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Quote of the Day: The Dance of the STEMs

 

“Engineers think that equations approximate the real world.
Physicists think that the real world approximates equations.
Mathematicians are unable to make the connection.” –– Anonymous

Outside of the small fraternity that practices STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), everyone thinks we are harmonious purveyors of the advancement of mankind. As noted by the brave soul who made the above observation (anonymously), our worldviews have, well … differences.

Engineers are a pragmatic bunch, give us a theory and a mathematical relationship that explains how the world operates, the limitations on both that theory and the math, and we are happy to use it to a technological end. Why does it exactly work? Well after the design objectives have been achieved, let’s crack open a beer, contemplate the quirks, and why the theory has not been exactly pinned down.

As an example, there has been a bit of roundabout discussion in aerodynamics on the exact explanation of the force responsible for keeping a plane aloft. Since I implicitly promise no math when I opine on Ricochet, I refer you to the smackdown between Newton’s and Bernoulli’s take on the nature of that force (“Luke, feel the force”) that is the wind beneath your wings.

That force that has been keeping you and yours aloft since December of 1903. Confusion has its roots because we like to give as simple an explanation for a phenomenon using allegorical examples, but those models tend to break down due to the other emblematic features when we use a simplifying “model.”

Scientists strive for precision and eventually get so bogged down with some seriously esoteric math that it takes another scientist to argue if the real world is conforming to their equational beauty. Such exploration of extreme mathematical beauties goes on to suggest things like “multiple universes.” The math works, but remains totally unprovable, thus to the rest of us it is totally just a form of mental eccentricity. Whether any near-term practically can be derived from such ruminations is typically irrelevant, as long as there is a recognizable group hug in the form of a Nobel Prize before they leave this mortal coil. The true motivational goal of a real scientist….

As for the mathematicians, they are so outside either of these arguments they have their own Laments, for example, that pure math is so beautiful in its own right that it should have no need to be the instrument of helping to solve trivial facts and formulas.

Given these behavioral predilections of our subtribes, it is no wonder the rest of society keeps us at arm’s length.

Note: No Diminutive, faint looking serpents were intentionally insulted in this post.

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There are 46 comments.

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  1. Contributor

    Engineers: Introvertedly keeping society upright since always.

    • #1
    • February 8, 2019 at 6:51 am
    • 9 likes
  2. Member

    GLDIII Possibly Non Essential:

    Given these behavioral predilections of our sub tribes

    it is no wonder the rest of society keeps us at arm’s length.

    Some engineers might call that a feature.

    • #2
    • February 8, 2019 at 6:52 am
    • 9 likes
  3. Member

    GLDIII Possibly Non Essential: Note: No Diminutive, Faint looking, Serpents were intentional insulted in this post.

    Oh, so it was me you were talking about, instead?

    • #3
    • February 8, 2019 at 6:59 am
    • 1 like
  4. Reagan

    Arahant (View Comment):

    GLDIII Possibly Non Essential: Note: No Diminutive, Faint looking, Serpents were intentional insulted in this post.

    Oh, so it was me you were talking about, instead?

    Et Tu a mathematician?

    • #4
    • February 8, 2019 at 7:25 am
    • 1 like
  5. Member

    GLDIII Possibly Non Essential (View Comment):
    Et Tu a mathematician?

    Pure mathematician. Not one of those applied mathematicians, who might as well be halfway to a physicist.

    • #5
    • February 8, 2019 at 7:29 am
    • 10 likes
  6. Thatcher

    For new discoveries, Scientists and Mathematicians get prizes. Engineers get patents.


    The Quote of the Day series is the easiest way to start a fun conversation on Ricochet. We have only 3 open dates left on the February Schedule. We’ve even include tips for finding great quotes, so choose your favorite quote and sign up today!

    • #6
    • February 8, 2019 at 7:41 am
    • 13 likes
  7. Member

    I was more on the dweeb spectrum. My interests shifted too often to be a nerd or a dork. I think my high school classmates would agree. But I don’t think I will ask. Good info.

    • #7
    • February 8, 2019 at 8:28 am
    • 4 likes
  8. Member

    The original of that Calvin and Hobbes comic was about paleontology. Swap out the word “spectra” with “bones” and “molecule” with “dinosaur” and you’re there.

