Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Monday, February 07, 2011
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Imagine that reports of the mid-20th-century breakthroughs in biology had focused entirely on quantum mechanical interactions among elementary particles. Imagine that the reports neglected to discuss the structure or functions of DNA. Inheritance would not have been understood. The level of explanation would have been wrong. Quantum mechanics lacks a notion of function, and its relation to biology is too complex to replace biological understanding. To understand biology, one must think in biological terms.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Apocalypse in the Gulf: Could a Sinkhole Swallow the Deepwater Horizon Well -- And BP? | BNET Energy Blog | BNET
Friday, June 25, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Another example of how hard it is for our officials to understand engineering and industry is that now our President wants assurances regarding offshore oil drilling. No assurances can be given. There will always be a risk of any number of things, and if things go wrong and the price is devastation, is it worth it?
Friday, May 07, 2010
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Monday, May 03, 2010
Friday, April 30, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Developers collaborate on list of applications not - Online Best Latest Developers collaborate on list of applications not Price Reviews | Features in India
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Friday, June 20, 2008
By Elizabeth Lopatto
June 18 (Bloomberg) -- About 1,000 potential incidents of fabrication, falsification or plagiarism in scientific research go unreported every year, according to a survey that suggests such misconduct is far more prevalent than suspected.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
1 University of California--Berkeley 4.7
2.University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign 4.7
3 Stanford University 4.5
4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 4.4
5 University of Texas--Austin 4.4
6 Georgia Institute of Technology 4.3
7 Purdue University 4.2
8 California Institute of Technology 4.1
9 University of Michigan--Ann Arbor 4.1
10 Cornell University 4.0 and Virginia Tech 4.0
1. University of California–Berkeley 4.8
2. University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign 4.6
3. Stanford University (CA) 4.5
4. Georgia Institute of Technology 4.4
5. University of Texas–Austin 4.4
6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology 4.3
7. Purdue University–West Lafayette (IN) 4.2
8. University of Michigan–Ann Arbor 4.2
9. California Institute of Technology 4.0
10. Cornell University (NY) 3.9 Northwestern University (McCormick) (IL) 3.9 Virginia Tech
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Armstrong, Robert C.
Assanis, Dennis N.
Austin, Wanda M.
Baughman, Ray Henry
Bhattacharya, Pallab K.
Blumberg, Paul N.
Brown, Gerald G.
Bruschi, Howard J.
Calabrese, Gary S.
Chang, Mau-Chung Frank
Cheng, Stephen Z.D.
Cundall, Peter A.
Dodds Jr., Robert H.
Dzombak, David A.
Fiorato, Anthony E.
Fogarty, Thomas J.
Foley, James D.
Grest, Gary Stephen
Grosz, Barbara J.
Haderle, Donald J.
Harrison, J. Michael
Hudson, John L.
Hunkapiller, Michael W.
Kleinberg, Jon M.
Kurtz, Anthony David
Lipo, Thomas Anthony
Livanos, Alexis C.
Lockett, Michael J.
Luenberger, David G.
Marr Jr., W. Allen
Martin, John C.
Miller, James A.
Mills, David L.
Nayar, Shree K.
Nikias, Chrysostomos L. 'Max'
O'Neill, Malcolm R.
Rath, Bhakta B.
Richards-Kortum, Rebecca Rae
Robinson, Stephen M.
Russell, Thomas P.
Sawyer, Robert F.
Sethian, James A.
Siegel, Paul H.
Singh, R. Paul
Sinha, Kumares C.
Sites, Richard L.
Tirrell, David A.
Walt, David R.
Weiner, Andrew Marc
Yeh, William W-G.
Yortsos, Yannis C.
New NAE Foreign Associates:
Dowling, Ann P.
Healy, Thomas W.
Leontiev, Alexander I.
Milner, Arthur John Robin Gorell
van Santen, Rutger Anthony
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Metric_system.png (PNG Image, 1427x628 pixels) - Scaled (70%)
Saturday, June 02, 2007
BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Nuclear reactor secrets revealed
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Outsourcing Versus Immigration - Forbes.com
Sunday, May 20, 2007
would do in a PC or workstation, using DOS or Windows or UNIX and to the increased interactivity and participation of users in shaping services. In a series of brief posts, I will try to very simply outline a number of examples of such activities.
