Many a sci-fi flick portrays a future Earth becoming victimized by an army of brain-sucking mutants from outer space.  Turns out that brain-sucking is occurring a little closer to home in real life, and it has nothing to do with alien mutants:

While the 20th century had the arms race, the competition in this century will be a brains race, says science policy analyst Michael Lubell of the American Physical Society.  ‘Today’s Sputnik? It’s a little bigger. It’s called China’.  Twenty years ago the United States, Japan and China each graduated a similar number of engineers, with South Korea graduating about half as many. By 2000, Japan has increased its output by 42% to 103,200, South Korea has recorded an 140% increase to 57,650 engineers, according to Jischke. In contrast, the number of US engineering graduates had declined by 20% to less than 60,000. In 2004, China graduated 500,000 engineers, India, 200,000, and North America, 70,000, says a National Academy of Sciences report. If this trend persists, then by 2010 more than 90% of all scientists and engineers will live in Asia, fears Jischke. Besides, one US chemist’s or engineer’s salary is enough to hire five Chinese chemists or 11 Indian engineers.

See Subbiah Arunachalam’s editorial in Current Science from March 2006.  Arunchalam says Americans needn’t worry about this somewhat distressing development — it will be years before India and China overtake America as a world center of technological innovation.  As a world creator of jobs, however … well, let’s just say that Arunchalam doesn’t worry about an increase in unemployment statistics among scientists and engineers in India or China in the near future.

Meanwhile, the U.S. lost jobs in May for a fifth month in a row, and the unemployment rate rose by the most in more than two decades, according U.S. Labor Department figures released on Friday.