I’m 42 years old and always had a fascination with science. I am always trying to figure how things work because people always hand me their broken stuff to fix. Broken computers, appliances, even broken relationships and fixing misunderstandings among people.
Yet I’d always hit the same brick walls when talking to science lovers online; a roadblock of me “thinking different”; having multiple answers to the same questions when they wanted a single =.
Over the past week, I’ve read the ONLY two books I could find in my library about a philosophy of Engineering; The Essential Engineer and Why Things Break, plus I found a PDF scan of “Definition of the Engineering Method” – only 76 pages but the view on Heuristics was mindblowing to me.
In all three cases, they explained the differences between science and engineering by making a very clear point that science – and math – is *not* the foundation of engineering.
Getting things to work using whatever your state of the art is, in the time and resource constraints that you are working within – THAT is what’s key.
In Definition of the Engineering Method there is a great line: “Apply Science when necessary”, and the trip to the Moon is shown as a classic example of where Science is ignorant but Engineers plunge ahead because, well, the President told them to and gave the funding and resources to do so. The deadline was 1970 and they did it.
THEN science came afterwards to come up with theories.
Eye opening. Completely eye opening. I avoided Engineering because of the public opinion, “Oh their weird people” – well I’m weird and think different. “Oh it’s all about math and CAD and science”. Well, I can’t draw. I do programming and I have a love of science (physics especially – it’s hard not to love physics). But I failed Calculus and had no interest in learning the symbols of higher math – as by then, I was well versed in computer programming, having gotten BASIC at 11 years old in the early 80s when all that stuff was “new”.
Point being: the Engineering mindset is something you can have that is distinctive from a Scientific mindset or a Religious Mindset or a Humanities mindset.
it’s different. I always called myself a “hacker” (in the old fashioned Unix good sense) Well, engineering is hacking reality to accomplish new things with the very human constraints of time, uncertainty, lack of resources, etc. There’s more than one way to solve every problem and you do the best you can with what you know and what you have to work with.
Engineering seems to be the most human of all of the disciplines of knowledge. I just want to say thanks.
Kenneth Udut – simplify3 – on the ‘net from before there was a www… I remember the 1993 prediction “Imminent Death of the ‘Net” thread on Usenet – and they were right. It died the way it was but has gotten stronger. I’ve never left it. People are amazing.
P.S. I’m not looking to become an Engineer; I know I think this way already – what I always called “hacker mindset”. It’s just good to know where “my people” are: busy creating new stuff for the world under impossible deadlines with too few resources. I appreciate any thoughts to what I’ve written. Thanks!