Friday, March 04, 2011

More Thoughts on "Materials Science"

A few followup comments to yesterday's spleen venting against "materials science". While I do think that the three fields should be separated with specialists in each, there is a good deal of overlap between them. Consider these examples:
  1. Terminology: The term "plastics" used to describe a large large segment of polymers has its origins in metallurgy. "Plastic" deformation is a permanent deformation of a material resulting from high stresses, and the "plastics" that are such much a part of the modern world show this behavior quite readily. Similarly, "annealing" was first used in treating metals, but the term has been borrowed by the plastics industry as well.
  2. Processing: Many of the processes used in these fields are common to each each, and the number is growing more each year. Consider the latest reports about blow molding metals, recalling that injection molding of metals is already old hat.
  3. Fundamental Science: At a more fundamental level, there is plenty of overlap of the concepts of thermodynamics, rheology, chemical bonding etc.
As much as I stress the divisions between the different sciences, I also know that the differences are arbitrary and man-made [*] and that nature offers incredible treasures to those willing to play at the edge of each field. There are no cliffs at the edge that will the death of anyone playing too near, but instead are hidden glades of beauty for anyone willing to explore.

Just be sure you have a good footing in one of the fields. Generalists never get any of the good stuff.

[*] Not only made by Man, but also by men.

1 comment:

Eric F. Brown said...

Spleen venting sounds like a good name for a band.