MATT MILLER: My my name's Matt Miller. I'm the professor in mechanical aerospace engineering. This is one of the reading project lectures. So this is your book, in case you haven't seen it. I'm sure you have, come on. Good old summer. Come on down. There's a few spots. You don't have to say anything good yet.
How many of you hate your roommate so far? All right. Day two-- not bad. And if you're sitting by your roommate, that's even a better statement. Well, it will happen. Trust me. So this was our assignment. Over the summer, we've been reading this book. This is a tradition now. We've been doing this for about 11 years. And it really kind of began as an experiment to sort of unify the freshman class, because once everything starts, you just spread out.
So not it's a tradition. It's an incredible bonding experience and rite of passage. And we'll talk about Langley at every alumni weekend for the next 70 years-- I promise. So we've had enough people now that we've had a couple of groups back for a reunion. And the book project was always a topic of discussion. So there are six lectures going on. This is one of them. Unlucky you. Some of you probably had to come to this one, but what can I tell you?
The thing about this novel is these are real guys, as you might know. But we have, really, no way of knowing what they were like, so this is fiction. And it's interesting how his spun this. I enjoyed reading it. I don't know if you did. The other lectures that are going on are Professor Eileen DeVault from labor relations is speaking on, Defining Ourselves as Other-- Immigration Class, and the American 20th Century.
And these are all going to be posted. So before that first homework assignment hits, you guys can be up watching this. The 1918 Influenza and Other Pandemics-- What Is Next? Professor Laura Harrington from entomology. She has some great classes. One of them, we've kind of nicknamed, Six Pretty Good Plagues. Doctorow-- the Novelist as Historian. Professor Richard Polenberg in history. This is probably the one I would be at, if I were you.
It Has To Be Simple, So That Anyone Can Sing It-- Popular Music, and Gentile Poverty, and Homer Langley. And Steve Pond from music is giving that lecture. And finally, novel or New York Times-- the psychology of real and media realism. That's with Professor Michael Shapiro with communications. So ours about design, engineering, and Langley Collyer. And so these things might seem a little disconnected, but these are some of the things that came to mind, for me, as I read the book.
This is not an engineering only talk-- hopefully, there's other people here besides engineering majors-- but these are just my thoughts. So it's probably going to be colored by engineering-- certainly. There won't be an exam, so you don't really have to worry about that. On the left, we have Langley Collyer. This is, I think, the most famous photo that I saw of him. He's missing a few teeth. I mean, he's taken a few hits here.
He's later in life, mimicking himself talking on the phone because it had probably been disconnected. And, of course, the Model T-- that's the style car on the right hand side. And that plays a major role in the book, as you guys all know. So that's sort of where we're going. So this lecture-- I never really had heard about these guy. I don't know if you had. I guess it's an urban legend. If you come from the city, maybe you knew about the Collyer brothers.
Doctorow, in one of his interviews, says that his mom used to embarrass him into cleaning his room by saying, hey, wow, it looks like the Collyer brothers live here. So he'd heard of them. He grew up in the city. We learn about Homer, the author, first hand. And he has this incredible can-do attitude and resiliency.
We, actually, see some engineering traits in Homer on the very first page, which says, "I'm Homer, the blind brother. I didn't lose my sight all at once. It was like the movies-- a slow fade out. When I was told what was happening, I was interested to measure--" there they go. "I was in my late teens then, keen on everything. According to this particular winter, I was to stand back from the lake in Central Park, where they did all their ice skating, and see what I could see and couldn't see, as a day-by-day thing.
The houses over to Central Park West went first. They got darker, as if dissolving in the dark sky until I couldn't make them out. And then the trees began to lose their shape. And then, finally-- this was towards the end of the season, maybe late February of that cold winter-- all I could see where these phantom shapes on the ice. Skating floating past me on a field of ice. And then white ice. The last light went great, and then all together black.
Then all my sight was gone, though I could still hear, clearly, the scoot skut of the blades on the ice. A very satisfying sound. A soft sound full on intention. A deeper tone than you'd expect made by the skate blades. Perhaps for having sounded the resonant basso of the winter ice-- scoot skut, scoot skut." So here's a guy with an incredible attitude. He's basically measuring his movement toward blindness.
