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Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

"Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead" both by Ayn Rand, should be required reading for all engineers.  

My Economics Professor recommended both to me years ago - I am indebted forever.  He also told me to read the "Tao Teh Ching" frequently, which I do.  

These three literary works have help me improve myself which in turn helps me get ahead in my work.

Can anyone recommend other great reads to help achieve these ends?


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

"The Art of War" by Sun Tzu and along the same vein, "A Book of Five Rings" by Myanmoto Musashi.  Both are good reads on strategy and evaluating situations.  While not exactly a book, Zenger Miller does a training series "Frontline Leadership System" that has resources both enjoyable to read, and practical to use.


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

"Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead" both by Ayn Rand, should be required reading for all engineers.  

Agreed, those are great books.

You might try Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein.  Not in exactly the same category as the Rand selections that you mentioned, but a good book, and one that can provide some perspective on a few of the peculiarities of our culture.

We the Living and Anthem are a couple of other Rand books that are nice to read, but don't quite have the same depth as the two above.  I'd steer clear of For the new Intellectual, unless you liked John Galt's speech about money so much that you'd like to read 180 more pages of it.

The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is another light read (sike!) that you might find interesting.  The engineers mentioned in TGA share some traits with those in TF and AS.

  He also told me to read the "Tao Teh Ching" frequently, which I do.  
I'll have to check this one out.  

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Isn't engineering school punishment enough?  Why flog ourselves with the poorly written, overly long, "every (wo)man for himself" quasi-philosophical creed of Ayn Rand passing itself off as literature?  I fail to see how society would be served by the widespread embracing of objectivism, at its core a "survival of the fittest" philosophy that would further divide society into the haves and have-nots.  And we all know how well that is working.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Thanks for all of your input, I look forward to checking out the other books mentioned above.

I appreciate your comments also redtrumpet, I have several friends who disagree with Rands' views.  I personally like them very much.  

The Tao Teh Ching is like an anti-Rand infussion of overall insignificance.  I like it also.

If you don't like the writings of Rand perchance you might enjoy Lao Tzu.

I don't really want to debate viewpoints or philosophy.  I hope to get some good leads on excellent reading material that have helped others become better at who they are.

Thanks to all.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Ragbag of engineering ish books:


The New Science of Strong Materials JE Gordon

Structures JE Gordon

The Machine that Changed the World


The Goal

The Soul of a New Machine

Godel Escher Bach by Hofstadter

Very funny (if sickening) book about the Tech Bubble:


The first three books should be read by anyone who is thinking about becoming a mechanical engineer. The Gordon and Hofstadter books in particular are quite superb.


Greg Locock

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand


Have you ever read The Hunters and the Hunted?  (blah blah lean thinking blah blah non-linear blah blah)

I've not read TMTCTW, but a co-worker of mine who really enjoyed that book also enjoyed TH&TH.  TH&TH was required reading for new-hires at a previous job o' mine.


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

The Hunters and the Hunted
By  James B. Swartz, Productivity Press

No, haven't read it, the excerpt I've just found seems likely to make people squeal like stuck pigs, so it is on the right lines.

Here's a bit:

Early Warning Signs For a Non-Competitive Delivery System

·    Customers are hard to please; they want faster response and seemingly unreachable quality levels.

·    Much of management’s time is spent prioritizing work, solving crisis.

·    Time to obsolescence is decreasing faster than time to bring new products to market.

·    Quality levels are not improving rapidly, and customers complain the competition offers higher quality.

·    More inspection is necessary to meet customer requirements.

·    Price must be reduced constantly to meet the competition.***

·    It seems that competitors are using unfair tactics to take your customers.

·    There are continual surprises from competitors and customers.

·    Blame placing and in fighting are rising.

·    Management is arrogant about  the superiority of their system and a no-bad-news is welcome atmosphere.

Who hasn't seen that lot before?

*** we did this at launch on the last model and it really hurt us. If you are confident (we were) in the product then price it at a premium.


Greg Locock

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

To be frank, 'Atlas Shrugged' is the stupidest book I have ever read. I don't suggest it even to a moron.(why engineers should read that is a Hitchcockian suspense to me, perhaps hackers out there who detest Mr. Gates would give me some idea). Split personality was so awkwardly shown in that book that all reformers in the world could have comitted Harakiri at once, if read the book.It affected the writer herself in her last days.

The art of war as suggested by PSE is very good.

If motivation and creativity is what an engineer is required I would settle for Cartoon Network. (I atleast see 4 hours a day)


Repetition is the foundation of technology

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand


Your review of Atlas Shrugged made me laugh.  Ayn Rand was a twisted sister - but also an excellent author.  

Thanks for your comments.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I like The Existential Pleasures of Engineering by Samuel C. Florman.

The book gives a great description of why engineers do what they do, even when the world is criticisizing every aspect of the profession that only engineers understand.  The best part about the book is that it isn't written for a third grader.  Mr. Florman actually uses multi-syllable words.


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Words like polysyllabic, I suppose?

