Defining system boundaries

Boundaries are arbitrary. Choosing the best ones is a big deal.

Boundaries are arbitrary. Choosing the best ones is a big deal.

One of the most critical parts of systems modeling is defining the boundaries between systems. Different boundaries will lead to different system models, so choosing the “best” boundaries for a modeling goal is really important. Here’s how I do it.

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What is a “scientific consensus”?

This is NOT “scientific consensus.” (Click on image to enlarge and see original source.)

Scientific consensus isn’t the same as consensus in politics, in business, or in deciding where to go for dinner.  The conflation of the scientific and lay senses of the term are, I think, a primary cause of much of the general public’s distrust of the conclusions that scientists draw from their work.

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Innoduction?

Can formal reasoning capture this?

In 2000, Eekels published a paper [1] that among other things discussed a type of inference called innoduction, which is supposed to capture some aspects of design creativity.  I don’t think it’s necessary to develop a whole new style of inference, and that the usual inference styles – particularly abduction – can do the job admirably.

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Battery farms: one key to a better grid

Battery farms could help create a better grid.

An article in IEEE Spectrum discusses the case for “replacing” power plants with “battery farms.”  Besides the obvious problems that batteries don’t generate energy but only store them, there is some merit in implementing battery farms.  Most importantly, they serve as a stock that can help balance the differences between rates of power generation and consumption.  That systems aspect is particularly interesting to me.

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The problem with industry-supported research

Industry funded academic research is a problem.

Industry-sponsored academic research often ends up in the hands of single corporations. I think this defeats the overall goal of academic research, which is to improve everyone’s lot in life.

There’s a growing trend, in many areas of academia (such as engineering), to expect industry to at least partially match government research funding. The advantages, they say, are that industry involvement creates greater opportunity for knowledge and technology transfer, and academia can identify industry-relevant problems faster and easier. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the financial burden of research is partly transferred away from government; in this way, governments can be seen as “saving money.”

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