Philip Coates

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Mike, In your engineering studies, did you have a -general- course in engineering as opposed to a lot of courses in physics and a lot of courses in types of engineering or important topics in engineering(structural analysis, materials, statics)?

The reason I ask is I wanted to pick up a general textbook with a title like "Engineering", but searching under that name on Amazon returns nothing which seems to have that as its broad (yet thorough) subject. Everything seems to be a subdivision or specialized like mechanical engineering. Or popularizations like Florman and Petroski. Or handbooks of formulas. . . Very surprising and disappointing!

(A couple years ago when my interest in engineering re-awakened, I bought the Saeed Moaveni book, a 300+ page paperback edition, but at that length -- even though it seems good on introducing general principles and issues -- it is 'light' on meaty real world examples. Like skyscrapers and dams and airplanes and highways.)

I've noticed in many fields that finding the right level of study - the right level of abstraction and general principles and level of detail, well-developed examples - is a problem. It's the age of the narrow specialist. I wonder if this is true in your field as well?

Actually, I should address my question to anyone else who majored in a technical field: (a) Did your field have a similar "gap" problem? No good survey textbooks or courses, plunging too quickly into technical detail, jumping from topic to topic? (B) And/or too little satisfying exploration of a rich or complex 'case' or problem set so that you felt: Aha! Now I understand why and how those laws and principles and methods really work in the real world?

Nope. We have general courses for the important subtopics (specialized courses exist in grad school). I've mentioned my "Statics & Strengths of Materials" course several times now... well the U of U is unique in combining those courses into one semester. Most universities have Statics as one semester and Strengths as the next.

A general book covering all of engineering in any level of detail would be huge. We're talking tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pages. Same for all of mechanical eng. or all of chemical eng. or all of any other discipline.

The reason for the specialization: the best engineering students will spend four to seven years essentially cramming (but still retaining most of the information, not just losing it after each semester), only to get to a 'real-world' example and have to learn more. And if they want to become specialists (as I do), good god there is a lot more to learn (without losing the other info).

Helpful words from a professor I liked: "The only way to learn mechanics is to do mechanics"

Mike

Edited by Mike Hansen

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The best teachers are true experts who enjoy imparting their knowledge to people who really want to understand things to their roots. Since I'm not a physicist I can only guess that Richard Feynman was such a teacher. I've known one expert physicist who hated teaching. I think it was impatience with people who couldn't get up to his speed right away.

--Brant

Well said. Feynman was terrific.

An expert knowledge of science/engineering/math creates, in most people, a desire to share it with others who will appreciate it. An expert and a hard-working, enthusiastic student fit together perfectly.

I would guess that an expert knowledge of anything would do that, but I only have experience with experts in science/engineering/math so I won't speak for other fields B) .

Mike

Edited by Mike Hansen

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It was fun for me to see how Newton's mechanics gets used in engineering mechanics and fluid dynamics. It was also fun to learn classical thermodynamics. In my physics degree, I had learned the basis of thermodynamics in statistical mechanics, but didn't have much idea of what thermodynamics itself was. Engineering rounded out understanding of the physical world I had gotten from physics.

The worlds first effective thermodynamicists were people who drained water from mines and made beer.

It was steam engines that kicked off the whole business.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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> In my physics degree, I had learned the basis of thermodynamics in statistical mechanics, but didn’t have much idea of what thermodynamics itself was. Engineering rounded out understanding of the physical world I had gotten from physics. [stephen, post 50]

Yes.

Stephen, like you I'm finding that I'm able to better understand and appreciate physics than ever before from engineering -- even though physics was my minor in college.

In my case the engineering books I have in my library have been eye-opening: "aha! so that's why we learned that stuff; it's actually freaking useful in preventing bridges from falling down, planes from crashing, and dams from bursting!!"

It's a shame physics texts and courses are not taught with a strong engineering applications component. That would make the survey course longer. But I wonder if the traditional cramming all of twenty to thirty different topics into one year in high school intro physics and then repeating those topics in freshman intro physics is a good idea (even for those who are liberal arts majors and not going to be professionals in a physics-heavy field).

