Pyrrhonism (AKA fallibilism) is not contentious

Fallibilism goes beyond the simple recognition that everyone is fallible. It demands that any ethical and equitable quest for truth (or beauty) must be founded on a commitment (not just willingness) to SEEK OUT (not just be open to) alternative viewpoints, which might contradict those of other people (friend or foe) and might even run counter to one’s own cherished beliefs (including a belief in fallibilism itself)!


Graham’s hierarchy of disagreement

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Tips for writing literature reviews

This posting aims to help graduate students write a good literature review for their qualifying exam, proposal, or thesis.

In the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah, the qualifier examination is not a proposal, so there is no expectation that your Qual paper should propose new research.  Your literature review should, however, critically assess existing research in the subject area by pointing out specific limitations of (and, if applicable, errors in) existing published work.   The qualifier paper is meant to show that you can string together a coherent scholarly discussion.   The qualifier paper can have a fairly broad literature review as long as it still limits attention to mechanical engineering topics. The proposal document, on the other hand, should include a literature review that is more tightly related to your proposed research, as your aim is to convince the committee that your proposed work is (1) important to the field of Mechanical Engineering and (2) has not been done. The thesis document should include an updated literature review that suggests no one else has accomplished the same thing during the time you were working on it (or prior to your efforts, but inadvertently overlooked in your original literature review). The final thesis literature review should also thoroughly compare/contrast your own accomplishments with alternative approaches in contemporary literature.

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Streamlines, Streaklines, Pathlines, and Gridlines


The above animation aims to be a slight improvement over one on Wikipedia, which (incidentally) does not correctly describe the velocity field that it is depicting. The Wikipedia image doesn’t show a checkerboard of moving material, nor does it have a nice depiction of streamlines.

Before describing this animation, it might be helpful to look at a simpler motion (a rolling body) in order to review the difference between streamlines, streaklines, and pathlines. Consider a simple rigid body consisting of a disk of small radius (shown in gray below) along which it rolls along a tabletop, along with a larger-radius extension of the body (shown in color below) which can dip down below the table surface (as if there is a slot cut into the table so that part of the body rolls under it).

STREAMLINES: These are tangent to the instantaneous velocity field.  For a rolling rigid body, the motion is always circular about the instantaneous center of rotation at the bottom of the wheel. Accordingly, this image shows the streamlines at various points in time as the disk rolls along:


This image of streamlines is drawn not just on the body itself but also on its “virtual extension” in order to emphasize that (for rigid rolling) the instantaneous velocity is circular around the instantaneous center of rotation (bottom of the wheel). A particular set of streamlines is drawn in red. These are the ones that pass through a set of points that are evenly distributed on a spoke of the wheel (shown in black).

STREAKLINES: These are the lines you would see if a magic gremlin were to sit at a given location in space and “spraypaint” the material as it passes by.  Suppose that an assembly line of gremlins (located where you see the dots in the first image) are pointing their spray paint cans at the body while it rolls past. Then they would form the black streaklines shown here at various times:


Important: The streaklines are made by gremlins who are sitting still and spraying material as it passes by.

PATHLINES: Are made by gremlins who “ride” with the material, spraying a record of where they have been (as if we were watching the rolling body from behind a window, and those whacky gremlins would spray paint onto the window as they pass by). Accordingly, here are the pathlines for group of gremlins who were initially coincident with the gremlins in the above streakline plot:


GRIDLINES are any set of lines that are painted on the body like tattoos. Such lines move with the body (like a tattoo).


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von Mises: cylinder, circle, or ellipse?

The answer is…all of the above!   The von Mises cylinder is centered about the {1,1,1} direction in principal stress space.  The ellipse that we learn about as undergrads applies only to plane stress (where the third principal stress is zero), and this is just the intersection of the cylinder with the plane.  The circle applies to the octahedral plane, which is the view of the cylinder down its {1,1,1} axis.  This animation should clarify what is going on:



Welcome new computational-mechanics professor Ashley Spear!


The University of Utah is pleased to welcome a multi-talented new computational mechanics professor: Ashley Spear, newly graduated from Tony Ingraffea’s group at Cornell.

Dr. Spear's work (in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon and Lawrence Livermore Lab) using the Advanced Photon Source to obtain synchrotron-based measurments of 3D crack evolution in polycrystalline materials.

Dr. Spear’s work (in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon and Lawrence Livermore Lab) using the Advanced Photon Source to obtain synchrotron-based measurments of 3D crack evolution in polycrystalline materials.

Dr. Spear is a published expert in high-performance multiscale computing as well as experimental materials characterization, which is a perfect counterpart to the University if Utah’s existing focus on macroscale constitutive modeling with high-performance simulations using the Material Point Method.

