Engineering Quote of the Day

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I explained, some say ranted, a week or two ago about the source of quotes in engineering publications. I noticed that some publishers of engineering literature will go so far as to use poets as sources of quotes. This rankles the engineer to no end. A poet? Please.

Today, we begin with periodic quotes from engineers or about engineers that are uplifting and sometimes motivating. Today’s quote is the phrase from engineering week a couple weeks ago that we shared with you. It is a phrase that explains engineers and what they do. It is a phrase which would make a great bumper sticker that would prompt many interesting conversations about engineering.

Today’s Quote:       “Celebrate Awesome.”

Nothing else to say.

Engineering Sports

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One of the most fascinating thing about sports, from the engineering perspective, is that it produces, and can be broken down into statistics. Numbers, relationships between numbers,  correlations between different factors that influence the game. Forget about the emotion, as any engineer will tell you to do anyway. Sports is about numbers and analysis.

One interesting book about this approach to sports is Moneyball. But, if one wants even more statistics, more numbers, more analysis for a wide variety of sports, pick up a copy of a relatively new book, Scorecasting, by Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim.

I am only part way through it, and I am here to report, it is fascinating. They analyze so many facets of sports and it is all done through numbers. There are no emotional heart tugs, no tears of victory or defeat. Just cold hard facts. The way an engineer would like it.

The really neat thing about this book is that they keep away from simple anecdotal analysis. Although they tell individual stories, they put them in perspective of analysis of numbers – a lot of numbers. The authors analyze millions of points of data, numerous times. For example, will an umpire behind the plate in baseball expand the strike zone if the count is 3-0, or shrink it if the count is 0-2? Analyze millions of pitches over the past 5 or 10 years and find out. What causes home field advantage? You may not want to know, but statistical analysis gives an answer.

It is not a love story (thank goodness). It is not a feel-good tear-jerker. It is not a sweet tale of an underdog who defeats all odds to win. It is better than all these. It is statistical analysis of sports, the way an engineer would like to see it.

More Engineering Fun

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We have discussed the concrete canoe competitions that engineering students around the United States have competed in for many years now.

If that wasn’t enough to show the fun side of engineers, we take a look north, to Canada, where they recently held the 39th annual concrete toboggan races. Numerous universities show up near Vancouver to take part in this competition. See the report here.

Observation #1: It is good engineers are, in general, smart, because they won’t make it as athletes.

Observation #2: Don’t get too excited about seeing entire toboggans made of concrete. It is only the runners that are made of concrete. But a lot of engineering goes into that (I think).

Observation #3: With a 26-page rules booklet, one can tell the competition has a heavy engineering influence.

The guy interviewed on the video said that there were 23 universities and 470 engineers. How could that not be fun!

Engineers Critique Movie Genres

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As I look at the movies that are out now, it makes me think about what engineers think of the different movie genres. Here are a few genres, with recently or soon-to-be-released examples, and the thoughts of an engineer.

Musical (Les Mis, Pitch Perfect) – Way too artsy.

Action (Zero Dark Thirty, Jack Reacher, Skyfall, The Last Stand)   OK. Most of those characters were the type that used to beat up future engineers in school. But an action movie would be really good if the weapons had lasers or phasers or anything else -asers. Bond movies come close.

Historical (Lincoln, Argo)  OK. The more accurate the better. Also, would be great if the movie was about an engineer.

Sci Fi (upcoming Star Trek)  No question. Yes. Cool gadgets and technology and no need for a good plot to get in the way. Also, this type of movie is the most likely to have an engineer as a major character.

Comedy (Here Comes the Boom, Movie 43) Again, OK, but these movies would be so much better if they used engineering humor  – like on


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In a recent post, I mentioned that at times engineering publications turn to very non-engineering people for very non-engineering quotes as supposed motivation for engineers.