    Not that that really matters to anything.

    • #8
    • February 8, 2019 at 9:04 am
    • 4 likes
  9. Member

    GLDIII Possibly Non Essential:

    The guy who dreamed up this diagram; dork or nerd?

    • #9
    • February 8, 2019 at 10:38 am
    • 7 likes
  10. Member

    Hank Rhody, Meddling Cowpoke (View Comment):
    The guy who dreamed up this diagram; dork or nerd?

    Dweeb.

    • #10
    • February 8, 2019 at 11:10 am
    • Like
  11. Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody, Meddling Cowpoke (View Comment):
    The guy who dreamed up this diagram; dork or nerd?

    Dweeb.

    I was thinking Genius.

    • #11
    • February 8, 2019 at 12:14 pm
    • 3 likes
  12. Member

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody, Meddling Cowpoke (View Comment):
    The guy who dreamed up this diagram; dork or nerd?

    Dweeb.

    I was thinking Genius.

    Not on the map.

    • #12
    • February 8, 2019 at 12:27 pm
    • 1 like
  13. Member

    Hank Rhody, Meddling Cowpoke (View Comment):

    GLDIII Possibly Non Essential:

    The guy who dreamed up this diagram; dork or nerd?

    I posted this image here several months back, but don’t know if the OP got it from there or elsewhere. If elsewhere, I’d also love to know where it came from, as I posted with an attribution of “unknown” and would like to be able to rectify that.

    As for me, Chemistry major, working in Microbiology and Epidemiology Clinical Research (bacterial infectious diseases), I’m an example of entropy, having studied pure mathematics (gorgeous!) and physics (lovely!) along the way. Nerd, BTW. Undergrad, I did a double major with Philosophy and an MA in classical liberal arts–just for the fun of it!–before going back to science in grad school and employment.

     

    • #13
    • February 8, 2019 at 1:03 pm
    • 10 likes
  14. Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody, Meddling Cowpoke (View Comment):
    The guy who dreamed up this diagram; dork or nerd?

    Dweeb.

    No evidence of social ineptitude, as whomever it was managed to get it posted and shared on the web. If anything, nerd or geek.

    • #14
    • February 8, 2019 at 1:05 pm
    • 3 likes
  15. Coolidge

    GLDIII Possibly Non Essential:

     

    This is the only kind of identity politics I agree with.

    • #15
    • February 8, 2019 at 1:34 pm
    • 4 likes
  16. Thatcher

    Physics: Discovering how the universe works.

    Engineering: Taking what physicists discover and making something useful out of it.

    I’m glad to be both a physicist and an engineer, so that means I both don’t know and can’t do squat . . .

    • #16
    • February 8, 2019 at 1:50 pm
    • 6 likes
  17. Member

    Hank Rhody, Meddling Cowpoke (View Comment):

    GLDIII Possibly Non Essential:

    The guy who dreamed up this diagram; dork or nerd?

    Nerd, or possibly Geek.

    • #17
    • February 8, 2019 at 1:58 pm
    • Like
  18. Member

    GLDIII Possibly Non Essential: As for the mathematicians, they are so outside either of these arguments they have their own Laments, for example, that pure math is so beautiful in its own right that it should have no need to be the instrument of helping to solve trivial facts and formulas.

    When I was in an undergraduate, we Engineering majors kept asking our Math professor, “But what is it useful for?” He could not answer, and we’re not sure he even understood the question. He saw no need for math to be useful. Its beauty alone should be sufficient. He said in class once that we should love the beauty of the math so much that we should want to be stranded on a remote island with our math book so we could spend all of our time contemplating its beauty.

    My daughter has a BS in Mathematics, but she uses it to develop financial models for real life employee retirement plans. But in college, she found the Math majors and the Physics majors spoke a lot of the same language.

    • #18
    • February 8, 2019 at 2:06 pm
    • 7 likes
  19. Member

    As an engineer (over 33 years) I loved this. I can’t say that pure scientists have ever carried their weight on my projects but a few mathematicians have contributed over the years with coming up with equations. On a separate subject, if “babes” ever went for engineers, I never saw it. ;)

    • #19
    • February 8, 2019 at 2:07 pm
    • 3 likes
  20. Member

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody, Meddling Cowpoke (View Comment):

    GLDIII Possibly Non Essential:

    The guy who dreamed up this diagram; dork or nerd?

