About Steve Bucher

Stephen Bucher is the Director of the Engineering Writing Program at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. He is the founder of and faculty adviser to Illumin magazine.

Algorithmic Art: Beyond the Artist

2020-11-27T16:07:15-08:00 November 10th, 2020|Building & Architecture, Issue I, Volume XX|

Abstract Algorithmic art is on the rise, and it’s expanding our conception of technology and art. Programmers are creating new programs to generate unique visual masterpieces that are beyond their own imaginations. With the use of evolutionary, mathematical, and artificial intelligence algorithms, programmers are bringing computers into the forefront of contemporary art. Introduction What do [...]

Leaving the Light On: Vacuum Tubes and their Reemergence

2017-11-29T17:15:16-08:00 March 21st, 2017|Computer Science, Entertainment, Health & Medicine, Issue I, Lifestyle, Music, Volume XVIII|

Walk into an Urban Outfitters, coffee shop, or cafe in any arts district and you will catch wind of an audio craze that has blown through the younger generation – analog sound. Boycotting digital sound, those who seek warm, analog signals wish to receive their music in a more natural way – not unlike preferring [...]

To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before: Faster-than-Light Travel in the 21st Century

2017-08-11T14:51:43-07:00 June 24th, 2014|Aerospace Engineering|

Albert Einstein’s famous theory of relativity specified that the Universe had a speed limit for all masses. As a result, faster-than-light travel has always been seen as nothing more than science fiction. However, faster-than-light travel may not be so farfetched anymore. Engineers today are working to create the first usable ‘warp drive’, which would allow [...]

Power-Generating Fashion: A Look into Smart Textiles

2017-11-11T17:31:33-08:00 December 7th, 2011|Electrical Engineering, Energy & Sustainability, Ergonomics, Issue III, Material Science, Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Volume XIII|

Technology has advanced the functions of clothing to a new level through the creation of power-generating textiles. These materials are made of solar cell or piezoelectric fabric that will allow enough electricity to be generated to recharge a small, portable electronic device. With additional engineering and research, clothing that can recharge any portable electronic device [...]

Silver Nanoparticles: A Valuable Weapon in Microbial Warfare

2017-11-11T17:33:34-08:00 December 4th, 2011|Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Issue III, Material Science, Volume XIII|

Nanotechnology is currently being used as a valuable weapon for combating body odor-causing bacteria. Materials can be manufactured at the ‘nano’ scale, one billion times smaller than the world of meters we currently live in. Nanoparticles provide terrific driving forces for diffusion, which allows chemical reactions to occur at a high rate. In the case [...]

Biology’s Approach to Construction: The Development and Use of Scaffolds in Tissue Engineering

2017-11-11T17:23:53-08:00 July 1st, 2011|Biomedical Engineering, Health & Medicine, Issue III, Material Science, Volume XIII|

The field of tissue engineering has seen significant improvements in the past 10 years, much of which is due to the development of tissue scaffolds. These 3-dimensional, porous structures are perfectly suited for cellular attachment and growth due to their physical similarities to the native extracellular matrix. The ability of scaffolds to be strong yet [...]

No Vacancy: IPv4 Address Depletion and Possible Solutions for the Expanding Internet

2017-11-11T17:28:41-08:00 June 27th, 2011|Communication, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Issue III, Volume XIII|

Internet Protocol (IP) addresses form the foundation of the internet. Every device and website requires an IP address to send and receive information. Unfortunately, IPv4, the current IP address system, is limited to approximately 4 billion possible addresses, a threshold that is quickly approaching as countless new devices connect to the internet. When no IPv4 [...]

If You Can Think It, You Can Print It: Exploring the Possibilities of 3D Printing

2017-11-11T17:25:55-08:00 April 6th, 2011|Computer Science, Issue III, Material Science, Mechanical Engineering, Volume XIII|

Utilizing precision computer control and harnessing advances in materials science, the development of the three-dimensional (3D) printer has opened up a new realm of manufacturing possibilities. The 3D printer is a device which can create three dimensional objects from plastics and metals. Complex geometries and surfaces are now reproducible. While initially developed for the manufacturing [...]

