Aerospace Engineering - A Compelling "Intelligent Design" Analogy - Argument Ignored By Darwinists

"Intelligent Design" - in perhaps no field of intellectual endeavor among the numerous outstanding achievements of human-kind - has the pursuit of specialized knowledge, plus imagination and creativity, plus a rationalizing, discriminating judgment been so manifest as in the field of aerospace engineering - during the half-century following inauguration of the Wright brothers "heavier-than-air" flight. Driven by the concept of competitive business survival (precisely as with all living creatures in Earth's history - competing for survivability features), what has evolved has been the achievement of optimization - performance or cost efficiencies - for each type of aero-space-craft, across the full spectrum of vehicles: from military supremacy (for fighters, second-place means death), to triple supersonic B-70 bombers, to giant commercial sub-sonic aircraft, to the Mach 2 Concorde, to small private aircraft, to exploratory spacecraft to reach the moon, and to Space Shuttle to reach Space Station). These pioneering air-space-craft evolved through intelligent specialization of every facet, factor and feature involved in the engineering process, optimized for each type and size of vehicle - precisely as "nature" (somehow applying the "intelligent design" function) utilizes common basic characteristics, optimized across the spectra of living creatures: life-sustaining blood fluid and transmission vessels, from arteries to capillaries to veins; the heart pump with its valves and compartments; lungs; legs; arms; fingers; eyes; ears; sexual organs with evocative and sensory elements; dual-function waste removal system; etc. Each feature is specialized for each creature's unique size and need, (completely at odds with Darwinism - its proclaimed "Theory" supposedly relying entirely upon simple, haphazard-mutation-causality).

In every major aerospace organization there are groups of engineering specialists who spend their entire careers studying, testing, and optimizing each possible field involved in the meticulous process of aero-space engineering, the analytical sciences: aerodynamics, thermodynamics, materials and processes, stress analysis, dynamics, weight analysis; then the designers, drawing up the components: structures, engine and power plants, propellers to jet engines. And within such groups there are sub-category specializations, experts devoted entirely to wings, to tail surfaces, to fuselages, to landing gears, to engine mounts, etc., with constant testing of failure modes, such as aero-flutter and structural-fatigue, as well as with simple excess dynamic "g-factor" overloads. Structural materials are selected based on application temperatures and strength allowables: steel, aluminum, titanium, high-temperature metallurgical alloys and filamentary composites; detailed design is based on structural load levels: simple stiffened skin, light formed "zees" to heavy extruded "hat" sections; to highly-loaded sandwich structures, either truss-core or honeycomb, either brazed or diffusion-bonded.

The above developments, however, make up only half of the process - providing the building-block fundamentals for each engineering discipline (analogous to accumulation of animal data on all "eye" types; on all arm-leg joints and articulation limits; on all forms of the "heart" function, etc.). In addition, therefore, the Engineering process requires a "Program" group, which cuts across all the above specialty "feature" areas, with the single-minded objective of optimizing each specific vehicle - each "feature" being sized, modified and tailored to precisely fit the needs for maximum efficiency of the overall vehicle system. (Note: absent "intelligent design" for Darwin-Evolutionism, there can be no such counter-part for the cross optimization process - "believers" in Darwin-Evolutionism must place credence entirely upon accidental, haphazard mutation "errors" during generational duplication of DNA coding - hardly probable as credible "science".)

Dr. Charles Darwin was, however, a true scientist - visiting the Galapagos Islands in 1835, he saw unusual creatures which he analyzed, reporting his findings and subsequent theory to the world. In particular, he noted eleven types of beak shapes of finch birds, which had evolved to exactly and uniquely match the flower bulbs from which they extracted seeds, their food sources - matching beak and bulb shapes in various, discrete areas of the islands. He then evolved the theory that, over time, any accidental change in shape which permitted easier access to that particular flower,bulb's seeds, increased that bird's survivability - passing on such improved capability to generational offspring. From this, Darwin developed his theory of "natural selection", "survival of the fittest".

Darwin's Theory swept across America and Europe, capturing the minds and imaginations of the intellectual elite - presenting as it did, a plausible rationale and argument which eliminated the necessity of belief in a Creator (or God) for all the marvelously-efficient creatures extant on Earth - including humans. Belief in Darwin-Evolutionism exploded across the civilized world, popular magazines head-lined articles of various fossil finds, all feasible features of which were so interpreted as to support "natural selection". Academia, from secondary schools through graduate levels, began teaching that Darwin-Evolution Theory was proven fact - supplanting biblical creation or "Intelligent Design" - such belief reinforced by court rulings.

