I have been resisting this discussion, but I really can't, I guess.
These examples below of incompetent attempts at engineering bear no
evidence of engineers' involvement.
Previous attempts to characterize engineering in simple generalities
are also ludicrous. Since money is often a part of the problem an
engineer has to solve, the following silly generality is perhaps less
silly than others: "An engineer does for a nickel what any damn fool
can do for a dollar." That comes closer to what many (but not all)
engineers spend their work days doing.
The notion that all engineering is making subsystems work alone so they
can be joined up (by whom?) and will then work together is ridiculous
as well. One could say the keyboard, registers, and jacks of a
harpsichord fit this model, but then what? Does anyone believe that
engineers are trained to ignore interactions between parts of an
asembly? That they couldn't recognize that strings stretched over a
common bridge interact? C'mon folks.
Disclaimer: I am not an engineer, but I have written for engineers and
I am married to one, who is a decent amateur harpsichordist.
On Sun, 28 Nov 2004 14:32:31 -0600, James McCarty wrote:
>on 11/28/04 10:26 AM, Michael Pettersen at [log in to unmask] wrote:
>> Your list of engineering applications to medicine only includes efforts to
>> recreate the human body with replacement parts; it omits the tools of
>> analysis, such as X-rays, MRI, the microscope, EKG, and so on, which are much
>> more widely used, it seems to me.
>Ah, but these are all diagnostic or observational tools, which, while
>invaluable to us as physicians, do not affect the function of the body. The
>analogy I was constructing has to do with the irreducible complexity and
>unpredictability that is the nature of biologic systems. The engineering
>approach to such systems, which by their diverse genetic nature do not
>behave in a reproducible manner, tends to fall foul of the law of unintended
>To get back to harpsichords, recall yet again the experiments of the last
>century, where engineers addressed the issue of tuning stability by
>increasing the mass of the instrument's frame and case. This measure not
>only failed to obtain the desired benefit, but also destroyed the volume and
>tonal quality of the harpsichord.
>Remember also the attempt to maintain regulation by attaching a long metal
>spring to the side of the jack, designed to keep the plectrum in precise
>position in an oversize slot. That didn't exactly work either.
>Those of you too young to remember such creations would do well to find
>somehow a copy of Wally Zuckermann's book, _The Modern Harpsichord_. It is
>important that you know from what you have been delivered. It was a
>protracted and nasty battle.
>(I don't intend to demean those who enjoy these instruments, but they have
>no relationship to historical harpsichords. They don't look like 'em and
>they don't sound like 'em. Someone should think up another name for the
>There is no way, even with every measuring modality known to modern physics,
>that a harpsichord maker can know in advance what effect a given piece of
>wood will have on an instrument. Only by building the thing, by thinning the
>soundboard (a trial-and-error process), by voicing the plectra (another
>trial-and-error process), and by playing the instrument in over time will he
>know what tonal results have been achieved. No two are alike, no matter how
>carefully one controls the process. Too many variables.
>James R. (Jay) McCarty, MD
>Fort Worth, TX
>"Sine arte, scientia nihil est"
Rodney Myrvaagnes J36 Gjo/a
"If Brecht had directed 'Waiting for Godot,' he would have hung a large sign at the back of the stage reading 'He's not going to come, you know. ' " -- Terry Eagleton