Rescuing or Imprisoning Digital Media

2018-11-07T16:31:28-08:00 March 27th, 2011|Entertainment, Issue II, Volume VII|

Because the Internet makes digital media easily accessible, copyright infringement is a more serious risk than ever before. At the same time, great creative and educational opportunities arise from the unparalleled availability of so much creative work. A system called Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been developed to enforce and protect copyrighted digital media and [...]


2018-11-07T16:32:23-08:00 March 27th, 2011|Chemical Engineering, Issue II, Volume VII|

The refrigerator is an important instrument of food preservation for modern society. The refrigeration cycle is the chemical process that drives the refrigerator and generally consists of four main steps: 1) compression of ammonia refrigerant; 2) cooling of ammonia refrigerant; 3) expansion of ammonia refrigerant; and 4) drawing in of heat from the core of [...]

How Tennis Can Save Soccer: Hawk-Eye Crossing Sports

2017-08-11T15:53:40-07:00 November 10th, 2010|Sports & Recreation|

The 2010 FIFA World cup highlighted one of soccer’s growing issues: incorrect calls that determine the outcomes of games. FIFA President Sepp Blatter has denied the implementation of any technology in soccer multiple times. Elsewhere in sports, tennis currently uses an electronic system called Hawk-Eye that has proven to be extremely effective at judging line [...]

Get That “Just Right” Feel: Incorporating Phase Change Materials Into Textiles

2017-08-09T13:02:34-07:00 November 10th, 2010|Lifestyle|

Since their development by NASA nearly 30 years ago, phase change materials (PCMs) have caught the attention of the textile industry because of their high capacity for heat storage. They make it possible to engineer fabrics that help regulate human body temperature. Depending on the surrounding temperature, phase change materials absorb or release heat, consequently [...]

Inside a Slot Machine

2017-08-09T12:47:48-07:00 November 10th, 2010|Computer Science, Entertainment|

Gambling is a billion dollar industry that attracts millions of people around the world. While games such as Texas Hold ‘Em poker receive more fanfare, by far the most profitable and available attraction in these casinos is the slot machine. While familiar in appearance, these devices are a mystery to the layperson. Dating back to [...]

Recycling Plastics: New Recycling Technology and Biodegradable Polymer Development

2017-08-09T12:48:55-07:00 April 26th, 2010|Energy & Sustainability|

Plastics are usually disposed of in one of three ways: discarded, combusted, or recycled. Of the three options, recycling is least implemented. Because the disposal or combustion of plastics leads to detrimental health and environmental effects, short and long term solutions need to be established. A potential short-term solution would be the development of new [...]

Biomimetics: Engineering Spider Silk

2017-10-26T18:10:35-07:00 November 1st, 2009|Issue I, Material Science, Volume XI|

Spider silk has drawn much attention from engineers in the past 20 years for its toughness and elasticity, properties which may be utilized in applications such as suspension bridge wires, bulletproof vests, and medical adhesives. There remains, however, a mystery behind the production of spider silk. Scientists are intensively studying this process in order for [...]

Engineering the Heart-Lung Machine

2017-10-26T18:11:08-07:00 July 17th, 2009|Health & Medicine, Issue I, Volume XI|

Coronary bypass surgery, widely used to treat cardiovascular disease, involves redirecting a patient’s bloodflow around the heart in order to allow surgeons to operate. Heart-lung machines synthetically oxygenate and pump blood during such surgeries in order to keep the patient alive. The first heart-lung machine dates back to the 1930s and consisted of many of [...]

The Engineering Behind Surfing

2018-11-07T16:33:05-08:00 December 1st, 2005|Issue III, Lifestyle, Physics, Volume VII|

Many people enjoy watching surfers or riding waves; however, few people consider the physical or design aspects of this pastime. The physics of surfing, from the way waves are generated, to the concept of buoyancy, to the physical forces that enable the surfer to ride a wave, show that there is more science than luck [...]

The Science Behind Tennis Racquet Performance and Choosing the Right Racquet

2017-11-11T17:18:44-08:00 November 4th, 2005|Entertainment, Issue II, Mechanical Engineering, Sports & Recreation, Volume VIII|

The quest of finding the perfect tennis racquet can be very arduous. There are so many factors to consider when choosing a racquet. One's playing style along with various features of a racquet should all be taken into consideration. The sweet spot, moment, torque, torsion, impulse reaction, shock, work, power and control are important aspects [...]