While cautionary voices were raised in opposition, they were however, largely dismissed as only religion-based denials of "science", with little space provided in main-stream media for broad readership. A compelling (but little known) story was that of Dr. Charles Walcott, paleontologist and Director of the Smithsonian Institute, who discovered 60,000 fossils in the Canadian Rockies a century ago. It was the greatest fossil find ever, including all extant creatures since the Cambrian Age, 530 million years ago. What Dr. Walcott did then was indicative of the formidable power (and fear) of Darwinian belief - he took the fossils to the Smithsonian and re-buried them in basement lockers (only recently rediscovered). His unprofessional action had only one objective - to protect his career, the fossils clearly proving the implausibility of Darwinian theory - there was no evidence of "missing links" - and there was insufficient time for the theoretical haphazard mutations to have evolved into all the creatures represented by the fossil finds.

There was also the Pajaro Dunes conference, a gathering of a dozen world class scientists who met at a small California beach community a dozen years ago - exchanging data and arguments challenging Darwin theory. An example used was the mousetrap - until all five elements were in existence it could not function - a "dead end" when coupled with Darwin's supplemental theory, "If mutations did not increase survivability, they would die out in the progeny". This posed astronomical improbabilities to the basic theory of fortuitous mutations - while the shape of beaks, a tertiary feature, might be obtained in a few generations, basic and major changes of the factors which discriminate between lions and giraffes, thus the mutational changes required - was a scientific "destroyer" of the theory. They also focused on the common bacterium, with its rapidly rotating whip-tail flagellum - microscopic in size, but duplicating all the elements of a humanly-engineered, 40-part outboard motor.

There is also a most compelling argument of pure logic, contradicting Darwin-Evolutionism - buttons and button-holes. No rational mind would deny that both "design" and "intelligence" played roles in the creation of a garment (round buttons and slit buttonholes, for ease of donning, fastening at throat and wrists, security of holding, ease of removal). However, for the infinitely more complex analogous sexual organs and features of respective male and female counterparts -across the complex spectra of creatures: mice to mammoths, birds to elephants - the intellectual elite of the world somehow insist - it all just came about by pure, sequential chance, "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest".

However, the Darwinist do not need true science or logic - they own the turf: liberal academia and the courts have given them visceral control of the subject - permitting the scrapping of wonderment, of true science and logic - how did all the world's complex, wonderful creatures - absent an "intelligent designer" - come to exist?

Rick Fleeter ’76 PhD ’81 Publishes Third Book

Rick Fleeter ’76 PhD ’81, a Brown University engineering alumnus and an adjunct associate professor in the School of Engineering at Brown, has recently published his third book, Love Is Strong As Death. Written with his late wife Nancy, the book discusses their 15-year battle with cancer.

“This book is our experience, two innocent novices, in dying, death and rebuilding one life where once there had been two,” said Fleeter. “It offers no advice, only a window into this most personal, and at the same time universal, of human experiences.”

Rick and Nancy were both professionals whose work took them all over the world. He founded and managed the aerospace engineering company AeroAstro, while Nancy managed arts organizations including American Ballet Theater and the J.F. Kennedy Center. Rick also wrote books and taught aerospace engineering as an adjunct professor, while Nancy continued to practice and teach ballet.

They lived at various times, sometimes simultaneously, in suburban Washington, D.C., Manhattan, Charlestown, R.I., Rome, Tokyo, and Gold Coast, Australia.

In addition to this book written with Nancy, Rick has written several books and book chapters on the engineering and management of miniature spacecraft and on cycling, triathlon and living nomadically for business and pleasure.

Rick now writes and is a professor in Rome and Rhode Island, teaching at The University of Rome La Sapienza and Brown University.

Rick also blogs at:

Brown University Engineering Ranked Among Top 50 Engineering Universities in the World; Top 3 in Ivy League

Times Higher Education has released its 2011-12 top 50 world university engineering and technology rankings, and Brown was ranked No. 45 in the world. There were a total of 22 U.S. universities on the prestigious list, including three Ivy League universities: Princeton, Cornell and Brown.

For the full list of the engineering and technology rankings, please go to:

“We are proud to have been recognized as among the top engineering schools in the world,” said Associate Dean Eric Suuberg. “Considering that we have had the status of a School of Engineering for only a few months, and particularly noting that virtually all of the institutions that ranked ahead of us have much larger programs than do we at Brown, we are very pleased with the result.”

“It is particularly gratifying to see that we are one of the three top-ranked engineering schools among our Ivy League peers, a group that is somewhat distinct from many of the other highly ranked schools,” said Dean Larry Larson. 

For the full list of the overall college rankings, please go to:

Ion Propulsion - How The Force Of A Sheet Of Paper Powers Cutting Edge Space Missions

The force from a typical ion thruster is roughly equivalent to the weight of a few sheets of office paper. Yet, this small force is crucial to the performance and success of the most daring and cutting edge space missions today.

For example, the types of ion thrusters that have flown or are flying today on missions such as the Gravity field and Ocean Circulation earth Explorer (GOCE), Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology No. 1 (SMART-1) and Dawn all have thrusts in the 1 to 100 milli-Newton range. This is equivalent to a weight range of approximately 0.1 to 10 grammes.

If you consider that the average sheet of A4 office paper weighs about 10 grammes then ion propulsion devices such as these are not exerting any real force by Earth standards.

It is this very idea though that makes them so useful and often critical to satellite missions in space; because in space weight is not as important as here on Earth. In addition, fine control of satellites and probes, for long periods, is starting to replace quick and powerful chemical burns for orbit change that have been used previously.

Most people have a picture of what a space engine looks like; it is either the kind of engine seen on a rocket, launching a payload into the sky in a fiery frenzy; or it is something out of science fiction, a device with a blue glow that propels spacecraft at unfathomable speeds across the universe.

Though some individuals recognise that there are varying types of thrusters, for example, used in space on satellites or on astronaut EVA suits, not many outside of the thruster community know how many types there are, how they are actually used and in particular just how versatile ion propulsion can be.

There are, of course, many types of ion propulsion these days all with a specific niche that they have been designed to fill. Here are some examples:

  • Resistor jets and colloid thrusters
  • Field-emission electric propulsion (FEEP)
  • Ferroelectric thrusters and pulsed plasma thrusters
  • Gridded ion thrusters - Kaufman, microwave or radio-frequency
  • Magneto-plasma-dynamic thrusters
  • Hall-Effect thrusters

How does a force so small become crucial to cutting edge missions?

The answer to this question lies in the nature of how ions are made and used. Typically, an ion thruster is a device in which a low temperature singly-charged plasma is formed using a gas like Xenon or Argon and application of electromagnetic fields. The ions are accelerated by high voltages once produced and then 'neutralised' using a special device conveniently called a 'neutraliser' that injects electrons into the ion beam.

Even in the more simplistic devices, creation of a plasma allows for a number of parameters and characteristics to be varied to optimise the device for a mission. This may be the range of gas flow used; it could be range of electric fields applied.

Typically each device can be characterised to fit into a performance envelope that allows quite a wide range of thrust levels to be achieved without degrading the performance of the engine.

A common characteristic is that a lot of the devices can be set on a low thrust level or a high thrust level if needed with the difference being much larger in thrust range than a turbo-fan jet engine used on an aeroplane.

Turbo-jets idle at around 35 to 40% of full thrust; an ion thruster can idle as low as 5% of full thrust as in the case of the GOCE T5 ion engine.

It is this variability of performance parameters and control of the thrust range that sets ion thrusters apart form other types of space propulsion. Yet, most ion thrusters are designed to operate at nominal levels for long durations or to be operated only for a few hours each day for station-keeping.

Has any ion thruster been used to its full potential?

There is currently only one mission that I am familiar with that utilises the full capability and promise of an ion thruster. It is the European Space Agencies GOCE mission, one that I was heavily involved with, principally in the design and development of the thruster and its control.

Unlike most ion thruster missions, and in fact most space missions, measuring the gravitation field of the Earth to the resolution desired, meant taking the risk of actually flying a spacecraft in the upper atmosphere.

This meant that a propulsion system had to be developed to counteract the drag on the spacecraft so that it could maintain its altitude and perform measurements. In other words, the thrusters had to literally stop the spacecraft falling out of the sky.

The thrust range specified was from 1 to 20 milli-Newton, or approximately one tenth to 2 sheets of A4 paper. If you were to rip off a corner of a sheet, that would be the lowest thrust; if you were to place 2 sheets on top of each other that would be the highest thrust.

However the specification did not stop there. The thrusters and propulsion system were designed to be able to vary the thrust at micro-Newton resolution. The actual ratio of the highest thrust level to resolution of that thrust level was just less than 2000:1.

If you consider your average motor car and its speed range in miles per hour, say 0 to 160 miles per hour, this would be like having a cruise control system that could keep you at 160 miles an hour with a variation less than 0.1 miles an hour. That is quite a control system by any standards.

Even then, there is an extra factor in that this control is achieved at a rate of 100 times per second, which arguably makes the propulsion system the fastest and most intricate system flying today.

It is not hard to see then that ion thrusters may be the vital tool to realise more intricate cutting- edge space missions as the nature of the process of ion production is such that devices can be built to meet very demanding specifications.

