Engineering and Art

A philosopher said, every science begins as philosophy and ends as art. There is an enormous interplay and mutual dependence between engineering and art. Both are the means to explore the unknown and the unseen. Renaissance engineers were artists. Leonardo Da Vinci was the ultimate engineer and artist.

We need the bottom-up approach of science and the top-down approach of art to answer many of our profound questions. Art, at tandem with engineering, can take us to the blind and imaginary spots where we can’t go alone. For Niels Bohr, the lover of cubist paintings, the invisible world of the electron was essentially a cubist world. He knew electrons could exist as either particles or waves, but he also knew that the form they took depended on how you looked at them, and their nature was a consequence of our observation.

It has been said that art delivers incoherence, imprecision, abstraction and contradiction. These attributes are not expected to represent engineering. Isn’t incoherence an essential aspect of the human mind? Don’t we live in a world full of contradictions? The issue is how to make the “two cultures” move forward together? What would close the communication gap between the engineers and the artists, since each side has something useful to offer to the other side.

Is the barrier between engineering and art difficult to break? The world is changing very fast. Collaboration among diverse disciplines is becoming the norm. More and more people are realising the importance of relatedness among unrelated things; the more unrelated the elements are, the more radical and innovative is the synthesis. The knowledge sharing is possible when basic values and understanding among the collaborators match.

A conceptualist can collaborate with an experimentalist, but their roles and their approach to problem-solving are different. This is not to say that other view should be accepted without critical examination, particularly when it comes from a entirely diverse source. In scientific activities, collaborators share and complement conceptual or experimental approaches. In the practice of art, personal taste, vision and style of expression matters. These deeper shared characteristics need better understanding.

There is so much truth in the beautiful observation of Murray Gell-mann - “What is especially striking and remarkable is that in fundamental physics a beautiful or elegant theory is more likely to be right than a theory that is inelegant.”

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© 2017 by Dr Purnendu Ghosh