LETTERS & COMMENTS [Mechanical Engineering]
(Mechanical Engineering Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) JUNE 2012
Reader Moss supports the magazine 's role as "a chronicle."
The June 2012 issue provided several examples of this commendably expanded outlook, ranging from security issues with ICS software to the role of MEs in nanomedicine.
To the Editor: As a reader of Mechanical Engineering for most of the past half century, I have been enormously impressed by the editorial transformation from that of a narrowly focused ana somewhat parochial journal to becoming a chronicle that explores the interfaces between mechanical engineering and the wider world around us. The June 2012 issue provided several examples of this commendably expanded outlook, ranging from security issues with ICS software to the role of MEs in nanomedicine.
However, I must confess myself somewhat baffled by the article titled "Design in Nature" by Adrian Bejan and J. Peder Zane. I assume that the "constructal law" they propose is an attempt to formulate an allencompassing rule governing the "design" (configuration, actually) of naturally occurring "flow systems," whether organic (i.e., living) or not. I cannot for the life of me comprehend their definition of the constructal law or how it would add to our understanding of those systems. In particular, I fail to grasp the meaning of the phrase in the law's definition, "provides easier access."
It seems incorrect to treat inorganic and organic systems as equals. The "evolution" of inorganic systems such as the course taken by a river can readily be explained by simple physics, without requiring recourse to the constructal law. As for the river's course evolving in time, its course will ultimately come to rest in a steadystate condition (stasis) except when acted upon by changes in its environment, such as a change in the volume of the rainfall supplying it. On the other hand, organic systems, at least the higher life forms, tend to change continually because of factors such as mutations in their internal structure (DNA), regardless of the environment, although their genetic tions do also change in response to changes in the environment.
Marvin A. Moss, North Hills, Calif.
To the Editor: Automated cars No, you. I enjoy driving. I don't want to give up control of my vehicle.
Most importantly, I don't want to give my freedom. The "interoperable communications channel," needed to prevent collisions and traffic flow, could very conceivably be by a central authority to limit where, and how often I could travel.
Frederick Singer, Huntington Beach, Calif.
To the Editor: Kudos to Ahmed Noor and Sven Beiker for their nice article ("Intelligent and Connected." November 2012].
I would, however, add one important aspect to the "already difficult" task of automating vehicles in an unknown world. This aspect is the human being, unpredictable now, where everyone likes to be king (or queen), and "politeness" is always "slave." Imagine your first illustration in the article, and transfer that into Times Square in New York or into highly populated countries in Asia: Uncontrolled vehicles (bikes, etc.) and humanswill control the road as soon as the human thinks that the cars will stop anyway.
Remember, today, the thought of cars being menacing killing machines automatically controls the human race.
Jim B. Surjaatmadja, P.E., Duncan, Okla.
RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITY
To the Editor: I had never heard of the international treaty on civil and political rights or the treaty on economic, social, and cultural rights until I read Jessica Wyndham's article, "Freedom and Engineering for All" (September 2012). And now that I know about them, I say three cheers and two hip, hip hurrays for the wise people in the U.S. government who have resisted pressure to adopt these covenants.
First of all, if Ms. Wyndham has accurately explained them (and I am confident she has), the documents are written in typical diplomatic language, which means they are verbose but dangerously imprecise. Consequently, they lend themselves to myriad interpretations.
For just one example, Ms. Wyndham suggests that the covenants give people the right of "access to basic medical devices, electricity, potable water, means of sustainable food production, and transportation."
But what does that mean Who guarantees these rights, and who pays for the items guaranteed if the people cannot afford them Is it the local government Good luck with that in Third-World countries with despotic rulers. Or is it the United States and other developed countries If so, who decides how much we have to pay and how the money is to be spent The United Nations That's a laugh; the U.N. bureaucrats make the U.S. government civil servants look like the epitome of frugal and careful managers.
Second, why does the United States need these treaties What do we get out of them We already have a constitution that has successfully guaranteed basic rights to U.S. citizens for more than 200 years. As far as I can tell, adopting these treaties would simply muddy the legal waters here by creating a parallel (and relatively imprecise) set of competing rights.
Henry Borger, Laurel, Md.
MONEY VS. SAFETY
To the Editor: September's article on "Forging a New Nuclear Safety Construct" raised my blood pressure. It would be worthy to note the engineers who resigned during construction because of the necessity of those holding the purse strings to ignore design safety due to cost.
The article did note, "core meltdowns have been identified and are correctable." The professionalism demonstrated by these engineers is what we as a Society would expect when life and safety are being placed aside because of money. Paul Harvey always gave us the "rest of the story." It would be worthwhile to explain why these "correctible" safety issues were not addressed in the original design.
Be careful when proceeding with this construct. Money will hastily dare to compromise safety. Had our founders not stood ground we might still be building lap seam boilers.
Patrick Cook, Retired Life Member, Yuma, Ariz.
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