Saturday, November 26, 2005

How does this work?

I get a lot of, “Hey, Mo, you’re an engineer. How does a car work? How do you hang these blinds? How many bugs are there in the world? Which way do the exits go on the Mass Pike?”

But the other day, Brother-in-law #4 asked me a question. He said, “Hey, Mo, you’re an engineer, right?” I braced myself for the inevitable question about something completely unrelated to chemical engineering. But instead he said, “If I put my water bottle in the freezer, it will cool down faster than if I put it in the refrigerator, right?”

What? What was this? A question about temperature? About heat transfer? But... but... that’s the kind of engineer I am!

Sadly, it’s actually only the kind of engineer I used to be, and I couldn’t remember the correct answer.


Joshua said...

I get those questions a lot too. I have an aunt that I see during the holidays. She has a knack for asking particularly pointed questions and making sharp comments. Her favorite comment is "Well, Joshua, I heard that engineers don't have 'walking around sense.'" I used to laugh nervously, shrug my shoulders, and try to change the subject.

Then one Christmas, I found myself in a particularly whitty frame of mind. As always, she made her little comment and I surprised myself with a response. I pointed out that most painters, when they get off of work are entirely opposed to going home and painting. Auto mechanics don't get off of work in the evening and decide to go home and work on cars. Similarly, the last thing that a bank teller wants to do after work is count money. I then pointed out that engineers are paid to think, they are paid a lot of money to think very very hard about shit that is generally not very interesting. "So, you see, when engineers get off of work, the last thing that they want to do is think some more. This manifests itself in behaviors that would seem to indicate the engineers' complete lack of 'walking around sense.'" She looked at me for a while and then said "Oooooooh, I see."

Doktah said...

Am I the only one who has the opposite problem? Like when someone in the biology lab I now work in mixes two very different liquids together and they look at the "pretty swirlies". I then say that the differential solute concentration causes a mismatch in the index of refraction of the liquids and you can observe the mixing behavior. At which point they roll their eyes and walk away.

Granted, I'm a huge nerd, and my nerdiness destroys the wonderment of many.

I think we know lots of interesting, useful stuff. It's just not interesting or useful to the rest of the world.

Go ahead, as me about snowflake formation....I could talk all day about crystal nucleation and fractal patterning.

Mo said...

Yes, you are a wonder killer.