The brightside of pessimism

“Kennedy asked his fellow Americans to join him in a quest to end poverty, disease, tyranny, and war.” (“A Generation of Pessimists”).

Asking someone to join in a quest does not mean the goal is attainable. Nor does it mean that because the goal is unattainable, one should not try to achieve it. It is not pessimistic to believe that these goals are unattainable, merely realistic. Given that human nature is involved, it is likely impossible to end all these things.

Mike Stoneberg

Maybe the reason the younger generation of students is pessimistic about the future is that they have a real understanding of the reasons behind global warming and are all too often faced with people who call them “environmental extremists.”

Engineers should be working towards solving the real problem of global warming. They should be pushing for energy conservation and designing vehicles that reduce CO2 emissions.

Too often the youth of our nation are faced with people such as yourself who are standing in their way.

That’s a real cause of pessimism.

Ed Malec

Perhaps today ’s students are more observant than Horgan gives them credit for. Perhaps they are aware of the “success” of the various War on Poverty programs over the past half century, which demonstrate the inability of the government to solve or cure poverty.

William Kelly

The job prospects for many college students are terrible, while their debt levels are astronomical. These students could probably live with any of the world’s other problems if they knew there was a decent job waiting for them. For example, my parents saw the horrors of World War II, but there was tremendous economic opportunity in the 50s and 60s and they quickly became optimistic, at least about their own futures.

I feel that prosperity has been redistributed too much toward the top 1%. That redistribution was masked for a while by climbing debt, but now that bubble has burst. That’s the problem.

Steve Oberheim

Lack of experience in engineering college

With over 27 years of designengineering experience, I’m still amazed at the lack of practical design knowledge being taught — even in the mechanical-engineering departments of major universities (“Working with Dimensional Tolerances”). It appears that most professors understand the math and science involved in engineering, as that is what they can test, but they are clueless when it comes to practical design methods.

During the last several years, I’ve observed how several younger mechanical engineers have approached the machinists in our model shop. Some told the machinists: “Just do it the way I’ve designed it.” The result: parts that don’t fit, lots of rework, too much scrap, and a myriad of other issues that could have been avoided had the engineer only spent a little time learning how to interact with the shop personnel. These guys can — and will — be the friend of any engineer who treats them with respect. Insulting the shop personnel just cuts off the communication you need to understand how to redimension the part, or tweak the design for manufacturability — crucial items, if you want to move your career forward.

Tim K. Ries

This article makes it sound as if dimensional tolerances are optional. Not so. Every dimension on a drawing must have an associated tolerance, whether specific to that dimension, or covered by general tolerances in the title block. Lack of a tolerance precludes your ability to reject parts made to dimensions you can’t use.

This is usually covered in Engineering Drawing 101. The fact that many engineers do not understand this is indicative of many of the problems we face today in manufacturing.

Vern Lowry

I have been doing tolerance stack up and dimensioning for 30 years. The problem in the industry is that everyone believes you can hire someone to snap a CAD dimension and throw it over the wall to manufacturing.

Steve Washeim

What goes around

Your recent cover and associated article struck a responsive chord with me (“Better Alternatives for Wind Power”). I worked for one of the National Labs during President Carter’s uncoordinated lunge in the general direction of what we now know as green energy. Someone at another lab conceived the idea of harvesting the jet stream by flying kites that were conceptually, if not geometrically, similar to the one on your cover. That was in 1980. You might be amused to know that I drew a cartoon expressing my general skepticism about the concept. I titled it the Horizontally Oriented Wind Generator, Jet stream Oriented, With Lifting Surfaces. It was to be known by its acronym: HOWG JOWLS.

Bob Woods

Software upgrades that make things worse

Poor design is also rampant in software (“Form Should Follow Function, and More”). The software companies think they know what you want, but then with each update (hardly an upgrade), they bury the tools you use 99% of the time under layers of “sales features.”

This is how Google ruined their e-mail. I have to make extra clicks to sign out or find contacts. And why are there now six types of contacts to search? I just want one contact list.

Microsoft also ruined Excel this way. Users now have to find the basic tools by digging through layers of new, mostly unused crap.

Even Britannica succumbed. They pushed out fundamental reference data, their supposed bread and butter, to make room for the “news.” The CRC handbook took this same misguided route.

They are all becoming tweets rather than tools.

All these companies left out the first step in systems engineering when “improving” their software: Assemble the stakeholders, especially the users, and find out how they really use the tools.

William Elrod

© 2012 Penton Media, Inc.