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Topic: Q: Engineering or Math?
Replies: 33   Last Post: Nov 24, 1997 4:42 PM

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Hanspeter Schmid

Posts: 60
Registered: 12/7/04
Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Posted: Nov 20, 1997 4:12 AM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply

>>>>> Frank Miles <fpm@u.washington.edu> (" fm>" ) says:

fm> I'm was simply trying to point out that the difference between
fm> math and engineering can decline as one advances (in some, but
fm> definitely not all realms of engineering). Previous postings
fm> seemed to indicate that there was some chasm between the two;
fm> I'd say there wasn't.

Just to put it clearly: yes, I think there _is_ a chasm, but I don't
think it ought to be as deep as it is.


fm> Prolonging the time the 'average' engineer-to-be is willing to
fm> tolerate mathematical theory before seeing how it might have
fm> relevance to engineering problems is a more difficult matter.
fm> This is particularly the case when many lower level jobs, for
fm> instance using off-the-shelf digital technology, don't require
fm> the same level of skills as, for another instance, analog
fm> technologies. Engineers are often attracted to the latest
fm> technology de jure; only later will they find out that the basic
fm> mathematics and science have a greater long-term payoff in many
fm> respects.

Yes, I agree. But I _still_ think there is a difference between math
and engineering. Mathematics, in Engineering, is only a tool to
_solve_ problems. However, it is much more important for an engineer
(or indeed for any scientist) to _chose_ a problem to solve. And this
choice is never dictated by scientific or mathematical necessity, but
by the society (or firm) a scientist (or engineer) works in.

I agree that math can be a discipline in its own right in coding
theory and perhaps also in digital technology. But in analog
technology, math is merely used for modelling. Mathematical models
are of course very important, but one should never forget that they
are only models: a simplified image of reality. It is much more
important to know _which_ simplifications are made, and _why_, than to
be able to derive a model mathematically.

I did never intend to say that a profound knowledge of mathematics is
unnecessary for an engineer. In the contrary, I think it is very
important to know one's tools well. However, I think that it should
be taught as such, as a tool, in context, and not detached from
engineering reality. Everybody can juggle formulas after some
training, but the important bit is how to _use_ them. To come back to
my beloved trombone metaphor: if you want to play the trombone, you'll
not start by learning music theory, but by playing.

After all, if practice is more important than theory in the engineer's
work, why should it be otherwise in their education?

In my opinion, practice and theory must go hand in hand, not one one
first, the other later. Leraning both `hand in hand' is, in my
experience, how students become good engineers. It would help greatly
if the curricula would take this into account.

Cheerio, Hanspeter
--
Hanspeter Schmid I have no "position". I have opinions
Researcher (Analog IC Design) that I defend rather vigorously, and
Signal Processing Laboratory, ETHZ. then I find out how silly they are
http://www.isi.ee.ethz.ch/~schmid/ and I give them up.




Date Subject Author
11/12/97
Read Q: Engineering or Math?
kdieudonX@spacey.net
11/13/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Ken Davis
11/13/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Chris Griffin
11/13/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Robert Israel
11/18/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Louis M. Pecora
11/18/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Hanspeter Schmid
11/18/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Frank Miles
11/20/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Hanspeter Schmid
11/20/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
John van Veen
11/22/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Edward leibnitz
11/23/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Terry Moore
11/19/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
PeterK@_delete_mvt.ie
11/19/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Frank Miles
11/20/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Hanspeter Schmid
11/21/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
nobody@nowhere.on.ca
11/20/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Alan J. Livingston
11/13/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Tom Bryan
11/13/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Sam @ The NIMP Team
11/13/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Balden, Ron
11/14/97
Read Re: Engineering or Math?
Rui Santos
11/14/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
cbarker
11/15/97
Read Re: Engineering or Math?
Sergio Gonzalez Lopez
11/17/97
Read Teaching of math Was: Re: Engineering or Math?
Herman Rubin
11/19/97
Read Re: Teaching of math Was: Re: Engineering or Math?
Elvis Presley
11/20/97
Read Re: Teaching of math Was: Re: Engineering or Math?
Herman Rubin
11/22/97
Read Re: Teaching of math Was: Re: Engineering or Math?
Elvis Presley
11/24/97
Read Re: Teaching of math Was: Re: Engineering or Math?
Herman Rubin
11/24/97
Read Re: Teaching of math Was: Re: Engineering or Math?
Milo Gardner
11/24/97
Read Re: Teaching of math Was: Re: Engineering or Math?
Jim Carr
11/19/97
Read Re: Teaching of math Was: Re: Engineering or Math?
Pertti Lounesto
11/15/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Perry W. Stout
11/16/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
charles loboz
11/18/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Hubert HOLIN
11/16/97
Read Re: Q: Engineering or Math?
Arvind Kumar

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