Archive for March, 2012

I recently took a walk through a local townhouse community and walked to the end of a cul-de-sac at the top of a hill.  The view from the end of the street was one of the better views inCharlottesville.  From that vantage point, one can see several miles of the blue Ridge, as well as most everything in between.

 After admiring the view, I turned to return in the direction from which I had come.  I was most disappointed that the end unit in the townhouse block had only one small window facing the view, presumably in a dining room.  The rest of the end elevation was a massive blank wall.  When the residents of the end unit are inside, they cannot enjoy the view unless they are in one particular spot within the unit.

 This is a classic case of a developer putting up the cheapest thing he/she could, ignoring the context into which the unit was placed.  For a few hundred dollars, there could have been several windows in that west wall.

 A little more care on the part of the developer could have resulted in a clubhouse placed on this site, so that all of the resdents of the community could have enjoyed the spectacular view.  An investment in an amenity such as this would have raised the appraisals of every unit on the site, increasing the gross profit on each unit sold.

 So a tremendous opportunity was missed.


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I recently had the opportunity to take my almost two year old nephew to the playground at our neighborhood elementary school on a Saturday.  Of course, we tried all of the slides and the swings.

 After a while, Isaac decided to investigate the aerodynamic properties of oak leaves by picking them up and throwing them up in the air.  He repeated the experiment many times to ensure that he achieved the same result numerous times.  The southerly breeze caught them and consistently blew them a few feet north of where he stood.

 Satisfied with the results of that investigation, it was time to investigate the elastic properties of chain link fabric.  The setup was a 42” tall panel of chain link fencing on an eight foot horizontal span.  The bottom edge of the fabric was not anchored, but simply stretched between posts.  Given the horizontal force he was able to apply, the deflection of the bottom edge of the fabric was approximately four inches in either direction.

 Satisfied with the results of our research, we returned home.

 So it is with materials science.  As technology continues to develop, we are constantly learning new things about the world around us.  As each new product is introduced, it has been through a thorough regimen of testing, usually in compliance with an ASTM protocol rather than the curiosity of a two year old, but the excitement of doing something new is always there.

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