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analyzing our world with a scientific and philosophical lense


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Slide Rule: An Autobiography of an Engineer by Nevil Shute

“If I have stood tall it is by standing on the shoulder of giants.” (Sir Isaac Newton)

Slide Rule by Nevil Shute was recommended to me by a friend from the archery range after sharing my desire to becoming an aerospace engineer. It is very important to understand history because from history we can learn, grow wiser, and continue where the path left off on our way to reaching great heights.

These are the notes collected while reading Slide Rule. Some pertain to the industry of aeronautics, others are notes for engineers by an engineer:

When in doubt of an applicant, see if he has initiative to get the job. Therefore, while applying for a job, be persistent and show initiative in willingness to work hard.

Happily married men are the best test pilots. They will look forward to a safe flight in order to see their family later on.

Do not make too many experiments at the same time. Placing your full attention and focus on a single experiment shortens the chance of overlooking errors.

Simplicity is more efficient and stands the test of time.

Aircrafts do not crash by themselves. If everything is done correctly and carefully under accurate calculations, there is no reason for an aircraft to fail.

First rule of safety: Second check the design by an independent party.

Have specific goals for projects. This will help you design the project around what is important.

Never rush. This will always lead to mistakes.

Always do power trials. Your creations must be tested in order to discover their weaknesses.

Competition is bitter. Your competitors will often be sour towards you.

Politicians and civil servants think of image, not performance.

Do not try to do too much at once, you will risk quality. This is why having a great team is important.

Do not put your jo­b before your duty. Your duty is to make sure the project is safe and works properly.

In the early days of a company a banker is the worst chairman. Chairman needs to take risks when a company starts out.

Aircraft payload greater while flight is in cruise then when taking off. This is where refueling in flight helps.

Doing what everyone else is doing will not make you stand out and will not place the company in a strong position in the industry.

Designers analyze machines flying and build one better.

There will be a time to expand the company.

“False statements in the prospects of a limited company are a criminal offence.”

“If my optimism went too far it might well land me in the dock; if it did not go far enough it would land the men out on the streets.”

Managing director handles pricing.

Be prepared sometimes to risk reputation for reaching goals.

Advisors make sure workers do honest business.

Navigation is very important! This is how aircrafts get around.

Two kinds of engineers, starters and runners. Starters are those with creative instinct who can start new ventures. Runners are those who can run it to show profit.

Industry is always changing.

“Industry, which is the life of ordinary people who employ their civil servants and pay their politicians is a game played to a hard code of rules.”

“My gladness is tempered with regret for once a man has spent his time in messing about with airplanes he can never forget their heart aches and their joys, nor is he likely to find another occupation that will satisfy him so well, even writing novels.”

Slide Rule is an amazing book for all engineering majors and for those who wish to understand the engineering industry. I am very glad to have read this book for it will only help me become a  great engineer.

Narek