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Yes, like polysyllabic.  But I was even referring to existential.  Right from the start you can tell this isn't a book for 3rd graders.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Perhaps not third graders, but I was in the fourth grade when I learned the song "existential blues," and began demanding an explanation.  

...I cry out "My name is T-bone" and the hound dog digs a hole...

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Last week I finished Sinclair Lewis' "Babbit."

I would think every engineer should read everything by Robert A. Heinlein (he was a degreed engineer) and L. Sprague De Camp (also an engineer). Don't forget E. E. Smith, Ph.D. and, of course, Lionel Fanthorpe.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Thanks DaveViking,

I haven't read anything by any of them, at least not that I recall.  But I will.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

"PO Beyond Yes and No" by Edward De Bono is a very good book.(I got one critical problem solved by those methods)

Repetition is the foundation of technology

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Although I have never read any of the books mentioned (and never really want to), I live and work by Murphy's law. I am sure you are all familiar with it but I will repeat it anyway.

Murphy's law states; "If it can go wrong it will go wrong".

This is possibly the most sensible thing that anyone has ever said and it only takes a couple of seconds to read. Thereby freeing up some time to go and do something less boring instead.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

You know, I've gotta agree with Scoobystu.... if you want required reading for engineers, that one line of Murphy's Law is about as good as you can get.  However, there are a lot of corollaries which warrant equal mention (these are just a few -- I believe there's a book that has these and more, and you can probably find more on the web):

- If nothing can go wrong, something will.
- If nothing is going wrong, you have overlooked something.
- If only one thing goes wrong, it will do maximum damage.
- Everything will go wrong at one time:
--- When you least expect it;
--- When it causes the most difficulty; and
--- After any warranty expires.
- Things always go from bad to worse.
- Mother Nature is...
--- Not indifferent to intelligence; she is actively hostile;
--- She always sides with the hidden flaw.
- Nothing is as easy as it looks; everything takes longer than expected.
- Having found a solution to a problem after immense work, one usually realizes that it or another was apparent from simple inspection.
- Errors usually sum in the same direction.
- Fault cannot be properly placed, or credit properly given, if more than one person is involved.

I'll admit, Murphy's Law and corollaries are primarily humorous in nature, but there's a lot of truth in there about engineering and life in general.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Movie:  Falling Down, 1993, starring Michael Douglass, should be required viewing for anyone considering entering the engineering profession.

Book:  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand


Have you heard of Smith's Law?

"Murphy is an optimist!"

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I'd have to agree with quark. Cartoon Network can really get the ol' noodle to thinkin'!!!  

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand


That Smith guy must be suicidal...

My law states "Whats the point, it's all going to go horribly wrong anyway!!"

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I'll augment Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" (as how one should consider being a leader) with Machiavelli's "The Prince" and
"The Ten Discourses" (how many of those guys you deal with will actually act).

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Yeah, "The Prince" is recommended reading for everyone. Of course, utilizing it is another story.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Lawrence Kamm's book "Real World Engineering" is pretty educational. Lots of sage advice in there from a highly successful inventor/engineer. Somebody mentioned "The Soul of a New Machine". Read that a long long time ago, and I really wish I could read it again.
Another link to an online version of 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' (http://www.aoe.vt.edu/~ciochett/lit/zen.html), shouldn't be a copyright infringment if its on a university site....uh I think.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Actually anything that puts engineers and books together is well worth it, no matter what your tastes.  However, if you haven't read it, I heartily recommend (especially for those under the age of 40) "To Engineer is Human" by Henry Petosky.  Reason I'm recommending it especially for the "younger set" is that it talks about engineering failures fit into design.  I sometimes despair when I see calculations carried to the 12th digit - when the original reading was taken from a pressure gauge that could only be read to within 5 psi!

Patricia Lougheed

Please see FAQ731-376 for tips on how to make the best use of the Eng-Tips Forums.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Amen Patricia, one of my pet peeves there!!!

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I thought the whole point was that engineers were too much engrossed in books of the engineer kind.  Rather than reading about it, why not experience it first hand?


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand


I too see a lot of that and I have to constantly be on guard against falling into the trap myself.  Just one of the perils of computer "aided" engineering.  It'll spit out as many digits as you want.

Edward L. Klein
Pipe Stress Engineer
Houston, Texas

All opinions expressed here are my own and not my company's.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Has anyone else read 'Engineer to Win' by Caroll Smith? I did and thought this was an excellent book, and should be required for every engineer's library. Mr. Smith claims to be married to a daughter of the the guy they named 'Murphy's Law' after. Anyhows, its got a great section on metallurgy and fracture mechanics.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I remember getting chewed out (more of a frustrated venting opportunity) by the supervisor of the inspections group when he got pressure relief data sheets from us with the cold pressure set point to a 1/100th of a psi.  

What could I say, I agreed with him!!

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand


Engineer To Win is a good book about race vehicle engineering, but I would not recommend it for metallurgy nor fracture mechanics.  Mr. Smith's knowledge and descriptions of these subjects are lacking.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Just started into a book called "The Logic of Failure" by Dieter Dorner, Perseus Books.

