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Power-User

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Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/17/2010 8:05 AM

I am researching material for several books in the area of pseudoscience. I have noticed a disquieting thing, which is that electrical engineers seem to be disproportionately represented among the 'academic level' pushers of crackpot ideas (off the top of my head: Eric Laithwaite, Harold Aspden, Thomas Valone). Is this just the result of some bias in my literature research, or is it real? And if it is real, what might be its cause? Any comments?

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Guru
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#1

Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/17/2010 8:18 AM

As far back as the late 1960's, engineering schools realized that 75% of EE's eventually labored in some other engineering related field, so the schooling was tailored to give a nice over view of many engineering fields. A little knowledge can be dangerous they say.

I am a good example. I started as an EE in the construction field (layouts of power circuits for large commercial businesses), then was "re-trained" during the energy crisis of the 1970's to be a field petroleum engineer. Next I was job trained to be a mechanical engineer, designing heat exchangers and tanks. Finally, I am again an EE as a controls engineer, designing process skid control circuitry and instrumentation.

Now with all that knowledge of so many fields, I should be an expert at all engineering fields, right? What do you expect us EE's to do?

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#2

Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/17/2010 11:21 AM

You may want to add Nikola Tesla and EV Gray...

Most geniuses (or is it Genii?) are somewhat nuts.

To be an electrical engineer, working with something you can never see (until it strikes you dead) is not funny...(i include magentism here as an electrical phenomenon... never undrstood the thing, but designed many solenoids and stuff which paid the mortgage).... do you need to know why we are nuts?

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#3

Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/17/2010 3:18 PM

The answer is surprisingly simple (in my opinion).

I think some quick bullet points will be easier. There is a greater proportion of pseudoscience in the areas of electrical engineering than other engineering fields because....

- Mechanical pseudoscience devices have been done and disproved to death.

- Mechanical pseudoscience devices are easier to understand by the average person and follow simple and obvious physics that even a child could understand.

- Electricity Pseudoscience is (relatively) new and much more complicated for the average person to understand.

- Electricity Pseudoscience is very difficult to disprove by the average person, even with detailed plans available to them to build their own devices.

- Electricity Pseudoscience testing is very difficult to accurately measure. Simple mistakes in measuring a waveform can easily further perpetuate a pseudoscience idea or research.

- The field of Electrical engineering is very broad and covers most other fields of science and engineering in at least some way, so there are far more opportunities for development of new (or old) ideas/scams, etc.

The same goes for fuel efficiency, magnetic field devices, backyard cold fusion using water and pulse waveforms, etc.

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#4
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/17/2010 5:09 PM

I would add that by it's nature, Electric and Electronic engineering, are a practical implementation of Quantum Physics which theories include some bizarre and far-fetched forms of description, not-very-easy to visualise, although viable and precise to assert through empirical testing.

This might give way to some (already) crackpot students to give up their attempt to understand these theories, and attempt to concoct their own take on quantum reality based on their half-cooked understanding of nature, and it's complex, intricate behaviour.

This might also explain their endless plea from the rest of us to "keep an open mind" (or what they tent to call "an open mind"), coupled with their desperate strive to convince (mainly themselves) that nature is a lenient entity, willing to change it's behaviour according to you own convictions and beliefs.

Needles to say, such a world-view give rise to Anthropocentric views, very similar to many religious and mystical myths such as "thought and imagination creates reality", "Dream-time of the gods" - an Aboriginal faith which have many similar versions in other faith-systems and mythologies, and other such beliefs meant to say that our concrete reality is an illusion, but instead it is a dream of the gods, in which we are puppets for their amusement, and every eventuality is pre determined by an all-knowing omnipotent universal mind...

Ever wondered why so much "Alternative Science" pops out these days, following the recent steady decline in science student's accomplishment, and actual rise in plain literacy in general - some very sad statistics, I tell you. This is a recent global phenomenon, contradictory to a steady trend in the last 300 years.

In short: crackpot pseudoscience and such is a symptom of despondency, despair from the possibility to understand reality, in a defined, methodical way.

The empirical thought, imposed by true science, as a prerequisite to the involvement in research and testing of theories, is so threatening to such people, because it eliminated their basic need to believe, and instead it offers the option for concrete testable reliable knowledge.

The mere suggestion that confident, testable knowledge is there to replace faith, may deter some people with given background, from the prospect of having and following methodical, empirical thought, in order to pursue a scientific understanding of reality.

My two cent's worth, anyway

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/17/2010 10:52 PM

Good answer, it sounds very plausible.