Langley enters through Homer's eyes. And his little brother mostly idolized him. And here, Homer's describing how he's able to move through a room and never hit anything. "I could hear the surface. And I said to Langley, a blind bat whistles. That's the way he does it. But I didn't have the whistle, did I? He was truly amazed. Langley is the older of us by two years and I have always liked to impress him in whatever way I could.
At this time, he was already a college student in his first year at Columbia. How do you do that? He said. This is of scientific interest. I said, I feel shapes as they push the air away or I feel heat from things. You can turn me around until I'm dizzy, but I can still tell where the air is filled with something solid. So we're onto page five and we've already had a couple of experiments going on. I appreciate that.
So we're immediately aware of Langley's sort of interest. He's definitely a thinker. This is a guy that's always thinking. And so I guess Langley's nature and some of the things he did really struck me as compelling connections to the student life here, at Cornell. So a bit of a reach, but grant me this. So he outlined-- there's three things that we'll talk about today. So Langley Collyer was, really, an idea guy, but was he a designer? And how do ideas go together with design?
And then his famous theory-- the theory that popped up all through the book-- the theory of replacements-- made me aware of the fact that Langley was not a detail guy. And in that regard, I'm going talk a little bit about research. And then, finally, Langley and Homer eventually disconnected from the world and what it means to live off the grid.
So Langley Collyer-- idea guy. he attended, maybe graduated from Columbia in engineering, although Columbia has no record of his graduation, apparently. Wikipedia tells us. His theory of replacements is kind of the thing that we're faced with most often. It's symbolized here by the piles and piles of newspapers. And we hear a lot about Homer, and what he's thinking, and, really, what made him tick, but Langley, we basically learn about from what Homer has to say about him.
And the idea that they lived off the grid-- let me read it for you, when that finally happened. Page 196. It happened kind of late. "Then, as if inspired by the malevolent electricity company, the city turned off our water. Langley greeted the setback with relish and I found myself participating with a kind of grim joy in the system we set up to provide ourselves with water. The hydrant at the curb was no use. You could not, circumspectly, wrestle with a hydrant.
What a psychological boost for me then to be working with my brother, a co-conspirator, as just before dawn, every morning or so, we set out with two baby carriages in tandem-- his with a 10 gallon milk jug." Anybody grow up on farm? Farm people? My grandma's farm-- this 10 gallon milk jug weighs 80 pounds-- more than 80 pounds if it's full of milk. So that's no simple feat. So, hence, the baby carriages.
"And I with a couple of segmented crates filled with empty milk bottles gathered from our stoop, when milk was delivered each morning through one's door, with two or three inches of cream in the neck of the bottle. A few blocks north of us, there was an old water post from the days when water was made available for horses. The water post-- a heavy gauge faucet built into the low, concave stone wall. Its base, a cement trough stood at the curb."
So is, basically, the way these guys-- and again, this is all a story, but the real Collyer brothers were disconnected from the world as well. So they had to get water somehow. So this idea of living off the grid. He really relished that, I believe. So how do ideas become things? So being an idea person really is a good first step, but it clearly can't end there.
This is my first point-- and that is that one way to think about design is the next step beyond an idea. So we've all designed something. You had to decide the best driving route to Ithaca-- if you did it without Google-- programming a social networking system and web site where you can automatically connect with your friends on multiple dimensions, or-- and this is probably one that everyone's done-- picking the best combination of sandwich items at Wawa. Is that like the best ever?
Many professions have a design component. But I'm going to talk about design from my comfort zone, and that's engineering. So what does it mean to design in engineering? Well, engineering education always supports design. And by that, I mean that even though you'll be taking math, you'll be taking courses that have to do with analysis, it's always focused on or it's always pointing towards using that in design.
So that's really kind of the hallmark of engineering. In mechanical aerospace, for instance, we design planes, cars, HVAC systems, prosthetics. Civil environmental engineering-- and, again, not everybody in here has to be engineering. When I first decided to become an engineer, you sort of have to decide what kind you want to become. Well, it often has to do with the products.
