Monday, November 26, 2012

See you next Thursday, December 6th for another
Science on Tap

Bring a friend or friends, make a night of it!
Colossal Failures in High-Tech Projects, And What We Can (or Should) Learn From Them

John H. Stichman, PhD

For centuries, and especially today, we have relied on complex systems designed by expert engineers.  With each passing year we come to rely more and more on such highly complex systems, such that not a day goes by without our way of life depending on them.  Yet, sometimes these systems fail in colossal, visible, and often tragic ways.  Think of the Space Shuttle, innovative bridges, the Chernobyl reactor, and others.  We will take a post-mortem tour of examples from both ancient and recent history and see what they have to tell us and what engineers and policy makers need to learn from them.

The speaker has presented this material to many graduating engineering students around the country, to practicing engineers, and to people in varied occupations.  The message to them has been that they not only must think in terms of “best practices,” but moreover should consider that they have an ethical imperative to take positive steps to avoid failures of the systems they create.

“Experience is what allows one to recognize a mistake when you make it again.”