Science policy fellowships @ UCSD

For STEM doctoral students at UCSD who have policy interests but are not in social science fields. I have advised several students in this program, and it has been useful for all of them.

Drawing applicants from UC San Diego’s STEM related programs, each year the School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) selects three doctoral students from across campus and pairs them with a GPS faculty advisor to explore the policy implications of their dissertation research.

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Drone crashes: EEs always underestimate the difficulty of precision manufacturing!

In documents filed in federal court this week, the San Francisco company Lily Robotics blames its demise on excessive product demand and a funding drought.  Source: Lily details failure, refund plans in bankruptcy filing

After getting burned by one Kickstarter project that died, I realized that very smart EEs think that if they can make 3 prototypes, everything else is just “details.” But high-volume, tight-tolerance manufacturing is its own field, and competition from excellent companies is stiff. So even if it eventually succeeds, by the time a Kickstarter hardware project has filled its initial orders,  conventional companies will have equivalent products in the stores.

For my former students in BGGE: Hong Kong Disneyland, reprised

Prof. Steph Haggard and I taught a course on government/private sector relationships for many years, called BGGE (business and government in the global economy – pronounced “big-e”). One of the cases was a 2-day slog through the negotiations between Walt Disney Corp.(WDC) and the Hong Kong government, about setting up the first Disney theme park in China.

The punch-line of the case was that WDC would win whether the park was profitable or not, because it received royalties as a fraction of the gross revenue. It also extracted lots of favorable financing from the HK government.

According to this article, one of the feared scenarios in the case has happened. WDC built a second Disney park in China (Shanghai), and within six months of its opening, it is siphoning away visitors. And sure enough, it looks like WDC and the HK government are playing the same game again: pumping subsidies into the park to boost attendance, with the side effect of helping WDC.

Source: Hong Kong Disneyland, Seeking Return to Profit, Plans $1.4 Billion Upgrade – The New York Times

Excerpts:

But the scope of the enhancements also reflects the difficult spot in which Hong Kong Disneyland finds itself. Despite more than $600 million in added attractions in recent years, including three new themed areas and a nighttime parade, the park lost about $20 million last year, according to financial filings.

The renewed focus on Hong Kong Disneyland, with its lush gardens and collection of classic Disney rides, comes just six months after the opening of the Shanghai resort, which generated global headlines for its opulence. Disney has suggested that the Shanghai park will attract 10 million visitors in its first year; four million people visited in the peak summer months alone.

Hong Kong leaders, already feeling insecure about the ascension of Shanghai as a financial capital, do not want their Disneyland to be viewed as a lesser property.

 

Each new generation needs to learn the lesson of Theranos: appearance ≠ reality

Every 10 years or so, a conspicuous bubble bursts, and in doing so it resets the expectations of the next generation of young adults.

  • Enron
  • 2008 financial collapse
  • Now Theranos

Reading this article, I’m astonished at how little substance the adulation of Elizabeth Holmes was based on. And how much secrecy her investors allowed her. Given that she was claiming that her system would be ~100x better than established technologies, why didn’t they demand evidence? Why was it left to a reporter to figure out that the emperor had no clothes? And, was she nothing more than a successful con-artist with no genuine scientific expertise?

“In a searing investigation into the once lauded biotech start-up Theranos, Nick Bilton discovers that its precocious founder defied medical experts—even her own chief scientist—about the veracity of its now discredited blood-testing technology.”

Source: Exclusive: How Elizabeth Holmes’s House of Cards Came Tumbling Down | Vanity Fair