Engineering comes with the responsibility to SHUT THE HELL UP


Or more importantly don’t make the government agencies look bad.



My understanding is that licensing for engineers is a relatively common thing, for the usual professional-license combination of ‘because if they screw it up very bad things happen’ and ‘because it keeps cheap unlicensed competition away’; what seems egregious in Oregon is that the definition of ‘engineering’ is broad enough that it would appear to cover basically any mathematical problem solving for a 3rd party down to the level of the cashier making change for you.

And, of course, the fact that while about a zillion ‘software engineers’ roam free; they go after the guy who messed with their precious red light timings. Definitely no problematic enforcement priorities or petty retaliation there.


In other states you only run into a problem if you call yourself an engineer without licensing, which appears to be the case here - though they are punishing the letter of the law and not the spirit. The intention is to prevent low-cost hucksters from rubber stamping engineering projects that could easily cause the death of many people, and I would know because my huckster grandfather got fined more than once for his “engineering” efforts.

I have always been told large companies get around this by taking the liability onto themselves in order to keep a lower cost workforce around, but I don’t know how accurate that is. It’s a part of engineering I’m not very familiar with despite taking the examinations.


Yeah, that is exactly what happened. He presented his credentials as being an engineer for years to the board.


Load up the turd catapult!

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If you read the decision, the problem is that he called himself an “engineer” when he started shopping his solution around, he was asked not to do that (“that”=claim the title while sending the solution around), he agreed not to do that, and then he started doing it again.

We license lots of professions, from MD to engineer to lawyer to plumber, and fine people for practicing these professions without a license. Maybe that should change. While “engineer” is slightly problematic insofar as there is an informal meaning for the term that does not involve licensure, the decision seems reasonable, especially since they first asked politely.


I’m really not sure why he decided to stick to his guns on the ‘calling himself an engineer’ bit, that seemed deeply unwise(and relatively unlikely to prevail on free speech grounds; given that First Amendment case law is generally unfriendly to things that look like fraudulent misrepresentation in a commercial context); but Oregon’s definition of ‘engineering’ for the purposes of their licensing law struck me as alarmingly broad(though clearly almost never actually enforced, or Oregon’s court system would have collapsed under the load). The order mentions ORS 672.005, which says:

(1) “Practice of engineering” or “practice of professional engineering” means doing any of the following:
(a) Performing any professional service or creative work requiring engineering education, training and experience.
(b) Applying special knowledge of the mathematical, physical and engineering sciences to such professional services or creative work as consultation, investigation, testimony, evaluation, planning, design and services during construction, manufacture or fabrication for the purpose of ensuring compliance with specifications and design, in connection with any public or private utilities, structures, buildings, machines, equipment, processes, works or projects.
© Surveying to determine area or topography.
(d) Surveying to establish lines, grades or elevations, or to determine or estimate quantities of materials required, removed or in place.
(e) Surveying required for design and construction layout of engineering and architectural infrastructure.
(f) Performing photogrammetric mapping.

The intent is clearly the (well justified) “No hacks signing off on bridges and turbines and stuff, OK?”; but the law as written sure looks like 1(a) could require an engineering license to get paid to teach kids to build Lego Mindstorms robots; or to do, even for your own amusement, basically anything @nixiebunny posts about. 1(b) is slightly narrower; but also appears to forbid any math that counts as ‘special knowledge’ for basically any purpose connected to ‘structures, buildings, machines, equipment, processes, works or projects’, public or private, of any scale, and regardless of how safety critical or not.

This guy seems to have been taking pointless risks(on which he probably won’t be vindicated) in pushing the matter of representing himself as an engineer in the context of a traffic systems problem, a decision I find very puzzling; but that doesn’t mean that I much like the look of their definition of engineering.


Except that he is a (foreign-trained) engineer, just not licensed in Oregon. And as @emo_pinata noted, the board of examiners is punishing him simply because they can, not because they have any good reason to do so. The law isn’t there to stop actual engineers from publishing actual flaws and proposing solutions. Some pencil-pushing bureaucrat got a bug up his ass over a foreigner embarrassing his or her buddies in the transportation department, and decided to pervert the spirit of the law to shield them from having to correct the mistake.

Now, should he make sure the Institute of Transportation Engineers and other engineers and officials he contacts about this or similar problems knows he was trained in Sweden and isn’t licensed in Oregon? Sure, why not, better safe than sorry and full disclosure is a good thing. But being able to put someone in prison for a year because they published a math error and correction? Please, that’s clearly not why the laws for licensing were written.

And whereas a lawyer’s advice is open to interpretation and a doctor’s to uncertainty, math is verifiably right or wrong. The people he’s taking his results to have the expertise to verify which it is.

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Since El Reg can be a bit tabloidy, here’s a report from the Oregonian.


Guy should have presented this as a physics problem, being solved by a math buff. I don’t think that those need to be licensed in Oregon.


I have to say this article makes things look a little worse for him, but it still doesn’t say he was ever warned before being issued a $500 fine. He found himself some lawyers that are making some really silly claims though, you are told what a professional engineer is and not to throw engineer around as a credential and especially in areas with tough licensing requirements like the west coast.

This guy probably should have known better, but I can’t say that the law is reasonable in good conscience.

