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)
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.
Chuck, you got the wrong guy from Apollo 13. The real hero was TK Mattingly, who devised the scheme to get the astronauts back to earth. I had the honor of meeting him a few years back (and no, he never did get the measles).
Many great movies here. My favorite in the bunch was "Flash of Genius." The story really pulled me in, especially as Greg Kinnear's character slowly had a mental breakdown during his fight with Detroit automakers.
The question of whether engineers could have foreseen the shortcut maintenance procedures that led to the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979 will probably linger for as long as there is an engineering profession.
More than 35 years later, the post-mortem on one of the country’s worst engineering disasters appears to be simple. A contractor asked for a change in an original design. The change was approved by engineers, later resulting in a mammoth structural collapse that killed 114 people and injured 216 more.
If you’re an embedded systems engineer whose analog capabilities are getting a little bit rusty, then you’ll want to take note of an upcoming Design News Continuing Education Center class, “Analog Design for the Digital World,” running Monday, Nov. 17 through Friday, Nov. 21.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.