Sunday, September 4, 2011

Awesome Engineer. Asshat Engineer #2 George Cayley and Harold Camping

Many engineers struggle with skepticism. More-so it appears, than most other science and technology professions. I have a theory as to why. But not all engineers suffer this deficit. To demonstrate, every now and then I will present you with two engineers. I will contrast one who has used his education and experience to further mankind through the advancement of technology, with one who hasn’t. It will be up to you to judge who the Asshat is. I warn you now that the answer will be blindingly obvious. If you have trouble making your decision I suggest you consult Conservapedia or your bible.

This time I have chosen Sir George Cayley, 6th Baronet (27 December 1773 – 15 December 1857) and Harold Camping (still alive sadly).

Lets start with Sir George Cayley.

George Cayley (wiki page) was an inventor and engineer who made impressive contributions to the world of aviation and transport. Amongst his inventions are:

  • Wire Spoked Bicycle Wheels

  • Seatbelts

  • Caterpillar Tractors

  • A prototype of an internal combustion engine that runs on gun powder.

Yes, Cayley invented the very wheels you see on bicycles everywhere today.

To get an idea of the brilliance of his idea, watch this somewhat sensationalist yet thoroughly entertaining explanation.

And you only need to look at this video to appreciate how hard it is to build a combustion engine from scratch.

Cayley didn’t just invent physical things, he has been credited with inventing Aeronautical Engineering and developing many of the core theories underpinning the whole field. His work was used and acknowledged by the Wright brothers and Cayley clearly revolutionized the world of aeronautics. His impressive body of work has ensured that he would be memorialized ever since.

Cayley is commemorated in Scarborough at the University of Hull, Scarborough Campus, where a hall of residence and a teaching building are named after him. He is one of many scientists and engineers commemorated by having a hall of residence and a bar at Loughborough University named after him. There are display boards and a video film at the Royal Air Force Museum London in Hendon, honouring Cayley’s achievements.

A fitting tribute.

So what about former civil engineer Harold Camping?

What Harold Camping contributed to the world was the end of the world. Or the prediction of the christian rapture more precisely. In fact he has given us several ends of the world. Predicting the rapture to begin in May 21 1988, September 6 1994, May 21 2011 and finally October 21, 2011. Fourth time lucky I guess.

So what does this fundamentalist religious crap have to do with Camping’s engineering degree?

n 1942, Camping received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.[3] He has used his knowledge of engineering mathematics to develop a mathematical system that he claims can interpret biblical prophecies.

I’m glad that a government somewhere trained this man in the mathematics he needed to completely mislead thousands of gullible people. There are reports that individuals gave away all of their possessions on the instruction of Camping who assured them that they would not require earthly possessions in heaven. People who then found themselves penniless and homeless on May 22 2011. Camping was not punished for his words in any way.

So how does this crackpot get his message out to so many people? He created one of the USA’s most prominent fundamentalist christian radio networks, Family Radio. I know, amazing. Creating radio networks is clearly not a task that requires sanity.

So there you have it. An engineer who used his education to invent a bunch of stuff we still use today while founding an entirely new engineering discipline. Plus an engineer who used his education to predict the end of the world incorrectly several times and founded a fundamentalist christian radio station to distribute misinformation to thousands.

Guess who the Asshat is!

Monika

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Feasibility is an engineering based blog designed to reach other STEM people. Non-STEM people are also welcome! I try to give good advice and well-reasoned opinions but please don’t hesitate to disagree with me. This blog exists because I realised that I live in a metaphorical bubble and that simply wont do. Nup.

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