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Beautiful, elegant models March 27, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, geology, physics, research.
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I’m interested in the different uses of the word model.  Of course, the most common reference (outside of science and engineering) is to someone who wears expensive clothes.  Upon encountering such a model, most of us in the sciences and engineering wonder how they could charge so much for so little fabric.

In science and engineering, however, I’m discovering that I don’t like the use of the word because it’s ubiquitous and therefore nearly useless.  The problem I’ve run into is that everyone uses it but not necessarily for the same things.  In one field (or to one person), it means the equations describing a phenomenon.  In another field, it’s a computational model incorporating those equations in a specific configuration.  In yet a third field, it can describe a computational framework.  Then there are models that are simple calculations to describe inputs and outputs of a system.  And finally, I’ve also heard someone refer to it as a non-quantitative description of a process.

I’m slowly realizing that a model depends on what you and your field emphasize.  It’s used to describe an abstraction or an idea of the process, but what you’re describing as a model is extremely dependent on your training.

I think I may go back to using it to describe the walking mannequin.

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Buggy March 12, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in computers, engineering, work.
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I’ve been having problems at work of a technical nature.  Things have been generally difficult the past two weeks because I’ve found two problems with the software I usually work with.

I have to admit that when I’m using commercial software, my expectations are pretty high.  If I were using my own software, I would expect bugs.  Part of programming is debugging, sadly.  But if you’re paying for the software, that gives a different perspective.

The first problem was really strange.  I spent over a week trying to fix things myself by changing my models.  Nothing I did seemed to work, so I finally gave up and contacted the developers.  Yep, definitely a bug.

The second problem was more of an annoyance, and I was able to find a workaround myself.

The problem with this is that I spend a lot of time not knowing if these problems creep up because of my own incompetence with the program or if there really is something wrong with the program.  I therefore spend a significant amount of time trying to check myself and talking with the other engineers who are familiar with the software.

But it’s really a relief to get that email saying, “It’s not you!” It’s nice to know that sometimes it’s not my brain that’s buggy.

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