In This Issue
Winter Bridge: A Global View of Big Data
December 15, 2014 Volume 44 Issue 4

Editor's Note: Forward

Monday, December 15, 2014

Author: Ronald M. Latanision

Big Data affect the lives of every one of us. From governmental affairs to economic growth to personal privacy concerns, the opportunities and challenges of Big Data are universal in many respects. I want to thank Guest Editor Yong Shi, director of the Key Research Laboratory on Big Data Mining and Knowledge Management and executive deputy director of the Research Center on Fictitious Economy and Data Science, both at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, for assembling authors from around the world to contribute to this issue. The winter issue typically presents contributions from the US Frontiers of Engineering (FOE) symposium, and we are grateful to Janet Hunziker for agreeing to defer this year’s FOE issue to accommodate the timely publication of articles on this fast-moving topic.

This issue features the second of our interviews with engineers who have broadly affected the culture of this nation. An interview with poet engineer Richard Blanco appeared in the fall issue, and for this issue Managing Editor Cameron Fletcher and I spoke with former New Hampshire Governor and White House Chief of Staff (in the administration of President George H.W. Bush) John Sununu, who is also an MIT-educated mechanical engineering PhD and an NAE member. On the day we spoke with him, he was about to leave for Kennebunkport to meet with President Bush about a book that John is writing and for which a publisher’s deadline was looming. I am grateful to him for taking the time to speak with us. Our conversation ranged broadly and included the path that led Dr. Sununu from academics to politics, his advice to engineers who may have an interest in public office, and the role that his engineering education played in his life in public service. In terms of the latter, we spoke about the Clean Air Act of 1990 and cap and trade policy.

We also talked about CO2, global climate change, and the anomalous behavior of the ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctica, a conversation that I found exceedingly interesting. While there is documented evidence of increases in global mean temperature and in the global average sea level as well as a decrease in the northern hemisphere snow cover, Dr. Sununu pointed out that the thickness of the ice cap in Antarctica is increasing. He challenged me to look into this, and I promised that I would. One of my colleagues, Professor Paige Novak of the University of Minnesota, directed me to an NSF study, by University of Washington oceanographer Jinlun Zhang, that suggests that stronger polar winds lead to an increase in Antarctic sea ice thickness despite a global warm-up.1 Whether all of this is typical of the natural global climate oscillations or has been accelerated by humans, it is important in terms of our future on this planet for researchers and policymakers to converge in terms of meaningful CO2 policy, and in my view there is no good reason to delay such conversation.

The spring 2015 issue of the Bridge will feature selected presentations from this year’s FOE symposium sessions on Co-Robotics, Technologies for the Heart, Battery Anxiety, and Shale Gas and Oil.

As always, I welcome feedback from our readers. Please send your comments directly to me at


1 Zhang J. 2014. Modeling the impact of wind intensification on Antarctic sea ice volume. Journal of Climate 27(1):202–214.


About the Author:Ronald M. Latanision (NAE) is a senior fellow at Exponent, Inc. in Natick, MA.