Sunday, 3 April 2011

Rocket Science


How often I hear this term used to describe a process, method, task, or whatever.

I must be very stupid, because I come away feeling confused. What is the person using this term trying to convey to his audience. Someone, (evidently I lot brighter than I) am informed me the term is used to describe something that is quite simple and easy to do.

Now I’m even more confused. Surely that is conflicting statement. After all rocket science is just that, simple and easy. Humans somehow managed to build rockets quite some time before they built internal combustion engines. And we are led to believe, at least from discovered artefacts, these people were not very technologically advanced. So surely the terminology intending to describe a simple procedure should be “It’s Just Rocket Science.”

After all, rocketry is based on a small set of rather basic principles, action/reaction. Energy exerting a force (action) in one direction, results in an equal and opposite force (reaction) in the opposite direction. If my somewhat flaky memory serves, that sounds pretty much like primary school science to me. Fine, there are engineering aspects involved, especially if one wishes to launch an overweight lump of steel and more exotic metals into lunar orbit. Fuels can be somewhat unstable (that means they have a tendency to go bang at inconvenient times, but then so does nitro-glycerine).

Still, this doesn’t change the fact rocket science is pretty simple. As an 8 year old kid, my friends and self built rockets. Very simple devices, home made or otherwise ‘acquired’ black powder (laws were a little more relaxed in those days), strong lightweight tubing (used firework tubes were great – recycling even back then!), epoxy putty nozzles, a balsa wood stick to provide guidance. Using only basic diagrams available in any encyclopaedia.
Simple stuff. Quite a few even worked!

Now if there is anything much simpler than this rocket in the drawing below, I must be VERY stupid. 

Or how complicated is this?

Fine, these are somewhat (sic) basic. Anything else, including the Saturn V is just applied engineering, nothing more, and nothing less.

Rocket Science and Computing:

I used to assemble PC’s, sell the stupid things, provide support, resolve customers ‘problems’.

How often did I hear the question after sorting out some ‘issue’ the customer was having; where did you learn about ‘x’ program, system, whatever? The simple fact is, more often than not I had never come across that particular problem before, or had never seen the application before, or never seen the particular piece of equipment, until I turned on his ‘box’. So the answer would have to be; right here, right now! 98 times out of a hundred the problem was the owners fault anyway.

One of the reasons I quit that industry sector was the sheer irritation of such remarks, and the disbelieving incredulity visible on the inquirers face to a truthful answer. Or maybe I’M JUST SO DAMN STUPID I cannot see how difficult the subject matter is!

Program versions; on an almost daily basis I see things like, “Adobe CS3 required”. (In my current occupation I use Adobe CS on a daily basis). I’ve used all versions of Adobe software, from 7 to CS5. What for heavens sake is the specific need to require 2 or 3 or 4 or whatever, got to do with anything.

That’s like saying; no, you can’t drive a Honda Civic, you’ve only driven a Ballade before

Take Photoshop: Version 5.5 did everything needed in image work. The next version did the same, maybe a few bugs were fixed, and a few additional features or tools, maybe some more image formats included, and maybe it was made more user friendly. And so on all the way up to the latest version. There’s no REAL difference. In a normal working environment, all those additional new ‘tools’ and features are hardly ever going to be used anyway. And if they are, it takes only a minute or 2 to discover how to use them!

The only reasons to have the latest version are to remain cutting edge with the state of the art, and to work on files created using the latest proprietary formats. Fine, but where’s the NEED to ‘have to know the version?’ A banana is a banana is a banana! Idiots!

The same goes for the rest of these (and other) apps, InDesign, Illustrator, Acrobat, and for that matter all the other industry specific apps from the various packages, versions of ‘Office’, Mac OS 10.x or 10.y, Windows X or 7, whatever.

Mac and Windows: another apparent stumbling block for humanity. They’re just operating systems for god’s sake. Fine, Mac OS10.whatever may be technically far superior to any version of Windows, but they are both Graphic User Interface – click the bloody icon and GO…

Another example – having an automobile gearbox reduced to individual parts spread out across the floor; the question gets asked, how are you ever going to put it back together?

IT CAN ONLY GO TOGETHER ONE WAY for pity’s sake! Logical!

Nope, such things are so basic, I’m left dumbfounded!

What I don’t get is the apparent inability of human beings to use those neurons encased in a dome of bone to THINK. I’ve read Freud, Jung, and other students of the human mind, yet that common behavioural quirk leaves me baffled.

But then, maybe I am just too dim to see the extreme complexity of simplicity itself, which others seem to find so readily.

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