A rubber band stretches over a can. Simple, right? But when the rubber band is half the size of the can, simulating that sort of expansion over a large body becomes an enormously complex task. It was day one of Advanced Non- linear Simulation Training in Chicago. By the dumb expressions on our faces, Jandra Novak, our Czechoslovakian instructor, knew that we were stumped. “Try this.” He said.
We watched as he proceeded to silently work. We all leaned forward and closed our laptops. He entered values into the software. No words, just numerical values. It’s a language we all speak.
Without getting into too much detail, simulating the rubber band going over the can was not possible. The size difference was too great for any simulation software to handle. What Jandra did, was simple. He shrank the can and placed it in the center of the rubber band. Then, he made the can grow. The rubber band expanded as it came into contact with the can.
To any non-super-nerd it was all just numbers. But to us, it was physics. Glorious physics. (It’s as close to reading the code from The Matrix as I’ll ever get.)
He clicked “Run” and we waited.
As we reviewed the result, I leaned back in my chair and had only one simple thought: I understood everything that just happened.
As I walked into O’Hare, I grabbed my ticket and looked down. C33. Gate C33, I thought. For those of you who have never been, O’Hare is one of the largest airports in the country. Getting to gate C33 was no small chore. It took 3 miles of walking to get to. As I reached the end of the terminal, I read C30, C31, C32. No C33. Confused, to say the least, I asked, “Excuse me miss, where is gate C33?”
“Let me see your ticket,” she replied.
I passed it across the counter. I watched her type for what felt like an eternity.
“C33 is your seat number. You’re 5 miles away from your gate.”
Defeated, I plopped down in gate 32. I leaned back and had only one simple thought: I’ve got a lot to learn.
-Nick Luyster, Applications Engineer (Simulation)
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