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Thomas M: where did that quote come from ... please provide props
It's something I made up. This same discussion of design
vs hacking goes on in various lists. Tim Bray made a comment
a few weeks ago and that was my description of it's point.
Mike C: Something tells me you don't dispute that as an empirical description of the
Web, eh? We could argue about it as a normative model, of course.
No. Yes. that's how a lot of engineering gets done. Engineering is
about putting together parts to get a job done, not invention.
One might do both but not under the same budget. We do have to
remember that engineering artifacts are disposable and that
design rationale doesn't have to document historical facts;
it does have to be rational and reapplicable if one ever
gets the same requirements (say, the right question) again.
There is a sci-fistory I read many years ago about a message received
from the inner heart of a gas-giant planet by the humans
who had colonized the moons of that planet. The message
threatened their destruction if they did not leave. All
of the top human scientists declared it a hollow threat
as all the mathematical proofs showed that the only way
to enter or leave the atmosphere of the gas giant was
to create a sustainable and adjustable force field, and
that this was also proven mathematically impossible given that
such a field would explode before it became stable. As
they were leaving, a tinkering engineer was demonstrating
his force-field spacecraft that got around the math by
turning itself on and off at very high rates such that
it never reached the point of exploding, but was stable
enough to sustain an internal atmosphere with acceptable leakage.
It was noted that the engineer was to be very wealthy and
despite the missing, eye, ears, and some other injuries
incurred as a result of his experiments with fields that did
explode. And it was indicated that the planetary inhabitants didn't take
the brush off well and were arming their craft and starting their
pulse field generators.
The math can be right and irrelevant. That's engineering.
It's in the way that you use it. The trick is to measure
the right thing; the analog to ask the right question.