19 January 2006

Being an engineer...

...often means you have a different perspective on certain questions.

For example, when filling out my application to graduate, I was required to take an "exit survey." When I read the question, "How often did you socialize with students or faculty from different backgrounds?" my first thought was, "Socializing, eh? Hmm, I'd say 'often' or 'quite a bit.'" Then I read the next question, which was, "How often did you work on projects with students from different backgrounds?" and I thought, "What? I almost never work with non-engineers."

It was a couple more beats before I realized that by "different backgrounds," they didn't mean "different intellectual backgrounds," but rather, "different amounts of melanin in the epidermal layer."

And then I couldn't answer the question because I can't possibly quantify how many people of each ethnicity I've worked with. You know why? Because I don't f'n care. People are people, not skin colors or countries of origin.

I wanted to refuse to answer on principle, but there wasn't any sort of comment option and I can't graduate without filling out the form, so I just went with the middle-of-the-road option on those.

The one that really got me was "How often did you critically analyze the work of an author whose gender, culture, or ethnicity is different from your own?" I'm an ENGINEER, morons. I don't give more than a cursory glance to demographic information when I read a research article, and when I do, it's because I like to know which institutions have what equipment.

Anyway, speaking of engineering and the great debt that society owes to those brave, intelligent, selfless souls who choose to pour their hearts and minds into helping others through math, New Horizons launched successfully. Next stop - Pluto!

(Actually, the next stop is Jupiter. And then Pluto. But somehow "Next stop - Jupiter" didn't sound quite right. And technically New Horizons isn't stopping at either place anyway, at least not until it runs out of fuel and crashes in a ball of fiery wreckage on Pluto's surface. We engineers call that "deorbiting.")


Anonymous Anonymous said...

crashes in a ball of fiery wreckage on Pluto's surface. We engineers call that "deorbiting.")

around here we call that "95 in a 55 on wet pavement".

D in T

3:21 PM  
Blogger Monty said...

Glad to see that New Horizons finally got off the pad. I watched the launch in a crappy RealMedia player window, and about every five seconds I got the dreaded "buffering" message, so it was more like watching a slideshow than a video. Still, pretty cool.

Now all we have to do is wait a decade before we see anything interesting. Why can't everything be like TV and allow FTL travel everywhere? (That's a question I always had about Star Trek: why bother having starships at all? Why not just beam everywhere?)

4:17 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Peel said...

Well, Monty, the reason the Feds (united federation of planets) couldn't beam everywhere is that the transporter was notoriously unreliable, and didn't work under certain conditions like an ion storm. Also, people (and objects) cannot be transported through shields or when moving at warp speed. And the transporter has a fairly small effective range - it doesn't work over distances much further than the usual surface-orbit distance. Hence the shuttles.

I'm going to go crawl back under my rock now.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous geoff said...

That's a question I always had about Star Trek: why bother having starships at all? Why not just beam everywhere?

The question I had was: whenever they went back in time, why didn't they cruise by the Klingon and Romulan digs and do a little softening up?

As far as the "why have starships" question, Mrs. P. covered it, except for the babe factor - you can't go cruisin' for hot alien babes in a transporter beam.

3:51 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Peel said...

Captain Picard NEVER cruised for hot alien babes! They threw themselves at him because of his overwhelming sexiness.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Russ said...

Actually, the problems with beam technology led to the breakthrough in Stargates and Na'quadah technology in the early 90's.

That question about starships versus beams reminded me of a Steven King short story. I think it was in the "Graveyard Shift" collection back in the 80's. Matter reassembly transport had been developed, but living tissue couldn't be transported in a conscious state without killing the subject.

The whole idea of a progression of matter transport way stations radiating outward from Earth was also explored in Harlan Ellison's screenplay for Asimov's "I, Robot" in a related manner.

12:39 PM  

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