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The Future of Engineering 2010

The Future of Engineering 2010

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Published by Miriam Pia
Academic engineers search for the cause of a power outage in the university labs.
Academic engineers search for the cause of a power outage in the university labs.

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Published by: Miriam Pia on Jul 09, 2010
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08/09/2013

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The Future of Engineering
 By Miriam Pia1995 / 2010
Disruption struck the engineering laboratory of an English university. Computer screens crackled and went dark. Testers and timers scratched; fuses burst in those bundles of electronic parts. Graduate students gasped and cursed. Students looked awayfrom their projects to their comrades. “Did you just lose power?” they asked each other.Office doors swung wide. The advanced students and those with the prestige of office space squinted up to the glowing neon lights and cursed in a variety of languages. None of them were British.“It’s the storm,” suggested an undergraduate working on her final project.A German man glowered. “Storm? There is no storm.”“Have you been outside recently?” the young woman replied. “Have you even been near a window leading to the outside world?”The young German man with the office without windows frowned. “No, Ihaven’t.”“Me neither,” the young woman shrugged. “Just seems probable that a stormwould have caused it.”The German shook his head briefly, confused. Before he mustered a responseseveral professors burst into the laboratory with flapping ties. “Who did it?!” one of them shouted.
 
“Obviously wasn’t you,” the middle aged mustached man said to the German.His thinking was simple: Germans never do anything wrong. They work hard; they’re perfectly well behaved and he had recruited them all himself - innocence guaranteed.The group of them gazed around the room. An old, recently divorced for his thirdtime, overweight professor suddenly declared, “It’s that Czech woman! Where is she?”He felt a huge sense of validation at finding out that there was a woman at the source of the problem.“She’s not in,” said her Australian aboriginal office mate. “I haven’t seen her since half eleven.”One of the electrical engineers that vaguely recalled how he’d unsuccessfullytried to chat her up the previous weekend spoke up. “She’s been seen with strange peoplelately,” he began, his mind thick with the latest conspiracy theories. “I’ve seen her withtwo physicists, a robotics man and one of those philosophy people.”“Well,” said one of the other supervisors as he patted his tie back into place, “whoelse is missing?”“The Austrian!” declared the German.“Not in my laboratories, not at this university,” the most tenured professor shrieked nervously. Since the turn of the 23
rd
century there had been what he felt to be aninsane devotion to wildly unlikely experimentation in the department. The EU, pushedalong by what the North Americans kept calling ‘the New Enlightenment’, hadsuccumbed to a massive influx of investment from private sources. No one understood it,as far as he was concerned.The Age of Fossil Fuels was over. Lunar and Martian colonization were
 
 booming. The global and extra-global economies were very changed. The young wereeuphoric with optimism. Options for travel and adventure grew like wildfire - on and off world. Interplanetary transport and growth were political mandates. The Futurists hadgone green and the Greens had gone Futurist. This political and cultural combinationmade it an era of playful creation and exuberance.Two of the doctoral students ran off to check the main circuitry. Three of theother students furrowed their brows and decided to pore over the computers, thoroughlycovering every nook and cranny in search of the problem’s cause.The professors continued to snarl, wince and bicker. They were rather overworked and tended to be combative, always on the look out for how someone else’sstudents were mucking up the entire department. Unbeknownst to most of the students,they were having union problems and were under severe pressures from theadministration to radically alter the syllabi for courses in all manner of engineeringsciences. The university was also facing waves of interdisciplinary interests from potential students, which was complicating the amazing supply of financial backing from private industry. This made their lives very difficult and the strain showed.“It’s that blasted ‘Philosophy of Discovery’ module!” one of the professorscomplained. It was part of a course that criticized, reviewed and proposed alternativemethodologies in research. “Do you know, I’ve actually received an application from aterrifyingly well funded M.Sc. In Philosophy - of all the bloody subjects, to do some psychopathic experiment in telepathic navigational systems for the lunar shuttle?!”“Good God,” retorted another fellow, “who could possibly supervise such athing?”

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