I've always assumed the other branches of engineering are minor subsets of Electrical Engineering. I mean working with physical objects, where's the challenge in that?

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#6

Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/17/2010 11:08 PM

As an EE myself, I've long had the opinion that EE and Chemical Engineering are the most abstract and 'general knowledge' branches of engineering; and take either of those two to make a process control engineer (not a control systems engineer .. not the same thing), and you get someone with deep understanding of his own abstract field with another layer of deep abstraction that comes from knowing 'how stuff works'.

Add curiosity to that, and you get a polymath. Add hairbrained tendencies to that and you get eccentrics who go after what's impossible or beyond the knowledge of man. I don't include Tesla et al as eccentrics ... they took known principles, thought of them in innovative ways, and slaved/tinkered at making things and systems out of them. This has nothing to do with gonzos who read about and misunderstand something like zero-state energy, feel that they're inspired by the god of engineering, and going after nonsense stuff. Note that this doesn't apply to pure, speculative research.

Cheers! DZ

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#7

Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/17/2010 11:24 PM

I know quite a few engineers (all male), including a some electricals and it's a standing joke among the wives that the EE's are all a bit weird. As an EE I suspect it's true.

The EE's I know are smart, intense, slightly obsessive individuals who like sitting quietly for hours on end solving arcane problems. They're also solitary and headstrong, un-fazed when others think they're wrong.

This can be very useful when it keeps them focused on solvable problems but can be detrimental when they're stuck in a dead end. I'm especially thinking about software projects, it's often very hard for them to admit they made a mistake and need to start again.

The few Mathematicians I've met seem to be similar.

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#8
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/17/2010 11:42 PM

I agree.

I'll add one thing to this and to what I wrote earlier ... I find that EEs are actually science-HEAVY! That arises from their abstract-thinking nature ... 'how stuff works' in EE is HARD to visualize, let alone understand. Add to that the fact the EE touches on everything else, and an EE who's really worth his salt has to get a general understanding of other branches of engineering.

Chemical engineers face this too, although I get the sense they're 'better adjusted' or 'more balanced' in some sense.

Cheers! DZ .. EE

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#9

Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/17/2010 11:43 PM

It's all due to imaginary numbers...While it is true that it takes a mathematician to come up with the weird concept of the square root of negation, it takes an EE brain to come up with a "practical" application for this idea. I knew I was in trouble when imaginary numbers actually started making sense...

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/18/2010 12:15 AM

Ever caught yourself explaining to primary school kids that the "number line" actually goes off into the Y direction?

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#11

Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/18/2010 2:05 AM

Some (not all) engineers, being designers themselves, seem to be easily suckered by the theological argument from design. A disquieting number of these (and lawyers) turn up in the ranks of creationists and ID-ers.

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#12
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/18/2010 2:46 AM

You would have loved a bit of an insert I added to a study report I just did, referring to the analysis of living systems for ideas for artificial systems:

"We can assume, Natural Selection being the Great Optimizer, and these systems having been under development for a couple billion years or so, that the system is operating pretty much at optimum for what it was intended..."

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#13
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/18/2010 3:58 AM

I might have edited that a bit differently. I don't think natural selection has any intention of anything. Rather, it tries out all sorts of stuff, some of which fortuitously works. The resulting "unfolding" process is indeed marvelous (kind of a gigantic feedback loop or network), and part of the marvel is that apparently it was not scripted.

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#15
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/18/2010 9:31 AM

G.A

I would say that nothing in natural selection and genetics is intended, as it is an eventuality rather than being an intended effort. It's us, who seek and visualise familiar forms and shapes, in clouds and gravel, giving this eventuality merits of some pre-determined design.

Our brains, hard-wired to compare, manage to sieve and recognise trends in random assortments, and thus giving it some relevant meaning, be it concrete or imaginary, real or made-believe

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#14

Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/18/2010 8:08 AM

I expect you have data to back that up? Or are you dabbling in pseudoscience yourself? Because, unless you have data, yours is just another crackpot idea.

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#17
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/18/2010 12:25 PM

Critics need to provide just as much evidence as crackpots...

Skepticism alone is not enough.

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#18
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/18/2010 1:11 PM

I disagree. I'm not the one making a possibly derogatory statement about other people. There are plenty of stereotypes in the world. For example, I could say "engineers can't spell." But if I can't back up that assertion with facts then it's just a crackpot idea. If you're going to make that type of claim you ought to have some valid proof. I need no proof to challenge you to produce yours.