It's an interesting look into why complex systems fail and the mindset required to prevent failure.  It deals a lot with system interactions and why many optimization approaches fail due to unintended consequences.


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

The Chunnel by Drew F(something)

A good,depressing book about a large engineering project viewed from the sidelines by a finance journalist with no particular axe to grind. To those of us who work at the coalface on billion dollar projects it is a horrible cautionary tale, told from the top down.


Greg Locock

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

The Chunnel by Drew Fetherston.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Dilbert (Scott Adams) contains the wisdom of the modern political corporate environment.  I think a good mix of both technical and political savvy will take anyone a long way (i.e. if you can sell an icebox to an Eskimo...).  

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

That's a refrigerator to an Inuit.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Want a real simple book that will help keep perspective of the processing-manufacturing-distribution cycle ????  It's a neat liitle book titled "My Friend the Cow".  Those of you have(had) young children might appreciate it.  Anything deeper than that and you're messing about with your brain cells. Everything else one can pick up with experience!

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Interesting discussion and suggestions for reading.  I've read several of them.  But my take:

For the serious:  Any of the books by Henry Petroski or Samuel Florman are good.  I've suggested them to the younger generation of engineers at times and some do read them and come out smiling.

For the more lighthearted:  Any Dilbert book.  Sometimes you really don't get understand it until you live it though.


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

A good book for young engineers is called "Learning to Think (at MIT)" by an author whose name i cannot recall.  I loaned the book many years ago and never got it back.

This book describes the author's journey through engineering school and gives a good perspective on how we "learn to think" like engineers.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Henry Petroski recently wrote "Bridge of Dreams," an eye-opener for engineers and civil engineers in particular. I will take the liberty of referring to one of the last chapters that discloses the existence of a generation gap in engineering design.

It seems that every 30-40 years the new generation forgets or turns away from the hard lessons taught by the old masters. New daring designs arise as a result, and the inevitable rash of failures ensues. There were several box beam bridge failures within a short time around 1970. We are now due for the next rash of failures. I will not predict where in this forum.

This is required reading from Henry Petroski.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

"Il était minuit cinq à Bhopal" (French book, amazon.ca)
Just to remind consequences of our acts...

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Hmmmm, I think that management types need to read...some of these books.


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I read both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.  The Fountainhead, IMO, was a better book.    

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Thanks rbcoulter, it seemed like a more realistic story to me also.  There are probably engineers in our history who can tell a similar story.  It was fairly realistic, except for part of blowing up your own buildings because you don't like the modifications made to them.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I agree with Massey; I hope if they ever do a movie re-make of the Fountainhead, the writers will change the plot slightly to have the hero destroy the building because the modifications had made it unsafe.  It would be easier to root for a hero who risked his whole career to protect innocent families from an unsafe building rather than an elitist egomaniac.  My experience has been that management always trys to mess up a good design by cutting costs and unless we fight very hard, safety usually suffers as a result.  

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Rand's "Virtue of Selfishness" rather explicitly sketches the object of objectivism.  I enjoyed "Anthem", but the conclusion seems terribly flawed and inconsistent with experience.  (Experience tells me I'm neither God nor the true master of my own destiny.  I more often find myself bombarded by circumstance or choosing to bombard others with my version of it--seldomly finding escape from this situation.)

Relating to the motive of improving self to get ahead in your work, I find critical thinking to be a must.  (Is all truth propositional?  How else do we weed out truth from error?  Engineering is all about apprehending/leveraging truth.)

An excellent author who looks at "modern" thinking and its consequences is Francis A. Schaeffer.

The Trilogy:
The God Who Is There
Escape from Reason
He Is There and He Is Not Silent

Obviously, this is philosophical, but within the realms of improving self what isn't?

Jeff Mowry
DesignHaus Industrial Design

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

More into the physics side is Richard Rhodes "The Making of the Atomic Bomb"

I'm reading it now and it is fascinating.

On the business side, I really liked "The Power of Focus". It's one of those feel good goal setting books, but I needed it at this time in my life (still a relatively young engineer!)

The Ayn Rand book I had looked at before in the past, it is very intriguing, but I'll hold off on that until I get a couple of my current books read.

Once again in the physics realm, I heard the Feynman books are very good.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

For a sobering look at the the single greatest factor affecting virutally everything we design, take a look at:
Hubbert's Peak;The Impending World Oil Shortage, by Kenneth Deffeyes. (a timely read I'd say)

Then if you think your life is too hard try:
Seven Years in Tibet (true story) by Heinrich Harrer

And, yes, if you need to lighten up there's:
Murphy's Law Book Two, Arthur Bloch ISBN 0-8431-0674-3
which includes one of my favorties... Ducharm's Axiom: If one views his problems closely enough he will recognize himself as part of the problem.

Steven C. Potter

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I am interested in books that detail the trials and successes of engineers.

Feynman as a physicist has some books that are supposed to be good, they are on my next to read list.

There are books on Watson and Crick and other famous scientists like Einstein, tons of books on DaVinci. Recent movies on mathematicians (A Beautiful Mind.

