So, earlier today, around 5:30 as I was about to leave, the lead engineer that I basically work for came by my cubicle and asked me some questions about magnetostatics. He has largely forgotten everything that is any more complicated than Ohm’s law, which is a little scary because he’s the lead electromagnetic compatibility engineer on a pretty big aerospace project. Anyway, I took about 15 minutes to explain how one might, in principle, solve a rather complicated problem involving current-carrying wires and the magnetic field. I told him that it was somewhat straightforward, but not a simple result by any means. I didn’t think to make the point that it was the sort of thing that a graduate course in classical electrodynamics might have as a homework problem.
As I was about to leave, he said, “Sounds good. Have something finished by tomorrow morning for our 9:00 AM telecon with…”
So, here I am, grinding out this problem that would have taken me a day or two to puzzle out, if I were a graduate student (which I’m not and never have been) that had taken a course in advanced electrodynamics (which I’ve not). I was correct; the problem is tractable, but it’s still going to take me most of the evening to work out the solution. It’s got some line integrals and a few other subtleties, so the answer won’t be simple, which is really unfortunate since the guys I’ll have to explain it to in the morning won’t have a clue what I’m talking about because, the last time they saw anything like this was 30 years ago and they’ve spent every day since trying to forget it.
Really annoying to me when people ask an incredibly complicated question, I spend a bunch of time coming up with the solution, and then they complain because the answer couldn’t fit on one line of a PowerPoint chart.