Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Fukushima - Let Engineers Engineer

Fukushima – the shit that happens when engineers must bow to committees.

The events transpiring in Fukushima over the last several weeks raise the question of culpability. Who is ultimately to blame?

Fair enough, it took a natural event to cause the devastation, BUT, in a nation that is used to earthquakes and tsunamis, and the only nation on the planet to have been targeted by nuclear weaponry, I would think safety concerns would by in the forefront of design engineers’ minds.

I believe we are seeing here a similar situation to that of the space shuttle ‘accidents’, of which “Challenger” is the one closest to everyone’s’ hearts.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Rocket Science


How often I hear this term used to describe a process, method, task, or whatever.

I must be very stupid, because I come away feeling confused. What is the person using this term trying to convey to his audience. Someone, (evidently I lot brighter than I) am informed me the term is used to describe something that is quite simple and easy to do.

Now I’m even more confused. Surely that is conflicting statement. After all rocket science is just that, simple and easy. Humans somehow managed to build rockets quite some time before they built internal combustion engines. And we are led to believe, at least from discovered artefacts, these people were not very technologically advanced. So surely the terminology intending to describe a simple procedure should be “It’s Just Rocket Science.”

After all, rocketry is based on a small set of rather basic principles, action/reaction. Energy exerting a force (action) in one direction, results in an equal and opposite force (reaction) in the opposite direction. If my somewhat flaky memory serves, that sounds pretty much like primary school science to me. Fine, there are engineering aspects involved, especially if one wishes to launch an overweight lump of steel and more exotic metals into lunar orbit. Fuels can be somewhat unstable (that means they have a tendency to go bang at inconvenient times, but then so does nitro-glycerine).

Still, this doesn’t change the fact rocket science is pretty simple. As an 8 year old kid, my friends and self built rockets. Very simple devices, home made or otherwise ‘acquired’ black powder (laws were a little more relaxed in those days), strong lightweight tubing (used firework tubes were great – recycling even back then!), epoxy putty nozzles, a balsa wood stick to provide guidance. Using only basic diagrams available in any encyclopaedia.
Simple stuff. Quite a few even worked!