Maybe introductory physics (combined with some engineering and other applications) should be taught as a two year sequence?

Physics and Engin I junior year in high school.

Physics and Engin II senior year.

Edited by Philip Coates

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> A general book covering all of engineering in any level of detail would be huge. We're talking tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pages. [Mike, post 51]

There's an art to writing an introductory or survey textbook without doing this, yet while plunging into great detail on some points, doing thorough 'case studies' from time to time. It can be done, even in technical fields. But it's challenging. Takes a -very- good writer and thinker.

> Feynman was terrific. [brant and Mike]

Was Feynman able to do the above? Can you recommend something along those lines of his that you've read?

> People generally write textbooks geared toward people who are seriously interested in a particular subject or discipline [Jonathan]

That's not the purpose of an introductory text for a survey type course aimed, for example, at high school seniors or college freshman satisfying distribution requirements or wanting to broaden their exposure to many fields. It's not just for subject majors and, if well-done, can -create- a more serious interest in or understanding of the area of knowledge.

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I've noticed in many fields that finding the right level of study - the right level of abstraction and general principles and level of detail, well-developed examples - is a problem. It's the age of the narrow specialist. I wonder if this is true in your field as well?

The "right level of study" as defined by what standard? People generally write textbooks geared toward people who are seriously interested in a particular subject or discipline, and not for people like you who are never going to actually use the knowledge and only want to learn exactly what they want to learn, and no more and no less, and who want to complain during the entire learning process that all of the textbooks in the world haven't been tailored to their lazy mindset. There's nothing wrong with the textbooks, Phil. The problem is your short attention span and resistance to work -- your wish for everything to be made easy for you by others, and to then move on to a shallow understanding of the next subject that momentarily interests you.

Actually, I should address my question to anyone else who majored in a technical field: (a) Did your field have a similar "gap" problem? No good survey textbooks or courses, plunging too quickly into technical detail, jumping from topic to topic? (And/or too little satisfying exploration of a rich or complex 'case' or problem set so that you felt: Aha! Now I understand why and how those laws and principles and methods really work in the real world?

I've never had any of the problems that you mention in any field that I was seriously interested in. You may want to restrict yourself to the "For Dummies" section at your local library or bookstore. They're written for lazy dabblers like you.

J

J: your critique is quite hilarious.

My guess, however, is that you and others are falling for a Phil-trap. Tread carefully, my long-haired friend. ;)

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Do you want a survey of engineering book or do you want to understand the physics of 'real-world' situations? You absolutely cannot get both at the same time. Unless you're satisfied with a description of airplane flight like "the lift force must overcome the weight of the aircraft" and a few very simple examples, a survey/introduction book is not what you want.

From the earlier discussion, I had the impression that the simplicity of survey/intro books is what you are trying to get past.

> People generally write textbooks geared toward people who are seriously interested in a particular subject or discipline [Jonathan]

That's not the purpose of an introductory text for a survey type course aimed, for example, at high school seniors or college freshman satisfying distribution requirements or wanting to broaden their exposure to many fields. It's not just for subject majors and, if well-done, can -create- a more serious interest in or understanding of the area of knowledge.

Do you honestly expect to find any complicated, real-world physics in such a book?

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me--> Do you want a survey of engineering book or do you want to understand the physics of 'real-world' situations? You absolutely cannot get both at the same time. [Mike]

That seems over-stated to me. I didn't say I wanted to understand -all- complex real-world situations, merely a suggestive sampling. You ought to be able to do at least -some- richly detailed examples. You can do that in other fields where I've read survey textbooks.

The principle here is that of the *detailed case study*. It's a teaching technique in business school and in law school.

Edited by Philip Coates

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"There's nothing wrong with the textbooks, Phil. The problem is your short attention span and resistance to work -- your wish for everything to be made easy for you by others, and to then move on to a shallow understanding of the next subject that momentarily interests you....lazy dabblers like you."

Wow. So I guess we shouldn't proceed from Economics in One Lesson to Man, Economy and State to Human Action, just dig right in with the hard-to-understand stuff.

