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Math to technology

  1. Mar 13, 2009 #1
    I'm still learning a lot, so please bear with me if it sounds stupid. Mods, if this isn't the right place, i'm sorry, please move to correct location.

    Ok, I hear all the time about how E=MC^2 brought about a lot of technology, such as nuclear power plants and microwaves. My question is this:

    How do you take a set of equations and produce a device that works within those parameters to do a job of those equations?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 13, 2009 #2


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    The equation doesn't invent the device, the engineer does. The equations are applied by the engineer to calculate the necessary parameters.

    For example, when designing an automotive braking system, the engineer will apply equations linking the size of the cylinders, hydraulic pressure, and braking force to optimise his design.

    In your example, it wasn't the equation itself which brought about this technology, it was the research being done at the time.
  4. Mar 13, 2009 #3
    equations are the tools engineers & scientists use to create everything
  5. Mar 13, 2009 #4
    well, first of all you've got to develop a set of measurement standards, and the tools to make it possible...

    actually, i think your question is more philosophical. first, you study the problems of people from the past, simplified textbook questions, etc. then, you learn by doing. studying science is one thing, but design is more of an art. it's like programming, if you do that. start at Hello World and add concepts from there.
  6. Mar 13, 2009 #5
    Typically, you have a goal in mind. You think of a way to accomplish that goal. If you think it makes sense, you first check it against theory to see if it really does. At this stage, you can start to get an estimation of the magnitudes of things to then see if performing such a "job" is plausible. This is the research phase. Sometimes questions come up in this stage that require more research, but this is the gist of it. At some point, design can begin. Depending on the project, this is usually a hybrid of research and design. After this comes construction, then testing. If your tests fail, you need to find out why, correct the problem and test again.
  7. Mar 14, 2009 #6
    For E=mc^2, if you put enough uranium^235 in a reactor core and pull the control rods out slowly, the reactor will go critical and you will get about 180 MeV per fissioning uranium atom (1.78 x 10^13 joules or 4.9 million kilowatt-hours per mole of uranium).

    E=mc^2 has nothing to do with microwaves. Some employee at Ratheon was standing too close to a microwave klystron horn antenna with a candy bar in his pocket, and it melted.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2009
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