Friday, October 5, 2012

Different Approaches

There are frequently different approaches to the same problem. In engineering, we frequently see different approaches, due to the time of training, place, history, or whatever. Friction in soils, for example, relative to the shear stress, may be expressed as a change in friction angle or as an absolute ratio. The numbers to get the same effect are not the same.

In cohesionless soils, a change in friction angle is more traditional, but when it comes to soil acting on a surface, it is easier to understand and work with a absolute number. This absolute term of reference make life easier, but more confusing to those who training has only included friction as a change in angle.

Neither is more correct than the other, as long as one is used, and the meaning is clear. Using alpha or delta is not clear, as the nomenclature changes textbook to textbook.

The problem with university is there is too much to learn in the allotted time. Additional time would and is just filled with the professors choice of material. It takes time to absorb and learn to the point of understanding, and there is just to much material in some fields. Specialization is forced on us, even if we know a bit about many subjects.

Some of us have worked our entire lives around the field we wanted to be in, only occasionally doing the sort of projects we really wanted to do. We were forced to learn more and more around our chosen field, until we find we are generalists, no expertise in any one subfield, but generalist in the area, doing the work, and having opinions on the various methods. These opinions put us at odds with the academics.

Oh well, life goes on. We are all just learning. It is the first time through life.



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