I’ve seen a surprising number of “Hey, I Did A Regression” plots over the years. Lines, shallow slope, with R-squared values of 10-20%.
Sometimes we just want to believe.
XKCD is a “webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.” In other words, its a comic that appeals to engineers, a profession that exemplifies romance, sarcasm, math, and language, though not necessarily in that order.
Sometime before the turn of the century, for better or for worse, the spreadsheet replaced the scientific calculator as the engineer’s tool of choice. Hence, spreadsheet humor amuses engineers. So too does PowerPoint humor, though that is just as likely to make us cry.
Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, publishes a monthly feature called “The Vault,” where decades old articles are reprinted to offer perspectives from the past.
In the most recent issue (October 2017, Vol. 139, No. 10), the editors included a forty-year-old article titled, “New Career Paths in Engineering, Applications of Solar Energy,” by Lloyd O. Herwig, which provided an overview of the projected economic viability of various solar power technologies circa 1977. The article was a reminder of how often the economic viability of up and coming technologies is only 10 to 20 years away, to which one might add, “And they always will be.”
As an engineer, there are few stories that amused me more than a recent report that our end would come not at the hands of Skynet, a group of “defense network computers, new, powerful, hooked into everything, trusted to run it all,” but at the hands of Facebook, the social networking site launched from a Harvard dorm room. The first reports were ominous and entertaining: