I blame the turbulence model

When I was a research scientist at United Technologies Research Center, I worked on unsteady aerodynamics in axial turbomachinery.  That’s a complicated way of saying I worked on math and computer models of noise in jet engines.

A friend of mine there was our resident mathematician.  He knew everything about everything, or at least had a book about it and could find out whatever you wanted.  I remember finding it amazing that he didn’t have a Ph.D. when I met him.  He eventually went back to UConn at night and earned his doctorate.  I think he did something about three-dimensional tetrahedral meshes, or some such.

He also was a classic SJ in the Myers-Briggs sense.  His files were always well organized and his desk was always clean, as bizarre as that sounds.  I asked him about it once, and he said, “I can only work on one thing at a time, so when I finish with something I put it away.”  Obviously there was no point discussing the issues with anyone that irrational. 😉

At any rate, he had a quote posted in his cubicle (yep, once upon a time I lived in a cube farm).  The quote was about turbulence models, and runs as follows:

“I am an old man now, and when I die and go to heaven there are two matters on which I hope for enlightenment. One is quantum electrodynamics, and the other is the turbulent motion of fluids. And about the former I am rather optimistic.

The quote is from Horace Lamb, who wrote one of the definitive books on hydrodynamics, among other things.

The upshot is that whenever anyone in our CFD (computational fluid dynamics) group ever had trouble connecting our analyses to reality, we always blamed the turbulence model.  After all, we knew it was an approximation at best, and not necessarily a good one, so it was always a good target.

Why do I bring this up now?  Because now that I’ve moved from engineering to software, the role of turbulence models is now played by networking.  While apparently some people somewhere claim to understand it, I think that’s a myth.

I can say one thing for certain — I’m not one of them.  I am sitting here in a hotel room in center city Philadelphia, and for some unknown reason my Outlook client can’t manage to download my business email, except that sometimes it can.  Why?  Beats the heck out of me.  Maybe I forgot to sacrifice a live chicken by the light of the full moon while waving a mouse cable over my head counterclockwise.

Or maybe it’s space charge effects.  My friends in physics used to blame space charge effects, because they claimed you could never really account for them and nobody really understood them anyway.  When they got tired of space charge effects, ground loops were another favorite.

In J2EE, if I have a problem, I know the first place to look is my JNDI lookups.  I hate JNDI with a real passion.  I know how it’s supposed to work and sooner or later I can get it to work, but no matter what I do I know it’s going to be the source of my troubles.

Networks, though, are often the bane of my existence.  Some day, and that day may never come, I’ll really “get” them.  Every time I do, though, I’m wrong.


On the plus side, I’ve got a very good group of students in my EJBs with RAD6 class.  The class is going very well so far, but we haven’t had to fight the WAS6 test server yet.  That’s always fun, too.

By Ken Kousen

I am a Java Champion and the author of the books "Kotlin Cookbook", (O'Reilly Media), "Modern Java Recipes" (O'Reilly Media), "Gradle Recipes for Android" (O'Reilly Media), and "Making Java Groovy" (Manning), as well as over a dozen video courses at Safari Books Online. I'm a regular member of the No Fluff, Just Stuff conference tour and have given talks all over the world. Through my company, Kousen IT, Inc, I've taught training courses to and worked with thousands of developers.

2 replies on “I blame the turbulence model”

I see the problem with the email download. The elevated mouse motion, according to tradition of the cpu wiccans handed down through software generations, is a *clockwise* motion. Not counter-clockwise. This important step was also once reversed by a Microsoft executive, causing many of the heartaches we find today in the Outlook space. I’ve also heard sprinkling dried eye of gnewt on your keyboard can cure this abominable curse, but I wouldn’t recommend this drastic measure except as a last resort.
Or, you could just avoid Philadelphia.

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