Hi, everyone! I’m a time-traveller and the new writer for Passion For STEM. I hope you don’t hate my writings too much. To understand the future of Computing, we must first know at least a little about the past. Let’s do some time travelling together, then.
It’s 1000 BCE and we’re in a moneylender’s place in China. We see someone asking for a loan of what is apparently a big amount (We know this because Susan is with us and translates it for us.) (Thanks, Susan.). What do we see the moneylender doing his mathematical calculations on?
It’s a weird rectangular device with lots of little beads in it. Familiar, huh?
This is currently known as The Abacus.
We’re back here. So, the Abacus was invented by the Chinese a long time (we’ll see how long when we take our next trip) before anyone even came close to inventing a device that helped humans in solving their math problems. It was a simple device with very basic operations but still could help a lot when big numbers were into consideration (like we saw at that moneylender’s).
I’m excited to share with you a post from a potential new author Tito who could be joining the Passion For STEM team and focusing on Engineering topics.
Author: Tito Adesanya
Imagine a world where you could take a few dozen images of your brother’s head and within an hour have it delivered to your doorstep in titanium, or in chocolate, if you really wanted – I did it last week. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, that’s our world. Begin digression…
This niche of technology is called 3D scanning, and as already seen impactful use the medical field where doctors have taken multiple images of the severed damaged head of a patient and with the click of a button, transformed it into a 3-dimensional image on a computer screen. This allowed them to zoom in (X100) on blood vessels, rotate the image to assess damage on the chin, and pan over the skull to search for open wounds – all without physically manipulating the fragile and sensitive head. The gem of this technology, though fantastic, can be found at its intersection with 3D printing. Uploading this same head onto some 3D printing software can be done in the same time and be printed. If you were wondering – yes, you can also scan and print and THE Eiffel Tower. Digression over.
3D printing, developed by Chuck Hull in 1983, has since only gained serious traction within the last 10 years, as machines have become over 300 times cheaper. This increased accessibility to the public has paved the way for hobbyists and academics to take centre stage and push the boundaries of what was thought was possible. Since, the University of Southampton has designed and produced the first fully 3D-printed plane, a high-end restaurant in London called Food Ink have 3D printed cakes and Master’s Degree students at MIT printed an entire bungalow in under 24 hours.
The basic technology behind 3D printing, technically called additive layer manufacturing (ALM), initially on ran on a method called stereolithography, but up to 6 further methods have been developed since then. ALM works by taking a computer design of an object, then “slicing” it up into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers – increasing the number of slices increases the quality of the print. The printer then produces the 3D object by printing out these layers on top of each other from the bottom up to form the final product. 3D printing is seeing an increasing number of valuable, and very potentially life-changing uses, many of them gaining increasing support from governmental bodies.
From Monday 24th to Friday 28th July 2017 I had attended a residential Sciences Summer School which made me even more set on a future career in STEM (which I didn’t think was possible, haha) and especially medicine. Moreover, I made an abundance of fellow nerd friends who didn’t make me feel as lonely. There were a total of 58 fifth year pupils from all different backgrounds, Scottish, English, Welsh and 1 lone Northern Irish guy but somehow we all connected in a way which prior to the summer school, I believe to be impossible in the span of only a week.
To give myself enough time to travel to the college, I had packed up my bags a day before and arrived to explore the city. Like the tourist I was, I stocked up on a plethora of various fridge magnets depicting medieval buildings and misleadingly sunny postcards which did not accurately depict the British weather. We (10 other people who also travelled down on Sunday) met and were instantly friends. I tried my hand at the out of tune piano and out problems just melted away for a while under the diminishing sunlight.
After everyone else arrived and the different procedural introductions we got stuck in problem solving. (Note: the icebreaker we had to go through did not in fact break-the-ice for it was a bingo involving facts of students. An absurd example being to find someone with blue sockswhich I was only one of a precious few.) The director of studies did not treat us like kids, as a brilliant mathematician he questioned our intuition. After explaining Claude Shannon’s Information theory, he asked an array of mind-bending questions, but even the simplest one caused commotion amongst budding mathematicians:
“I have a bottle and a cap, together costing £1.10. The bottle costs exactly £1 more than the cap so my questions to you is: How much does the cap cost?”