Donald Noble’s Site

Probably only interesting to me

First Semester Finished

I have just completed the first semester of my course. The course organisers were not joking when they described the taught section of the course as “intensive”. So far we have covered six modules, in each going from knowing comparatively little, to writing reports and presenting on the subject for 10-15 minutes just two weeks later!

Particularly challenging for me has been electromagnetism, something I have not studied since high school physics. So getting my head around the idea of real, reactive and apparent power — expressed in terms of complex numbers, with the added complication of the three phases thrown in for good measure — has been somewhat challenging. Then after a two week “break” looking at hydrodynamics of floating structures, we were applying our new found knowledge of electromagnetism looking at the complexities of 3-phase AC motors and generators.

We have also looked at writing academic papers, and how to present this at a conference. Plus the theory and practice of renewable energy resource assessment — for wind, wave, and tidal energy conversion devices. And we have spent the last two weeks learning about physical scale model testing, then applying this in the hydrodynamics labs at Strathclyde.

I have learnt a huge amount over the past two months, but the old adage is true “The more you know, the more you realise there is that you don’t know”. Being surrounded by some very clever people — many of whom are experts in their field — makes me realise that we are only scratching the surface of these topics. But hopefully I now have an understanding of the problems, and how to at least begin to start understanding them…

Posted: 14 December 2013, 14:18; tagged: , , , .


Back to Academia

After nine years working for the multi-disciplinary consultancy Mott MacDonald, I have decide to go back to academia, and undertake some further research.

I will be working towards an Engineering Doctorate (EngD) in Offshore Renewable Energy at the Industrial Doctoral Centre for Offshore Renewable Energy (IDCORE). This is a partnership of the universities of Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Exeter, the Scottish Association for Marine Science and HR-Wallingford, and is funded through the EPSRC.

The first year will be a taught programme, based at Edinburgh Uni, and looking at various aspects of offshore engineering and electricity generation, before moving on to a three year research project with an industrial partner company.

Although I don’t sort out my research project until January next year, currently I think that some aspect of wave/tidal energy resource forecasting/site selection interests me most. It’s a pretty broad topic, but I’m just starting out, and I need to wait and see what opportunities arise.

I’m excited to be getting involved in an emerging field, and one that hopefully can help towards reducing mankind’s impact on the planet we call home —- although I appreciate it is not a panacea.

I’ll try and post updates on my coursework and other topics of interest on here, having not seriously updated this site over the past couple of years.

Posted: 1 September 2013, 11:40; tagged: , , , .


My Job — using only the 1000 most used words

My job using only the 1000 most used words, as inspired by the excellent xkcd comic Up-Goer Five, the twitter hashtag #upgoerfive, and the up-goer five text editor

I plan power making houses. These use water from high ground that should run over the ground to lower down, but we build a wall to move the water into an under ground pass, which takes water to the power house. There it moves fast and turns a thing inside that makes power.

I work out how much power the power house will make. More water, or water higher up, gives more power. People want to buy the power for their lights, computer, TV, and to make their houses warm. If I know how much power we will have, and how much people want to buy the power for, I then know how much money the power house will make.

I also work out how much money is needed to build the power house, the turning thing that makes power, the wall in the water, and the under ground water pass. This has to be less than about ten times all the money the power house makes in a year, or it does not get built.

I draw pictures and write a story to tell people what the power house and wall will look like and where it will be. I have to think carefully about what people, trees, and animals (on the ground, in the water, and in the air) might not like about the power making house, and maybe change it to make it better. My work friends tell me what trees and animals are near, and which might not like the power making house the most. They draw pictures of where the trees and animals are.

We send the pictures and story to important people who decide if we can built the power making house or not. If they say yes, we draw more pictures to show people how to build the power house, wall in the water, and under ground water pass. These pictures are better and show the different parts drawn bigger, and they also show the parts inside the walls that hold them together.

In case you hadn’t worked it out, and didn’t know, I work on the design of hydro-electric power schemes.

