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Old 7th February 2012, 08:46 AM   #1961
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It's not really that complicated.

You can do math and never care about physics or engineering (that's what most theoretical mathematicians do, to be honest - others have to look up the practical implications of their findings because they don't really care).

Good luck doing Physics or Engineering work ignoring math.
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Old 7th February 2012, 08:47 AM   #1962
dvv is online now dvv  Serbia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheShaman View Post
Well, my first degree being in Applied Mathematics, it seems you guys have worked with the "wrong" type of mathematicians (i.e. theoretical).
Just yanking your chain, Shaman. BTW, appropriate handle for your profession.

It's just that I feel mathematicians are more bent towards the pure idea, and the engineers are the lucky guys who get to turn the idea into reality. It's a symbiotic relatinship, I think, both are equally needed. I don't think either is more important, I think they are equal.

I am strongly reminded of a text I read in a Swiss engineering magazine, Technische Rundchau, way back in 1969 - the difference between theory and practice:

Theory is when everybody knows how it should work, but it doesn't;
Practice is when nobody has the slightest idea how, but it works beautifully.


Just my 2 cents' worth.
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Old 7th February 2012, 09:27 AM   #1963
tvrgeek is offline tvrgeek  United States
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"Theory is when everybody knows how it should work, but it doesn't;
Practice is when nobody has the slightest idea how, but it works beautifully."

Love it!
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Old 7th February 2012, 09:47 AM   #1964
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dvv View Post
It's just that I feel mathematicians are more bent towards the pure idea
Interesting that TheShaman calls them 'theoretical' whereas to the rest of us and to themselves they're known as 'pure mathematicians' I very much doubt whether a pure mathematician would consider an applied mathematician to be cut from the same cloth at all.
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Old 7th February 2012, 09:55 AM   #1965
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Hi,

Quote:
Originally Posted by dvv View Post
Theory is when everybody knows how it should work, but it doesn't;
Practice is when nobody has the slightest idea how, but it works beautifully.
Dedicated follower of Kant and communist theorist Charles Mordechai put it:

"Practice without Theory is blind,
Theory without practice is sterile"

Most writers emphasise rightly that the division between theory in practice is a false one, the should inform the other, best in personal-union, that is the Theorist should be an accomplished practician, the practician an accomplished theorist.

Then we will have synthesis, such as has been present with many who in earlier times worked out and derived the theories that still underpin much of what we do.

One might even places the debate here about measurements and sound quality in the context of "Theory vs. Practice".

The accomplished practician tell the accomplished theorist: "Your theories are sadly lacking, your measurements are meaningless.", meanwhile the accomplished theorist tells the accomplished practician "You have no theory, you do not know what you are doing.".

The practician rejects theories that fail to work in practice, the theoretician rejects any practical experience or empirical results that do not fit his theory.

Either side holds part of the whole; yet they prefer shouting abuse at each other across the no-mans land between the deeply dug trenches to actually putting together the part each holds.

If they did they could at least see if the combination gives a better idea about the shape and nature of the puzzle (to find a complete solution may be too much too hope), and each will walk away knowing more of the whole picture, so they better know where to investigate next.

Yet such a co-operative approach to any human endeavour including audio seem a dream not to be realised any earlier than the magnum opus of the al-chymists.

Ciao T
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Old 7th February 2012, 09:59 AM   #1966
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Quote:
Originally Posted by abraxalito View Post
Interesting that TheShaman calls them 'theoretical' whereas to the rest of us and to themselves they're known as 'pure mathematicians' I very much doubt whether a pure mathematician would consider an applied mathematician to be cut from the same cloth at all.
Pure/theoretical mathematicians is actually the same. Depends on the language I suppose.

And indeed there are mathematicians who would consider an applied mathematician having just a "good overview" of mathematics or oversimplifying it or not having enough "background" knowledge.
Then again applied mathematicians make fun of some of their colleagues who took the easy way out and dealt with the mathematics of economics or something. I guess it's human.

Regarding pure/theoretical mathematicians, most of them are gurus in some specific field (e.g. number theory) but detached from reality (i.e. theoretical) - and a bit crazy. It should be noted that the most talented ones have a good grasp of many fields of math as well as the practical implications of their work.
Anyway, we work together (basically we need them). So it's essential to put our differences aside, mock the physicists or engineers (who need us to understand their work or how to make something that will actually work, respectively) and make friends.
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Last edited by TheShaman; 7th February 2012 at 10:18 AM.
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Old 7th February 2012, 10:14 AM   #1967
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Hi,

Quote:
Originally Posted by tvrgeek View Post
"Theory is when everybody knows how it should work, but it doesn't;
Practice is when nobody has the slightest idea how, but it works beautifully."

Love it!
Yes, very droll. I prefer:

"Theory with practice is empty speculation.
Theory must be tested against practice.
Theory provides terminology and methodologies
for ananlysing practice, but does not guarantee
good practice"

Ciao T
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Old 7th February 2012, 11:48 AM   #1968
DF96 is offline DF96  England
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I have met mathematicians who aren't safe near sharp objects, but I have also come across engineers who could not be let loose in the vicinity of an equation. Physicists, of course, combine the best features of both: they can invent new mathematics (e.g. Dirac, Heaviside) which the mathematicians then struggle to formalise, and they can develop products using counter-intuitive science which doesn't fit the naive mechanistic models and approximations which engineers are often taught. Of course, I could be biased!

A big problem is that people who are expert in one field may have difficulty grasping just how profound is their ignorance in other areas.
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Old 7th February 2012, 01:24 PM   #1969
a.wayne is offline a.wayne  United States
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Keep the theorist ..... I will take the practitioner with the 24 outputs and big PSU........
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Old 7th February 2012, 04:00 PM   #1970
bcarso is offline bcarso  United States
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When people talk about the need for formal education to do engineering, I usually say that it's almost essential for learning mathematics --- maths are hard to "dig out" on your own, even with some very good texts.

I worked with a tech at UCLA years ago who was quite energetic and bright, but had crippling math difficulties and anxieties, compounded by confusions arising from the syntax of computer programming languages that he wrongly mapped onto basic algebra (really awful misdirection!). He wanted to do, and did somehow manage to do, astronomical research instrumentation, but it was a guess-and-by-gosh affair. He also managed to wear out the switches on the beloved shop Tek 475 in short order, having to deploy every this-delayed-by-that-intensified-by-the other feature constantly, when a simple trigger setup would have been quite adequate in 99% of the cases. I was horrified.

A good example of his handicap came when I explained how a fixed-pattern associated with dark current and other vagaries of the photodiode detector had to be subtracted from data before a division could be performed to correct for responsivity. He just could not get this, as to how a simple quotient of one data block with a flat field data block wouldn't give the right answer, this latter having been appropriate to the detector system he'd worked with at Lick Observatory as a night assistant.

Again. IMO the more maths the better, but beware of becoming obsessed.

Last edited by bcarso; 7th February 2012 at 04:01 PM. Reason: error
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