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The Scales of Engineering Research

Engineers work at many different scales—from the infinitesimally small world of the nanometer (one billionth of a meter) and the femtosecond (one quadrillionth of a second) to the familiar world of inches, feet, and miles, to the vast expanses of extragalactic space. Some engineering research focuses on the built environment we see around us, using new, high-tech approaches to study age-old problems, such as how bridges and buildings respond to earthquakes, high winds, and other strong forces. Increasingly, however, engineering research ventures into brave new worlds of the very large and the very small.

These images depict the spectrum of modern engineering research—from studies of branched electron flow in almost two-dimensional space (bottom) to fluid dynamic studies of how insects generate thrust to propel themselves across water (below right) to the design of advanced telescope systems that bring into view the far reaches of the universe (below left).

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