature of the Chinese state compared to the Western idea of a state. People try to say that Han is the race, but there are other races, too, since China is a state. At the same time, there is Chinese culture just as there is American culture, although it's more ethnic so there can be ethnic Chinese people that live in other countries. They are probably usually ethnic Han, but people usually say ethnic Chinese. In contrast, American is not thought of as an ethnicity, although Americans who live overseas are still considered American, but then if they are ethnic Irish or something, they would still be considered Irish. It all makes more sense if China is thought of as a civilization state because then you can see how being Chinese is more than being ethnic Han.

It also makes it easier to explain why all the territorial conflicts are so complicated. When China became a modern state, the boundaries were being drawn. However, the civilization state has a collective idea of where the boundaries should be. Since the civilization has been around longer than the current government, the idea of where the boundaries are can extend beyond the jurisdiction of the government.

recent dream

I been dreaming a lot this past week, and I had a really really good one.

I was on this train traveling over vast tracks of natural wilderness, mostly plains, but also shrubbery, maybe sort of like Africa and parts of China. It was really pretty. There were some mountains in the background. It was supposed to be a scenic ride. Then, the train went down a waterfall! It was like there were tracks right next to the waterfall or kind of on top of it like a roller coaster. I could feel the inertia of going down, too, the kind of uncomfortable feeling of my stomach going up. I got the feeling of wanting it to stop, but then I became ok with that feeling, and it was more enjoyable. The train kept riding around the plains a little and it went down another waterfall before the ride ended. A lot more stuff happened afterward, but I don't really remember clearly. Lilian was there, too, and she might have been wearing a tutu.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Art House

This weekend, Lilian and I went to check out the Brickbottom Artists Association Open House. It's this apartment complex in Somerville, where artists have live-in studios. It was really cool. It was so fun to see their rooms because some of them had put in interesting partitions and levels for their living quarters. It's like a playground. Maybe I would really like to live in that kind of warehouse and then build up the inside. Unfortunately I do not have pictures.

GRE butt

yup, i kicked it this weekend, whooo!!!

now i can get on with my applications.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Delicious

This weekend, Smark and I went to Sandrine's for dinner, which is a French bistro in Harvard Square. It was amaazing. My favorite was the pan-seared foie gras. I love foie gras. I get a mouth orgasm when I eat it. Smark got filet mignon, and we got salads, and also onion soup. For dessert, we split a creme brulee. Our waiter was awesome, too. He looked authentic for a French restaurant for some reason, like a butcher/sailor.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Critique of Cap and Trade

Wa Po article about cap and trade

The merits of cap and trade is a big contentious issue amongst the environmental community. The Breakthrough Institute has been talking about it a lot lately, and they have come down against it.

Obamao


awesome

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tom Fiddaman

Model wiki

NSF Research Proposal

Problem
The availability of affordable energy is crucial to all aspects of life. However, it is urgent for the United States to move away from fossil fuel energy not only because its usage undermines national security because of reliance on foreign oil but also because of the wide implications of releasing more carbon into the atmosphere. Obama said, “The system of energy that powers our economy also undermines our security and endangers our planet.” To minimize foreign oil use and carbon emissions, there are two strategies: finding alternative supplies and reducing energy usage. I am particularly interested in reducing the carbon footprint by reducing energy usage.

Government programs and the private investors are funding research and development of many promising technologies and business models. Some claim that companies are voluntarily adopting sustainability practices because it is profitable, implying those companies that do not reform will eventually be run out of business. However, many costs incurred on the environment and securing foreign oil supply are not paid up front, so the market is not optimized to develop the most energy efficient technologies and business models.

Meanwhile, the government will attempt to invest tax dollars to meet this national priority that the market is not optimized to meet. At an energy speech at MIT, Obama explains that the Recovery Act, which “includes $80 billion to … modernize the electric grid; make our homes and businesses more energy efficient, etc.” It is unclear that the government can use tax dollars efficiently to develop the best technology, especially since the energy sector is so complex. The government and the market share the problem that even after a new technology is implemented it can be hard to gauge its effectiveness.

Research Proposal
Creating system dynamics models of the effects of new technology and programs on energy consumption and carbon footprint can help identify priorities. System dynamics is a field where interactions between socioeconomic elements are modeled by aggregate totals (stocks) and rates of change (flows). The biggest advantages to system dynamics are that simple rules can model a very complex system, effects of exponential is better represented, and delays in the system can be accounted for.

Sterman has demonstrated the importance of including interactions with the economy when modeling the energy sector. Fiddaman modeled climate-economy interactions with oil and gas depletion as a source constraint. These models contribute to a better understanding of the energy-climate-economy system to inform some high level policy decisions such as carbon pricing. They cannot help with more detailed policy and investment options in new technologies or programs, which is why I want to focus on residential energy consumption and efficiency technology. Dyner et al made a model of residential energy consumption in Columbia examining the promotion of gas and efficient appliances (Dyner 1995). However, many factors were not included such as delays in implementation, service continuity, and operational risks. Also, the model did not integrate the performance of the surrounding economic landscape.

