“Essential Engineering” on Groks Science

posted by: Damon Diehl

I just caught an interesting interview with Dr. Henry Petroski over on the Groks Science Radio Show (a quirky show that I loved long before its co-producer, Charles Lee, moved to my undergraduate alma mater). Petroski is a professor of civil engineering over at Duke, and he’s got a new book out entitled Essential Engineering, which deals with why engineering is essential in the modern world, and how engineering is different from basic science. The subtitle of the book is “Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems.” That phrasing may sound critical of basic science, but that certainly isn’t the intent. Rather Petroski is seeking to elevate the importance of engineering in the public eye so that science and engineering are seen as a partnership and not as a hierarchy. In particular he takes issue with the common misconception that engineering is “just applied science.” On the contrary people often engineer a device before the scientific principles underlying it are understood. This is certainly true in optics. For example magnifying lenses have been used for thousands of years (for example Aristophanes mentions a “crystal lens” in his play The Clouds, circa 420 BCE), but the theory of refraction was not described mathematically until around 1000 CE. (As to who first devised the laws of refraction… I’ll let the debate continue to rage on Wikipedia.)

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: History of Science, Philosophy of Science

Tags: ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: