Empirical-fundamental: A meeting of the minds Conference Paper uri icon


  • 2018 Taylor & Francis Group, London. The development of technology to support our infrastructure systems continues to evolve from the empirical to the mechanistic. Engineers challenged with the task of designing functional pavements to support heavy truck traffic half a century ago counted on statistically-based empirical studies such as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Road Test. Now we look toward a combination of mechanics, materials engineering and materials science to replace as much of the empiricism as possible. No one can successfully dispute that taking this path forward is a good thing. Nonetheless it is prudent to reflect on some of the lessons learned during the history of science. These lessons teach us how scientists and engineers have used empirical evidence to take the first step toward understanding how to successfully apply the rules and laws of chemistry and physics with the intuition and cleaver mind of the practicing engineer or scientist. This lecture attempts to articulate some of the key examples of this in the history of science. The lecture will end with an example of how this is currently being done in an advanced computational model used for pavement analysis and design. Hopefully this keynote lecture, given at the end of the AMP3 Conference, will provide an opportunity to reflect upon what we have learned and challenge us to move forward with a balanced appreciation for empirical evidence and the fundamentals of science.

published proceedings

  • Advances in Materials and Pavement Performance Prediction - Proceedings of the International AM3P Conference, 2018

author list (cited authors)

  • Little, D. N.

complete list of authors

  • Little, DN

publication date

  • January 2018