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Engineering is the application of science to the needs of humanity. This is
accomplished through knowledge, mathematics and practical experience applied
to the design of useful objects or processes. Its practitioners are called engineers.
Engineers form the bridge between the two distinct worlds of the scientist
and the layman. They interpret science for the layman. A scientist asks
"Why...?" and thus follows an open-ended research career, whereas an
engineer always asks "How...?". That is, he has the problem in hand, knows
what solution it requires and tries to find out different ways of
There is a difference between an engineer and a technologist though the
terms are often used interchangeably. Once an engineer has found a solution
for the problem at hand his work stops. The next phase is fine tuning the
solution, which is in the domain of the technologist. This process is
dependent on various factors which vary with time. A solution which could be
a practical application of a scientific fact does not satisfy a
technologist. He endeavours to bring it within the economic constraints so
that the common man not only understands and marvels at science but also is
able to enjoy it and lose his fear of it by constant interaction.
For example, when Edison developed the phonograph it was marveled at. That
was engineering. But when he asked his assistant to develop it further so as
to remove some harmonics from the sound, that was technology. Because only
then could one listen to it and enjoy.
This also explains the time gap between a fact being understood by science,
then being implemented by engineers, and then being available from the local shop.
The task of engineering
The engineer must identify and understand the relevant constraints in order
to produce a successful design. Constraints include available resources,
physical or technical limitations, flexibility for future modifications and
additions, and other factors such as requirements for cost,
manufacturability, serviceability, and marketing and aesthetic
considerations. By understanding the constraints, engineers deduce
specifications for the limits within which an object or system may be
produced and operated. Engineering is therefore a contingent enterprise
influenced by many considerations.
Engineers use their knowledge of science and mathematics, and appropriate
experience, to find suitable solutions to a problem. Creating an appropriate
mathematical model of a problem allows them to analyze it (perhaps, but
exceptionally, definitively), and to test potential solutions. If multiple
reasonable solutions exist, engineers evaluate the different design choices
on their merits and choose the solution that best meets the requirements.
Engineers typically attempt to predict how well their designs will perform
to their specifications prior to full-scale production. They use, among
other things: prototypes, scale models, simulations, destructive tests, and
stress tests. Testing ensures that products will perform as expected.
Engineers as professionals take seriously their responsibility to produce
designs that will perform as expected and will not cause unintended harm to
the public at large. Engineers typically include a factor of safety in their
designs to reduce the risk of unexpected failure.
Use of computers
Computers, and design software, play an increasingly important role. Using
Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, engineers are able to capture more
information about their designs. The computer can automatically translate
some models to instructions suitable for automatic machinery (e.g. CNC) to
fabricate (part of) a design. The computer also allows increased reuse of
previously developed designs by presenting an engineer with a library of
predefined parts ready to be used in his own designs.
It is a myth that engineer originated to describe those who built engines.
In fact, the words engine and engineer (as well as ingenious) developed in
parallel from the Latin root ingeniosus, meaning 'skilled'. An engineer is
thus a clever, practical, problem solver. The spelling of engineer was later
influenced by back-formation from engine. The term later evolved to include
all fields where the skills of application of the scientific method are
used. In other languages like Arabic, the word for "engineering" also means
Connections to other disciplines
Science attempts to explain newly observed and unexplained phenomena, often
creating mathematical models of observed phenomena. Technology and
engineering are attempts at practical application of knowledge (often from
science). Scientists work on science; engineers work on technology. However,
there is often an overlap between science and engineering. It is not
uncommon for scientists to become involved in the practical application of
their discoveries; thereby becoming, for the moment, engineers. Conversely,
in the process of developing technology engineers sometimes find themselves
exploring new phenomena, thus becoming, for the moment, scientists.
There are also close connections between the workings of engineers and
artists; they are direct in some fields, eg architecture and industrial
design, and indirect in all. Artistic and engineering creativity may be