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I was watching CNN the other day and saw an ad from ExxonMobil vaunting the merits of its researchers’ efforts. I was surprised when the last ExxonMobil engineer came on and stated that ‘we have found a way of transporting up to 80% more liquid natural gas (LNG).’ An interesting claim I thought, as LNG is a liquid and liquids are somewhat incompressible. How could such a claim be made? The secret was undoubtedly in the differential equations that were flying around onscreen as the engineer gave her spiel. They flew by too fast for me to write them down so I tried another tack.
On the ExxonMobil website there is a feedback form which I filled out to ask for more on the discovery. A few days later, the remarkably efficient public relations team gave me chapter and verse on the ‘breakthrough’ technology. I invite you to read the ExxonMobil paper on www.oilit.com/links/0806_1. Bottom line is, to achieve the 80% hike in transported LNG, you build a vessel with 80% more capacity!
Well I didn’t need a differential equation to figure that out. ExxonMobil’s engineers no doubt did a good job in designing the fuel efficient boat and all that. But somehow the TV ad encapsulates the dumbing-down of science in the media. The ad has a veneer of being educational. But you are not meant to understand anything—least of all the equations which are complete bull.
In the landscape of upstream IT there is a similar trend to dumbness. Science hides behind a smokescreen of marketing spiel. While all of this is happening, oils and service companies alike are bemoaning the fact that science grads aren’t like they used to be, that more needs to be put into educating new PEs and so on. But you have to ask—is an ad that portrays science and engineering as something clever that you won’t understand the way to go about it? And is ‘slick’ marketing that tries to sell software like soap powder any better?
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