Posted: 19 January 2013, 15:47; tagged: , , , , , .


Plotting GPS tracklogs to UK National Grid in AutoCAD

When out on site visits for work (as with other times), I often record where I have gone using the GPS on my phone. It can often be handy to overlay this on a CAD drawing. Until now, converting this has been non-trivial. However, I now have a reasonable, if somewhat convoluted, workflow.

I record tracklogs using MotionX-GPS for the iPhone, which allows you to export the result as a gpx file containing Latitude/Longitude pairs in decimal degrees, with corresponding elevation and timestamp.

Using the free GPS Babel software, this can be converted to a csv comma delimited list of Latitude/Longitude pairs, although still in decimal degrees. However, for UK National Grid, they need to be in easting and northings from the origin off Cornwall.

This is where I had been getting slightly stuck. And I am sure there are various solutions using GIS software, but I wasn’t finding one, and don’t have easy access to GIS software anyway.

I was using an Excel spreadsheet developed for geocaching (Waypoint workbench) to convert the co-ordinates from decimal degrees to UK National Grid, but the resulting points were offset from their true location. I suspect this is because the spreadsheet does not take into account some difference in geoid or datum1, but I’m not sure.

But, there is another piece of software available from the Ordnance Survey called Grid InQuest that you have to email them to get a copy. This appears to correctly convert the latitude/longitude from GPS to Eastings/Northings. However, in this conversion process the elevation is lost, but this is not of importance to me, and is usually rather inaccurate anyway.

A little bit of manipulation is then required in Excel to combine the eastings and northings into one column and remove duplicate points, before plotting in AutoCAD as a polyline.

Summary of Steps Required

  1. Export GPX file from GPS
  2. Convert GPX to CSV in GPS Babel, using standard parameters
  3. In Grid InQuest, File>Convert File(s)
    1. Select delimited by commas, and Geodetic (Lat, Long) coordinate format
    2. Set Latitude, Longitude and Ellipsoidal Height as columns 1, 2, and 3 respectively (although there is no data for the height in the GPX file, it still works).
    3. Set Projected coordinates (Eastings, Northings) as the output format, and append to existing files (or specify a filename).
  4. Open the CSV in Excel, and add the following formulae in the next blank columns =D1&","&E1 where D and E are the columns of eastings and northings respectively, and =IF(F1=F2,"",F2) to filter duplicates.
  5. select all the data, press ctrl+L to make a list (the data probably doesn’t contain headings) then, using the drop down arrow on the last column, auto filter then data using the condition “Does not Contain” and leave the box blank. This will give just the individual values.
  6. Select just this last column of data, and copy to the clipboard.
  7. Finally, to plot these into AutoCAD, type pl to start a polyline and press enter, then paste the concatenated co-ordinates and press enter to finish.

There is doubtless an easier way to do all of this, and I would be interested to know if you have any suggestions. But I thought I’d put this up here in case it prevents someone going though the same headaches as me.


1 The Wikipedia page on OS National Grid has a section on the differing data for WGS84 used by GPS and OSGB36 used for the UK National Grid, which might be the source of the error.

Posted: 30 July 2012, 20:54; tagged: , , , , , .


Book Review: Weighing the World

I’ve just finished reading Edwin Danson’s book Weighing the World — The Quest to Measure the Earth.

It is a historical tale of how we began to understand the physical shape of the world in which we live, although it does have some technical descriptions of the methods used. It also contains a lot of historical context, which while useful, distracts from the main thrust of the book. There is also a lot of explaining who people are, what rank they are of have just become, and who their friends and enemies are at that current point in time.

It is not exactly the book I thought it would be from the cover, and while it was an interesting read, I would have preferred to read more of the technical aspects and less about the history of relationships between those who undertook the surveys. But then, I am an engineer.

If social history is more your thing, you might find there to be too much technical jargon, so it is a difficult balance for the author to strike.

Overall though, an interesting read, but probably not something I’d go back to

Posted: 10 June 2012, 20:15; tagged: , , , , , .