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Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) Laboratory Cool. Fuel.

‘A Fee is a Price’ transferred to Grading Rubrics

Most professors face the problem of developing a “Grading Rubric“: or the list of scores and deductions to be given for attributes of an assignment. To give you an idea of where rubrics are at in engineering education, the leading voice in engineering education pedagogy, Richard Felder advocates rigorous assessment with rubric transparency. Contrast these complex grading rubrics with what one of my good friends recently told a class: “You lose a letter grade every time your group is responsible for schedule slip that could have been avoided if you had cared… — if you hold final construction up, even by a class, you’re down a … » More ...

How to identify and handle an abusive adviser, boss, or colleague

Whenever I’m repeatedly asked for advice about a topic it becomes a post on this blog. Around this time of year many undergraduates and graduates working in the HYPER lab are considering offers to advance their careers. The most common, and rightly critical, question is how to find the right mentor and colleagues for that next phase in life while avoiding the abusive adviser/boss/colleague (I’m going to use ‘authority’ from here on) that could stall your career for years. It’s no easy task — you’re typically granted only a 30 minute choreographed interview in your potentially new authority’s carefully orchestrated office before deciding whether to … » More …

Celebrating the lifetime accomplishments of a Palouse Titan — Richard T Jacobsen

I received word yesterday that my first graduate studies advisor, Richard T (Jake) Jacobsen, passed away. His exemplary contributions to universities on the Palouse, the greater state of Idaho, the field of thermophysical properties research, and the careers of many researchers warrants recognition. To state it simply, I would not be where I am in life had he not taken the chance on hiring a cocky football player with a poor GPA nearly 15 years ago.

What people tend to overlook is his long-term contributions to the universities on the Palouse. Jake graduated with his Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Idaho (UI) … » More …

Taking two or going deep for three: Deciding between a M.S. and Ph.D.

Many students have been asking for advice lately on whether to do a Ph.D. or M.S. degree in the HYPER lab. Deciding between a Ph.D. or M.S. was a very different decision when I was a senior at the University of Idaho in 2005. But what I’ve found is that despite the field of engineering changing considerably over that time, much of the old dogma and advice out in industry has not. Hence, the students are getting very different advice and struggling to decide what to believe. Given the importance of this decision (it’ll only be years of your life), it’s important to set the … » More …

Initial Conditions

Where do you look when you walk into a space for the very first time?

The majority will look down at the floor to make sure you don’t trip and hurt yourself.

The architect who designed the space looked down too, at the plans and scale models.

But do you ever look up? In the place nobody tends to look? Did they think about this place that nobody tends to look? This place, that nobody tends to look, is it a blind spot?

You might ask yourself several more questions:

Where am I and is this place safe? (Survival)
Who’s here? (Tribal)
» More …

The Iconic Palouse List

We’ve all been in the room when that one Husky fan blurted out, “I don’t know why anyone would go to the Palouse. It’s a desert.” Or that one new department chair that said, “I’ve seen what the region has to offer,” before quickly leaving. For everyone else, who are still open to discovery, this list is for you.

Before we start the list let’s get our bearings straight. The Palouse is the local name for a distinct climate region in Southeastern Washington characterized by low grassy hills. The origin of the regional name ‘Palouse’ is unknown. It literally translates in French to a … » More …

The test of time — to reach someone

Now that we have a framework for both social thermodynamics in equilibrium and in non-equilibrium transport we have an interesting opportunity to test the consistency of both through the time domain. This is enabled by the correlation between thermodynamic and transport properties — one of the greatest unsolved challenges in thermophysical properties is a direct derivation of transport properties from thermodynamic properties. Only recently has the residual entropy — the entropy that emerges due to real fluid intermolecular exchanges — been shown to be a powerful scaling tool to help with this challenge. This observation seams obvious in social space as the empathy that emerges … » More …

How non-equilibrium transport leads to social structures

“Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling workhorse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function and this is the law.” — Louis Sullivan 1896
How Thermodynamic Laws Shape Structures
The challenge any engineer faces is the optimal form for a design. Why is a try shaped like a tree? And why does this look like a river delta, or a lung, or a neuron?

In the 1990’s mechanical engineering professor Adrian Bejan developed the “Constructal Law of … » More …

Social Efficiencies

Several friends have been asking me to comment on a recent article from Wired Magazine titled, “The Genius Neuroscientist Who May Hold the Secret to True AI.” The article is about Karl Friston’s “Free energy principle” which is essentially that the purpose of life is to minimize the free energy — defined qualitatively as the difference between your expectations and your sensory inputs. The secret, according to the article, is applying thermodynamic principles to intelligence. For any of you following these posts that comes as no surprise. The timing of this article is convenient as I’ve been waiting for awhile now to write what … » More …

Education Unleashed

Structure versus unstructured — it’s the age-old debate in education. It’s popped up recently in my department, my lab, and my family. While thinking about this in passing I had a major shift in how I view the problem. Hopefully, it will change how you consider the problem too.

The problem is best exemplified for engineers by the traditional mathematics curriculum. Anybody that’s had a calculus class knows that the textbook is packed with equations that you, through repetition, are supposed to derive the solution for. Nobody has any clue where the starting equations come from, what they are connected to, or why they matter. … » More …