What an asshole.

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me--> Do you want a survey of engineering book or do you want to understand the physics of 'real-world' situations? You absolutely cannot get both at the same time. [Mike]

That seems over-stated to me. I didn't say I wanted to understand -all- complex real-world situations, merely a suggestive sampling. You ought to be able to do at least -some- richly detailed examples. You can do that in other fields where I've read survey textbooks.

The principle here is that of the *detailed case study*. It's a teaching technique in business school and in law school.

I'm reading through my Heat Transfer textbook for this fall. It is a textbook written for juniors with experience in multivariable calculus, ordinary differential equations, and the first two years of physics & chemical engineering courses. But, when it needs to explain a concept that belongs to kinetic theory, it can't go into any detail, because kinetic theory is beyond our ability. All it can do is give a formula/result and explain it on a fairly superficial level. And in an introductory level course, the content of this heat transfer book is too complex. So all an intro course can do is give a formula/result and explain it on a fairly superficial level.

The number of real-world situations you want to understand isn't the issue here. The fact is that the physics of real-world situations is a graduate-level topic. Simplified models persist throughout the entire undergraduate process (this heat transfer book is based entirely on them). Only in the last year do you get closer to reality. Then it's on-the-job learning.

Not only is the physics difficult, but the math is as well. At the introductory level, assuming that students will know remedial calculus is hardly justifiable. Most will be taking their first calculus course at the same time. With the fact that most (~99%) undergraduates/freshmen don't have years of experience in physics and math, no introductory book will be able to cover the real-world applications which require such experience. In other words, if a book has to explain physics without referencing previous physics courses or any mathematics beyond high-school algebra... the possibility that it will approach a complex, real-world situation is zero. Even if the situation is looked at through the lens of a case study.

The case studies I've done we're not geared towards teaching new concepts, but rather applying and combining the concepts we've already learned. It was great fun, combining everything we had learned to a large problem that felt like one from an industrial setting. But the problem I stated above remained: we still couldn't cover the advanced, real-world concepts that require the math & physics we didn't have.

I suppose it is possible to write a survey-type book which can explain the real-world aspects of physics/engineering... but then it's my previous point that such a book would be HUGE.

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"There's nothing wrong with the textbooks, Phil. The problem is your short attention span and resistance to work -- your wish for everything to be made easy for you by others, and to then move on to a shallow understanding of the next subject that momentarily interests you....lazy dabblers like you."

Wow. So I guess we shouldn't proceed from Economics in One Lesson to Man, Economy and State to Human Action, just dig right in with the hard-to-understand stuff.

"We"?

I was talking to Phil, not to you or anyone else.

Apparently you don't know Phil very well. See, he's an intellectually lazy whiner. He spends a lot of time complaining about how others aren't doing things the "right way" -- which means the way that he, from his perspective of laziness and ignorance, thinks they should be done. I've been seeing him do it for about a decade now. He really does have a "For Dummies" mindset. He dabbles with subjects and gripes that others haven't made his dabbling easier.

J

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Phil is saying he ate a whole fucking bunch of Taco Bell<tm> and is getting ready to clog the entire Florida sewage system. Mad Ninja power! Phil:

"What I'm saying is that 23,000 lbs (of tension or compression) to support 2000 lbs makes no sense and is not what happens in the real world. "

That is why being in the Longshoremens' Union is critically important. To your well-being, I mean. Did you ever meet guys like Unibrow Dante? If you haven't, be joyous about it. The Big P continues:

"And I could make the numbers much worse:"

That, I never doubted.

rde

Build it and she will come????

dubble_crossSM.jpg

You know, it has only been in recent months that I started to realize what a sick, horny bastard you are. It only makes me respect you more.

rde

Now give her a proper paddling.

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Joel M. is the ONLY person that has visited the Phil Shrine lately. You dirty pigfuckers better get over there and do some cleaning up, tribute, whatever.

The Phil Shrine

I'm interested in His answers, as far as apologies and such go, but I am getting The Fear.

Believe me, once he gets this math problem out of his exhaust port, we're all going to pay.

dantes-inferno-2.jpg

Phil, hitting a thread at only approx 65% energy.

