Daily Challenge Day 42

Made the mistake of logging into Linkedin, where can guarantee get irritated. Fools asking what the best software is, and other fools arguing against the use of software. If want to know what the best of something is, then can only get a relative answer. The answer is relative to either the person making the assertion or to a specific point in time, or a combination of the two.  Even if use value analysis or cost benefit analysis the answer is still subjective and relative. And still further even if set up a mathematical model, such as a linear programme to find a maximum, the answer is only short lived. So it is better to identify the appropriate features, benefits and values expect from software, give them your own weightings and carry out own value analysis. Value analysis is typically considered preferable to cost benefit analysis, as psychologically choosing a maximum value, whilst cost benefit choosing minimum cost: the results are basically the inverses of one another. Products and purchasing decisions are typically made using value analysis. Cost benefit analysis is typically adopted for large infrastructure projects where typically want to minimise the expenditure of the tax dollar.

And if I adopt the attitude of those objecting to use of software for technical calculations, then obviously cannot set up the value analysis matrix using software, like MS Excel. Furthermore you shouldn’t use Acad to draw a table for the decision matrix, if you really going to understand what a line is and how to draw it properly you obviously have to use a pencil and a straight edge. No not a ruler. A ruler is for measuring, and drawing a line against it will damage its edge, and distort its readings of measurements. A straight edge isn’t graduated and typically has a hardened edge, so that scribing and other marking tools do not damage the edge.

Obviously it’s a dumb attitude to take. We develop technologies for a reason, it’s dumb not to use the available technology. It is however dumber to become dependent on technologies which cannot be sustained. A pocket electronic calculator is great in a remote isolated region, until the batteries run out. A slide rule and log tables do not need power supplies. However the paper of the book of log tables may rot, whilst high temperatures may distort the components of the slide rule. On the other hand my dad’s two slide rules are still operational, and log tables I have are likewise still useable: whilst I have otherwise gone through 4 pocket calculators (simple casio calculator, HP21 scientific, HP32E scientific, HP28S programmable scientific) Not to mention several desktop and laptop computers, and multiple versions of software.

So it could be said the modern world is producing electronic junk.

Engineering is at the frontiers of science and technology. Structures are rarely at the frontiers of science and technology. Engineering takes science, and applies it to develop technologies and a body of technical science, the technical science is then shared and disseminated to the large number engineering practitioners.

I would argue that the failure of the Tacoma Narrows bridge was not as a consequence of it being at the frontiers of science. The science was there, but the engineering science wasn’t done to take the science and apply to the specific technology of bridges, and the generate the technical science required for the routine of bridges which are fit-for-function.

Similarly I would argue the failure of the Emley Moor transmitting station was not at the frontier of science, once again it was a failure to take the science, and do the engineering science to generate the technical science.

Just about all failures can be identified as a consequence of not doing the engineering science and a lack of technical science. It is one of the reasons I really wanted to study science rather than engineering. Formally educated engineers are technicians not engineers. They typically lack the necessary aptitudes and skills, held by our ancestors, who generated the knowledge we currently seemingly take for granted. The knowledge we currently use, was by far and large, not generated by people with bachelor degrees. The first and foremost requirement is not to get a degree, but put brain in gear. People should be thinking now kowtowing to the authority of people with degrees. What is the point of science if we replace one authority, like the pope, with some self-appointed expert? Climate science is problematic because the science is buried in politics: not the least of which is the politics of research grants and careers.

Engineering is a uncertain and high risk design and implementation activity. Most people are not involved in engineering, even though they like having the title engineer, they are not engineers. Buildings are an established technology. The supply of buildings is a simple exercise of planning, design and management.

If budgets are over run, then can conclude the people involved are inadequately conversant in the technology. If schedules are over run, we can conclude that people have inadequate skill in resource allocation and scheduling, or don’t care about schedules or otherwise over commit limited resources. Basically the people involved need further education and training. Education to provide foundational knowledge and enabling competencies, and training to improve proficiency.

Likewise if the technology does not perform adequately, if it not found fit-for-function or suitable for purpose, then we will in the main identify lack of knowledge. We will demand further education in: planning, design, management, fabrication, construction, operation and maintenance of the technology. We will demand training to improve proficiency. We as a society will also demand improved quality control and assurance systems to be implemented.

It is very, very, extremely, very rare for the failure of a technology to raise the need for more scientific research. More research, design and development (RD&D) of the technology may be required, but not the frontier of science. In the main research just involves application of technical science to collect necessary technical data.

