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Engineering Edge

Brownian Motion…The random musings of a Fluid Dynamicist

Brownian motion or pedesis (from Greek: πήδησις Pɛɖeːsɪs "leaping") is the presumably random moving of particles suspended in a fluid (a liquid or a gas) resulting from their bombardment by the fast-moving atoms or molecules in the gas or liquid. The term "Brownian motion" can also refer to the mathematical model used to describe such random movements, which is often called a particle theory.

Did someone say supersonic, interplanetary sky crane? You had me at laser armed, atomic robot-truck

Being an engineer means you get used to certain labels or stereotypes; my own wife has been known to ask me to tell her about my working day on those occasions she struggles to get to sleep. Unfortunately for her, another trait we allegedly possess is the inability to pick up on signals such as ‘sarcasm’, ‘painful levels of boredom’ and ‘regret’, so I’m happy to do so, at some length.

The truth is, I don’t so much accept as actively embrace this pigeon-holing. Why? Well, for a number of reasons: I’m a very easy man to buy Christmas presents for (FYI, the answer is clothes. If the engineer in your life is beginning to look like a hobo, that’s your fault for buying them a picture frame for their last birthday); thinking of buying something which has at least one of the following components: a screen, a keyboard, wheels, tracks, a laser? I’ll give you one guess as to who has already read all the reviews and tech spec’s (I will admit that I rarely get asked for laser advice, but the point is I’m ready for it); you will never have any IT issues at home (you may find you’re now on Linux, but you’ll understand eventually); you need never leave the cinema ignorant of all the technical goofs the film possessed and no, you won’t even have to ask. I could go on, but I think you see the point I’m making.

Ultimately, I think that being a nerd is mainly about being enthusiastic about something. The reason it often has such negative connotations is probably down to apathy being such a celebrated trait in popular culture. Don’t believe me? Compare and contrast just about any interview with a Hollywood Celebrity with the footage that came out of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory following the successful arrival of the Curiosity probe on Mars. One will be an exercise in studied mono-tone, indifference and intermittent eye-contact, the other…well, if you haven’t seen the footage, I can only encourage you to seek it out. I mean, really encourage you: they put a one ton, six wheeled rover on Mars using a parachute that opened at just under Mach two, rockets and a crane that operated while still in flight. You can begin reading that last sentence at just about any point after the colon and it would still contain enough information to make me go slack jawed in wonder.

It also has a laser on board, but I wasn’t asked.

Anyway, here’s to us who know how to appreciate the big things in life precisely because we’re not afraid to celebrate the details.

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