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.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Time too good to be true - Physics Today

Daniel Kleppner, an MIT physicist, mused over the physics, practice and politics of keeping time.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

How to make long distance phone calls for free

Like many other communities, we mechanicians are scattered all over the world, often separated from families and colleagues. The Internet has promised for years to make long dstances irrelevant: anybody anywhere is just a click away. While nothing will ever be the same as being together in person, many Internet services can facilitate distant communication and collaboration. For example, Skype, an Internet phone service, allows you make free phone calls around the world. The sound quality is excellent.

To call a friend, you'll need to download a small piece of software from skype.com. Your friend needs to do the same. Of course, both his computer and yours need be connected to the Internet, although skype allows you to call from a computer to a regular phone, or the other way around, for a small fee.

If your computer comes with both a microphone and a speaker, as most laptops do, you can make phone calls without any other equipment. However, when you call your friend over a very long distance (e.g., from US to China), as the sound from the speaker of your computer feeds into the microphone, the time delay is long enough for your friend to hear echoes of his own voice. To eliminate the echoes, both of you should use headsets. Of course, you’ll need a headset if your computer lacks a speaker or a microphone.

Once you set your commputer up, making a phone call is as easy as a click, or maybe two. I have skyped my parents and bother in China, as well as colleagues around the world. To have an effective technical discussion, you may want to send powerpoint files to each other by emails, before or while talking.

Conference calls are free and just as easy. The other day, my wife made a four-way conference call with her two brothers and their father. If you are active in a committee, with members in several places, Skype will be a way to hold a committee meeting.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Debates on TAM merger at the University of Illinois

Note added at 5:30 pm. One of our readers, Harish Cherukuri, pointed out a website, savetam.com, maintained by the students of TAM Department.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Windows is so slow, but why? - New York Times

Note added at 6 pm, March 28. This article appeared early this morning on Slashdot, and generated over 700 comments. Now you can view the wisdom of crowd in action.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Statistics of Applied Mechanics News and its sister blogs

Applied Mechanics News (AMN) was launched on Sunday, 8 January 2006, with an entry about Kyung-Suk Kim winning the Ho-Am Prize. After some initial experiments, we soon settled with four sister blogs: AMN, Applied Mechanics Research and Researchers (AMR), Applied Mechanics Conferences (AMC), and Applied Mechanics Jobs (AMJ). Today these blogs contain the following numbers of entries: AMN (51), AMR (59), AMC (39), AMJ (18). Let us hope that the last two numbers are merely accidental, and do not imply that our community has more conferences than jobs.

There is no need to memorize the web address of AMN. All you need to do is to type Applied Mechanics News into the box of a search engine and hit return. AMN appears as the first result on all three popular search engines: Google, Yahoo, and MSN. (Click these links, and you will find that the three search engines differ about the second result.)

In late January, we installed StatCounter, a free software that tracks statistics of websites. The numbers of unique visitors each week for the past 8 weeks (starting from the most recent week) are as follows.
  • AMN: 715, 1013, 339, 341, 294, 211, 217, 316.
  • AMR: 430, 507, 277, 220, 190, 166, 182, 285.
  • AMC: 82, 121, 66, 35, 38, 35, 39, 53.
  • AMJ: 122, 125, 60, 71, 73, 51, 45, 61.
In the morning of Wednesday, 15 March 2006, the Executive Committee of the ASME Applied Mechanics Division sent an email to invite the members of the Division to explore AMN and its sister blogs. This email led to a spike in activities, as seen from the daily page loads of that week: Sunday (69), Monday (109), Tuesday (136), Wednesday (924), Thursday (453), Friday (294), Saturday (179).

Although we cannot send mass emails to invite people outside the Applied Mechanics Division, these blogs are for everyone in the international community of Applied Mechanics. As discussed in a previous entry, AMN is a platform to explore new ways for members in a mid-sized community like ours to communicate with each other. Each one of us in the community is part of this experiment, and can participate in many ways. If you have an experimental idea, please let us know.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Basic Energy Sciences Workshop Reports

This website provides reports of workshops sponsored by the Basic Energy Sciences (BES) of the Department of Energy (DOE).

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Future of computing

This Nature web focus, published today, discusses how computational science may transform mainstream science by 2020. All the articles are free online.

