A Late Start

During my college days, I studied to become an engineer. The entire curriculum was steeped in math. One subject, in particular, used excessive mathematics, and that was Physics. The subject was so large that it was broken into three parts, each one semester long. My interest was in mechanics, and I was adept at the math involved in solving problems involving mechanical machines. I began to lose it when we reached nuclear physics, especially astronomy. Atomic physics was still on the cusp of discovery and development, so I wrote it off as something I could blow off because I would never use the knowledge to make a living, which was wrong. One project we worked on was developing a cable tie for nuclear power plants, specifically in the reactor exposed to heavy radiation.

Dresden Nuclear Power Plant 1960, Illinois

Somehow, I managed to eke my way through those subjects with a passing grade. In the above-mentioned radiation-resistant product, we designed and produced a successful cable tie and had it certified by the nuclear power industry. We invented and conducted a series of tests on our product to prove its efficacy in the reactor. It took two years and a lot of effort to do this. Then our competitors came along and talked the approvers into approving their products merely by showing they used the same material as we did. Thank you, Uncle Sam, for stealing our work and giving it to all of our competition.

What I find strange is that throughout my career, I used every bit of knowledge taught in my engineering courses. Whenever I counseled high school kids about engineering, I emphasized the importance of studying every course being taught in their syllabus because somewhere along the way, they will be called upon to use all—that useless stuff they were forced to learn. Even today, I am amazed that conversing with friends and peers helps to have a deep knowledge base. Except that I am deficient in atomic physics and astronomy. To offset this deficiency, I am now, at a ripe old age, finding intense interest in all things space. The Hubble and Webb telescopes have allowed astrologists to learn more about the nature of the universe in twenty years than man has known since the beginning of time. Remember when the argument was about the Earth being the center of the universe?

!960’s telescopic photo of Mars

I have read many articles about the universe and learned I am sixty years behind in the terminology. The space age and our drive to put a man on the moon have forced us to invent new terms and ways to express time and distance units. I left school at a time when the term “Light Year” was little used. Since then, physics has expanded the study to include the universe beyond our solar system, and the distances between stars and planets are so huge that even Light Year is too small to express the distances between stars and galaxies. An example is the unit AU, or Astronomical Unit, which defines the distance between the sun and the planets of our solar system. The AU of Earth is one. The AU of planets closer to the sun is smaller, and those beyond Earth are larger. It is easier to say or write the Earth is 1 AU away from the Sun than the Earth is 93,000,000(million) miles from the Sun. Another example of the system’s simplicity is that planet Neptune is 30 AU from the Sun instead of having to write Neptune is 2,795,580,000(billion) miles from the Sun.

Every day, I use a GPS in my car to locate and navigate to places I want to get to. Imagine traveling into space in a rocket ship, and you are flying above the Earth’s GPS. One needs a new and more expansive way to navigate. Modern space travel has already invented the system but relies on heady technology to make things happen. Remember when Columbus and Magellan traveled by boat to explore the vast, unknown expanse of planet Earth? You can’t follow the coastline like they did when you were exploring the universe. I wish I were young enough to start from scratch to learn all the new stuff I would need to explore and find new civilizations around space.

Although I like studying astronomy, I am still trying to understand the new language I must learn. I know I became obsolete as an engineer when I became a manager, and I never became proficient in using a computer to design products. I am from the pencil and paper age. However, I can still free-hand draw a three-D product as well as anyone using a computer. I can’t translate the geometry into machine tool instructions into a Numerical Controlled machine tool to cut a mold cavity like a computer-generated geometric model can. Imagine my degree of obsolescence in astronomy, where it is a struggle to become conversant.

Where will we be one hundred years from now?

Exploring new planets?

Living on a colony on Mars or the moon?

Trying to get the Muslims to accept the Jews?

Learning how to live off the grid after destroying the planet and mankind?

Living in underwater cocoons and eating seaweed because man forced the polar ice caps to melt.

James Webb Space Telescope
James Webb first image

James Webb-2022 Mars

3 Responses

  1. Oh yeah. Well I never used algebra, Not once. The only thing it did for me is give me F’S and D’s and almost prevented me from graduating high school and later in college it ruined my GPA with more F’s and D’s. Barely graduated with a 2.0. It did teach me a bit of addition though. Took me 5 years and a college loan to graduate.

    • And despite it all, you have survived and thrived into a respectable teacher, son, cartoonist, and humorist. Those are what are referred to as the “good ole days”

      • Thank you. Yes 34 years as a teacher. I felt my job was to get them through not guarantee their failure with absurd obstacles.

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