Learning by trial and error.

I’ve heard people call this bad form when learning, but I have to disagree. Yes, sometimes it’s better to spend a rather long time learning a set of concepts to solve a problem or ask someone for help. But sometimes, it’s better (and faster) to learn through trial and error. This is a strategy that I’m taking with custom gas exchange setup.

Any custom gas exchange system runs into the same issues as designing an HVAC system for a building: pressure drops, flow issues, temperature control, etc. And as I’ve learned over the past week, the system is not only sensitive to the materials used to make the system, but also the order of the components. If you put a condenser in the wrong spot, humidity could get too high in another part of the system, or the temperature fluctuations could adversely affect your measurements. If you are pressurizing the system, the elasticity of the component tubes can affect whether you can actually pressurize the system. And lastly, where you put the impeller or fan can cause large problems with pressure fluctuations. Luckily I have a limited number of components in the system, and this is a case where trial and error can work quite well – it didn’t take long to rearrange the components and test whether the setup worked. However, I only recommend this when the problem is sufficiently small, or when there is no evidence or theory to use as a starting point.

Moving on from science, this past week I explored the climbing available in the Albuquerque area. Stone Age Climbing Gym is the largest climbing gym that I’ve seen, with  two large bouldering areas and roped climbing throughout. The routes range from being easy introductory problems for newcomers to advanced technical problems for the experienced climbing. There is a very supportive atmosphere, and if you enjoy climbing indoors, it is definitely worth checking out!

On the weekend, I went out to the Sandia foothills to explore the bouldering there. The rock is very much like concrete – unfortunately this means that it is not very pleasant to climb (which explained the complete lack of other climbers). However, the views from atop the boulders are spectacular.

I also went to the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, which is about an hour’s drive north of Albuquerque. Tent Rocks is a place that is sacred to a local aboriginal group, and was formed through a combination of flooding, volcanic activity, sedimentation, and erosion. The rock formations are absolutely beautiful. The hike takes about an hour to get to the top, and is of moderate difficulty for most people, but the views are worth it. At the top, it is very easy to understand why Tent Rocks is considered a sacred place.

If you are ever in northern New Mexico, the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is worth the trek. The pictures capture but a fraction of the beauty and the experience.

Stay safe and stay informed,
-Joe

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