You Might Be an Engineer If…

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– you not only time how late the members of your family are for leaving the house (which you can easily do since you are sitting in the car for a while), but you maintain a spreadsheet to keep track of their lateness.

0 (Zero)

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Ah, yes, the ubiquitous number 0 (Zero). This is wonderful number for engineers. We will even explain why without having to resort to zero’s intricate value in its use in base ten, and how zero has been such a great help in weights and measurements – a great help if one uses the metric system, otherwise you are on your own.

Zero is used in so many applications of engineering. Engineers set numerous equations to zero to solve for them. Most notably, if an object or point is in equilibrium, then all the forces acting on it will add up to, you guessed it, Zero. This will be the case for all three directions in a space into which the forces are broken down (x, y, and z). So Zero is essential for analyzing any static object or system. If one wants to make sure air pressure is maintained in a building, then the amount pumped and the amount taken out must be equal, or, put it another way, the sum of the in and out amounts must equal Zero. To maintain a temperature in room or building, the heat added plus the heat lost (which will be negative) adds up to Zero.

The other numbers may make fun of Zero, for being a nothing, a loser, a, well, a Zero. But to an engineer, it is wonderful number and one to be respected.

A Baseball Story for an Engineer

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( has some wrap-up thoughts on baseball, now that the World Series just finished the season.)

The best baseball story I have heard recently that most any engineer will appreciate is Moneyball. I have not seen the movie, but I went through the book a few years ago and I am still impressed by the logic and sheer emotionless decision-making that was introduced by the Oakland team. These are qualities that engineers admire.

One may say that these were really math nerds or statisticians, and to some extent that is correct. But considering the level of application of mathematic principles to solve a real-world problem, I would say that these people acted much more like engineers than mathematicians.

Whether a math guru or an engineer, it is good to point out that Brad Pitt is not typical of the way these numbers geeks look, but I’m not complaining. It’s good press.

Stats for the Diamond

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( has some wrap-up thoughts on baseball, now that the World Series just finished the season. Today’s post is technically about softball, if being specific.) has covered this in less detail before, in a Wednesday post. To be more specific, I will tell you about a conversation I had with a Non-Engineer (NE) wife of a an engineer.

I usually ask NE wives whether their husband is an engineer. Most all of them understand exactly what is meant by the question. Of course, he is an engineer because that is his occupation, but, more importantly, he is an engineer because that is who he is. The example this one particular wife gave me was her engineer-husbands keeping of stats for their daughter’s softball games. Lots of stats.

He kept her batting average, obviously, but also many of the stats that MLB announcers like to discuss – batting average vs. left and right-handed pitchers, batting average with people on base, and in scoring position, batting average for games starting at different times in the evening, and also all the various fielding stats. What made it all the more engineering-ish is that he kept it all on a spreadsheet and updated it for each game of the season. Actually, what made it even more of an engineer’s pursuit is that the kid was only 8. But, you know, the color chart covering his daughter’s batting percentage under differing cloud cover percents and temperatures was impressive.


You Might Be an Engineer If…

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– you watch the World Series, and may care about one team winning, but what you really watch for are the cool slow-motion shots that show the movement of the baseball and the angles of the bat-ball interaction. That was really neat.

( has some wrap-up thoughts on baseball, now that the World Series just finished the season.)


Leave a comment has some wrap-up thoughts on baseball, now that the World Series just finished the season.
This number, 13.3% is not a number that represents anything to an engineer, except frustration regarding the pure lack of logic of some baseball stats. While watching a playoff game recently, a player was batting and a guy was on second base. The announcers stated that this player got hits 13.3% of the time that a runner was in scoring position. That is all well and good, and, as an engineer, I appreciate statistics which break down the game and explore different facets of the odds. They could have broken that statistic down for the player to dissect his hitting percent against left- and right-handed pitchers, outdoors versus domed stadiums, at night or in day games, in his first or second or third at bat, if he had a fielding error in the previous ten games or not, or whether they were playing on real or artificial turf. That kind of examination is fascinating to explore.

However, the guy at second only got there after the count was 2-1, by stealing second. The announcers didn’t talk about that. They didn’t state was this guy’s hitting percent was with men in scoring position but only getting there by stealing a base part-way through the batter’s at-bat which would obviously skew the hitting percent seeing as that he would have less opportunities to get a hit.

Here they are, and by “they” I mean the baseball “people”, with all these statistics and they fail to completely inform us of the true odds of what will about to take place. Disappointing? Most definitely. But, I will be OK. Baseball season is over and now I watch football. Which brings me to some illogical statistics from this past weekend…

An ERA of what???

Leave a comment has some wrap-up thoughts on baseball, now that the World Series just finished the season.

I was watching a baseball game recently and the team in the field brought in a relief pitcher. There was one or possibly two people on base, but he started pitching and no more outs were made when the first person he faced scored.

As an engineer, I am fascinated with baseball. Sure, the sport is mildly interesting, but the stats are what is really amazing. “This guy bats .322 with men on third base and when the pitcher he is facing is left-handed and has pitched more than once in the previous 3 days, as long as those appearances were further then 400 miles apart.”

Getting back to the game at hand, I did a quick calculation and figured, since there were no outs yet, something was terribly wrong. It looked like they were about to take this relief pitcher out of the game, resulting in him with an earned run counted against him, and no outs. That means his earned run average (ERA) for the day would have been either, impossible to calculate, because one would have to divide by zero, or, to make it a little more acceptable, infinity! Technically, it is impossible to calculate.

For the sake of logic, baseball should have the following rule:

“If a pitcher has an earned run counted against him, and he has not gotten any outs, then he will play until he gets an out, or, if he is leaves the game, an out will be charged to the other team.” In order for teams to not yank players just to get an out, then their team would start with two outs the next half inning.

Engineers can add so much logic to the game. Because, believe me, dividing by zero is not logical.

Thankfully, they let the pitcher get one out before taking him out of the game, and then with two runs against him, he ended the day with an ERA of 54.00. At least it was not infinity.

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