What Engineers Do

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

I especially liked Part 5 where one engineer describes what it is like to commit other people's lives to one of your designs. I had that feeling a lot working in aerospace on jet aircraft. I still get that feeling when a plane goes down. Was it one I worked on? Was the failure because of something I did?

"Physicists dream of Nobel prizes, engineers dream of mishaps." - Hendrik Tennekes

So where is this generation's Apollo Program? How about fusion powered rockets? A trip to Mars in 3 or 4 weeks? There is a way that has a chance to do it: Polywell Fusion. Because no matter how much work is done on tokamaks (ITER etc.) they are never going to be light enough to get us into space.

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

H/T Billy Catringer at Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 02.16.09 at 01:50 AM


The Republic that John Kennedy governed is dead and buried. Americans, sunk is self absorption and moral decay, are no longer capable of mounting anything as heroic a space program or even a fusion program. Expect the shuttle fleet to be retired, and the space station to be abandonned. There is only the long slide into oblivion and the history books.

Do you realize what it means that no one read the stimulus bill? That it is a pastiche of paragraphs put together (literally) by lobbyists? That not even the Congressional staffers ever saw it?

Bob Sykes   ·  February 16, 2009 6:59 AM

THe green movement is a big part of it. Everything you do is presumed to be fraught with peril to the planet. I recently was a judge for a local science fair. I was astonished to see how many of the projects were "green" in nature and how few were mechanical or electrical. (of course rules banning any voltage higher than 12V etc didn't help).

Young students of a technical bent are developed in an atmosphere of oppressive caution and pessimissim.

Dave Moelling   ·  February 16, 2009 2:27 PM

It is worth noting that the Challenger accident is still referred to as a "design flaw." As though the O-rings in question were in fact designed to withstand the freezing temperatures they experienced. IIRC, the Morton Thiokol engineers were asked whether the freezing temperatures were a problem, and they responded that they didn't know; they'd never addressed the question and so couldn't say what would happen. Apparently, that's a design flaw. Sounded more like a management flaw.

Crimso   ·  February 16, 2009 6:37 PM

I'll tell my engineer jokes here.

What's the difference between mechanical engineers and civil engineers?
Mechanical engineers build weapons, civil engineers build targets.

and my favorite

Anybody can build a bridge that stands, it takes an engineer to build a bridge that barely stands.

Veeshir   ·  February 18, 2009 1:28 PM

Good, Veeshir. Kid: "I don't know about studying engineering. There's all that math."
Engineer:"There's no math to it. Just build to the next half pound, on the heavy side."
Kid:"How do you know which side is heavy, and which is light?" Engineer:"That's where the math comes in." Actual exchange, ca.1969.

I don't want to talk about where the engineer ended up, but it was in a place called Diablo Canyon...

comatus   ·  February 22, 2009 10:28 PM

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