Enjoying open spaces and large horizons

Moonlight on Lizard PointI am on vacation and off-grid so just a picture this week. It is a night time view from the cottage we stayed at in 2017 on the Lizard in Cornwall. If you have withdrawal symptoms from this blog then follow the links to find out why you need a vacation too! Gone walking posted on April 19th, 2017. Digital detox with a deep vacation posted on August 10th, 2016. Deep vacation posted on July 29th, 2015.

Experiencing silence

Here is the second in a series of reprints while I am on vacation.  This one is from five years ago. It was published on August 9th 2017 under the title ‘Blinded by the light‘.

It has become a habit during our summer vacation to read the novels short-listed for Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.  Unusually this year, we were not only unanimous in our choice of the best novel but we also agreed with the judges and selected the ‘The Power‘ by Naomi Alderman.  In another of the books, Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, a Chinese composer called Sparrow thinks ‘about the quality of sunshine, that is, how daylight wipes away the stars and planets, making them invisible to human eyes, might daylight be a form of blindness? Could it be that sound was also be a form of deafness? If so, what was silence?’.  I felt some resonance between these thoughts and John Hull’s writings on blindness and my earlier blog posting on ‘Listening with your eyes shut‘ [on May 31st, 2017].  In our everyday life, we are bombarded with sounds from people living around us, from traffic and from devices in our homes and places of work.  We rarely experience silence; however, when we do, perhaps on holiday staying in a remote rural location, then a whole new set of sounds becomes apparent: waves breaking on the shore in the distance, the field mouse rooting around under the floorboards, or the noises of cattle enjoying the lush grass in the field next door.  Okay, so you have to be in the right place to hear these sounds of nature but you also need silence otherwise you are deaf to them, as Sparrow suggests.

The same is true for knowledge and understanding because our minds have finite capacity [see my post entitled ‘Silence is golden‘ on January 14th, 2014].  When you are bombarded with information and data it is easy to become overwhelmed and unable to structure the information in a way that makes it useful or meaningful.  In our connected society, information has become like white noise, or daylight obscuring the stars and planets.  Information is blinding us to knowledge and understanding.  We need to aggressively filter the information flow in order to gain insight and knowledge.  We should switch off the digital devices, which bombard us with information constantly, to leave our minds free for conceptual and creative thinking because that’s one of the few tasks in which we can outperform the smartest machine [see my post entitled ‘Smart machines‘ on February 26th, 2014].

In a similar vein see: ‘Ideas from a balanced mind‘ on August 24th, 2016 and ‘Thinking out-of-the-skull‘ on March 18th, 2015.

Still relevant after ten years

I am on vacation for the next month so I will not be writing new posts. Instead I have decided to delve into my back catalogue of more than 500 posts [see ‘500th post‘ on February 2nd, 2022] and republish posts from ten, five and one year ago. The short post below was published on September 15th, 2012 under the title ‘Innovation jobs‘. It seems as relevant today as it was in 2012.

Yesterday, I listened to an interesting talk by Dr Liang-Gee Chen, President of the National Applied Research Laboratories of Taiwan at the UK-Taiwan Academic-Industry & Technology Transfer Collaboration Forum organised by the British Council.  He presented some statistics from the Kaufmann Foundation, which demonstrated that nearly all new jobs in the USA are generated by new companies.  When you combine this with my conclusion in my posting on ‘Population crunch’, that we need a higher level of innovation in engineering, then we need to review the education programmes provided for our engineers to ensure that they include innovation and entrepreneurship.  These need to be integrated in engineering education programmes [see Handscombe et al, 2009].  We seem to have lost the plot in the UK and retreated to teaching engineering science, design and management orientated towards the employers with the loudest voice, i.e. multi-nationals, who are not likely to be the source of innovation jobs that will pull us out of the global recession.

Handscombe, R.D., Rodriguez-Falcon, E., Patterson, E.A., 2009, ‘Embedding enterprise in engineering’, IJ Mechanical Engineering Education, 37(4):263-274.

Tears in the heart

Figure 7 from Chew et al 1999A couple of weeks ago I wrote about speaking to a workshop on the aorta and reminisced about research on cardiac dynamics from about 15 years ago.  It triggered another memory of research we did more than 20 years ago on the tearing of the leaflets of artificial heart valves made from biological tissue.  We developed a computational model of the stresses associated with a tear developing in a porcine bioprosthetic heart valve.  The black and white images show snapshots of the predicted motion during the cardiac cycle of a damaged valve with a tear at about 11.30 along the edge of the top right leaflet.  The valve was simulated as being implanted to replace the aortic valve and the view is from the aorta, i.e., looking in the opposite direction to the blood flow out of the heart.  The tear causes part of the leaflet to flap outwards as can be seen in the middle snapshots.  The colour image shows the distribution of stress in the leaflet corresponding to the last snapshot of the motion and the concentration of stress around the tip of the tear can be seen which will tend to cause the leaflet to tear further leading to a bigger flap, more regurgitation of blood.  We were really excited about this research when we published it in 1999 but it has attracted relatively little attention in the last 23 years.  I would like to think that we were far ahead of our times but that’s unlikely and probably it was not as exciting as we thought, maybe because it lacked clinical relevance, our model lacked credibility or not many people have found our paper.

Source: Chew GG, Howard IC & Patterson EA, Simulation of damage in a porcine prosthetic heart valve, J. Medical Engineering & Technology, 23(5):178-189, 1999.