David F. ChichkaEngineer
Warfare Systems Department
Naval Surface Warfare Center
A much less flattering picture.
I am now an engineer with the US federal government, doing things that I can't really discuss. This page mostly dates from my days as a professor, and before that as research faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles. I keep my hand in as a research professor at GWU, and papers are still being written. The work with the Psychology department in particular remains a focus. Also, I have been working with a doctoral student in the Civil Engineering department in the field of automated lane change. This involves automobiles changing lanes to avoid collisions. Several papers have already been written as a result of this work, as well.
I met Doug Caldwell in the early 1990's, when he was the leader of a group of UCLA students on a quixotic quest to build a rocket. The Space Projects Group eventually got their rocket off the ground, and Doug eventually got his doctorate. He was already a successful scientist and entrepreneur. He worked at JPL, and later helped launch Ecliptic Enterprises and Angeles Energy. We was also a competitive cyclist. He was killed on August 20, 2010, when he was struck from behind while riding his bicycle to work.
It's hard to come up with things to say about friends who have died, and it
doesn't make a lot of sense, anyway. If you knew the person, you have your
own thoughts and memories, and if you didn't, somebody's eulogy for them
doesn't much matter. But Doug was a good friend and I am saddened that he
Among the people I worked with at GWU was Steve Pothier. He walked into my office one afternoon and introduced himself. He wanted to do research and keep himself busy, and as he was an airline pilot, he had plenty of free time (FAA rules limit how many days he could work). He turned out to be an excellent coworker, in several areas. His biggest contribution to the students at GWU was his tireless work leading the team that built the GWU float for the inaugural parade in January, 2009.
Steve died on November 30, 2009, a week after he and I were in Florida at an ASME conference. He had recently been diagnosed with an agressive brain cancer. He will be missed by all who had the good fortune to enjoy his company and share his energy and enthusiasm. There are a lot of things that could be said about him, but I think one of the things that best describes him was his reaction when the Dean of Engineering at GWU wanted to recognize him for his efforts on the inaugural float. Steve was angry. He genuinely felt that his weeks of living on a few hours of sleep, his constant efforts, were not worthy of note. His comment to me was, "The students did it!" He wanted nothing to diminish their work.
This idea has been at the heart of a research effort that has been underway at UCLA for over five years, in partnership with Boeing North American and NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. Unlike many university research efforts, this one has included a great deal of hardware and experimental work. The main thrust of this work has been the development of instrumentation to precisely measure the relative position, velocity, and attitude of two (or more) moving vehicles. This is done using a blend of Global Positioning Systen (GPS) and inertial measurement instruments. As a part of the effort, these instruments will be used to control a pair of F-18's in formation flight at Dryden.
The effort did not start out with fighters in mind. Originally, the intent was that the gains in aerodynamic efficiency would enable solar powered formation flight. This was an attempt to create a formation of aircraft that would fly for all intents and purposes indefinitiely at a very high altitude, for the purposes of observation or communications relay.
Test flights with the Mule: As part of the instrumentation development effort, several flight tests involving remotely piloted vehicles have been carried out, at El Mirage dry lake bed and, more recently, at MacMillan Airfield on Camp Roberts, a California National Guard base near Paso Robles. These flights have used the Mule, an R/C aircraft, and the flight control computer mentioned above. Autonomous flight was achieved in November of 1998. For more about this effort, and pictures of the Mule in flight, go here....
This is an example of peak-seeking control, also known as extremum control. The basic idea in this class of problems is that a system is trying to optimize some function of the states of the system. In this case, the function is efficiency, and the states are the lateral and vertical relative positions. This case is complicated by the fact that the system dynamics are directly coupled to the function being optimized.
"Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love."
I am a big fan of Medieval Literature, and of course of Chaucer. I did my seminar work on Spenser's Faerie Queene, which at least partially explains the names of all of the computers in my little domain.
I also enjoy astrology, and especially Vedic astrology. I believe in it about as much as I believe the promises of politicians, but that doesn't keep it from being a lot of fun.