So civil environmental engineering structures, transportation systems, environmental remediation systems. Chemical and biomolecular engineering-- design new processes for synthesizing biomaterials, pharmaceuticals. Material science-- so I work in materials, but I do mechanical engineering, so I don't work on designing the material, but I do work on designing new things with existing materials.
Material scientists-- their research and the thing that they do is designing new materials, themselves. So there's this interface between mechanical engineering and material science. Electrical and computer engineering, computer components, solid-state devices, networks-- let's more. I've got lot's more schools within the college. So what does it mean for mechanical design?
So the system that I kind of will go through is part Of Mike Ashby's book-- a book that we use in mechanical engineering. So part of my job is really to help students understand what it means to design. That's a big part of what I do, when I come to work every day. And so mechanical systems-- there's lots of ways to think about design and you have to sort of think that a system to categorize your thoughts is often very helpful, in that it will help you to remember what the most important things are.
So we tend to put concepts into categories of function, constraint, and objectives. So you ask yourself design questions. What is the function of your design? What's your thing supposed to do? How is your design constrained? Or, in other words, what constitutes failure? How is your design not going to work?
And, finally, what are the design objectives? And objective basically means, how are you going to rank your designs, as you start to think about them, into good, better, and best? So let's look at a couple of examples The Dreamliner-- the first composite airplane-- not. It's now a very small percentage composites. When it started out, it was going to be 85% composites. For those of us working in metals, that's a good thing.
But let's look at what it said. Function-- basically, transport 210 to 250 people around 8,000 miles. Constraints-- a long list of his constraints. When you're on this level, there could be lots of ways for the thing to fail. And fail doesn't necessarily mean crash, fail could mean just not operate correctly. ETOPS regulation-- so what this means is this is for two engine planes-- for planes that have two engines. Basically, how far can you fly on one engine?
There's a regulation that basically enabled two engine planes to fly across the Atlantic-- when that number got large enough. Objectives-- fuel efficiency, cost, passenger comfort, speed, noise abatements. Now you can think about moving these things around a little bit-- so objectives can become constraints, constraints can become objectives. It's sort of all up to you. That's the role of the designer-- deciding what matters the most.
Constrain the things that you can't negotiate. Those things that-- this has to happen. Objectives are things that you want to happen. So the way that you're going to make this better, the way that you're going to categorize your designs-- if it's more fuel efficient, if it's less expensive, and those kind of things. And step down one step below. So this is the engine that pushes the 787-- GenX.
It's function? Well, propel the 787. Pretty simple. Constraints-- lots of them. Again, as you keep going, the systems keep getting smaller. It's still pretty complicated systems here. Pieces can fail mechanically, by fatigue. This is the are that I work in. Fuel can stop moving. There could be a fluid related failure. The control system can fail. Objectives-- again, everything that flies, weight is always going to to be an objective, and then cost, and efficiency.
And you can kind of keep taking this thing apart. Like, for instance, a typical engine-- at the front, you have titanium. And so, at the front, is a fan. It's a compressor. And you have the jet engine where the ignition takes place, the combuster. As you're moving back here, through material, you start with titanium, you're moving back into higher temperature materials or nickel-based superalloys.
But you could keep breaking this down until you start looking at each, individual, fan blade or each, individual, turbine blade. And you can do the function and constraint objectives and analysis on those. So what do we take away? Well, Langley was a good starter, but, really, not a great finisher. It didn't seem like he was really into finishing to me. I really rooting for him. I thought he was doing some really good things, but I had doubts that he was going to finish.
So our lesson-- design begins with ideas, but ends with the details. Be a strong finisher. Theory of replacements-- this starts on page 15. And 13, sorry. "Which brings me to Langley's theory of replacements. When I was first expounded, I'm not sure though, I remember thinking there was something collegiate about it. I have a theory, he said to me, everything in life gets replaced. We our parents replacements, just as they were replacements of the previous generation. All these herds of bison they're slaughtering out west, you would think that was the end of them.
But they won't all be slaughtered and the hers will fill back in with replacements that will be indistinguishable from the ones slaughtered. I said, Langley, people aren't all the same like dumb bison. We're each a person. A genius like Beethoven cannot be replace. But you see, Homer, Beethoven was a genius for his time. We have the notions of his genius, but he is not our genius. We will have our geniuses.