    Nerd, or possibly Geek.

    I would say dweeb. 

    • #20
    • February 8, 2019 at 2:08 pm
    • 2 likes
  21. Member

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    When I was in an undergraduate, we Engineering majors kept asking our Math professor, “But what is it useful for?” He could not answer, and we’re not sure he even understood the question.

    I’ve cited this before here, but the question persists:
    From The Physics of Superheroes, by James Kakalios:

    One trick I’ve hit upon in teaching physics involves using examples
    culled from superhero comic books that correctly illustrate
    various applications of physics principles. Interestingly enough,
    whenever I cite examples from superhero comic books in a lecture,
    my students never wonder when they will use this information in
    “real life.” Apparently they all have plans, post-graduation, that involve
    Spandex and protecting the City from all threats. As a lawabiding
    citizen, it fills me with a great sense of security because I
    also know how many of my scientist colleagues could charitably
    be termed “mad.”

    • #21
    • February 8, 2019 at 2:23 pm
    • 11 likes
  22. Reagan

    Manny (View Comment):

    As an engineer (over 33 years) I loved this. I can’t say that pure scientists have ever carried their weight on my projects but a few mathematicians have contributed over the years with coming up with equations. On a separate subject, if “babes” ever went for engineers, I never saw it. ;)

    Hobbs was referring to Physicists, you missed nothing…..However I believe they have an even lower probability than Engineers….. See Dibert.

    • #22
    • February 8, 2019 at 3:28 pm
    • 2 likes
  23. Member

    Manny (View Comment):

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody, Meddling Cowpoke (View Comment):

    GLDIII Possibly Non Essential:

    The guy who dreamed up this diagram; dork or nerd?

    Nerd, or possibly Geek.

    I would say dweeb.

    Whoever it was, I’m stealing it.

    • #23
    • February 8, 2019 at 3:56 pm
    • 2 likes
  24. Member

    Pete EE (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody, Meddling Cowpoke (View Comment):

    GLDIII Possibly Non Essential:

    The guy who dreamed up this diagram; dork or nerd?

    Nerd, or possibly Geek.

    I would say dweeb.

    Whoever it was, I’m stealing it.

    He coded his name into the graphic. It was Sid Ingdo.

    • #24
    • February 8, 2019 at 3:58 pm
    • 1 like
  25. Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    GLDIII Possibly Non Essential (View Comment):
    Et Tu a mathematician?

    Pure mathematician. Not one of those applied mathematicians, who might as well be halfway to a physicist.

    I call shenanigans on this. I have it on good authority that writers are not allowed to know math. 

    • #25
    • February 8, 2019 at 5:31 pm
    • 4 likes
  26. Member

    :thinking: no superfluity of n… (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    GLDIII Possibly Non Essential (View Comment):
    Et Tu a mathematician?

    Pure mathematician. Not one of those applied mathematicians, who might as well be halfway to a physicist.

    I call shenanigans on this. I have it on good authority that writers are not allowed to know math.

    But I’m a polymath. 😸

    • #26
    • February 8, 2019 at 5:52 pm
    • 5 likes
  27. Member

    • #27
    • February 9, 2019 at 2:35 am
    • 9 likes
  28. Thatcher

    A physicist and an engineer were given a challenge. A hundred yards from them was a beautiful, scantily-clad woman reclining on a bed. They were told if they reached the woman, they could make love to her. However, the catch was they could only move halfway towards her every minute.

    The physicist threw up his hands and said, “It’s no use. I’ll never get there!”

    The engineer ran fifty yards, stopped and yelled, “But I can get close enough!”

    • #28
    • February 9, 2019 at 6:03 am
    • 9 likes
  29. Member

    Mark Wilson (View Comment):

    Classic!!!

    • #29
    • February 9, 2019 at 7:22 am
    • 1 like
  30. Member

    Arahant (View Comment):
    He coded his name into the graphic. It was Sid Ingdo.

    And you people doubt his obsession?

    • #30
    • February 9, 2019 at 9:02 am
    • 1 like
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