Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Just returned from a conference at which I somehow managed not to hurt anyone with my laser pointer, and I picked up a couple of aphorisms from Tom Jackson, an EE professor at Penn State:

Jackson's 2nd rule of engineering (paraphrased): Don't argue with idiots; bystanders have a hard time telling the difference.

Jackson's 1st rule of engineering: Don't polish turds.

These brought to mind a couple of favorites from grad school:

Rogge's rule: When soldering, there is no such thing as too much flux.
O'Keefe's contradiction: Too much flux makes solder run like piss.
Salvino's rule: Any hose may be connected to any other hose with the appropriate hose clamp.
Gilroy's maxim: Graduate school is the process of continually lowering your expectations.
Natelson's variation: Graduate school is the process of continually increasing your cynicism.

Anyone out there got some other good ones?


BhpG said...

Woo-hoo, I get a "maxim"! :) The advantage of the Gilroy-Natelson formalism (which is really one thing) is this: It accurately predicts that, when graphed, the intersection point of your expectations curve and your cynicism curve will yield your graduation date.

Douglas Natelson said...

Indeed, we can do independent observational checks for self-consistency. Poll postdocs and junior faculty to measure, with high precision, the statistical distribution of their expectations and cynicism, and then compare with analogous data from graduate student cohorts.