It’s not the fault of my world-famous professors at M.I.T. who gave me a M.Sc. degree in Electrical Engineering, but it’s a fact – I know less about engineering than most (if not all) of you.
Way back then, “Computer Science” was a fledgling field of study, and in many schools it was an offshoot of either math or engineering. In my case it was an offshoot of engineering, and ergo my inappropriate degree.
So much for my sordid past.
Many of you are familiar with Robert Fulghum’s book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Some day I’ll write my own version, and I’ll name it All I Really Need to Know About Engineering I Learned From My Customers. Sounds funny, but it’s true.
Over the past 2½ decades I’ve had the privilege and the pleasure of getting to know many hundreds of engineers, from New York to New Delhi, California to Copenhagen, Brazil to Brisbane, Tokyo to Topeka, working on everything from new generation automobiles to space exploration, medical instruments to financial instruments, communications to cryptography.
Along the way I’ve seen the birth, growth and eventual widespread adoption of several new technologies. I remember when computers were first applied to medical research, and radical advances in imaging, pharmacokinetics and communications revolutionized healthcare. I remember when simulation of engineering systems first took hold, and then became so mainstream that I once saw a TV commercial for an auto manufacturer say that their cars are so good because “we build them first on a computer”.
The most exciting recent trend that I’ve seen is the birth of a new generation of “multi-domain physical modeling tools”. The thing that’s important to know about physical modeling is that it is a much different problem than modeling control systems – the problem that gave birth to some of today’s most popular simulation tools. Everything from the underlying mathematical framework to the user interface needs to be different. A well-known and well-respected automotive engineering executive (who happens to be one of my closest and most longstanding customer relationships) recently said that the major risk in addressing the challenges of physical modeling is the mistaken belief that we have done well. In other words, it is a mistake to believe that the successes achieved in the control design simulation space are successes in the physical modeling space.
Coupled with these changes in the physical modeling world is another trend – the availability of new multi-domain tools. The thing that’s important to know about “multi-domain” is that for at least a generation engineers have used several different “one-domain” tools (mechanical, hydraulic, thermal, electrical…), and have struggled to marry the results when addressing multi-domain problems. And guess what – most of engineering is multi-domain. A simple spring is multi-domain: When metal compresses it generates heat. A circuit is multi-domain: It has both electrical and thermal properties. Your problem is also almost certainly multi-domain.
So I’m having a lot of fun being part of this new trend – bringing multi-domain physical modeling tools to the world’s engineering community.
Watch this space for more on this topic from me and from others.