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Re: The power of intuition in Engineering

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Chris, the conventional engineering education that was described is the
deductive method which is only one of three types of scientific methods.
The other two being the creative or inventive and the inductive.  In
structural engineering school we are taught to deduce the correct answer
(design) from accepted theory.  The inductive approach is used by biological
scientists who collect data in order to develop theory as to what is going
on.  The best example I can think of for the creative or inventive type is
Galileo coming up with the concept of acceleration.  He could not deduce
that from any theory that existed at that time and collecting data to induce
the theory was impossible; so he created the concept in his mind and then
ran experiments to confirm it.
The point is this: unless we engineers are willing to accept the possibility
that other approaches to problem solving are possible (and valid) which do
not depend on the mathematical interpretation of existing developed theory,
we will be forever stuck in this narrow box that we have made for ourselves.
The concepts are out there ready to be learned, understood and discussed.
Philosophers such as Alfred North Whitehead, F.S.C. Northop, Thomas Kuhn,
and Michael Polanyi have written volumes on how we learn and how scientific
inquiry is performed.  All that is required is for engineers to pursue some
of these "liberal arts" topics the we liked to look down upon because you
can't write an equation for them and come up with a numerical answer.
Richard Hess
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Christopher Wright" <chrisw(--nospam--at)skypoint.com>
To: <seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org>
Sent: Wednesday, March 08, 2006 9:07 AM
Subject: Re: The power of intuition in Engineering



On Mar 8, 2006, at 2:32 AM, Ddumba Nathan wrote:

> "Conventional engineering programs only educate half the engineer ¡ª
> the left hemispheric part associated with technical knowledge and
> mathematical skill," explains Bruce Field, associate professor of
> mechanical engineering at Monash University.
If my own experience is any guide, this is absolutely true. I don't
know any engineers for whom this is not true. I'm almost certain it's
true of physicians and lawyers. Engineering is at least half art and
half of the rest social skills of one sort or another--persuasion,
diplomacy, what some would call politics, communication and
organizational skills. School is mostly learning how to work set-piece
problems at the end of the chapter and how to take tests. No hint at
all about how to deal with ambiguity, marshall recources or organize an
approach to a problem they've never seen before. In some ways it's just
as well. Most college age kids couldn't handle it.
Christopher Wright P.E. |"They couldn't hit an elephant at
chrisw(--nospam--at)skypoint.com   | this distance" (last words of Gen.
.......................................| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania
1864)
http://www.skypoint.com/~chrisw/


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