Monday, February 13, 2017

February Experimentalist of the Month: Leonard Sklar

February Experimentalist of the Month:

Leonard Sklar

San Francisco State University

1. How did you first get involved with SEN? I first got involved with SEN when Leslie Hsu asked me to consider serving on the steering committee. I’m glad I said yes! My unique contribution has been to be a test case for getting an old-school, dark-data-generating, non-socially-networked experimentalist to adopt the enlightened data management practices of the 21st century. 

2. What different types of experiments have you worked with? The types of experiments I’ve worked with include: erosion of real and simulated bedrock in flumes, rotating drums, and abrasion mills; gravel and sand bedload sediment transport in flumes of various sizes; channel meander migration in two laboratory basins; particle wear in anular flumes and rotating drums; fine sediment infiltration in gravel beds; gravel bed stabilization by net-spinning caddisfly larvae; and impact erosion of water ice at ultra-low temperatures.

3. What is a favorite memory of yours in the lab? A favorite memory from the lab was the first time we turned on the 4 meter diameter rotating drum when it was filled with as many cobble-sized particles as we thought we could fit in, which turned out to be about 2 tons of them. Our goal was to measure the rate of particle wear across as wide a range of drum sizes as possible, to develop a relationship for scaling particle wear rates from the lab to the field. When we hit the start button we didn’t really know if the wheel would turn, and keep turning without bursting or falling over or suffering some other calamity. But it performed flawlessly, turning at 1 meter per second tangential velocity, creating a deafening roar from the vigorous particle collisions.  As if they were as excited as we were, some particles leapt out of the drum and slammed into the support beam or the floor, showing that we had slightly overestimated the volume capacity of the drum. Looking back on that day, I’m pleased to say that the drum is still standing tall and spinning true, and we achieved our scientific goal, finding that wear rates scale as a power function of the rate of energy expenditure.

4. What do you hope SEN will help the experimental community to achieve? In addition to the excellent goals that SEN was created to achieve, I hope SEN can help the experimental community stand together as one to protect our scientific enterprise from the anti-science rhetoric and policies of the new administration in Washington, and find ways to share with non-scientists our fascinating stories of discovery and the important contributions we make to understanding our world.

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