I grew up in Southern California where the threat of the big one is always there – by the big one I mean the big San Andreas fault earthquake which according to experts the world over is overdue by many decades. Over the weekend San Francisco got a couple of tremblers … nothing too scary but enough to remind all Californians that the big one is lurking out there. Alas so far science has not been able to predict when or where the next earthquake will hit – that is unless you watch the Syfy channel and every other week some brilliant scientist saves the day by chucking a few nuclear warheads in the middle of LA to hold the big one at bay. Fortunately for LA, science hasn’t been able to crack this egg yet and since human beings abhor the unknown a few myths have popped up over the years to deal with the issue at hand.
The most persistent one is called “earthquake weather”. Earthquake weather can best be described as unseasonably hot weather which arrives quickly and then disappears soon after an earthquake. For example, if you are in the middle of February in let’s say San Francisco (don’t want to pick on my old hometown all the time) you expect an average high temperature of 60° F / 16° C. Then all of a sudden the temperature rises to 85° F/29° C – the air becomes very still and can be a bit stifling. That’s when antennas start going up because what you’ve got is considered by the man at large as “earthquake weather”. You sleep uneasily at night and keep your running shoes by the bed (if you think I’m kidding the earthquake preparation pamphlets suggest you wear running shoes in case you need to walk for hours over rubble until you get to safety). 9 out of 10 times nothing happens and within a day or two the temperature drops back to normal again but sometimes and I mean sometimes an earthquake pops up somewhere and that’s enough to keep this myth alive.
There are a lot of myths around us. Even in the world of CFD – some firmly rooted in the history of CFD and some conjured from the air by a clever marketing person (yes I know I’m in marketing but this leopard isn’t pretending to change its spots, I am merely making an observation which I might add many engineers have verbalized over the years). For example, the myth that CFD software is hard to use is one based on history. Yes, the first, 2nd and even the third generation CFD software tools were difficult to use by anyone except for a fully trained specialist. But the solutions based on the concept of Concurrent CFD are not (we discussed this topic last year so I’m not going to bore you by talking about it again).
Some myths are based on outdated beliefs. For example, “shirt-sleeve management” (if the room is too cold for you, then it’s cold enough for the equipment) is no longer an appropriate method of cooling data centers. Thankfully we are now more energy conscious and with the help of CFD, we now know that some equipment can withstand almost balmy temperatures, some shouldn’t be placed next to others, and that moving equipment around the room can impact the overall cooling needs of the room.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that just because something was considered “true” at some point, it doesn’t make it still true – at one point we believed the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth. So when you look at your engineering processes/systems don’t just automatically assume that everything still holds true. Design rules get tweaked. Fans become more efficient. New solutions to old problems appear. And simulation is no longer the realm of the few. So go ahead: Explore and debunk design and analysis myths. It is when we debunk myths and put new more efficient rules in place that we truly improve performance and get the most out of every engineering dollar.
Since I’m in a myth busting frenzy, I for one am rather relieved that earthquake weather is a myth through and through. Out of the blue the temperature in LA rose uncharacteristically a couple of days ago … perfect earthquake weather. Maybe I imagined it but I thought everyone was a bit on the edge. Thankfully the temperature broke in the middle of the night with nary an earthquake in sight. All became normal again – well, as normal as things get in LA.
Until next time,