Poetry: My favorite poem is " Kubla Khan", by Coleridge, whose "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and "Christabel" are also incredible. Coleridge makes you wonder why you can't write that way. My second favorite is Tennyson's "Ulysses", and after that comes a welter of others: Anything by Shakespeare, of course; the entirety of the Rubai'at of Omar Khayyam, "Dover Beach" (I know, you had to read it in college and hated it -- read it again, for fun this time); large parts of "Paradise Lost" are simply wonderful (others not so much); Kipling's "Mandalay"; so many more that it's not even possible to make a fair start. I've left out Keats, and Yeats ("... and what rough beast, its hour come round at last / slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"), and dozens of others. I could spend hundreds of hours on a poetry page, though, so I'm not even going to start.
Social Criticism: There is a school of social criticism that investigates the surprisingly high occurrence of irrationality in public discourse in this country. An excellent case in point is Sleeping with Extra-terrestrials by Wendy Kaminer, which also attacks the often made assertion that "God has been abolished from the public square" in America (the quote is not from the book; it's something I believe I read attributed to Jerry Falwell). In fact, she points out that religion, or at least spirituality, is rampant in America, to the point that it affects our ability to form rational opinions. The book is not the best read I have ever seen, but it is well-researched and definitely worth the time.
Another book on the topic is the late Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World. The overall theme here is the lack of critical thought in public discourse, and the culprit in large part seems to be the lack of training in critical thought in American schools. Sagan begins his book with an anecdote about being recognized by a limo driver who then wants to discuss "science." The subjects brought up by the driver are such things as extra-terrestrials and Atlantis. Consider that the average person is much more likely to hear about these things in the popular media than he is to hear about, say, thermodynamics, and you realize why the driver thinks they are legitimate topics of inquiry.
On another thread entirely are the essays of Barbara Ehrenreich. Almost anything she has to say is worth reading, though my favorite collection of hers is The Worst Years of our Lives, focussing on the Reagan years. The Snarling Citizen just isn't quite as enjoyable. I have not yet read Nickel and Dimed, and the reviews are mixed on it, but you have to assume that if the writing is a little choppy, the work itself will be top-notch. The only thing I've come across that marred my respect for this woman was a positive blurb from her on the jacket of Backlash, the dangerously bad, vehemently anti-male, and thoroughly anti-thought diatribe by Susan Faludi, which despite being so ridiculous that it names Betty Friedan, for goodness' sake, as a leader of the anti-feminist backlash, still was hailed in many circles as a major triumph. (Friedan's motivation for attempting to subvert and destroy a movement to which she devoted her life is given as jealousy of Gloria Steinem.) Faludi's book is useful for pointing out how mindless the media can be in reporting on gender issues (as well as just about anything else). For anything beyond that, of course, it is not only useless but dangerous.
A little too Texas-centric to be for everyone's taste, but completely wonderful, are the essays and columns of Molly Ivins.
My other reading is pretty eclectic, and nowhere near so high-brow as the last
few paragraphs might suggest. I do occasionally stumble across some genuine
modern literature, but my off-duty reading tends to be more escapist. A few
of my favorite authors (by which I mean I've read just about everything
they've ever written), are Alistair MacLean, Donald Hamilton, Robert
B. Parker, Louis L'Amour, and John D. MacDonald (especially the Travis McGee
stuff, of course). In Science Fiction, nobody ever did it better than Robert
A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. Recently, I've been working my way through the
Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton, though one gets tired of Anita
after a while.
The best novel I've read recently is Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers. Among the best novels I've ever read are:
Jonathan Katz is the Technical Director of Facade, a web-stuff firm
that will design and host your e-business presence. Jonathan was one of the
original web gurus (he had a UCLA home page up two years before UCLA managed
an "official" version, back when he ran the CAD lab for the Mechanical and
Aerospace Engineering department there). I like the site because of all the
cool divination stuff. Jonathan's tarot server was among the first major attractions on the
web, earning mentions in Newsweek and several comic strips, among other
Jonathan was also on the altar with us when Sohini and I got married.
Hinke Osinga is a friend of mine from Caltech, now a lecturer in mathematics at Bristol.
I met Sasha Volokh several years ago, when I joined the Chaucer
Reading Group at UCLA. Sasha is one of the most interesting (read that
however you like) people I know.
He has since been to graduate and law school at Harvard, and is a visiting
professor at Georgetown University Law School.
Sasha was also one of the party on the altar during my wedding.
I met Dong Eui Chang when he was a doctoral student at Caltech. He is now a math professor at the University of Waterloo. back to top