The need for redirection of investigative effort in the area of mineral and energy recovery is emphasized: more fundamental analytical descriptions must be linked to innovative design explorations if traditionally slow rates of methodology evolution are to accelerate reliably and ecologically toward a compensation for rapid depletion of readily available resources. An example of the problems to be resolved is provided in the form of a mechanism for failure by gradual fracture evolution: this involves substantial departure from predictions of conventional mechanics modelling and is traced to inherent instability among the constitutive features of representative geological materials. Major advances are needed, both in physically motivated formulations and tractable incorporation into computational schemes, before this unavoidable behavior can be confidently encompassed by standard design procedures; current trends indicate an excess desire to provide elaborate numerical solutions for superficially consistent models, although the essential physical mechanism is manifestly absent in the results. The practitioner can be encouraged to seek skilled scientific aid only if truly realistic simulations of his design application can actually be performed—development of that ability will require much logical rigor, engineering skill and ingenuity. Corresponding examples are suggested for other aspects of the general discipline, called thermomechanics, which is so central to the present resource crisis.

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