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The problem of standing at the beginning of a milleninium and seeking to make predictions about new developments in the technology with which systems engineers will need to contend in the coming millennia is an exercise in utter foolishness; it may be possible to make somewhat reasonable projections for ten or, with luck, twenty-five years ... but certainly not a thousand.The premium in this latter case is on adaptability. As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change."

The underlying truth of this observation can be seen simply by turning the hands of the clock back a thousand years and asking if a well-educated individual at the turn of the last millennium would have been likely to have had any inkling of the advent of the printing press or the electronic digital computer. The notion that humans could fly would then have still been nine centuries away, and traveling to the moon, while exciting, would turn out to be left to the last sliver of the millennia ... as would most of the other scientific and technological achievements profoundly affecting our lives today. A brave forecast would probably have been far more concerned with the mounting problems of pollution of roads from horses and donkeys, and of diseases such as smallpox than it would have been with concern over trash mail on the Internet and computer viruses disrupting the global banking system.

It does seem evident that many of the issues seriously affecting humankind as we enter a new millennium are, at their root, systems engineering problems - often having a remarkably high technology content but seldom having simple answers. A listing of such challenges might include the provision of food throughout society, the maintenance of a strong global economy, the elimination of crime, the modernization of the transportation system, and the provision of energy, health care, security, and education. Global leadership in the twenty-first century could well become the province of systems engineers . . . if indeed they choose to accept the challenge.


( IEEE Aerospace & Electronic Systems Magazine, Jubilee Issue, October 2000 )

I. Read the text ‘Is it possible to make predictions?’ and find the answers to the questions:


1. What scientific and technological achievements of the past century affect our lives today?

2. What problems does mankind face in the 21st century?

3. Does the text answer the question put in its headline?

4. Do you agree with Ch. Darwin’s idea stated in the text?


II. Translate the text.




Although microelectronics continue to shrink and more and more processors are embedded in aerospace and electronic systems, even more drastic size reductions are on the horizon. Nanotechnology works at the molecular level to create complex new systems. Chip level integration, including mixing of technologies in the same wafer, is just around the corner. As electronic and mechanical elements are combined on the same piece of silicon, MEMS builds complex machines so small that they are measured in microns. MEMS include systems that integrate electrical, mechanical, optical, fluidic, magnetic and other technologies. The research is supporting the integration of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) gears and actuators into semiconductor assemblies. Micromirrors that individually move can serve as a low cost fiber optics switch. Familiar MEMs that total more than $1 billion in sales include airbag accelerometers, medical pressure sensors, and ink jet printer heads. We may soon have entire inertial guidance systems on a chip combined with a GPS(Global Positioning System) receiver. How far can system size be reduced? Is an entire system on a chip very far away?

Look around. Let your engineering imagination run. Keep in mind that, whatever you envision, the chances are excellent. It will be a system or systems of systems, and will require the experience of many systems and subsystems engineers to bring it into everyday use.


( IEEE Aerospace & Electronic Systems Magazine, Jubilee Issue, October 2000 )



I. Read the text ‘Nano-technology and Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) – Systems of Systems’ and get its central idea.


II. Say which of the facts in the text seems to you the most interesting and new.


III. Find in the text and put down the key words.


IV. Use the key words to retell the text.

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