How Advertisers Misrepresent Engineering

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Generally, everything we buy has been engineered or designed by someone (yes, even your food). It then falls to a select group of people to try to sell these products to the public.

Today, I was watching Hawaii Five-O on ABC’s Website (an excellent show, BTW) and of course there are advertisements. Normally I’ll just mute the sound and read some news while it plays, but this time I actually listened. It was an ad by Cadillac for their CTS-V sports car. You can watch it for yourself here. It features all the standard fare of a car commercial. Sweeping 360 degree motion shots. Fancy computer rendered eye candy. Professional driver on a closed course. Gross misrepresentations. This particular commercial tries to explain how the whole car has been engineered for extreme performance and high speeds (It actually held, at the time it was introduced, the fastest Nuremberg lap for a production sedan) using the example of the windshield wipers. It depicts a CTS-V, driving along a water drenched road, making quick work of the rain drops smashing into it. Listen to the powerful, assuring voice of the person narrating however, and you realize the point of the commercial is not sane at all. According to him (or really, the person who wrote the ridiculous script) the windshield wipers were designed to resist the force of a raindrop when the car is going 190MPH. One hundred and ninety miles per hour. In a road sedan. In the RAIN. A more appropriate commercial would have been on why the car doesn’t hydroplane at those speeds. Its true, a rain drop is an extremely powerful force when flung at 190MPH. It is this principle that steel cutting water-jets are based on. However, anyone that would suggest a car be driven at 190MPH in conditions where the windshield wipers are needed is out of their minds. A car can hydroplane at speeds as low as 45MPH on 1/10″ of water. You would quite literally be flying at 190MPH. Which might be a good opportunity to point out how much of a force a tree, or guard rail or ditch can exert when it hits your puny piece of steel at 190MPH. This is something engineers HAVE actually thought about. They couldn’t care less if your windshield wiper gets bent while being an idiot. And if they do, then that right there is a good indicator of why Cadillacs are so expensive, why GM needed to be bailed out by the US government, and the definitive case of a terrible use-scenario.


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An engineer dies and reports to the pearly gates. St. Peter checks his dossier and says, “Ah, you’re an engineer — you’re in the wrong place.”

So, the engineer reports to the gates of hell and is let in. Pretty soon, the engineer gets dissatisfied with the level of comfort in hell, and starts designing and building improvements. After awhile, they’ve got air conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and the engineer is a pretty popular guy.

One day, God calls Satan up on the telephone and says with a sneer, “So, how’s it going down there in hell?”

Satan replies, “Hey, things are going great. We’ve got air conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and there’s no telling what this engineer is going to come up with next.”

God replies, “What??? You’ve got an engineer? That’s a mistake — he should never have gotten down there; send him up here.”

Satan says, “No way. I like having an engineer on the staff, and I’m keeping him.”

God says, “Send him back up here or I’ll sue.”

Satan laughs uproariously and answers, “Yeah, right. And just where are YOU going to get a lawyer?”