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Re: Radius of Gyration

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On Jun 23, 2009, at 6:02 AM, G Vishwanath wrote:

The English language is full examples where it is fruitless trying to explain why something is called what it's called.
'Radius of gyration'  makes a lot more sense in it's original
I'm learning this all over again doing a course seismic analysis training with a Chinese engineer. It's hard enough using common english terms but with engineering jargon (what lawyers call 'terms of art') it's damn near impossible. Apparently there's something about English that lends itself to coining phrases. I remember when I was a co-op at NASA's Marshall center, hearing long conversations in German frequent (almost unaccented) technical terms, like 'turbulent boundary layer' or 'guide vanes' popping into into the conversation. In another life I had a Chinese colleague who did the same thing.

In fact the term 'radius of gyration' makes a lot more sense in its original usage with rotational motion than it does for structural engineering. Mathematically they're analogous, but the structural usage is obscure. And both usages are mathematical abstractions--the only way you know what they are is doing the calculus or looking up the results of someone else's calculus. My own opinion is that origin of an expression is very important because it's a great help in preventing its mis-use. One of the reasons engineers have a reputation of being poor writers is sloppy use of jargon and technical terms.

Christopher Wright P.E. |"They couldn't hit an elephant at
chrisw(--nospam--at)   | this distance" (last words of Gen.
.......................................| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)

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