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Not enough theory

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q5101997

New Member
There are only seven people on this forumn. I reckon Mathematical Theory is the a fundamental tool to using electronics. I think more people should become interested in Pure Mathematics. I find it fascinating. Does anyone agree?
 

q5101997

New Member
What I meant to say was that there were only seven replys to my thread. What I'me saying is ;a carpenter cannot do a good job without an understanding of his tools. Maths is an ectronic engineers tool, like every engineers. So, a thread on theory should be about things like Fourir Transforms.
 

ThermalRunaway

New Member
Well, the thing is you have two types of Electronics enthusiasts. Those who enjoy mathematics, and those who don't. I used to be the latter, but have been converted to the former!

I have to say that even with a basic mathematical background you can still do an awful lot with electronics. Advanced Mathematics is not really a necessity. In fact, a more practical approach can often lead to better real world results! Unfortunately, theory is far from everything. An Engineer or hobbyist with good practical skills in Electronics is very well equipped in my opinion. You can be good at Electronics without an advanced mathematical background, but you'll never be good at Electronics without a good practical background!

That said, I do enjoy mathematics. It is the universal language of Science, and you can learn a lot from studying it.
I think that Engineers get a better appreciation of maths than the actual mathematicians do, because an Engineer is able to relate his results to real life situations, where as a mathematician simply arrives at a satisfactory answer. Don't get me wrong, I have the greatest of respect for mathematicians - they are extremely clever people, but I think that maths from an Engineering perspective is much more rewarding :)

Brian
 

q5101997

New Member
I agree. One can get bogged down in theory. I have designed an AC driven LCR circuit, and am eagerly trying to understand second order differential equations and Fourier transforms. Electronics theory is physics and maths, and this forum should follow those lines.
 

Speakerguy

Active Member
Most of us who know it learned it in college, and have tried hard to forget it :) It's the understanding of it that's important, not so much doing actual integrals and remembering math rules.

I got an A in my honors differential equations course in college, but that was ten years ago and I hardly use it as an electronics design engineer.
 
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MrAl

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Hello q51,


Well, i gave an electronics engineering course on another site (well the beginning
anyway) and what happened is that initially there were like 50 people who were
following closely who were interested in electronics circuit analysis but once we got
to simultaneous equations every single person quit. We didnt even get past that
linear algebra so that tells me that many people just dont want to be bothered with
math...it's only a very few who do.
 

Nigel Goodwin

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
Most of us who know it learned it in college, and have tried hard to forget it :) It's the understanding of it that's important, not so much doing actual integrals and remembering math rules.

I got an A in my honors differential equations course in college, but that was ten years ago and I hardly use it as an electronics design engineer.
Yes, the vast majority of it isn't ever needed in real life, it's just something they make you learn at college.
 

dknguyen

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
In the end, there's no substitute for building the darn thing and turning it on. How useful all that advanced math is depends how tolerant (of lack thereof) the circuit is to tolerances.

To me, "understanding the math tools" is different than "knowing how to use the math tools" because the former implies that an understanding of the theoretical foundation and proofs behind it...which is not all that useful in many cases.

I'd argue that it's far more important to know how to use the tools you have than to understand how they work (from the point of view of getting something done). You can make very nice table without knowing how the physics of how the electric motor in all your power tools operates. You may not be able to come up with new tools though, but that's what mathematicians are for.
 
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EN0

Member
I'd argue that it's far more important to know how to use the tools you have than to understand how they work (from the point of view of getting something done).
I don't agree, if you understand how the tools work (and if your mind is sharp ;) ), then you can think through possible sequences and determine what would be the best way to solve your problem. If you just know how to use the tools but don't know why, you'll only go so far and then be stuck. Then you'll have to go all the way back again and try and understand it. Say for example, Ohms Law. If I didn't understand the relationships between voltage, current, and resistance, I could be in big trouble. What If I wanted to power an LED and I didn't know about current? I could say well R=E/I and I'll give this LED 1A of current (because I don't understand what is too much) and the LED will self destruct. Or, what If I would like to give someone a little zap of current and I give them 2A of current? Since, I didn't understand that could kill the other person!
 

dknguyen

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
I don't agree, if you understand how the tools work (and if your mind is sharp ;) ), then you can think through possible sequences and determine what would be the best way to solve your problem. If you just know how to use the tools but don't know why, you'll only go so far and then be stuck. Then you'll have to go all the way back again and try and understand it. Say for example, Ohms Law. If I didn't understand the relationships between voltage, current, and resistance, I could be in big trouble. What If I wanted to power an LED and I didn't know about current? I could say well R=E/I and I'll give this LED 1A of current (because I don't understand what is too much) and the LED will self destruct. Or, what If I would like to give someone a little zap of current and I give them 2A of current? Since, I didn't understand that could kill the other person!
That clearly falls under knowing how to use the tool, not understanding how it works (aka where it comes from). That would involve all the conduction and valence band stuff. Similar to knowing how to use matrix reduction rules, but not knowing where they come from.
 