Yet, ion propulsion has not really been exploited to its full potential on every space mission it has been used on, mainly because it is typically tailored to each mission.

This tailoring reflects the demand; no-one truly needs a multi-functional thruster yet more projects demand a greater level of performance in lots of different aspects. Ion propulsion is seen as a major enabler for space missions to come but it is constantly pushed at the limit.

Perhaps this is a limit that is unsustainable for development. Hopefully this will mean that missions begin to be developed with thrusters in mind so that a successful marriage of performance, complexity, functionality and cost can be achieved, otherwise the technology may not be chosen due to bad experience with implementing it.

Brown Engineer Nathanial Cooper ’12 Finishes Third at AIChE Competition

Students in the Brown chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to attend the national AiChE meeting and compete in a student poster competition.

In the environmental category, Nathanial Cooper ’12 won a third place award. His poster was entitled, “Agricultural Waste Based Bio-Char Sorption Potential”. Last year, Cooper finished second in the poster competition.

Four students represented Brown at this year’s competition, including: Henry Mattingly ’12 (supervisor Robert Hurt), William Trinh ’12 (supervisor Indrek Kulaots), Cooper (supervisor Indrek Kulaots), and Ellison Kandler ’13 (supervisors Steve Greenbaum of the City University of New York and Eric Suuberg).

“As I've attended these student conferences over many years, and I do carefully review most of these posters presented, I must say that this year was even beyond what I have seen before,” said Kulaots. “The competition has gotten more and more competitive every year, and the level of science presented by undergraduates is remarkable.”

Ancient Lamps, Earrings Yield Their Secrets Under Neutron Imaging

“Neutron imaging gives researchers new tools for exploring artifacts and ancient technology”

Brown University School of Engineering Professor Brian Sheldon is the co-principal investigator on an exciting colloborative project that also includes Brown's Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology

For the first time at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), neutron images in three dimensions (3-D) have been taken of rare archaeological artifacts. Bronze and brass artifacts excavated at the ancient city of Petra, in present day Jordan, were recently imaged in 3-D using neutrons at the High Flux Isotope Reactor’s CG-1D neutron imaging instrument.

