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Laws of Physics Under Attack by Economics

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Rob Spiegel
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Re: No Physicist left Behind
Rob Spiegel   12/12/2011 12:55:34 PM
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Yes, I was quite surprised by that story. I've spoken to engineers who say many of these process plants have planned shutdowns about once a year, often between Christmas and New Year's for planned maintenance and updates. So it's a relatively rare occurrence. And there is a series of steps involved in the shutdown. Now, apparently many plants are programming the shutdown process to make sure it is done correctly

Rob Spiegel
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Re: No Physicist left Behind
Rob Spiegel   12/12/2011 2:56:25 PM
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Employers, my guess, will tend toward younger engineers, and not just because entry-level salaries may be lower. In plants, management is aware that older workers are resistant to a lot of new technology, including software advances, connectivity that goes outside the plant, wireless networks, integrated safety, and cloud computing. The young engineer is comfy with these advances.


Alexander Wolfe
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Sputnik
Alexander Wolfe   12/12/2011 4:31:32 PM
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Dean Orsak closes with the observation that Sputnik catalyzed a whole generation to get going on science and math. The problem today is that there's no such singular issue to sway public opinion, yet a thousand tiny Sputniks are out there undercutting the U.S.'s able to maintain its position. We need to get going on STEM. Here's an interview I did over at InformationWeek with former Intel chairman Craig Barrett on STEM.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Sputnik
Ann R. Thryft   12/14/2011 3:56:50 PM
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Alex, that's an interesting point about many Sputniks instead of just one. Not only did the one Sputnik sway public opinion and galvanize US education efforts, its singularity made the whole issue easy to understand for many people, as well as making it easy to believe we could "win". I think the fact that now there are many Sputniks makes it harder to identify the issue--which is basically the same--harder to sway public opinion, and harder to galvanize education efforts.


Charles Murray
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Re: Sputnik
Charles Murray   1/4/2012 11:34:14 PM
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Good point, Ann. Sputnik was easy for the masses to support, especially given the way American politicians were characterizing it. Given the fear of nuclear war at the time, many Americans believed that Russian spacecrafts would be flying overhead, flinging hydrogen bombs down on us from on high. Lyndon Johnson famously said, "I do not believe that this generation of Americans is willing to go to bed each night by the light of a Communist moon." For pure sense of national mission, it's tough to match that.  

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Sputnik
Ann R. Thryft   1/5/2012 3:59:42 PM
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You know, I think this whole thrust towards STEM that occurred during the Sputnik years also gave engineers a lot more respect, to bring in the topic of a thread from another article:

http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1381&doc_id=236938&itc=dn_analysis_element&

Engineers and scientists were seen then more as the heroes that were helping us win the race for space.


Charles Murray
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Re: Sputnik
Charles Murray   1/9/2012 11:15:32 PM
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Going from the '60s to the '70s, when American engineers were most notable for building lousy cars, there was a precipitous drop in esteem for engineers.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Sputnik
Ann R. Thryft   1/10/2012 12:38:47 PM
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That makes me think of another thread:

http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1395&doc_id=236267#msgs

where I mentioned the shift in the mid-70s to smaller Japanese cars, which seemed to me like an '"evolutionary" process at the time. But I was thinking of mileage and small size, not lousy engineering--I didn't realize that was going on at the time. That would obviously add a big impetus to the shift!


Charles Murray
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Re: Sputnik
Charles Murray   1/18/2012 11:24:48 PM
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Most automotive engineers will admit that vehicle reliability was poor in the '70s. Even the staunchest apologists will admit that the reliability of cars in North America climbed when American automakers realized they were in a dogfight in the late 1980s. That's another way of saying, "We could have made better cars, but we didn't start doing it until we were forced to."

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Sputnik
Ann R. Thryft   1/19/2012 4:03:10 PM
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Chuck, that's really interesting. What was car reliability being so poorly engineered back then and apparently, only in that decade? I've heard that residential construction in that decade was poorly engineered and shoddily made. What was going on during the 1970s to encourage or demand such lousy quality in both fields?


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