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Engineer’s take ; Guru Madhavan’s debut novel “Applied Minds How Engineers Think”

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Building on words -- Guru Madhavan -- Photo: Bhagya Prakash k.

Building on words — Guru Madhavan — Photo: Bhagya Prakash k.

Guru Madhavan’s (Guruprasad Madhavan) debut novel is all about how engineering impacts our lives at a technical and social level

A man’s search for cash from a bank on a Saturday afternoon had the ripple effect of the creation of the ATM machine.  This happened when Scottish engineer John Shepherd-Barron took the idea of chocolate dispensing machines and created the ATM. Be it the planes and trains you take or the bridges you whiz by… they are all a result of engineering techniques. Engineering plays a vital role in our lives. It also is the inspiration for Guru Madhavan’s debut novel Applied Minds How Engineers Think. Guru, an engineer turned author, explores the visions and mental tools of engineers to reveal the enormous influence they wield in transforming problems into opportunities.

“Engineering is rooted in human ingenuity. I wanted to showcase how it changes lives. I wanted to present it in the social realm, away from the technical aspects of making things work. The book deals with the main questions of design: usefulness, functionality, reliability, and user friendliness.” The book, Guru says, is peopled by a range of interesting characters and situations. “I have included a range of people and systems, from the inventors of the disposable diapers to the creators of complex tools that govern many of the things we use on a daily basis. In one of the chapters, I have also explained the complexities involved in cleaning the river Ganga, that is a vital resource for most people living in the Northern plains. I also offer a range of engineering solutions to clean the river that has become dirty and polluted. I went to Benaras and met a cross section of people to find solutions for this problem.”

Explaining the engineering mindset, Guru adds: “The engineering mindset enables you to bring structure and helps you deal with constraints. A good engineer is always thinking about what happens to the system when you change something. How are things connected? It is a mindset rooted in continuous learning and improvement.” To a question if writing the book was difficult, Guru said: “Not really. I wrote the book in the way I would construct an electronic circuit. I had to understand the inputs, specifications and the outputs which serve as the characters, the plot line and the message respectively in a book. As good engineers and writers know, every component (sentence) in the circuit (book) should be useful and serve its purpose. This was the principle I stuck with in the three years it took me to pen the book.” – Courtesy

Guruprasad Madhavan Washington, District of Columbia, United StatesGuru Madhavan is a biomedical engineer and senior policy adviser. He conducts research at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, DC. He is a vice-president of IEEE-USA of IEEE, the world’s largest professional society for engineering and technology. His edited books include “Pathological Altruism” (Oxford University Press, 2011), and “Practicing Sustainability” (Springer, 2012). He is author of “Applied Minds: How Engineers Think” (W.W.Norton, Penguin Random House India and others, 2015). He has received the National Academies’ Innovator Award, and among other honors, been named as one of the “New Faces of Engineering” in USA Today and as a distinguished young scientist by the World Economic Forum.


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