The neutron imaging technique gives eager archeologists and ancient historians significant, and otherwise wholly inaccessible, insight into the manufacturing and lives of cultures that once occupied settlements within the Roman Empire, Middle East, and Colonial-Period New England.  
The samples imaged in 3D in August came from the collections of the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World at Brown University. They include an elaborate hanging bronze oil lamp, a large Roman coin, and—most charmingly—a standing dog figure, which might have been either a religious dedication or perhaps a toy. Although their original provenance is unknown, they are all excellent examples of common metal finds from antiquity.
Principal investigator (PI) Krysta Ryzewski, an assistant professor of anthropology at Wayne State University, and her co-PI Brian W. Sheldon, professor of engineering at Brown University, were loaned the artifacts for study from professor Susan E. Alcock, director of Brown’s Joukowsky Institute. 
In earlier work, the team conducted two-dimensional imaging of copper alloy (bronze and brass) artifacts both from Petra and from Greene Farm, a colonial-period plantation in Rhode Island. The samples include artifacts from daily life: a clothing buckle, a knife, and some building hardware.
Photo and neutron radiograph of ancient Greek lamp
Top: photo of ancient Greek lamp. Bottom: neutron radiograph of the same lamp.
One circular object from Petra was so corroded that it was unidentifiable. But when it was imaged with neutrons, underneath was a piece of jewelry, probably an earring. Petra is most famous as a trading center in ancient times, connecting the Mediterranean world with places as far away as India and China. It was the capital of an independent kingdom of the Nabataeans, until the emperor Trajan incorporated it into the Roman Empire in the early second century A.D.
The earlier imaging and analysis resolved some questions of object identity and raised many new ones about the techniques and materials that crafts people in the past used to make these objects. “We can also examine certain objects (such as the knife or the bronze lamp) to look for trace residues of the oil once burned in the lamp or what the knife was used to cut,” says Ryzewski.
“I first learned of the developing neutron imaging instruments at Oak Ridge in my conversations with Hassina Bilheux (lead instrument scientist for CG-1D). At the time I was a postdoctoral fellow in archaeology and engineering at Brown. I attended a neutron imaging workshop at SNS in November 2008, and became the only archaeologist to be part of the VENUS instrument development team. Brian Sheldon at Brown also joined then. We have been collaborating on all of the experiments with Hassina at SNS and HFIR,” she says.
The neutron imaging beam line is a huge step forward for these scholars. “Archaeologists and scientists can obtain relatively little information about the manufacture of archaeomaterials, ancient objects, and the materials from which they are constructed from external surfaces alone,” says Ryzewski. “Very few historical accounts describe the construction of such objects and archaeomaterials, ancient bronzes, or ceramic vessels. The only source of information about how these objects were constructed comes from their material properties and composition.”
Archaeological objects are reviewed as unique cultural resources. Earlier analysis often entailed extracting a sample from such an object, which meant damage and sometimes even wholesale destruction of an artifact so it could be mounted effectively for analysis. Analysts’ necessarily conservative treatment of archaeomaterials left many questions unanswered.
Imaging archaeological objects comprehensively and systematically with neutrons only became possible with the development of the CG-1D prototype beam line. Neutron activation analysis and neutron imaging at Oak Ridge means scholars can now conduct detailed, nondestructive analysis of samples. “There currently exist a vast array of archaeological objects and research questions about ancient and historical technological development that can now be posed,” says Ryzewski. “The CG-1D beam line has offered us an invaluable alternative for performing nondestructive, noninvasive analysis.”
CG-1D data can reveal the raw materials used, the manufacturing techniques, the historical development of alloys and composite materials and the geological origins of ores and clay. On the cultural side, researchers can learn about the activities of ancient people’s daily lives that such objects served.
“Archaeologists can now begin to precisely reconstruct past networks and patterns of resource extraction, trade and exchange, environmental impacts of industrial activities on ancient landscapes, and the transmission of craft production traditions over time,” Ryzewski says. “These are some of the sorts of questions that our current research and experiments are designed to address.“
The 3-D neutron imaging and quantitative analysis occurs at an instrument that is a time-of-flight beam line, with a chopper for producing pulses of neutrons to take noninvasive images. Neutrons, rather than x-rays, do the work.
“Part of our early work was to test the parameters of the instrument and how we might need to adjust the instrumentation to suit the artifacts, which tend to vary in composition, size, and density,” Ryzewski says. 
“We anticipated that we would be able to see beneath the surface and find evidence of manufacturing steps (mold seams), impurities or other organic inclusions in the metals, residue from the objects’ use, and microstructural or compositional elements,” she says.
Their data are still being processed, but preliminary results from the bronze lamp suggest that they will be able to see and examine aspects of all of these areas of interest once the 3-D data are compiled. 
“Our work is still in its early stages. We hope to reexamine these objects in further rounds of testing in 2012. We will expand our sample base to other types of metal artifacts, perhaps some excavated from shipwrecks. We hope to examine ceramic artifacts as well, Ryzewski says.
More broadly, the scholars may be in a position to offer information to scientists who specialize in the conservation and stabilization of museum collections. Other findings may provide insights into materials behavior of interest to materials science. “Each round of experiments raises many more questions about the materials in the object and about the instrumentation itself,” Ryzewski says.
This fall the researchers will return to HFIR to image some of the bronze objects for Bragg-edge peaks in the materials. Collaborating with Ryzewski and Sheldon are Bilheux and Lakeisha Walker of SNS and Susan Herringer, a doctoral student in materials science engineering at Brown and the Joukowsky Institute.
The group will publish their results in both archaeological and neutron sciences academic publications. In addition, they will present their initial findings at the annual Society for American Archaeology meetings in Memphis in April 2012.

Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Written by Agatha Bardoel

Professors Kenny Breuer and Eric Suuberg Named Associate Deans of Engineering

Brown University School of Engineering Dean Larry Larson has announced that Professor Eric Suuberg has agreed to accept an appointment as Associate Dean of Engineering for Research and Graduate Initiatives and Professor Kenny Breuer has agreed to accept an appointment as Associate Dean of Engineering for Academic Programs. Both will serve three-year terms.

“I want to thank them both for their willingness to serve the School of Engineering, and for the commitment of their time and energy in moving the School forward in the coming years. Professors Suuberg and Breuer bring decades of experience and wisdom to the School leadership.” said Larson.

The Associate Dean of Engineering for Research and Graduate Initiatives will be responsible for enhancing and expanding the research and graduate enterprise and profile of the School of Engineering, including development of an enhanced master’s program for the School of Engineering and development of a plan for improved engineering research laboratory and instructional space.

The Associate Dean of Academic Programs will be broadly responsible for the academic mission of the School of Engineering, and will work closely with the Director of Undergraduate Programs, Director of Graduate Programs and the Curriculum Committee on curriculum development, educational outreach, student career development and instructional technology.  

