Wednesday, March 29, 2006

science vs. technology

The topic of whether accelerator physics is really "physics" or even science is a sensitive one for me. Or at least an interesting one. Anyway, I found this discussion thread from a few months ago at Cosmic Variance, and decided to add a comment.

Sometimes it feels like an arranged marriage to me. I've decided on this field, and I'm trying my hardest to like it. To make it work. One solution is to work towards fitting it into the framework of physics that I know and love. This works for some of the work I do and a good amount of the interesting stuff in the field. But it also leaves out the more engineering aspects which I should probably understand. How do I deal with this? One way is to try to remove the stigma from the word "engineering". I read about the philosophy of engineering. I am happy to discover that engine and engneering have common origin, rather than one being derived from the other. Then there is the word technology. The phrase "evils of technology" flows more naturally off of one's tongue than does the "evils of science". Maybe the nuclear bomb and nanotechnology turning the world into a gray goo come under the latter, but the whole issue of quality of life in the modern world and our questionable attitude of finding high tech solutions to problems instead of looking at root causes seems to me more pervasive and has more resonance for me. So, I need to do some work in thinking about my attitude towards technology and engineering. The design of bridges or economies has never interested me that much. Why should I be involved in design of accelerators when I'm not interested in these other more prevalent things?

Yes. I'm ambiguous. Maybe its just exhaustion, but this does seem like a question I need to resolve at some point.

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