This week in @ULSF space we did some work on materials development, and I learned a bit more thermodynamics.

We’re looking for a material compatible with rapid prototyping techniques (exemplified by the reprap machine) as well as a singular, integrated application to cryogenics, propulsion and structures.  One big “plastic” spacecraft — but “integrated structure” probably sounds much better.  We’ve looked into carbon- phenolics, and are moving into pyrolytic carbons like carbon-carbon, graphite and vitreous carbon.

My personal exploration of thermodynamics is more fun when I’m working from objective through field literature and into wikipedia- like- component articles than it is when I read a lecture text from top to bottom.  Taking a step back, I guess I’m cycling between all of these. 

Touching on related topics like statistical mechanics helps it all make sense, somehow.  I mean, what is enthalpy if not a statistical mechanical kind of concept (that cool but crazy state space stuff that makes my greedy head explode).  At least today I understand it better as a mathematical tool of convenience than something really physical. 

Which is not right, and maybe not even sensible.  Except to say
that sometimes the math for the sake of tooling is far easier to
comprehend than what we’re counting with it. 

Suppose that would be how the bottom- up objective, literature, encyclopedia approach complements and motivates the top- down lecture world preview and review approach — at least in my process.