You Might Be a Caveman Engineer If…

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– you have timed yourself taking at least six different routes to the stream for water, under different weather and light conditions, and under different wild animal threats, in order to find out which is more efficient and results in less loss of life, on average.


(Tork, caveman engineer, the first engineer in history, make that pre-history, returns for this week on


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Tork, caveman engineer, the first engineer in history, make that pre-history, returns for this week on


Tork noticed that when measuring things like the volume of water in the lake, or the distance to the cute cavewoman’s cave, cave people used small numbers first, then when they need to go to a bigger measurement, they used a larger unit, but it was always a strange one. They multiplied the smaller measurement by 8. Why? Because the biggest caveman who always told all the other cavemen what to do had 8 fingers, not ten like Tork had, and most all other cavemen had.

For centuries, people blindly used this painfully difficult system of measurement based on the number 8, while the system Tork developed, based on the number 10, what became known as the Metork system, eventually lost favor with those in control who thought it might be too difficult to change systems.

Oh, how things could have been different.

Tork – Return of Caveman Engineer

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Tork, caveman engineer, the first engineer in history, make that pre-history, returns for this week on

Tork noticed that he could run fast. Not as fast the non-engineer cavemen, but that is a different story. He also noticed that he could run much faster than a snake, but much slower than saber-toothed tiger.

Tork got to figuring, trying make sense of the world, as any engineer would do. Tork thought, “Hmg, no legs go slow, two legs go fast, four legs go faster.”

Tork even created a table, a spreadsheet of sorts, which he posted (scrawled) on his cave wall. While making it difficult to impress cavewomen with his interior decorating skills, Tork nevertheless tried to figure out this relationship between number of legs and speed.

Then one day, Tork saw a centipede. It didn’t fit into his algorithm well – actually not at all. Tork crushed it with a rock.

In the end, Tork abandoned his attempt at this heavily biological endeavor, leaving it to the caveman a few caves down who wanted to be a caveman doctor. Tork went back to his work of providing clean water for caves, finding great uses for that new invention, the wheel, and understanding the benefits of treating waste properly – or at least locating a waste site properly.


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It is election season. The candidates are campaigning and debating. But one thing is missing. The perspective of the engineer. And, since engineers serve society by providing such wonderful services to the public, their perspective should be heard.

We should have someone ask the candidates two basic questions:

1. Where do you stand on the general state of disrepair of our country’s infrastructure?  – I will say, each candidate will say he is for it. Being against good highways, or water treatment, or electrical grids is like being against puppies. They will always be for them. (How to pay for it may be more tricky.)

2. Where do you stand on the metric system? – This is an issue which they usually keep away from on the campaign trail. Why? It makes too much sense.

I guess it is obvious that they have never asked me to moderate or even ask a question at a debate, because they know, like you know, where I would take it….

Engineers Can Be Fun on Road Trips, Too

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I have a “friend”, at least in the sense that he is on my friend list on Facebook. I will call him, “Eric”, since that is his name. He is a musician.

The other day, “Eric” posted on FB that he was in the car on a trip with his kids and they were playing DJ with the songs being played on the radio. What do you expect? Music is his life. And I am guessing that the kids were mildly amused.

However, I am here to report that engineers can be great fun for kids while riding in the car, too.  Just like people such as “Eric”, an engineer will use his skills to fascinate the children. Here are a few tried and true ways:

– After a stop to fill up,  the engineer can give the odometer readings for then and the previous stop and give the number of gallons of gas purchased and then ask, “Can someone be the first to calculate the gas mileage we are getting?” This can be made more challenging by giving the eager youngsters the price of gas per gallon and the total amount of the bill, instead of the number of gallons, and by taking away their calculators.

– While traveling through an area with a lot of bridges, the engineer can ask the kids to identify at least 5 different types of bridges!

– For varying speeds and direction of travel, have the children sketch out the vectors on a map, and break each down into it’s component vectors.

Yes, “Eric”, you may have music, but what happens when you are in the middle of nowhere without a good FM station to listen to? The engineer can bring along a few calculators or some graph paper or maybe just his love of equations, and the kids will have wonderful memories for years in the future of road trips with the family.

You Might Be an Engineer If…

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– you are dating a girl and write an equation (or algorithm) to determine if she would be a “good fit” for a wife.


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As an engineer, I have a preference for the number 3. This number is so incredibly meaningful and versatile.

Think about this:

There are 3 dimensions in space that make up the component vectors of any vector in that space.

One wants at least 3 quotes for the cost of a product or service in order to have the possibility of getting a sense of a reasonable price.

3 is a great factor of safety. Design anything, then multiply the answer by 3 just to be sure.

And since 3 is a great number for having as the number of reasons that 3 is a great number, then I hesitate to mention any more of them. Suffice it to say, 3 is an engineering number.

Pythagorean – Applied

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x2 + y2 = z2  et. al.

Engineers use the Pythagorean Theorem and the associated trigonometric functions, particularly cosine and sine, to a very great extent. You may think, “Hey, the Pythagorean Theorem is for mathematicians. Why are you claiming it for engineers?”

First, engineers use this equation to break down vectors into component vectors in an x-y coordinate plane. This is extremely powerful since vectors can represent forces or distance or velocity or a myriad of other phenomenon. I know. Wild, isn’t it? Engineers use Pythagorean’s old equation for great uses.

And here we see the second reason why this should be principally an engineering concept. I have a brother. He just had a birthday yesterday. But, that is irrelevant. What is relevant is that he is a math professor and as a mathematician the one thing he hates is to do anything “applied” with his math. He likes to keep it “theoretical. What? No real world solutions? – No. No solving a practical dilemma? – No. No serving the general public and supplying clean water, electricity, motors, highways, etc.? – No. My brother sees math as an end to itself. He hardly even deals with numbers anymore.

So, here the engineer is found to be far more noble and distinguished than the math professor. Sit and think about math, or use equations such as the Pythagorean Theorem to solve problems and help humankind? I think the answer is quite clear.

Thank you.


A Poem for Parents

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For all the parents whose child carries a calculator around, takes apart appliances, puts appliances back together, or always want to visit Radio Shack, this limerick is for you:

“This algorithm should prove it!” he stated,

Their son’s penchant for numbers inflated,

They could not change this course,

The parents lost to the force,

To an engineer’s life he was slated.

Stats – We Can Do That

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Some engineers are athletic, or at least can play a sport or two. But, in general, the average athletic ability of the average engineer is somewhat less than that of the average person. However, that does not mean that our involvement in sports has to be less.

I met a wife of an engineer who explained that her husband keeps very good stats of their children as they compete in sports. She may not have actually said, “very good stats”.  I put a more positive spin on that part of her story.

As an engineer, he overdoes it with the numbers. In baseball or softball, he will keep all the stats that are typically kept for a major league baseball player, even though his child is only playing T-ball. And giving his 6-year old a folder with hitting average, rbi’s, on-base percentage, fielding percentage, and around 14 other statistics all laid out in a spreadsheet with graphs showing improvement (or worsening) over the weeks of the season could be seen as overdoing it.

It may be the case that his interest in numbers and calculations could possibly cause him to go a little overboard with the statistics. To look on the positive side, the good news is that he is very involved in his child’s life.

The difficult question is: what is the engineer to do when his child starts dance lessons?

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