Aka: Is Estimating maximum lift or strength off topic?

Looking at the definition of engineering:

1. the branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, machines, and structures. 2. the action of working artfully to bring something about. "if not for his shrewd engineering, the election would have been lost"

I propose that the scope of this site should not include purely medical questions like this one, which do not involve engines, machines or structures because they fall outside the broad definition of what engineering entails. If a biomedical question included the any of these, then that's in-scope.

What do you think?

  • $\begingroup$ I would have to agree with you. I think the issue is the pioneers of this SE is trying to develop engineering questions to keep the momentum going. Thus sometime gets a little bit over ambitions. This include myself. How about sharing a few engineering questions $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 11:13
  • $\begingroup$ possible duplicate of Our Scope (and Overlaps with Sister Sites) $\endgroup$
    – user16
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 15:20
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I'm not convinced that this is a duplicate because that question was specifically adressing the line between eng and other se sites. Specifically adressing the case where there is an overlap between sites. This is asking about where we scope engineering in general. I'm not saying I want to specifically exclude an engineering discipline, but rather asking where we draw the line at what engineering is. $\endgroup$
    – user133
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think this is a duplicate at all. It's an internal issue, not an external issue. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 22:58

1 Answer 1


The core of your question is one that even professionals can't answer. And frankly, it's not just a question for biomedical engineers and medicine. To counter by example - "Where is the line drawn between Electrical Engineering and Physics?"

The challenge is that the line shifts depending upon the particular application at hand. Likewise, questions asked on StackExchange become licensed under a very permissive Creative Commons license that naturally keeps people from disclosing the true or proprietary nature of the questions they are asking.

Additionally, Engineers routinely work with data or properties that are also used by their counterparts on the Sciences side. For example, both Physicists and Mechanical Engineers deal with levers. But how the Engineer applies that lever can be quite different than what the Physicist would have done.

Biomedical Engineers and Biologists are just one of the more recent pairings between Engineering and the Sciences.

There's also errant assumption behind your question:

I propose that the scope of this site should not include purely medical questions like this one, which do not involve engines, machines or structures because they fall outside the broad definition of what engineering entails. If a biomedical question included the any of these, then that's in-scope.

  1. It's not a purely medical question. What if the purpose of my question is to identify upper bounds of strengths in order to design stabilizing equipment for medical imaging purposes. Sure, you could ignore that aspect of the design and lock them down with chains, but think of how de-humanizing that may be for someone who is already suffering through a crisis in their life?

  2. Biomedical engineers routinely refer to the human body and the various systems within the body as the engines of their systems. For example, can you tell me of a mechanical pump with an adaptive flow rate that can last for over 100 years without external maintenance? There's one in every single human being on this planet.

So yes, I think the question is in scope for the site. And no, I'm not saying that just because it's my own question.

I did think through very carefully before presenting the question. I can certainly dig up references to answer the question on my own, although I'll admit I'm impressed by the one answer it's already received.

I asked the question because the site hasn't picked up any biomedical questions yet and I wanted to stake that territory out before the site goes public. I also asked because I wanted to draw in experts who may be working in that area and could better answer the question than what I could have researched.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree that engineers should be able to ask questions that are perhaps not directly engineering related but what an engineer in a specific field would encounter. As such, my current viewpoint is that as the question is stated right now it does not clearly indicate how engineering is a part of the subject matter. It could very easily be asked in a biological platform. Perhaps a compromise would be to revise the question such that it would be more relevant in an engineering related context. $\endgroup$
    – user133
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Stacey - I already updated the question to provide the diagnostic restraint example. And I continue to disagree with your assessment of what is "directly engineering related." I think for a biomedical engineer, the linkage is pretty clear. And my question isn't that far removed from designs I had to build when I was working on my degrees. Engineers involved in human factors needs to be able to estimate the properties of the systems (aka. humans) that they are designing for. $\endgroup$
    – user16
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ This is the reason why I asked the meta question. Since I'm not a biomedical engineer, I do not see that link as clearly as you do. It is necessary to see what the community thinks of such a question. If there are very few biomedical engineers around here then it may be necessary to describe the context more clearly than you would otherwise. This characteristic is demonstrated in other SE sites too in my experience. $\endgroup$
    – user133
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ @GlenH7, With all due respect, I still don't see the bio-medical aspect of the question. I am an EE but I did work in the BE field for about 2+ years. I did post an answer to experimental physic themed meta question here. meta.engineering.stackexchange.com/a/63/110. physiology alone doesn't make the question an Engineering Question. A combination of other sciences and desire to develop a product for a end user would make the question more relevant as an Engineering question. IMHO $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ BTW, my ability to generate new questions are drop fast. I just got done with full filling my commitment. Hopefully I we able contribute at least one question a week. To keep the site alive we need a substantial inventory of good questions. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 22:27
  • $\begingroup$ @MahendraGunawardena We'll get that influx when we go public, hopefully within a week, if not a few days. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ I hope so, I have link to a crude analysis on this post. discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/questions/19185/… just want make sure we have inventory of good questions to attract other users :-) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 22:38
  • $\begingroup$ +1 I think another example that would back up GlenH7's answer is steam tables. The properties of steam are entirely and properly the domain of physics, and perhaps physical chemistry. Yet steam tables are generated in an engineering lab, and largely exist because chemical and mechanical engineers need the data. And there is not a machine, structure or engine in sight. When gathering engineering data, there is no measurable difference between applied science and engineering. $\endgroup$
    – dcorking
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 22:46

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