One trend that has been in place for a few years is the mashup or repackaging of existing services. An entertaining example is Gahooyoogle. This service displays both the Yahoo and Google search results side by side. There are plenty more, from the trivial to the more elaborate.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Sunday, May 06, 2007
"Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances."
-Dr. Lee DeForest, "Father of Radio & Grandfather of Television."
"The Atomic bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives."
-Admiral William Leahy, US Atomic Bomb Project
"There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom."
-Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1923
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
-Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers ."
-Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."
-The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957
"But what is it good for?"
-Engineer at the Advanced ComputingSystems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.
"640K ought to be enough for anybody."
-Bill Gates, 1981
"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us,"
-Western Union internal memo, 1876
"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"
-David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.
"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible,"
-A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)
"I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper,"
-Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With The Wind."
"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make,"
-Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies.
"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out,"
-Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible,"
-Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.
"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this,"
-Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M "Post-It" Notepads.
"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy,"
-Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.
"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."
-Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.
"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value,"
-Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, France.
"Everything that can be invented has been invented,"
-Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899.
"The super computer is technologically impossible. It would take all of the water that flows over Niagara Falls to cool the heat generated by the number of vacuum tubes required."
-Professor of Electrical Engineering, New York University
"I don't know what use any one could find for a machine that would make copies of documents. It certainly couldn't be a feasible business by itself."
-the head of IBM, refusing to back the idea, forcing the inventor to found Xerox.
"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."
-Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872
"The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon,"
-Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria 1873.
"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
-Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Monday, April 30, 2007
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Monday, April 23, 2007
Monday, April 09, 2007
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Saturday, April 07, 2007
The first time I paid any attention to origami was when I was presented with a gift by Prof. Madhav on one of his visits to Purdue. The gift was a chicken, standing elegantly on its two legs (it has since lost its balance, despite my attempts to set it right by bending it here and there). So I return the gift...
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Scientists have something to say about doomsday.
The importance of perspective: is there something wrong with this structure?
For aspirng experimentalists and EE students: how to solder.
Struggling with passwords is a real problem. You don't want to write them down for obvious reasons. Then you forget them and have to ask them e-mailed back to you, and then waste considerable time generating a new one because the one that was send to you is absolutely beyond anyone's capacity to remember (of course, as I say this, there will be someone that will show up on youtube with limitless memory...). I am no cryptography expert, but this does seem like the ultimate solution for password troubles and time waste.
Every engineer knows that China has become the manufacturing center of the world, and India the IT/Services center of the world. There have been some other smaller players participating. The news is that China is now becoming too expensive to manufacture the cheap things ("junk") that people in the U.S., in particular, have become used to consuming (note: consume is the right word; we are literally consuming away our planet, but that is another subject).
Apple would like us "Inside the Image" to show us "How scientists see the world".
Missing university lectures? Wanting to watch PBS documentaries without ever leaving your computer? No problem, this site has it all for you. Speaking of never leaving your computer, http://www.sellsbrothers.com/ brings us the figure below. So true...
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Saturday, December 30, 2006
After the Nasdaq bubble burst of 2000, there was considerable doubt about which companies would survive and what would be of internet companies. A new generation of companies is out with very good stuff, and many new websites and new ideas are out there now. Time magazine has a list of what they consider the 50 coolest websites. Many of these are built on the basis that people want to participate and share and that others are interested in what the first group have to contribute. This led to the controversial, to settle for an uncontroversial word, selection of you as Time Person of the Year.
When I think of the difficulties of being a scientist in the true sense of the word, I always think of Weggener, and the difficulties he met going against the prevailing paradigm in geology in his time when he proposal his continental drift ideas, which eventually led to plate tectonics theory. Tnings have gotten harded in our days. Bureaucratic pressures can make it really difficult for someone intent on doing independent, objective scientific work. A few months ago I saw a 60 minutes' interview with a scientist whose reports were being heavily edited by his superiors, with deletion of anything that sounded conclusive regarding the existence of global warming. Now this about the Grand Canyon puts some geologists in a difficult position.