Whither nano or bio

by Rob Ritchie

While the nano revolution may fade away in a few years, the bio revolution is, to use an Americanism, for real. A significant proportion of the next generation of students will be biomaterials scientists, and this can only be good for our field. Read more.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Summer School on Advanced Thermostructural Materials, UC Santa Barbara, 6-19 August 2006

Application is still open online.
  • No registration fee.
  • Housing and meals will be provided.
  • Participants may request travel support.

We are Mechanicians

In his Timoshenko Medal Lecture, Bernard Budiansky remarked on why applied mechanics lacked visibility. The full text of his lecture will be posted in Applied Mechanics Research and Researchers in a few weeks, along with the Timoshenko Medal Lectures of other recipients, but here are two paragraphs from his lecture:

“There are two obvious reasons for this lack of visibility, one sublime and one ridiculous. Our very success in promulgating the role of applied mechanics within such a large number and variety of fields has led to the seamless integration of substantial parts of applied mechanics into the various fields I mentioned. This, of course, is very welcome. But as a natural consequence, subsequent research in such an incorporated segment of applied mechanics tends to assume the identity of its host. The absurd reason for our lack of status is that we still don’t know what to call ourselves! Can it be that this is the crux of the problem? We are not the only group whose activity cuts broadly across traditional disciplinary boundaries, but mathematicians, engineers, physicists, biologists, and computer scientists proudly retain their identities, no matter how scattered and diverse their working environments, and, of course, their titles provoke instant recognition. But what are we? In informal conversation, “applied mechaniker” is all right, but is clearly too whimsical and slang-ey for general acceptance. Some years ago, Norman Goodier urged the adoption of the appellation “applied mechanicist” but this never really took hold, and “applied mechanician” doesn’t seem to make it either.
......

“So if we agree that we should burst the bonds of anonymity, perhaps we should begin by coming to grips with the question of our job description. I could live with either “applied mechanicist” or “applied mechanician”. Why not boldly start using one or the other at every opportunity, and let the better one survive! Then – let’s lobby scientific and technical societies, honorary or otherwise, that have not yet seen the light, to establish applied mechanics divisions! In universities, reverse the slide into oblivion and recommend that establishment of applied mechanics committees across standard departmental lines, maybe empowered to grant degrees as well as give courses! Preach to funding agencies about the merits of interdisciplinary sections of applied mechanics! Give interview, or write popular articles, about applied mechanics and its practitioners! Run for Congress!”

To gain name recognition is hard, especially for people with no names. This much we know. In this blog, I'll start to call ourselves mechanicians, and not the timid phrase "people in the community of Applied Mechanics". Thus the title of this entry.


Budiansky gave the lecture in 1989.
Now we have yet one more way to let the world know who we are: the Internet. Here is an idea, borrowed from the Mathematics Genealogy Project, an online genealogy of mathematicians. You can get the basic idea of the project by looking at the page of William Prager, the PhD advisor of Budiansky. Perhaps someone in our field can start such a project for us mechanicians. We may even set it up as a wiki, to be updated by the entire community. (Alternatively, we can simply submit data to the Mathematics Genealogy Project, as the Mechanics of Deformable Solids and Fluid Mechanics both belong to Mathematics Subject Classification.)

Note added on 29 April 2006: I've started an entry titled Mechanicians in Wikipedia. Everyone is welcome to edit.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

My favorite RSS feeds

If you haven’t heard of RSS feeds, you soon will. A previous entry in AMN described the few clicks needed to set up a RSS aggregator. Once you set it up, you can view many news at a glance, from any computer connected to the Internet.

In addition to AMN and AMR, here are several of my other favorite RSS feeds:
  • New York Times offers RSS feeds for most of its sections. My favorite is the Technology Section.
  • Slashdot.org is devoted to news for nerds.
  • Physical Review Focus offers selections from Physical Review and Physical Review letters, explained for students and researchers in all fields of physics.
  • Scientific American has recently launched podcast.
At least one aggregator, Google Personalized Home, also allows you to subscribe to the results of Google News Search, using any combination of keywords. For example, a Google News Search of "web 2.0" gives these results. If you add the URL to your Google Personalized Home, it updates the results automatically, with the most relevant ones at the top. This feature in effect allows you to create a journal on any topic, so long as it is discussed online.