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/18/2010 1:32 PM

okay... that sounds right... I was thinking another thought... another conversation for another time.

but I have to say.... I have met a few EE's, master electricians... and just on the basis of a few datums... he's on to something...

lol.

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#21
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/20/2010 2:37 AM

You missed

Incredibly on topic

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#22
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/20/2010 3:02 AM

Well, it was 5 points off-topic which I reduced to 4 points by adding the 1 GA I'm allowed to.

You can only vote once you know.

The rest is up to you guys

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#23
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/20/2010 3:36 AM

your vote didn't take

I just voted for GA again

balls in your court

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#24
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/20/2010 5:16 AM

Yes it did. It's now only three points down: five it was, minus mine, minus yours equals three.

Are we talking about the same post, or are you just yankingmychain

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#25
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/20/2010 5:38 PM

Yes

I am yanking your chain

when I posted at 12:30 the count was for 4 ot, just like it was at 11:30 when I voted a GA

Now if we could just convince 5 more voters we could get him the GA he deserves

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#26
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/20/2010 6:41 PM

Anyone for up for a GA?

It's free !

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#27
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/20/2010 9:31 PM

here is one ... GA i mean

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#28
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/21/2010 3:39 AM

Not for me - for post 18 !

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#29
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/21/2010 5:03 AM

done. but first time i am voting on off-topic. How to vote? i checked everything in sight

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#30
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/21/2010 5:45 AM

Off-Topic and Good Answer are opposites. Each opposite vote would cancel one of the other.

For example: to cancel 5 points Off-Topic, 5 votes of of Good Answer are required

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#31
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/21/2010 5:56 AM

Ahhh .. got it. Thanks. i did vote my GA for what it was worth ..

it really was not off topic, very much topical i feel.

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#16

Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/18/2010 9:42 AM

I am actually a physicist but an applied physicist and have worked closely with other disciplines all my life. It is hard to tell where one discipline ends and another begins. It is also very easy to be obsessed with a problem and then research it to death - so to speak. Theories are wonderful and essential and best when the time comes for experimental evidence to support or contradict your studies. Pseudo science, wrong thinking, sound byte ideas that sound good but without any basis plague us all. In consequence of this one must subject one's own ideas to scrutiny and correction and dealing with one's own error. BUT - recognizing your own limitations and mistakes is wonderful as it sets you free to correct your course. This is the path of discovery that is so thrilling.

At the back of my house is a fossilized sea bed section complete with beach ripples and Trilobites and all kinds of other creatures embedded. I have cleaned this off very carefully. It is indeed a speculation to lie out on that old 400 million year old beach on a star bright night and look at the Orion Nebula in Orion's Belt where Infrared spectroscopy has identified carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and molecules consistent with our building blocks of life - some 128 light years away. I use similar analyses in studying various chemical problems.

And yes - I look freaky, obsessed etc. But for a 65 year old this the thrill of a life time. The path of pseudo science has the worst facet of all - that of self delusion and the delusion of others. The path beyond this is one's own stumbling learning and the awareness of just what a stunning dimension we live in and have and the opportunity to speculate on the larger than life. Do we want to spend our brief glimpse of awareness in self delusion? I do not - and prefer the excitement of discovery, invention, making mistakes and starting again

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#32
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Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/24/2010 9:58 AM

Einstein is reported to have said "simply as much as possible but do not over simplify". Or similar to that.

The science lite bit maybe can be simplified and actually expanded to reveal a fundamental basic learning law of humanity (now that sounds good).

Science is not a religion, it is a learning process and a place where one can learn and learn from your own mistakes. It is about trying to understand. Pseudo science is not about learning. It is about either impressing others or some other less than ideal motive of using purportedly scientific findings to make some kind of point. Its results lie in self delusion and the delusion of others. That is corrupt

I prefer the stumbling around trying to learn and that excitement when it actually happens.

This is probably universal for all

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#20

Re: Are Electrical Engineers 'Science-Lite'?

05/19/2010 10:54 AM

I would say EE's who come to the field from being hobby-shoppers, hackers, and experimenters might be "science-lite" or more prone to pseudo-science. There are lots of people who have taught themselves to program or build circuits without formal training. The problem is, they don't know what they don't know. Alternative approaches can work despite ignorance, but that can be dumb luck as likely as creative, alternative thinking.

When it comes to the "academic level", the EE field tends to attract people who are not only smart and good with math, but are also creative and abstract thinkers. Academics, without the grounding of real-world practicality, have more freedom to be "out there"

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