I was looking up some old school papers last week and saw the Latin motto which translates to "Born for Greater Things". I have the engineer's optimism - that optimism pervades my upcoming book which is about how technology is helping us solve our many "Grand Challenges". So, the many attempts of the BP team and the recent European aviation shutdown have been frustrating to watch. The NY Times article this morning questioning our "fix-it" faith was tough to read.
But at the core, I am more aligned with attitudes like this: last year, after scientists discovered a mysterious ribbon of hydrogen around our solar system, Richard Fisher of NASA said "The physicists are going to have to go back and figure out what physical processes are being left out of these calculations, and my guess is that within a couple of years, we'll have a pretty good explanation."
Every failure is a learning experience. While I watch many just malign BP (and many of my neighbors are genuinely concerned as we live on the Gulf on the west coast of FL), I feel thankful for those involved in the operation. This is frontier stuff - indeed the Washington Post described the live video feeds from robots on the sea floor as "strikingly similar to watching an Apollo moon landing: grainy images of unfamiliar technology in an alien landscape."
Onwards and upwards - of course, we need to plug that damn hole. But, the research ships which have been monitoring the Gulf for oil plumes from the spill show how little we understand of our waters. The mysteries of physics at the bottom of the ocean should attract another group of brave scientists. Environmentalists say this is a wake up call. As an engineer, from a very different perspective, I say yes it is - for a new world of discovery.