Back to global warming, I finally saw Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, a few weeks back. It was really well done, and I believe it can be credited with the improvement of the tone of coverage of the global warming issue in the media. Now perhaps he no longer needs to claim credit for having invented the internet, for this movie was a very positive contribution.
Looking for something to do with you head these last days of the year? Try this calculation (in your head!): Take 1000 and add 40 to it. Now add another 1000. Now add 30. Add another 1000. Now add 20. Now add another 1000. Now add 10. What is the total? 5000? For an answer that is surprising to most who try this and other mind-tripping questions, go here. This comes out of digg.com, one of the 50 "coolest" sites I mentioned earlier, in which news are listed in the order in which they are voted. The website seems to be visited by computer-oriented people in significant numbers, which gives it a nice tech (sometimes nerdy) bias.
Interested in succeeding in 2007? Lots of advice from well known people could help. However, I always consider such things in the context of the role chance plays in life (the best book discussing this in a scientific literate manner is Taleb's Fooled by Randomness).
If you are into best- or worst-of-the-year type lists, this will have what you want.
Finally, a small Chirstmas gift that will help type those foreign characters in the titles of papers written in foreign languages in the list of references of your next paper.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
SPL (dB) TYPICAL ENVIRONMENT AVERAGE DESCRIPTION
140 30 meters from military aircraft at take off Threshold of pain
120 Boiler shop (maximum levels)
Ships engine room (full speed) Almost intolerable
100 Automatic lathe shop
Platform of underground station (maximum levels)
Printing press room Extremely noisy
80 Curbside of busy street
Office with tabulating machines Very noisy
60 Restaurant, Department Store; Noisiest Gamer PC Noisy
50 Conversational speech at 1 meter; Noisy workstation Clearly audible
35 - 45 Quiet office or library; Typical PC Subdued
25 - 30 Bedroom at night, Quiet PC Quiet
20 - 25 Quiet whisper; Very quiet PC
Background in TV and recording studios Very quiet
15 - 20 Super quiet / fanless PC Barely audible
<15 Sounds of internal organs Normally inaudible
0 'Normal' threshold of hearing Not audible
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Blade Runner is based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, a Berkeley author with what I consider rare creativity. His novels are rich in ideas and imagery (according to reports, helped by Dick's use of drugs) but are quick reads. There isn't a lot of time put into character development, for example, but the stories do get you to think. "Blade Runner", the movie (yahoo; amazon), deals with tremendouly appealing issues to me: what constitutes our identity, how we should treat those different from us, the dehumanization of people who authority wants to destroy, the possibility of understanding the meaning of the world and of life to a degree that we transcend ego, and the impact that technology and its close association with profit will have on our world as population growth magnifies the market for technology and thus its role? The movie is, in addition, visually stunning, and way ahead of its time. The acid rain, that never stops falling, hints at problems we have today, with the ever-growing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere responsible for global warming and for increasing acidity of our oceans. The soundtrack, by Greek composer Vangelis, is the best of any movie I have seen.
Interestingly, reception to the movie was initially cool, to say the least. It took some time for people to recognize the quality of this movie and the strength of its story. Eventually, the movie rekindled interest in Dick, with many more of his stories made into movies, A Scanner Darkly being the most recent one.
What got me going with this? I ran into this documentary on google video, which is very well done:
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Saturday, November 04, 2006
By Alex Morales
Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) -- The world's ocean fishing grounds may be almost exhausted by 2048 if catches and pollution aren't limited, according to scientists who conducted a four-year study.
The rate at which stocks in the fishing areas have collapsed is accelerating, the scientists led by Boris Worm of Canada's Dalhousie University said today in the journal Science. A seafood species is said to have collapsed when the catch falls below 10 percent of the maximum annual haul. By 2003, 29 percent of seafood species were in that category, the scientists said."
