"Some questions in optimal design"

Michael Brenner
Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Harvard University
MA 02138


 My talk will mention a few examples of ''little'' questions, starting with a classical study of G.I. Taylor from the mid 1960's (in which his answer to a little question started the field of electrohydrodynamics, and its accompanying technologies). I will then outline a few of the little questions we are immersed in, ranging from developing methods to calculate optimal engineering designs; to studies of the self assembly of colloidal particles; to developing algorithms for improving numerical calculations of pollutants in atmospheric chemistry; to a experimental and theoretical study of nonlinear aspects of ion beam sputtering. vision statement

There are enormous opportunities for theory and numerical simulations, in combination with careful experiments, for resolving the important problems in science and engineering of today. Our focus has been on carrying out detailed studies of specific systems. Although such studies might ultimately suggest general principles, our primary motivator is not to develop anything general--but instead to help in the development of novel, useful, and ultimately quantitative ways of thinking about the system in question. Much of the fun is wading through dirty details, and figuring out what is important and what is not.