Check out Dr. Spear’s research and CV (with contact information) at!





Linux file navigation aide (MSSwan python3 script)

If you have a lot of places that you routinely visit in your file system, often with ludicrously long path names, then click here to download a tar file that will alleviate the problem (once downloaded, execute `tar -xvf pyfsmem.tar` to obtain the python 3.x script).

Follow instructions in the script’s prolog (especially adding aliases to your bashrc). Then you can “remember” frequently visited directories and return to them with only a couple of keystrokes.

IMO, this is far better than pushd and popd because favorite places are remembered indefinitely (even with power failures).

Thanks to M. Scot Swan for providing this gem!

Publication (Abstract and Erratum): Second-order convected particle domain interpolation (CPDI2) with enrichment for weak discontinuities at material interfaces


Convected particle domain interpolation (CPDI) is a recently developed extension of the material point method, in which the shape functions on the overlay grid are replaced with alternative shape functions, which (by coupling with the underlying particle topology) facilitate efficient and algorithmically straightforward evaluation of grid node integrals in the weak formulation of the governing equations. In the original CPDI algorithm, herein called CPDI1, particle domains are tracked as parallelograms in 2-D (or parallelepipeds in 3-D). In this paper, the CPDI method is enhanced to more accurately track particle domains as quadrilaterals in 2-D (hexahedra in 3-D). This enhancement will be referred to as CPDI2. Not only does this minor revision remove overlaps or gaps between particle domains, it also provides flexibility in choosing particle domain shape in the initial configuration and sets a convenient conceptual framework for enrichment of the fields to accurately solve weak discontinuities in the displacement field across a material interface that passes through the interior of a grid cell. The new CPDI2 method is demonstrated, with and without enrichment, using one-dimensional and two-dimensional examples.

Bib data:

Sadeghirad, A., R. M. Brannon, J.E. Guilkey (2013) Second-order convected particle domain interpolation (CPDI2) with enrichment for weak discontinuities at material interfaces, Int. J. Num. Meth. Engr., vol. 95, 928-952


Bibtex entry:

author = {A. Sadeghirad and R.M. Brannon and J.E. Guilkey},
title = {Second-order convected particle domain interpolation ({CPDI2}) with
enrichment for weak discontinuities at material interfaces},
journal = {Intl. J. Num. Meth. Engng.},
year = {2013},
volume = {95},
pages = {928–952}

Erratum:  Eq. 33 should be

Corrected Eq. 33

Publication: Verification tests in solid mechanics

ABSTRACT: Code verification against analytical solutions is a prerequisite to code validation against experimental data. Though solid-mechanics codes have established basic verification standards such as patch tests and convergence tests, few (if any) similar standards exist for testing solid-mechanics constitutive models under nontrivial massive deformations. Increasingly complicated verification tests for solid mechanics are presented, starting with simple patch tests of frame-indifference and traction boundary conditions under affine deformations, followed by two large-deformation problems that might serve as standardized verification tests suitable to quantify accuracy, robustness, and convergence of momentum solvers used in solid-mechanics codes. These problems use an accepted standard of verification testing, the method of manufactured solutions (MMS), which is rarely applied in solid mechanics. Body forces inducing a specified deformation are found analytically by treating the constitutive model abstractly, with a specific model introduced only at the last step in examples. One nonaffine MMS problem subjects the momentum solver and constitutive model to large shears comparable to those in penetration, while ensuring natural boundary conditions to accommodate codes lacking support for applied tractions. Two additional MMS problems, one affine and one nonaffine, include nontrivial traction boundary conditions.

For a copy of the paper along an implementation of the vortex problem, see our simple matlab MPM code.

Here are some eye-catching graphics (see the paper itself for details):

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Publication: Aleatory quantile surfaces in damage mechanics

ABSTRACT: In statistical damage mechanics, a deterministic failure limit surface is replaced with a scale-dependent family of quantile surfaces. An idealized homogeneous isotropic matrix material containing cracks of random size and orientation is used to elucidate expected mathematical character
of aleatory uncertainty and scale effects for initiation of damage in a brittle material. Scope is limited to statistics and scale dependence for the ONSET (not subsequent progression) of shear-driven failure. Exact analytical solutions for probability of such failure (with an interesting pole-point visualization) are derived for axisymmetric extension or compression of a single-crack sample. A semi-analytical bound on the failure CDF is found for a multi-crack specimen by integrating the single-crack probability over an exponential crack size distribution for which the majority of flaws are small enough to be safe from failure at any orientation. Resulting tails of the predicted failure distribution differ from Weibull theory,
especially in the third invariant.

Selected cool pictures (see the article for more images):


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