Mind-wandering on the hills

It is the Easter vacation for our undergraduate students and I am taking a week’s leave to wander the hills, digitally detox and return with my consciousness revived by sensory experiences.  So just two sentences and a picture this week though if you want to read more then follow these links: ‘Walking the hills‘ on April 13th, 2022; ‘Digital detox with a deep vacation‘ on August 10th, 2016; and ‘Feed your consciousness with sensory experiences‘ on May 22nd, 2019.The author stood next to a trig point on top of hill

Reliable predictions of non-Newtonian flows of sludge

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I have been working for many years on validation processes for computational models of structures employed in a wide range of sectors, including aerospace engineering [see ‘The blind leading the blind’ on May 27th, 2020] and nuclear energy [see ‘Million to one’ on November 21st, 2018].  Validation is determining the extent to which predictions from a model are representative of behaviour in the real-world [see ‘Model validation’ on September 18th, 2012].  More recently, I have been working on model credibility, which is the willingness of people, besides the modeller, to use the predictions from models in decision-making [see, for example, ‘Credible predictions for regulatory decision-making’ on December 9th, 2020].  I have started to consider the complex world of predictive modelling of fluid flow and I am hoping to start a collaboration with a new colleague on the flow of sludges.  Sludges are more common than you might think but we are interested in modelling the flow of waste, both wastewater (sewage) and nuclear wastes.  We have a PhD studentship available sponsored jointly by the GREEN CDT and the National Nuclear Laboratory.  The project is interdisciplinary in two dimensions because it will combine experiments and simulations as well as uniting ideas from solid mechanics and fluid mechanics.  The integration of concepts and technologies across these boundaries brings a level of adventure to the project which will be countered by building on well-established research in solid mechanics on quantitative comparisons of measurements and predictions and by employing current numerical and experimental work on wastewater sludges.  If you are interested or know someone who might want to join our research then you can find out more here.

Image: Sewage sludge disposal in Germany: Andrea Roskosch / UBA

A view from the middle

Red tulips in a window boxI was schooled to compete in the classroom, in examinations and on the sports field in preparation for life in, what Mary Midgley described as, the ‘intense competitiveness of the Western world’.  Many of us are obsessed with winning, believing that life is not worth living unless we are at the top of the hierarchy.  As result, we strive for the top where there are only a limited number of places so most people remain in the middle or bottom no matter how hard they strive.  If they are led to believe that they are despised for their position in the hierarchy then they will be miserable and make those around them, both above and below, miserable too.  It took me some time to realise that happiness was not the exclusive property of those at the top of the hierarchy but can be found anywhere through supporting and valuing others.  As a young naval officer, I was trained to look after those under my command and to gain their respect.  I hope that as a leader in academia I have learned to blend the competitive and compassionate elements of the training I received as a young man to create happy and successful communities in which individuals can thrive.  It is ongoing challenge that requires constant vigilance [see ‘Leadership is like shepherding‘ on May 10th, 2017].


Mary Midgley, Beast and Man – the roots of human nature. Abingdon, Oxon. Routledge Classics, 2002.

Structural damage assessment using infrared detectors in fusion environments

Schematic representation of plasma flux in a fusion reactorAbout six months ago, I described the success of my research group in detecting the early stages of the development of damage in structural components using small, cheap devices based on infrared measurements [see ‘Seeing small changes is a big achievement‘ on October 26th, 2022] after it had been reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.  The research was motivated by the needs of the aerospace industry and largely supported via the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.  We are planning to extend the research to allow our technology to be used for diagnostics in future fusion power plants.  Plasma facing components in these powerplants will experience significant structural and functional degradation in service due to the extreme condition in the reactor.  Our aim is to develop systems based on our infrared monitoring technology that can identify and track material degradation without the need for plant shutdown thereby enabling unplanned maintenance to be undertaken at the earliest sign of component failure.  We are collaborating with the UKAEA and are looking to recruit a PhD student to work on the project supported by the GREEN CDT and Eurofusion.  If you are interested or know someone who might be interested then please follow this link for more information.


Amjad, K., Lambert, C.A., Middleton, C.A., Greene, R.J., Patterson, E.A., 2022, A thermal emissions-based real-time monitoring system for in situ detection of cracks, Proc. R. Soc. A., 478: 20210796.