The art of quipping

At least one piece of Danish literature suggests that you should find out what you are good at and then stick to that. Having compared myself to others for decades, I believe that I possess certain skills for quipping. As with any other skill, it makes sense to learn the craft from the best in town. For that reason, I have decorated this page with pictures of my main sources of inspiration.

You may notice that I have left out Albert Einstein. Besides from such references being a much worn-out trope, I believe that he has through the years become victim of large-scale misattribution and misquoting. I do not want to contribute to that.

This page, however, is dedicated to my own contributions. On LinkedIn, I have given it a shot so many times that I can no longer find my old contributions. For that reason, you will below only find some very recent ones. Too bad, for one of my most memorable quips (memorable to me, that is) belongs to a favorite category of mine: "If false authorities ask for trouble, it would be impolite not to provide it." Anyway, Boeing once in a LinkedIn post proudly announced that one of their latest prototypes had succesfully flown its maiden voyage. I then commented that we should of course all rejoice with Boeing each time one of their planes got down in one piece. For reasons unknown to me, this particular advertisement disappeared soon afterwards...

One of my specialties, however, is quipping based on science and engineering. I tend to recycle these elements incessantly:

  1. Statically determinate designs versus overconstrained ones
  2. A conscious attitude to phenomena like observation, data processing and causality (recently inspired by this book)
  3. A belief in Occam's razor: Any explanation should me made as simple as possible but no simpler
  4. A belief in the separation of concerns as a general design principle
  5. A keen eye on the possibility of multi-purpose design elements (contradicting item 4 above), which you may encounter on one of your lucky days
  6. Other ways of combining sources and ideas that would otherwise be very far from each other

Science and engineering

If you descend from a mountain in your car and attempt to control the speed with the brakes only, they will fail. If you drive your car for hours in first gear only (assuming manual transmission), the gearbox will fail. Every mechanical device has its limits. What IMHO makes the wind turbine on the video fail is that the control system did not turn the rotor axis perpendicular to the wind – for some unknown reason.

Christoph Müller: Yes and no. You can get a long way by estimating forces and divide them by a cross section area.

Kudos for an insightful presentation! Let me repeat that CAE analyses tend to be fish-shaped with respect to information content:
1) No human can phrase a question with an information content surpassing a few megabytes.
2) The results of just one CAE job may surpass the terabyte range.
3) No human can interpret an answer whose information content surpasses a few kilobytes.
So, the task of boiling down CAE results to a useful level is utterly important. Each attempt is highly welcomed.

Gustavo Spaziano: I hope that your description is not to be interpreted as a double entendre. I know of a story where a customer representative did routine checks of brake pad deliveries as part of his job. In order for things to run smoothly, he and the supplier had a tacit agreement concerning in which box he would find the good ones…
As for Tiina’s question: After decades of working with myself, I have reached an important objective: There is only one me.

Graeme Keith: I am convinced that even math gifts come in flavors. Speaking of dichotomies, the teachers at my university tended to split between “analysis” and “geometry” – but there are more dichotomies than these. And then there is the concept of “hunches” which I think is one of my skills: “There must be some interesting stuff in that area so I guess it will be worth while to study it.”

Kompleksitet? Enhver god simuleringsberegning er fiskeformet: Først fodres analysen med menneskeskabte data, som i sagens natur ikke kan fylde mange megabytes - der findes simpelt hen ikke større problemer end det, som har meningsfulde løsninger.
Derefter skal der knuses tal til den store guldmedalje. Her når datamængderne op i terabyte-området.
Til sidst skal hele molevitten menneskeliggøres igen. Ofte ned til direktørniveau: 1 bit (dimsen er enten god nok eller ikke god nok).

Groucho Marx (1890-1977)

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

Winston S. Churchill (1874-1965)

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