There are tons of books on business gurus.

But do you have any recommendations for books on famous engineers?

By the way still slowly working my way through Richard Rhodes book on the A-bomb. It is very thorough. Can't wait to read some more by him

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Feynman's books are terrific.  They are heavy but light at the same time, if that's possible.  Can't recommend them enough.  The intended audience for those books was actually non-science types.  Even better is if you can get tapes of his MIT "physics for non-physicists" lectures which you can sometimes find at the public library.  George Gamow has a couple books like that too.  Good stuff to read when you're in an introspective mood, like on a warm Sunday afternoon out in the backyard under a shadetree when you just got rid of the kids and Momma is off shopping somewhere.  Yeah buddy!

"What Went Wrong?" is really good for learning from past failures.  This is a book about process plant failures, explosions, etc.

I think most engineers do have a philosophical bent.  I mean, you sat through those lectures on the second law, right?  And didn't it get you to thinking?

ASME publishes a little book called The Ten Unwritten Laws of Engineering.  Mandatory reading IMO.  Also "The Day I Almost Quit" by Frederick J. Moody is good.


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I also enjoyed "The Existentials Pleasures of Engineering".  Also, another one that I have found useful to keep in mind at work is the book "Fish".

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

In my opinion, a combination of objectivist philosophy,
strategic thinking from "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu,
and knowledge of Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator will
put you in great advantage in your career as an engineer.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Richard Feynman's books are well worth reading. He has a non-nonsense approach to explaning things. I especially enjoyed his book, "Surely You Must Be Joking Mr. Feynman".

I read "Atlas Shrugged" before I became an engineer and I thought that most of the characters were one dimensional. It's a good story, but Ms. Rand grossly oversimplifies the personal relationships that her lead character has with the various male counterparts in the story. And the manner in which she presents and explains engineering concepts isn't much better. I'd suggest that SHE read some of the books that were referenced in the prior threads.

By the way, I work in a steel mill as a Senior Metallurgist, and my last name is Reardon. And please, don't call me Hank...


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand


Unfortunately Ms. Rand has been dead a long time, all her reading is finished.  The characters in Atlas Shrugged are one dimensional, typical of driven people who seem to have no other reason for being than what they do.  She was not an engineer and the book wasn't about engineering.  But thanks for your insight just the same.

Also thanks to all who have recommended the excellent books above.  I hope this thread is around for a while as it will serve as an excellent reading list.

Many Thanks,


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

recommended reading:
"Thick Face, Black Heart"

Gravity is a harsh mistress.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

These are all excellent recommendations and should be duly noted into a comprehensive Engineers' Reader compendium.  Having said that, I can't believe no one's mentioned The One Minute Manager yet.  It's probably the easiest and juiciest read in this whole list.

It was from this book that I learned not to shy away from disagreeing w/ other peers:  if two professionals (managers, engineers) doing the same job agree 100% with what the other one is doing, one of them is redundant!

I also appreciate Ayn Rand's works.  She led a very troubled and inconsistent life.  I think we can all learn from what she said and not from her example, happens to us all.

Any thorough review of her works will reveal that her one-dimensional characters were messengers.  That's why they seem to be on the soap box a lot.  She saw the novel as a conduit through which to express her views and philosophy.  If you have an interest in Rand, the Author (not the philosopher), read instead We, The Living.

Roberto Sanabria

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I have read "Atlas..." Rand is good in my opinion.

  Two authors to try for good thought: Feyneman's "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out." or McPhee's "The Control Of Nature"

The truth will set you free. Best of luck. Geodude

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Fight Club - the movie or the book.  Don't let the title fool you, it's not just about guys beating each other up.  Addresses the problem of being 'slaves in white collars.'

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, humorous look at the implications of a triumph of chemistry that basically destroyed the world.

Real Genius with Val Kilmer.


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I didn't realize Fight Club was a book -- even better than the movie?  I might have to pick that one up, a one-sentence review/comparison to the movie would be appreciated.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

The Manhattan Project - now it can be told
by General Leslie Groves -- Challenging engineering enterprise under trying circumstances. The present text is heavily edited from the original I read many years ago. This is the definitive background story of the bomb.

by General Dornberger -- A remarkable story of engineering achievement under great pressures. Look for description of elements of rockets and jet engines still in use today.
(Be happy they didn't concentrate on the A bomb!)

Sons of Martha - available from ASCE
A good read for all engineers, especially CE's. There are selections from many books. This will surely lead to other books of interest. It runs the gamut of canals, railroads, tunnels, bridges, dams, military engineering, etc.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

well on the fiction and conservative side of Engineering and books that should be read by lots of engineers Fountianhead and Atlas Shrugged are great!

However on the fiction and liberal side the Heinlen and other "Golden Age" sci-Fi i thought were required to be in this profession!

For my suggestions:

The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra

Excerpt: "There are two things in life: Having fun and learning something. If you're not having fun, Learn something!" (discussion on the quantum nature of life love and philosophy)

The Illuminatus (or how I found the goddess and what I did with her when I found her) by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.

