# What's a good "real engineer" question?

There are quick ways to separate the real techies from wannabes

Sometimes, you just want to know who is real and who is faking it about their basic technical credibility and background. After all, we know people who hang around engineers and effortlessly use technical words and phrases (you can insert your own examples of such terminology here), and may even *sound* credible, but don’t really know what they are talking about (such a Dilbert's pointy-haired boss). That can be irritating, for sure.

What to do? You could try slipping in some in-depth technical questions, of course, but if they are too "niche-y", the questions may be outside the area of expertise of the person you're asking—and so they may not know the answers, despite their overall knowledge (note: don’t ask me *anything* about Unix).

[*An aside*: Back in the "glory days" of DIP ICs, we would take an unmarked IC, place it on a table, ask the person to look at it, and then close his or her eyes for a few seconds. We'd rotate the package 180°, then ask them to open their eyes and tell us if they saw anything different about it. If they said "no", we knew they weren't a real EE—they didn't know about the "pin 1" designator. But using DIP ICs is no longer a fair test.]

Then a solution popped into my head (how the mind does this is yet another mystery of the brain and mental process): ask about temperature. After all, it's among the most common parameters in engineering and science, everyone involved in technology should know about it.

I thought about it and came up with a few. I'm giving them to you here, with no license agreement, no royalty, no use restrictions, no "anything" of the sort:

•__An easy one__: what's the Celsius equivalent of 32° F and 212° F? (If you're talking to people from outside the U.S., it would be better to ask for the Fahrenheit equivalent of 0° C and 100° C, of course.)

•__The somewhat-harder__ but more revealing one: what's the Celsius equivalent of -40° F? (Outside the U.S., ask for the Fahrenheit equivalent of -40° C.)

•__Or how about this__: what's the fundamental difference between a static RAM and a dynamic RAM?

•__Or this__: why does using a higher voltage yield greater efficiency in power control, lines, and busses?

I think the correct answers to these questions, and how quickly they are offered, will help you determine who has the actual technical background and who is just a *poseur* or faker using the terminology.

__How do you determine who is real and who is faking it__? Do you have questions you use, such as basic binary numbering and conversion? Or do you have other methods, such as their quick grasp of some representative Dilbert strips, like this one? ?

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