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Old 03-29-2007, 02:16 PM   #1
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Default Does anyone actually use calculus?

So, after studying 4 nights straight and then getting bent over by my calc 2 test, I'm really considering changing my major.

I'm currently in Manufacturing Engineering, which requires that I take Calc 1, Calc 2, Stats, and Differential Equations, which I'm told is much worse than calc 2.

I'm thinking of changing my major to Engineering Technology for a Mechanical Engineering degree, which only requires Calc 1.

My dad is a retired ME from Briggs and Stratton, and he always points out that of the 200-some engineers working there.... not a single one used calculus in their occupation.
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Old 03-29-2007, 02:22 PM   #2
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No you will probably never need to use calculus again. In fact, I can't remember most of what I learned in Calc, and I took it through the multi-variable stuff.

The point of taking the classes is not to remember the calc per se, but to teach you how to think. Your brain is a lot like a muscle in the fact that it needs to be trained to be strong.

It was hard as **** and frustrating, but if I had to do it again, I would.

Don't quit. Push through it. The path of most resistance can be rewarding.
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Old 03-29-2007, 02:26 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben View Post
The point of taking the classes is not to remember the calc per se, but to teach you how to think.
Exactly.

Damn, my ME degree required up to cal 3 along with everything else you mentioned plus a lot more. Horray Eigen Values!

I have only used "regular" math since graduating in '02. I think EE's use it more. I know it does have applications in ME, but I personally haven't use it yet.
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Old 03-29-2007, 02:26 PM   #4
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You will use it for some classes after those classes, and then you will learn (especially for diff eq) that there are tables that you can reference for solutions to most problems. The point is that you have to learn to crawl before you can walk. They want you to know where the "easy way" came from so that you can think more abstractly in the future. Thinking is why engineers are on the 2nd floor and the technicians are on the 1st floor.
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Old 03-29-2007, 02:28 PM   #5
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haha, almost identical answers at almost the same time.
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Old 03-29-2007, 02:34 PM   #6
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I think I agree with Ben. There's a computer program available to figure out almost anything these days, and most people I know only understand that data goes in, and an answer comes out. They either can't or don't want to understand the underlying theory or process that is involved in any problem. I think the fact that you're a member of this site and thus probably a DIYer means that you give a **** about how stuff works. College calculus blows and, no I've never had to use it in 20 years as an engineer. But I still more or less understand how it works, and I think the mental discipline required to work through **** like 2nd derivatives of transcendental equations has helped me get through everyday work ****.

However, keep in mind what Yates says about stuff above the line.
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Old 03-29-2007, 03:00 PM   #7
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Reminds me of an old joke.

Q: What's the difference between a scientist and an engineer?

A: A scientist knows how to solve for x. An engineer knows which book the answer is in.
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Old 03-29-2007, 03:04 PM   #8
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Those are pretty much the replies I was expecting. I think I wouldn't mind the class so much if we were able to use reference tables like neogenesis2004 talked about. My prof, an Indian woman who writes faster than I can think, insists that we memorize everything in this class, and that meant 32 different new equations for the aformentioned test. Maybe I can retake the class over the summer at a local tech school.

Quote:
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Don't quit. Push through it. The path of most resistance can be rewarding.
Sounds like a fortune cookie :gay:
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Old 03-29-2007, 03:12 PM   #9
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Hey, don't surrender on passing yet - chances are your classmates aren't exactly dancing through either. I had a raw test average of 54(yes, out of 100) in Physical Chem, and ended up with a B on the curve!

The professor questioned our qualifications for college.
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Old 03-29-2007, 03:14 PM   #10
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Unfortunately I don't believe she'll be curving the grades, at least she hasn't on anything yet, and we're 2/3 through the semester.
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Old 03-29-2007, 03:20 PM   #11
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I'm a Manufacturing and Industrial Technology major. We only have to take Calc 1. I just got raped by my 2nd exam in there. Death to professors with bad chinese accents and no teaching skills.
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Old 03-29-2007, 03:23 PM   #12
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I bought the book Calculus for Dummies a few weeks ago, and it actually helped with understanding the concepts behind the stuff we were doing, but it didn't really have examples for me to follow to actually figure out how to do the problems. The book required for the class just makes my head hurt.
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Old 03-29-2007, 03:25 PM   #13
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My deal is I can do the problems in the book just fine most the time. If i can't the solutions manual helps me of course. We have online quizes and they destroy me though. There is nothing in the book like those questions and the exams are based off those quizes. If I didn't have a rifle teammate that was willing to help me I'd fail for sure.
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Old 03-29-2007, 03:43 PM   #14
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I hate to sound like the stickler, but I really don't like the idea of so many professionals not using calculus. It's extraordinarily fundamental. All those computer programs mentioned use calculus, albeit numerical approximations, whether you like it or not. And those programs were all written by people who use calculus. On top of that, all of those pieces of software have limitations, and they will all choke if given the correct problem. The scariest thing, though, is when you DO get an answer, but it is wrong due to the user's lack of understanding (and I don't mean input error), but use the spat-out answer anyway. That to me is terrifying.

Anyway, I use calculus every working day. It's too basic not to use.
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Old 03-29-2007, 04:21 PM   #15
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computer programs are nice--if you know how to interpret the answer you get from them and understand if it's right or not.

i used calculus not too long ago to make a formula for finding the volume of a quarter-toroid. (slice the top half of a donut along its peak so you have a quarter-rounded ring)

I also use it periodically for motion / vibration stuff. plus it helps to have it in the back of my brain for the speaker design hobby.

but do I use it at work? not much...
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Old 03-29-2007, 04:58 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Atlanta93LE View Post
I hate to sound like the stickler, but I really don't like the idea of so many professionals not using calculus.
My circuits professor made a good joke about mathematicians vs engineers. If you ask a mathematician to calculate how long it will take for a capacitor to discharge he will tell you that it is never fully discharged (infinity). When you ask an engineer to calculate how long he will tell you that once its close to zero it is close enough. (RC)
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Old 03-29-2007, 05:44 PM   #17
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I think it's pretty much a given that one way or another, we all use calculus. My point was that the grunt work of taking the courses lets you understand just what it is the computer is doing for you, so that the numbers or drawing or whatever has a real context. It sucks while you're going through it, but you understand later on when you see the practical applications.
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Old 03-29-2007, 06:04 PM   #18
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Im a MET major, and I have to take tech calc I & II. Will I ever use it, probably not..., I'm just about to finish up Trig this semester, and move on to physics, statics, and maybe calc I. I would really give MET a second look, it is looked at very similarly as an ME, you get lots of hands on, and there isn't as much theory and math.
-Michael-
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Old 03-29-2007, 06:48 PM   #19
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I hate calculus it is my only true failure. I just cant seem to wrap my brain around it. GL man
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Old 03-29-2007, 07:53 PM   #20
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Nothing is harder than calc 2. 2nd order diff equations are hard but are only about 25% of that class. The rest is...well not easy but not calc 2 hard.

I do use infinite series but only as numerical analysis short cuts. I also use the basic position/velocity/accel derivative but that's not exactly taxing. I use integration in the real-time apps I write but it's nothing like what I did in that class. Still, it's nice to know the theory when doing it. Hell, I guess I do use it.
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