[Beowulf] Re: A start in Parallel Programming?

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Wed Mar 14 13:49:00 PDT 2007

On Wed, 14 Mar 2007, David Mathog wrote:

>> To follow the example of the automotive mechanic: Universities think they
>> are producing Mechanical Engineers, not automobile mechanics.
> Train the Mechanical Engineering students entirely in theory, turn
> them loose at Ford, and unless somebody who really does work
> on cars steps in to prevent it they end up designing a car whose
> oil filter can only be changed after removing the battery.

Is that what happened to the Fiat?  I used to fix simple stuff on cars,
water pumps and the like.  A good friend of mine had a Fiat, and around
95Km it started making the rumblies and overheating.  I took a look at
it to see if we could do a rebuilt replacement in my driveway.  To
change a FANBELT in this beast one had to disassemble and pull the
engine.  Seriously.  It was toplogically impossible to get at either the
belts or the waterpump with the engine in place.

On the other hand, in India, there are many cars and putt-putt scooters
(and most of them are probably made by Tata, India's equivalent of Ford,
Boeing, Bank of America, Microsoft, and.... all rolled into one and
controlled AFAIK by one very, very powerful family).  Mechanics for a
large fraction of the populace consists of the mechanic-wallah, who sits
on a particular piece of street corner (ideally near an open piece of
ground with a trench dug out or a deep curb) with a small bag of tools
in front of him and a couple of big basin bowls filled with kerosene.
With these tools he can take almost any car on the road completely
apart, fix (with some help from other wallahs) or replace (more
expensive but doable) anything that is broken, and reassemble it, all
clean.  A car that cannot be fixed in this manner had better belong to a
rich person in a big city.

> Theory and abstract concepts are clearly important but it seems to
> me that these should not be so completely divorced from real
> world considerations as they often are when taught in the
> Universities.


> Also for those folks who need to learn something practical in
> subject A to help them with their primary work in subject B finding
> only a highly theoretical presentation of A is of dubious value.  For
> instance, a lot of scientists and engineers in many disciplines often
> need to wire together circuits and write programs, and not in theory,
> but in practice.  Their needs may be a lot closer to
> the electrician and programmer than either the EE or CS departments
> would care to address, but if they don't teach to this need who will?
> Should the Physics, Chemical Engineering, or Biology departments be
> teaching separate "practical circuit design" and "introduction to
> programming" courses?

Selah, selah...


> Regards,
> David Mathog
> mathog at caltech.edu
> Manager, Sequence Analysis Facility, Biology Division, Caltech
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Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu

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