Richard Smith's blog

Wind Tunnels and CFD

To many observers the rivalry between wind tunnels and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is a zero-sum game - as CFD matures it simply replaces wind tunnels. However, this is far from the truth. Often you'll find wind tunnels and CFD used together in a symbiotic process where one technique fills in knowledge gaps left by the other.

Boeing F/A-18 Hornet Wind Tunnel ModelBoeing F/A-18 Hornet Wind Tunnel ModelImage courtesy of NASA Ames

Wave-Powered Boat Crosses Pacific

What do you do after setting world records for the furthest distance traveled by a pedal boat (4660 miles across the Pacific Ocean, from Hawaii to Okinawa) and the fastest Pacific crossing in a solar-powered boat? If you are Kenichi Horie you try to cross the Pacific in a wave-powered boat in pursuit of another world record.

Virtually Real Motor Racing

Not to be outdone by virtual engineering, the latest racing car video games, or more correctly simulators, incorporate exceptionally realistic real-time virtual physics (kinematics and aerodynamics), 3D graphics and even 3D sound. Online racing simulators pit virtual drivers from around the globe in hot pursuit of virtual titles. With all these advances you'd think there's little more that can be done to improve virtual racing - but you'd be wrong. What if you could virtually drive, on a game console, in a Formula 1 (F1) race mimicking the actual live action in the race?

EA Sports F1 2001 ScreenshotF1 Video Game Screenshot (2001)

Virtual Engineering is Here

Another day, another personal concept vehicle announcement - this time the ICON A5 from ICON Aircraft. Notice a pattern here? We've seen a surge in personal concept vehicle announcements recently - remember personal air vehicles, flying cars, personal helicopters, personal jetpacks and even personal submarines? Is it a coincidence or are there underlying forces making such vehicles inevitable?

Personal Helicopter Available Now

The GEN H-4 is a device that fulfills the promise of a personal jetpack, although it's technically a helicopter. In fact the GEN H-4 is officially recognized as the world's smallest piloted helicopter and it's available for purchase now.

Bioinspired Engineering

Imagine 3.8 billion years of slow but steady research and development (otherwise known as evolution), covering everything we need to survive and thrive here on Earth, freely available for everyone. You just need to know where and (more importantly) how to look for it, because the evidence of this massive R+D effort is everywhere. The study and exploitation of naturally evolved solutions for engineering systems is variously known as bionics, biomimetics, biomimicry, biognosis, bionical creativity engineering, bioinspired engineering, and maybe others. While there’s no single agreed name, there is consensus on the fact that nature is a great source for engineering inspiration.

Bombardier BeetleBombardier Beetle

Engineering in Sports: Javelin Throwing

Due to the massive distances men (Uwe Hohn in particular) were throwing javelins in 1984 (over 100m), there was a danger that a javelin would clear the throwing area. To reduce the javelin's flight time it was redesigned to put its center of gravity in front of its center of pressure, so its nose pitched downwards in flight. This is an unusual example of a sport's governing body using engineering to justify a rule change, in contrast to the more usual rule change in response to an engineering innovation by a competitor.

Engineering in Sports: Equipment Driven

In some sports, such as motor racing and yachting, the equipment is the dominant factor in deciding a winner. Such sports have embraced engineering, especially mechanical and electronics engineering. In the case of Formula 1 (F1) the engineering skills of the leading teams rival those of the best aerospace companies.

2001 BAR Honda Formula 1 Car2001 BAR Honda Formula 1 Car

Engineering in Sports: Cycling 1 Hour World Record

The current debate as to whether a specially engineered Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit provides an unfair advantage to its wearer is analogous to the debate concerning the 1 hour cycling world record back in 1993. Starting in 1993, cycling faced an arms race of sorts with the prospect of continuous aerodynamic innovation significantly improving the 1 hour world record. This caused people inside and outside cycling to question whether human performance really mattered.

Graeme Obree Riding Old FaithfulGraeme Obree Riding Old FaithfulLicensed under the GNU Free Documentation License

Engineering in Sports: LZR Racer Swimsuit

Engineering plays an important role in most sports. Whether it's a seemingly simple sport, such as running (take a look at the latest running shoes to see advanced engineering in action), or an obviously engineering-dominated sport, such as Formula 1 motor racing, it is difficult to find a sport untouched by engineering innovation. Over the next few weeks I'll explore to what extent engineering influences sports and how sports influence engineering.

Speedo LZR RacerSpeedo LZR Racer SwimsuitLicense: CC BY 2.0, Kazuhisa OTSUBO

Syndicate content