I want to study residential energy consumption and efforts to reduce it. The stocks of interest are energy demand, energy supply capacity, material standard of living, quality of life, carbon footprint, and GDP. Energy supply and demand would be split into foreign sources and domestic sources to track how well programs do to minimize energy use from foreign sources. The material standard of living is to represent the number of appliances per household. Then energy efficiency would be material standard of living divided by energy demand. Quality of life, on the other hand, would be a gauge of how many socioeconomic needs are being met, which may not be directly correlated with the material standard of living. Carbon footprint will be calculated from energy demand, and I want to include energy used to manufacture consumer goods, which is correlated with the material standard of living. Carbon footprint from producing renewable energy should also be included to examine how much acquiring new consumer goods and appliances offset the benefits of efficient appliances and renewable energy.

With this basic model in place, I primarily want to examine the effects of implementing energy efficient technologies. I want to compare different technologies such as CFL lights, light management, efficient entertainment systems, and HVAC systems. I want to incorporate interactions with the rest of the economy as well to study the impact of interest rates and GDP. In order for it to be most useful to me and others, I want to make it easy to add complexities such as transportation energy consumption in the form of modules. I envision having a core model of residential energy consumption with the economy and new energy efficient appliances as modules.

Expected Results
Jay W. Forrester made World2, which is the basis for the model in Limits to Growth, which was lasted updated in 2004. According to World2, efficient technologies will only delay depletion of resources, pollution, and crowding if capital investment is still exponential. I would expect results on residential energy consumption to corroborate this view.

Steven Chu gave a talk at MIT earlier this year promoting energy efficiency technology. However, new energy efficient technology can only reduce total energy consumption if the total number of appliances does not increase. Furthermore, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus from the BreakThrough Institute claim that widespread motivation for environmentalism is only possible if environmentalist goals are aligned with improving standard of living. As standard of living of Americans has improved over the past century, successfully implementing environmental legislation to reduce pollution, it has not reduced energy consumption or carbon footprint. In addition, much of the reduction in pollution has been a result of moving heavy industry overseas.

I expect to find that efficiency improvements to HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) and lighting management technologies cause a net reduction in residential energy consumption. Gains from energy efficient devices themselves may simply be offset by using an increased number of appliances and the carbon footprint of producing more products. At the same time, production and consumer spending is needed for economic growth. I may find that new business models are required to reducing the carbon footprint.

Moving away from fossil fuel is critical to economic recovery. Evaluating new technology using system dynamics would make it possible for humans to be effective stewards of the environment while maintaining a high standard of living. I hope to create a platform for evaluating energy efficient technologies that can be expanded to evaluate new business models and other technologies like renewable energy.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Decision theory

I was talking to a former boss who is writing a rec for me, and he mentioned Milton Weinstein, who applied decision theory to healthcare. I suspect this could be useful for system dynamics and agent based modeling.

NSF Previous Research

I have substantial research experience through undergraduate research programs and engineering companies. I have done well at each project and job because in addition to be technically skilled, I take initiative, and I persevere. These assets generalize to systems engineering. First-hand knowledge of the innovation and development process helps me better understand the challenges for technology policy. Since I’m particularly interested in energy systems engineering, experience in the electrical engineering industry is extremely relevant. Plus, some of the problem solving skills and math I learned from electrical engineering is related to the math in systems engineering.

During the summer after my junior year, I did a UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) in the Smart Cities Group headed by Bill Mitchell. I worked on a project called Tripwire for Tad Hirsch, then a PhD candidate in the group. The San Jose airport is located near residential areas, inhabited primarily by low-income minorities, and there is evidence that the resulting noise pollution is harmful to children as well as wildlife. I made a wireless device that would listen for planes overhead and then automatically call the customer complaint hotline for the airport. I used a small microphone to listen for planes, and a microcontroller to process the signal and communicate with an attached cell phone. These battery powered components were put in a hollowed-out coconut and hung in a tree. When a plane is detected, the microcontroller commands the cell phone to call a server that Tad set up, which would then call the airport with recorded messages from people and animals complaining about the noise. It was installed at ZeroOne San Jose: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge & the Thirteenth International Symposium of Electronic Art (ISEA2006) August 7-13, 2006. It was exciting to consider the wider impacts of the device as a tool to empower the disenfranchised.