Notes

Friday, March 17, 2006

Registration for the 2006 Gordon Research Conference is now open

Updates (28 July 2006)
  • Driving direction to Colby College, 4000 Mayflower Hill Drive, Waterville, Maine 04901.
  • Registration: Foss Hall (see pdf of campus map). Phone: 207 859 4745.
  • Dining: Roberts Dining Hall.
  • Lectures: Keyes Auditorium.
  • On-site management: Jon Joseph and Claire Deeley, email cbc@grc.org, phone 207 859 4745.
  • Please take a look at a list of frequently asked questions and pre-conference readings. I've invited some participants to help evolving this list, using Writely, a Web-based word processor. If you'd like to contribute to the list, let me know (suo@deas.harvard.edu), and I'll invite you as well.
  • An updated program has been posted on the GRC website. All original speakers have confirmed their participation. Due to conflict with other commitments, however, three of the original discussion leaders, Jun Liu, Helena Van Swygenhoven and Reiner Dauskardt, are unable to participate; they have been replaced by Taher Saif, Wei Cai and Kevin Hemker.
I am writing to tell you about the upcoming Gordon Research Conference on Thin Film and Small Scale Mechanical Behavior, to be held in July 30-August 4, 2006, at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. To apply for attendance, click a button at the bottom of the program.

As you can see from the program, this conference will focus on some of the most exciting new areas of research in applied mechanics and materials science. Also featured in the program is a new group of attendees called rapporteurs – people who have done distinguished work and are also not shy about raising stimulating questions. The rapporteurs will add to the excitement of the conference by their comments and suggestions throughout the meeting. If you could make the time for this conference, I am sure you would enjoy it and would come away knowing some of the new people in the field and possibly having ideas for future research.

There will be plenty of opportunities for all attendees to actively contribute to the conference and interact with one another. Each 40-minute talk will be followed by 20-minute discussion, and attendees will share all meals in a dining room on campus. There will be no talks in the afternoons, so that people can form small groups to discuss, or go for swimming, or just relax in their dorms.

Poster sessions at this GRC have always been a hit. Individual presenters will outline their posters to the entire audience of the conference, and subsequently people will gather in front of posters with drinks and snacks. There will be a competition for poster awards.

During the week, you can stay connected with the world (if you wish): every room in the dorm has free, fast Internet connection.

Many past attendees have found that GRC is an excellent venue to meet with collaborators from different institutions. So plan this event ahead with your collaborators.

The $725 registration fee covers lodging and all meals. The fee will increase by $25 after 8 July 2006. Registration will be closed when the number of registrants approaches 150, a number set by the available facilities at Colby College.

suo@deas.harvard.edu

ASME seeks federal fellow applications

ASME International was the first engineering society to establish a Federal Government Fellows Program, and is seeking applicants for

Thursday, March 16, 2006

2006 NSF CAREER awardees in mechanics

Post from Ken P. Chong, National Science Foundation

Recently, the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program has made awards to the following people in the area of mechanics:

Wei Cai, Stanford University
Pradeep Guduru, Brown University
Rui Huang, University of Texas at Austin
Jeong-Ho Kim, University of Connecticut
Jamie Kruzic, Oregon State University
Kai-tak Wan, University of Missouri-Rolla

Laboratory earthquakes

For years, Ares Rosakis, of Caltech, and his collaborators have been studying earthquates in labs, using small specimens and high-speed cameras. They have just finished a review article on the subject.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

NSF blue-ribbon panel report on simulation-based engineering science

A NSF blue-ribbon panel has recently released a report on simulation-based engineering science.

Introducing Applied Mechanics News

We cordially invite you to explore Applied Mechanics News (AMN), a blog of news and views of interest to the international community of Applied Mechanics, and its sister blogs listed in the sidebar.

We hate email spam just as you do. To avoid sending many mass emails in future, we and others will use AMN to make many announcements. So please bookmark AMN, and check regularly.

Or even better, you may want to get our RSS feed using a start page, considered by many the most effective way to read news online.

AMN was initiated by volunteers in the Applied Mechanics Division, of American Society of Mechanical Engineers. However, Applied Mechanics is practiced in many organizations all over the world. Few issues of Applied Mechanics are confined within a particular organization or a particular country. The Internet enables AMN to be international and inter-organizational.

AMN is maintained by volunteers in the international community of Applied Mechanics. Everyone is welcome to participate. You can choose to participate in any number of ways:
  • Bookmark AMN and read it regularly.
  • Get our RSS feeds by using a start page.
  • Leave comments at the bottom of any entry that interests you.
  • Recommend AMN to others.
  • Suggest an entry to a contributor listed in the sidebar.
  • Ask to be a contributor to the Applied Mechanics Blogs.
  • Nominate someone from your organization to be a contributor of AMN.
  • Ask us to place a link in the sidebar of AMN to your organization, and vice versa.
  • Post entries in the Applied Mechanics Discussion Group.
Best wishes to you all.

