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Mark M.'s Resources

Blogs

I think I am done with my experiments. Whew. This summer I was able to run the test loop that my colleagues and I devised to investigate boiling flow in expanding microchannels. A mouthful, eh? True, but the data output is a rather a bigger bite. It's no Large Hadron Collider, but my four experiments ran to a 100 MB chunk of text data. What do you do with this? Well, certainly you write programs... read more

Blogs

I am a researcher. That is why I am pursuing a PhD, that is why I obtained a Master's, and that (at some level) is what I want my career to be when I am finished with grad school (where I tutor on the side). Research is a business of trust. If I publish, I am asserting that this work represents the truth as far as I can carefully deduce. Others who may use my work rely on that assertion; why... read more

Blogs

Engineering and science are slow fields. Yes, you read about breakthroughs, revolutions, and the like, but those headlines are the fruit of years of labor. I acknowledge that all fields require planning, thought, and care, but the businessman can just go out and make a deal (perhaps a bad one) in a fairly short amount of time. You can't just go out and build a bridge (however poor) in an afternoon,... read more

Blogs

I went to a lecture today, given by the president of the Illinois Institute of Technology. He was an engaging fellow, and spoke of his school's efforts to optimize both the aims and the means of undergraduate engineering education. Following his lead, I should note that the engineering field (through the good offices of the American Society of Engineering Education) has routinely sought... read more

Blogs

Three hundred years after Newton and Leibniz invented a vast mathematical structure and proceeded to bludgeon each other with it, people are still curious why calculus is so darn hard. The people who wonder that, however, are very often undergraduates or advanced high-schoolers, and they generally seem to think that, like freshman English, they ought to be able to breeze through calculus with... read more

Blogs

Richard Feynman once said: "The problem of how to deduce new things from old, and how to solve problems, is really very difficult to teach, and I don't really know how to do it. I don't know how to tell you something that will transform you from a person who can't analyze new situations or solve problems, to a person who can. In the case of mathematics, I can transform you from somebody... read more

Blogs

I am taking a course on combustion this semester, which is a lot less exciting than it sounds. Sort of. Combustion is one of those topics where you use incendiary language (ha-ha) to describe phenomena that end up being duller than their advertising. Explosion limits? The time it takes for a fuel mixture to ignite under certain conditions (like those kerosene-soaked rags you put in the... read more

Blogs

There's an interesting concept in thermodynamics called "exergy". It's not one that comes up often in daily use, like energy (how much the molecules want to move), or even entropy (how much of that energy you lose and can't get back, per temperature). No, exergy is kind of an odd duck, because it's relative. Let me explain. There was a problem I had in my homework with a car... read more

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Everybody knows what a rocket is, right? Rockets are the big white cylinders strapped to the sides of the shuttle gas tank, and they're the black nozzles on the back of the shuttle itself, right? Quite correct, but do you remember Deep Space 1? This long-range probe used an engine that looked and behaved quite a bit differently than you might expect. After all, what makes a rocket? Is... read more

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Does anyone recall the caloric theory? It was abandoned intellectually in the mid-eighteen-hundreds, but lives on in most introductory discussions of heat transfer. In it, heat is referred to as "caloric fluid", and is a massless, inviscid substance which has the capacity of permeating all bodies. Temperature was a measure of its density. It's where we got the notions of "heat... read more

Blogs

I don't really like the term "engineering ethics", because it implies that right and wrong may only be defined within the scope of a discipline, but as it is the term du jour, oh well. As an undergraduate, you get a few courses here and there that touch on "engineering ethics", or maybe a special class devoted to it, and most all the kids I knew kind of blew it off. It was... read more

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From late evening on August 12th to early morning on August 13th, you will have the opportunity to attend one of the greatest shows on Earth. Well, not exactly on Earth, per se, but up in the mesosphere. Some 30-50 miles above your heads, debris cast off from comet Swift-Tuttle will enter the atmosphere, pass through the very sparse thermosphere, and collide with gas particles in the relatively... read more

Blogs

My wife sometimes jokes that engineering is less a profession than a condition. If you're wired a certain way, you end up fiddling with pens at your desk, taking apart your phone because you're bored, and reflecting on how you could really use some Legos right about now, because you had a really cool idea and you wanted to see if you could build it. "Wanted to see if you could"... read more