Author Archives: mathscinotes

Television Analogies to Working for a Startup

I was talking to an old friend the other night about the positives and negatives associated with working for a startup company. Overall, we both enjoyed working with startups enormously, and I would seriously consider joining another. However, both of us understand the special challenges that startups face. Continue reading

Posted in Management | Leave a comment

Graphic Depicting the Need for Succession Planning

I recently had an employee retire in my group that caused me to look at the age distribution within our entire HW organization. After seeing the age of our engineering staff, I made a proposal to our management team for ensuring that the skills of our senior staff members were being transferred over time to our junior staff members. This post shows how I presented the age information to internal management. The presentation was successful, and I thought it would be useful to show here. Continue reading

Posted in Management | 2 Comments

Optical Fiber Attenuation Specifications

I needed to estimate the loss on a fiber network today – something that I have done hundreds of times before. However, today was a bit different because I decided to look at how sensitive my results were to my assumptions on when the fiber was deployed. I was a bit surprised to see how much fiber has improved with respect to losses due to contamination by OH molecules, a problem often referred to as the water peak. Continue reading

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Greek Mythology is Relevant to Engineering Management

The older I get, the more I see the relevance of the classics to modern life. As a boy, I read a children's version of Aesop's fables, which I loved and are still relevant to daily life. Later in school, I read about Greek mythology from a book called Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton. I still have a personal copy of this book that I refer to occasionally. It may seem odd, but the more time I spend in engineering management, the more relevant these myths seem to become. The last two weeks I have mentioned two Greek myths several times – the tales of Cassandra and Sisyphus. They seem particularly appropriate to modern management. Continue reading

Posted in Management | 2 Comments

An Example of Cleaning Untidy Data with Tidyr

I recently decided to take some classes in data analysis at Datacamp, an online training site. My first classes were in dplyr and tidyr – two excellent R-based tools for manipulating files that not amenable to analysis because of inconsistencies and structure: tidyr provides many tools for cleaning up messy data, dplyr provides many tools for restructuring data. After completing the two classes, I decided that I needed to firm up my knowledge of these tools by applying them to a concrete example. Continue reading

Posted in Excel, History Through Spreadsheets | 2 Comments

Quick Look at Large US Dams

I was on the phone this morning with a coworker who lives in California, about 150 miles south of the Oroville dam (Figure 1). This dam has recently been in the news because of concerns that spillway erosion could cause a dam failure. At one point, nearly 200K people were evacuated from the potential flood zone. Continue reading

Posted in Excel, History of Science and Technology | 3 Comments

Daily Tree Consumption for Toilet Paper

I was reading an article on National Geographic when I spotted an interesting factoid about the impact of Toilet Paper (TP) world-wide tree consumption.

Toilet paper wipes out 27,000 trees a day.

Like many factoids, I doubt there is a way to actually measure this number – it can only be estimated. Thus, it is a prime candidate for a Fermi solution. Continue reading

Posted in General Mathematics, General Science | 4 Comments

Fact Checking: US Murder Rate Over Time

I recently saw a politician claim that the US murder rate is the "highest it's been in 47 years." This is an easy fact to check and provided me another Power Query example to provide for my staff. Continue reading

Posted in Excel, Fact Checking | 2 Comments

Fact Checking: Comparison of Military Budgets

I heard a news commentator say that the US defense budget is larger than the combined defense budgets for the next ten largest spenders. I thought that this would be easy to check and would provide my staff a beginner's example to use for their Excel self-training. Continue reading

Posted in Civics Through Spreadsheets, Fact Checking | 2 Comments

History Through Spreadsheets: Executive Orders

During my recent seminar on Excel's Power Query feature, I showed my team how to grab data executive order data from the web and generate a simple plot (Figure 1). After generating the plot, I asked the audience what we could learn from this graph. I was expecting to hear that the early 1900s – the time between Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt – was a time of massive use of executive orders. Continue reading

Posted in Civics Through Spreadsheets, Excel, History Through Spreadsheets | 3 Comments