Executive Committee of the ASME International Applied Mechanics Division
Wing-Kam Liu, Chair,
Tom Farris, Vice Chair
Krishnaswa Ravi-Chandar, Program Chair
Dan Inman, Program Vice Chair
Zhigang Suo, Secretary

Notes

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

2007 ASME Applied Mechanics and Materials Conference

The 2007 ASME Applied Mechanics and Materials Conference, jointly organized by the Applied Mechanics Division and the Materials Division, will be held June 3-6, 2007 at the Joe Thompson Conference Center of the University of Texas in Austin. Profs. Ravi-Chandar, Kyriakides and Liechti will co-chair this conference. The Technical Committees of AMD and MD are expected to play an active role in organizing symposia and sessions.

The conference is in the preliminary planning stage; a website will be established within the next month and a call for organization of symposia will be issued at that time. In the meantime, please direct questions or suggestions to kravi@mail.utexas.edu

12 steps to a winning proposal

By G. A. Hazelrigg, National Science Foundation

Fellowships for short courses on nano- and biomechanics

Applications are due on 15 March 2006.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

What if all papers become openly accessible?

Of all industries that the community of Applied Mechanics is deeply involved with, none is more in a state of flux than the Publishing Industry. The agony as well as the opportunity is mainly created by the Internet. A previous post, Applied Mechanics in the Age of Web 2.0, talked about news reporting for mid-sized communities with members scattered all over the world, communities such as that of Applied Mechanics. Another post, Wikipedia and Applied Mechanics, considered the possibility of creating wikimechanics, an evolving knowledge base that documents everything known about mechanics. This post will focus on publishing of research papers.

In 1991, Paul Ginsparg created the arXiv, an online repository of research papers. Once an author uploads a paper to the arXiv, the paper is freely accessible to people all over the world, with no peer review. The arXiv now contains about 360,000 papers in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, and Quantitative Biology.

It is conceivable that eventually anybody can publish anything in repositories like the arXiv. This scenario is not as radical or futuristic as it may sound; anybody can already post anything online, at almost no cost. Such repositories formalize this practice by providing two ingredients essential to scholarly publishing: trustworthy timestamps and permanent accessibility.

The question how to make scholarly research accessible has been hotly debated (e.g., Nature, The National Academies, Ginsparg). Here I wish to bypass this contentious question, and focus on a hypothetical question: What if all papers have already become openly accessible?

Authors own their papers, except they may not delete papers from repositories. After a paper is posted in an open-access repository, the author can use the paper in any way and upload multiple editions of the same paper. Each edition receives from the repository a distinct timestamp. The author owns the paper, but may not delete the paper from the repository.

Journals select papers and comment on them. When all papers are in open-access repositories, journals will still serve important functions. Once a journal selects a paper from the repositories, possibly peer-reviewed, the paper will automatically gain a special status of being associated with the journal. The same paper can be selected by multiple journals. All journals will rest on the same raw data: papers in the repositories. Journals that select lasting papers and host incisive discussions will be the winners.

Preeminent journals will survive. Since 1991, an author can post a paper in the arXiv, and then publish the same paper in journals like Physical Review Letters. The arXiv has not diminished the preeminence of such journals. Authors want to publish papers in PRL, and readers want to spend their precious time on papers selected by experts. Of course, journals that do not provide more value than arXiv-like repositories will not survive.

Magazines for members of professional societies may thrive. Independent of the coming of open-access repositories, the Internet will make printed journals rare. Consequently, magazines printed for members of professional societies will have fewer competitors. As a journal, SCIENCE will remain preeminent for similar reasons as PRL and NATURE will. As a printed journal, SCIENCE has the advantage of weekly access to the members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Another successful membership magazine is the MRS Bulletin. In addition to publishing popular review articles, the MRS Bulletin has a section on Research and Researchers, commenting on selected papers published elsewhere. Indeed, many people consider the MRS Bulletin a more useful publication than the Journal of Materials Research. The ASME Mechanical Engineering Magazine has played no role in scholarly publishing, but a section on mechanical engineering research may be extremely attractive to the ASME members. Once all papers become openly accessible, these sections will become favorite spots for authors and readers alike. Such research sections have also inspired Applied Mechanics Research and Researchers (AMR), a blog focusing on remarkable papers and people in our own field.

