Friday, November 7, 2008

Simple Solutions

I work with a bunch of aerospace engineers in the Seattle area. You probably can’t guess where I work can you? I’m not an engineer by trade but I put plans together for them. To say the least they are an interesting group of people. Every now and then I actually learn something from them.

The other day I was in a meeting with a group of engineers and the guy sitting next to me was writing with a pen that was taped to another pen. One of the pens had blue ink and the other had red ink. They were taped in opposite directions so he could turn it over if he needed to use a difference color of ink. Honestly, it looked pretty weird but I’ve seen weirder things from this group before.

At the end of the meeting I turned to this engineer and told him that I had a pen at my desk that would change ink color with a simple click of a button and that I didn’t really use it that often so I would be glad to give it to him. I actually thought I’d was doing him a favor. He told me that he really liked his taped pen concept and he had used it for years. Then he proceeded to tell me this great story.

He said that years ago he was on a business trip to Florida to support a space launch. At the end of the project they were awarded pens that were developed by NASA that could write in zero gravity. Supposedly, NASA spent huge amounts of money in developing these pens so they could use them in space. After they had developed this wonder of a pen and started using them in space they made a remarkable discovery. They asked the Russians what they wrote with in space given that NASA had devised this brilliant writing solution. I’m sure they wanted to one up the Russians. It turns out that the Russians just used pencils. Duh!!!

I think our basic human nature is to always look for complex solutions to our problems when sometimes a simple obvious solution is staring us in the face. I'm not much of a bike commuter but could the use of bikes for transportation be one of those simple solutions? Now if they could just develop a bike heater for winter riding that would be great.


Bike Buddy said...

It frightens me knowing what we spend money on sometimes. I keep telling myself that I should use my bike more for getting places, but I haven't made it a form of transportation yet. For me, it's a fun way to spend free time and time with my husband. Like you have said before, there's no better place to be together and talk.

Mat. said...

arg! so sick of that space-pencil story. no basis in reality. look it up.

c'mon. the internet can be used for spreading the truth, too!

Mike J said...

OK, I guess the story that the engineer sitting next to me was a legend. I still think it's a valid concept though.