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Frank Huband

Future, in Three Acts

In Washington, it's Cherry Blossom time. The weather is good, and change is in the air. How appropriate, then, that our Prism articles this month share a common thread of change. Our cover story, "'Bye the Book," examines major shifts taking place in educational printing. "Their Future Is Green" considers what developments in pursuit of clean energy will mean to the demand for engineers. "Laureate and Rebel" looks at why a top researcher would win a Nobel Prize and then change careers. Could it be that, as a nation of innovators, we truly embrace change? Perhaps, as someone wiser than I once observed, "Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat."

"'Bye the Book" examines the shifting kaleidoscope world of textbook publishing. Today's educational materials are available in various formats, from print to digital, for purchase, rent, or free. Do we still find the printed textbook the most comfortable, or has digital come of age? Apparently, choices are unpredictable and often surprising. Meanwhile, publishers of teaching and learning materials - to say nothing of Amazon and Apple - are scrambling to figure out which way the $5 billion textbook market is heading.

The Obama administration is placing its bets on the green energy industry and claiming that's where the jobs of tomorrow will be. If this gamble pays off, many of those will be engineering jobs. "Their Future Is Green" reports on the push to develop clean and renewable sources of energy - wind, solar, clean coal, and nuclear. Engineers will be needed to design, manufacture, and operate these new green fuel and power systems. There are differing opinions, however, on whether our engineering schools will be able to produce enough engineers to meet the demand, especially with current state budget cuts that are reducing faculty, staff, and facilities.

In 2001, Carl Wieman shared a Nobel Prize in physics, and then to the dismay of some, he decided to change careers. "Laureate and Rebel" explains why Wieman decided to devote himself to teaching and research on teaching. Indeed, as he told the New York Times, he set about trying to "change the way entire science departments teach." Last October, Wieman shared his views with the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and he didn't mince words. Of introductory physics, he said, "these courses aren't ineffective, they're anti-effective." Last month, President Obama nominated Wieman as associate director for science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

As usual, we are offering a variety of stories for your interest. If you have comments or thoughts, I'd be pleased to hear from you.


Frank L. Huband
Executive Director and Publisher




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