It’s often said that pop culture fails to provide inspiration to aspiring engineers. While movies and television shows routinely depict cops, doctors, and lawyers, they seldom show engineering professionals.
We’ve attempted to capture a few exceptions to that rule. In truth, Hollywood occasionally writes engineers into movies or television plots. In some instances -- such as The China Syndrome, Flash of Genius, and Apollo 13 -- engineers serve as central characters, or even as stars.
From James Stewart and Jack Lemmon to Ed Harris and Leonardo Dicaprio, we provide a look at some of the most notable. Click on the photo of Jack Lemmon below to start the slideshow.
Jack Lemmon was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of nuclear engineer Jack Godell in the 1979 movie, The China Syndrome. The film was met with backlash from the nuclear power industry, but Lemmon’s attempt to distill a technical problem into a brief soundbite near the end of the movie is unforgettable. (Source: movieactors.com)
wbswenberg: that's a great story. Thanks for sharing.
GTOlover: that's my favorite show, and Wolowitz gets no respect. As a fellow engineer, that kills me. Sidenote: I got to meet Mayim Bialik (aka Amy Farrah Fowler) earlier this year. It was a real treat.
Charles I wish you would have included the real person's photo. Thanks for giving me two movies to watch. I wish more movies to be like "October Sky" Speaking of Oct "Red October" is another favorite. This reminds me of my friend and past co-worker Kim. He was into radio controlled model planes. He said one of his models cost more than his car — $15K. He built a square tunnel A/P and put in a piston powered fan. There is a real A/P that is similar. He lamented that it barely flew. I'm an EE and don't know much about aerodynamics, even with 20 yrs. in aerospace, but I noticed there was no intake constriction nor nozzle. We talked about an internal profile to speed up the flow. He went to the NASA site and applied scaling factors to determine an internal profile he could do in 2D. I believe he only did the sides and not the top or bottom. He reported the A/P flew much better.
So speed ahead ten years through 3 years out of work and I'm in B Flight Test and talking about turbofans. Some have a solid axle — shaft that the fan, compressor and burner blades are attached too. Please forgive me I'm sure I'm not using the correct terminology. One manufacture uses 3 separate coaxial shafts: one for the fan, one for the compressor, one for the burner. How does that work? Air as a working fluid. The same way the A/P flies. I had an epiphany. Note you can see the fan blades are serpentine for the different air flows.
I felt the same way about The Aviator, notarboca. I was surprised that they focused so much on his efforts in aircraft engineering. I had assumed Hollywood would gloss over that aspect of his life, but they didn't.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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