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Sunday, October 22, 2006
RealEstateJournal | Ten Innovations That Will Reduce The Amount of Energy We Use
Thursday, October 12, 2006
no installation, no virus and spywares"
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Friday, September 22, 2006
Rodrigo Salgado - Science, Engineering and Technology Blog
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Friday, July 14, 2006
Last Indexed: 11:20 13 Jul 2006
4000 / 5000 shares available @ B$1.36 ea. - 0.8 p/e
Blogshares treats blogs as if they were companies trading in a fantasy "stock" market.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Saturday, May 27, 2006
The Geo-Engineering profession has long dealt with the inability of analysis (which has typically been based on linear elasticity and/or perfect plasticity) to provide realistic answers by discounting analysis as simply a tool to provide general guidance. Empiricism has, as a result, dominated. This has left us with a traditional approach to graduate education that has left many unprepared to reap the benefits of the hard work that has been put into arriving to where we are by a generation of mechanicians and analysts. In 5 years or so, the analyses I spoke of will likely be much more economical to perform. The question for me is: will our engineers embrace these analyses and the benefits that can result from them or will they shun them and stick with traditional practices?
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Sunday, April 02, 2006
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2. Stanford University
3. University of California - Berkeley
4. Georgia Institute of Technology
5. University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign
6. Purdue University - West Lafayette
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
8. Carnegie Mellon University
9. University of Southern California (Viterbi)
10. California Institute of Technology
As pointed out by Mark H. Karwan, the engineering dean at Buffalo, some of the criteria used in the U.S. News rankings reward schools that have higher numbers of faculty and students. So a Dean, to have her school climb in the rankings, may simply negotiate for a larger number of faculty positions, for example, so that the ascension in the rankings may not necessarily reflect a qualitative improvement in the College. In contrast, in the specialty rankings, perception is everything, as programs are ranked based on an assessment by peer departments at other universities. The question then is: what has changed in a given school to justify the rise or fall in the rankings. Just a few of the questions to ponder when using rankings as a factor in decision making.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
The first study to combine computer models of rising temperatures with records of the ancient climate has indicated that sea levels could rise by up to 20ft (6m) by 2100, placing millions of people at risk."
Monday, March 20, 2006
Essentially, the graphs in the presentation depict a telling trend regarding globalization of research. Until 1995, US submissions to PRL dominated with western Europe and rest of the world following (in that order). In 1995, western Europe overtook US. Since last year, the rest of the world has overtaken BOTH western Europe and US. By the 'rest of the world', the editor is essentially referring largely to China, and partly to India and eastern Europe."
Applied Mechanics Research and Researchers: Continuum Mechanics books, Abramowitz and Stegun, downloadable
'Introduction to Continuum Mechanics for Engineers' by Ray M. Bowen
'Continuum Mechanics' by George Backus
'Continuum Mechanics' by Brian Kennett
both at http://samizdat.mines.edu
The samizdat site has links to many other texts, particularly in geophysical applications.
Not continuum mechanics but useful if you have ever used the hard copy:
'Abramowitz and Stegun: Handbook of Mathematical Functions'
The copyright is in the public domain. The book can be downloaded from http://www.math.sfu.ca/~cbm/aands
Keep the html version on your PC and you can get that Bessel function relation in no time."
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of a (theromdynamicall isolated) system tends to increase over time, even in the absence of any heat change. Systems may be classified as:
- Isolated Systems - matter and energy may not cross the boundary.
- Adiabatic Systems - heat and matter may not cross the boundary.
- Closed Systems - matter may not cross the boundary.
- Open Systems - heat, work, and matter may cross the boundary.
Dimensionally, entropy has units of heat per absolute temperature. Should heat increase by some small increment, the entropy of the system increases by an amount equal to heat increment divided by the absolute temperature. A more general definition is required for irreversible processes.
An analogous, and, some suggest, more general concept was proposed by Claude Shannon in the paper from which information theory sprang. Entropy in the context of information theory is related to how much of the content of any signal (which could include a typed page of text, which is nothing mroe than a string of characters) is random and therefore has no information content. The concept has also found applications in fields apparently so disconnected as genetics and trading/investing. More on that some other time.