At, we are here to change that. We will be supplying the engineering world with quotes from and/or about engineers, if only we can find any. Ha, just kidding. Engineers throughout history have made many noteworthy statements. The first one we will tell you about comes not actually from an engineer, but from a person who talked so positively about engineers they named a great engineering masterpiece after – Herbert Hoover. In speaking about engineers, Hoover stated:

“Engineering is a great profession. There is the satisfaction of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realization in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings homes to men or women. Then it elevates the standard of living and adds to the comforts of life. This is the engineer’s high privilege.”

Hoover also is rumored to be the person the vacuum is named for, and, possibly, a president of the United States.

Read the quote again. It glows with enlightenment of what engineers do, and who engineers are. Now that is motivating. A little wordy, but motivating.  We have high privilege.

Quotes – What’s with them?

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Where are all the inspirational quotes from engineers? I was reading an email newsletter from an engineering organization recently. They have a new quote in each day’s email. This particular day finally broke the camel’s back, adding that last non-engineering quote in an attempt to inspire the engineer readers. This was it:

People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind.”
–William Butler Yeats,
Irish poet and playwright

Another quote a few days before this one was as follows:

Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them.”

–Rose Kennedy,
American philanthropist

Who do these people think are reading this? It is a newsletter for ENGINEERS! We don’t want read about not leaning on logic and birds singing after storms. And we particularly don’t want hear from poets!

The publisher must give this part of the newsletter over to a non-engineer who has some dirt and is blackmailing the engineering organization that produces this newsletter. That is the only (logical and rational) explanation that would explain this behavior.

I may have to start producing some great inspirational engineering quotes for use in these newsletters. Look for them in future engineeringdaze posts.

Engineer’s View of Christmas Tree

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This was all the rage a while ago with those engineer types. Here is a link to something someone somewhere came up with a few years ago. In other words, it is not my own creation, but I don’t know whose it is. However, I would sign off on it, as an engineer.

To get you in the holiday spirit, go to this site and view the spec plan sheet…

Christmas Tree – the Engineer’s View

Sad News

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Today, an engineer was in the news. The sad news is that this is because he passed away. His name is Norman Joseph Woodland and he was a successful mechanical engineer. One could say that he was successful because of his age of 91 or his marriage of over 60 years. But, instead, we turn to how the world views success, particularly of an engineer. Did he make life better for our society?

The answer to this in Woodland’s case is —- YES!

Woodland invented the bar code. It is estimated that over 5 billion times each day a bar code is scanned. The increase in speed, accuracy, efficiency, ease, – you get the idea – that this invention has made our lives, not to mention our trips to the grocery store, is immeasurable. He was an engineer to be admired, as are most engineers.

Here is a link to the NYTimes story.

Movies Are Not Kind to Engineers

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While some movies may make the engineer look good, most do not. Here is one movie the engineer should avoid, although a few years old now – MI3, Mission Impossible 3.

There is a scene near the beginning of the movie in which Tom Cruse’s character is at an engagement party and two women and a guy are talking to him about his cover. He, of course, needed a cover job since he was a spy. His cover job was being a traffic engineer working for the Virginia DOT. He was explaining to them about traffic studies – stating things that were wrong – and then he left. The two women said that they would marry him (he was Tom Cruse), but the guy’s reaction was what most people were thinking. He pretended he was falling asleep.

That is what the engineer gets from Hollywood. Thinking engineers are boring, that that fascinating work they do is of little interest to the rest of the world.

As I said, there are a few good scenes from movies that are complimentary to the engineer, although I can’t think of any right now.

Weird Al Contributes to the Conversation

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As an engineer, I swear that when Weird Al came out with his song, White and Nerdy, he was thinking of engineers. Yes, not all the images are purely about engineers. And yes, there are many engineers who are not white. But for the most part, the song by Weird Al, a parody of Ridin’ by Chamillionaire, might as well be a theme song for engineers. I prefer to consider myself more of a Geek, but Nerdy is just around the corner from that.

I encourage you to find a video of White and Nerdy on the internet, watch it, and try to tell me that engineers are not portrayed there. Makes me laugh every time.

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