1 + 1 =

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This equation, and the answer to it, is of terrific value to the engineer. When deciding whether to ask a girl to marry him, the engineer will do an analysis. 1 + 1 = ________. The answer typically is 1.39664 or 1.43428. If it is less than 2, then it would make sense to get married. Marriage, as all things for the engineer, must be about efficiency. Whether the equation is for finances, which is a great asset in the engineer’s mind (living at lower cost), or for time savings (less time traveling around if not married and less coordination of schedules – he surmises), then if the number is less than 2, and it really makes sense to get married.

Sure, there is that vague concept of love, but how do you quantify that?

Stick with the calculations and a content life will be with that efficient couple.

Guess I should have written this one on Valentine’s Day.

All That Is Needed

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An engineer I know told me that he is concerned about his daughter. She is showing signs of becoming an engineer when she grows up. This one line of reasoning made it clear that she is a good candidate for engineering school.

She came home from school one day recently and asked,”Why do we need English? Math and science is all we really need.”

Out of the mouths of children can come such wisdom – and cause her parents not a little amount of concern.

Why English indeed?

You Might Be an Engineer If…

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– you admire Spock, from Star Trek, but still consider him way too emotional.

26.2

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Another number that screams “Go Metric!” is 26.2. Yes, this is the distance in miles of a marathon. Stickers with only this number on them seem to have proliferated on the backs of cars lately. I am guessing that the drivers of these cars have either driven a marathon course, or watched a marathon on TV.

What is interesting about the 26.2 is that is is rounded off number. The exact number is 26 miles, 385 yards. This is 26.21875 miles, which technically should be on those stickers. But, while one may think that this odd number is because it is a conversion from metric, it is not. The metric distance is 42.195 kilometers.

So, why is the distance of a marathon not an even number in either measurement system? It has to do with some strange story in history which I will not relate here. But I will say that this demonstrates clearly the need for a sensible standard measurement system. No, not the English system. The metric system.

dy/dx

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This concept is used in many equations engineers love – it is the rate of change. The rate of change, the change in a value y per change in a value x. That almost makes me giddy just writing that.

dy/dx is used so frequently and is so powerful in engineering applications, from falling objects, to increasing pressure with depth in a liquid, to electrical applications, flow, strength of materials, and the list goes on.

To make things even more fantabulous, engineers will frequently evaluate rate of change of rate of change. Woah! What-what?

Think about measuring an object moving – falling or rolling – in one direction. We can measure that rate of change of position in terms of dy/dx, or change in distance over change in time. This is velocity, speed if it is in one direction. But what if the velocity changes? Then we measure the change in velocity over time, or in other words, the change in distance over time over time, or something like that. It makes more sense in an equation. This is acceleration. What happens if we measure the change in acceleration? Well, we may just be going back in time. No. I am kidding.

But rate of change is powerful, and engineers use it frequently. An engineer could even use it to measure non-engineering things, like the rate of change in time for, say, his wife to get ready to leave for the evening, with change in the years of marriage. We may save that one for another day. But it can be done.

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.

Important Announcement!

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It’s Engineers Week.

It is time to honor engineers and all they do for society, and for those who were not aware of it, February 17-23 is the week to do this. If you haven’t taken time for it yet, you may wish to get the conversation going at the dinner table. Conversations could include, but are not limited to: your favorite engineers, the best engineering masterpieces, aspects of life that engineers make easier, and planning a thank you note card-writing campaign to engineers in your city or town.

However, I have not told you the best news about Engineers Week, 2013. It is the theme. This theme says it all. It is:

“Celebrate Awesome”

‘Nuff said, my friend. ‘Nuff said.

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