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Über dieses Buch

This book illuminates what engineering is and how it relates to other disciplines such as art, architecture, law, economics, science, technology, and even religion. The author explains, from an intrinsic as well as descriptive perspective, why engineering is essential for our collective well-being, and how, like medicine, it is undertaken by people, and for people, to improve the human condition. He brings out the 'magic' of engineering practice as well as addressing the darker aspects such as warfare and the misuse of the internet. A too commonly held view assumes that the practice of engineers is a cold, purely quantitative and wholly technical enterprise of applying know science, and devoid of creativity or aestheticism. In 2013 the United States National Academy of Engineering launched a campaign called “Changing the Conversation, Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering” with four messages to impart about engineers: that they make a world of difference; are creative problem solvers; that they help shape the future, and are essential to health, happiness, and safety. In this volume, Professor Blockley incorporate these messages into an engaging exposition of engineering accomplishment in all of its evolving diversity, from the technician to the academic research engineer, illustrating the continuum of thinking and purpose from the fixer of the gas boiler to the designers of the A380 and the iPhone.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

1. Dreaming

Abstract
Structural engineer Ben (not his real name) owes his life to medical engineering. He compares his heart pacemaker, implanted in his chest, with the bridges he has designed and realises that with such diversity existing definitions of engineering are inadequate. Engineering is done by people for people to make life a little better. Engineers make the ‘things’ we need and want—turning our dreams into reality. Aesthetics in engineering is more than beauty—it concerns our emotional relationship with things through our creative artfulness, ingenuity and inventiveness. What kinds of people are engineers? What is the difference between a technician engineer and a chartered professional engineer? How many engineers are women? What are the stories behind some of the great engineers of the past and the less well-known engineers of the present? What are the different branches of engineering? How important is engineering? How do engineers coax the forces of nature to do what we want? Most of us take engineering products for granted and are alarmed when sometimes they go wrong. What are the darker aspects of engineering such as weapons of war and the effects of climate changes as well as misuses of social media and the dark web? Do we need to get engineering out of its professional ‘silos’ and ignite some of its magic?
David Blockley

2. Making

Abstract
Making fills every aspect of our lives. The products on the supermarket shelves, the art in museums, the cars on roads, and the search engine Google were all made by people. Craft making is a special skill, art speaks to our emotions, and functional art has a dual purpose. An invention is a novel, useful non-obvious idea such as a clockwork radio. Engineering emerged, after the Renaissance, from the separation of art and craft from science and the consequent specialisation needed to cope with our increasing knowledge. Engineering and technology are terms that have become confused. The view from inside the profession is that technology is part of engineering whereas, from outside, the opposite is the case. Technology is associated, in the minds of many, with the application of ‘known’ science through mere technique. Science is dependable only in context and does not represent the absolute truth—it is incomplete. Engineering has to be much more than rote application. Engineers are problem solvers who create theoretical models for a specific purpose and what really matters is the quality of that purpose and of the model to deliver that purpose. A successful model used as if it is true in the messy world of practical reality does not logically imply that it actually is true. The reason is that all sorts of uncertainties and fail-safe design and analytical assumptions are embedded into the context of the model. Problem solving and decision-making loops are prerequisites to creative engineering making.
David Blockley

3. Grounding

Abstract
If the science of climate change is right, then we face considerable uncertainty ahead. As we squabble about the causes, newly unfolding formidable challenges are lying in wait. Challenges create opportunities if we can learn to recognize them. We need to ground all our thinking (social, political, financial and technological) around some guiding principles that are implicit in the best forms of engineering practice. They are PUPIL-‘we are Part of a world of Unintended consequences for which we need to be Prepared through Ingenuity and Learning’. Some of the common myths about engineering are questioned. Does science have all the answers we need—in an age in which we have collectively begun to understand that the world is a much more complex place then ever we previously thought? What is ‘practical wisdom’ and how is it different from ‘academic’ cleverness? Is the modern distinction in education between the academic and the vocational helpful?
David Blockley

4. Dwelling

Abstract
We all need somewhere to live and work and a sense of belonging and community. How have modern buildings evolved from the first caves and primitive huts?’ What are the roles of architects and engineers? How have those two professions diverged? Can someone with no technical training, learn to look at a building or other structure and ‘read’ how it ‘stands up’ or works as a structure as well as appreciate its external aesthetic and architectural appearance? How do engineers understand and analyse how forces flow through a structure? What are some of the technical difficulties that engineers face, such as metal fatigue, wind and vibration? Can we continue to expect our buildings to be ‘as safe as houses’ when—as the stories of Ronan Point and Grenfell Towers illustrate—sometimes they fail? How do we avoid the type of progressive collapse that happened at Ronan Point?
David Blockley

