Editor's Window30 Apr, 2007 By: Amy Stankiewicz
Black Holes and Bark Chocolate
It's always an inspiration to find yourself surrounded by some of the leading minds in a given industry. It's exciting to listen as they discuss trends taking place in business and technology and explore ways to capitalize on these trends to ensure ongoing growth and prosperity. I found myself in such a situation in April, during the 8th annual Congress on the Future of Engineering Software (COFES) in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Sponsored by Cyon Research, COFES afforded more than 280 leaders from the engineering software industry the opportunity to explore ideas—from the infinitely large to the amazingly small—that can take the success of this technology far into the future. Attendees flexed theircreative muscle as they discussed ways to better meet the needs of end users and listened to keynotes focused on phenomena ranging from black holes to global warming to the Information Age to the chemical reactions that must take place to create good chocolate.
Of course, what such phenomena have to do with the engineering software industry in the first place may not be readily discernible. But that was the point: to challenge attendees to think past their day-to-day realities and begin making connections between seemingly unrelated occurrences and the potential of the technology that drives our world's designs.
When it comes to black holes, the ratio of surface area to volume is awesome. It's the surface with which we concern ourselves when studying these massive monsters. Such is the case with technology and its relationship to users. It's what's on the surface (what the user sees) that really counts, not everything inside that makes the products work.
To illustrate this point, Dick Morley from Cyon Research passed out pieces of his company's handmade bark chocolate. Although the intricacies involved with making this delicate, highly perish-able candy are crucial, it's how the consumer sees the product—as a delicious, "non-European" dark chocolate belonging to the U.S.—that matters. Thank-fully, Dick also delivered on his promise not to harm any equations during his presentation.
I may have left COFES a pound or two heavier, but I felt enlightened for having spent time with people who were willing to suspend their usual judgments in search of more creative answers to our challenges.
It's been said that necessity is the mother of true invention. I think inspiration is its parent. If that is the case, I think we can expect to see many more exciting advances in our industry's technology in the future.