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How often does a civil engineer use vectors?

  1. Mar 29, 2012 #1
    Title says it, I was discussing this today with my buddy in physics lecture today. We just moved onto kinetic energy and universal gravitation and they seem to do the same thing alot better and more efficient.

    As a civil engineering major, when will I ever use vectors in my line of work?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 29, 2012 #2


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    civil engineering has many branches , one of which is structural engineering. Since structural engineering deals with forces and moments, which are vector quantities, a basic knowledge of vectors is extremely important in that field. It is most important to know how to find the x, y, and z components of a vector, and how to find the resultant of vectors. So you need to master the basics of vectors, which involves generally a basic knowledge of trigonometry and the pythagorean theorem. You don't have to be a genius. Just master the basics of PHY 101. If you do a web search on vectors, especially Wiki, it might scare the living daylights out of you. But for the most part, civil engineering is not like that.
  4. Mar 31, 2012 #3
    Strange question from a Civil engineering major, I will bet your professors would be appalled to hear the question asked.
    I'd expect he/she could easily answer their own question.
    Put another way: how useful is any engineer who does not understand the basics of vectors?
    I suppose you might spend your career in roading, & have no personal direct need for vector analysis; but more than likely you will want to take part in the broader engineering community, & you might well find yourself directing the efforts of young engineering graduates in a variety of disciplines.
  5. Mar 31, 2012 #4
    My physics professor told us ''energy to explain problems is for people who don't understand how to do it using forces'', and that you can answer everything with forces, but energy just makes it more convenient.
  6. Apr 9, 2012 #5
    Skwissgaar, I wonder what your professor would say about the principles behind virtual work? This theory is derived from using kinetic and potential energy. Kind of important theory for structural engineers.
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