Letter from the Editor

bridges vol. 19 / October 2008

Dear Reader,

"May you live in interesting times" is an ancient Chinese proverb that sounds like a blessing but is actually meant as a curse.

Whether we are now blessed or cursed, we definitely live in interesting times. Financial markets are in disarray in never before experienced global dimensions; the US is holding crucial presidential elections in less than a month; and pressing matters of global importance like energy supply and climate change, which tend to be overlooked easily in interesting times like these, need to be addressed urgently.

To find solutions for such complex challenges requires thinking outside the box, innovative ideas, and daring to envision the future in completely different ways. In this issue of bridges we want to provide some insight on how people from the S&T community - both scientists and policy makers - deal with the big challenges of our time, what their recommendations are, and how they tackle them.

Christoph Koettl, an Austrian political scientist who is affiliated with Amnesty International USA, argues in his article "When Science Meets Human Rights: Innovative Uses of Geospatial Technologies for Human Rights Monitoring and Conflict Prevention " how a cooperation between Amnesty International and the American Association for the Advancement of Science led to innovative and very effective new approaches in documenting human rights violations in the worlds' crises regions, such as South Ossetia and Darfur.

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick – all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest} Another feature introduces the vision of two young Austrian architects, Siegfried Atteneder and Lorenz Potocnik, who are currently "Visionary Research Fellows" at MIT in Boston.  Their vision of an "East Mediterranean City Belt " seeks to re-map the future of the region by 2050. Their project, or "process," as Atteneder and Potocnik actually prefer to call it, envisions a metropolitan alliance of cities in the East Mediterranean that form a corridor of urbanization along the coast from Turkey to Egypt, thus enabling a peaceful co-existence of the diverse citizenries in the region.

On the policy side, bridges had the pleasure to speak with two US policy experts about their vision for science, technology and innovation policy: Charles Wessner , director of the Program on Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and Austrian-born Physicist and Mathematician Karl Hess , a former member of the National Science Board that establishes the policies of the National Science Foundation (NSF), share their expertise on how to create the right policy environment for innovation to flourish.

In their regular bridges columns, Roger Pielke scrutinizes the role risk models play in financial crisis, and Norman Neureiter dares the murky view into the crystal ball of what the upcoming presidential elections will mean for science and technology in the US.

As always, bridges introduces two outstanding Austrian scientists working in North America. One of them is Arnold Leitner , a physicist and the founder of "Skyfuel", a company with focus on solar power; the other portrait is of Michael Stadler , staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL) at the University of California, Berkeley. Stadler develops energy forecasting tools to determine how innovations can be applied to lower energy costs and reduce emissions while meeting growing energy demands.

Many more articles complete the bridges fall issue: an article on the life story of the amazing Austrian physicist Lise Meitner ; a portrait of the Vienna-based Center for Social Innovation , a worldwide pioneering institute that focus on improving societal development; expert contributions on innovations in runway safety and on the future of Austria's pension system ; and an analysis of the NAS "Rising Above the Gathering Storm " report three years in retrospect.

A comprehensive fall issue of bridges, which - so I hope - will provide you with some inspiring and interesting (meant the positive sense) reading.

Caroline Adenberger




"May you live in interesting times."

The proverb's origin remains unconfirmed since no authentic Chinese saying to this effect has ever been found, see  "May you live in interesting times", curse origin discussion in The New York Times http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/24/a-chinese-curse/