It’s always been hilarious browsing through science and engineering (mostly engineer students) jokes in micro blogs and social media (facebook, tumblr, 9gag, reddit and anywhere in the internet): I am an engineer, I have no life (literally don’t have life haha – when people have parties, we code like computer is our wife); Programmer doesn’t sleep (my friend admits he can only concentrate on coding at 1-3AM); and so on. And there are also jokes about the difference between Scientist and Engineer. The question: what is exactly the difference?

If you are in either degree, you might have known and can immediately close this tab and browse through the jokes in the internet. If you demand something like explanation (I doubt this writing can be called as one) go to next paragraph; welcome to the jungle.

There are two buddies and they have same crush on a girl. The girl challenges the two, saying “You can kiss me, but with each step you take the next step should be half of the length of the previous step.” One of them, the mathematician, protests, “That is impossible! We can’t ever reach you that way!” But the another one, the engineer, takes the challenge and when they are so close, he kisses her. The Mathematician yelled that he IS cheating, but the engineer finally says, “approximation.” That marks the end of the story.

Do you know you can stack all seemingly-impossible things (pennies, forks, books, glass) if you place them right? That is the basic understanding of physics. One of tumblrian jokes about “just glue them together with sealing tape” – close enough.

The point is, as you can see, scientist concerns mainly on answering all whys and they have their own playground. Why is an atom interact with each other? Nuclear fusion? Black hole? Supernovae? Pion-muon-graviton? If we have understood all these, say, the GOD-damn-why-are-you-so-hard-to-be-found-PARTICLE Higgs Boson, what for? For…fun? For the sake of humanity’s knowledge? For science and future?

The last questions are to be answered by engineers. Engineer concerns on answering – not whys – but what can we do with these knowledge AND solve the problem that has been existed in the first place and fix it. For the sake of simplicity let’s just say scientist asks themselves questions and provide answers on their own questions, while someone ask engineers questions for them to solve it. The engineer are usually called ‘designer’, or in Indonesian language it can be translated ‘perekayasa’ (manipulator?! That sounds like a villain…well, “engineered” it is).

Every digit of number’s decimal holds meaning for scientist, but engineer usually takes about only three or four digits. Why? They don’t need it! You can ask google “what does 1 second mean” and read the explanation about a device that measures the exact one second. Scientist usually demands accuracy as high as possible. But for engineer, if it has served its purpose, so be it. For example, measuring length. “For what” will always be question. If he wants to measure the distance from Arizona to Jakarta, please ditch the idea of using ordinary ruler. The same as when you want to measure the size of A4 paper for printing purpose, you measure it up to micrometer accuracy. Unless you have CID.

Now you know the difference between two but you must know that there are people working in the boundary between science and engineering. No, it’s not called sciencengineering, that’s just a part of a joke. These people in the boundary are doing the design as well as answering all the whys of the physic phenomena in their design. One of them is computational material design – engineer whose work is pretty similar to those in physics department. They study how to solve the cat-in-the-box equation and answer world’s engineering problem by designing new material……Hey, that’s my job! (That’s pretty obvious, thanks)

Most of science branches have their engineering counterpart. Mathematics to information technology; Physics to mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, material, aeronautics. Biology and chemistry to pharmacy and medicine, agriculture… and biotechnology. Engineered DNA? Why not? That sounds fun and will solve some problems, including making new species of plants that are resistant to pest and so on. The one which can be considered ‘pure science’ are astronomy (not the -logy one please!), archeology, history – to name few – please correct me if I’m wrong.

That is it, this writing is made because (the tumblr joke, blame those creative guys over there) someone around me doesn’t know and I’m driven confused how to explain this topic properly. May be I will cover more about science and engineering later. Emphasis on ‘may be’.