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I agree with this. I used to live in Oregon and violated (b) daily. However, I assume that they didn’t actually push on this, unless someone was titling themselves an “engineer” while doing it.

All kinds of people regularly engage in activity we might call engineering, just as we all engage in plumbing and medicine. The problem comes when you call yourself a plumber or doctor or engineer when offering your services elsewhere.

As I argued over on the Gorka thread, credentials are important. The beauty of mathematics is that anyone with the right combination of skill and cleverness on any given day might be able to solve any mathematical problem, but someone who is not trained to understand the solution will more safely believe the answer if it comes from someone with a credible credential. For someone without the credential, the normal way to get people to respect your answer is to get someone who can understand your solution to vet it; that’s what peer-review is, Another possibility is to find someone with the appropriate credential to argue on your behalf, either because they have worked through your solution and is willing to back it with their credential, or because they know enough about your background that they are willing to vouch for the sufficiency of your training.

If you go to 60 Minutes and get them to pay attention to your scribbles by saying “I’m an engineer” when you’re not, that is fraudulent.

Many years ago I worked in the water quality division of the EPA. We had a book with formulas for water flow rates for various culvert shapes. On one plant inspection their wastewater pipe shape was not in the book, so my colleagues (all engineers) were stuck. I derived a formula for the flow (it was a simple integral), but only had a BA in Mathematics, so while he used my formula for temporary use, my boss sent to the head office to hire an expert to derive the formula for the book. I was a little miffed, but he was right.

I’m sure this guy believes very deeply in his formula, but he used underhanded means to get people to pay attention to it. BB just banned a guy on another thread who apparently calls himself a “scientist” (he’s actually a massage therapist) when writing for various outlets on climate change, When people like Trump talk about all the scientists who disagree with the fact of human-caused climate change, he’s including this guy. Credentials matter. Not always, but often when when policy is involved.

[quote=“GulliverFoyle, post:10, topic:100100”]
Except that he is a (foreign-trained) engineer, just not licensed in Oregon.[/quote]

I don’t know what “engineering training” entailed in Sweden 40 years ago, but if it was equivalent then after being told not to represent himself as an engineer without a license he should have got a license before continuing to do so. That’s what doctors trained in other countries do before hanging up their shingle here.

[quote=“emo_pinata, post:13, topic:100100”]
I have to say this article makes things look a little worse for him, but it still doesn’t say he was ever warned before being issued a $500 fine.[/quote]

You have to read the actual court decision to find it.

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In Soviet Russia, Engineer license you.


i don’t think that’s it exactly.

in this case, he’s not practicing as an engineer, nor is he applying to a job requiring engineering credentials.

instead, he’s written letters, appeared in interviews, and even filed a lawsuit about red-light timing in which he’s said he’s an engineer.

if he had presented himself as an “oregon certified engineer” that would be one thing. but, he hasn’t.

it seems this would hold true for doctors as well. if you were a doctor in the usa, you might may not be licensed to practice medicine in canada; but, if you told someone in canada that you were a doctor: it wouldn’t be a lie.


I see “during construction, manufacture or fabrication for the purpose of ensuring compliance” there, but it doesn’t say “while emailing a suggestion for a possible future improvement”. But yeah, (a) is written in such a way that it could apply to anything including the ‘creative work’ of playing Jenga. So I’d guess they probably got him on (1)(a) - sharing a thought that engineers might be interested in.

Sounds right to fight it, unless he was actually building or reprogramming the traffic lights or something. A doctor licensed somewhere else might suggest “this drug could be effective at treating kidney stones.” If a licensed local doctor decided to prescribe it to a patient without bothering to research or test it or get FDA approval, I would assume it would be the prescribing doctor that should get any potential malpractice suit, not the guy who suggested it.

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He’s trying to get policymakers to change policy, this is pretty significant. The interviews wouldn’t have happened had he not claimed the credential. As much as this feels like turf-protecting overreach, the guy lost me when he first said he’d stop but then turned around and continued.

All so that his wife can get out of a ticket for driving through a red light.

Let’s see if his paper survives the peer-review process at a serious journal.

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it’s a democracy, so good for him. honestly, more people should petition their representatives.

he is credentialed!

im alright when people change their minds. foolish consistency is a hobgoblin and all that.

he sounds like the engineer that he is. lots of engineers need some sort of event to spur them, but aren’t ready to rest till all the subsequent facts are fully considered. basically, it’s bug fixing. again, good for him. ( and totally separate from the point of it all. )

if there’s one unspoken aspect i might agree with, it’s the call to authority. “i’m an engineer, so listen to me” rather than “here are the facts.” that is the world we live in, but i’d rather it wasn’t.

[quote=“gatto, post:19, topic:100100”]
he is credentialed![/quote]
He’s not though. In the case of accredited professions, the credential is the license.

I’ve got no issue with him petitioning for a change. Let him do so as a citizen, or as a speaker designer, or as anything he likes, but not claim a title he does not have. He is well aware that claiming this title (the second time) was (a) a violation, and (b) the only way he could get people to pay attention to him.

im alright when people change their minds.

Apparently the Oregon judiciary does not agree with you.

Meanwhile, he claims to have submitted his analysis to a journal for review. That is an obvious first step before revisiting the current formula. Hopefully he picked a real journal, not a vanity journal.

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