The Inner Workings of Speech Recognition

2017-11-11T17:17:11-08:00 November 4th, 2005|Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Issue I, Lifestyle, Volume VIII|

With research focusing on different ways for people to interact with computers, speech recognition is emerging as a very important technology. Whether it is using a voice controlled navigation system in a car, or a voice controlled system over the phone, speech recognition is bound to play a larger role in society. Ultimately, various theories [...]

Planning for Future Generations

2017-11-11T17:15:48-08:00 November 4th, 2005|Biomedical Engineering, Health & Medicine, History & Society, Issue I, Lifestyle, Volume VIII|

The cross-cultural desire for a male birth control "pill" has led the drive for a drug that creates reversible infertility in a safe and reliable manner, while securing sexual freedom and allowing men to partake in the responsibility of family planning. Potential drugs being explored are either hormonally-based and impede the production of sperm, or [...]

Applying Nanotechnology to the Battle Against Cancer

2017-11-11T17:06:46-08:00 November 1st, 2005|Biomedical Engineering, Health & Medicine, Issue I, Volume VIII|

Nanotechnology is a developing field in engineering. The possibilities of nanotechnology currently seem endless with all of the things that can be solved on the nano scale. With that in mind, one of the currently most promising areas of research in the field is in the discipline of Biomedical Engineering. Focusing in on cancer treatments, [...]

The Violin: The Art Behind the Sound

2018-11-07T16:38:31-08:00 October 24th, 2005|Entertainment, Issue I, Material Science, Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Volume VII|

The violin is regarded as one of the most important musical instruments in history, perhaps because of its fundamental role in an orchestra or the inspiration and emotion transferred to the listener upon hearing its powerfully romantic sound. While its construction concentrates on producing impeccable sound, had the violin not adhered to the laws of [...]

Micropropulsion and the Future of Space Exploration

2018-11-07T16:36:24-08:00 October 12th, 2005|Aerospace Engineering, Issue III, Volume VII|

An emerging trend in the space industry today is the shift from large satellites to smaller microsatellites. It is envisioned that groups of microsatellites could communicate with each other, allowing them to increase their functionality and creating very adaptable networks that could replace the functions of larger, more complex spacecraft. The stringent power, weight, and [...]

The Little Plastic Bulb

2018-11-07T16:34:58-08:00 October 10th, 2005|Electrical Engineering, Issue III, Volume VII|

Since being introduced in the 1960's the light emitting diode (LED) has found applications in many areas due to its power efficiency, low power consumption, long life and toughness. Applications include indicator lights on electronic devices, backlights for liquid crystal display screens on cell phones and laptops, traffic lights and even wireless communications and counterfeit [...]

Swimming: A Dragging Battle Against the Forces of Physics

2018-11-07T16:44:07-08:00 September 1st, 2005|Issue II, Physics, Sports & Recreation, Volume VII|

In a sport where a hundredth of a second can make all the difference, swimmers are constantly looking for ways to increase the efficiency of their stroke and improve their times. However, the physical force of drag remains a swimmer's ultimate obstacle. There are multiple forms of drag - friction, pressure, and wave - and [...]

Shampoo Formulation: Perception and Reality

2018-11-07T16:47:57-08:00 September 1st, 2005|Chemical Engineering, Issue II, Lifestyle, Volume VII|

Billions of dollars are spent by consumers on hair care products every year, mostly on shampoo. Consumers are bombarded every day by advertising that promises stronger, shinier, healthier hair. Actually, differentiating additives, such as vitamins, account for small percentages of shampoo ingredients. The consumer may be shocked to hear that many advertised promises fall flat [...]

Tension Fabric: Waves of the Future

2018-11-07T16:46:37-08:00 July 21st, 2005|Civil Engineering, Issue I, Material Science, Volume VII|

While architecture based on tension has been used since ancient times, almost every permanent structure in the world, until about 50 years ago, was based on compression loading. Beginning in the 1950's, there was a renewed interest in tension structures led by the German architect Frei Otto. As a result of research performed by Otto [...]

