Monthly Archives: March 2013

Financial crisis

I was in Germany for a progress meeting of a research project last week.  There was talk in the coffee breaks about the financial crisis in Cyprus.  There seemed to be recognition amongst the Germans present that Germany has to assist the Cypriots and other EU member states in financial difficulty.  One reason cited was the Cypriots and other EU nations are consumers of the products of German manufacturing industry including cars, washing machines and pharmaceuticals, and Germany needs customers for its manufactured goods.  Of course, Germany is rich, at least in part, due to its engineering and manufacturing prowess.

In a similar way, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, Britain grew rich from its manufacturing industries.  Some of Britain’s current economic woes derive from its neglect of these wealth-generating industries.  A recent report [http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/graduates-in-stem-need-to-rise-by-half/2002594.article] suggests that the UK needs to train an extra 40,000 graduates in science and engineering every year just to maintain the status quo in this sector of the economy which is a 50% increase over current levels.  I suspect that the UK is typical of many European countries.

Is it time that so-called ‘bail-out’ and ‘bail-in’ packages for countries included strategies for stimulating and supporting wealth creation industries rather than just rescuing those that have gambled with other people’s wealth?

Born in a barn

108-0858_IMGIn my previous post [Traffic hold-ups, 13th March 2013] the application of Kirchhoff’s Law to the flow of electrons, water and traffic was discussed.  In this context, electrical current or electrons were conceived as flowing.  Instead, electrical current can be considered as electrical energy being transferred across a potential difference, or voltage.  When this terminology is used, then it is only a short step to extend the use of Kirchhoff’s law to consider the combined effect of multiple resistance to other forms of energy transfer, such as heat transfer.  Heat transfer occurs across a temperature difference, from hot to cold, and some materials offer more resistance than others, e.g. wood compared to glass.  Kirchhoff’s law can be used to calculate the total resistance to heat transfer of complex structure such as a house wall that some components in series, e.g. layers of brick, insulation and plasterboard, and some in parallel, e.g. doors and windows.  This information is important in designing a house to achieve minimum energy consumption and to specify the heating and cooling systems required.  Note that the inverse form of Kirchhoff’s Law means that the low resistance to heat transfer of a door or window dominates the heat transfer characteristics of a well-insulated structure.  Of course, the extreme case is when you leave the door open and on a cold day someone shouts at you: ‘Were you born in a barn?’.