Every month, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN—the longest-running magazine in the U.S. and an authoritative voice in science, technology and innovation—provides insight into scientific topics that affect our daily lives and capture our imagination, establishing the vital bridge between science and public policy.
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• The next manufacturing revolution in developed countries will likely be in high-tech machinery, building a platform for new jobs. SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN reviews some of the most promising areas, including:
- Human-robot teams that can revolutionize the assembly line and save companies both time and money. By setting up a smart assembly line, a robot can assess how to utilize materials and determine whether a given task is better performed by a human being (such as moving parts around so that they fit together properly) or a robot (such as welding at high-speed).
See: The Future of Manufacturing: My Boss the Robot
- 3-D printing that will allow for the manufacture of products not currently possible by printing an object in its entirety rather than creating parts that need assembly. According to a report by the National Intelligence Council last November, by 2030, 3-D printing could replace conventional mass-production processes such as casting, molding and machining. Boeing and GE are already taking advantage of such preliminary technologies, despite technical challenges with 3-D printing, such as slow manufacturing and a lack of standardization in printing quality. See: The Future of Manufacturing: To Print the Impossible
- Energy generators, artificial tissues and digital processors assembled using nanoscale devices. In the near future, viruses embedded into energy-generating devices could become the next power plants and nanoscale electronic sensors could be used to create synthetic tissue that can record and report health problems. See: The Future of Manufacturing: Rise of the Nano Machines
• The U.S.’s use of health care workers to target Osama bin Laden has led to a global distrust of humanitarian health programs that threatens to set back global public health efforts by decades. Taliban commanders, for example, have banned polio vaccination teams in parts of Pakistan. Such disruption or postponement of vaccination efforts could lead to a resurgence of polio around the world. See: Science Agenda: The Spies Who Sabotaged Global Health
• According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 31,672 people were killed by guns. Data show that a gun is 22 times more likely to be used in criminal assault, an accidental death or injury, a suicide attempt, or a homicide than it is for self-defense. These and other statistics add further insight into the gun-control debate. See: Skeptic: Gun Science
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH
• Pathogens from people, cats and other land animals are entering the oceans and attacking sea mammals through wastewater runoff. Additionally, drug-resistant bacteria found in humans have now been discovered in sharks and seals, raising the chance that the bugs could mutate and reinfect humans, who would be ill-equipped to fight them. Thoroughly cleansing wastewater and expanding wetlands that buffer land from sea could lessen the "pollutagen" threat. See: Emerging Diseases: How Kitty is Killing the Dolphins