(the above is a great dose of completely excessive sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. When included with the sequal Schrodingers Cat enven some quantum mechanics to go with)

Chaos by James Glieck (last name spelt wrong)
Im sure most ar familar with the revolution caused by B. Mandelbrot and Mr. Julia and others.

Seconds for Art of War.

Hank Reardon was kinda cool thou........

I love materials science!

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

don't think i saw this one in there so I will add it for grins - angle of attack, about and possibly coauthored by Harrison stormy Storms - about the space race from the ENGINEERING side. Really really good book.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

This thread is gettin' kinda long, but I thought I'd mention a good reference:

"The Official Rules"

I bought it some 20 years ago (1st edition paperback) and noticed a few years back a later version.

It has Murphy's Law (of course!), along with almost all the corollaries, then many other quotes along the same lines. One of my favorites was "Gabe Caplan's Law", which says, "Give a small boy a hammer, and soon he will find that everything he encounters needs a beating." Or something like that.

       ... Steve

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

ICman, I learned a slightly different version of that same saying. "When the only tool you have is a hammer, the rest of the world looks like a nail."


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I am afraid my current favorite, or at least most accurate is "where are we going, and why am I in this handbasket?"

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

For more summer beach reading, how about:
 "The Goal" by Eliyahu M. Goldratt & Jeff Cox.
It's a novel about industrial engineering/operations management

"Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II" by Jennet Conant . it's about Alfred Loomis a financier/scientist inventor who was instrumental in radar & atomic physics.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand


I have the Tao of Physics and found it fascinating.  It is a very cool book.

That must be very exciting work.  I was especially intrigued by the theory that they can 'create' matter by colliding particles at extremely high speeds.  I say 'theory' but in the book it descibes in detail how they have done this and proven it.  But it still doesn't make intuitive 'sense'.

Good Book.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Creating matter makes sense when you consider E=mc^2.  This is the very foundation of the nuclear industry: that matter and energy are equivalent, matter can be converted to energy and energy to matter.  If you solve for m, you get m=E/c^2.  That's how you determine the amount of matter that can be created from an amount of energy.

Someday, someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Thanks, TheTick

But, I may be wrong, but I think this is a little different in that the total mass of the system was larger after the collision than before.  There were more smaller particles that cumlatively had more mass.  Assuming that energy and matter are equivalent, there would more matter and energy in the system total, not just converted from one to other.


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Still makes sense.  That's what nuclear fusion is all about.  The mass of a nucleon (proton or neutron) is actually not constant.  It is dependent on the size of the nucleus in which the nucleon resides.

As smaller nuclei fuse, the mass per nucleon is less than their original parts.  The "missing" mass is released as energy.  This phenomenon reverses when nuclei are about the size of an iron (Fe) atom nucleus.  After that, net energy needs to be added to make nuclei fuse.  So larger nuclei undergoing fusion would gain mass.

There would still be mass-energy parity with the relationship of dE=(dm)c^2 (imagine the "d's" are "deltas")

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Another good book that I am currently reading is called

"Wild at Heart"  Dont remember the author.  Very good :)

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

There have been some interesting suggestions on this thread - I've made a list and will see what I can find at the library.
A couple of suggestions of my own :
Slide Rule by Neville Shute - this is his autobiography and is a fascinating insight into an engineer of the 30's through to the 50's. He worked on the Vickers R100 airship  alongside Barnes Wallis (of WWII bouncing bomb fame).
Another good read and much more recent is Against All Odds by James Dyson - inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner. Again this is an autobiography. Whilst not an engineer, Dyson is a brilliant designer and the story of his dogged determination to bring his vacuum to market makes a great story.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Was Dyson from Princeton? I seem to recall this was a running design project there.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Different Dyson, I believe--the Dyson at Princeton was a contemporary and good friend of Richard Feynman.  He was a physicist/applied mathematician.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I love books and can't resist a post about them. I've never read Ayn Rand but I've never seen an author who could elicit such an emotional response as she, positive or negative. People seem to love her or hate her. Therefore I shall have to read some of her work.

Recommended reading for engineers:

Non Fiction:
George Gamow's books about Mr Tompkins (if you can snag them, you're in luck - they are all out of print but worth every penny)
Le Couteur & Burreson "Napoleon's Buttons"
Robert Hazan "The Diamond Makers" (try to ignore the typos)
Oliver Sacks "Uncle Tungsten"
Richard Rhodes "The Making of the Atomic Bomb"
Street & Alexander "Metals in the Service of Man"
Paul Strathern "Mendeleev's Dream"

George MacDonald Fraser's "Flashman" series (because even non-fiction readers need a good laugh now and then)
Yann Martel "Life of Pi" - an example of on-the-fly life-or-death problem solving at its finest.
Any decent historical fiction - because engineers seem to feel that they have to be learning something while they read a story.

...And please don't read any of the junk written by or about Jack Welch. He is no friend to the engineer. Dilbert would say that he is the pointiest of the pointy-haired bosses.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Who is Jack Welch ?