Professor Breuer received his Sc.B. from Brown and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. from M.I.T. He spent nine years on the faculty of M.I.T. in department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, before returning to Brown in 1999. His research interests are in fluid mechanics, covering a wide range of topics, including the physics of flows at micron and nanometer scales, animal flight (bat flight in particular), and the physics and control of turbulent flows. He is author of over one hundred refereed technical publications, has edited and co-authored several books, including “Microscale Diagnostic Techniques”, “A Gallery of Fluid Motion”, and “Multimedia Fluid Mechanics”. Breuer was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in 2010.

Professor Suuberg has been at Brown since 1981, when he was one of the founding members of Brown's Chemical Engineering program. His research interests have been in the areas of energy and environmental engineering. He has served as Associate Dean of the Faculty (2002-2005), as Chair of the Psychology Department (2004-5) and as a member of the Executive Committee of the Division of Engineering. He is currently Co-Director of the Superfund Basic Research Program, and a co-founder of the Commerce, Organizations and Entrepreneurship concentration as well as a co-founder of the PRIME master’s program. He is a principal editor of the journal Fuel. He was elected fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in 2011.

Professor Suuberg's research interests center on energy and environmental areas, involving study of fuel chemistry (coal, oil shale, biomass), activated carbons (production and properties), materials reuse (automobile tires, coal fly ash), fire safety and, most recently, the characterization and cleanup of lands and sediments contaminated with mixed pollutants with a focus on thermodynamics of mixtures of high molecular weight organic compounds and the related problem of vapor intrusion.

He received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from M.I.T., a master’s degree in management science from M.I.T., and an Sc.D. in chemical engineering from M.I.T.

A Sad End to the Era of US Space Domination

To veterans of America's adventures in space: astronauts, aerospace engineers and also the public-at-large, it was a period of inspired and unparalleled achievement: from President Kennedy's thrilling words in 1962, "man-on-the-moon-within-the-decade" as the declared goal - then its 1969 attainment; then a half-century of world domination of space - a prolonged period of great national pride. The achievement, however, was through costly expenditures in both lives and wealth (for which America was reluctantly also proud), struggling against the harsh, unforgiving realities of space. To every American save President Obama's most-ardent supporters, his recent words at Cape Canaveral were extremely sad to hear as they brought the curtain down on America's manned space ventures by ending the Space Shuttle program and drastically modifying Orion, the planned follow-on vehicle. To experienced space engineers and astronauts, Obama's attempt to emulate Kennedy's uplifting speech with talk of Mars seemed but empty chest-thumping and political posturing, even naive, as it ignored the enormous increase in distance, thus complexity, cost and human risk. With just the obvious ten-times-longer flight duration, a Mars mission would entail mind-numbing increases in hazards and complexity, such as the consequences of prolonged weightlessness. exposure to deadly cosmic radiation (without the essential protection of Planet Earth's magnetic core) and other unpredictable space perils.

Seeking to mitigate criticism of his cost-saving space policy, President Obama told NASA workers that his plans would save jobs, as well as steer a course toward manned missions to Mars. Concern at the space center had reached panic levels because of thousands of jobs at risk due to the retirement of the Space Shuttle program. Obama also declared the drastic modification of the Constellation program, designed by the prior administration to ferry American astronauts to and from the Space Station and moon. Obama reaffirmed the plan to salvage a crew capsule from the program - to be called Orion - but which would now serve only as an emergency escape pod from the International Space Station.

In addition to these significant program losses, the skeptical and disheartened - but realistic - Florida community also expects a loss of 9,000 supporting jobs with the ending of both Space Shuttle and Constellation programs. In addition, another 14,000 job losses are expected to occur in local and related travel industries, including restaurants, hotels and retail shops.

"The bottom line," said Obama, "is, nobody is more committed to manned space flight, to human exploration of space, than I am. But we've got to do it in a smart way," What was not said, however, was that America would no longer be capable of even transporting its own astronauts to Space Station, and would now have to pay Russia for such haulage. Adding financial injury to the insult to American national pride, Russia immediately doubled its previous charge per U.S. astronaut for a Soyuz ride to or from Space Station.

Pledging a "transformative agenda" for NASA, Obama sketched an ambitious vision of developing spacecraft capable of journeys into deep space by 2025, and by the mid-2030s, to send astronauts to an asteroid, then into an orbit about Mars and finally landing on its surface. "And I expect to be around to see it," he said.

Obama also promised a $6 billion increase in NASA's budget to increase Earth-based observation of climate change (seemingly more important to Obama than U.S. space dominance), and to bolster support for private space companies. To experts, the present-day, private-company offerings of an exciting "space" ride for $200,000 (providing a glimpse of space to wealthy adventurers), totally lacks the capability of orbiting Earth and reaching the Space station or moon. (To achieve orbit, a capsule must be rocketed to at least 18,000 miles per hour, not just attain high altitude.)