When I worked in industry, I found that goals of funders and customers really influence research and technology development. I worked at Boston Dynamics, a legged robotics company that was founded by Marc Raibert in 1992 from the Legged Robotics Lab at MIT. Boston Dynamics was a research company, and Big Dog was almost wholly funded by DARPA grants. As a result, it was presented as a pack mule for the army, and the research was geared towards things that would be useful to the army, which are for it to be able to climb hills while carrying a load. I also worked at Tagsense, a small RFID company founded by Rich Fletcher, who is also a researcher at the MIT Media Lab. Tagsense has a few standard products, but a large part of their business was custom design solutions. Most of the customers are businesses interested in implementing RFID technology into their products. Many technology firms start out doing custom designs before putting out standard products so that the design engineers can work on new technology rather than making small custom modifications to the same product. That was the case for Synqor as well, a power electronics company I have been working at since I graduated. They now have hundreds of standard products. However, they continue to work on custom designs, which are sometimes completely new designs that start a new line of standard products. Working at so many different places has given me insight into the industry. It has made me more interested in policy to identify research and technology needed for a sustainable world since I am no longer sure that the most needed technology necessarily gets the funding needed to get developed.

I also worked at a startup venture called Reaction Time LLC as the sole engineer. I worked with Thomas Hawkins, who had an idea for reaction time training device for lacrosse players that would be connected to a computer. He wanted a training device that would simulate a ball machine so that athletes in college can practice in their dorms to accommodate their busy schedules. That is, instead of actually shooting a ball towards a player, it plays a movie of a ball being shot towards a player in one of eight positions. The player responds by putting the racket in the corresponding position. There are eight USB devices to be positioned around a room, and they have proximity sensors, which send signals back to the software when the racket comes close. The software calculates the time it took for the player to “hit” the right device, records the data, and then draws a graph. Not only would this be more convenient, this would allow sports training to be more quantitative and methodical. I designed and built the software, hardware, and firmware. I learned a lot since I was the only engineer, and it was exciting to be a part of a start up venture.

At Reaction Time LLC and at my UROP, I worked for people who were not in my field, and I had to discern the best course of action and work more independently. Tad is a computer programmer and artist rather than an electrical engineer so it was up to me to design and build the hardware. Thomas Hawkins is a manager in the medical insurance field. He had the idea for a product, but I also contributed significantly to the details of the product design as I was implementing his idea. For Tad and Tom, I researched options with estimated execution times and budgets and present them along with my recommendations. It was risky, and I was not always right, but it is important try things out instead of being paralyzed with indecision. In cases where I am wrong or make a mistake, I simply reevaluate the situation, present my findings, and change the plans.

At Synqor, I had more guidance, and I also gained experience working in a team. Synqor is a power electronics company founded by MIT professor Marty Schlecht, coauthor of the textbook for the power electronics graduate class. One of the responsibilities of my team is to troubleshoot and fix units that have failed at the automatic testing stations. I have become very rigorous at collecting proof so that I can communicate my findings to others especially senior design engineers. Several times, things I noticed that seemed like component tolerance issues turned out to be design issues or wrong components. I also characterize new products and design tests to make sure they are robust before they go onto the market. I assist the head design engineers by debugging the problems and collecting data so they can fix the design. One product line I brought to release earlier this year is used in a fuel cell drone by NRL, which recently completed a 23 hour flight.

I have been part of almost every stage of innovation and product development, and I have worked at companies at different stages of growth. I am an independent worker, and I enjoy taking initiative on projects. I work well with many different kinds of people because I have strong communication skills. I also have a strong math background from all my engineering experiences. I have also taken a few policy courses including Rise of China and Regulation of Chemicals, Radiation, and Biotechnology. I have done independent research on social issues, and I have helped develop content for talks on sustainability. I want to combine the skills I have acquired from engineering with my interest in policy. When designing electronic circuits, it’s important to have a good model to simulate the design on the computer. I want to apply this concept to designing energy technology policy, and I can do that as a systems engineer.

I Am Useful

Naval Research Lab Fuel Cell Unmanned Air Vehicle Completes 23-Hour Flight

Found out this drone uses a product I helped bring to market earlier this year. It is a non-isolated DC-DC converter that has current limiting capability, making to useful for charging batteries. There were a lot of problems with it when I first started working on it. To prevent current from flowing from the output to the input, there are FETs on the output that only turn on when the unit is enabled. When I first worked on it, I could not figure out why the unit was getting so hot even when there was no load. Finally, I blew up those FETs somehow, and we realized that they were not getting turned on, and that the unit was working because the current was going through the body diode of those FETs.

It's exciting to see it actually be used for something, especially in cutting edge research, even if it is a military application, haha.

Friday, October 30, 2009

NSF Personal Essay Upgrade to 2.0

I became an engineer because I felt that I could directly and unambiguously make a positive impact by building things people need. At the same time, I always knew that there is almost never a purely technological solution. That is why I have always been interested in policy and I have organized events such as the 2009 MIT Sustainability Summit. Through the conference, I was introduced to system dynamics as a way of approaching complex problems such as climate change. Finally, I can combine my interests in socioeconomic issues, math, and engineering by becoming a systems engineer, designing technology policy about energy generation and usage using mathematical modeling.