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

ex-CEO of General Electric


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

A guy who closed a lot of factories & shipped US manufacturing jobs overseas.
[lotsa guys got the NAFTA-shafta   ]

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

When unions raise their ugly heads, they should learn to heed the warnings. I remember many years ago when Detroit was going thru a particularly hard negotiation with the unions (I forgot which of the big three). The concept of going overseas was expressed at that time. It gave me a chill, and it still does.

Going overseas, south of the border, etc. has time bombs attached. Don't expect technical support or quick response to changes. Many years ago I heard the story of buying shoes from Taiwan. They shipped by the container load - right foot in one and left foot in the other.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Are these the same union guys that hide parts to stop assembly lines until their overtime clock starts ticking?  Wait, those are our union guys.

I may make you feel, but I can't make you think.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

My contribution to the recommended reading list is:

Fate is the Hunter, by E.K. Gann - About life as a pilot during the first half-century of flight.  Any engineer who has never flown one, but still wants to design, build, or do any work on an airplane, should read it to appreciate what it's like to fly for a living.  I've also given a lot of thought to the chilling philosophy that for most pilots, it's only a matter of time.  Risk can never be eliminated, only managed, outmaneuvered, or outwitted, and if you're still alive after screwing up on all three, then luck takes all the credit.  Think hard about whether you expect it to be there for you next time.


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Add to the fiction list:

The Cross Time Engineer by Leo Frankowski

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Add to the list Earnest Gann's:
The High and the Mighty,
the story of further adventures of airline pilots during and after WWII. If you read between the lines you will see why Gann quit airline flying for other pursuits.

For eight years I have been pursuing the publishing of my book, The National Airline Academy (NAA)- long overdue. There have been numerous disasters begging for the establishiment of the NAA, but the 1987 Air Florida crash in Washington should have triggered the NAA.

The model for the NAA is the Merchant Marine Academy (MMA) on Long Island. It was the result of the investigation of the Morro Castle cruise ship disaster, which claimed the lives of hundreds in 1935. Findings included incompetence from the top down. Modern day boat drill and comprehensive fire safety systems came out of this investigation. In itself The Morro Castle is a good read. The MMA was well timed for the training of merchant marine officers during WWII.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

It has been mentioned beofore, but "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert Pirsig.  Not really about Zen or motorcycles, but an excellent inquiry into the nature of quality and academics.  Look for it in Free PDF format online.

And when you are done thinking, I highly recommend the Harry Potter series.  Not just for kiddies these days!


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

On the zen note, "Zen and the Art of Archery" is definitely a great read.

I may make you feel, but I can't make you think.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand


I love Sci Fi.  I am a mold designer and product designer.  I love new Ideas and old forgotten ones too.  I have heard that the modern day space suit was in science fiction 50 or 75 years before they even needed it (you know environmental suit with a glass dome and a air pack on the back).  Sci-Fi inspires people into doing things they would only dream of.

Some good reads are:
David Suzuki's autobiography.  Scientist turned TV host.

Generation X.  It is about people who don't do much they just sit and talk.  But there are some wild statistics at the end of the book about the average population. Sciences are statistically driven.

Classic Sci Fi
The time machine and Short stories of HG wells.
There is one story about a guy who takes carbon and dynamite and makes diamonds but no one believes he could do it.

Ring World Series by Larry Nivin
Some one builds a flat ring around a sun the diameter of the orbit of earth (800 miles wide) and then leaves it to be discovered.  Just a neat concept.  Think about the material usage.

I robot by Isaac Asimov
Another good read
I robot is the first statement made by a robot that realises what it(he) is.


Rick Marmei - Tool Designer

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Could also add...

any of Kafka's writings,
White Star - author not known, but one of the better technically correct sniper fiction works
Happy Birthday Wanda June - Kurt Vonnegut
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
any of Patrick McManus' collections (outdoor humour at it's funniest)
Zen and the Art of Being a Target... to be written for theTick

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I very much agree WRT McManus!  

Skunk Works by Rich & Janos was a great read.
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

20 years ago I read "A Walk Across America" and "The Walk West" by Peter Jenkins.  I still read it from time to time.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I used to take the bus to work, which allowed me the luxury of an hour a day to read.  When I changed jobs, I couldn't take the bus anymore.  My wife brought home a bunch of books-on-tape, and my commute hasn't been the same since.

I've been through Stephen King's entire "Gunslinger" series, heard the biographies of 3 presidents, and indulged in plenty of audio junk-listening.  Almost makes me look forward to a traffic jam.  Now I have this thread for more listening ideas!

For audio book recommendations, #1 on my list is On the Road by Jack Kerouac, as read by Frank Muller (audio book narration's biggest superstar reader).

I may make you feel, but I can't make you think.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

So many books, so little time.  None of the following books have anything to do with engineering...especially see the last item about getting some balance in your life

Fiction:  "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman.  First of a trilogy.  They are all good. Nothing to do with engineering but should get the oblique part of your brain working.

