An engineering student today is faced with an unprecedented glut of information. The number of journals have gone up exponentially, the number of luminaries-double exponentially and most important, every possible use of a device, mode of operation has been anlaysed with such rigour that a new discovery is well nigh impossible unless you are the next Narain Hingorani (the father of FACTS).
The first difficulty that a student (undergraduate or graduate) faces is the problem selection itself. As mentioned above, most of the matter has been dissected to the atomic level and if one wants to move on to the sub atomic level, thats when you begin to encounter the Fermisms, Hiesenbergisms, Schroedingerisms, Diracisms etc. Since most of us have the degree as the first priority (obvious dude, if you go after the research paper very very aggressively, you end up screwing up both your degree and the paper) implementing what some other fellow engineer in some corner of the world has done becomes an acceptable research activity. Well, I don't see any mistake in that because for one, it hones your reengineering skills which may prove useful if you get into the war ship, battle tank and war aircraft building industry of a country like India. Secondly, there is an infinetisimal probability of finding a mistake in the 'parent implementation' which gives a great opportunity to publish a research paper yourself and in the bargain going up a few notches in the eyes of the professors.
Lets say that the problem has been selected. The next problem is sifting through your literature survey. Sources are many and the same information can be presented in slightly different forms in different journals (something similar to two similar loads on the power grid at different times of the day, something we call diversity of the load). The next stages would be to choose a paper for implementation, run your simulation and if you are game, go ahead with the hardware implementation.
The focus of this blog is on the problem of deciphering what is in the paper. This has become a problem only recently. This is because the latest trend in todays world is to hide as much information as possible, let the other guy break his head and yet gain recognition. This is reflected in some typical instances like when an author claims that such and such a simulation has been run but has cleverly omitted the value of the circuit parameters, control settings etc. Some may argue that this is necessary to maintain intellectual rights but I say that the intellectual rights have already been granted when the paper has been published. And I dont believe that the publishers of such journals are such villains so as to tag on their name or worse substitute your name with theirs.
This was unlike the open 1960s where you will find that the papers are crystal clear and the desire of the author to pass on knowledge is clearly seen. The best example of this would be "The Transmission and Distribution Handbook" by Westinghouse Electric Corporation. Westinghouse had a status similar to what a GE (general Electric) or a TI (Texas Instruments)or an Intel has today. They could easily have hushed up the trends in transmission and distribution and made mega bucks. But they chose to publish their experiences and in the process helped an entire generation of Electrical Engineers.
I leave this as food for thought for you, dear readers (if this humble effort does have readers). I rest my case by saying that "In the older days, people were less selfish and hence society grew, now they play for only themselves to win". This is why the society of today is stagnating!!!