The Midget of Sines and Wright

A much less insulting transcription than the teenily notorious “Pranque” of “the Beta“, here is a really small newspaper put out by Sines and Wright, two Dayton, Ohio, schoolboys in 1886. The second of them went on, with his brother, to “emulate the great Santos-Dumont” and eventually eclipse him in this part of the world.

Here, though, he and a friend are fussing around with the latter’s little printing press and having some fun.1

Continue reading The Midget of Sines and Wright

Xerox unprofessionalism

While looking into Xerox’s open jobs, I found this blatantly unprofessional posting:

Xeroxsux

See the problem? The font face and size change in the middle of a bullet point. This is offensive. The jobs they have posted are aimed at college graduates and in some cases, people with doctorates. Instead of respecting their intellect and education, they put up this slop. I’m not talking about their internal names for stuff or buzzwords. Someone didn’t even bother to preview their posting or check it after it went up to make sure it was presentable.

While this posting was the one that got me to make this post, I’ve seen many companies besides Xerox put up trash like this. Did their HR people never go to college or have to edit together different people’s work into a single document? This looks like a classical freshman copy and paste plagiarism attempt, not a job posting from a Fortune 500 company.

Multiplication v. Xray

One of the most common things people do in typing out simple math is to use the 19th letter of the English alphabet instead of the multiplication sign. The multiplication sign never has serifs and is set above the baseline in all fonts:

×|x

The horizontal line is just there for symmetry.

All modern and proper word processor programs (are they even called that now?) have a way to easily insert special characters like this. All modern file formats support the × character and no web browser will fail to display them correctly. Please use this!! It is the correct symbol and gives your work a much more professionally done appearance. If the math is algebraic, it may prevent a confusion between the variable x and a multiplication!

With the appreciation of a sometime equation typesetter, and frequent equation user,

Your author.

A useful and clever Trick on Microsoft Word for Science and Engineering

I type out plenty of technical information. For equations I use Word’s equation editor that has replaced the old equation editor since Office 2007. I recently had to edit some old-style equations and realized how much of an improvement the new one was in usability and utility.

When I’m not using equations but typing information in sentences, such as “The temperature is 1155 °R” or “The mass flux is reported in g/s·m2“. In these, I have to use special (non-keyboard) characters such as the degree sign or middle dot. Looking these up by charmap (I’m on Windows) or the Insert > Symbol menu is slow.

To solve this, I use1 AutoCorrect as follows:

  1. Open a blank document in Microsoft Word.
  2. Using charmap or Insert > Symbol, type the degree sign. Beware of “º”, the “masculine ordinal indicator”! It’s wrong!
  3. Follow it with “C”, “R” or “F”.
  4. Highlight the two characters
  5. Go to File > Options. Select “Proofing”. Select “AutoCorrect Options…”
  6. At the bottom of the dialog box, enter “degR” in the “Replace:” field. (Click image thumbnail below to see this)
  7. OK out of the dialog box and Options window.degR-Word

To test this out, start a new document and type “degR” and hit space. You should end up with “°R”!

I recommend the following AutoCorrect shortcuts for science and engineering:

degR -> °R (degrees Rankine)
degC -> °C (degrees centigrade)
degF -> °F (degrees Fahrenheit)
(x) -> × (multiplication sign)
(.) -> · (multiplication dot)

Note that kelvins are do not use the degree sign, so “°K” is incorrect.


  1. If you’re a business major, it’s OK to say “leverage” here so your fellow business majors don’t think you’re an engineer or something. (; (;