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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 implementing it.

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.

Table of contents

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, social, or ethic 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.

Problem solving

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 "geometry".

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 fundamentally connected.


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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.