5. Moving

Abstract
How have we engineered the ‘things’ that enable us to travel at ever increasing speeds’? Moving requires energy—so the engineering of moving is about managing the way energy flows. We coach natural forces to do what we want. All processes have energy as a potential drives a flow. It took a long time to get to the initial idea of a bicycle but then the evolutionary progress was relatively quick. The ideas of a few individuals were influential in triggering yet more ideas into an explosion of innovation. Likewise, it took us a long time to understand that we can use heat to power machines—then again relatively quickly along came the steam engine and out of that, the internal combustion engine, the turbojet and the space rocket. Although the steam engine was at first an intuitive notion later developments depended on an understanding of the essential technical differences between solids and fluids. Our relatively recent discoveries of how to generate and use electricity are becoming even more important as we enter the age of the electric vehicle.
David Blockley

6. Communicating

Abstract
Why are patterns so important in human communication? How influential is the distinction between the syntax or structure of patterns and their semantics? Our understanding of patterns of electromagnetic energy began with Michael Faraday. He was a key figure in the development of the electrical machines and his influence led to the work of James Clerk Maxwell and the subsequent development of the telephone, wireless radio and modern telecommunications equipment. Crucial inventions were the ‘valve’, the transistor and the integrated circuit. The latter is present in all modern electronic equipment such as mobile/cell phones and computers and it is there we find the patterns of electromagnetic energy. How do digital electronics and computers work with those patterns? Should we be excited or worried about the ever-increasing power of the patterns of artificial intelligence and ‘big data’?
David Blockley

7. Fighting

Abstract
What is the role of engineering in warfare? Engineers have created ever better ways for us to kill each other. From the ancient trebuchet (catapult) through bows and arrows, swords, gunpowder, guns, cannon, modern artillery such as tanks and armoured vehicles, we now have missiles that carry nuclear war heads and rockets that travel long distances. Drones and remotely piloted vehicles are creating new ways in which we can inflict harm on each other—they have the potential to drastically change the way we fight. The ever-increasing reliance on information systems is creating vulnerabilities to hackers and those hostile powers and terrorists who wish to disrupt our IT systems. But the influence of the military is not all negative. Military engineering and our collective spirit of adventure and thirst to probe new boundaries is driving the development of civilian rockets. We are contemplating further exploration of the ‘final frontier’—space.
David Blockley

8. Well-Being

Abstract
We can expect to live longer than any of our ancestors. Bioengineering is one important aspect of modern medical engineering—e.g. the work of Robert Langer. Public health engineering, contributions to agriculture, providing potable drinking water and disposing of waste have been crucially important in helping us to live healthier and longer lives. We take for granted the flushing toilet, but it is scandalous that in too many parts of the world people and particularly children have little or no regular access to clean water. Joseph Bazalgette arguably did more for our wellbeing than any other person when he ‘cleaned up’ London in the 19th century. The story of how Ben’s heart pacemaker came into being is a perfect illustration of evolving engineering ingenuity to improve individual human wellbeing.
David Blockley

9. Flourishing

Abstract
Being part of, or witnessing, a terrible disaster is clearly very distressing. How do we minimize this kind of distress and continue to flourish in the future as we face extreme climate events such as wildfires and flooding? How do we identify and learn from past events lying hidden, unrecognized and unforeseen as failure incubated? What are the global ‘grand challenges’—both natural and man-made? What are the UN Sustainable Development Goals? To achieve them do we need to reverse the fragmentation of the professions into ‘silos’? What is ‘joined-up’ thinking in ‘joined-up’ organisations and nation states and how important is it? Despite all the advances in science, we know less actually than we think we know. Contingency planning that expects surprises must be the new norm. Learn anew how to learn together is the new wisdom. Use the golden rule ‘do not do to others that you would not have them do to you’, whatever you are told to believe, is our tenet. Behaviour is more important than belief—imperfect doing is better than uncertain knowing. But to do all of this collectively requires leadership that we can trust—perhaps the biggest challenge of all?
David Blockley

Backmatter

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