Computationally Intractable (or maybe not?)

26 03 2011

In Bussard’s 2006 Google tech talk  Should Google Go Nuclear? he talks about computer modeling of his reactor. He concludes that computer modeling is unfeasible. Beyond a handful of particles in the model, the computation slows down to the point of useless.

Now there may be a new approach to this type of problem.

Professor Charbel Farhat, chair of the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department at Stanford’s School of Engineering, and David Amsallem, an engineering research associate who worked on his PhD thesis with Farhat, have been studying and trying to solve aeroelastic flutter for years. Computers help, but only to a point.

Essentially it’s a story of the unfeasible made feasible by mathematical inovation:

How have Farhat and Amsallem succeeded where others have come up short? The answer sounds suitably complex: interpolation on manifolds. What it means, in essence, is approximating unknowns based on known information. The two engineers devised a system of mathematical approximations that break down complex, computationally demanding equations into smaller, more manageable parts. In mathematics, this is known as “reducing.” Reducing allows them to make some very educated guesses, very quickly.

I wonder if this technique could be applied to computer modeling of the Bussard reactor?

I suppose in our case we would be looking FOR the flutter, not trying to avoid it.



Another good article:

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