I studied electrical engineering as an undergraduate because of my first lab experience in the Introduction to Circuits class. What once seemed like very complicated equations on a piece of paper sprang to life and I understood it intuitively once I could probe it in real time. However, the tangibility of the system was not important; it was that the math represented a real system. I found that I especially liked control theory when I took a class on Feedback and Control. Since control theory is central to robotics, I took a year off from school after my junior year to work at a robotics company, Boston Dynamics.

My year off was very productive and personally transformative. I started a blog of ideas to practice communicating my thoughts and ambitions, which was really important to my personal development. I had noticed that many of my male colleagues were much more in the habit of thinking about projects and ideas than I or my female colleagues were. I believe this contributes to the gender discrepancy in achievement after high school. To avoid perpetuating that pattern, I read and blogged about current events, climate change, foreign policy, food production policy, and other social issues. I have continued to blog and do independent research ever since then. I have also encouraged my friends to contribute to my blog, and some of them have started their own blogs about their interests and projects.

Some books I read that made an impression on me are BreakThrough by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, advocates of a paradigm shift for environmentalism, BlowBack by Chalmers Johnson, who writes about the consequences of shortsighted foreign policy, Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawken and Amory Lovins, who recommend new business models for a sustainable world, and World Dynamics by Jay Forrester, founder of system dynamics. All of these books present problems as complex integrated systems and foster a holistic world view. Solutions need to be designed with a better understanding of the whole system to ensure long term effectiveness and minimize adverse unintended consequences.

During my year off, I considered wider impacts of my career and how to combine my broader interests in policy and social issues with engineering. I had learned about various applications for electrical engineering and possible career paths by working at several different companies. In addition to the robotics company, I worked at an RFID company, Tagsense, and a startup making an electronic training device for athletes, Reaction Time LLC. I decided I wanted to develop technology for efficient resource use. I did not know if this should be the number one national priority, but I knew that it would be necessary sooner or later. I studied power electronics and worked on wireless sensor networks. Since graduating, I have been working at a power electronics company, Synqor, a leader in efficient power converters and inverters.

Outside of work and school, I continued to think about social issues and policy questions. To support programs I liked, I worked tutored low income students during fall of junior year at City on a Hill School and MATCH School the summer after my junior year. MATCH is a charter high school for low income students, and the summer program was for incoming freshmen who needed to be brought up to baseline math and reading levels. The theory is that the success of these students is contingent most on one-on-one attention and high expectations for them to live up to. The student I worked with scored a 54% on the math diagnostic at the beginning of the program, and at the end of the five week program she scored 94% on the same test. I was really proud of her, and it was a very rewarding experience.

The summer after sophomore year and the summer after I graduated, I worked for the MIT Women's Technology Program as a resident tutor. The program is for high school girls interested in math and science to come to MIT and take a few classes taught and tutored by female MIT students. The goal is to build their self-confidence while challenging them academically. Besides technical skills, women need to develop a habit and a support structure for thinking ambitiously about projects they want to do. WTP provides a safe environment for them to practice taking risks without feeling intimidated by male colleagues. I continue to be a mentor for some of the young women I have met through this program. I love being a part of changing the education and gender equality paradigms.

However, my greatest passion is sustainability, and I wonder about what would really make the most impact in bringing about a transition to sustainable living. It can only be possible if the best and the brightest students in every field are working on projects related to sustainability rather than considering it a separate career path. I had been director of the lecture committee of the MIT Lecture Series Committee and put together many events targeted at MIT undergraduates including a lecture with the hosts of the MythBusters, a popular TV show on the Discovery Channel. It was a sold out event, attended by over 1200 people. After organizing that event, I realized that I had an amazing platform for broadcasting ideas I wanted to promote.

I put together a lecture event in February 2008 called The Big Picture Panel on Sustainable Energy, which would feature four MIT professors from different fields to talk about how their work is related to sustainability and climate change. It was the kickoff event for the Focus on Climate Change Symposium, which was a series of smaller departmental talks. The Big Picture Panel was attended by over 250 people. I was the lead organizer, and two other student volunteers helped with the logistics, the message, and the publicity.

I then helped to organize the first student-run conference on sustainability, the MIT Sustainability Summit in April 2009. It was a one day conference with three panels moderated by MIT faculty, three keynote speeches, and six smaller talks with leaders in industry, the public sector, and academia. The conference was attended by over 250 people including students, faculty, business people, people working in the public sector, and alumni. I took a leadership role in developing the content, literature, and publicity for the summit. As a group we worked on writing the scenarios and researched potential speakers, and I finalized much of the literature for the group to use when contacting sponsors, advisers, and the general public. I invited Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus from the Breakthrough Institute to give the concluding keynote. Through working on this event, I learned about system dynamics and people using quantitative modeling methods to work on policy and technology. I immediately knew I wanted to be a systems engineer because this field utilizes all my strengths and combines my interests.