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colin mac

New Member
It's fine to look back over notes to remind yourself about something you've learned and forgotten and then be able to understand and use the knowledge. But employers often don't see it that way. If your asked to derive a simple equation which is easy to understand but you forget how, it will look very bad and the employer will more likely choose the one who could do it in the interview room.
 

tresca

Member
Yes, the vast majority of it isn't ever needed in real life, it's just something they make you learn at college.
very true, but alot of the upper year math courses are actually useful. I think the only math course I more useless than useful was first year algebra. Sure matrix manipulation and solving for unknowns using matrix is ok, but towards middle/end of the course, we began learning abstract math, strictly theoretically like 4th dimension math. Thats useless.

The other math courses ive taken were more directed towards electrical stuff, laplace, fourier, etc..

but ya..overall, you prob will only use a fraction of everything you learn unless you are a researcher and get heavy into math and stuff. Everything else you dont need eigenvalues and other useless things like that in electrical.
 

MrAl

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Hello again,


I know that math is a useful tool because it can be used to study things before
you actually do them. You can run various scenarios to see what the results
would be if you did it one way over another way. These studies can tell us
a ton of information that we would not have without the math.
It also helps to double check someone else's work instead of following it
blindly. If they made a mistake and you dont check over the work with the math,
you end up making the same mistake.
It also helps understand the underlying reasoning behind some of the formulas
and ways of doing things.

Second to the maths are the circuit simulators. A decent simulator can take the
place of much math, until you run into something that is hard to simulate and
then you are back to the math :)
 

Mr RB

Well-Known Member
I was always good at the math side (20+ years ago), I used to get high marks 95%+ in tests and help the slower students with their formulas etc. These days I couldn't remember a root elsie to save my life. If I need to work something out I just google it. :)

Seriously, the role of the engineer has changed so much. A hundred years ago our job was to do massive handworked equations using printed log tables. In the '80's you just punched the math stuff into a scientific calculator and the engineer's job became more about design and visualisation and the menial math stuff was done by a handheld device.

Now in the 2000's the datasheet rules. Now you don't even need the calculator, the datasheet has charts and specs and design notes showing schematics with warnings about limits etc. Even the bulk of the reseach and design has now been relegated to menial lesser beings (ie the datasheet researchers).

And for the 2010's it's looking like this;
1. Go to Uni
2. Learn about forums
3. Ask forums to "plz supply schematics and code for my final year project!"
4. I (just) pass test... Now I is a real enjineer

:D
 

EN0

Member
That clearly falls under knowing how to use the tool, not understanding how it works (aka where it comes from). That would involve all the conduction and valence band stuff. Similar to knowing how to use matrix reduction rules, but not knowing where they come from.
With many mathematical formulas we have today, you have to understand the concepts so that you apply the correct one. You have to understand why your doing that and how you will benefit from that. I like to know why I'm applying a formula, wouldn't you?
 

dknguyen

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
With many mathematical formulas we have today, you have to understand the concepts so that you apply the correct one. You have to understand why your doing that and how you will benefit from that. I like to know why I'm applying a formula, wouldn't you?
Yes, in theory. But then again you might as well just say that you would like to know everything. In reality, knowing it tends to come at the cost of knowing something else and as far as math theory goes, it's one of the things where 90% of the effort goes into the last 10% of understanding. Knowing math theory (ie. taking a course in math proofs) really doesn't help you very much in practical matters. You might feel enlightened and good about yourself because you know the theory and the proofs that are the basis of the math solution you're working with, but when was the last time you actually needed it and used it?

Now knowing the proofs behind the math does not mean you don't know how to properly use the math. There's a difference between knowing the math, and knowing the theory behind the math.
 
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EN0

Member
Yes, in theory. But then again you (and me) would both probably like to know everything.
You're right, I probably would like to know everything. Most things, anyway.

There's a difference between knowing the math, and knowing the theory behind the math.
Well, I would say that knowing the theory is part of math.
 
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dknguyen

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Well, I would say that knowing the theory is part of math.
I don't think so. A regular math class vs an honours math class go about teaching the same concept completely differently. One teaches how to use the concept, the other teaches where it came from. I really saw the difference when I was taking honours calculus and "regular" linear algebra at the same time. In the calculus class we were trying to figuring out how to derive everything, but not necessarily how to use it. Once we derived the result, we stopped. In linear algebra lots of algorithms were coming out of thin air to work with matrices, with no explanation as to why they were the way they were. You just used followed the algorithm to reduce the matrix or find the determinant or eigen values, but you learned to do it well and use the result for practical purposes. It was a similar thing with "regular" calculus II, you were told what Greene's THereom and Stoke's thereom was and how to use it. You were not taught why it is what it is.

Mathematicians are to engineers in math, what engineers are to technologists in engineering, or what scientists are to engineers in science. Of course there is overlap.
 
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tresca

Member
In the calculus class we were trying to figuring out how to derive everything, but not necessarily how to use it. Once we derived the result, we stopped.
That was like my first year of uni. We took all kinds of math, linear algebra, calc I and calc II. It was only in second year where we started our basic electrical courses where we reviewed the calc I and calc II stuff to see HOW it applies. Because I can never truly understand why we learn some of these concepts, but then later on, I found out why we need them. Mind you, some of it was useless and abstract, but partial derivaties, laplace transforms and its inverse etc..proved to be very useful later on.
 
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