Why do people prefer engineering/applied science over pure science?


by metalrose
Tags: people, prefer, pure, science
DR13
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#19
Sep17-10, 09:18 AM
P: 210
Quote Quote by metalrose View Post
Applied fields helping produce new knowledge in the pure fields may not be that rare, but that is not what the applied fields actually concern themselves with. In many cases, it might turn out that applied fields lead to new knowledge, but that is more of a coincidence or being lucky enough.

To produce new knowledge is not the main concern of the applied fields, that's why they are called "applied". So I don't think, on the basis of just a few instances in the past where applied fields have helped the pure ones, one can say that applied fields do definitely produce fundamental knowledge.
Applied fields produce new knowledge all of the time. Transistors, computers, nuclear reactors, etc are all products of applied science. I believe that one would consider this new knowledge. And if you want to talk about knowledge by accident look no farther than Bohr. When he first came up with his model for the atom, he said that he believed that it would never have an applied purpose. It is now the basis of nuclear science. So in pure sciences people come up with things that have no use and then it is up to the applied scientists to actually find a use for it.
metalrose
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#20
Sep17-10, 09:32 AM
P: 126
@DR13,

Sorry for the use of bad language, but when I say new knowledge, I mean new "FUNDAMENTAL KNOWLEDGE". A transistor runs on principles of physics and the invention of a transistor hasn't produced a new understanding of how nature works.

So yes, all the applied fields do produce knowledge, just like most other fields, but that's not fundamental in nature, that's all im tryin to say here.
metalrose
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#21
Sep17-10, 09:38 AM
P: 126
@zapper z,

Maybe the particular field of condensed matter physics has a large overlap with the pure part of physics, and thus maybe it has been incorrectly viewed as a purely applied field.

But what I'm trying to say, is that the purely applied fields, not just in physics, but outside of it too, have got little to do with advancing our fundamental knowledge about nature.

Maybe you could consider condensed matter physics as a pure field having quite a no. of applications as well, so that in sense the argument may not apply to condensed matter phy. in particular, but I was talking about applied science in general.

Do you agree, or have I still not understood something?

Thanks.
DR13
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#22
Sep17-10, 09:52 AM
P: 210
OK, I am going to try to make this simple. People like to go into applied sciences to help the world around them (at least this is my reason). I just dont get why you are not accepting this as a legitimate reason. If all science people wanted to go into pure science we would be screwed and still living in the stone age. Plus, who do you think makes all of the fancy equipment that pure scientists use? The applied scientists. Hopefully you are content with this answer.
Japelleum
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#23
Sep17-10, 02:33 PM
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Quote Quote by metalrose View Post
I am a physics undergraduate student, and was wondering why so many people would prefer to become an Electrical Engineer or Mechanical Engineer as opposed to a Theoretical Physicist or a Mathematician or a Biologist?
For me, it was all about the better job prospects. When I was studying 2nd year undergraduate physics, I could find no jobs related to my field of study. This really put me off, and I lost all motivation to work hard in my studies (and I had been an A student); in those days, my favorite thing to say was how hard physics was and how it was "all for nothing, all for sh**". It's just one of those hard facts of life that you are 100 times more likely to find employment with a B.Sc. in an applied field like EE than say a pure field like physics (at least that's how it works here in Canada). There is, of course, always graduate school, but my rationale was that I'd spent the last 12+ years in school and wanted to get out of it and not just get another degree that you "can do anything with" (not unlike a HS diploma).

