Engineers like microwaves. Saving time on a task is certainly important, as is the fact that it contains a lot of engineering to produce. Most of all, though, microwaves are like science fiction come true. 45 years ago, no one thought that 20 or 30 later every home in America would have a box one could place cold food in and in minutes, it would be hot. No one, except for all the Trekkies, of whom 70% were engineers.

But how does an engineer use the microwave? Speaking for myself, I have evolved over time. I first set everything at even minutes, sometimes half-minutes. A few years later, I attempted to optimize the heating to the precise amount and started entering times like 2 minutes and 18 seconds, or 1 minute and 34 seconds. This had two problems with it. First, without constant rotating (I did not have a turntable inside the microwave at the time) and stirring at regular intervals, it was always a guess as to what that precisely optimized time was. Engineers don’t like guessing. Second, and even more disturbing, is that even though I knew that I was attempting to optimize the operation of the microwave, if others saw me put in times like 2:18 or 1:34, they might think that I was some right-brained artist and that I “just felt like” using those numbers. This would not be acceptable.

Finally, I settled on optimizing and minimizing the time it takes to actually use the microwave. Now, I enter as many of the same digits as I can together, no longer looking around and taking that extra time to move my finger to the button marked 0, and certainly not 3 then 0. So, if I think the food needs 3, maybe 4 minutes of microwave action, I enter 3 minutes 33 seconds. 3 quick hits on the same button. 3:33. Much faster and within the tolerable range of heat.

The engineer evolves, and saves those precious seconds for more important things, like watching old episodes of Star Trek.