Science Vs. Engineering

As someone with a science degree and engineering job, I’ve often marveled at the difference in, well, call it world view or conceptual view of reality (did I get this right?) between engineers and scientists. Scientists like to dig down deep and leave no stone unturned and have a tendency to create a body of work consisting of 90% exceptions to rules that apply for the other 10%. Engineers, on the other hand, like to categorize and classify ad infinitum. Everything has to fit neatly, even if that means jamming that square peg in the round hole…

Loosely related, but interesting, are these two definitions I found searching inside a book at amazon.com ([book] Environmental Biology for Engineers and Scientists, David A. Vaccari, Peter F. Strom, James E. Alleman )

Science – knowledge coordinated, arranged, and systematized

Engineering – science by which the properties of matter and the sources of power in nature are made useful to humans in structures, machines, and products

Funny, but to me engineering does NOT seem like science. It may be the application of certain highly simplified scientific findings. Engineering just doesn’t have time to ask half the questions science would have to ask. There is no time, money, or patience for that in engineering.

20 minutes later:

If I had kept reading on amazon, I might have found more that I agree with.

That’s exactly what I meant by saying that scientists keep on digging. Their work is never finished. The solution to a problem is never complete or extensive enough. Answers to questions are always accompanied by a onslaught of more questions… that’s what I find very unsatisfying about engineering. The stopping point I pretty much determined before work starts, either due to the targeted nature of the project, or budget and time contraints.

The following quote is similar to what I said about getting the square pegs into the round hole – making things fit no matter what.

Finally, this here trait or tendency of engineers may be true – although not exclusively for engineers, and it goes to the credit of their trade because, yes, in the real world, experience oftentimes outweighs or trumps mere knowledge. In this way, engineers are more like detectives. You may have a pile of scientific reports on your desk, but one visit to the crime scene or one face-to-face with the suspect will be worth more than all those reports. In the real world, decisions need to be made before all knowledge has been gathered, i.e. the end of time, therefore, experience needs to play an important part.

 

 PS: One additional major difference between engineers and scientists: Engineers like wearing suits and ties, scientists like t-shirts and tennis shoes.

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2 Responses to “Science Vs. Engineering”

  1. I’m an engineer, and I would HATE IT if I had to wear a suit and tie, you insensitive clod!

  2. Thanks! Very helpful indeed… I’ve been considering enrolling on either a science or engineering degree course.

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