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Engineers: the Aliens who Make Our Lives Better (Guest Post)

June 2, 2011

Today we have a guest post by Tim Fausch (adapted from and reprinted with permission by BNP Media), publishing director of BNP Media’s Architecture, Engineering & Construction, Security and Mechanical Systems Groups, a collection of more than 20 trade magazines, Web sites and e-newsletters.

alien x-ray

I’ve been thinking a lot about engineers lately and concluded they must be alien beings. For reasons I do not understand, God sent these advanced life forms to earth to keep people like me from mass chaos. There must be an engineering angel whose job is to keep us from self-destruction.

A recent development led me to this epiphany:

This summer, I started demolishing a retaining wall and deck my father built back in the 1960s. The cinderblock wall and cement deck functioned beautifully around our above ground swimming pool for most of my youth.

Then, in the 1970s, my dad transformed our pool into a garden, and it has been producing tomatoes and onions ever since. Unfortunately, my father passed away and the secrets of his cement structure were lost forever.

The structure was showing some wear and tear, so the “smart” thing to do was to knock it down and return it to its long-ago status as a grass-covered hill.

“This will be a piece of cake,” I told my family members. “Just a few hardy swings with a sledge hammer and we’d reduce the structure to rubble.”

Somehow, I severely underestimated its structural integrity. The cinderblock wall wasn’t so bad, but the cement deck apparently was built to the same specs as the Hoover Dam.

The pad was several inches thick and hid an encased a wire mesh. Nearly a half century later, it was still solid as a rock.

It took five adult men countless hours to slay the beast. We only missed our target demolition date by three weeks.

Did I mention that my father was an engineer? This is the same guy who reveled in assembling televisions from 500-part kits (Heath kits), so it was really brainless of me to think this structure would come down in less time than the fall of the Berlin Wall.

If I had been in charge of this project it would collapsed decades ago. It would have caved in the pool, creating a tidal wave that would have flooded our basement. The insurance adjuster would have concluded a tornado blew through our yard. I would have nodded in agreement.

I don’t know about you, but every time I drive over a bridge, ride an elevator, or fly in a plane, I am thrilled to know that somehow an engineer made these things work.  Engineers – the aliens who make our lives better.

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Photo by suttonhoo via Creative Commons License.

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