The challenges facing the nation and the world today need to be met without depleting the very resources required to maintain a high standard of living. I want to analyze long term effects of technology and policy, especially issues that have a regional, national, or even global scope. I would love to work at a think tank or research group to gain a better understanding of the system, make policy suggestions, and also be involved in implementation. I have been taking the System Dynamics Self Study online course created by Professor Jay Forrester and provided by MIT Open Courseware. An NSF grant would fund more rigorous graduate study and research. In graduate school, I will gain a strong foundation for a career in systems engineering while contributing to cutting edge research, and I will be able to work with and be mentored by leaders in the field.

No Point in Afghanistan?

Mathew Hoh resigns the foreign service because he does not think it makes strategic sense to stay in Afghanistan. While I think there are problems with pulling out, I have to agree with him in general. While it would be great if Afghanistan had a modern government, the US really does not have the money to be over there.

while yang has been pmosing

I've been slacking. And let me tell you, it's GREAT. Moral of the story: after starting grad school, get out as fast as you can, and then take lots of time off. I'm off to see the big red button used to launch nuclear missiles during the cold war. more later!

pictures of travels

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Obama Energy Speech at MIT

transcript

It is actually relevant to my research proposal for NSF.

Some favorite quotes

The truth is we also face more complex challenges than generations past. A medical system that holds the promise of unlocking new cures is attached to a health care system that has the potential to bankrupt families and businesses and our government. A global marketplace that links the trader on Wall Street to the homeowner on Main Street to the factory worker in China -- an economy in which we all share opportunity is also an economy in which we all share crisis. We face threats to our security that seek -- there are threats to our security that are based on those who would seek to exploit the very interconnectedness and openness that's so essential to our prosperity. The system of energy that powers our economy also undermines our security and endangers our planet.


The Recovery Act includes $80 billion to put tens of thousands of Americans to work developing new battery technologies for hybrid vehicles; modernizing the electric grid; making our homes and businesses more energy efficient; doubling our capacity to generate renewable electricity. These are creating private-sector jobs weatherizing homes; manufacturing cars and trucks; upgrading to smart electric meters; installing solar panels; assembling wind turbines; building new facilities and factories and laboratories all across America. And, by the way, helping to finance extraordinary research.


The Recovery Act provides the largest single boost in scientific research in history. Let me repeat that: The Recovery Act, the stimulus bill represents the largest single boost in scientific research in history. (Applause.) An increase -- that's an increase in funding that's already making a difference right here on this campus. And my budget also makes the research and experimentation tax credit permanent -- a tax credit that spurs innovation and jobs, adding $2 to the economy for every dollar that it costs.


This is the nation that will lead the clean energy economy of tomorrow

NSF Personal Statement

Engineering Policy All Day

My career aspirations have evolved over the years, influenced by my varied experiences at work, school, and leadership activities. Up until now, I have been pursuing an electrical engineering career while reading about and working on social issues on the side. Engineering classes and work have made me a good analytical and methodical thinker and first introduced me to systems thinking. I have also learned to be self-motivated and an independent thinker by studying socioeconomic issues such as foreign policy, environmental sustainability, education, and gender equality in and out of the classroom. To contribute to implementing ideas I particularly liked because I thought it would have a wide impact, I have tutored low income students and high school girls interested in engineering. Furthermore, I have organized events such as the 2009 Sustainability Summit at MIT. I have also learned to be an effective leader as well as a team player.

Through the conference, I was introduced to system dynamics as a way of approaching complex problems such as climate change. Finally, I feel that I have found a way I can merge my interest in socioeconomic issues, leadership and communication skills, strong math background, and engineering intuition. I want to be a systems engineer, designing technology policy about energy generation and usage using mathematical modeling.

I have always enjoyed quantitative reasoning applied to real systems. I studied electrical engineering as an undergraduate because of my first lab experience in the Introduction to Circuits class. We were building an audio amplifier. What once seemed like very complicated equations on a piece of paper sprang to life and I understood it intuitively once I could probe it in real time. However, the tangibility of the system was not important; it was that the math represented a real system. I found that I especially liked control theory when I took a class on Feedback and Control.

During my year off I learned more about other applications for electrical engineering and possible career paths. Since control theory is central to robotics, I took a year off from school after my junior year to work at a robotics company, Boston Dynamics. I also worked at Reaction Time LLC developing electronic training equipment and Tagsense developing RFID solutions for medical applications. At Reaction Time LLC, I worked with a businessman who had an idea and needed someone with technical expertise to make it happen.

While out of school, I had time to consider wider impacts of my career and how to combine my broader interests in policy and social issues with engineering. In my spare time, I read about climate change, foreign policy, food production policy, and other social issues. I started blogging about what I read, current events, and ideas to practice communicating my thoughts and ambitions. After returning to school, I became a much more focused student. I had decided I wanted to develop technology for efficient resource use. I wanted to focus on efficient energy generation and usage.

I started a research project (UROP) with the Smart Cities Group at the MIT Media Lab, working on making a wireless sensor network with sensors for plant water usage. This technology can make urban agriculture possible and also conventional agriculture less resource intensive. I took and did well in two power electronics courses, a lab and a graduate level class. After I graduated, I worked at Synqor, a power electronics company founded by Marty Schlecht who was faculty at MIT and coauthor of the textbook for the power electronics graduate class. At Synqor, I worked on troubleshooting existing products to improve the manufacturing process. I also characterized new products to finalize designs and make sure they are robust before they go onto the market. I learned technical skills but also to seek help when needed, coordinate with teammates, and coordinate with supervisors to make sure my efforts are in sync with the goals of the company. When we brought on a new team member, I took the initiative and provided some training for troubleshooting units. I made suggestions for improving the process such as separating units that someone has looked at before from other units.

Outside of work and school, I continued to think about social issues and policy questions. To support policies I liked, I worked for MATCH School, a charter school for low income students, as a tutor in the summer after my junior year. The student I worked with scored a 54% on the math diagnostic at the beginning of the program, and by the end of the program she scored 94%. For the summer after sophomore year and the summer after I graduated, I worked for the MIT Women's Technology Program as a resident tutor. Besides technical skills, women also need to develop a habit and a support structure for thinking ambitiously about projects they want to do. I really liked being a part of changing the education and gender equality paradigms, but ultimately, I decided I was more interested in and could contribute more to sustainability policy than education.

I wonder about what would really make the most impact in bringing about a transition to sustainable living. I felt that it can only be possible if the best and the brightest students such as those at MIT were working on projects related to sustainability rather than considering it a separate career path. I had been director of the lecture committee of the MIT Lecture Series Committee and put together many events including a lecture with the MythBusters, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, attended by over 1200 people. After organizing that event, I realized that I had an amazing platform for broadcasting ideas I wanted to promote.

My senior year in college, I put together a lecture event that was to be the kickoff event for the Focus on Climate Change Symposium. The Big Picture Panel on Sustainability would feature four professors at MIT from different fields to talk about how their work is related to sustainability and climate change. It was attended by over 250 people, and I felt it really made an impact. While I was the lead organizer, a couple of friends helped work on the logistics, the message, and the publicity. I then helped to organize the first student-run conference on sustainability, the MIT Sustainability Summit in April 2009. With the expertise I had gained through putting together other events, I took a leadership role in developing the content, literature, and publicity for the summit. It was a one day conference with three panels moderated by MIT faculty, three keynote speeches, and six smaller talks with leaders in industry, the public sector, and academia. It was truly a team effort with about twenty team-members. I made sure we had talking points so that sponsors, attendees, and speakers all got the same message no matter who they talked to. As a volunteer effort, it was also really important that people followed through on their tasks so I set up shared spreadsheets and documents for people in my group to work on and track progress. The conference was attended by over 250 people including students, faculty, business people, people working in the public sector, and alumni. It was very exciting and I learned a lot about persistence, persuasion, and working with different kinds of people.

Through working on this event, I learned about system dynamics and people using quantitative modeling methods to work on policy and technology. I immediately knew I wanted to be a systems engineer because this field utilizes all my strengths and combine my interests.

The challenges facing the nation and the world today need to be met without depleting the very resources required to maintain a high standard of living. I am broadly interested in challenges facing health care, education, and foreign policy, and I'm particularly interested in energy generation and use. I want to analyze long term effects of technology and policy. I want to eventually be a policy advisor on the regional or national level, most likely working in the public sector, but working in the private sector to develop new business models and products is also a possibility. First, I need to learn the techniques and analytical tools and also background information. Then, I want to work at a think tank or research group to make policy suggestions and then possibly become more involved in implementation. The NSF fellowship would help me gain the knowledge I need to make higher level strategic recommendations for policy and technology.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

White Fox

I am excited about the arguments between the White House and Fox News. I am bemused that Fox is trying to compare Obama with Nixon because of an alleged "enemies list." On the one hand, I think it's a stupid argument, since one man's news is another's bias. At any rate, MSNBC is undeniably biased the other way, although I'd argue in a less destructive and flagrantly lying way. On the other hand, it's about time we stop pretending Fox is really a news organization. Indeed, these days I just read Fox sometimes to see what's going on "on the other side" and what kind of crazy lies they're obsessing about now.

NYTimes article

Asymmetric Warfare

I just saw a headline that quoted someone as saying "you've got nuclear bombs. we have suicide bombers."

Here's a poorly thought-out idea:

Is it possible that if Iran is allowed to have nuclear weapons, terrorism would stop?

Although on the other hand, as long as Afghanistan is politically, socially, and economically unstable, it seems unlikely for terrorism to stop so I don't know how much it really has to do with Iran.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Statement of Purpose

Here are some talking points I wrote up for describing my interests for graduate study. It's not very well-organized. I'd need to fix it up and get more specific about the technical details for a real statement of purpose.


