Center for Extrapolated Data

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Some people reading these pages have asked about the Center for Extrapolated Data, which is referenced in a number of the posts. What is it? How does it work? Where do they get their data?

The short answer is – it’s magic. No, no, no. This is an engineering blog. There is a rational explanation for almost everything, something we can measure, calculate, or derive. But, for many of the situations that appears on these pages, data simply doesn’t exist – yet. However, we really know that it is true. So, we take data we have, and extrapolate it.

Let’s look at an example. We can state that the Center for Extrapolated Data has determined that an engineer has a 0.0032% chance of volunteering to make a public presentation when asked for volunteers at work, and of the extremely small number that do volunteer, about 38% of those volunteered only because they were scratching their head at the wrong time, and 61% volunteered because they were writing an equation to calculate the odds of being chosen to make the presentation, only to volunteer because they weren’t paying attention completely and thought they were volunteering NOT to make the presentation.

It turns out that 1% of the 0.0032%, or 3.2 out of every 100,000 engineers actually would volunteer to make a presentation.

How did we determine this number? We could lie and say that we surveyed a sizable number of engineers, or that we did detailed studies in this area. But that (the study, not the lie) takes time and money, something we try to minimize as engineers. Instead, we simply go by experience – what we’ve seen – and know that it will be backed up by what every engineer sees at work. Thus, about 3 out of every 100,000 engineers sounds just about right.

We add the .2 to make is seem more precise and engineering-ish.

The Center for Extrapolated Data is explained.

Giving the kids a bath:


An engineer’s approach to raising children, especially in the realm of teaching them how the world works, will set an engineer apart from all other types of people. Here is an example, and I don’t mind saying, from my life. OK, I am proud of this one. When my son was two years old, I decided that when we opened the drain at the end of a bath, there would be none of this, “Bye-bye, water.” Wouldn’t he wonder where it’s going? Shouldn’t he know that engineers clean up that water before it returns to our environment? Won’t all these types of questions confuse him? So, I taught my son as any good engineer father would. When I asked him where the water was going, he would state emphatically, “To the wastewater treatment facility.”

Of course, I conjectured later that the images viewed in our minds were likely quite different. I had settling tanks, clarifiers, and anaerobic digesters in mind. I am fairly certain he just thought of the “wais wotter treemnt fasility” as  big blob of something under the house. That may or may not have contributed to the nightmares he had as a child. But he learned about engineers, and that is what was important.

Mowing the Lawn

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A nonengineer (NE) wife of an engineer told me about when they were first married. She wanted to help out with the home, even doing some things which she typically would not do. In this case, she mowed the lawn. Her thinking was that this would ease his stress from work, show her husband how she was willing to pitch in, and emphasize the teamwork that any marriage would want. But instead of a compliment or showered with appreciation, when her engineer husband came home, he pointed out that she had mowed the lawn – in the wrong pattern. This week, it was supposed to be in diagonal passes. If that didn’t dig him into a hole deep enough, he re-mowed the lawn – THAT NIGHT.

The NE wife has never mowed the lawn since.

True story.

You Might Be an Engineer If…

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– You have ever calculated the check at a restaurant to the penny, with family members.


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The number 5 is a very scary number for engineers. They may not even know it consciously, but it is there – lurking, waiting, about to pounce.

Five represents the number of people that it takes to officially have “an audience”. And, you know what that means. If the engineer has to speak and explain something to 5 or more people, he will consider it, in his mind, to be a PRESENTATION.

This is bad. This is very bad. The engineer may be awkward explaining a point of his work to one other person, two is a bit strange, three is uncomfortable, and four is somewhat unnerving. But once there are 5 people, all bets are off. The engineer goes into presentation mode – badly telling jokes (or what he thinks are jokes), using barely readable charts and graphs, and keeping a monotone level in his voice.

The number 5. If it wasn’t an engineer, I would say that emotions were creeping in.

5 people. That’s an audience.

5 is a number. A scary number.

Polystats for Presentations

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Statistics from the Center for Extrapolated Data show the following:

        82% of engineers have put over

                  51% of their audience to sleep in

                            37% of their presentations

On the bright side, rest is a commodity of which all of us in society need more. In a way, engineers are doing the world yet another service.

Apps for the Engineer

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There are many apps that engineers like to have on their smart phones. One of the best ones would be one from a category that not only helps the engineer calculate stuff, a favorite past time of the engineer, but also helps the engineer remain frugal.

The class of apps we will mention today is check-splitting apps. These are great! We have mentioned in previous posts that an engineer would not want to split a bill evenly, especially if he got the cheaper meal. Whether it is 20 cents cheaper, or, refraining from a drink and extra sides, a few dollars difference, the engineer will be glad to take the bill when it comes – in order to split it evenly and fairly and so that he will not pay more than he needs. These apps can split between any number of people, add whatever percent for a tip, and, I believe, find cubed roots. (OK, maybe not the last one.)

So, ask your coworker or husband who is an engineer if they have an app like this on their smart phone, and if not, get it for him. You will feel so glad you did the next time you go out and he says, “Honey, you owe $11.24 for your meal.”

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