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TV Shows and Dinner Guests

TV Shows and Dinner Guests

We recently finished a survey called The 21st Century Engineer in which we asked Design News' readers what's changed in their professional lives. Besides important questions about technologies they use and changing job functions, we had some fun with two open-ended questions: which famous people would you invite to dinner and what are your favorite TV shows?

The dinner question yielded the most surprising results among the 1,749 respondents. Bear in mind, the survey organizes them at tables by votes and categories. Here are the highlights and, of course, scientists would be first, right?

Wrong! As for group total, "politicians" garnered the most votes with Barack Obama topping the list, followed closely by George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. Collectively, the politicians ranked first, scientists second and business leaders third.

Indeed, Albert Einstein got the most votes of any individual followed closely by Bill Gates. So they would occupy the head table. Table 2 would seat Obama, Edison and Warren Buffett. At table 3 are Steve Jobs, George W. Bush and Leonardo daVinci.

Voting-wise, inventors fell into the middle of the pack, but sitting at this table would be Henry Ford, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison and Design News' 1994 Engineer of the Year Dean Kamen. Ranking the lowest were explorers (just another name for engineers, right?), artists and philanthropists, with chefs dead last.

We know engineers love scientists. No surprise there, but the interest in politicians and business leaders suggests they know who holds sway over their lives. And 2008 is an election year with unprecedented candidate exposure. Still, I've heard many an engineer express disdain for such types, but apparently they are drawn to someone like Bill Gates who has run a company that treats employees well and who has a special respect for engineers. Given the tumultuous economy, it's likely all of us would have hard questions for the business moguls and politicians.

Several deceased inventors and scientists were mentioned, while Abe Lincoln was the only long-gone politician to score high (Reagan died June 5, 2004 and as such remains a contemporary). Legends like Rockefeller, FDR, Jefferson, Washington and John Adams barely registered. The memory of inventors and scientists endures while politicians and business leaders are quickly forgotten by comparison. No one said Donald Trump if you were wondering.

Favorite TV shows were less of a surprise. At the top were "How it's Made," "Nova" and "Modern Marvels," which is right in line with an engineer's chromosomal instincts to learn what makes things tick. Second were police dramas and third were sitcoms such as "The Office" and the old standby, "Seinfeld." And one of my favorites, "Dirty Jobs," got a goodly number of votes. PBS, along with the History and Discovery channels, cleaned up.

However, interest in TV shows did not match up with your most desired dinner guests. "The Daily Show" and "The O'Reilly Factor" got mentioned, but were the only whiff of politics in this question and they ranked toward the bottom. No Business shows such as "Mad Money" or "Suze Ormond" made the list.

What does this all mean? Engineers have the same eclectic tastes as everyone else - except, of course, they are engineers.

Seriously, folks, the survey is rich with insight into your professional lives and how they are changing. Tackling more projects with less is a tired nonetheless relevant mantra and shows no sign of letting up. And electrical electronics has become integral to everything. While materials and coatings got the top mention as a leading-edge technology impacting your current projects, after that it was all sensors, LEDs, batteries, embedded, RFIDs and other electronic technologies.

Quote of the moment: During the Cold War, the Soviet Union may have had more scientists, but the U.S. had better engineers, Meyer said. "We outengineered them," he said before the ceremony. "That's what we did."

- Retired Rear Adm. Wayne E. Meyer, father of the Aegis weapon system, speaking at the launch of the destroyer Anna Mae Meyer (named after his wife) Oct. 18. Source: Boston Globe

The research will soon be posted at so shoot me an email at if you need the URL or comment on my Green Engineering blog.

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