Nassim Nicholas Taleb coined the term "Antifragility" in his book of the same name. Antifragility…
After Germany and its allies lost WWI, motor flying became strictly prohibited under the Treaty of Versailles. Creativity often springs from constraints, and so, paradoxically, the ban imposed by the Allies encouraged precisely what they had actually wanted to thwart: the growth of the German aviation industry. As all military flying was prohibited under the Treaty, […]
On November 8, 1940 newspapers across America opened with the headline “TACOMA NARROWS BRIDGE COLLAPSES”. The headline caught the eye of a prominent engineering professor who, from reading the news story, intuitively realised that a specific aerodynamical phenomenon must have led to the collapse. He was correct, and became publicly famous for what is now known as […]
In the early 20th century, a group of German scientists led by Ludwig Prandtl at the University of Göttingen began studying the fundamental nature of fluid flow and subsequently laid the foundations for modern aerodynamics. In 1904, just a year after the first flight by the Wright brothers, Prandtl published the first paper on a […]
Despite the growing computer power and increasing sophistication of computational models, any design meant operate in the real world requires some form of experimental validation. The idealist modeller, me included, wants to believe that computer simulation will replace all forms of experimental testing and thereby allow for much faster design cycles. The issue with this […]
John Partridge is the founder of the deap-sea instrumentation company Sonardyne, and also graduated from the University of Bristol, my alma mater, with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1962. Since the founding in 1971, Sonardyne has developed into one of the leading instrumentation companies in oceanography, oil drilling, underwater monitoring and tsunami warning systems.
One of the key factors in the Wright brothers’ achievement of building the first heavier-than-air aircraft was their insight that a functional airplane would require a mastery of three disciplines:
Lift Propulsion Control
Whereas the first two had been studied to some success by earlier pioneers such as Sir George Cayley, […]
“We must ensure this never happens again.”
This is a common reaction to instances of catastrophic failure. However, in complex engineering systems, this statement is inherently paradoxical. If the right lessons are learned and the appropriate measures are taken, the same failure will most likely never happen again. But, catastrophes in themselves are not completely preventable, […]
“Engineering is not the handmaiden of physics any more than medicine is of biology”
What is science? And how is it different from engineering? The two disciplines are closely related and the differences seem subtle at first, but science and engineering ultimately have different goals.
A scientist attempts to gain knowledge about the underlying structure of the […]
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of working on a research project at NASA’s Langley Research Centre. Apart from interacting with world-renowned scientists and engineers, what impressed me most was the mind-blowing heritage of the site.
NASA Langley is the birthplace of large-scale, government-funded aeronautical research in the US. It was home to […]
“Big data” is all abuzz in the media these days. As more and more people are connected to the internet and sensors become ubiquitous parts of daily hardware an unprecedented amount of information is being produced. Some analysts project 40% growth in data over the next decade, which means that in a decade 30 times the […]
- Antifragility and Aircraft Design
- Milestones in Aircraft Structural Design
Although the exploitation of advanced composite materials in the aerospace industry is steadily increasing, high…
- The von Kármán Vortex Street and Tacoma Narrows Disaster
On November 8, 1940 newspapers across America opened with the headline “TACOMA NARROWS BRIDGE COLLAPSES”.…