Monthly Archives: November 2005

Color Management in MATLAB

Earlier this week The MathWorks published my article Color Management and Color Transformations in MATLAB. Enjoy!

Posted in Color and Vision, Computing, MATLAB | Leave a comment


Deepti (दीप्ती) asked for elaboration on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis today at lunch, which brought about some interesting conversation on the subject of languages affecting the way we see the world.

Since I mentioned the article, I figured I had best read it again more carefully. Yup, it remains unchanged (and unproven) from when I learned about it in my linguistics and cognitive science class all those years ago. But what a little gem I found in the Wikipedia entry along the way: E-Prime, a subset of English that doesn’t allow forms of the verb “to be.”

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The brain drain . . .

Every quarter the president of my company reads off a list of all of the names of the new employees. We hired a lot of people worldwide over the last half year, and for the first time that I can remember Jack just read off first names. I must confess to mixed feelings; it’s fun listening to someone try to pronounce a white pages’ listing of names from different nationalities, but I like short meetings.

So as I followed along and looked over the pictures and full names of our new employees as they were displayed on the big screens at the front of the conference room, I was struck by something: We are an incredibly diverse company and are becoming diverse more rapidly than before.

I liked this. We hire the best and hardest working people that apply, as any company should. And the people we hire bring in their own experiences and points of view that are often decidedly different from native-born Americans — all of which makes the company stronger. In my seven years at the company, I’ve worked directly with people born in India, Ireland, Texas, Pakistan, The USSR, Poland, Canada, The UK, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Lebanon, Jordan, China, Hong Kong, Egypt, Israel, Vietnam, and South Africa in addition to the U.S. (I’m sure I’m leaving some out, too.)

Of course, some at the company have noted the large percentage of the new hires born abroad, especially Desis and folks from China and the CIS nations. Often it’s Nimmi thinking about her fellow NRIs.

Clearly this is a manifestation of brain drain. And since we don’t hire people unless they are capable of “working in the U.S.” (i.e., have an H1-B visa), our new employees usually live here already, often because they’ve just gotten degrees. The idea that people flock here to live under our wonderful democratic system certainly fills us with warm fuzzy feelings, but really it’s purely economic. We have things they need — high-paying jobs and superlative higher education — that are difficult or impossible to get in their native countries.

As much as I love my foreign-born friends and think no ill toward my resident alien coworkers, the phenomena has serious long-term implications for the U.S. economy. In much the same way that the negative effects of our trade deficit are offset by Chinese investment in our currency, the strength of our “innovation economy” (which is much championed by Thomas Friedman and most of my fellow globalization apologists) appears to rest on the intelligence of people who may one day go “home.” The Economist recently noted that brain drain might make those who remain smarter, but it certainly makes us smarter . . . but only temporarily.

One day, probably in my working-lifetime, the masses of humanity in Asia and Eastern Europe who went to top-tier schools but stayed in their country and started businesses will start wooing the emigrés back home. And the country will languish as it depends on me and the other liberal arts folks, and the service economy will falter, and how am I going to make my mortgage then?

Or at least, those were the thoughts that were running through my mind in the night after the company meeting when I first thought, “If these newly hired folks are the face of American doctoral programs, we’re in trouble.”

But is it? Yes!

Percentage of graduate degrees in science and engineering conferred to foreign students, by degree level and field of study: Academic year ending 1994

Field of Study Master’s Doctor’s
Total 12 26.7
Total science and engineering 31.3 40.9
Natural Sciences 25.4 33.5
Life Science 18 27.5
Physical Sciences 31.1 35.6
Mathematics 26.7 48.5
Computer Sciences and Engineering 33.5 52.3
Computer and Information Sciences 37.5 44.8
Engineering 32.1 53.3

1980 = 311,880 students; 2000 = 547,867 students

Source: U.S. Dept. of Education

And if you combine that with international students in sustainable international development, management, and economics graduate programs — students who are more or less determined to put their skills to use outside the U.S. right after graduation — the day that we face challenges due to our present lack of qualified applicants in science and technology is nigh.

Posted in Development | Leave a comment