The architectures of many-to-many communication. AMR has a simple architecture, enabled by blogger.com, free of charge. However, AMR need not be restricted to such a simple architecture. A new breed of journals, with low cost and novel functionalities, may well emerge in coming years. As a form of many-to-many communication, scholarly publishing shares enough common features with news publishing that a glance at the latter provides some perspective. Nearly all news is openly accessible today. Sources include traditional ones such as New York Times and BBC News, as well as millions of blogs. Founded in 1997 by a college student, Slashdot.org is a leading website of technology news. Although anybody can submit news, usually an item from an existing source, each submission must be reviewed by editors before inclusion. Once an item appears in Slashdot, hundreds of readers usually visit the website of the original source, and many leave comments on Slashdot. Another website, Digg.com, takes a more democratic approach, allowing anybody to post anything and relying on the community to vote for the most interesting stories. Newsvine.com, on the other hand, is a combination of many ideas, ranging from Digg’s voting mechanism to receiving newsfeeds from the Associated Press to allowing users to have their own columns. Of the three, however, Slashdot is the oldest and most successful. Although its method of content retrieval is the slowest and it interacts the least with the users, the consistent quality of Slashdot has made it a standard bearer.

Newsfeeds. Start pages– websites designed for reading news – will allow you to see new papers published in your favorite journals at a glance. You can also subscribe the results of Google News Search of keywords such as “Web 2.0”. Google ranks all the news about Web 2.0, and updates the headlines on your computer monitor. In effect, you have just created a journal on the subject of Web 2.0.

Bookmarking and tagging. Filing papers is a chore, especially for people interested in several fields. Once all papers become openly accessible, you can file papers using Internet tools, such as del.icio.us, a seminal bookmarking website. You bookmark interesting items found online, and tag them with phrases like “biomechanics” or “nanotechnology.” You can access these items from any computer anywhere in the world. Furthermore, when you search for such a tag, you will see a list of items tagged by other users, and the number of users that have bookmarked each item. Therefore, del.icio.us makes it easier to find the best, or at least the most popular, items for a search.

Citations and rankings. Open-access repositories will not diminish the utility of familiar tools such as Web of Science and Google Scholar, provided they become smart about ranking papers in the repositories. In this new brave world, it will make no sense to publish many papers on a single idea. A single good paper – perfected in successive editions, selected by many journals, and tagged and commented upon by many users – will be a sure winner.

I’ve benefited from discussions with several people. Michael Suo wrote the first draft of pagragraphs on slashdot, digg, newsvine, start pages and del.icio.us. This post has neglected many important issues, and I’ll try to update when I write next time on the topic. As always, you are most welcome to add your comments below.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

mini-symposium on SIMULATION AND MODELING OF MEDICAL DEVICES AND IMPLANTS

Gong, Xiao-Yan (Primary Organizer)
Rebelo, Nuno (Co-Organizer)

This minisymposium discusses computational methods and their applications in medical devices and implants. A broad area of topics is sought to include numerical modeling of the medical devices or implants in-vitro, the materials that these devices or implants are made of, the interactions of these devices or implants with the in-vivo environment, prediction of the device or implant fatigue life through numerical analysis, coupling of multiple areas of computational mechanics and body motion simulations. Typical contributions to this forum might come from academic institutions, manufacturers, software developers and regulatory agencies such as FDA. The use of numerical simulation in medical devices and implants has been significantly increased in recent years, primarily due to lack of accuracy, practicality, and the expense of the in-vitro testing. New technical developments that rely on modeling of devices and implants and their interactions with human body are changing the culture of the industry, allowing it to deliver better performance and more durable devices and implants. In addition, better understanding of the human body has seen a tremendous utilization of computational mechanics for large deformation, fluid-structural coupled modeling. This is particularly true for cases, such as heart valves and stents, where device integrity is critical yet the tests are neither effective nor reflective to the reality. The nature of all of these applications typically involve some of the most challenging aspects in both fluid and structural mechanics, such as nonlinear material behavior under large strains, large and nonlinear deformations, failure and fatigue fracture, contact, fretting and wearing. Continuing hardware advances have permitted an increased demand for computational results that deliver greater complexity and fidelity than ever before with improved accuracy and better representation of the biological interactions.The purpose of this mini-symposium is to provide a forum for technical presentations and exchange of ideas and to establish communication and collaboration between academic, industrial and government researchers and users in the field of computational mechanics for medical devices and implants applications. Papers dealing with theoretical developments, multidisciplinary coupling, algorithms and numerical methods, implementation and parallel computational issues, constitutive modeling, experimental validation, and practical applications are all welcome.

