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The Rheology of Life

Posted by Alexandra Länsberg on Mar 10, 2014 4:26:12 AM

Stress, strain and time are the three cardinal parameters of material flow and these are the basis of what has come to be better known in the grease industry as rheology. Everything flows; it’s just that some things take a little longer. In the book of Judges 5:5, the song of the prophetess Deborah tells us that “the mountains flowed before the Lord”.  Whether Deborah understood the gift of divine patience or whether the Good Lord knew that higher temperatures can bring material response into the window of observation remains unknown.

Stress, strain and time (or rather the lack of it), are also problems associated with modern living.  And, of course, just like in rheology, all three are intimately connected. So how can rheology help us understand our way of life?  When the window of opportunity is out of time, we develop stresses and strains. When things happen too quickly, for instance, we have the tendency to panic.  And when other things take for ever, or move at glacial speed, we tend to get very impatient indeed.  To simply “go with the flow” is not always as easy as it sounds.

So, in response to a question on how to measure the rheology of an avalanche, one very sensible answer was “at a distance”.  When things around you are chaotic and life is a strain, one way to appreciate the rheology of life is to take a step back and consider the time factor.  Because, according to Albert Einstein, “the only reason for time is to prevent everything from happening at once”.  How would we cope without it?  Time, time, time is on our side, yes it is.  Or at least it was in the sixties !

Gow with the flow,

March 7th, 2014

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