By Harold A. Simon
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Additional info for A Student's Introduction to Engineering Design
In general, two kinds of input are available in the treatment of engineering systems. These are termed deterministic and probabilistic. Unfortunately, the latter kind predominates in the physical world and requires the added complication of statistical treatment unless such variations can be neglected. Deterministic quantities have definite values; thus a precise number can be assigned to each system parameter. An electrical resistance is given the exact value of 10 ohms, or a fuel is said to release exactly so much energy per pound.
2R). 12. Physical Quantities Having identified the main components of the system, the next step is to write down the important physical quantities that describe or determine the behavior of the system or subsystem. Generally speaking, these can be divided into input and output variables and parameters. In the case of the power plant, the input is the coal supply, the output the electricity produced, and the system parameters are concerned with specifics such as turbine size, shaft speed, and chimney height.
These exercises reveal some of the power of this method in tackling quite complicated problems. However, one does need to know which quantities have a bearing on the problem before the method can be applied. Completely ridiculous results can be generated if physical insight is at fault. For example, if it were postulated that the height, ft, that a high jumper can reach depends only on the time f, spent practicing and the acceleration due to gravity, g, dimensional analysis yields tVg/h = constant, clearly a meaningless result.
A Student's Introduction to Engineering Design by Harold A. Simon