Scientists identify major challenges that may improve quality of life

February 16th, 2008 - 1:07 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, February 16 (ANI): A panel of experts from around the world has identified 14 grand challenges for engineering that, if met, may significantly improve the quality of life on Earth.

The US National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has revealed that the panels choices fall into four themes that are essential for humanity to flourishnamely sustainability, health, reducing vulnerability, and joy of living.

The panel, established in 2006 at the request of the US National Science Foundation, met several times to discuss and develop the list of challenges.

Its effort received worldwide input from prominent engineers and scientists as well as the general public, via an interactive website. Over 50 subject-matter experts reviewed the panels conclusions.

The committee did not attempt to include every important challenge, nor did it endorse particular approaches to meeting those selected. Instead of focusing on predictions or gee-whiz gadgets, it decided to identify what needs to be done to help people and the planet thrive.

“We chose engineering challenges that we feel can, through creativity and commitment, be realistically met, most of them early in this century. Some can be, and should be, achieved as soon as possible,” said committee chair and former US Secretary of Defense William J. Perry.

The committee decided not to rank the challenges, and leave this task to the public to decide which challenge is most important through voting at the project website,

The website features a five-minute video overview of the project along with committee member interview excerpts. A podcast of the news conference announcing the challenges will also be available on the site starting next week.

“Meeting these challenges would be ‘game changing. Success with any one of them could dramatically improve life for everyone,’” said NAE president Charles M. Vest.

Larry Page, co-founder of Google and a committee member, added: “Tremendous advances in quality of life have come from improved technology in areas such as farming and manufacturing. If we focus our effort on the grand challenges of our age, we can hugely improve the future.”

Major challenges that may improve quality of life are:

Make solar energy affordable
Provide energy from fusion
Develop carbon sequestration methods
Manage the nitrogen cycle
Provide access to clean water
Restore and improve urban infrastructure
Advance health informatics
Engineer better medicines
Reverse-engineer the brain
Prevent nuclear terror
Secure cyberspace
Enhance virtual reality
Advance personalized learning
Engineer the tools for scientific discovery (ANI)

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