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Mechanical Engineering. 2007;129(05):28-33. doi:10.1115/1.2007-MAY-1.
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This article discusses how researchers are rethinking the weather of the Gulf to protect investments as well as lives. The National Hurricane Center tracked Opal since its inception. Its central pressure, the motor that sustained its 150-mph winds, was lower than any storm that had not reached Category 5 severity. Met-ocean theorists believe that hurricanes stir up cold water from deep under the Gulf, which cools and weakens them. If any hurricane crosses the Loop Current, however, the warm water induces it to intensify and grow larger. This may account for the central zone’s large hurricanes. Storms in zones on either side of it are less intense. In the western zone, warm eddies that break away from the Loop Current intensify hurricanes only modestly. The Gulf is one of the nation’s greatest resources, supplying 30 percent of its oil and 20 percent of its natural gas. Gasoline and heating oil prices spiked in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita. By improving the structural integrity of its offshore infrastructure, industry can perhaps avoid an upset like that again. Producers clearly want to protect strategic assets.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2007;129(05):34-37. doi:10.1115/1.2007-MAY-2.
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This article focuses on software upgrades that have made analyzing for fluid and structural interaction easier and more common than in the past but not much quicker. So common is fluid-structure analysis today that many finite element analysis packages offer ways for an engineer to model both the structural and fluid forces that affect a design. Fluid-structure interaction (FSI) analysis lets mechanical engineers study how fluid flow around or through a part or assembly can affect performance. To make sure the fan effectively cools electronic parts, the engineer must look at how fan design affects airflow through the computer. Because FSI solutions are so computer intensive, hardware costs play a role in making FSI more manageable; and hardware costs have been coming down in the past 5 years, a computer that now costs $1,000 would have nm about $10,000 only five years ago.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2007;129(05):38-41. doi:10.1115/1.2007-MAY-3.
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This article highlights that the craftsmen of early firearms advanced the standard of precision manufacturing. Barrel making has gone on to evolve the complex machine tools that are now used in such familiar products as heat exchangers and gasoline engines. Cannon boring was a technology already well understood decades before the siege of Orleans. A cannon barrel began as a casting having a cavity large enough to allow the use of a robust boring bar. Chip removal required frequent extraction and reinsertion of bits. In Europe, straightness was sometimes checked by running a taut wire down the barrel and sighting on it through the bore. Bends were removed by hammering straight. Pioneers learned to depend on hunting rifles to provide meat for their tables. The American long rifle was one of the finest examples of the precision that could be attained by craftsmen who worked with hand tools and were armed only with their versatility and ingenuity. Probably only clockwork was a more demanding example of metalworking.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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