I don't care if you are atheist or even completely un-spiritual: It's Gonna Be Like That.

I've been through several of these campaigns, and the one thing you better know is that we are all in this together--He (Phil, that is) will make Hamburger Hill look like a cucumber sandwich party.

rde

Be Afraid<tm>

Edited by Rich Engle

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"There's nothing wrong with the textbooks, Phil. The problem is your short attention span and resistance to work -- your wish for everything to be made easy for you by others, and to then move on to a shallow understanding of the next subject that momentarily interests you....lazy dabblers like you."

Wow. So I guess we shouldn't proceed from Economics in One Lesson to Man, Economy and State to Human Action, just dig right in with the hard-to-understand stuff.

"We"?

I was talking to Phil, not to you or anyone else.

Apparently you don't know Phil very well. See, he's an intellectually lazy whiner. He spends a lot of time complaining about how others aren't doing things the "right way" -- which means the way that he, from his perspective of laziness and ignorance, thinks they should be done. I've been seeing him do it for about a decade now. He really does have a "For Dummies" mindset. He dabbles with subjects and gripes that others haven't made his dabbling easier.

J

J: in poker, this is called a "tell".

Avid followers of my posting on this site will note that I have been alluding to just such tells for months now... :D

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J: in poker, this is called a "tell".

Avid followers of my posting on this site will note that I have been alluding to just such tells for months now... :D

Yeah, but it's still fun to call a bluffer's bluffs.

J

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J: in poker, this is called a "tell".

Avid followers of my posting on this site will note that I have been alluding to just such tells for months now... :D

Yeah, but it's still fun to call a bluffer's bluffs.

J

Yeah, ND. I got that too. You gotta try a little better than that to slide one by. :)

rde

Remember: This Is A Tough Room

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J: in poker, this is called a "tell".

Avid followers of my posting on this site will note that I have been alluding to just such tells for months now... :D

Yeah, but it's still fun to call a bluffer's bluffs.

J

Yeah, ND. I got that too. You gotta try a little better than that to slide one by. :)

rde

Remember: This Is A Tough Room

What in the world are you talking about. Get inside and clean up your rooms, now. When the room is tough the tough get going. So they say.

Warily,

Ma

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Yeah, ND. I got that too. You gotta try a little better than that to slide one by. :)

rde

Remember: This Is A Tough Room

Huh? I think you mixed me up with PDS. I didn't even see how the poker reference was relevant, so I'm out of the loop on this one.

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Yeah, ND. I got that too. You gotta try a little better than that to slide one by. :)

rde

Remember: This Is A Tough Room

Huh? I think you mixed me up with PDS. I didn't even see how the poker reference was relevant, so I'm out of the loop on this one.

The poker reference to a "tell" is relevant because I have for some time now had a nagging suspicion that Phil's nom de plume on this site is very likely Starbuckle--thus, the inadvertent use of "we" by Starbuckle, in a thread started by Phil.

Of course, I could be 100% wrong about this, and it really doesn't matter.

I have greatly enjoyed and/or benefited from the vast majority of Starbuckle's comments on this site, especially in the JNS-belief-in-God thread, and even if he isn't Phil, I hope he sticks around and contributes even more.

Edited by PDS

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Yeah, ND. I got that too. You gotta try a little better than that to slide one by. :)

rde

Remember: This Is A Tough Room

Huh? I think you mixed me up with PDS. I didn't even see how the poker reference was relevant, so I'm out of the loop on this one.

The poker reference to a "tell" is relevant because I have for some time now had a nagging suspicion that Phil's nom de plume on this site is very likely Starbuckle--thus, the inadvertent use of "we" by Starbuckle, in a thread started by Phil.

Of course, I could be 100% wrong about this, and it really doesn't matter.

I have greatly enjoyed and/or benefited from the vast majority of Starbuckle's comments on this site, especially in the JNS-belief-in-God thread, and even if he isn't Phil, I hope he sticks around and contributes even more.

