News in 2020-2021 from Prof. Poggie's research group.
Nobel Prize winner Philip W. Anderson, an Indiana native who died in 2020, wrote an essay in the early 1970s on the limits of reductionism. He considered the traditional ordering of fields by scale and complexity, for example: particle physics, chemistry, molecular biology, condensed matter physics, organism biology, and behavioral science. "[W]ith increasing complication at each stage, we go up the hierarchy of the sciences." He tells us that we can still hold our heads high if our research focuses on complex systems rather than fundamental laws. "The ability to reduce everything to simple fundamental laws does not imply the ability to start from those laws and reconstruct the universe." "[A]t each level of complexity entirely new properties appear, and the understanding of the new behaviors requires research that is as fundamental in its nature as any other."
Engineers and technologists use, and sometimes generate, basic research at all these scales. In my own work, I have encountered the relaxation of excited states of molecules, electrical discharges in turbulent flow, seasonal behavior of insects (squashed bugs can cause transition), pilot behavior, and the group dynamics of the battlefield.
P. W. Anderson, “More Is Different,” Science, vol. 177, no. 4047, 1972, pp. 393–396. Available on JSTOR.
Purdue University has put out a very nice press release on our new project with Notre Dame and the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Multidisciplinary Hypersonics Program.
In the context of the Purdue FORCES(4S) Initiative, we have a postdoctoral research opportunity, entitled "Crisis Advisor: Predictive and Analytical Computational Tools for Leadership in Military Combat and Civilian Catastrophes," out under the Lillian Gilbreth Postdoctoral Fellowships Program. An ideal candidate would be a recent PhD with excellent programming skills, and experience in numerical solution of partial differential equations, systems engineering, and computer graphics. See the topic description for detailed information.
Welcome back to Purdue, and good luck with the semester! We'll make the best of the current situation.
D. M. O'Reagan, Taking Nazi Technology: Allied Exploitation of German Science after the Second World War, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2019. ISBN-13: 978-1421428871
At the end of the Second World War, the powers occupying a defeated Germany (France, UK, USA, and USSR) sought to uncover and exploit German technology as war reparations. Teams from governments and private industry scoured the shattered remains of German industry for documents, equipment, people, and expertise that could be exploited for economic advantage. Some these efforts were highly successful, as in the famous contributions of German experts to the aerospace industry. As a whole, however, O'Reagan argues that the outcome of these efforts was not very favorable.
He gives several explanations for the disappointing outcome. Sifting through large quantities of German-language documents looking for technological secrets was an enormous effort. Even copying them and shipping them home, in a pre-digital age, was quite an undertaking. Furthermore, much industrial expertise is never written down. It exists in the form of tacit knowledge or know-how. Only someone embedded in an operational local factory would pick up this knowledge easily.
German technology was also a product of its cultural and economic context. Innovations were not necessarily useful when transported abroad. In wartime Germany, for example, much technology development focused on overcoming local difficulties and shortages, such as exploiting coal instead of petroleum in the chemical industry. In the same vein, the success of a German scientist or technologist depended in part on personal connections. Transported abroad, that expert would not be nearly as productive until integrated into a new social network within the host country.
Over the longer term, attitudes changed from exploitation to partnership. O'Reagan documents very productive relationships between German industry and foreign partners in later years. In particular, German and American industry exchanged teams of experts in the post-war era, and set up mutually beneficial licensing agreements for intellectual property. With time, technology was considered less of a zero-sum game, and exchange of information helped fuel the post-war economic boom. O'Reagan argues, in the end, that the diplomatic benefit of information sharing programs, like Atoms for Peace, was significant in the Cold War era.