Quote Quote by metalrose View Post
Do you not find it exciting to ask fundamental questions like "Where did the universe come from?" or "How does it all work?" or "Why does it all exist?" or "What new knowledge mathematics can produce?" or "How and why life evolved?" ?
Yes, in fact I love thinking about such questions, but I'd much rather do it from the comfort of my relatively secure middle class life than that of a post doc struggling for tenure, or researcher worried about government cuts, and c. I can pick up a book anytime to find out more about such questions, but to convince someone that I am employable requires a practical degree I'm afraid.
DaleSpam
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#24
Sep17-10, 03:43 PM
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Quote Quote by metalrose View Post
What attracts you to the applied science fields so much (APART FROM THE MONEY). Do you not find it exciting to ask fundamental questions like "Where did the universe come from?" or "How does it all work?" or "Why does it all exist?" or "What new knowledge mathematics can produce?" or "How and why life evolved?"
For me it is because I enjoy the creative process more than the analytical process. I actually don't find the "how does it all work?" questions nearly as enjoyable as, "how can I build a device that will do X?"

If I hadn't gone into engineering I probably would have become an artist before a pure scientist.
Klockan3
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#25
Sep17-10, 03:45 PM
P: 614
Why do people prefer engineering/applied science over pure science?
Why do people prefer sex over porn? Basically the same reason, most prefers things which is closer to their reality. Porn is far away, you lack emotions for it except for its comparable purity while sex is hands on, dirty and filled with emotions.

I think that you need to be somewhat emotionally detached from reality to like the pure sciences.
ZapperZ
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#26
Sep17-10, 05:51 PM
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Quote Quote by metalrose View Post
@zapper z,

Maybe the particular field of condensed matter physics has a large overlap with the pure part of physics, and thus maybe it has been incorrectly viewed as a purely applied field.

But what I'm trying to say, is that the purely applied fields, not just in physics, but outside of it too, have got little to do with advancing our fundamental knowledge about nature.

Maybe you could consider condensed matter physics as a pure field having quite a no. of applications as well, so that in sense the argument may not apply to condensed matter phy. in particular, but I was talking about applied science in general.

Do you agree, or have I still not understood something?

Thanks.
No, I disagree.

You really should do a bit of reading on what "condensed matter physics" is. It has a lot of applications, and it studies basic behavior of interactions present in matter.

Rather than trying to rename a cow as an elephant, why not simply accept the fact that the cow has plenty of elements of an elephant, and go on with the rest of our lives? This "need" to really compartmentalize various specialities, and THEN trying to deny various aspects of each of them, is awfully silly.

The OP made statements based on two outstanding myths about physics. What is so uncomfortable about destroying those myths?

Zz.
metalrose
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#27
Sep18-10, 12:32 AM
P: 126
A variety of opinions here.....thank you all.....
physicsdude30
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#28
Sep18-10, 06:51 PM
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Quote Quote by metalrose View Post
Hi,

I am a physics undergraduate student, and was wondering why so many people would prefer to become an Electrical Engineer or Mechanical Engineer as opposed to a Theoretical Physicist or a Mathematician or a Biologist?
Perhaps engineers see the "Big Picture" vs "Details" differently? To illustrate where I'm coming from, most would say Isaac Newton was a big picture thinker. He saw an apple fall from a tree and though "gravity". He saw past the "here and now details" of apple and other activities of his time, and saw a bigger more universal picture. Now let's say you're the owner of a big business. The big picture is your business. The mitochondrial and chemical reactions in your workers arms/legs are details. Mitochondrial and chemical reactions are more universal and have a bigger impact on society, but they're details in this context. The same for the principles of economics. Likewise, most owners of a business are going to say the same of all the laws of physics/science. Physics may be more universal and a bigger impact on society as a whole, but so does mitochondrial/economics/stock marker/interior design/colors. As far as seeing the "forest from the trees", the big picture is the business. If you go outside and walk on the sidewalk, from your perspective the principles that went into making the concrete for the sidewalks below you is a detail. However, the person who studies that for a living sees you as a here and now detail and the principles that he's working on as more universal and having a bigger picture on society. If you see your friend, your friend is the big picture, while the biology behind pigmentation in his hair is a detail, while those who study that see your friend as the here and now detail.

It seems like a lot of engineers think the same about physics and the economics of their project, the different aspects may be more universal but they're still details, even if useful details.

