©2000 Zhan Huan Zhou
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Engineering is Good, Part I
©1999 Zhan Huan Zhou, Spring 1998, Issue 4
Don't let the title deceive you. It says "Engineering is Good," not "Engineering is God." Even so, you are probably still wondering what good words I can put forth for engineering. Though the premise of engineering is good may appear to contradict everything my column stands for, I have never once stated that engineering is inherently a bad thing. I have always tried to look at different viewpoints that can make you into a better engineer. In Part I, I examine the benefits of engineering to society while in Part II, I examine the benefits of engineering to students.
Even in the technological age of the twentieth century, engineers are still faceless in society. However, this faceless force is responsible for virtually all of the technical gadgets used in everyday life. Society could not attain its present state of being without engineers guiding the way through history.
According to the definition given in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, engineering is "the application of science and mathematics by which the properties of matter and the sources of energy in nature are made useful to people." By the very definition of engineering, it is by default a benefit to society because of the 'useful to people' clause.
In the Renaissance days of Leonardo Da Vinci, the book of ancient arts, science and mathematics was rediscovered and new interest was stirred in the academic community. It was common in that era for an individual to practice arts, science, mathematics and engineering. Society was begging for a revolution and it was answered with marvelous art, stunning scientific and mathematical discoveries and wondrous feats of engineering. Since then, the book of knowledge has not been closed and the content just kept on growing. Furthermore, society was changing with the new technologies presented to it.
Sometime on the way to present, engineering, math, science and arts got separated into four distinct areas whereas they had once been one. (This sounds remarkably like a microscopic version of the Grand Unified Theory.) These four disciplines are still intricately intertwined in today's society. They all feed off each other and help society grow. It just so happens that engineering brings everything together. Math and science is applied in a useful manner and the final product has a touch of art. If any one of these four fields of study suddenly stopped development, society would crash and another era of Dark Ages would ensue. Hence, according to this principle, engineering is good.
It really is a shame, however, that society is unaware of the engineers behind the products they use. Engineers stand on the top of the shoulders of giants, but they are still invisible.