Monday, March 13, 2006
I am teaching a plasticity theory course at Purdue University this semester (Spring 07). It is a challenging course for most graduate students. They come across many new concepts and many new terms. Among the most challenging are terms that refer to different classes of constitutive models that we may use to model different materials under different sets of conditions and that define, in a way, separate "branches" of continuum mechanics. They are the following:
I thought I would write briefly about each, without getting into mathematical formulations, to hopefully ease some of the difficulty.
An elastic material is a material for which the stress is uniquely determined by the strain. It is customary to define a natural, reference or unstrained configuration (one for which the strains are zero) for a body such that the stress for that configuration is zero.
An inelatic material is a material for which a unique relationship between stress and strain does not exist.
A hyperleastic material is one for which the stress is obtained from differentiation of a strain energy function wrt the corresponding strain. We are using stress and strain here to mean stress and strain components (components of the stress and strain tensors). This relationshipo between stress and strain follows from the equality of the integral of the strain energy function over any region R contained in the body to the internal potential energy in R.
A linear elastic material is a hyperleastic material with a quadratic strain energy function, such that stress and strain are linearly related.
A hypoelastic material is one for which a linear relationship exists between stress and strain time rates at a given value of stress. For every different stress value, the relationship changes. This allows consideration of path dependance and non-linearity in stress-strain response. However, a hypoelastic material does not follow the laws of thermodynamics (i.e., unloading the material to zero stress will not return it to its original state).
A hypoplastic material is also one for which a relationship exists between stress and strain time rates at a given value of stress but this relationship depends on more than jsut the current stress. Hypoplasticity can be viewed as a generalization of the concepts of hypoelasticity.
A hyperplastic material is one for which the first and second laws of thermodynamics are explicitly written as two state equations. One of the equations is a dissipative relationship (the energy dissipated during shearing or yield) that is obtained from a yield function in classical plasticity. In this case, it is possible to obtain a yield fuction from the dissipative relationship, the reverse of what is usually done.
A visco-elastic material is an inelastic material for which the inelastic strain is defined with basis on a rate equation. This rate equation expresses how the time rate of the strain varies with the applied stress. The relationship contains the viscosity (see Netson's law of viscosity for more on this).
A visco-plastic material is an inelastic material for which the inelastic strain is also defined with basis on a rate equation. The rate equation in this case is more general than for a visco-elastic material, storngly non-linear, with the possible existence of a yield surface separating elastic from inelastic response and the rate being directly related to the distance of the stress state from that yield surface on the inelastic side.
What is meant by a plastic material is a visco-plastic material for which changes in the rate of loading does not lead to changed response. Mathematically, this is handled by stating that the stress state is on the yield surface, and so the rate of loading is zero. The terms classical plasticity and rate-independent plasticity are also used.
Finally, a perfectly plastic material is one whose strength (whose yield surface) does not change upon shearing (i.e., the material neither hardens nor softens).
Friday, March 10, 2006
WSJ.com - The Numbers Guy: "Google Inc. reads, indexes and searches through billions of Web pages. On any given day, eBay Inc.'s more than 100 million members are listing millions of items for sale. Yet when it comes to the law of large numbers, executives at both tech powerhouses have committed statistical misdemeanors.
The law of large numbers says that the more times you measure something, the truer your results, and less they are affected by random variation. Flip a coin a million times, and you're likely to get heads half of the time (or very close to it). But flip that coin five times, and you might get heads four times, twice, or never.
But in corporate-speak, the 'law of large numbers' has been misused as a catch-all explanation for slowing growth as companies mature: It's harder to maintain high growth rates from a larger base. Last week, Google finance chief George Reyes told a Merrill Lynch & Co. investor conference that the company is 'getting to a point where the law of large numbers starts to take root.' (The Online Journal's MarketBeat column pointed out that Mr. Reyes meant the law of diminishing returns.) And in a January appearance on CNBC, eBay chief executive Meg Whitman said, 'Now, our businesses are getting larger and we will obviously face the law of large numbers, but we have actually changed the trajectory of the growth curve in our two largest businesses over the last three quarters." (She used the term correctly in a 1999 appearance on CNBC.) Several other executives have misused the term.