To further illustrate this concept, think about the last time you went to the grocery store. If a nerd to one side of you keeps on talking about economics, you'll see him as a details rather than a big picture thinker. The same would be true about the nerd talking about mitochondrial. Seeing the forest from the trees, you have to think about the grocery store to be a big picture thinker. However, from the perspective of these two nerds they see you going to the grocery store as a here and now detail and themselves as analyzing something which is much more universal and bigger impact on society. With this knowledge, most out there still wouldn't be interested in studying economics, interior design, or colors for a living, even if all these are much more universal and have a greater impact on society as a whole than perhaps owning a large business, your family/friends, etc. I'm interested in Science and not engineering, but I figure this is how it's seen from the other side.

What are your thoughts?
physicsdude30
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#29
Sep18-10, 06:53 PM
P: 37
Quote Quote by DaleSpam View Post
For me it is because I enjoy the creative process more than the analytical process. I actually don't find the "how does it all work?" questions nearly as enjoyable as, "how can I build a device that will do X?"

If I hadn't gone into engineering I probably would have become an artist before a pure scientist.
Analytical instead of creative? Something to consider, many think of creativity as art or making cool inventions. However, there's another type of creativity, scientific creativity where you come up with new discoveries. To illustrate how originality works, a woman makes a wedding cake out of baby diapers. All these other women say, "Cute!!! Hey, that's really original!" Whoever originally came up with that idea used two ideas which already existed, baby diapers and wedding cakes, and put them together in a way that's unique. Now let's say you're not familiar with either diapers or wedding cakes, how would you know if it's original? Also, when people say "Yea, yea, details" that means they're not interested. Just because someone may not be familiar with what's going on doesn't mean an idea wasn't original/profound when put into the proper context. You could say the same thing about how layman actually see what engineers do. Many just see their work as details in the background of their daily lives, although engineers who are familiar can quickly see what's original and what's not. A layman gets in her car to go to work, the way the engine works are seen as details in the background and the big picture her job. She uses a drinking fountain, details in background. Drives across a bridge? Same.

What are your thoughts?
snshusat161
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#30
Sep18-10, 09:02 PM
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Well, it's not at all interesting. I can see pure science students enjoying their lives after their classes and we (engineering students) are burdened with lot of assignment and thoughts. We don't have any time to enjoy. It may be interesting for people but it is a kind of challenge as well.

So, Money is the one of the very powerful reason.

What's the use of knowing nature if you don't know to make use of it. For instance, you know what moment is but still pushing the door by hinge. I know you don't do but this was just an example, when I'll go in higher semesters then I'll give you a proper example.
metalrose
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#31
Sep19-10, 01:12 AM
P: 126
Quote Quote by physicsdude30 View Post

What are your thoughts?
Well, I guess you are right to an extent as to how most of us would view what we do as the big picture and the rest as details.

But I think it's not so relative as you suggest. I guess there are some things that ARE really a bigger picture than the rest of the things. And I think Pure science, and more importantly, the physics-maths combination more so.

While a physicist might view his job as a bigger picture and the rest as details, but the fact is, that the physics-math combo is the EDGE OF KNOWLEDGE or rather the FRONTIER OF FUNDAMENTAL KNOWLEDGE.

You could think of the physics-math combo as the surface of a balloon expanding outward into the unknown. Every other body of knowledge, lies inside this balloon.

So physics-math is the only thing that is heading into the previously unknown.
By unknown here, I mean something "totally or fundamentally unknown".

Every other body of knowledge, though produces new knowledge, but that new knowledge still relies on an even fundamental knowledge that was already known.
And that's why no other body of knowledge produces completely new and and previously unknown knowledge.

That is why I call physics-math the FRONTIER OF KNOWLEDGE, THE SURFACE OF THE EXPANDING BALLOON OF KNOWLEDGE, and every other body of knowledge lying within this balloon.

what do you say?
metalrose
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#32
Sep19-10, 01:20 AM
P: 126
Quote Quote by snshusat161 View Post
What's the use of knowing nature if you don't know to make use of it.
A similar question was posed to Michael Faraday once by somebody after he had discovered the laws of electro magnetic induction.

