Science: Is it True?

Dear All,

Is science true? Yes, that is the question. Is it really, really true? Helping to motivate this discussion, we recently assailed upon a little philosophy of math, here, where we remarked and marveled how math can represent both real and non-real things and yet both kinds can teach us about reality.

I thought this was incredible, and so it is! However, I used the Navier-Stokes equations in fluid mechanics as an example and as one commenter stated, even the respected Navier-Stokes equations aren’t true in the hard sense…they neglect many things like radioactive decay. This did not sit well with me, for I like to think what I am doing is true, and caused me to wonder what is truth, and what in science matches this. Let’s combine this discussion with a little science history.

Screen shot 2012 11 16 at 10.44.49 PM 300x28 Science: Is it True?

Navier-Stokes momentum equation

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Purchasing the Wind Tunnel Fan

Dear Fellow Basement Scientists,

I hope you all are pursuing your interests and attempting to satisfy your curiosity. With many other good things, it is fun and rewarding, but can take hard work. Alright, in our wind tunnel project our next piece of construction takes us to the diffuser! Recall our general wind tunnel design (in blue), appropriately drawn on the back on an envelope, You can see the diffuser on the right of the test section, it is long and expands to larger than the fan, in order to house it:

wind1 Purchasing the Wind Tunnel Fan

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Continuing Wind Tunnel Construction

Dear Fellow Basement Scientist,

We return to wind tunnel construction. Our extended absence in construction is unfortunate, but this is a lesson in many pursuits which are not our day job. These evening and weekend tasks often hit delays and sometimes we can’t return to them for a while. However, don’t give up. We may get discouraged and think our goals not worth attempting. Don’t believe this, have patience and return when the opportunity arises again. With diligence life often has enough little opportunities and breaks, so that after a few years of intermittent work, we can look back and be surprised at how much we’ve accomplished. So it is with basement science, and now we return to constructing the wind tunnel

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A Little Philosophy of Math

To All Concerned,

Through grad school this past year I have been amazed by Mathematics, mainly that is works! Math is amazing, in one way, because it actually describes the world. Since I believe the world functions in an orderly manner and according to fixed laws, (though those laws may be quite bazaar at times), this seems reasonable for math to describe these laws. Though this is amazing in its own right, this isn’t what has been boiling my noodle recently.

What’s been boiling my noodle is when math describes things that aren’t real, yet it may teach us things that are real. Here is what got me thinking about this:

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Ten Thousand Hours

To All,

I hope you are all doing well and have had a Merry Christmas, or other holiday, and a Happy New Year. Recently, I have spent some time thinking about the difficulty of graduate school. Engineering graduate school is very hard. Then, I came across this article discussing how many students find the sciences exciting, but they change majors because, well, … its difficult.

NY Times article

This brings me to the piece of wisdom that is takes 10,000 hours of practice before you can get really good at something. Did you get that 10,000 hours! Continue reading

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The Mars Science Lab

To all,

Before we begin, I am sorry for my extended absence, but here we are and we must continue. I don’t have work on the wind tunnel to report just yet, but I do have some discussion of interesting science. To begin, here is a quote from Robert Wilson speaking at a congressional committee defending the funding of a very expensive particle accelerator:

“It has only to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. It has to do with: Are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things we really venerate in our country and are patriotic about. It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending.”

I believe this serves as an appropriate introduction to quite an expensive experiment. A little over a week ago, the Mars Science Laboratory launched for one of our neighboring planets…you guessed it, Mars. JPL provided a great animation (not actual video) of its travel, entry into the martian atmosphere, landing, and operation. I am so struck by the audacity of the mission! (Follow the Link)

Mars Rover animation

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Getting in the Wind Tunnel: Design

Dear Fellow Basement Scientists,

Ever wonder why textbooks are so long? Well, I figured it out! Its because there is a lot of information out there to learn and it takes quite a few pieces of paper to fit it all. Well, this blog post is a little longer, though not quite textbook length, because there is a lot of information required in applying that textbook knowledge to building our wind tunnel.

Its time for another day in the lab (basement). Lets review our situation: We built the tunnel, legs for the tunnel, and finished the bell mouth including the honeycomb. Before we go on to the fan and diffuser, we can’t forget the minor detail of accessing the inside of the wind tunnel once it’s built. We must have an opening so we can put our specimens into the wind tunnel. Otherwise we would have a very fancy and long fan. I was hoping for more than that.

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Time for an Interesting Photo: Tree consumes Fence

To all,

Its time to share another interesting photo. These interesting sights are often rare occurrences, because you must come across something interesting and have a camera with you. Also, you must be attentive enough of your surroundings to notice them. Well, I came across this sight, was very interested, and then returned with a camera.  Walking around the downtown of my city, I stumbled on a cluster of trees who had learned the art of sharing, and shared their same space with a fence. What great models of friendliness and amazing display of biology:

a Time for an Interesting Photo: Tree consumes Fence

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Wind Tunnel Honeycomb

Dear Fellow Basement Scientists,

Here we are, placing the last finishing touches on the entrance to the wind tunnel. This is pretty exciting! We are discussing today what is known at the honeycomb. I very briefly mentioned this part of the project in Wind Tunnel Design Overview, but now we will discuss its purpose and construction.

So, if you remember, the purpose of the bell mouth entrance is to reduce all the whirly-twirly turbulence coming into the test section. Reducing this turbulence increases the accuracy and consistency of lift and drag measurements. Well, believe it or not, despite all our valiant efforts on the bell mouth, there is still turbulence in the flow. Bummer! Well, no worries because we can simply install a honeycomb to help us out (as a note, there is always some turbulence in this flow, we are just reducing it as much as possible). A honeycomb consists of lots of little tubes. These tubes kill turbulence because there can’t be big swirls in a little tube.  Here is a highly technical drawing laying out the details of this complicated phenomenon:

photo 300x233 Wind Tunnel Honeycomb

Honeycomb Detail

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Surface of the Bell Mouth

Dear Fellow Basement Scientists,

I am sorry, but of late I have been absent. This is due to what is commonly known as moving. It was a lot of work, but now we are back.

For those concerned, I did move the wind tunnel! It required care and thought of how to pack it, but it is here and in its new location.  With honesty in mind, I must admit that it is no longer in a basement. Hmm, what to do? Should I relocate to a living quarters with a basement? Should I stop investigating because I no longer have a basement to conduct it? No! I shall make do with what I have and continue in the spirit of basement science! Our name shall remain because the spirit endures. Just because our laboratory is now above ground does not change our goals or opportunities. Thanks be to God. Let’s begin again.

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