Canadian Consulting Engineer

LETTERS (March 01, 2000)

March 1, 2000
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Stuffed shirts rebuffedTwo letters in the January/February issue made the same old pseudo-intellectual arguments to support the antiquated idea that the new millennium doesn't "really" start until Jan...

Stuffed shirts rebuffed

Two letters in the January/February issue made the same old pseudo-intellectual arguments to support the antiquated idea that the new millennium doesn’t “really” start until January 01, 2001 because “there was no year zero.”

Well, surprise, surprise, gentlemen: there was a year zero A.D. It also happens to go by the name 1 B.C. Similarly, the year 46 B.C. could also be called the year Minus 45 A.D. However, long usage has decreed that the use of negative numbers for dates is unacceptable. Many people seem to think that the B.C. and A.D. appellations are synonymous with “negative” and “positive” values. They are not. Years are objects and are given ordinal numbers from some arbitrary reference. The fact is that the A.D. and B.C. systems use different zero reference points when assigning those ordinals.

It always amazes me that people can focus on details like this while missing the big picture. There was no “zeroth” century either. All the years with a one or two digit year (including zero A.D./1 B.C.) are part of the first century A.D. All the years that start with “1” in the hundreds column are part of the second century. Similarly, all the years that start with a “19” were part of the 20th century and this year is part of the 21st century and the third millennium.

To those stuffed shirts who shunned the millennium celebrations a few months ago: thanks. Your absence made for a great party!

Paul Meyer, P.Eng.

AGRA Simons, Trail, B.C.

Schreyer notable but not an engineer

In the article “What’s Out There?” by Norman Ball (January-February), Mr. Ball bemoans the fact that the Canadian Encyclopaedia does not acknowledge former Governor General Ed Schreyer as an engineer. That may be because he is not an engineer. Mr. Schreyer was an educator for a short time, lecturing in political science before being elected to the Manitoba Legislature in 1958, at the tender age of 22. He was subsequently elected to Parliament and then in 1969 returned to Manitoba to lead the New Democratic Party to its first electoral victory in this province. Just over a year after his government’s defeat in the 1977 election, he was appointed Governor General.

Mr. Schreyer is a notable Canadian in many ways. His name was given to the highest award to which a consulting engineer may aspire. However (and perhaps regrettably), he is not an engineer.

W. H. Brant, P.Eng.

le des Chnes, Manitoba

Editor’s note: mea culpa. Dr. Ball included the reference to the Rt. Hon. Mr. Schreyer at my suggestion.

Engineering master’s degree deserves study

Re. Exit from Academia: Educating Engineers for a New Millennium,” (November/December 1999). J’ai bien apprci la lecture de cet article refrachissant. Le propos est fascinant tant par l’analyse qu’on y fait de la ralit du curriculum de notre enseignement au 1er cycle que par la pertinence des suggestions. Il est dsormais devenue vident que la charge et l’application du gnie dpassent ce beaucoup les seules notions du savoir technique. L’ingnieur, appel faire grand, doit ncessairement comprendre tous les enjeux de cette dimension.

La Socit canadienne de gnie civil, est sensible un tel discours et constate les mmes conclusions. Elle salue donc l’Acadmie canadienne du gnie pour ses initiatives.

Plusieurs socits mondiales intresses au gnie civil appuient chez elles de telles initiatives nationales. Elles vont mme plus loin en suggrant que la matrise soit le diplome de reconnaissance pour le droit de pratique.

La SCGC suit attentivement cette tendance et suggre a l’Acadmie de l’approfondir.

Georges Archer, ing.

President, La Socit canadienne de gnie civil, Montreal.


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