For example I cannot design a lathe until I know the forces involved in cutting a specific material. The only way to determine these forces is to build a lathe and measure them. Technology usually comes into being before the technical science. Once have a lathe then we can do experiments with it, using different feeds and speeds, using different cutting tools, and using workpieces of different materials. We can potentially start collecting more generic specific cutting energies with which we can then design different cutting tools, different machine tools, and using a variety of tool materials to cut various materials. Engineering gave us the lathe and other cutting tools, design applying technical science gave us better cutting tools. Without the engineering there wouldn’t be any lathes.

Similarly without engineering there wouldn’t be any bridges or buildings, cranes, radio masts, planetary telescopes, dams, canals, ships, aircraft or other technologies. The continued adaptation and application of such technologies is not engineering. An education simply in engineering science is not good enough. These are established technologies, the technical science exists, research to convert engineering science into technical science in the main is not required. What we need as a society are people fully conversant with the technology and the associated technical science.

We really need to consider the education of people involved with the technologies of civil infrastructure. For example:

  1. Transport systems are poor
  2. World’s water supply is unstable and unreliable
  3. World food supply is unstable and unreliable
  4. The supply of houses, schools and hospitals is deficient
  5. Stormwater drainage systems are inadequate

Besides allocation of resources to education and training, also need to improve the use of the available but limited resources applied to these technological areas. But the improvement lies in applying the available technical science, rather than crossing fingers and hoping someone with a bachelor of civil engineering has the aptitude to go in search of the required technical science and put it to use.

In checking emails also discovered the following article today:

UniSA wins Thyne Reid Foundation Grant to expand national wastewater drug screening program

Given that there are already concerns about contaminating our water supply as a consequence of women using the contraceptive pill: what impact will these other drugs entering our water supply have on the general health of the public. Forget about screening to identify illicit use of drugs, what kind of cocktail are we making out of our water supply, as we nominally filter the sewage and return it to the rivers.

And in other news …

Been looking at my spreadsheets and modifying the use of lookup tables, using field names rather than numbers. Additionally attempting to modify platform design spreadsheet to use multiple materials. Currently has a simplified switch between steel and cold-formed steel: with detailed checks to AS4600/AS4100 done elsewhere, if needed. My assessment is controlled by deflection and nominal check of vibration, so ultimate strength checks seldom an issue. Still if I could get the detailed checks into one spreadsheet for design in steel, cold-formed steel, aluminium and timber. Looking at my platform workbook looks like I made a start creating sheets for aluminium, which was mainly for scaffolding checks. Also had a spreadsheet for timber when used in residential decks. Still it would be good if I could merge all into one, and swap materials and design codes as needed. A general beam design workbook in which I can swap materials. The lookup tables already contains all materials, though the timber sections are not currently used, and a separate timber materials workbook is used instead. The tables also contain a reference to the design code typically used for the material. So it should be possible when a section is selected to automatically change the design code, which was the intent when I included the design code in the tables. Just not implemented it yet, and thats because industries related to the materials have different approaches to design and therefore merging into a single application no so easy. Programming an application with different input forms isn’t too difficult, but using a single MS Excel worksheet for such task is a cumbersome and error prone process. I’m already using vba for each of the materials codes, so it’s just controlling the variable input requirements which is the hassle, the outputs are typically of a similar nature.

The other month I was experimenting with the use of DAO to create some consistency. Currently my AS4600 workbook uses DAO behind the scenes to get section property data from an MS Access database file, whilst the workbook uses vlookup to get the data from an MS Excel workbook. The workbook and MS Access database file have to be merged every so often to keep them the same. So to get consistency I was experimenting with selection from a drop down list and automatically grabbing the data using DAO into the worksheet rather than using vlookup. So no pressing a button to run a macro to keep the worksheet up to date it’s done automatically when the cell changes. Once again considering the possibility of combining my AS4600, AS4100 and AS1720 calculator workbooks into a single material design calculator.

Contrary to this was also back tracking the AS4600 workbook, to using the original vba functions without the DAO references. The functions using DAO are wrappers for original functions, to reduce the number of parameters passed in a function call. This allows quick call of the functions in a worksheet, without need to fill the worksheet with section properties. So for example can get phi.Ms for a C-section and check suitability in a single line calculation, in similar manner to using design capacity tables (DCT)  for hot-rolled sections. Keep the reporting simple, look at detail if and only if really need to.

Technical Science, Technical Mathematics, Technical Computing. Not a single scrap of engineering.