In This Issue
The Bridge: 50th Anniversary Issue
January 7, 2021 Volume 50 Issue S
This special issue celebrates the 50th year of publication of the NAE’s flagship quarterly with 50 essays looking forward to the next 50 years of innovation in engineering. How will engineering contribute in areas as diverse as space travel, fashion, lasers, solar energy, peace, vaccine development, and equity? The diverse authors and topics give readers much to think about! We are posting selected articles each week to give readers time to savor the array of thoughtful and thought-provoking essays in this very special issue. Check the website every Monday!
Articles In This Issue
  • Thursday, January 7, 2021
    AuthorRonald Latanision and Cameron Fletcher

    We are delighted to celebrate the 50th year of publication of the NAE’s flagship quarterly with this special issue featuring 50 essays looking forward to the next 50 years of innovation in engineering.

    From its early days as a 4-page member newsletter, The Bridge has evolved to a thematic ...

  • Thursday, January 7, 2021
    AuthorAsad M. Madni and Ming Hsieh

    At a lunch table during the 2019 NAE annual meeting in Washington, we joined Editor in Chief Ron Latanision, Managing Editor Cameron Fletcher, and NAE Director of Programs Guru Madhavan in a conversation about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the publication of The Bridge. They were considering a ...

  • Monday, January 11, 2021
    AuthorJohn L. Anderson

    In theory there is no difference between theory
    and practice, while in practice there is.

    The intention to “do good” is not always realized in the engineering of artifacts, processes, and systems. Innovations have led to many improvements in health, security, and quality of life, ...

  • Monday, January 11, 2021
    AuthorSheila Jasanoff


    Chemistry, physics, and biology took turns shaping the frontiers of industrial development from the mid-19th century onward, but this century’s future belongs squarely to engineering.

    This is an era of unprecedented convergence across multiple fields, propelled by breakthroughs in ...

  • Monday, January 18, 2021
    AuthorJoseph G. Allen and John D. Macomber

    Fifty years seems a very long time in the future for most industries. Not so in buildings and real estate; built structures routinely last decades if not hundreds of years, as long as they are economically competitive. Any discussion of the 50-year future has to consider existing stock as well as ...

  • Monday, February 15, 2021
    AuthorSally M. Benson

    In the grips of a global pandemic that knocked everyone off their feet, what can be learned about responding to the growing threat of climate change?

    Parallels between the Covid-19 Pandemic and Climate Change

    Scientific experts had been warning that another global pandemic was a virtual certainty ...

  • Monday, February 8, 2021
    AuthorRobert A. Brown and Kenneth Lutchen

    The world and engineering were simpler half a century ago when The Bridge published its first edition, just a few years after the founding of the National Academy of Engineering. The world was less globalized, less connected; only a few countries competed for global economic preeminence. All this ...

  • Monday, January 11, 2021
    AuthorTom H. Byers and Tina L. Seelig

    Now more than ever it is critically important for engineering graduates to be prepared to evaluate the consequences of the technologies they invent and scale.

    In the past the impacts of new technologies—from nuclear power to genetic engineering—emerged over decades, and government ...

  • Monday, January 18, 2021
    AuthorArup K. Chakraborty and Bernhardt L. Trout

    Human history is inextricably linked with infectious diseases. Smallpox and plague pandemics and epidemics have afflicted humans since antiquity. As recently as the 19th century, roughly one in 100 people living in New York City died of tuberculosis.

    To an inhabitant of the 19th century, the early ...

  • Monday, February 8, 2021
    AuthorLance R. Collins

    In fall 2017 ecommerce and cloud computing giant Amazon announced that it was going to build a second US headquarters and cities could compete for the 50,000 jobs that would accompany “HQ2.” The company received nearly 240 proposals.

    While most leaned heavily on tax incentives, ...

  • Monday, February 1, 2021
    AuthorNicholas M. Donofrio

    I have spent over 50 years as an engineer, technologist, and business leader committed to innovation. Innovation has been, is, and always will be the leading edge of economic, social, educational, and governmental success.

    But we’re holding innovation back. Not because, as conventional ...

  • Monday, February 15, 2021
    AuthorKerry A. Emanuel

    I am a climate scientist highly motivated to find the best and fastest route to decarbonizing energy. As with many of my colleagues, I have felt an obligation to engage directly with the public on the issue of anthropogenic climate change. Collectively, we have become adept at presenting the ...

  • Monday, January 25, 2021
    AuthorMaryann P. Feldman and Paige A. Clayton

    The past 50 years have arguably been defined by economics and the neoliberal agenda, marked by the rise of economic reasoning, with its emphasis on a free market ideology (Applebaum 2019). The focus on markets and a diminished role of government have failed to deliver on the promise of widespread ...

  • Monday, January 25, 2021
    AuthorRichard N. Foster

    As the world reels from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, growing climate instabilities (including the worst forest fires in California’s and Colorado’s history, as well as unusually numerous hurricanes), and increasing distrust among the world’s nations, questions about ...

