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.

Navier-Stokes momentum equation

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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!

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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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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:

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Follow up to an Interesting Photo: In Flight

To all,

Recently we discussed this interesting photo:

In the Shadow of a Plane

Thanks to all who commented on our previous post for the help in understanding what is generating the color rings, but I still wanted a little more understanding. I took the liberty to dig a little deeper, meaning reading beyond a wikipedia article, and I found that a NASA satellite imaged the same phenomenon: NASA photo. The NASA satellite photographed a glory just like this photo only the diameter was miles larger. I also found three other informative discussions: Here, here, and here(p145).  Thanks to all who commented on our previous post for the help in understanding what is generating the color rings, but I more understanding.

Lets try to nail this thing down.

Read moreFollow up to an Interesting Photo: In Flight

Time for an Interesting Photo: In-Flight

To all,

Here is an interesting photo I captured while in flight. I love looking out of the window during flights because you can see a lot of very interesting things, and this one I had not seen before. It it the shadow of the airplane on an adjacent cloud. This is neat in itself, but not very curious. The curious part is the ring of color bands like a rainbow surrounding the shadow. As a note to those concerned, my phone was on airplane mode, so no interference created here. You’ve got to obey those flight attendants!

In the Shadow of a Plane

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When the Going Gets Tough

Dear Fellow Basement Scientists,
Having built our wind tunnel and realized that construction takes a lot of patience, time, and effort, do not be discouraged! Completing meaningful work is often difficult and at times frustrating. When you reach this point you must ask yourself, “Why in the world am I doing this?!”

Read moreWhen the Going Gets Tough