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« One Last Shot | Main | Scuttle The Shuttle »

Aerospace Engineering In The Blogosphere

Here's a new blog. It's not that new, actually--I've been meaning to blogroll it for a while, but its proprieter went on vacation, so I decided to wait until he got back, so as to not send folks to stale and static content.

As we all know, many law professors have been blogging, but this is the first blog that I know of from an aerospace engineering professor. It's Spacecraft by Professor Chris Hall, at Virginia Tech in (I assume) Blacksburg. Hopefully, this is a start of a trend, because it seems to me like an excellent way to communicate with the students, as well as the rest of the world.

He's off to a good start, with this post about timeless aerospace design laws (somewhat like Augustine's Laws, though the latter are more about aerospace policy than engineering per se). Like him, I like this one:

6. (Mar's Law) Everything is linear if plotted log-log with a fat magic marker.

He seems to specialize in spacecraft dynamics, orbital mechanics and general spacecraft design. A man (again, I assume, since the given name "Chris" isn't gender specific) after my own heart (except I was more of a systems engineer than a designer, i.e., I was better at critiquing others' designs than coming up with my own, other than in broad concept).

I had a lot of gripes about the aerospace engineering curriculum when I was in school, and I suspect that many of them still apply, so there may be some interesting back and forth in the future. Anyway, go check it out.

Posted by Rand Simberg at July 14, 2003 01:13 PM
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Being as its origins are VPI, I suggest ChrisCraft as opposed to Spacecraft as their most famous NASA Alumnist at Tech.

Posted by Mike Puckett at July 14, 2003 01:39 PM

All I could think about was that:

20. A bad design with a good presentation is doomed eventually. A good design with a bad presentation is doomed immediately.

explains NASP, the X-33, ISS, and the OSP at a very minimum. All of them were overly ambitious bad designs, but they all had excellent marketing. (In the sense of being able to convince NASA managers and Congresscritters that they were good ideas)

Posted by Jeff Dougherty at July 14, 2003 02:10 PM

Law 8 is patently false though. Any realistic linear system will necessarily have it's optimum on the boundary of the feasible region. Most non-linear utility functions in a field where the feasible envelope is only just being mapped will have their physically possible optima in regions beyond the reach of current technology.
When I was a teacher it was always the optima on the boundary that the students forgot to check. Interior optima are often found with straightforward algorithms, but optima on the boundaries require the critical analysis of the compromise between the possible, and the doable that is the hallmark of a good engineer.

Posted by David at July 14, 2003 04:13 PM

Nitpick alert-- Hall is the surname, or family name, Chris is the given name (in earlier, less PC times, also known as christian name).

Posted by Raoul Ortega at July 14, 2003 07:01 PM

I'd be interested to know what sort of gripes you had about the aerospace curriculum. Especially since I am starting at Cal Poly this fall, majoring in aerospace engineering.

Posted by John at July 14, 2003 11:31 PM

Chris Craft is indeed our most famous alum. There's even a named professorship here in honor of him, currently held by Professor Wing Ng in the Mechanical Engineering department. One of my colleagues has a model ChrisCraft that was built to honor the first recipient of that named professorship.

For those who don't know, a "named professorship" is an endowed award that a professor receives, along with the extra name. It usually comes with some extra money that the professor uses to further research and/or teaching.

Chris(topher) Hall
ps. I'll add an "about" blurb to my blog.

Posted by Chris Hall at July 15, 2003 05:50 AM

I thought that:

11. Sometimes, the fastest way to get to the end is to throw everything out and start over.

is quite interesting, given the nearby post on "Scuttle the Shuttle".

Posted by Eric S. at July 15, 2003 07:34 AM

My folks endowed a chair in the engineering department at Berkeley. A goddamned cool way to spend a decent fraction of a million bucks if you ask me.

Posted by Anon-For-A-Reason at July 15, 2003 10:30 AM

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