Hello, everyone. This is my first post here, so I’ll first introduce myself. My name is Anand Natarajan, and I have a bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering (2019 passed out) from SSN College of Engineering in Chennai, affiliated to Anna University.
I had discovered my passion for physics in the first year of college and, since then, lived a life full of ups and downs. Engineering was, well, I wouldn’t say it was boring; it was what it was: learning to build things using scientific principles (even though we hardly discussed what scientific principles were or where we were applying it). During my time as an engineering student, I felt I did not have a natural inclination towards building or innovating new technology for practical purposes. I felt my time was better spent on understanding the underlying laws of natural phenomena and approaching problems from new and exciting directions. So, while I was good at understanding things from ‘first principles’, I was never really interested in engineering as the ‘first principles’ approach was hardly used in design or building something.
As you all can imagine, I was an average student when it came to engineering. I was lucky to have some friends who included me in projects, so I did have something to put on my resume. But apart from that, life wasn’t all that great. Why? Well, it’s like I said earlier. Engineering is this weird discipline where we learn to build things using scientific principles, yet never discuss what scientific principles were, or how we were applying them. We learn to build something, without thinking about why we were making it. We design things without knowing why we have to develop them specifically in that way. We approximate without knowing why we have to approximate, and we never look at things from first principles, because we focus on making tiny improvements on existing technologies, not on making entirely new technologies.
And for those of us thinking that we wanted to know how something works from the foundational basics, this discipline just wasn’t satisfactory. We were left unfulfilled. We were in an unhappy marriage where we loved our partner but just weren’t in love with them.
So, we turned to physics. Why? Because physics is the mother of all science. Right?
Well, I’m here to tell you all that it’s not so black and white. Engineering is not just what you think it is, and neither is physics. And for those that already know all this, I’m happy for you, and I hope you still read this blog post to the end.
WHAT THE PROBLEM IS
THEN WHAT IS ENGINEERING?
Engineering is not just about solving numerical problems with approximations or making small improvements on existing technologies. Engineering is about figuring out how to make things work. Even the act of conducting an experiment to do research is an act of engineering since we have to create an artificial environment to record data! So is creating more precise tools to fine-tune scientific observations! Yet we’re never taught engineering this way. Engineering is looking at the world as a clockwork and trying to fashion your own version of what the world could be. Engineering is about literally producing things we thought were magical or impossible in real life.
People may invent labels to call things by different names, but engineering is what it is.
WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THIS POST?
LIST OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE SWITCHED FIELDS
- Nicolas Leonard Sadi Carnot: We all know about the Carnot heat engine and Carnot cycle. This man is the father of Thermodynamics. But did you know that he was a mechanical engineer and military scientist?
- Paul Dirac: One of the greatest physicists of all time and a Nobel Prize winner. He started off with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, then entered academia when he couldn’t get a job! He went on to get another bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, and a Ph.D. in Physics, and then, you know, the rest is history.
- Wilhelm Rontgen: Another great physicist. This man won the first Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering and detecting X-rays. He had earned his bachelor’s and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, but went on to change the world of physics!
- Hugh Everett: Have you come across Multiverse Theory or the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics? Well, this man came up with it. He had a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering, and got a Ph.D. in Physics and went on to create a popular physics theory!
- Gordon Moore: Have you come across Moore’s Law? Well, this man coined it. He’s also the co-founder and chairman of Intel Corporation! He did his Ph.D. in Chemistry, but went on to become an engineer and businessman!
- Robert Noyce: He was the other co-founder of Intel Corporation. Nicknamed “the Mayor of Silicon Valley”, he is credited with the realization of the first monolithic integrated circuit or microchip. He was a physicist who became a businessman.