wall of separation

Paul Arveson (arveson@oasys.dt.navy.mil)
Sun, 23 Mar 97 12:22:09 EST

Burgy wrote:

Steven Schimmerich, in commenting to Bill Frix, mentioned that he did not
see "Electrical Engineering" as a "science." As a physicist who once
wandered over to the EE department to expand my knowledge, and came away
much chastened (!), I have to disagree. Might as well say physics is not
science because it is not geology. Or vice-versa.

Properly taught, as it was at carnegie Tech 40 years ago (my tribe is
better than your tribe, I know), engineering ought to be as much a science
as any other. Else, we set up a ranking of disciplines, and only the top
one (physics, of course) wins!

Burgy (partially in humor. But the EE story is very real.)


How interesting. I, as a physics major and a senior, once tried to take a
course in the EE department (at VPI) and was rebuffed because of a lack of
several engineering prerequisites. The school was (and still is) deeply
separated between the "Arts and Sciences" and "Engineering". Therefore
the 'wall of separation' that we experience is I believe perpetuated by
the academies that see more similarity between, for instance, violin
playing and physics than between solid state physics and electrical engineering.
Go figure. But as graduates of such a system, let's not start
accusing each other. Write to your college president and tell him
how dumb this is.

In my actual career, I work a lot with engineers. I do see a difference,
due not to subject matter but to training and methodology. Engineers
are very focused on things such as specifications and requirements, which
physics majors never hear about. This difference of method can lead to
misunderstandings and a need for 'cross-cultural' training. Again, the
schools let us down by not being generally aware of this situation in
the working world, and providing such a course. At least that's my

Paul Arveson, Research Physicist Code 724, Signatures Directorate, NSWC
9500 MacArthur Blvd., Bethesda, MD 20817-5700
arveson@oasys.dt.navy.mil bridges@his.com
(301) 227-3831 (W) (301) 227-4511 (FAX) (301) 816-9459 (H)