Monthly Archive for June, 2008

This Can’t Happen

It’s been a rough week at work. (Okay, all recent weeks have been rough; bear with me here.) We have a problem that doesn’t make sense. We look at the circuit board, poke at the pins, measure resistances, and everything appears to be fine. But inserting the board’s moving connector into the motherboard shorts out one line.

(I know, this sounds technical. What part of bear with me don’t you understand?)

Problem is, we can’t see inside the box to see what’s happening. The short is to chassis ground, and it stops happening when we remove the metal stiffener right above the connector. Yes, the stiffener is connected to chassis ground. Clearly the pin is contacting the stiffener. Only, no, it can’t be. The stiffener is much further from the pin than the maximum amount of motion it has.

If the pin is touching the stiffener, it’s being pushed out of place when we insert the connector, and then magically snapping back into place when we demate the connector. Which seems highly unlikely.

So we’re left with no reasonable solution. Okay, here’s where this stops being technical. Did any of us ever once even consider it a remote possibility that we were wrong? That GODDIDIT, or Science Doesn’t Know Everything, or There Is Another World Beyond The Physical, or There Are Other Ways Of Knowing?


Not once did anyone even consider those possibilities. It wasn’t pixies, it wasn’t fairies. It wasn’t demons, or Wätte, or leprechauns, or imps or spirits or pink unicorns or angels who don’t want us taking really pretty pictures of their sky. It’s physics, it’s electronics, and the reason we have no explanation for it is because we’re not smart enough.

So why the hell are so many creationists engineers? Don’t make no sense. No engineer ever sees a vexatious engineering problem as a sign of a Higher Power; it’s a sign that we need to work harder to understand. So Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is up with engineers who don’t understand evolution just throwing up their hands and saying Ha! God musta did it! My evolved eyeball he did. If you trust science to work for our telephones and cars and computers and consarn space telescopes, why the hell don’t you trust it for biology?

Oh and by the way, the problem was indeed that the pin was being pushed out and “magically” pulled back into place. Not sure exactly how, but the last time we disassembled, said pin had not been pulled back into place. And the plastic connector body is damaged at the shoulder that’s supposed to keep the pin in place. So yeah, seemed unlikely, but with the right kind of sitch, unlikely becomes possible. Nothing supernatural required. Again.

Science. It works, bitches.

Warp Factor 29!

Do I have a great job or what?

Okay, you all (both of you reading this) know by now that George Takei is finally getting married to his longtime partner Brad Altman.  I can’t believe he waited this long!  Oh wait, it was the government that kept him waiting.  Kinda like it kept him waiting in the concentration (sorry, “internment”) camps back when he was an extremely dangerous foreign (by which I mean “natural-born American”) enemy (by which I mean “child”) back during WWII.

But I digress.  So yeah, I heard on NPR that he was getting married, and it made me very happy.  I’m not a huge Trek fan, but I have probably watched nearly all of The Original Series, and the movies through #4, when they jumped the shark.  (Technically a whale, but close enough.)  And somehow it just seemed like a great improvement in the world that Takei-san could marry his love.

But wait, the story isn’t over.  He is coming to my workplace next Tuesday to give a talk, and being a space-oriented sort of workplace of course he wants a tour.  And guess who gets to give him the tour of building 29?

Do I have a great job or what?