Tag Archives: creativity

Nudging discoveries along the innovation path

Decorative photograph of a Welsh hillThe path from a discovery to a successful innovation is often tortuous and many good ideas fall by the wayside.  I have periodically reported on progress along the path for our novel technique for extracting feature vectors from maps of strain data [see ‘Recognizing strain‘ on October 28th, 2015] and its application to validating models of structures by comparing predicted and measured data [see ‘Million to one‘ on November 21st, 2018], and to tracking damage in composite materials [see ‘Spatio-temporal damage maps‘ on May 6th, 2020] as well as in metallic aircraft structures [see ‘Out of the valley of death into a hype cycle‘ on February 24th 2021].  As industrial case studies, we have deployed the technology for validation of predictions of structural behaviour of a prototype aircraft cockpit [see ‘The blind leading the blind‘ on May 27th, 2020] as part of the MOTIVATE project and for damage detection during a wing test as part of the DIMES project.  As a result of the experience gained in these case studies, we recently published an enhanced version of our technique for extracting feature vectors that allows us to handle data from irregularly shaped objects or data sets with gaps in them [Christian et al, 2021].  Now, as part of the Smarter Testing project [see ‘Jigsaw puzzling without a picture‘ on October 27th, 2021] and in collaboration with Dassault Systemes, we have developed a web-based widget that implements the enhanced technique for extracting feature vectors and compares datasets from computational models and physical models.  The THEON web-based widget is available together with a video demonstration of its use and a user manual.  We supplied some exemplar datasets based on our work in structural mechanics as supplementary material associated with our publication; however, it is applicable across a wide range of fields including earth sciences, as we demonstrated in our recent work on El Niño events [see ‘From strain measurements to assessing El Niño events‘ on March 17th, 2021].  We feel that we have taken some significant steps along the innovation path which will lead to adoption of our technique by a wider community; but only time will tell whether this technology survives or falls by the wayside despite our efforts to keep it on track.


Christian WJR, Dvurecenska K, Amjad K, Pierce J, Przybyla C & Patterson EA, Real-time quantification of damage in structural materials during mechanical testing, Royal Society Open Science, 7:191407, 2020.

Christian WJ, Dean AD, Dvurecenska K, Middleton CA, Patterson EA. Comparing full-field data from structural components with complicated geometries. Royal Society open science. 8(9):210916, 2021

Dvurecenska K, Graham S, Patelli E & Patterson EA, A probabilistic metric for the validation of computational models, Royal Society Open Science, 5:1180687, 2018.

Middleton CA, Weihrauch M, Christian WJR, Greene RJ & Patterson EA, Detection and tracking of cracks based on thermoelastic stress analysis, R. Soc. Open Sci. 7:200823, 2020.

Wang W, Mottershead JE, Patki A, Patterson EA, Construction of shape features for the representation of full-field displacement/strain data, Applied Mechanics and Materials, 24-25:365-370, 2010.

In touch with another spirit

I have written before about the process of writing, both in general and in this blog in particular. While I do not claim to write literature; nevertheless I felt some empathy with a couple of statements in Michel Houllebecq‘s novel ‘Submission‘. The first was ‘…only literature can put you in touch with another human spirit, as a whole, with all its weaknesses and grandeurs, its limitations, its pettinesses, its obsessions, its beliefs; with whatever it finds moving, exciting or repugnant.’ And the second was ‘Even in our deepest most lasting friendships, we never speak as openly as when we face a blank page and address a reader we do not know.’ I know a few people who read this blog but they are a tiny minority of the readers so essentially I am addressing a reader I do not know when I write a post. However, my posts sometimes lead to a conversation that is more open than would have happened without the post. Inevitably, these conversations occur with the small number of readers with whom I am in direct contact. However, I suspect that I reveal my limitations and obsessions to all of my readers, I hope I avoid my pettinesses while enthusing you with what I find moving or exciting, such as Michel Houellebecq’s novel this week or Olga Tokarczuk’s last week.

Source: Michel Houellebecq, Submission, Vintage, 2016.

Image: Barbara Hepworth sculpture in the garden of Hepworth Museum, St Ives

Merseyside Totemy

The recent extreme weather is perhaps leading more people to appreciate the changes in our climate are real and likely to have a serious impact on our way of life [see ‘Climate change and tides in Liverpool‘ on May 11th, 2016].  However, I suspect that most people do not appreciate the likely catastrophic effect of global warming.  For example, during the 20th century, the average rise is sea level was 1.7 mm per year; however, since the early 1990s it has been rising at 3 mm per year, and sea levels are currently rising at about 4mm per year according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  It is difficult to translate  statistics of this type into a meaningful format – the graph below helps in recognising the trends but does not convey anything about the impact.  However, I am impressed by a new art installation on the Liverpool waterfront by Alicja Biala called ‘Merseyside Totemy’ which illustrates the percentage of each of three high-risk local areas that will be underwater by 2080 if current trends continue: Birkenhead (centre of photograph), Formby (left) and Liverpool City Centre (right behind tree) [see www.biennial.com/collaborations/alicjabiala].  Perhaps using data for 30 years time rather than 60 years would have focussed people’s attention on the need to make changes to alleviate the impact.

Figure 1 from

Figure 1. Time series of global mean sea level (deviation from the 1980-1999 mean) in the past and as projected for the future. For the period before 1870, global measurements of sea level are not available. The grey shading shows the uncertainty in the estimated long-term rate of sea level change. The red line is a reconstruction of global mean sea level from tide gauges, and the red shading denotes the range of variations from a smooth curve. The green line shows global mean sea level observed from satellite altimetry. The blue shading represents the range of model projections for the SRES A1B scenario for the 21st century, relative to the 1980 to 1999 mean, and has been calculated independently from the observations. Beyond 2100, the projections are increasingly dependent on the emissions scenario. Over many centuries or millennia, sea level could rise by several metres. From https://archive.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/faq-5-1-figure-1.html

You can only go there in your head

“Inner space and outer space are similar, aren’t they really?  You’re never going to get to the edge of the universe in a spaceship.  You might as well try going on a bus.  You can only go there in your head.”  This is a quote from David Hockney in ‘Spring Cannot Be Cancelled‘  by David Hockney and Martin Gayford.  It’s a beautiful book.  Full of thought-provoking insights and recent artwork by Hockney painted in Normandy mainly during the pandemic.  I read it last month while in the Yorkshire Dales [see ‘Walking the hills‘ on April 13th 2022].  Hockney writes about his need to paint.  He finds it utterly absorbing and endlessly sustaining.  Gayford compares this need and experience to the work of American psychologist, Mihaly Csiksczentmihalyi [see ‘Slow-motion multi-tasking leads to productive research‘ on September 19, 2018] who wrote about concentration so intense that there is no spare capacity to think about anything else, your self-consciousness disappears and you lose your sense of time leading to a deep sense of happiness and well-being.  I cannot paint but I can achieve something approaching a similiar state when I am writing.


Martin Gayford and David Hockney, Spring cannot be cancelled – David Hockney in Normandy, London: Thames & Hudson, 2021.