And if not in music, then in science or art. Though it may take a while to recognize them because geniuses are usually not recognized right away. Besides, it's not what any of them achieve, but how they stand in relation to the rest of us. Who's your favorite baseballer? He said. Walter Johnson, I said." Ah, the internet. There's Walter. "Well, and what is he if not a replacement for Cannonball [INAUDIBLE]? Of course." You got one of these cards?
So Cannonball's out, Walter's in. "Its social constructions I'm talking about. One of the constructions is for us to have athletes to admire, to create ourselves as an audience of admirers for baseballers. This seems to be means of cultural communizing that creates great self-satisfaction and, possibly, ritualizes, with baseball teams in different towns, our tendency to murder one another."
So the theory of replacement-- basically, people and events that are currently in the news are just replacing newsmakers from the past. And so the Collyers eternally current, dateless newspaper. Only the news categories-- so this was Langley's idea that only the categories would change and details won't matter. So again, this is, in my mind, sort of emphasizing and is bringing to light Langley's disdain for the details.
However, he spent, pretty much, the rest of his life in making sure he had the correct categories. He had to continue to create categories as his life went on because he didn't quite have all the things that he needed. So again, another example of Langley's aversion to details. And it's really OK to be a detail persons. And I'm sure that Doctorow had a very profound reason for introducing this replacement theory in the newspaper that I'm not getting.
I'm kind of a bonehead, so I'm probably just getting the superficial stuff. Maybe you can help me with it afterwards. We'll have time for a question and answer. But it reminded how fortunate we are-- how great it is to be on a college campus where you can just bury yourself in the details. The details matter here. And the next four years or more, is a great time to be a details person. I kind of went to college and never left.
University research is all about details. And undergraduate research is huge here. Let's talk a little bit about that. The other half of my job is what's known as scholarly research. So you explore interesting and important questions, you write a proposal, get somebody to fund it-- NSF, the Air Force, DOE-- and then you hire grad students and undergrads to come and do the research.
And, basically, what you're doing is producing your replacement-- the next generation of PhDs-- but also introducing undergraduate students to research. And, again, you're contributing to the academy, as it is. So we'll talk a little bit about my research. Again, this is probably what I can talk the most intelligently about. It involves studying the mechanical behavior of materials on a microscopic scale.
So let's go back to our engine. And we talked about constraints and why things fail. Well, metals fail, like the titanium and the nickel fails in an engine like the GenX when the stresses get too large. And the stress, as some of the ME will find out-- the civils, but, hopefully, all of you. Well, in about four months, you'll all know what a certain kind of stress is, but maybe not this stress. But a mechanical stress is the load normalized with the area.
So when the stresses get too big, things fail. But the interesting thing is-- and scary, whenever you get on an airplane-- if we really don't know exactly what causes these to fail. So we go with large factors of safety because the stress varies. And each metallic part is made of thousands of crystals. So here's a piece of titanium. And all the different, little, colored splotches here are different crystals, and they're all stuck together, and that's what goes into one of these blades.
And so the stress varies from one crystal to the next. So the colors here could be representing the stresses. Failure happens first at the most highly stressed crystal. However, when we do experiments on this material, these are big samples. These are six or seven inches long. And we pull on them with big machines and we try to understand what constitutes failure on this size scale.
Well, what about measuring stress on the crystal scale? Can we go back down to the small scale and measure stress? And so here is kind of what we want to do. It's just kind of a cartoon. This is stainless steel. And again, all the little regions are individual crystals. And what constitutes a crystal? It has a different orientation of the crystal structure. And when I pull on it, each crystal deforms differently. And that's the main idea.
And each one of these guys is going to be seeing a different stress. And the one that failed first is the one that's most highly stressed. So how can we go down and investigate stress on this size scale? Well, we could make tiny specimens. People do this. This is two microns. And so the crystal, itself, is like this big. And so they go down, and machine out tiny, little samples, and then squish them.
It's not a great experiment. It's certainly one way to do. Another idea is to use high energy radiation-- x-rays and diffraction to watch the crystals deform. So here's an x-ray beam, here's our little sample that we're deforming, here's a-- it's like when you go to the doctor's office. You stand in front of the thing and they stick the x-ray film in. That's what this is-- a detector. And so just like a crystal is a prism in sunlight-- diffract sunlight-- these metallic crystals diffract x-ray beams.
If the x-ray is powerful enough, you can zap it all the way through this sample. And it will diffract, crystal by crystal, and each spot will tell you how that crystal is being deformed. And so that's kind of what we do. This is a simulation. And so this is what my neighbor, Professor Paul Dawson does. He does these simulations, crystal by crystal. In fact, his simulations go down below the crystal scale.
So we measure the stresses, he does the simulation, and, together, we build better models. Well, you got to have power x-rays to shoot through these. This is not your doctor's x-ray. One of the cool things about Cornell is they have one of the most powerful x-ray sources in the world. Even cooler is that they let mechanical engineers like me shoot metal samples with it. They don't like to, but they let us in there. This is one of the reasons you come here.
So let's look at how this thing deforms. If I load this sample, it stretches and rotates. So I'm shooting this x-ray, x-ray comes in, goes back out. But as I deform it, the angle changes-- a law called Bragg's law. It's about 100 years old, next year. And so if I monitor this angle, I can tell how the crystal's deforming. And so here's CHESS-- Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source. So, right here, on campus, you go up to the-- this is the soccer field.
It's over here. It's the ag school. And so CHESS, this particle range that's underneath the ground, these buildings over here are where the experimental stations are. And so as the particles accelerate, they give off x-rays. And then we use those x-rays to zap our materials. And lots of people-- people from all over the world-- bring their stuff here and do experiments.
We do experiments and tests to watch crystals deform. PhDs and Post-Docs do the hard part, but we hire lots of undergrads to help us. For instance, we just built a new loading machine. So this is a little loader. These are rotational stages that we have to rotate the sample in order to let the x-ray see everything. This was actually designed as a senior project for one of our undergraduates in chemical engineering.
So you have to be able to rotate the sample while you're loading it. And this is what he used-- basically, function and string objective. And one of the hard parts-- so the x-ray comes in and goes through the furnace. This furnace goes up to 1,200 C. The x-ray comes in, it goes through the furnace, and we have to rotate the sample, but there's a hole in and out of the furnace. So you've got to hold the furnace steady while the sample is rotating.
So here's a movie. And you can see that here's the furnace. And you kind of see everything rotating around it. Well, this has got another, little motor. So if this is rotating this way, there's another, little motor rotating the furnace the other way-- exactly equal and opposite. So this sort of looks like it's sitting in space, just so you know. So even if the experiment work-- which it did-- it's kind of cool to be able to do that kind of stuff, especially if you're an undergrad.
Take aways-- I'm not sure what Doctorow wanted us to learn from the replacement theory, but I think it's a great example for us. There are times for being big picture and there's other times to be mindful of details. One of the advantages of coming to a place like Cornell is getting involved in research as an undergrad. I won't hire you until you're a junior, though, so you've got plenty of time.
And I'll repeat this a couple more times-- there's plenty to do in your first semester. Doing well in your first semester courses is plenty, but you might want to think about research, down the road somewhere. Finally, the boys gradually removed themselves from society. And Langley continued to make things. And these are photos from the web. And so this is a room in their house.
We read about their exploits here, starting on page 75. This is after the dances-- where they were having people come in, and charging them, and their maid was making cookies. So it, basically, became a money making proposition for them. But then the cops wanted to be paid off, remember? So this is right after they got arrested and their dancers came to an end.
"So in the aftermath of the police raid, the house seemed cavernous. The rooms had been emptied for the dance. We had somehow not gotten around to unrolling the rugs, bringing up the furniture, putting everything back where it belonged. Our footsteps echoed as if we were in a cage or an underground vault. But the library still had books on the shelves and then the music room still had its pianos.
