Quotes – What’s with them?

Leave a comment

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.

The Far End of the Bell Curve


I changed the lights in the entry way “chandelier” yesterday, with the help of a couple of my kids. I climbed the ladder, they took the burned out bulbs and handed me the new ones. It was a team effort.

It made me think of our previous house, where we had a similar setup with a chandelier in the entry way that had 7 or 9 or so light bulbs and the only way to access them is with a ladder. But with that one, all the lights were working when we moved in, and then, over the next few years, we saw the bulbs burn out, one by one, until there was only one of those 40W bulbs still working. This was the bulb at the far end of the bell curve of light bulb longevity. As an engineer, I appreciate a good bell curve.

My family whined and said it was too dim and we should replace the bulbs. But I didn’t want to replace all but one bulb and then have to go up there and replace that one before the others need replacing again, and then… well, you get the idea. Plus, this was a great experiment. I convinced them (my interpretation) of the need to find how far out that bell curve went, seeing that we had a 99.999 percentile bulb up there. We waited. We waited 2 or 3 years past the penultimate light bulb failing for that last bulb to finally burn out. We were exploring the very, very far end of the bell curve, and it was great. A little dim. But great.

I should have documented it.

You Might Be an Engineer If…

Leave a comment

– your New Year’s resolution involves improving the romantic relationship with your significant other by revisiting the romantic-relationship algorithm and improving it’s efficiency from feedback mechanisms.

Engineer’s View of Christmas Tree

Leave a comment

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

Santa? Let’s Do the Calculations…

Leave a comment

Yes. There is a Santa Claus if your name is Virginia. But I strongly suspect that Virginia did not grow up to be an engineer.

When children get to that awkward age of arguing about whether Santa is real, one can spot the future engineer. One child may say that she saw presents in her parents’ closet. Another might question whether reindeer could possibly fly. And yet another point out that there are millions of kids in the world and how is it possible that St. Nick could make it everywhere in one night.

The future engineer will pick up on this argument but then state, as he will many times in the future, “Let’s do the calculations.” He will then go on to show, upon pulling out paper, pencil, and calculator, that the concept of Santa as presented by the adult population is dubious at best.

“Think of it this way. Take just our state, with a population of around 5 million people. We will be conservative in all our calculations. Say, 20% of them, or 1 million are children of Santa-visiting age. Some of these may live in the same household. We will allow 3 per household, again, fairly conservative. That means that 333,333 households in our state alone need visited. Our state is all in one time zone, but even assuming that our state is the only land mass with population in our time zone, that would mean that Santa would have one hour to visit all these children-possessing homes after the last time zone and before the next one. Santa would have 60 minutes, or 3600 seconds to do this. He would have only 0.0108 seconds to visit each home. Inversely, he would have to visit 92.5925 homes per second. Even in a bad mood and placing 90% of the kids in homes on the naughty list, Santa would still need to visit 9.25925 homes per second. I just don’t see that happening without major contortions of the space-time continuum. And we are only actually talking about a fraction of the children in the time zone, let alone the entire world, not to mention the stamina one would need…”

Before he goes on to present and weight calculations, he’s likely sitting there by himself. But he will get used to that.

Merry Christmas, future engineers.

You Might Be an Engineer If…

Leave a comment

– You have done more than cursory calculations of the necessary lift capacity of each of Santa’s reindeer.


Leave a comment

Since the new year will soon be upon us, this number is a good one for the engineer. It is the estimation (because it is difficult to measure absolutely precisely), the number of days in a year. Sure, we can be more precise, but for calendar calculations, down to the 10,000th of a day is precise enough for roughing out engineering calculations that will involve longer time frames, such as the cost per year of operating a waste-water treatment facility.

Note that the fraction is why we have leap year every four years. It is almost 1/4 of a day, so adding the day every four years keeps us close to the same start and end of the year, rather than having the seasons shift months if we didn’t have leap years. Of course, we haven’t even begun to discuss the slowing of the earth’s rotation over time. Maybe we will save that for a later post.

Engineers like precision. Instead of a year being 365 days, or even 365 1/4 days, think about a more precise 365.2422 days.

Approaching Holiday

Leave a comment

With the impending holiday of Christmas approaching, the engineer could help optimize for time efficiency and benefit-cost of the present for a person, taken here as a significant other.

For time efficiency,

Te = TC/S  + J


Te = Time efficiency in gift-buying

TC = Time until Christmas in days

S = Time spent in a store, buying a gift

J = Joy Content of gift for recipient

The Joy Content is derived by a 0 to 10 survey given to the one receiving the gift. Note that the smaller TC, in other words the shorter time to Christmas, the smaller S needs to be, meaning the time spent in the store needs shorter. The goal is to maximize the Te, spending less time in a store, and bring greater Joy to the recipient.

This is the way to approach Christmas shopping.

Sad News

1 Comment

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.

Strike Out

Leave a comment

When a person swings at three pitches and misses all of them, he strikes out. So it is with me and my children as engineers.

I had a conversation, a rather short one, with my youngest child recently. She is a freshman in high school. We were discussing possible career choices and I said something about engineering. After all, her stronger topics on standardized tests are in math and science. But, she said, and quite quickly, I might add, “No.” The insult to my engineering nature did not stop there. She went on to say she wanted to do something in…… I hesitate to say this….. in the arts!

She wants to be an artist of some sort. She might have well said she wanted to be an architect!

So, here I am. My first two children are already on paths that are taking them far away from engineering. And now, strike three.

I struck out.

Older Entries Newer Entries