Seventh World Congress on Computational Mechanics , Los Angeles, California, July 16-22, 2006

2006 IMECE abstract deadline extended to 13 March 2006, Monday

The ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition (IMECE) will be held on 5-10 November 2006 in Chicago. The deadline for abstract submission has been extended to March 13, Monday.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Simple FEA Program for Students

I developed (with NSF support) a freely available, one-screen, web-based FEA program. It solves very simple mechanics problems, and more importantly, demonstrates FEA use to students and other beginners. The program is also particularly suited to helping students visualize deformations. Besides the program itself, I created prototype homework assignments that guide students through solving particular problems and viewing the solutions in light of strength of materials.

However, I need user input, from professors and instructors like you, or from your students. I am most interested in ideas on how students can benefit from using the program. For example, your input might include comments on how to improve the assignments that we have posted on the site. Or you might have completely new ideas for assignments or activities. While I'm not anxious to make the program more complicated by adding capabilities to solve additional types of problems, I'm open to suggestions on how to improve the program or interface, particular if it would help students learn.

For access to the program, the assignments, and additional materials, including papers on the educational philosophy behind the program, go to:
http://engineering-education.com/miniFEA/. At this point, the program only works on computers running Windows, and it requires the free Java browser plug-in.

Your input would be really appreciated. Send me email at steif@andrew.cmu.edu or leave your comments below.

Monday, March 06, 2006

NONLINEAR FINITE ELEMENT ANALYSIS --- A short course taught by Ted Belytschko and Thomas J. R. Hughes

May 22-26, 2006 Austin TX

The purpose of this course is to provide engineers, scientists, and researchers with a background in the fundamentals of nonlinear finite element methods and a critical survey of the state-of-the-art. It covers solids, structures, and fluids, with an emphasis on methodologies and applications for non-linear problems. The theoretical background, implementations of various techniques, and modeling strategies will be treated. Advantages and shortcomings of alternative methods and the practical implications of recent research developments will be stressed. The course has been offered for the past 20 years and has been taken by about 2,000 engineers, scientists, faculty members, and graduate students. A synopsis of the topics covered can be found at http://www.zace.com

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Timoshenko Medal Lectures

At the Annual Applied Mechanics Dinner every November, the Timoshenko Medalist of the year delivers a lecture. Taken together, these lectures provide a long perspective of our field, as well as capsules of the lives of extraordinary individuals.

For years, the text of each lecture was printed in Applied Mechanics, the Newsletter of the ASME International Applied Mechanics Division, and mailed to the members of the Divsion in the fall of the following year. In recent years, however, the Newsletters are no longer mailed to the members. The Newsletters of 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002-2005 are now online.

The Applied Mechanics Research and Researchers (AMR) is attempting to collect and post all Timoshenko Medal Lectures. You can locate the posted lectures by using the link Timoshenko Medal Lectures. The same link also appears in the sidebars of AMN and AMR.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

College students spend billions on textbooks

Textbook prices nearly trippled from 1986 to 2004, according to a recent report of the United States Government Accountability Office. Much of the soaring prices is due to the “enhanced offerings,” all the CDs and instructional supplements. College students now spend more than five billion dollars a year on textbooks, while states spend another four billion on books for elementary and high-school students. People in the open-source movement have talked of producing free textbooks, the way they currently produce free encyclopedias and free software. But, until the revolution arrives, college students must bear the burden of the high cost of reading, remarked James Surowiecki in the New Yorker magazine.

2006 NASA Faculty Fellowship Program

The NASA Faculty Fellowship Program provides faculty an opportunity to engage in research at one of the participating NASA Centers or the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Deadline for applications is 8 March 2006.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

2006 IMECE abstract deadline: 6 March 2006, Monday

The ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition (IMECE) will be held on 5-10 November 2006 in Chicago. The deadline for abstract submission is March 6th, only a few days away. Please look at the Call for Papers from the Applied Mechanics Division, and submit abstracts online.