I felt as if we were no longer in the home we had lived in since our childhood, but in a new place, as yet unlived in, with its imprint on our souls still to be determined. Our footsteps echoed through the rooms. And the odor of Langley's stack of newspapers-- they had, like some slow flow of lava, brimmed out of his study, to the landing on the second floor. That odor was now apparent-- a musty smell that would be especially noticeable on days of rain and dampness.
There was a lot of room to clean up-- all the broken records, smashed photographs, and so on. Song Langley treated as all his salvage, inspecting everything for its values-- electric cords, turntables, split chair legs, chipped glasses, and filing things according to category in cardboard boxes. This took several days. Naturally, I didn't understand it as such, but this time marked the beginning of our abandonment of the outer world.
It was not just the police raid and the neighborhood's negative view of our dances, you understand." And later, it goes on. "Langley had long sensed-- reworked his post-war bitterness into an iconoclastic life of the mind. As with the inspiration of the tea dances, he would now give full and uninhibited execution to whatever scheme or fancy occurred to him. Did I mention how vast the dining room had become?
A high ceiling, voluminous rectangle that had always had a hollowness to it, even in the pre-dance days, with a Persian rug. It's tapestries, and sideboards, and torch-shaped sconces. It's standing lamps, and its empire dining table, and 18 chairs." So these are pictures of them taking the stuff out. So the real brothers died in 1947, as you probably know. You probably looked at this. And even though Doctorow had them living into the '80s.
These are photos of them taking piles of junk out of this house. In fact, it took them days, as you know, to find Langley. Apparently, Langley had similar feelings because the dining room was where he elected to install the Model T Ford automobile. So here's another picture of them throwing the stuff out. And then here's the Model T-- not necessarily the one.
"Having taken to my bed with a grip, I had no idea what he was up to. I heard these strange noises downstairs-- clinking sounds, shouts, metallic shivers, clatterings, and one or two tympanic crashes that shook the walls. He had brought the car in, disassembled. The parts hauled up from the back yard by winch and rope. Carried through the kitchen and now being put together in the dining room, as if in a garage.
And which, indeed, the dining room was eventually transformed, complete with the smell of motor oil. I made no attempt to investigate, preferring to compose an image of the sounds I heard as I lay in my bed." So he put the car together. And Mrs. Robileaux, of course, was really upset because she lost her dining room and everybody had to eat in the kitchen.
So a few days later, as we dined one evening at the kitchen table, he said, out of the blue, that this antique car was out family totem. In as much as Grandmama Robileaux couldn't be more displeased having someone now eating regularly in her kitchen, I understood the remark as something made for her benefit. Because, presumably, being from New Orleans, a city of primitive beliefs, she would have to respect the principal of symbolic kinship.
All theoretical considerations fell by the wayside the day Langley, having decided our electric bills were outrageous, proposed to set up the Model T's engine as a generator. He ran rubber piping from its exhaust, out through a hole he had managed in the dining room, and tied it into the basement wiring board. We had another hole drilled through the floor." Well, Doctorow was not an engineer.
"he struggled to get it all working, but succeeded only in making a racket. The running engine and the smell of gasoline, together sending grand mamma and me out the front door, one particularly intolerable evening. We sat across the street on a bench at the park wall. And grand mama announced, as if describing a boxing match, the struggle between Langley and the prevailing darkness.
The lights in our windows flickering, sputtering, flaring, and the finally going down for the count. All at once, the evening was blessedly quiet. We could not keep from the laughing. Thereafter, the Model-T just stood there, accumulating dust and cobwebs, and filling up with stacks of newspaper, various other collectibles. Langley never mentioned it again. Nor did I.
It was our immovable possession, an inescapable condition of our lives, sunk to its wheel rims, but risen from its debris as if unearthed an industrial mummy." So, I mean, creating a generator is, actually, a pretty impressive engineering feat. Of course, you can buy them. And convert one type of energy into another-- nothing is generated, it's, basically, a conversion. And so this sort of life, however-- living off the grid-- has really become a way of life for a lot of people.
So what is the grid? What do you mean by, the grid? Well, let's start off with the electrical power grid. And so this is how power's distributed. Again, these are different high tension both AC and DC lines. These are a couple of high voltage, direct current lines. So this is how electricity is distributed. And that's the grid. But now the grid sort of stands for everything. Being disconnected from the grid means that you're, basically, self-sustaining.