Historical perspectives:
A Brief History of Pi. by Petr Beckmann.  (You should hear his take on Roman "civilisation").
A History of Warfare by John Keegan
"Cyrus the Great" by Harold Lamb. Amazing what this guy accomplished within the limitations of his time. Makes you think about minimalist government, separation of church and state etc.

Social perspective:
"Who Shall Live" by Victor R. Fuchs. Health, economics and social choice. Did you have a donut for breakfast or run at lunch time?

Last but otherwise first, subscribe to "Mountain Bike" magazine for inspiration then go buy a full suspension mountain bike and find a place to use it so you can get exercise while watching its suspension work. Engineering in action!

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Skunk Works was great! Truly an excellent book.

I now plan to read "Tuxedo Park" about Loomis, the businessman/physicist during WWII.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I just came across a book by Douglas Adams.  Called the meaning of LIFF (spelling is correct).  If you want to fall off your chair laughing read it.  We all need a good laugh now and again.  It is a dictionary for things that don't have names.

I was also in the library and found a Dictionary of Mechanics and Engineering.  Reminding my self of yelling over the office partition to find out if I spell the word "flange" correctly.

Rick Marmei

Rick Marmei - Tool Designer

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Get your hands on tapes of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  The books are great, too, but the radio is where it all started.  Every engineer should remember the "bad" designs, like Marvin, Deep Thought, and black battlecruisers that are easy to "borrow".  The prescient elevators and the SEP field are other good concepts from the books.


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Godel Escher Bach by Hofstadter (I thought it was titled "The Golden Braid") Wonderful exploration of mathematics across different disciplines.

"No Highway" by Neville Shute - about the frustrations of an aircraft engineer, convinced his airliner design is flawed (might be based on the Comet disaster)

In 1919 the German fleet was scuttled in Scapa Flow, Scotland. There was a book, probably hard to find, about the extraordinary salvage operations.

RV Jones, a senior scientist in Britain during World War 2, wrote a fascinating account of the scientific intelligence war against Germany. What was it called? And from the other side, Germany's armaments minister (an architect, I think, what was his name, imprisoned for decaeds after the war). Both books strangely sit side by side.

Alvin Toffler's "Future Shock" and Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring". These would be interesting to read now to see how we have matched up to their predictions.


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Neville Shute also wrote "Slide Rule" about his days as a dirigible designer. Of course, his "On the Beach" was the quintessential nuclear war novel.

For some historical perspective, try "Engineering in the Ancient World"-JG Lanels, sometimes the forgotten solutions are very interesting.

Finally, "The Romance of Engines" by Takashi Suzuki, which gives the technical history of numerous interesting engines.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Just wanted to make the 100th post.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Read and practice the suggestions in the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People." by Dale Carnegie.

I would rather stick needles in eyes than suggest to someone to read anything by Ayn Rand. Brrr!@!

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

The irony of your post above is amusing.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Sounds like a lot of you should take a moment and read something meaningless, like Maxim or Cosmo...(jk)

But since we're on the subject: Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis

I'm an engineer who is also an avid baseball fan.  This book provides fantastic examples of "thinking outside the box".  It primarily provides statistical and economic insight into everyday decision-making...and it talks a little baseball, too.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

A Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gown
by Robert Baker (Editor)

A collection of short essays on a variety of topics.  Some are amusing, some are not.

I find the essay regarding the degeneration of the English Language via phnoetic spelling the best of the bunch.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand


Degeneration of the English language may bother many of us, but culmsy tpying on conputers is a biggger thraet.


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

No Highway- Nevil Shute (The Beach, A Town Like Alice.)

Henry Petroski talks about this book in his book "To Engineer is Human."

The Bible.


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Although not exactly an engineering book, "Human Action" by Ludwig Von Mises is closely related to "Atlas Shrugged" in thinking and length.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Bill Rees, Waking the Sleepwalkers.

Rees reasons that trying to "fix" the environment is a useless treatment of a symptom.  He's done the math, and demonstrates very convincingly that western society is not sustainable.

For example, there are 12 billion hectares of "useful" land on the planet, and 6 billion humans.  That's 2 hectares per person.  We north americans currently use about 12 hectare's worth of resources each, when all the food, lumber, and energy are added up.  That leaves less than the fair share for everyone else.


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

The following may not get you ahead in your work, but they are of interest to civil/structural engineers:

Bridges and Their Builders, by David Steinman
Man the Maker, A History of Technology and Engineering, by Robert Forbes

Three books by David McCullough:
The Great Bridge (The Brooklyn Bridge)
The Johnstown Flood
The Path Between the Seas (The Panama Canal)

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

My favorite Neville Shute novel is "Trustee from the Toolroom". It illustrates the respect for excellence of the engineering mindset, and the strength of a man who is happy and confident in his field.
Those who liked Sun Tzu's ideas may appreciate Karl von Clausewitz' "On War".