The Evolution of GPS

2018-11-07T16:40:50-08:00 May 2nd, 2005|Communication, Issue I, Volume VII|

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is rapidly becoming an integral part of our everyday lives. The system, created by the United States Department of Defense in 1973, has gone through many changes since its introduction to the public in 1995. GPS uses the concept of trilateration to provide your location, but relies on Differential GPS [...]

Terraforming Mars

2017-10-26T19:07:39-07:00 May 1st, 2005|Aerospace Engineering, Space|

Mars, a planet once warm enough to support water, is now a cold and dry wasteland unable to sustain human life. Many scientists believe that through the introduction of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, the Martian environment can be terraformed into a planet like Earth. Possible methods for introducing carbon dioxide include the spread of [...]

American Football: That Magic Yellow Line

2018-11-07T16:42:14-08:00 April 6th, 2005|Issue III, Sports & Recreation, Volume VII|

Virtual technology has brought a whole new perspective to watching football from your couch. The implementation of first-down lines in television broadcasts of America's homegrown sport has provided fans with a viewing experience that integrates cutting edge technology into the fast-paced world of athletics. This single yellow line may appear simple enough; however, its appearance [...]

The Future of the Panama Canal

2017-10-26T18:12:04-07:00 March 1st, 2005|Civil Engineering, Issue I, Volume II|

This article explores the future of the Panama Canal as part of the global transportation system. Beginning with a brief overview of how vessels pass through the canal this article outlines the canal's importance to the global economy. It identifies three problems the canal is faced with regarding efficient traffic flow: the transfer of authority, [...]

Doping in Sports: Blood Oxygenation Enhancement

2018-11-07T10:27:38-08:00 December 8th, 2004|Health & Medicine, Issue I, Sports & Recreation, Volume VI|

Doping is the use of performance enhancing drugs or methods by athletes to gain a competitive advantage. Blood oxygenation enhancement is a type of doping that artificially increases an individual's hemoglobin concentration above normally occurring levels. Two common methods of blood doping are blood transfusion, or the transfer of blood into a person's vein, and [...]

The Beauty of Science: New Technologies in Art Restoration

2017-08-11T15:41:43-07:00 December 8th, 2004|Physics|

As museum-goers, we often assume that artwork looks just as the artist intended it to look. This is generally not the case, as the passage of time necessarily degrades art, often in the form of dirt or cracks. The use of two technologies, laser ablation and bacteria, is helping to restore artwork to its intended [...]

Michelangelo’s Motion Picture

2018-11-07T10:30:06-08:00 October 24th, 2004|Art, Computer Science, Issue II, Volume VI|

With the recent boom in digital technology, science has opened the doors to historical secrets. For years, engineering has paved the path to knowledge. Now, it has come to the aid of aesthetes, uncovering the mysteries hidden for us by history's master artists. 3D scanning provides art historians with virtual models of sculptures whose accuracy [...]

Medical MacGyvers

2018-11-07T16:09:58-08:00 October 24th, 2004|Health & Medicine, Issue II, Volume VI|

Engineers at Numotech Inc. and Sandia National Laboratories have designed a device that can reduce the healing period for many different types of wounds including plastic surgery incisions, burns, and necrotizing fasciitis. The most striking feature of the product is its simplicity, which hides the enormous amount of engineering that went into creating it. The [...]

Getting the Boot

2018-11-07T16:09:44-08:00 October 24th, 2004|Ergonomics, Issue II, Sports & Recreation, Volume VI|

Beneath even the biggest soccer stars is a pair of shoes designed and tested by engineers to push the limits of the game. The soccer boot (the traditional name for a soccer shoe) has evolved a great deal in form and function, particularly in the past few decades. To keep up with the sport's growing [...]

Base Isolation

2017-08-09T12:53:06-07:00 October 24th, 2004|Building & Architecture, Civil Engineering|

Base isolation has become a major feature of structural design in the past few decades. While a relatively simple concept, base isolation has a long and involved history of engineering influence and will take many more years to refine. Base isolators act on well-understood physical principles such as energy, oscillation, and damping. Rubber bearing base [...]


2018-11-07T16:49:39-08:00 October 12th, 2004|Entertainment, Issue III, Volume VII|

Engineers have created a tool known as the sampler that allows the user to play a prerecorded sound at any time. The sound can also be pitched, stretched, cut up, rearranged, looped, layered and reversed. Through the sampler, engineers have profoundly influenced music and the way that it is produced as well as interpreted and [...]

