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6 August, 2002


Call me Jim. I'm a brand new TEA. What's this you do? So I begin my journal.

Public Affairs Specialist, Marie Darling, gives all of us in the Teachers Experiencing the Arctic/Antarctic program an interesting tour of the U.S. Army's Corps of Engineers' Cold Regions Research Engineering Laboratory, or CRREL for short.

We learn that CRREL's mission is to serve the soldier in the field as well as to work on civilian projects for our country. Examples include the following:

1. "Remote Sensing of In-flight Icing" where a helicopter pilot flies in some of the world's worst weather and intentionally tries to "ice" the rotor blades;

2. "Extending the Season for Concrete Construction and Repair" in which we learn that it's very expensive to pour concrete in cold temperatures; and,

3. "Remediation Methods for Phosphorous Contamination in Wetlands" that helped a waterfowl mortality problem in California.

All good stuff, but I was reminded of a distinction between science and applied science by an engineer's comment as he described how "we proved" that our ideas about forces and ice deflection were right. He repeated this kind of confidence on two more occasions, which contrasted sharply from my science background where we often describe observations in terms such as "probably" or "it's likely" that this is how something is.

Another engineer boldly talked about "controlling nature." "NOT BLOODY LIKELY," I remember an English colleague saying in response to similar wishful thinking. Hopefully I will be assigned to work with scientists- rather than engineers- during my TEA field experience since I'm usually never very certain about anything. Or put another way, scientific investigations often involve little absolute certainty.

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