  • Monday, February 22, 2021
    AuthorSara J. Gamble

    Quantum computing emerged as a research area in the late 20th century yet has only recently experienced a dramatic rise in press coverage and corresponding popularity. While some of this is inevitably rooted more in hype than science, a look into the future suggests that quantum computers do, in ...

  • Monday, February 22, 2021
    AuthorJuan E. Gilbert

    The 2000 presidential election forever changed voting in the United States. In that election Florida used a paper ballot that left voters uncertain about their selections after they cast their ballot. Analysis of the paper ballots showed that the voters were right to be uncertain. The entire nation ...

  • Monday, January 18, 2021
    AuthorAnita Goel

    The consciousness with which science is pursued plays a critical role in shaping scientific worldviews, the fundamental questions asked, and the technologies created and their ultimate impacts on society.

    My childhood exposure, while growing up in the rural landscapes of -Mississippi, to ...

  • Monday, February 1, 2021
    AuthorLatonia M. Harris

    What might the US engineering community look like in 50 years? As an African American woman I belong to an underrepresented group in this community. My story may provide some clues on how to ensure a robust engineering pipeline.

    Born in Selma and raised in Detroit, I come from a working-class ...

  • Monday, February 8, 2021
    AuthorLinda A. Hill

    Engineering education should be reimagined to create a new generation of technical leaders prepared to dream, invent, and steward the future.

    What Do I Mean by a Technical Leader?

    I mean a leader like Ed Catmull, cofounder of Pixar, who with his colleagues leveraged the intersection of ...

  • Monday, February 15, 2021
    AuthorJenna R. Jambeck

    In 1970 just over 30 million metric tons of plastics were produced globally for use; now that number stands at 359 million metric tons (Geyer et al. 2017[1]; PlasticsEurope 2019). As of 2017, a cumulative 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics had been produced.

    Plastics are unquestionably useful. ...

  • Monday, January 18, 2021
    AuthorIk-Kyung Jang, Monica S. Jang, and Ronald M. Latanision

    Over 4 million people are admitted to hospitals annually with a diagnosis of acute coronary syndrome (ACS), which includes unstable angina and acute heart attack. The three most common underlying mechanisms for ACS are plaque rupture (40–60 percent), plaque erosion (40–60 percent), and ...

  • Monday, February 22, 2021
    AuthorKen Krechmer

    Predicting the future using technical standards seems counterintuitive, but examining their history indicates otherwise. Six successions of technical references/standards—symbols, measurements, designs, similarity, compatibility, and adaptability (figure 1)—are based on general set ...

  • Monday, February 22, 2021
    AuthorRobert W. Lucky

    There is a quotation about predicting the future attributed to Alan Kay, a pioneer in computer science. “The best way to predict the future,” he said, “is to invent it.”

    Of course, we engineers do often invent the future, but sometimes not the futures that we had intended. ...

  • Monday, January 11, 2021
    AuthorDaniel Metlay

    In 1973 the German philosopher Hans Jonas posed the central ethical test for modern technological society. He observed that previously the “good and evil about which action had to care lay close to the act, either in the praxis itself or in its immediate reach,” whereas a new ...

  • Monday, February 22, 2021
    AuthorJoel N. Myers

    In The Signal and the Noise, the noted statistical analyst Nate Silver (2012) examined forecasts in many categories and found that most demonstrate little or no skill and have made little or no progress in accuracy over the decades. The lone exception he found was weather forecasting. Before ...

  • Monday, January 25, 2021
    AuthorTim O’Reilly

    “A victory small enough to be organized is too small to be decisive,” wrote Eliot Janeway (1951, p. 16) in his history of the mobilization of American industry during World War II. A great victory required an upwelling of energy from all parts of society. That energy could not be ...

  • Monday, February 1, 2021
    AuthorKristala L.J. Prather

    Every new year prompts past reflections and new expectations, but some feel more significant than others. As the year 2000 arrived, the world ­anxiously waited to see whether a seamless conversion of global data systems from two- to four-digit representation would avert a “Y2K” ...

  • Monday, February 1, 2021
    AuthorAinissa Ramirez

    When thinking about how technologies will impact life decades from now, the past holds many lessons and warnings. I have come to this realization after spending several years examining old inventions for my book The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another (Ramirez 2020).


  • Monday, February 15, 2021
    AuthorJosé G. Santiesteban and Thomas F. Degnan Jr.

    Transportation is a large and diverse sector that encompasses road (passenger and freight vehicles), aviation, marine, and rail transport. In 2018 this sector accounted for nearly a quarter of global anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions,[1] so efforts to decarbonize it are critical to achieving ...

  • Monday, January 11, 2021
    AuthorKentaro Toyama

    About 5 years ago the number of mobile phone accounts in the world exceeded the total human population (ITU 2019). Nomadic pastoralists in East Africa and tribal communities in South Asia make fluent use of cellphones, even where life is otherwise preindustrial, even preagrarian. As measured by the ...

  • Monday, January 18, 2021
    AuthorSihong Wang

    Over the past few decades information technology (IT) has suffused every corner of society and reshaped the way people live, communicate, work, and entertain themselves. The next 50 years are likely to yield another generational change in electronics, and corresponding changes in people’s ...