In May I visited ALICE, one of the four large experiments at the LHC and talked with Despina Hatzifotiadou. We briefly discussed the science that ALICE is interested in, and then spent the majority of the time dissecting the detector to understand its components and how they detect the various products of particle collisions.
Socio-technical systems are systems where (groups of) humans interact with (non-trivial) technical systems; an example is the power grid. The people, the technical system and the combination might easily lead to complex behavior that is hard to predict and control over the long term. However, as illustrated by, for example, the need to transition our energy infrastructure to a more sustainable structure, it is necessary for society to “control” such systems. Igor Nikolic is a professor at the TU Delft where he uses agent-based modeling approach to try to understand, and thus help control and evolve such systems. We discuss the systems, the challenges as well as the modeling approaches.
Earlier this year I visited the London Air Ambulance, a charity organization that flies two MD-902 helicopters over the UK’s capital. I chatted with their chief pilot Neil Jeffers about the flying and some of the medical aspects. My recorder then joined Neil on a short flight to their hangar at RAF Northolt. There, we met Adam Spink, a NATS air traffic controller at Heathrow, and the three of us chatted about the ATC perspective of flying helicopters (sometimes) in Heathrows’s approach.
In our never-ending quest to understand fusion and its potential use in energy production, I visited the Wendelstein 7-X fusion experiment in Greifswald run by the Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik. We started out with a visit to the experiment hall, while experimentalist Matthias Hirsch gave us an overview over the machine. Next we discussed theory and modeling with Ralf Kleiber. Finally, I returned to Matthias Hirsch, and we chatted about more experimental aspects of Wendelstein. It is probably best to listen to our previous fusion episodes (22, 157 and 304) before listening to this one.
In this episode I chat with Sean Brady about structural failures in civil engineering. We first discuss the technical and organzational causes for such failures. We then look at Sean’s specialty, forensic engineering, which is about analyzing failures to determine the root cause. Sean also has his own podcast in which he delves into much more detail about engineering failures, not just in construction.