A critical comment was made by Karan Conklin, who oversees a Space Museum in Titusville, Fla., "It's not just the local community that will be affected, it'll be the whole nation - we won't be No. 1 in space anymore," Obama's proposed changes prompted Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, to emerge briefly from reclusion to complain that the U.S. space program was being reduced to "second-rate or even third-rate stature."

Several Republicans, including Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, assailed Obama's speech, calling his plans "job-killing". "The president's new plans for NASA are flat-out irresponsible," Vitter said. "He has evidently decided... to simply walk away from manned space."

Neil Armstrong did not attend the Obama speech and was not mentioned by Obama, however Buzz Aldrin, an Apollo 11 crew-mate, was praised by Obama and flew with the president on Air Force One to attend the speech.

A recent medical study solidifies the doubt of feasibility of Obama's vision for Mars: the news headings tell the tale: "Space Flu, Other Woes Being Probed", and "Researcher looking into links between lack of gravity, illness". The story reports that almost half of the Apollo astronauts - certainly the most physically fit of humans imaginable - came down with flu-type infections during or immediately after the Apollo flights. A mission to Mars or to an asteroid would be many-fold longer and thus much more inimical to the human body's immune system, compared to the three-day trips to the moon.

Brown Engineering Alumnus Michael Escuti wins Presidential Award for Young Scientists and Engineers

Dr. Michael Escuti ScM '99 PhD '03, who received both his master's degree and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Brown University and is now a North Carolina State University engineering professor has won the U.S. government's top award for early-career scientists and engineers.

Escuti, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State, will receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers later this fall, the White House announced. The awards program, established by President Bill Clinton in 1996, honors researchers for working at the frontiers of science and technology and serving the community through scientific leadership, public education or outreach.

Winners receive research grants of up to five years to support their work.

Escuti was honored for his pioneering development of liquid crystal "polarization gratings," which consist of a thin layer of liquid crystal material on a glass plate. The White House also recognized him for educating students through collaborations with international academic teams and industries, as well as for outreach work in underserved communities.

Escuti's research has shown how polarization gratings, as well as devices and applications based on them, can solve problems in optics that had been previously thought unsolvable. One result of the work is a very energy-efficient way of steering laser beams that is precise and relatively inexpensive. The research has potential applications in laser radar and free space communication, which uses lasers to transfer data between platforms – such as between satellites or between aircraft and soldiers on the battlefield. Escuti's team, consisting of NC State students along with partner Boulder Nonlinear Systems Inc., has already delivered prototypes of the technology to the U.S. Air Force and is working on other applications.

Another result is a low-loss light switch, which inherently acts on all components of light rather than just the correctly polarized half, meaning that it is very transparent when it is open and very dark when closed. Other results include high-resolution spectral/polarization cameras, which enable compact and low-cost imaging beyond what our eyes can see for platforms such as aerial vehicles, satellites and biomedical imaging.

Escuti is commercializing his research through several industrial partnerships, including his own start-up company, ImagineOptix Corp., that has already prototyped a tiny, highly efficient projection display that could revolutionize displays on hand-held and mobile devices.

His work has resulted in a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, three awarded patents and nine pending patents. He has also received $4.3 million in external research funding from NSF, and many other federal, state, and private sources.

After receiving his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Brown University in 2003, Escuti joined the NC State faculty in 2004.

Portions of this release courtesy of North Carolina State University.

Nanoskin Saves Lives and Limbs

Engineers and Orthopedics Experts Reduce Risk of Infection from Medical Prostheses with Nanotech that Mimics Human Skin

Engineers and orthopedics experts are applying nanotechnology to prosthetic medical devices in order to increase patient safety. By closely mimicking human skin, experts hope to reduce the infection-inducing bacteria that grow on prostheses. Changing the texture of the devices in small ways results in a big reduction in bacteria growth, as well as improvement of skin closures and bone growth.

Nanoskin saves lives and limbs - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 -

Losing a limb can be devastating and in the United States there are approximately 1.7 million people living that way. One of the biggest fears for those who use prosthetic devices is getting an infection. But researchers are working on a way to mimic the human skin to cut down on infections.

“I went to bed and woke up the next morning and my body was swollen and I had blisters all over it,” Anthony Buttaro, a man who suffered limb loss, told Ivanhoe.

That morning Anthony Buttaro rushed to the hospital. Doctors diagnosed him with MRSA the often deadly infection forced doctors to amputate his left arm. Now Anthony uses a prosthetic device but he is still concerned about infections.
“I’m always worried about it,” Buttaro said.

To ease those fears engineers and experts in orthopedics at Brown University are applying nanotechnology to medicine called nanomedicine to mimic the tiniest features and contours of human skin.

“Skin serves as a barrier to keep bacteria out of the body,” Thomas Webster an engineer at Brown University told Ivanhoe.

Screws are often used to attach the prosthetic device to bone, but bacteria can grow on the screws causing an infection.
“We are talking really, really small features that are making a difference,” Webster said.

The difference comes by changing the texture of the screw. First it is dipped into hydrofluoric acid. At the same time voltage is applied to create the tissue like features.

“What we are seeing, we’re reducing bacteria growth, on these implants, we’re improving skin closures around the implants and improving bone growth,” Webster explained.

By mimicking the skin researchers believe it will cut down on infections, saving lives and limbs. The nanoskin technology is still in the study phase, but researchers hope to start human testing in the future.

ABOUT NANOTECHNOLOGY: Nanotechnology is science at the size of individual atoms and molecules -- objects and devices measuring mere billionths of a meter, smaller than a red blood cell. At this size scale, materials have different chemical and physical properties than the same materials in bulk, because quantum mechanics is more important. For example, carbon atoms can conduct electricity and are stronger than steel when woven into hollow microscopic threads. Nanoparticles are already widely used in certain commercial consumer products, such as suntan lotions, "age-defying" make-up, and self-cleaning windows that shed dirt when it rains. One company manufactures a nanocrystal wound dressing with built-in antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. On the horizon is toothpaste that coats, protects and repairs damaged enamel, as well as self-cleaning shoes that never need polishing. Nanoparticles are also used as additives in building materials to strengthen the walls of any given structure, and to create tough, durable, yet lightweight fabrics.

The Biophysical Society and the Materials Research Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

Heat at the Borders

Brown University School of Engineering professor Vivek Shenoy's work on thermal transport across grain boundaries in graphene (published in Nano Letters last month) has also been featured in the research highlights section of Nature Materials. An abstract of his paper, "Thermal transport across Twin Grain Boundaries in Polycrystalline Graphene from Nonequilibrium Molecular Dynamics Simulations" follows:

Heat at the borders

Fabio Pulizzi
Nature Materials
Published online
Nano Letters (2011)

Graphene exhibits the highest thermal conductivity ever observed. Its thermal transport has been studied theoretically and experimentally, mostly in single-crystalline graphene. Unfortunately, large-scale growth, for example by chemical vapour deposition (CVD), usually yields polycrystalline sheets. Akbar Bagri and colleagues have performed molecular dynamic simulations of the thermal transport across various grain boundary orientations in graphene. They assumed a constant heat flow through the material, calculated the temperature profile and from that estimated the thermal conductivity. Interestingly, they found abrupt jumps in the temperature at the grain boundaries, which depend on the boundary orientation and grain size. The estimated grain boundary thermal conductivity is much higher than in the case of other materials with high thermal conductivity, such as nanocrystalline diamond. The results are particularly important in view of potential applications based on CVD-grown graphene. It will be interesting to see how the experiments will compare with these predictions.

For the full html version from NanoLetters, please go to:

Risk Management and Locomotive Engine Rooms - Case Study

One of the biggest factors when it comes to risk management is the issue of confined space. OSHA for instance realizes that this is a huge problem and they are concerned with restricted entry and exit locations for employees working in hazardous situations where risk of injury or death is concerned. When it comes to the railroad, and those that work on trains, the engine room is just such a space. In fact, on almost all modern day locomotives there are access doors along the entire length of the motor.

Still, it is a confined space between the pillars for the doors and working between the engine components. Consider if you will that a modern diesel engine has pistons the size of basketballs, and they get very hot. And they leak oil, and there is grease everywhere. It's impossible to keep them perfectly clean all the time, and some railroad mechanics will tell you that if it ever stops leaking, that means it's not working. With grease and oil on, in, and around the engine, it is necessary to clean it early and often.

This means hitting it with a steam cleaner, or hot-water pressure washer. Now you are introducing high-pressure, heat, and water to oil and grease. I'd say that's a little bit hazardous, but it must be done otherwise when the motor is running it would be easy to slip onto moving parts of the motor, and/or burn oneself. Perhaps this is why our contract cleaning company was always busy taking care of our railroad customers.

They wanted the equipment clean, they wanted to save on insurance, and they wanted to prevent accidents. Indeed, from a risk management standpoint, we also had to be very careful when doing the cleaning. For instance we had to clean the outside of the cat walks, all the railings, and the doors first, otherwise we might slip while cleaning the engine ourselves. You see, the point in all this is, it isn't only the factory floor where you have to worry about risk management, every service company must realize its value as well. Please consider all this.

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