There are many challenges facing the nation and the world today. The challenges need to be met within a further constraint of providing a high standard of living without depleting the very resources required to maintain a high standard of living. It seems that major changes are pending for a new economy based on new technology and infrastructure.

I'm interested broadly in prioritizing these challenges and prioritizing technology development or policy implementation. One possibility is that if people pursue their interests, the best and most effective ideas will meet each challenge as necessary. The market should be able to automatically prioritize correctly to invent pollution control methods and more efficient ways to use resources while rebuilding the economy and reforming healthcare.

On the other hand, if relative impacts, especially long term impacts, of potential innovations or policies could be quantized, it would be a very effective way to prioritize and meet challenges we face. I'm interested in finding ways to allocate intellectual resources and capital for the greatest gain.

Ideas can only be sorted by quality if the quality is correctly correlated with the price. However, social systems are interrelated and complex. It can be hard to gauge the effectiveness and thus value of a new technology because it can be hard to identify causal links, especially when there are delays in the system. Then it would be difficult for the market to prioritize effectively.

It would be best if each innovation was subjected to systems dynamics analysis to evaluate its potential and how well it integrates with other innovations and existing infrastructure. Solutions can be optimized to complement each other rather than inadvertently canceling out each other's intended effects.

I'm interested in technology and policy that can achieve an equilibrium in resource use. These new innovations and policies together may describe a new economic model that is not based on exponential capital growth. Alternatively, we may find that there is room for exponential growth that can still use resources sustainably.

6.241 Dynamic Systems and Control

I was talking to my power electronics professor today, and he mentioned the Dynamic Systems and Control course 6.241. I wish I took it as an undergrad. I didn't even see it. Oh well. I'm glad it's on OCW!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

System Dynamics Group Publications

Actually, they are all by Jay Forrester. They are a good intro to system dynamics, though.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Demi-gods and Semi Devils

天龙八部1996 was this Chinese TV series I watched while in China when I was in middle school. Found a site that has it online. Whoo

Saturday, October 3, 2009

World Dynamics

Now I'm reading World Dynamics by Jay Forrester. He describes the model World3. I am thinking I should also read Industrial Dynamics and Urban Dynamics.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mid Autumn Festival

tomorrow, Chinese people will be celebrating the Mid Autumn Festival 中秋节 by eating moon cakes 月饼. whooo. I will be eating lotus mooncakes whooooo.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Self Control and Education

Really good article about developing executive function for children.

I remember struggling with mind control tactics and I still have trouble with will power and concentration, although I know that what I can do already gets me very far.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

System Dynamics Courses

found a list of system dynamics courses of off www.systemdynamics.org. A lot of them use MIT Prof John Sterman's book Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World

I think I'll check it out. Right now I'm reading World Dynamics by Jay Forrester. I need to get a CD with the World3 model on it, and also figure out how to do the modeling. I did a little bit, but I don't really understand how to use it.

I also want to check out Beyond Growth, by economist Herman Daly.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Limits To Growth: 30 Year Update ... Review

I just finished this book published in 2004 by Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, and Jorgen Randers. It presents findings based on World3, a system dynamics model of world dynamics that projects human welfare and other variables into the future depending on different conditions.

Ch 1 : Overshoot
The concept of overshoot is intuitive and is a very good way to model the impact of human activity on resource limits.

Ch 2 : The Driving Force: Exponential Growth
Human population grows exponentially as does capital. It's interesting to really think about this in terms of what it means for resource use and pollution.

Ch 3 : The Limits: Sources and Sinks
System dynamics vocabulary. Economist Herman Daly is cited. This is actually a lengthy discussion about various resources the earth has and the rates of human usage. The usage of wood is somewhat confusing to me. On the one hand, burning wood releases carbon into the air and also uses up wood. On the other hand, burning wood is considered carbon neutral since the carbon released is the carbon that was put into the wood. On the other hand, I thought wood was an inefficient energy source, which is why we moved to coal and oil. Non-developed places like parts around the Amazon rainforest burn wood, which is bad, but non-developed places also use less energy.

Ch 4 : World3: The Dynamics of Growth in a Finite World
This is a discussion about feedback loops.

Ch 5 : Back from Beyond the Limits: The Ozone Story

Ch 6 : Technology, Markets, and Overshoot

Ch 7 : Transitions to a Sustainable System

Ch 8 : Tools for the Transition to Sustainability

Made Bread and Butter

it was yum

Alicia came over and we made butter first and then bread. We used fancy heavy cream instead of heavy whipping cream. We were worried that heavy cream wouldn't get whipped, but it did. Heavy whipping cream includes a thickener. It was magical. We used an electric egg beater and the trick was to turn it on high. After it becomes chunky whipped cream, it slowly starts separating into butter and buttermilk. Alicia had a strainer and a funnel so we would pour the buttermilk back into a bottle and put the whey back in to be beaten more. We started using a wooden spoon to mash it and get all the water out. I had watched that video online about making butter, and I followed its steps. I rinsed the butter with ice water and then after I poured that out, I just added some salt and the butter was done. It was really tasty. I think Rendezvous must make their own butter.

