Jan 17

I recently read in the January 2012 edition of the Engineers Australia magazine a letter which contained the sentence “Scientific truth is not obtained democratically”.

I believe that this statement is a grave misrepresentation of the way science is conducted and the way scientific hypothesis become scientific laws.

Science, like engineering, is carried out by people and as such is intrinsically bound within a social and cultural context. Indeed, even the matters that attract research attention and funding are determined by those factors, just as the engineering projects that get built are.

My issue is not with the primacy of scientific facts; but a collection of facts is not science in the same way that a collection of dates is not history. Those facts must be combined into hypothesis that explain them and ideally suggest new emergent facts to look for.

The facts of the physical science that engineers are most familiar with are demonstrable in repeatable experiments; the facts of sciences such as geology, climatology, cosmology, sociology, anthropology and economics are not so amenable.

The current paradigm in any field of science is determined by the consensus of the scientists working in that field and is inherently democratic. This is not to say that it is unscientific; consensus has been built from a large body of evidence and it would require an equally large body of new and different evidence to change.

General relativity did not replace Newtonian mechanics overnight. There were 50 years of experimental anomalies before the failures in Newtonian physics allowed general relativity to emerge and a further 30 years before it was democratically accepted.

 

[Published in Engineers Australia February 2012]

Nov 17

This is the basic equation of business and accounting but when was the last time that you thought about it?

Charles DickensW in David CopperfieldW said:

 

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

What was true in the 19th century is still true in the 21st; it is not the value of the Revenue or the Expenses that matter but only the difference between them. More...

May 26

If you want to understand the human condition there are a range of options; you can consult psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, jurists, theologians, ethicists, politicians, journalists, psychiatrists, economists, mothers, fathers and the guy next to you in the pub. For my money though, you would be best served by consulting a humorist like Terry PratchettW. More...

Apr 07

Following on from me recent posts, ABC Radio National's the Philosopher's Zone recently discussed these very issues - you can find the audio here

Mar 18

Many people think that they are in business to make money and this is certainly an important objective, however, it is not the only or even the most important reason for being in business. More...

Jan 29

Snowy Mountains Scheme

Recently I had the opportunity to make a presentation to Year 11 Engineering Science students at my son's school. In preparing this I grappled with the concept of where engineeringW fits in the scope of human knowledge. Despite being an engineer for almost 20 years this was something that I had not really thought about.

At university it is easy to come to the conclusion that Engineering is a scienceW - you are bombarded with physics, mathematics, chemistry and don't get much (read any) exposure to, for example, music, literature and drama. However, this is a mistake - Engineers are not Scientists. More...