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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk


Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

Turns Out Martians Need Math Caroline Storm Westenhover

During vacation I read The Martian by Andy Weir. If you have not read The Martian, if you are the kind of person who buys from Mouser, you should. One piece of advice: don’t read it while you’re on an airplane experiencing the worst turbulence of your life, it will just remind you that there is just some metal between you and death. Also, because you buy things on Mouser, there will be few things that you will be itching to know about, such as “where do you even find data on astronaut heartbeat rates during lift off?”

I came away from that book thinking that I wanted to know only a few more specs, and that tells you how knowledgeable Andy Weir is in orbital mechanics and basic engineering. Combine that with the fact that people of less technical backgrounds thoroughly enjoy the book makes it a worthwhile read. Andy Weir is no writing virtuoso, but my grammar/writing police husband (who is also an EE) did not think it was annoying enough to take away from the whole story. I could go on and on but there are some thorough reviews out there. I will leave the book summaries to the literary reviewers.

I find it wonderful that so many non-technical people have enjoyed The Martian. I get really tired of looking at internet memes that suggest SCIENCE IS AWESOME, but math is for the birds. Somehow in the midst of science education we have disconnected science from math. That would be like disconnecting SparkNotes from the actual book. Yeah, one can get an impression of the book, but is the reader going to cry over Fred Weasley’s death if they have not walked with the characters through every page of the Harry Potter books? Probably not (but who am I to judge? I am sure some people have very emotion SparkNotes sessions). Similarly, science facts only give an impression of the forces around us, only after one has walked through the equations do the forces become captivating. The Martian walks the reader through math, it is obvious from his log entries that one of his resources is his ability to work through the applied math. There are several areas of knowledge at play, but almost always that knowledge translates to an equation before it becomes action. I am not suggesting everyone should love math. Nor am I suggesting we should start only explaining science in abstract mathematical terms. I just wish we gave math a bit more respect. The Martian does that in a wonderfully entertaining way, which made me love it that much more.

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My name is Caroline Storm Westenhover. I am a Senior Electrical Engineering student at the University of Texas at Arlington. I am the third of seven children. I enjoy collecting ideas and theories and most enjoy when they come together to present a bigger picture as a whole. Perhaps that is why I like physics and engineering.  My biggest dream is to become an astronaut.

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