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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

1974: What is Fire Safety Engineering? by Prof Rasbash

NEW VARIATION ON AN OLD THEME. What is Fire Safety Engineering?

Opening and concluding paragraphs of the Inaugural Lecture presented by Professor D. J. Rasbash on 14 November 1974 at Appleton Tower, The University of Edinburgh.

Opening Paragraph

Well, my Department is called the Department of Fire Safety Engineering. It is a very rare department indeed in a University. Nowhere else in Europe is there a similar animal. There are a few close relatives in North America, but, you might say, many exotic flowers blossom there. Perhaps I imagine a tendency to turn with a sympathetic but questioning eye, asking-"What is this peculiar specimen cast up on the beautiful beach that compromises the academic world of this ancient university?" As Trincolo exclaimed in The Tempest when he stumbled across Caliban on the beach, "Is it man or fish? Methinks it has a very ancient and fish-like smell!"

Concluding Paragraph

Could it be that my subject is neither man nor fish but a gawky representative of a new species? This species could have as its discipline the understanding and thence the bringing of a modicum of control to the hitherto intractable quality called "Safety", a word whose aura must surely extend beyond ourselves to our fellows, to those that follow us and even to mankind. And in the shadow of Safety there is always Risk which comes strongly into the light when the emphasis of our studies turns to the adventurous journey of mankind through time, space and such as might lie between. In pursuit of gaining the measure of Safety and Risk we could well find ourselves ranging unashamedly from Physics to History, why even beyond. For will we not be concerned with bringing what has been called "Acts of God", amongst which Fire has had such a terrible ranking, into the regime under man's control? What impudence, but if true it would be New Variation on an Old Theme indeed!

(This text has been extracted from the "Sabbatical Report" of Dr Jack Watts written while visiting Edinburgh in 1979-1980 describing the rara avis of the Department/Degrees of Fire Safety Engineering in order to draw suggestions for a similar programme in the USA)

'International Science Grid This Week' features article on FireGrid

The article on FireGrid that was produced for EPCC News magazine has been adopted by iSGTW (International Science Grid This Week), as their lead article on 29 July 2009:

Feature - Burning down the house (with FireGrid)

iSGTW, a weekly newsletter promoting grid computing, has an audience of 15,000 people and is jointly funded by the US Department of Energy, the US National Science Foundation, and by the European Commission.

Monday, July 27, 2009

New International Master in Fire Safety Engineering between Edinburgh, Ghent and Lund approved by Erasmus Mundus

The new International Master of Science in Fire Safety Engineering has been approved by Erasmus Mundus (the European commission's cooperation and mobility programme in the field of European higher education). The joint degree starts in Sept 2010 and involves the universities of Edinburgh (UK), Ghent (Belgium) and Lund (Sweden).

The curriculum concerns a two-year program in four semesters in total. The structure is such that the students benefit from the expertise of each of the partners. The first semester, covering basic topics in fire safety engineering, is taught in Ghent or Edinburgh (student's choice). All students spend the second semester in Lund, with emphasis on enclosure fire dynamics, risk analysis and human behaviour. The third semester is again taught in Ghent (focus on general fire safety engineering) or Edinburgh (focus on fire and structures). The fourth semester is devoted to the Master’s thesis, hosted by one or more of the three institutions.

A number of scholarships would be available for EU and non-EU students.

NOTE: this blog entry has been related to a later entry in the SFPE blog.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Review of the 6th Mediterranean Combustion Symposium

The 6th Mediterranean Combustion Symposium was held in Porticcio, Corsica (7 – 11 June 2009 and was organised by the UniversitiĆ” di Corsica Pasquale Paoli.

The conference was well attended by 197 (mostly academic) delegates from institutions all around the world. Topics included many of the usual in combustion science including turbulent combustion, solid fuels, propulsion and engines, pollutant formation, reaction kinetics and new combustion technologies. There were also sessions on applied research in the fields of fire and explosions and forest fires. There was a strong emphasis during the conference on bridging the gap between fundamental combustion research and applied forest fire research.

This was realised by a special workshop session as well as 3 sessions of talks on forest fire research throughout the week. These brought together the combustion, forest fire and fire safety communities to address some of the open questions in the field. The workshop included talks from the leaders in the communities who detailed their concerns and their views on the direction in which they felt the field should be taken. It focussed heavily on the work needed to create robust models to predict wildfire spread. The key aspect that came from this session was the need for the research to unite and determine a common framework within which individual research could be undertaken. However, it seems a leader has yet to emerge.

Many of the presentations in the forest fires sessions were the highlight of the symposium presenting new approaches to modelling. Of particular originality was the paper by Rossi et al. on the use of stereovision to determine geometric fire front characteristics imaging of wildfires. Another excellent paper was written by PĆ©rez et al. on the use of infrared data to determine the effectiveness of aerial forest fire suppression.

The plenary lectures generally focussed on detailed research on the state of the art of combustion research. An excellent talk was given by Prof. Hai Wang of the University of Southern California in which he presented a novel use of combustion in the production of dye sensitised solar cells. Such work provides an accessible and novel contribution of combustion science to relevant problems.

It was reassuring to see some papers presented by young researchers in the early stages of their careers. I hope that this continues to allow new ideas to propagate through the field and allow new collaborations between many research groups. Young researchers were again well represented in the poster session which gave a broad insight into the early stages of a wide range of combustion research.

In general, the conference was a success. Though very academic in nature with few delegates from industry, strengthening these links could allow for more novel applied research to be undertaken allowing the community to grow. The location and hospitality were excellent (especially the food) and the timetable was well designed allowing plenty of time between sessions to allow discussions and networking (as well as trips to the beach!).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

D. Peter Lund Award 2009

Prof Dougal Drysdale has been named as a recipient of the SFPE's 'D. Peter Lund Award' for 2009. The award presentation will take place at the SFPE annual meeting in Arizona on October 19th.

The D. Peter Lund Award was established in 1997 to recognise 'significant contributions to the advancement of the professional recognition of the fire protection engineer'.

The award this year is shared between the seven editors of the SFPE handbook of fire protection engineering.