November 17, 2005

Progress report

It's not going to be as serious as the title suggests though. I've been telling myself and folks at home that I've been working hard lately, so I thought it would be a good idea to track back what I've been up to. Things that relate studying that is.

The first week of November saw the second workshop of the Warwick Turbulence Symposium. After my poor efforts to join in last September, I actually made it to 75% of the presentations. Highlights:

  1. A presentation by Dominic Vella from Cambridge called the Cheerios effect which coincidentally is related to what I may be researching as well. All about how and why particles tend to cluster [I'll let the website explain].
  2. Another chance to see spectacular movies of vortex rings. Very colourful presentation and very clearly explained by Mark Brend. Current research in Warwick's own Engineering Department by Peter Thomas and Mark Brend.
  3. Eberhard Bodenschatz's presentation on Results from Lagrangian particle tracking in turbulence. For Lagrangian particle, read weightless fluid element - basically, you can track 'particles' which just go with the flow, i.e. they're part of the fluid, and find their mean separation. All really interesting indeed, and very important for my research. More info here!

After these meetings I got a lot more excited about my PhD and research, but also realized that just "plankton" might be a bit too wide a subject to study. My supervisor – alarmed by the little progress and the lack of small projects I can actually work on, but also triggered by my interest in some of the problems discussed in the workshop – came to the same conclusion and jumped in to point out 3 problems I could focus on. One involves the coagulation [sticking together] of particles [or algae/plankton] and the resulting sinking; another concerns the movement of bubbles [buoyancy] and the merging and dissolution of them; the last is an analytical problem which for now will be our backup.

On the other hand, my plankton interests were stirred again the weekend after the workshop [4-6 November] as Ali dragged me along to a skills session [pleasantly presented by Casey .] which was filled with biology students. One had to present his press release supposing his research had been successful, and started talking about micro-organisms in water that use photosynthesis. I learned that I should do more with my (Saturday) mornings as you might actually find someone interested in your research! Which reminds me, I've still got to email these people…

The next week was all about Hull. And tracking a book on Brownian Motion [random motion of particles]. Found the book by fortune when the maths library worker made me return 3 books that were 1200 years late [never knew there was a 2 week limit!] and someone else had just returned the much needed book. Hull was found more easily with great directions to the Deep where we met a research student working with a huge basin monitoring sediment movements due to flow. Unfortunately, the basin did not seem to be ideal for our more interesting problem [tracking bubbles] but it was quite exciting to see such a huge installation in action.

Later that day we visited the fluid dynamics lab where my supervisor's colleague and his research assistant had a whole set of small experiments set up. Got to wear goggles and look at water and dye mixing lit by lasers. There's no way I can express my excitement through this blog so I won't try. Let me just emphasize it involved lasers and colours and lots of useful results for my research. Even more useful was their excitement in our plans – especially the bubble problem. They were even so excited that they will build a small scale experiment to check our numerical and analytical results! [Indeed, that means people will depend on me and I should be modelling as I type.]

Unfortunately, I got to a complete standstill after Hull, and needed detox from too much excitement about this PhD project. If you read this blog regularly, you might understand that working every day for 2 weeks in a row is highly unusual [to be honest, I doubt I've ever properly worked more than 4 hours each day for more than two weeks in my entire academic career. Not sure if I should write that on my blog. Though the good thing you should note is that now I am reaching this state! Progress people! That's what counts!] Also, there was a Rev weekend in Bristol to attend. I did bring the book on Brownian Motion in an attempt to keep the work going - and actually read and enjoyed... and understood some of it – but my supervisor didn't buy the excuse on Monday and metaphorically kicked me butt hoping I'd start modelling.

It's Wednesday night now, and where am I? I've felt even more useful this week getting to know the other Fluid Dynamics students better and offering them help [no, I'm not really sure how I can help someone who has studied maths here for 4 years, but I thought the gesture could mean something]. Turns out my UC knowledge might be of some use, as everyone is suddenly talking about Hamiltonians and classical mechanics, for which I have a wonderful book sitting on my shelf. Which reminds me I should bring it to campus and offer it to those in need. Also had another great day in the library finding 3 useful books, one of which must be the biggest book in the world [Computational Fluid Dynamics]. Thank you to all the people supporting me in the effort to attack this literary fitness machine.

I used my Tuesday to find those books and to finish off the last major task for the December workshop (again Warwick Turbulence Symposium). I'm getting quite excited about this conference now, and hopefully I'll be ready for the next improvement: actually talking to the participants and see if I can say something useful.

Then tonight I found new appreciation for the people from MATLAB, who provide us with so many useful and varied resources on the internet, for F R E E ! I found a lovely .m-file modelling Brownian motion of 100 particles scattered around the origin and have already added a force (e.g. buoyancy) making it look like two fruitflies racing to reach the top of the domain. You should have seen my face – happiness all around! Now I've got to make them disappear when they reach the "water surface" and add a few more thousand bubbles. And make them merge when they come to close to one another. And have them in different sizes. And make them dissolve with some (low) rate. And write it all out in C++ [I assume I can make a program function better and run faster in this language than in MATLAB, especially if I have to track 10,000 particles...]. And then I've got my first project finished! Hurray!

So that's what I've been up to this side of November, apart from the Rev stuff and the supervision of freshers. In other news, I've finally tidied my room.


- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Nikki

    "The Cheerios effect" … like lots of little multi-coloured hoops bobbing around my cereal bowl? awesome! or not, perhaps …

    19 Nov 2005, 00:33

  2. Dude! Follow the link and see how much you'll learn! I don't think colour of cereal is of great importance no…

    19 Nov 2005, 17:28

  3. The lagrangian particle tracking one was cool. I even learnt some stuff there useful to my project, which I was a little dubious about considering I was the only undergrad there…

    But fluids is cool, and the bubbles was quite exciting! MATLAB is a useful, if somewhat annoying, program. Being an engineer they teach us to use it early on. Then when you need it in later years you can't remember a thing. But they say you learnt it in the first year. Come on….First year! That was a long time ago to remember MATLAB functions…

    But it sounds like you have done a lot more work recently then me, and i have approaching deadlines…. Arghh! Better start hardcore working tomorrow!

    Mike

    21 Nov 2005, 00:20

  4. Interesting… i love simulations and things that deal with explaining things such as particle behaviours.

    21 Nov 2005, 15:42


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