Engineers who court adventure and excitement in their careers aren’t to be found in cubicles, with a comfy chair and a cup of coffee to greet a guest. In fact, getting their stories can be a challenge.
”This is the first eye-safe laser scanning system ever built,” Gregory Makhov, one of the IEEE Spectrum’s 10 dream jobbers for 2007, told Senior Editor Tekla S. Perry in October. He assured her that sophisticated software and fail-safe hardware meant that he could shine laser light directly into her eyes without damaging her vision. Perry put down her notebook and fought the urge to bolt as the plane of laser light descended toward her face. The effect was magical, like entering the tunnel of light in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was just as well that Makhov had neglected to tell her that the prototype device’s safety systems weren’t automatic but had to be adjusted by hand. And that he himself had blind spots from laser scarring. (Perry is fine.)
Meanwhile, Executive Editor Glenn Zorpette [photo], toting US $4000 worth of camera and recording equipment, hiked to the top of the Soufrière volcano on Guadeloupe with Christian Anténor-Habazac. Zorpette had been warned to pack his equipment in a waterproof bag. Good thing, because two downpours drenched the duo during their climb. On the return trip, sluicing down paths that had turned into muddy torrents, Zorpette sprained his ankle. Twice. As he hobbled down the rocky trails, soaked to the skin, lugging 20 kilograms of gear, he marveled at the young women wearing shorts, T-shirts, and flimsy sandals, passing him as they hopped from rock to rock.