The Governing Principle behind Design: Part III: Generalization of the Physical Principle of Least Action to the Design Process

By Chris Thaxton.

Published by The Design Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This is part 3 of a three-part series on the application of the physical principle of least action to design. The principle of least action – fundamental to theoretical physics – was originally developed to describe and unify mechanical systems and later laid the foundation for modern theoretical formalisms such as optics and quantum mechanics. The principle of least action states that, of all possible paths along which a dynamical system may move from one point to another within a specified time interval, the actual path followed is that which minimizes action, where action is the product of energy and time. Part 1 employed a function-centric approach to describing design and designed systems in order to define terminology and critical relationships, translated from physics and mathematics, in support of the theory development. Part 2 of this series addressed universal design within the framework of the least action principle. This article develops the argument that an ideal design not only minimizes the action of the designed system, it does so in a way that most effectively adds value to those that experience it. Form-driven and function-driven design attributes and valuation are given equal importance in a way that is rigorously encapsulated within the framework of the least action principle. Taken together, parts 1, 2 and 3 should be viewed as both necessary and sufficient to describe the application of the physical principle of least action to design. This series represents a successful interdisciplinary synthesis, based on the fundamental principle of least action that has successfully integrated disparate fields of physics in the past, toward the unification and advancement of the study and practice of design.

Keywords: Least Action Principle, Principle of Least Action, Design Process, Design Theory, Universal Design, Design Principles

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 6, pp.363-384. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.076MB).

Dr. Chris Thaxton

Assistant Professor of Computational Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA

Chris Thaxton (B.S.E.E., M.S., Ph.D.) is an Assistant Professor of Computational Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences at Appalachian State University. His research areas include numerical modeling of granular flows and boundary layers, mountain stream scalar field evolution, and watershed-scale morphology processes. He teaches advanced coursework in theoretical mechanics, electromagnetism, and computational methods, which has helped to lay the foundation for the application of physics concepts to design.

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