Portal:Engineering

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Engineering is the application of science, technology, mathematics, art, and practical experience to the design and production of objects, tools or processes. Professional practitioners of engineering are called engineers. Engineers design and build aircraft (Aerospace), roads and buildings (Civil / Structural), computers and electronics (Electrical), machines and vehicles (Mechanical / manufacturing), medical devices (Biomedical), environmental systems (Environmental), agricultural equipment and processes (Agricultural), processing plants, chemicals and molecules (Chemical), new materials (Materials) and much, much more. Without engineering, the world would be a very different place.


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Halkett Boat Cloak in use cropped.jpg
A Halkett boat is a type of lightweight inflatable boat designed by Lt Peter Halkett (1820–1885) during the 1840s. Halkett had long been interested in the difficulties of travelling in the Canadian Arctic, and the problems involved in designing boats light enough to be carried over arduous terrain, but robust enough to be used in extreme weather conditions.

Halkett's first design was a collapsible and inflatable boat made of rubber-impregnated cloth. When deflated, the hull of the boat could be worn as a cloak, the oar used as a walking stick, and the sail as an umbrella. This was followed by a two-man craft that was small enough to fit into a knapsack, and when deflated served as a waterproof blanket.

Although widely praised by Canadian explorers, Halkett's designs had a limited market, and he was unable to persuade the Royal Navy that they would serve any useful purpose in general naval service. Efforts to market them as platforms for fishing and duck shooting failed, and they were commercially unsuccessful. Only two Halkett boats, that of Orcadian explorer John Rae, and one held in the Hudson's Bay Company Museum Collection at the Manitoba Museum are known to survive today.



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Babbage Difference Engine No. 2 built at the Science Museum, London, on display at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.
Credit: Allan J. Cronin

A difference engine is an automatic mechanical calculator designed to tabulate polynomial functions. The name derives from the method of divided differences, a way to interpolate or tabulate functions by using a small set of polynomial coefficients. Most mathematical functions commonly used by engineers, scientists and navigators, including logarithmic and trigonometric functions, can be approximated by polynomials, so a difference engine can compute many useful tables of numbers.

The historical difficulty in producing error-free tables by teams of mathematicians and human "computers" spurred Charles Babbage's desire to build a mechanism to automate the process. It is considered to be the world's first computer.


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