Applied Mechanics News

Friday, March 31, 2006

What is Applied Mechanics?

While our colleagues at the University of Illinois and their students are fighting to save the Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, I’m writing on an airplane flying from San Jose to Boston. I’ve been thinking about this entry for some time, and hope that the elevation excuses me for disconnecting this entry from the burning issues on the ground.

So, What is Applied Mechanics? It seems that useful answers ought to depend on who you are talking to. If you are persuading your dean to hire a new faculty member in Applied Mechanics, perhaps you’d like to point out promising research in one area or another. If you are explaining what you do for living at a dinner party, assuming that the party has heard enough of Iraq or intelligent design or entropy, perhaps you’d like to point out Applied Mechanics helps to understand how a gecko climbs, or how an earthquake occurs, or how a computer chip fails, or how an airplane flies, or how the Twin Towers fell. You’d pick an example that you know well, keep it short, and be ready to answer obvious questions. If you are talking to an aspiring student, in addition to pointing out promising research areas and great applications, perhaps you’d like to point to a book that she’d gain an inspiring, yet technical, overview of our subject. A book similar to Courant’s What is Mathematics would be excellent. Such a book on Applied Mechanics, however, has not been written.

Your aspiring student will not wait for The Great Book, and must have searched on the Internet. She’d most likely be disappointed of what she has found. The Google Search of “Applied Mechanics” hardly yields anything useful for her purpose. It has been fashionable for academics, along with the mainstream media, to dismiss the Web as a credible resource. Perhaps we have been unfair. We are mechanicians. It is our responsibility to educate the public what Applied Mechanics is.

To this end, I have just started an entry of Applied Mechanics in the Wikipedia, with hyperlinks to existing entries (blue), and nonexisting ones (red). Like many entries in the Wikipedia, this one is a work in progress, and admittedly inadequate. Please feel free to delete, add, rearrange, and hyperlink.

(If you are new to the Wikipedia, you may want to read a previous entry in AMN, Wikipedia and Applied Mechanics. You may also want to read a few entries in the Wikipedia, such as Trusses, Nanotechnology, Information technology, and Computer science.)

Let us hope that we will soon have enough material in the Wikipedia for anyone to learn about Applied Mechanics, on any occasion and for any length of time.


  • I think thats really good Idea !

    Thanks prof. Zhang Suo for your initiatives.

    I have visited your website, read some of your papers, really cool.
    I'm doing research on thin film also.

    Well since the day I came to US, the concept engineering mechanics has been changed dramatically in my mind. I can see many great application of mechanics in my research and through our regular seminars in my dept. Even there is an oscar winner for animation movie graduated from master degree from my department .

    In my country, 98% of population dont know what is mechanics. They think it is related to machine, to workers in the factory .

    Its really sad !

    By Anonymous Phuong Tran, at 4/07/2006 3:33 PM  

  • Hi Phuong:

    Thank you very much for visiting AMN, and for sharing your thoughts. AMN is maintained by volunteers in the community. Everyone is welcome to participate. In addition to serving mechanicians with relevant news and views, we are also building an Internet community to promote Applied Mechanics education, research and public outreach. If you have an idea that you'd like to tell other mechanicians, you might want to post the idea in the Applied Mechanics Google Group.

    Best wishes,


    By Blogger Zhigang Suo, at 4/08/2006 4:15 AM  

  • I am wondering if Phuong Tran (Illinois) is from 98% of people who do not know Applied Mechanics. How many people in US who know Applied Mechanics !!? 2 percent!!??

    By Blogger hamanh, at 7/21/2006 5:32 AM  

  • I'v posted another entry to continue the discussion, What's wrong with Applied Mechanics?

    By Blogger Zhigang Suo, at 7/21/2006 9:53 PM  

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