And people do this kind of work-- work in electrical engineering. And storing energy? Have you Really thought about that? Have you thought about the fact that, when you plug something in the wall, where does it come from? Well, that electricity was actually generated less than a second earlier. And so power is always very fresh. The only way to actually store electricity-- enough electricity to light this room-- is you, basically, store it in another way.
And so we store water behind the dam or in a water tower. Off the grid in 1930 was, basically, being disconnected from power, water, telephone. Off the grid in 2011, is, basically, when somebody asks you to turn your cell phone off, right? No. Just kidding. But there is a serious effort to completely disconnect. For instance, a two second Google search. A wind turbine, if you will.
So, obviously, not quite the same scale as a commercial wind turbine. Maybe you drove by a couple of these on your way here. So there's a whole network of living off the grid, and tips for generating one's own electricity, tips for building your home that way-- building your home in a sustainable way.
And so the take aways from this is, basically, sustainability is sort of our word for what Homer and Langley were doing. They chose to do it in New York City. That's kind of tough. But there's some incredible design challenges-- mechanical, electrical, manufacturing, and the design of turbine, and solar panels. So Cornell's Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future-- again, this is an effort at Cornell to study sustainability in several ways.
You can go to the Research button and there's a long list of research topics. So this is a big deal. Go to Energy. And eventually, you'll get through enough layers. You'll see the people who are doing this. And that's just kind of one example of the interdisciplinary stuff that's going on at Cornell. And one last little page. It's here. So these are some of the centers and institutes.
Again, some of interdisciplinary things going on-- there's the CHESS web page that we talked about earlier. Things at CHESS. So let's go back. Lots going on. In summary-- so here's Langley, looking pretty good. He's got all his papers with him. Things that we learn from him-- ideas are important. And without them, there's really no-- I don't want to say that it's all about, after you've had the idea, what do you do?
I mean, you've got to have the idea. So I don't want to badmouth Langley there. But he was an idea guy. He was extremely focused. He was diligent and unwavering. And he, really, never gave up on working for a cure for Homer's blindness. He was a man who was, maybe, ahead of his time. I mean, the Collyers' eternally current database, dateless newspaper-- that's almost kind of a google thing, maybe. He was maybe just born before his time.
And I like the way that Doctorow used Langley, in a lot of ways. One way was his views on war. And it really makes you wonder what the real guy was like. It's a great novel. It was a lot of fun to read. But I found myself really wanting to know what these guys were really like. The last slide. A few tips-- wake your roommate up, sleeping right next to you. Wake them up. This will be our last slide.
Cornell's a great place. Enormous opportunities. We don't tend to give you too much warm up time. So the transition time here is about half an hour. You need to hit the ground running. Don't get behind. Have a good time, but remember why you're here. Less is more. Your success in the classroom the first semester should be one through 10 priorities.
And this is speaking as a parent of a Cornell engineering and having had, probably, several thousand in the classroom. And some other things-- it's really rare to like your freshman roommate. Don't sweat it, you'll live through it. There's lots of great causes out there. [INAUDIBLE]. You're going to have lots of opportunities to join these cool activities, but they'll be there when you're junior.
If there comes a time when you wonder if you belong-- and there will. I think, sometimes, you are surrounded by, oh, everybody knows this, but me. Well, remember, we don't just grab people off the street. You got here.
And there was a long list of people that you got selected from to come here. And you're here for a reason. All right. I appreciate you taking the time our of the afternoon to come here and listen to me. And we have a microphone if there's some burning questions. I invite you to come up. But thank you very much.
Anybody want to go?
All right. See you guys later.
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The New Student Reading Project at Cornell University is celebrating its 11th anniversary this year with E.L. Doctorow's novel Homer and Langley.
Homer and Langley provides a fictionalized redaction of the lives of the renowned Collyer brothers, whose story became a New York urban legend. After their parents' death in the flu pandemic of 1918, within the family mansion on Fifth Avenue Homer and Langley compile a world of their own, apart from but intimately and paradoxically connected with the transformative events of twentieth-century American history.