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Impact Of Emerging Technologies On Society: From Aqueducts To Nanotechnology

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Integrating H&SS in Engineering II

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.717.1 - 11.717.11



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Paper Authors

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M. Pinar Menguc University of Kentucky

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Ellie Hawes University of Kentucky

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Jane Jensen University of Kentucky

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Ingrid St. Omer University of Kentucky

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

IMPACT OF EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES ON SOCIETY: FROM AQUEDUCTS TO NANOTECHNOLOGY M. P. Mengüç1, E. Hawes1,2, J. Jensen3, I. StOmer4 1 Department of Mechanical Engineering 2 Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering 3 College of Education 4 Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 40506, USA


Engineering is based on hard sciences. It is not possible to build a bridge, a car, a computer, a refrigerator, or anything considered sophisticated, without a good grasp of physics, chemistry, mathematics, or even biology. While based on the hard sciences, engineering can be considered as art, as a process of creative problem solving.

The concept of engineering as an art stems from two central ideas. First, hard sciences do not provide a complete closure of scientific facts, equations and material properties that will be required to make a piece of machinery or device work under many different conditions over its life span. There is always inherent uncertainty regarding the operation of a given device, which needs the implementation of layers of a priori assumptions by the engineers who built it. It is almost impossible to engineer a sophisticated instrument with the precision of physical principles or mathematical formulae. In the process, engineers always leave a few details to their feelings, more accurately to their gut feelings, which is akin to a process an artist goes through. For that reason, many devices and processes work sufficiently well before we completely understand why they do. If a final product works well, then, it has to be understood better just to make it work more predictably, and that process usually results with new areas of engineering, just like hydrodynamics, thermodynamics, all the way to nanophotonics.

Secondly, there is usually a personal (or, rather, societal) touch associated with any engineering accomplishment. Rarely is an engineered concept, device or process, born simply from physical laws or mathematical proofs. A device or process exists because somebody needs it at a particular time or place. Its purpose as well as presence is not dictated by universal principals, but by personal and societal aspirations. This “artistic” side of engineering clearly distinguishes it from hard sciences, even though it is built on hard sciences.

For many high-school seniors, this fundamental difference may be the primary reason for the appeal of engineering over physics, chemistry or biology where “discovery” rules. A seventeen-year old might aspire to build, create, and contribute to society, and “engineering” may permit him or her to realize these ambitions or build functional tools that make life easier. The connection between an individual’s desires and the needs of

Menguc, M. P., & Hawes, E., & Jensen, J., & St. Omer, I. (2006, June), Impact Of Emerging Technologies On Society: From Aqueducts To Nanotechnology Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1329

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