Tag Archives: engineering

Humbled by a Compass



Electromagnetics…I left this class for my second to last semester because it had no post rec in order to graduate. Little did I know that I would be taking the class has turned more engineers to liberal arts majors then the promise of more then a 31:1 girls to guys ratio in every non-engineering class. I had a problem set due yesterday which I have been delaying for the past two weeks. Like a professional engineer I delayed the assignment to the day it is due. We are currently doing transmission lines. It is simply designing electrical power transmission lines that carry electricity from a power generator (the people you pay every time you turn the lights on) to your home. Now in order to do this some of the values that are used are not represented in a regular number system, thus there is an imaginary component to represent another dimension which is added to the regular numbers. Annnnyway to the point of this post. In order to solve some of these problems we can do most of the work by hand, but in order to simplify the calculations we need to use a compass…a compass, of all things to use in 2012 the last thing I thought I would need to do some homework was a compass. I didn’t have one so even buying one from the store on campus was an awkward experience. I asked for a compass and the lady responded from behind the counter and said “you mean the type you use when you are lost?” I laughed as I felt like I was a bit lost, but I replied “No the geometric one.” Fast forward to the library where I actually started to do the work and throughout the three hours I was using the compass with the “Smith Chart” (that is needed to draw the circles on top of the other circles (see the picture above)) I couldn’t stop thinking that this has got to be the weirdest thing for a passerby-er to watch. All I was doing was furiously drawing circles and writing numbers. I realized that the 3D graphing calculator,my laptop, and my cell phone must have been jealous that I was solving these problems without the help of them. Even more ironic was the fact that I was solving electrical problems without electricity. For the first time in a long while I felt like an engineer, like what I was doing should have been done in a medieval castle with a quill and that I was laying the groundwork  for future engineers…maybe I’m exaggerating, but still. The technology around us really makes us forget what it was like before the internet, and calculators. Not too long ago the calculations that we regard as tedious were being done by hand and with a lot less precision. To sum this up a bit I realized how grateful I am for the movement of technology and how it can simplify our lives. Im sending this post out through the air, then through a cable, that is reaching you all through a network of different communication infrastructures. Let me rewind a few hundred years and a I would be sending you all personalized pigeon mail. Enjoy your personalized birdmail messages, please leave a cracker in his beak, he gets hungry on his way home. :)

As I let my imaginary bird go, I keep a feather for wisdom as you know…

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