I was involved in advanced brushless motor development for a couple of years. It was an interesting period of time. We did a lot of cool work on advanced thermal packaging, winding encapsulation, advanced robotic actuators, ultra light weight starter/alternator, hybrid minivans. Pretty cool stuff.
One afternoon we were working on the question of bond strength of epoxy. the problem was how to bond neodymium iron boron magnets to a steel rotor. As the RPM increases, the centrifugal forces is increasing exponentially to tear the magnet off the rotor. This is especially annoying when you are trying to engineer a high RPM rotor.
We were meeting in the “pit” where a shack had been erected to provide a safe enviornment to exercise various rotor designs in the hope of creating a reliable design. A group of us were discussing the pro’s and con’s of a particular design. What was shocking was that it was apparent from the conversation that non of the younger guys on the team, recent college grads, knew how to construct a single variable experiment.
So I started asking the guys, ‘have any of you taken logic and scientific method?” Blank stares. ‘Uh, no’ Anybody heard of Mills Methods? ‘Nope” Further conversation revealed that the course Logic and Scientific Method, was no longer required for graduation in engineering.
Well, we got through the afternoon and successfully tested the rotor. And we got to a working design without major incident. But it was touch and go for a while.
I mention all this because the recent commentary from some readers reminded me of the importance of the subject. On the one hand, Logic and Scientific method may not sound like a big deal. But critical thinking is necessary in the engineering field. And in life as well.
If we don’t understand the information and context of the deluge of input that we are surrounded by, we will surely be the victims of it. The proper role of education is to equip students with tools so they learn HOW to think. Instead we are surrounded by information that tells us WHAT to think. There is a big difference. And we need to understand that difference.
Whether it’s Global Warming, Energy Policy, whatever. I approach these subjects with some skepticism because the dominant media conversation is purposely obscured. For example, the Wind Energy advocates never talk about how much their stuff costs and what the typical payback period is. It simply doesn’t make sense that the dialogue is so obscured, and when people make their arguments obscure, as our politicians tend to do, it’s time to be suspicious and look for answers.
As regards simple metrics like return on investment, my background is industrial. Historically, we look for 1-2 year payback. If it’s not in that time frame, it’s not likely to happen. And we need to apply that hurdle to the alternative energy arena. Government may have a role to play, but we also need an aducated and informed electorate that understands the difference between fact and fiction, and people that are engaged in the decision making process.