Not just a guy thing

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Maybe it's a guy thing, but I don't think so. Who isn't fascinated by a really massive engineering project? Even though we don't lift one shovel of dirt, standing in the presence of a mammoth project we cry out "accomplishment."

I trace my interest in building big to a place and time certain. My parents took me to my first movie, "The Ten Commandments," starring Charlton Heston. I couldn't get over the building of the pyramids. (It helped that I was too young to understand what slave labor meant.)

But the show stopper for my young imagination was Moses parting the Red Sea. Though not a construction project, it topped the pyramids. Set your mind to it, I thought, and anything could be built. Also, my father was a mechanical engineer. He built power plants for electric utilities - natural gas, oil, and nuclear. I was 10 years old when I toured one with him. Despite my age, I learned more about the way an engineer thinks from that one trip than anything since. For him, the world was a problem to be solved. Everything had to fit. From fuel delivery, right out to the maximum height of the structure.

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Most of us are not engineers. Most of us live in a world where a lot of things seem not to fit. David Holmstrom details what is to date an engineering success story (right), but for decades was a social problem that defied solution. It's a window on how one of the most basic functions causes one of the most complex urban problems - sewage and accompanying water pollution. Already, in some surrounding Boston beaches, kids are swimming in a harbor where for a generation no one would even fish.

Moses may have parted the waters. Engineers are doing their thing by cleaning it.

*E-mail Ideas@csps.com

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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