Dickon Ross, editor-in-chief

Editorial: If he builds it will they come?

An introduction to the penultimate E&T issue of the year by our very own editor-in-chief.

Yes, that is the Kevin Costner on our cover, Oscar-winning actor, film director - and investor in oil/water separator technology to clean up the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. E&T's power editor Mark Venables interviewed him, and tells us Costner looked frustrated, worn out and tired by his struggle with the conservative oil industry. The UK's National Health Service budget may have found protection for now in the recent comprehensive spending review, but health budgets everywhere will come under pressure in the long run. When the NHS was launched its architects thought that costs may even fall over time as the population became healthier. Instead, it cured patients who went on to live long enough to get even more disease, survive into older age and then need more expensive new treatments.

Could technology now help to bring the cost down with remote diagnosis and health advice? We investigate what's possible now and might be available in the future on p24. Most visits to the doctor are for trivial ailments and could be avoided, while some of the more expensive healthcare could be better provided in patients' homes given the right technology. Trials and pilots due to report next year indicate technology could save the NHS 100 million doctor's appointments each year, and billions of pounds in health spending.

Nasa has been sending robots into space for decades. The little black boxes on wheels produce some great results - even if they don't quite capture the imagination in the way real live people can. But how about Robonaut? Piers Bizony takes a look at why Nasa is putting the first human-shaped robot into space on p30.

Stephen Hawking's robot-like voice is instantly recognisable, even though he could technically opt for an upgrade; it seems the manner of communication has become synonymous with the professor himself. More recently-diagnosed sufferers of motor neurone disease want to take up the offer of improved communication technology, and sound as much like their accustomed selves as they possibly can. The ingenious JayBee software aims to do just that, and you can see it in action in our latest E&T video online at http://bit.ly/eandt-videos. Its inventor, Ian Schofield, explains on p20 how it captures a patient's own voice with timbre and accent so they can sound much more like themselves.

The Stuxnet worm was a virulent computer virus - a sophisticated attack on a new type of strategic target in the shape of an Iranian nuclear power plant. IET member Dr Richard Piggin assesses the new threat from attacks like Stuxnet on p36. He is a UK Expert to IEC Network & System Security and Cyber Security Working Groups involved in developing the standard IEC 62443 Security for Process Measurement and Control - Network and System Security, so he should know.

We also boast two 'anniversary' interviews in this issue: Lord Rees, on his presidency of the Royal Society in its 350th year, and Sir Robin Saxby, on how he founded Advanced Risc Machines 20 years ago this month.

Finally, what do you think of the Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award? This year's winner will be announced on 8 December and Labour MP Meg Munn urged the government to support the award in a Commons speech last week. Others, though, think it's an outdated scheme. Write to us at engtechletters@theiet.org to let us know.

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