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I agree with Scoobystu and Jboucher50:  

Murphy's laws applies in the most opportune times.  Since I have Murphy's in my family, we had O'Tool's Axiom:

It quite simply states:

"Murphy was an optimist"

I have read some profound works from various authors as well.
I found two books by Dale Carnegie to be helpful:

"How to win friends and influence people"
"How to Stop worrying and start living"

I also enjoy cartoons like the Far Side, Calvin & Hobbes, Dilbert in getting out of the Murphy(O'Tool's) and sometimes engineer rut.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I found a poem the other day that struck me as inspiring. Well, from the eyes of an engineer. :) I showed it to a few co-workers, but to my disappointment, did not receive the best reviews. "Blah! I became an engineer to avoid english class!". Ha ha! Perhaps this crowd will be more appreciative. I know I read it whenever I need a quick moral boost at work.


~Patrick Mc G.

(in the time of the first railways)

Now first we stand and understand,
     And sunder false from true,
And handle boldly with the hand,
     And see and shape and do.

Dash back that ocean with a pier,
     Strow yonder mountain flat,
A railway there, a tunnel here,
     Mix me this Zone with that!

Bring me my horse - my horse? my wings
     That I may soar the sky,
For Thought into the outward springs,
     I find her with the eye.

O will she, moonlike, sway the main,
     And bring or chase the storm,
Who was a shadow in the in the brain,
     And is a living form?

Far as the Future vaults her skies,
     From this my vantage ground
To those still-working energies
     I spy nor term nor bound.

As we surpass our father's skill,
     Our sons will shame our own;
A thousand things are hidden still
     And not a hundred known.

And had some prophet spoken true
     Of all we shall achieve,
The wonders were so wildly new,
     That no man would believe.

Meanwhile, my brothers, work, and wield
     The forces of to-day,
And plow the Present like a field,
     And gerner all you may!

You, what the cultured surface grows,
     Dispense with careful hands:
Deep under deep for ever goes,
     Heaven over Heaven expands.

Alfred Lord Tennyson
-first published 1892

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

As inspiring as Ulysses, I really should get a Tennyson collection.

For more humourous poetry, does anybody recall a poem called "The Aircraft Engineer's Prayer"?  It begins:

Wrinkle, wrinkle, little spar,
How I wonder how stiff you are...


RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

eureka has mention a book by David McCullough
The Path Between the Seas (The Panama Canal)

There is a person in the book I consider to be an engineer’s
John Stevens The original Chief Engineer on the Canal.
Stevens wrote a paper "To the Young Engineers Who Must Carry On"
Stevens wrote: The great works had still to come "I believe that we are but children picking up pebbles on the shore of  the boundless ocean”.  

A most interesting man.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

The soul of a new machine -excellent computer engineering - great intro
Zen and the Art of MC maintenance - poor engineering - great philosophy
making of the atomic bomb - excellent
Atlas Shrugged - improbable plot - melodrama but an interesting theme/idea
fountainhead - more of the same - upity view of FLWright and architecture
Mythical Man Month - construction of the IBM 360 OS- great project management story
Trustee from the Tool Room - a little bit of this in every engineer
Undaunted Courage - Lewis and Clark - Actually a lot of engineering approaches to the expedition and not all sucessfull
Anything having to do with the Apollo program

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

In defense of Ayn Rand, her book,"Writing Non-Fiction" was helpful. I needed to hear her admonitions about working on non-fiction.

Engineers may find it illuminating to read Dornberger's "V2." Yes, he was a German general during WWII, and he contributed to developing the V2, but a study of the technical accomplishments done under wartime circumstances would be eye-opening. His team developed:

- swirl vaporization of combustion fuel, still being used in modern jet engines;

- film cooling of combustors;

- acceleration feedback in steering commands. This has been used in power steering;

- high speed aero stability;

- Schlieren visualization of supersonic flow, and many other technical developments.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

This subject brings to mind one of the greatest books of the last century, Gravity's Rainbow by Pynchon. Or one of the worst books of the last century depending on who you ask. Amazingly technical, complex, and inaccessable, I'm not sure I can recommend it because its also obscene. If you're into the X-Files stuff, you might take a look or maybe try the much shorter (and much easier to read) The Crying Of Lot 49.

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

My top five:

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

A Human Strategy by Matt Berry

Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco

Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger

RE: Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

If you liked Persigs "Zen and the art", you'll also like his "Lila".  Recomended.

"Aramis: or the love of Technology" by Bruno Latour (translation Catherine Porter) is a fairly challenging wade, but rewarding.  Follows a (failed) French project to develop robotic rail personal transport systems.

Dr. Leon Lederman's "The God Particle" is worthwhile for amateur students of physics.  Also any of the new books challenging quantum theory (look for Shroedingers Cat in titles).

On Ayn Rand, I liked that too when I was young and invincible.  You'll get over it, everybody does.  On management v.s. engineering see above re: Jack Welsh.  Anyone wishing to write a new book should explore this area.  Ditto "Irreconcilable Differences: Rosss Perot v.s. General Motors" by Doron P. Levin gives a good insight into what it takes to {ex}ceed.

Warning.  Don't inquire past Rand if you want to "make it" in management.  Much of the purpose of the busywork assigned to management trainees is to make sure you don't get into philisophy.

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