Just recently I discovered the amazing 99% Invisible podcast, and today I’m going to share it with you, because it’s going to make you a better engineer. No honestly. Give it 15 minutes of your day and you’ll get a whole new appreciation of the world around us and the effort of design that’s gone into it, and as designers of the built environment- that’s not to be snubbed at.
Each episode of 99% Invisible takes a moment to look at something around us that somebody has put a lot of thought into- and that you’ve probably barely noticed. Sound familiar? Civil engineers have long been used to the notion that that amazing detail you lost three weeks to will never even be acknowledged by anyone except you.
And so it’s fantastic to find a show where someone is going out of their way to rediscover these stories.
Presented by Roman Mars (who unexpectedly studied plant population genetics; something that is 100% invisible to me!), the show talks on the hidden topics of structural integrity, the magic roundabout in Swindon, urban miners, rebar, and the space between road lines– to name but a few. Listening to someone celebrate the work of engineers, and sometimes even teach you a few things about our achievements is a joy.
However the real insights come from episodes outside and adjacent to our fields; the design of noise, building exit routes, the people that hack IKEA furniture- I could easily go on. It’s a chance to listen and learn from the design decisions and challenges that have been solved so well that we don’t even know they surround us. And it’s an appreciation of that, I believe, that will make you a better engineer.