In research on climate change, the center of gravity has long been the study of what causes it, how fast it’s happening, and the consequences for the world if it continues unchecked. Engineers have played a role in these studies, but they usually have not taken the lead. Geo-engineering schemes to lower global temperatures were seldom taken seriously by government funding agencies. Some of the ideas “read like a science-fiction script,” Prism reported in 2008: “dumping iron into the ocean to suck carbon dioxide out of the air, shielding the Earth from the sun with an enormous orbiting shade, or spewing megatons of light-scattering particles into the air. Such tampering with nature is viewed with suspicion, even hostility, by scientists who fear it could result in unforeseen danger to the planet.” But as measurements of climate change become more accurate, predictions more dire, and results more apparent, engineering solutions may claim center stage. Our February cover story explores the current thinking and, in particular, the work of Leslie Field, a California engineer who is testing ways to prevent melting of the polar ice cap by spreading reflective sand. “The Arctic right now is an incredibly important lever on climate change, and the single safest lever that we can do something about quickly,” Field tells writer Charles Q. Choi.
While Choi describes work in subzero temperatures at the top of the world, Jennifer Pocock explores summer pleasures in Tampa, Fla., host of ASEE’s 2019 Annual Conference. As always, her eyes, ears, and taste buds are alert to the offbeat and colorful. She offers the ingredients of a drink called Sneaky Pete, visits a wilderness preserve, and looks in on Ybor City, once the world’s cigar capital, where chickens and roosters roam free and where you can eat at the world’s largest Spanish restaurant. Tampa’s name, a water taxi captain tells Pocock, “is a typo.” It derives from the Calusa Indian word for lightning—tanpa.
Elsewhere in Prism, don’t miss President Stephanie Farrell’s letter describing her work to promote diversity in the United States and overseas, ASEE’s annual report, and highlights of the Annual Conference. In February’s Last Word, Anu Aggarwal takes aim at the confusing disparities she’s found in course content and degree expectations in various computer fields.
We hope this month’s Prism provides a varied and interesting menu. Your comments are always welcome.