I would bet hard money that Starbuckle is not Phil, unless Phil is a Three Faces of Eve, or Sybil type of multiple personality.

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Yeah, ND. I got that too. You gotta try a little better than that to slide one by. :)

rde

Remember: This Is A Tough Room

Huh? I think you mixed me up with PDS. I didn't even see how the poker reference was relevant, so I'm out of the loop on this one.

The poker reference to a "tell" is relevant because I have for some time now had a nagging suspicion that Phil's nom de plume on this site is very likely Starbuckle--thus, the inadvertent use of "we" by Starbuckle, in a thread started by Phil.

Of course, I could be 100% wrong about this, and it really doesn't matter.

I have greatly enjoyed and/or benefited from the vast majority of Starbuckle's comments on this site, especially in the JNS-belief-in-God thread, and even if he isn't Phil, I hope he sticks around and contributes even more.

I would bet hard money that Starbuckle is not Phil, unless Phil is a Three Faces of Eve, or Sybil type of multiple personality.

Adam: I see that 2 of your interests are birding and strategic board gaming, so I respectfully decline the proposed wager.

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> "the physics of real-world situations is a graduate-level topic. Simplified models persist throughout the entire undergraduate process...I suppose it is possible to write a survey-type book which can explain the real-world aspects of physics/engineering... but then it's my previous point that such a book would be HUGE." [Mike, post 60]

Mike, I'd be happy to find a book that simplifies the forces of stress and strain, wind dynamics, load distribution and transference, materials decomposition and fatigue that allow a skyscraper to stand safely. And why certain materials are chosen. And why the great cathedrals didn't collapse. Or even simplify further and at least discuss the mechanics and structuring and materials of a common family home as "This Old House" does (a bit) on TV.

If a lot of the math and 'real world' complexity needs to be omitted, just like teaching calculus free physics 101 does or even Hewitt's 'Conceptual Physics' text does, it would still be useful and enlightening.

I'd also like to see similar explanations for bridges, tunnels, airplanes, dams. And I'd like it to at least take up the crucial issues of tension, compression, different kinds of load like Hibbeler does when he divides building loads into dead loads and active loads and then explains what each of them are. Even if these crucial issues are sometimes discussed vaguely or non-mathematically or on the level of "hand waving" or analogy. Ideally the book [or more than one] should explain planes and boats, engines and machines, etc. -- complex man-made artifacts considered in other branches of engineering, not solely stay within civil engineering.

Edited by Philip Coates

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People today are surrounded by a complex man-made world and have no idea how it works or all the hard questions and issues that had to be considered so things don't break or fall apart or kill people.

They take it all for granted. Rand had a line -- in "The Anti-Industrial Revolution", if I recall -- in which she pictured savages surrounded by a complex industrial/mechanical civilization just standing around helplessly looking at the machinery.

I have a fluid mechanics textbook which starts in chapter two with differential equations, line and surface integrals, etc. I don't need that level of perfect understanding as I'm not preparing to engineer something myself. But I don't want the 'little golden book' child's picture book either.

Any suggestions for this kind of 'light to medium' treatment? I've just started the following book : "Structures, Or Why Things Don't Fall Down" by J.E. Gordon [so far, as the 'fall down' focus in the title suggests, it's civil engineering oriented, not heat flow or fluidics or stresses and strains on vehicles or other man-made objects or spheres of engineering -- and I do want the breadth: if I get a simplified book I want it in return to 'cover the waterfront' not to be over-specialized.

PS, This is more physics than engineering (although his experiment with the O-ring of the exploded space shuttle was brilliant), but I'm still curious about Feynman and if there's something of his that people have read and can comment on. His complete lectures on physics are quite expensive as a way to give him a try.

Edited by Philip Coates

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Thanks, Mikee. I'm a book reader by strong preference. I don't like to listen to lectures or watch videos as a method of learning. (Same reason I've long been waiting for Peikoff to publish transcripts of all his lecture series and same for Barbara's "Efficient Thinking".)

But I notice that one of those Google links is an -annotated- set of videos so I may try that. And if I -really- like him, spring for the expensive books.

Edited by Philip Coates

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