Engineering Inc. - March/April 2003 - (Page 20)

2003 ACEC A N N U A L C O N V E N T I O N Alan By Jessica Bizik LightmScience an The Mind of Alan Lightman's most recent novel, The Diagnosis, is a brilliant yet disturbing p r o b l e m and then build that solution. Imagination enters at examination of our modern obsession with speed, information and money. In both stages. Of course, the most his keynote address at the ACEC Annual Convention in Boston on May 12, impor tant thing about a solu- tion to a problem is that it works, Lightman will read passages from the book and engage the audience on related that it actually solves the prob- issues, such as the uses and abuses of technology, and the consequences of lem, but there are sometimes a high-speed communication and its relevance for the business community. Edi- thousand different ways that a given problem can be solved. In tor Jessica Bizik gets the dialogue rolling here for Engineering Inc. choosing among these many dif- Q. In the early 1980s, you n e e r i n g projects today for interesting questions that don't ferent ways, the engineer can use w r ote a number of essays on e x a m p l e , a new hydroelectric h a v e answers, such as: Does d i f f e re n t criteria, such as ele- the mind of science and the plant on a body of water near a God exist? or What is love? gance, beauty and simplicity, the human side of science. What major city often require biolo- As a novelist as well as a scientist, very same aesthetic guidelines of do those phrases mean to you gists, physicists, and engineers to I have found that artists often the artist. When I look at the today? c o m m u n i c a t e their work and don't care what the answer is and new [Leonard P. Zakim Bunker t h e i r ideas to a much larger c o n s i d e r the question much Hill Bridge] near the highway A. To me, the mind of science group of people than the spe- more important than the answer. coming into downtown Boston, means the particular way that cialists in their field. Thus, writ- I am overwhelmed by its grace Q. You helped to create a com- s c i e n t i s t s and engineers think ing and speaking skills are essen- and beauty. The bridge seems to munication requirement at the about the world. For example, t i a l . When we were in the float in the air; its curving sup- Massachusetts Institute of Tech- scientists and engineers think of planning stages of the new com- port struts have the delicacy of nolog y MIT , where students p ro b l e m s in terms of definite m u n i c a t i o n requirement at the strands in a spider web, yet must now take a writing or q u e s t i o n s that have definite M I T, we asked a number of also the strength; it glows and public speaking course in order answers. As a graduate student in companies in engineering and s h i n e s against the night sky. to graduate. Tell us about the physics, my advisor taught me technology what skills they most That bridge is a work of art. need you saw in students prior not to work on problems that valued in their new recruits, and to this requirement and why Q. Are there any specific feats of could not be posed with enough communication skills were near artful communication is so engineering that have inspired clarity to guarantee a solution. the top of the list. important to the future mathe- you as a researcher, a writer or That solution might take a year maticians, biologists and engi- just as a human being? Q. Is engineering poetic? to find, or 10 years, but the solu- neers of the world. tion must be, in principle, open A. Yes, there are many feats of to my discovery. This method of A. In my view, engineering can A. The world is becoming more engineering that have inspired thinking has been very fruitful in certainly be poetic. To me, an and more complex and interdis- me. A good car is a triumph of the sciences. But it also has its e n g i n e e r is someone who can c i p l i n a r y. Scientific and engi- e n g i n e e r i n g . Most people are l i m i t a t i o n s . There are many visualize a solution to a material l April 2003 2 0 ENGINEERING INC. M a r c h

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Engineering Inc. - March/April 2003


Engineering Inc. - March/April 2003