Stolen from the discussion on software engineers:

My SO says the following (paraphrased):

If you build a bridge, and just start from one side, and keep going, to see if it’ll hold up, and in the end it does, yes, you built a bridge, but you didn’t engineer it. There is a specific set of protocols, and procedures to follow in order to even begin building a bridge, and as the Engineer, you have to be able to guarantee that that design and that building procedure WILL work. The problem with software is that these procedure don’t really yet exist -it is a new field, and the protocols aren’t well established. What each of these people are doing [refering to my discussing of what Dopers have said about their job desriptions] is taking some software and hacking something together and if it works for their purposes thats good enough. There are no set procedures. They aren’t starting from the very basics and designing the ENTIRE thing for the situation at hand, which is what Software Engineers are being trained to do. In Software Engineering, no one starts coding at all until the ENTIRE project has been layed out and designed in a formal way. Going back to the bridge analogy, its taking the village men who are building a bridge across the river (no matter how well they might do it) and replacing them with experienced engineers who have thought out the materials, and physics of that bridge so that it is better, and more effective.

So can I then be a “music engineer” instead of a composer?

Do you have a consistent process?

When you start composing, do you know where you are going to end up? Can you guarantee that your melody line and lyrics will match up properly at all times? Do you wait until you have notes and plans for the entire thing before you start writing?

If any of the answers to the above are “No”, then you’re not engineering, you’re composing. That’s not bad, just different. :slight_smile:

I don’t think anything I’ve ever said has started a spin-off thread before. Should I feel special ? :slight_smile:

I think what they were trying to get at is that one of the duties of a Professional engneer is to be able to guarentee a certain standard their product will live up with (ie. this bridge can withstand up to 500ton loads). If the bridge does not live up to this standard, the engineer can be brought up on negligence and criminal charges.

Software engineers can do no such thing.

Well, there are different ways of composing- different methods, philosophies and strategies. Some composers tend to do what I would call “engineer” their compositions- something like Beethoven’s 5th for example…some are more spontaneous…

Someone scoring a film may “engineer” more closely and carefully- “I need 34 seconds of suspense followed by 10 seconds of calm followed by 3 minutes of love scene” or whatever.

Not necessarily. Its not as simple as that. If the engineer shows that he/she had followed all the applicable standards, he is not liable for any prosecution even if the bridge crumbles to pieces.

The standards are the legal documents. Therefore all engineering contracts spell out the standards - eample - all piping must conform to ASME Sec VIII division 2 - Revision XX. Therefore standards use a large factor of safety for everything.

There are two forms of engineering designs. One where you follow a standard and your butt is totally covered. Say you want to design a vessel to hold 10,000 gallons of gasoline, there’s a standard available to do that down to the very nut and bolt. But now say you want to design a Nuclear Reactor Calendria or a very high pressure vessel you have no code available. So you do a design (finite element etc. ) to do your own design. In these cases the company doing the desing has to provide a performance guarantee from a bank for the lifetime of the equipment.

Speaking from the point of view of a Chemical Engineer, In Chemical Process Engineering, the latter is often the case. Give a mechanical engineer the diameter, length and diameter of a column and he/she will design to the very last bolt the column using standard codes and get his/her butt covered by law. Tell the Civil/Structural Engineer and he/she’ll design the foundation and supports to conform to standard codes and get his/her butt covered by law. But when it comes to how many trays the column should have to give you the desired alcohol - there is no code to guarantee that. So Chemical Process Engineers often have to provide the performance guarantee.

It is a very common practice for the API (American Petroleum Institute) to issue “Recommended Practices” and not Standards. This is to cover their butts in case something does’nt work.

So making something work despite not knowing everything that goes into it is a common practice at least in Chemical Engineering for sure.

There’s different methods of making the gasoline too. Different methods for making the same plastic. So just because you have different methods does’nt make it non - engineering activity.