STEM in a Pandemic with Geoff Varrall

As technical authors, our job is to write and sometimes talk about technology and the ways in which other related disciplines, science, engineering and maths, make technology more efficient and effective.

Our education system, professional institutions and the publishing industry place the four STEM disciplines, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, into separate silos but in practice they are closely coupled. This means our target audience can be larger than we might expect.

The derivation of the word Science is from the Latin ‘Scientia’ meaning knowledge. Technology is derived from ‘techne’ meaning craft which the ancient Greeks considered represented the mechanical arts. Engineering comes from the Latin word ‘ingeniare’ from which modern English derives the word ‘ingenuity.’

The difference in practical terms can be illustrated by considering how Archimedes fortified his adopted home town in the Siege of Syracuse in 214 to 212 BC.

Under attack from the Romans, Archimedes had a number of enabling ‘technologies’ available to him including ropes and pulleys. These technologies were combined together with ‘ingenuity’ into throwing machines known as ‘ballista’ from which the term ‘ballistics’ is derived. Engineering is the process through which usefulness and value is derived from separate component technologies. More prosaically, Bran Ferren, the computer scientist, defined technology as ‘stuff that doesn’t work yet’.

In this month’s technology post, we talk about the role of STEM in pandemics and the use of smart phones to manage the unlocking of the lockdown process.

Understandably the attention of our target audience is focused on how life has changed and much of the news is grim.  There will however be an ever increasing appetite for knowledge about how technology can facilitate social and economic recovery. Technology writing and technical publishing has a role to play in that process.

About the Author: Geoff Varrall joined RTT an executive director and shareholder to develop RTT’s international business as a provider of technology and business services to the wireless industry. Previously he was a director at Cambridge Wireless and has undertaken spectrum and standards consultancy work for a broad cross section of operators and vendors and regulatory and standards agencies in the US, Europe and Asia.

To order Geoff Varrall’s books, click here.

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