BEGINNINGS     WHERE WE STAND    HUMAN ATTITUDES  OPTIONS   OUTCOMES

ATTITUDES ABOUT RISK and THE EARTH

1. The beginning is to know that there is risk.

2. Is to know the worst case.

3. Is to pay attention and be responsible.

4. It is not our nature to worry unless something catastropic happens.


The loss of Earth is a real possibility, is the most special case of risk simply because there is no greater loss we could experience.

I have been trying to think of a way to convey what I have learned about the risks we are taking with the Earth, and I will into some of them in detail.

However, there is one disaster that we know a great deal about that has many lessones for us, and that is the loss of the space shuttle Challenger. There is an excellent, although harrowing, story of the Challenger on Wikipedia. I urge you strongly to read it. You will find it and many, many linkes by clicking on the word CHALLENGER.However, I am going to reproduce here some small seconds if the Wikipedia article because the Challenger has some aspects that are remarkably similar to climate change and the Earth.ker engineering was another story. The first job was to figure out how to make a loudspeaker system with 18 individual speakers (or drivers as they are usually called) reliable. It is a little more dicy than a pair of speakers with 2, 4 or 6 drivers. So this lead me to thinking about what could go wrong and the possible consequences.

A apeaker that catchers fire, is, of course unacceptable. This risk was small since the drivers were robust and there were nine of them (and the adhesive in the voice coil, where all the power went, was heat-set with a blow torch). We tested an enclosure with the nine drivers by plugging it into an AC power line. This applied about 1800 watts of continuous power to one enclosure. We let it run for about 30 seconds, and repeated the test several times with no failures of any kind (but a rather extreme amount of noise}. The largest amplifier on the market at the time was 300 watts. The test delivered 200 watts to each of the drivers.

This is what I would call an elephant grade test. Take a small toy, and have an elephant step on it.

I remember when Boeing was qualifying the three engine 727 wings to FAA specifiations. The test consisted of mounting the body of the plane so a wing could be loaded with sand bags until the FAA specification for the weight of the sandbags was reached. The 727 passed but the engineers decided to see how much latitude they had, so they kept piling on the sandbags. The wing was fine but the structure holding up the airplane collapsed.

My thoughts turned back to the speakers and what could be done to them, what they could be exposed to and anything else that could harm them. There really wasn;t much except the possible effects of long exposure to humidity, likely in southern climes. So I packed off a couple of trays of drivers to a testing lab and asked for 48 hours at 100% relative humidity. When the drivers came back we cut out the cones and found serious corrusion in the space where the coil that moves the cone was located. To make a long story short, there was a fault in the electroplating method the manufacture used (a short cut) and 23,000 drivers were returned to the mnufacturer.

I went on to more kinds of testing. However, the real benefit was simply to become accustomed to thinking about what can go wrong and feeling and seeing the consequences, something that is hard to understand until you experience it. Reading about something in a text book is not the same as seeing, feeling, or smelling a failure. Reality does something to you, even on a small scale.

A more serious example was a few decades ago, early in the jet age, a small twin engine airliner was showing unusual lack of response in one of the control surfaces in the tail. Maintainance was postponed because it would upset the schedule, pilots were notified and decided to fly despite the warning, somehow feeling they could take care of the problem in the air.

It turned out that the problem was a fault in a maintainance procedure that resulted in a "jack screw" that controlled the position of the elevator flaps not being req1ularly lublicated and inspected. The jackscrew broke in flight and all aboard were lost.

Upping the Ante

These are simple examples but they illustrate important points. At Bose I had all the responsibility: thinking about risks and then fixing any problem I could think of. In the Boeing instance the engineers showed an attitude that on occasion aviuded a disaster. They were more comfortable if they exceeded specifications just in case, perhaps, that the plane ran into weather no one had experienced before. Not paranoia, or overly pessamistic, but a sense of how real reality is. A few days ago our son saw a motorcyclist who had run into the side of a car and ended up in the car, dead. It is a useful experience to see a disaster for yourself. It can make you take fewer chances.

There is a lesson here also, that goes beyond the obvious and is particularly relevant to high risk pursuits like motorcycling.

It is easy for a skilled (or inexperienced) rider to imagine driving along carefully and having a good, and safe, time. But there is a deadly trap in statistics. One ride is one ride worth of risk; a thousand rides is 1000 times as much risk. In other words, if you choose to have a jolly attitude toward your motor cycle rides, you probably will not survive. As the risk goes up, the care has to go up in proportion.

The Earth is the most special case of risk simply because there is no greater consequence we, its inhabitants, could experience. I have been trying to think of a way to convey what I have learned about the risks we are taking with the Earth, and I will into some of them in detail. However, there is one disaster that we know a great deal about that has many lessones for us, and that is the loss of the space shuttle Challenger. There is an excellent, although harrowing, story of the Challenger on Wikipedia. I urge you strongly to read it. You will find it and many, many linkes by clicking on the word CHALLENGER.However, I am going to reproduce here some small seconds if the Wikipedia article because the Challenger has some aspects that are remarkably similar to climate change and the Earth.

The Earth is the most special case of risk simply because there is no greater consequence we, its inhabitants, could experience. I have been trying to think of a way to convey what I have learned about the risks we are taking with the Earth, and I will into some of them in detail. However, there is one disaster that we know a great deal about that has many lessones for us, and that is the loss of the space shuttle Challenger. There is an excellent, although harrowing, story of the Challenger on Wikipedia. I urge you strongly to read it. You will find it and many, many linkes by clicking on the word CHALLENGER.However, I am going to reproduce here some small seconds if the Wikipedia article because the Challenger has some aspects that are remarkably similar to climate change and the Earth.

 -  5 - 

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In