Are Computers Really Everywhere?

Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them. ~Aflred North Whitehead

Our society today is heavily tech driven. You can’t just walk down a city street or through a park without noticing some form of computing technology being used right around the corner. You might be surprised by the most obscure things that actually use computer systems like sensors.

I would like to point out one interesting example of everyday computer systems that was brought up in class was traffic signals. Signals are programmed to switch between going, slowing down, and stopping at regular intervals. These intervals can be modified with the changing events and seasons. For example on Kansas State football game days, Kimball avenues traffic light is usually green to allow the humongous amount of traffic from die-hard football fans  to pass through, while those waiting to cross on browning are forced to find other ways around. During the fall and winter months  in Manhattan, traffic lights are adjusted especially with streets near the campus to accommodate the increased number of undergraduate/graduate students that are here. Traffic is also regulated through infrared sensors usually in the form of the cameras on top of the lights. These can adjust signals based on the number of cars waiting in each lane.

On the topic of sensors the first question that should be asked is, what technically defines a sensor? A sensor Wikipedia claims is a converter that measures a physical quantity and converts it into a signal which can be read by an observer or by an (today mostly electronic) instrument. A good rule of thumb for sensors are:

1. The sensor focuses on measuring the intended substance, temperature, property, etc…

2. Does not sense any other measurement (this could lead to inaccuracies in the data!)

3. Does not manipulate the data in any way

One example that comes to my mind is animal research. For example, research teams that are studying the eating, mating, and various habits of great white sharks will subdue a shark by baiting it with delicious food. After the shark is deemed safe to work on, scientist will attach sensors that can monitor the sharks position, perhaps stomach contents, and other tidbits of data. They could get a good idea of the sharks medical condition if there was an anomaly  in its usual patterns.

Sensors are also quite useful in areas of fault lines, avalanche zones, and areas consistent with forest fires. Sensors can pick up anomalies based off of the usual data and send said data back to researchers, which in turn could save lives and the environment. These sensors could also dispatch information to firefighters/rescue crews in aiding them on how to approach and deal with the situation.

An obvious area using sensors is in the medical field of study. For example people with diabetes have tools that can measure the amount of blood sugar in their system in order to prevent a diabetic attack. Heartbeat monitors for someone on a sickbed keep track of a persons condition if they are gravely injured so that doctors can act if that persons heart begins to give out.

That is just some examples of technology being used in everyday life. Among the ones that I listed there are tons more that help ease and prevent accidents and death as we go on throughout our day.


Class Lecture

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