Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Engineering FUNdamentals


Engineers have a funny bone. They can sit around a table, deconstructing the Dyson-Eddington experiment, doodling differential equations on napkins and swapping jokes with the best of 'em. Chances are their chitchat might include these two items...

Q: What’s the difference between engineers in the military and civil engineers?

A: Engineers in the military build missiles. Civil engineers build targets.

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An unemployed engineer, desperately needing work, decided to try a career change. He got an interview almost immediately with a company that wanted to hire an accountant who's been an engineer. "Perfect," he thought.

Two days later he was fidgeting nervously as he sat in front of Henry Bucks, owner of Bucks CPA. As the interview went on, he rattled off the answers that he'd rehearsed. The interview was going well -- he had an uplifting sensation that he hadn't had in months -- until Bucks pulled a question out of left field: "How much is four times eight?"

The engineer went pale. His mouth dried up. He felt a single drop of sweat roll down his nose and hang on the tip and then plummet into his lap. "I, uh... I'm an engineer," he said; "I always use a calculator, feed the results into my portable computer and double-check the answers. I never rely on memory."

Bucks sat back in his chair to consider the engineer. "Fine, fine," Bucks said. "Humor me... tell me the answer from memory. No calculator. Four times eight..."

The engineer, mentally counting on his fingers and toes, took a frantic stab: "Four times eight is, uh, thirty-four." Then he got up, shook Bucks' hand and ran into the hallway, where he punched the numbers in a pocket calculator and, seeing the answer, cursed loudly.

To his surprise, Bucks called that very evening to offer him the job. Six months later, feeling confident in his position, he said to Bucks, "Sir, I'm curious. Why is it that out of all those engineering candidates, you hired me -- and I gave you the wrong answer to four-times-eight?"
Bucks looked at him over the top of his glasses and said, "Your answer was the closest."

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