Engineering Water: Finding Solutions to a Drying Well

2018-11-07T10:37:58-08:00 September 1st, 2004|Energy & Sustainability, Environmental Engineering, Issue II, Volume VI|

The global fresh water supply has become a major concern as most third world nations, and even some developed countries, face the disconcerting reality that drinkable water is running out. To solve this newly realized crisis, engineers are offering the world new, innovative techniques for water purification. Nanotechnology, technological development on the nanometer scale, is [...]

Biodiesel: A Realistic Alternative?

2017-10-26T18:24:11-07:00 May 23rd, 2004|Energy & Sustainability|

Biodiesel is a renewable source of energy that could potentially reduce the world's dependence on coal and crude oil. It is a byproduct of refined vegetable and soybean oils, and it contains almost the same amount of energy per gallon as traditional diesel while having cleaner emissions when consumed. Biodiesel is not a mainstream fuel [...]

The Botox Lowdown: Science, Safety, and Success

2018-11-07T16:07:54-08:00 May 4th, 2004|Health & Medicine, Issue II, Lifestyle, Volume VI|

The Botox injection is by far the most popular cosmetic procedure performed today. Botox, or Botulinum toxin A, works by blocking the release of a key chemical, acetylcholine, preventing the transmittal of signals from nerve cells to muscles. This unique effect makes it useful clinically in treating neurological and neuromuscular disorders and cosmetically in smoothing [...]

Shedding Light on Blindness

2018-11-07T11:09:16-08:00 December 8th, 2003|Electrical Engineering, Health & Medicine, Issue I, Volume VI|

Two retinal diseases, Age- Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), are the leading causes of blindness in individuals over the age of 65. Despite various treatments such as gene therapy and retinal tissue transplant, physicians have thus far been unable to combat the blinding effects of these diseases. With the knowledge that AMD [...]

Broadband over Power Lines

2018-11-07T11:07:08-08:00 October 24th, 2003|Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Issue I, Volume VI|

In order to bring high-speed internet to areas where developing a traditional broadband infrastructure would be cost prohibitive, engineers have recently begun working on developing techniques for delivering broadband internet signals over the existing power supply grid. By using an entirely different frequency range, power lines can carry traditional AC power and data signals simultaneously. [...]

Multiple Access Schemes for Mobile Phones

2017-11-02T15:35:06-07:00 September 1st, 2003|Communication, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Issue I, Volume VI|

Mobile phones allow users to place calls, send text messages, and receive updates from the internet. Information from a mobile phone is sent and received by way of electromagnetic waves. All information is encoded prior to transmission, decoded upon arrival, and must be sent so that many users can share the cellular system without mutual [...]

Improving the Bicycle

2017-11-03T17:22:30-07:00 December 28th, 2002|Issue I, Lifestyle, Transportation, Volume V|

Bicycles have been around for many years and are constantly being researched and improved. Many disciplines of science and engineering are necessary in making the bicycle what it is today and will be in the future. Since the appearance of the first bicycle in the late 1700s, this machine has evolved from a simple wooden [...]

Chemical Engineering Your Dinner

2017-10-30T11:12:41-07:00 August 15th, 2002|Chemical Engineering, Food & Drink, Issue I, Lifestyle, Volume III|

The field of chemical engineering has existed since World War I, yet many may have trouble describing what a Chemical Engineer actually does. Chemical Engineering has allowed Americans to enjoy a higher quality of life through the benefits of the products these engineers produce. In fact, industrial processes used by Chemical Engineers are so widespread [...]

Engineering a Smooth Ride: Creating the Perfect Ski Through Shaping and Vibration Damping

2018-11-07T15:57:44-08:00 March 30th, 2002|Entertainment, Issue III, Lifestyle, Sports & Recreation, Volume VI|

Although snow skis appear to be very basic products, the engineering behind them is surprisingly involved. The type of skiing and type of snow conditions dictate the required ski geometry. Avid skiers have longed for a high-performance, all-around ski. Vibration caused by high speeds and tough terrain has been a significant problem faced by engineers [...]