For the past 30 years, University of Texas at Austin professor Leszek Demkowicz has been studying adaptive finite elements, a modeling technique that aims to understand the larger behavior of a phenomena or structure by breaking it into pieces represented by mathematical equations. Demkowicz applies the technique to math and software related to wave propagation.
The technique can be broken down into mathematical analysis, discretization, verification, and validation. Demkowicz's research often focuses on the details used in the first three steps. Engineers and experimental scientists then take over once the simulation is ready for validation. For example, one simulation found that the reason some sounds can still be heard even when the ears are plugged could be due to a vibrating brain. The project showed the brain acting like an alternate eardrum, resonating in response to sound waves.
"Those vibrations are transmitted in a much more sophisticated way to your cochlea where they generate electrical signals in your brain that produce the sense of hearing," Demkowicz says.
He notes a key factor in all of the simulations is the human element. Demkowicz says the extreme levels of specialization within computational science requires scientists to collaborate to perform useful research.
From University of Texas at Austin
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