Then we used the buttermilk to make honey buttermilk bread in my bread machine.

It was really fun and delicious.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Butter

I made chocolate chip cookies, and I also bought Burt's Bees buttermilk lotion, which smells really good and feels good, too. I really like the texture of butter and how it looks. I realized I have no idea what buttermilk is and what butter is made of.

Whipping cream is just cream from milk that is skimmed off the top of fresh milk before homogenizing it. Apparently, you can just keep whipping whipping cream, and after it turned to whipped cream it turns to butter and buttermilk. Whaaat?

How to make butter.

Kinda looks like fun, and actually I think I've made it before when I got a little carried away making whipped cream. I thought it went bad or something.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obamacare Officially Announced

I listened to Obama's health care speech last night, and I thought he made some a very comprehensive reasoning for his ideas.

I'm definitely a lot more excited to learn more about the issue and attend events and possibly throw events at MIT about health care.

Math to look into

I was talking to a friend about systems dynamics and he was saying that some math that gets applied to social systems modeling are computational statistics and statistical mechanics. I should get an intro book on them and also look at related grad programs.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

New Room

Smark helped me build my loft this past weekend, and Shen helped me paint. Whooo so classy.




Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sustainable Farm Internships

I'm considering a sustainable farm internship...

Dandelion Farm looks awesome!

There's also this place called Ecology Action that tests out small plots of land for ways to get around less than ideal conditions.

Not sure how this will work out yet. I'll probably get in contact with someone I know that's doing this type of stuff.

Friday, August 28, 2009

anti beta blocker

found another good program on wmbr. not sure if it will still be around in the fall, though.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Beyond the Limits



This book sounds interesting and seems to be a classic amongst systems dynamics people as well as environmental policy people like Amory Lovins. I have heard that it has absolutely no math in it, though, so it might be a little fluffy.

Sucker for Products That Smell Good

Yesterday I splurged at Aveda, which is this skin and hair care product store founded by Horst Rechelbacher, who sounds like an interesting guy.

Here's a TIME article about the environmental beauty products movement.

I think the products work well (maybe?) but definitely, I just really like how everything smells. I am also impressed that Aveda is supposedly at the forefront of environmental business. At the same time, it is hard to tell real impact from greenwashing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Boston Greenfest

This weekend was Boston Greenfest. It was pretty cool!

A lot of local vendors came and it was cool to see what people are working on in the area.

Shen and I talked to some HVAC and renewable energy systems designers and installers for home and commercial applications.

It was also good to hear that the green chemistry movement is going on in Boston.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

System Dynamics Self Study

15.988 System Dynamics Self Study by Jay Forrester

yay for open course ware

System Dynamics Sounds Awesome

(ooo, first blog post from my new laptop)

so I was reading about system dynamics. this is a talk Professor Jay Forrester gave in Spain in 1998.

Early in the development of system dynamics, we discovered surprising
things about corporations that apply to all social systems:
· first, most difficulties arise from internal causes, although people usually blame
troubles on outside forces.
· second, actions that people take, usually in the belief that the actions are a
solution to difficulties, are often the cause of the problems being experienced,
· third, the very nature of the dynamic feedback structure of a social system tends
to mislead people into taking ineffective and even counterproductive action,
· fourth, people have enough information about a system to permit successful
modeling.


wow that sounds awesome. i am strongly considering going back to school to study this. here is another awesome except which is exactly how I feel about laws and policy-making! it is exactly why while i'm interested in policy, i feel hesitant about diving into that field.


People may dislike the idea of "designing" social systems. Designing social
systems may seem mechanistic or authoritarian. However, all social systems have
been designed. Corporate policies, computer systems, organization charts, and laws
constitute partial designs of social systems. Governments pass laws after superficial
debate. Laws redesign political and economic systems. Such redesigns are
experiments using a country as a laboratory. The experiments include no dynamic
modeling of the long-term effects. Changes in corporate policies receive even less
analysis. For example, the recent wave of corporate mergers and the reduction of
trade barriers constitute a major redesign of the world economy without adequate
consideration for the results. People have designed the systems within which they
live. The shortcomings of those systems result from defective design, just as the
shortcomings of a power plant result from erroneous design.

Monday, August 17, 2009

New Equipment

Got a new laptop today. The Acer Aspire One D250. It seemed like the one in the store had a good videocam.

East Coast Vacation This Time

This past weekend, I went to Cape Cod with Alicia and my mom, and then James caught up with us later. We to the beach, ate Four Seas ice-cream, and swam in a pond!! We also grilled and ate salmon.