discover v.s. engineering

gotaway.pngAs if he were reminding himself of a fish that got away the speaker spread his hands wide apart to suggest how much discovery remained before it would be practical.  He held them closer for a second technology.  Turning them from the horizontal to the vertical he spoke of the engineering work.  He was answering question about what was needed before commercialization, spanning a big imaginary box of risk.

He was wrapping up his talk.  I had come to hear the next talk about deep water windmills for electric power generation.  The day’s topic was energy, the track was renewable energy, and the talk about windmills at sea was pure engineering.  Hardly a wiff of discovery is required.  I got the impression the only hard part might, and even this wasn’t clear, making the turbines robust over a 20 year life span when they must stand one or two hurricanes each year.  The speaker appeared convinced that he can deploy these for a cost commenserate with current natural gas fired electric power plants.  That’s delightful news.

I like that one would measure the amount of discovery v.s. the amount of engineering in a scheme.  Wet fish and hand spans seem like a good framework.

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