I knew from a young age that we had chemistry together…

…or at least that we took chemistry together. It’s the SigFig’s 30th birthday, and, while we’ve only been dating for a few years, we’ve actually known each other since high school. We took a handful of classes together, one of which was chemistry, and his milestone birthday has me feeling nostalgic.

One of the first labs we did in our chem class was the classic separation lab. You start with a mixture of substances such as salt, iron filings, and sand, then plan and execute a procedure to separate the substances. It was really a lab preparedness warmup: the activity helped students learn about lab safety and how to develop and follow procedures. In retrospect, I’d classify it as more of an engineering activity than a scientific investigation.

The primary difference between science and engineering is that the goal of science is to answer questions (What does the structure of an atom look like?), while the goal of engineering is to solve problems (How can airplanes become more fuel efficient?). There’s definitely a lot of overlap, and progress in one field is frequently dependent upon progress in the other. Scientists use tools that engineers build, and engineers use scientific discoveries to build new things.

The SigFig became an engineer, so I guess something from that class stuck with him. (Besides me, of course.)

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