Science Versus Engineering

Loyd Blue shirt smallI can be pedantic on occasion.

When I watched the movie The Martian, something the Mark Watney character said stood out to me:

“I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.”

That bit of dialog bugged me at the time, but I wasn’t sure why. I realize now, however, that Watney wasn’t talking about science; he was talking about engineering.

This hit home when I read a post on Quantum Diaries by Byron Jennings regarding the differences between science and engineering.  The two disciplines certainly have a lot in common, particularly if you compare physical sciences to engineering. Both require serious analytical and intellectual chops. Engineers and scientist spend years in rigorous study to learn their craft. As you might imagine, the border between the two disciplines is nebulous, but the final paragraph appealed to me:

“Thus, although engineering and science are closely related and indeed intertwined, the two, in their heart of hearts, are very different; engineering uses science in order to build and science uses engineering in order to explore.”

— Byron Jennings

Back to The Martian. The fictional Mark Watney is a scientist (botanist). But when he’s abandoned on Mars, he faces huge challenges to survive. In that process, he learned a lot of new things, but mostly, he applied what he knew to build what he needed to survive.

So what Watney really did on Mars was “…engineer the shit out of this.”


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