Someone asked Faraday, "The electromagnetic induction thing is all okay, but WHAT'S THE USE OF IT?"

And to this, Faraday replied, "You tell me, WHAT'S THE USE OF A NEW BORN BABY?"

I would like to ask you the same question as Faraday.

The use, if you really want to know, is the satisfaction of knowing rather than the uneasiness of not knowing. The use, is quenching the thirst of knowing.

Everything need not have a practical every-day use. Playing music or dancing or painting don't have any use as such (apart from personal fulfillment, similar to personal fulfillment gained from knowing nature).
Ryker
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#33
Sep19-10, 01:57 AM
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Quote Quote by metalrose View Post
A similar question was posed to Michael Faraday once by somebody after he had discovered the laws of electro magnetic induction.

Someone asked Faraday, "The electromagnetic induction thing is all okay, but WHAT'S THE USE OF IT?"

And to this, Faraday replied, "You tell me, WHAT'S THE USE OF A NEW BORN BABY?"
Haha, every time I hear this anecdote, our fine Mr. Faraday has a different answer ready
rhombusjr
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#34
Sep19-10, 04:56 PM
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Quote Quote by Klockan3 View Post
I think that you need to be somewhat emotionally detached from reality to like the pure sciences.
I disagree. Just go on YouTube and watch videos of Richard Feynman (The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, Fun to Imagine, etc.). In general, I don't know how you can study science being detached from reality; science is the study of what physically exists, what's real.

Personally on the subject of why people study applied vs. pure, it seems to me more of a case of apples to oranges. Why do some people devote their lives to building guitars and violins rather than playing them? Both musicians and luthiers create beautiful works of art, one is tangible and can be used as a tool, the other is intangible, but no less real or beautiful. The way I look at it, engineering and science are two different subjects, just like biology and chemistry are two different subjects. I don't think you can treat one as the retarded version of the other or one as the pointless esoteric version of the other. Why would someone study one over the other? It all boils down to personal preference. Which is "better"? Star Trek or Star Wars? Kung Fu or Karate? Rock or Jazz? Why are some people happy assembling car engines rather than studying the dynamics of combusting fluids? I think both engineers and scientists get their satisfaction from solving problems. The difference is the kinds of problems they like to solve and what they like to get out of their solutions.
TMFKAN64
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#35
Sep19-10, 08:15 PM
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Quote Quote by Ryker View Post
Haha, every time I hear this anecdote, our fine Mr. Faraday has a different answer ready
I prefer the "Someday, you will be able to tax it" answer myself.
MathematicalPhysicist
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#36
Sep20-10, 02:27 AM
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Quote Quote by rhombusjr View Post
I disagree. Just go on YouTube and watch videos of Richard Feynman (The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, Fun to Imagine, etc.). In general, I don't know how you can study science being detached from reality; science is the study of what physically exists, what's real.

Personally on the subject of why people study applied vs. pure, it seems to me more of a case of apples to oranges. Why do some people devote their lives to building guitars and violins rather than playing them? Both musicians and luthiers create beautiful works of art, one is tangible and can be used as a tool, the other is intangible, but no less real or beautiful. The way I look at it, engineering and science are two different subjects, just like biology and chemistry are two different subjects. I don't think you can treat one as the retarded version of the other or one as the pointless esoteric version of the other. Why would someone study one over the other? It all boils down to personal preference. Which is "better"? Star Trek or Star Wars? Kung Fu or Karate? Rock or Jazz? Why are some people happy assembling car engines rather than studying the dynamics of combusting fluids? I think both engineers and scientists get their satisfaction from solving problems. The difference is the kinds of problems they like to solve and what they like to get out of their solutions.

And besides they also overlap sometimes (if not most of the times).
E.g, Control theory in EE is mainly mathematical Ode and Dynamical systems applications.

PS
There are also people who like to combine, you can't make this dichotomy as simple as it might be.


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