Misstating a statistics law isn't a federal offense, and lots of analysts make the same mistake when posing questions about disappointing earnings, in effect providing companies with an excuse for slow growth (reporters, including those at The Wall Street Journal, have also used the term incorrectly).
An eBay spokesman told me the term is "common corporate vernacular." Google declined to comment."
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
As we come to the end of one each year, I try to reflect on what has passed, what I have learned from it, and what lies ahead. It is undeniable that things continue to move quite fast (faster than ever), and that we need to keep up or lose touch altogether. However, just as someone who drives at 120 miles an hour misses many of the details of the landscape and gets so focused on arriving that the joy of the trip is lost, the same can be said about life and everything that goes with it, including work. I believe strongly that if we are involved in activities that are right for us, we will do well, produce at rates we will be satisfied with, and enjoy greatly making the contributions we are sure to make. And the speed will feel right; it won't feel like 120mph. If the stress level is high, if we work more for awards or recognitions we covet and not for the joy of developing our talents and contributing to the world, something is amiss. So, most definitely, what I wish the most to all my friends and to visitors of this blog is that they find what they like and do well in life and that, in doing it, they find the greatest satisfaction of all: that of making contributions to friends, colleagues and society, of being of service. The exchange of ideas and experiences with others is another great source of satisfaction. While it is obviously gratifying to have our work recognized, it is also true that, in the history of science and engineering, it has often happened that recognition for significant contributions have not always come during someone's lifetime. That is only natural, for, as George Bernard Shaw once said, "All great truths begin as blasphemies." So if all the focus is on recognition, and one wants to find great truths, one may live in frustration an entire life!
Aside from our work as scientists and engineering, we deal with a lot more that goes along with it. We interact with people at all levels, and are therefore subject to the pressures from something psychologists referred to as "group think". In the words of one of the key researchers (Janus 1972) into this phenomenon: groupthink is "a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures." Experiments have shown how a person may state and even believe that a clearly shorter ruler is longer than a second one just because everyone else has said so (as directed by a researcher). Groupthink is one of the main reasons for many wrongs in this world, and will probably continue to be so. However, to be successful as professionals and human beings, we need the independence of thought. As Emerson put it: the great person is one who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. Independence of thought should be treasured in us and others. It is from diversity of knowledge, thoughts and opinions that most of what is good in life comes. As stated by Thoreau, "if a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." In this light, let's enjoy the music, and let others enjoy theirs.
Janis, Irving L. (1972). Victims of Groupthink, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.
Friday, November 25, 2005
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Staying still in the world of science, example by influential individuals can set the course for a discipline for a long time. Being an engineer and a geotechnical engineer, I can comment on the history of my own discipline. The discipline came into existence to a large extent due to the efforts of an individual named Karl Terzaghi (for more on Terzaghi, there is a rather interesting biography of him written by Dr. R. Goodman, formerly of U.C. Berkeley). Early on, as Terzaghi was developing what would later become the theory of consolidation, a theory that aims to predict the rate at which saturated soils change volume, he was very keen about finding a suitable mathematical framework (what people sometimes refer to as "theory") for the results of his experiments. That continued for a time. But later in his career, more or less at the time of his conversion from primarily an academic to primarily a consultant, as a resident of the U.S. at the time, he started critizing theoreticians. Goodman's book has some interesting quotes that illustrate the earlier respect for and the later distaste for "theory". A respect for the underlying science and for the mathematics that allow for better predictions and calculations is healthy for the development of an engineering field, but Terzaghi's example caught on, and we still see today in the U.S. a bias towards the empirical and a certain disbelief in what "theory" can do for engineers. I believe this will change over the next years as the greater availability and quality of geotechnical software has been winning over the skeptics.
So examples are indeed important. As scientists, engineers or students, we use them to enrich a lecture, a paper or a book. In fact, when we provide something as evidence of the validity of an idea, hypothesis or theory, that something is often a good example of the validity or usefulness of the idea as well. But examples are far more than that. They can have wide and long-lasting effects on the way the world works.