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Thread: English/metric measurement error in the Mars Climate Orbiter

  1. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by NortonDommi View Post
    Above all else remember that every stuff-up starts in an office and the usual instigator is a University Educated Idiot that is too clever to make a mistake.
    I thought i was the only one that knew that.
    Reminds me of when i was building office blocks, the bane of my life was newly qualified Engineers, they knew everything but could do nothing.

  2. #22

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    Post Script

    High intellect, high levels of academic achievement and many years of appropriate experience, in whatever combination, are unable to inoculate a man from the effects of his own (often momentary) inattention (some call it stupidity). Every one of us bears scars of instances when we forgot about gravity, electricity, chemical activity, high (or very low) temperatures, etc. They are rightly called "Laws of Nature" - there are penalties for breaking them, and we've all tried, consciously or unconsciously.

    As an afterthought, because of the serious nature of the consequences of a failure, both the nuclear and aerospace industries have developed systems designed to monitor adherence to known safe behaviours (yes, that spelling is correct where I live ), since a human behavioural error can jeopardise the most carefully designed and constructed plant or machine.

    Also remember that the development of new technologies most often begins with the inquiring mind and disciplined thought processes of the academic attempting to better understand a particular Law of Nature. The technologist/engineer takes the theoretical idea and finds ways to impliment and industrialise it. The artisan has his part to play in the rollout and maintenance/repair. To poke fun of any part in that chain reduces the likelihood that the original idea will give its potential benefit to mankind.
    Last edited by Papa Smurf; 06-24-2017 at 04:56 AM.

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  4. #23
    NortonDommi's Avatar
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    I seem to recall that Nikola Tesla attended a university to obtain a degree in order to be taken seriously and made it a mission to destroy a professor that denigrated his ideas and theories. He was not the only person to have done this in recent history, others have obtained degrees in order to apply for patents.
    Once medical practitioners or 'Doctors' were of the highest standing in society. Today many of them.their practices and the ideas they promote are dubious to say the least.
    High intellect does not necessarily equate to high academic achievement, a visit to any prison anywhere will attest to this fact.
    Once only the rich and the exceptional were able to gain 'higher' education. Today anyone you can take on debt can attend and courses are tabled accordingly to foster pass rates and revenue. With anyone able to access the interweb the highest skill is weeding the wheat from the chaff so to speak.
    Smart kids today are getting information they need to accomplish a task from many sources. This has pro's and con's. For example what happens if you have a burning passion for a subject but can't afford to go to university. What if the only way to advance on the path of your desire is denied due to cost. What if you don't know how to determine what is a fact and what is not. The latter is where guidance is needed. Critical thinking can be taught sadly it rarely is.
    My personal belief is that a sea change is coming and that 'we' the human collective will start promoting universities as a place for the most gifted minds in society not just a place to go and get a piece of meaningless paper. This belief/hope is based on the ever increasing costs of not only attending but also supplying education.
    Academics have their place but to paraphrase the words of Carroll Smith,(a great engineer).when he stated."an accountant is a glorified bean counter. you employ them to count your beans not to tell you what to do with them".
    In other words the academics will always need competent.skilled.practical people and hopefully we will in the future have a fusion.
    In our lifetimes it is all academic speculation.

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  6. #24
    Jon
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    It's a nuanced and fascinating issue. I agree that the college bubble has burst, but for certain fields (specifically the hard sciences) the need to systematically transmit a large body of knowledge will continue to necessitate a formal long-term education.

    We do seem to be at a tipping point where the common internet intellectual is challenging the value of the person with a common college degree. At the same time, controversial college admissions processes are chipping away at the merit-driven reputations that elite universities once held.

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  8. #25
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    I'm 100% in agreement that the 'hard sciences' whose body of knowledge was built up over millennia needs to be taught in a structured environment,however that learning environment needs to be flexible and allow for discoveries or theories that are at divergence with the accepted norm.
    Nikola Tesla is a prime example. He is cited only because his name is recognisable by many, and some of his achievements well known.
    Universities,(as we understand them), it is generally accepted were founded in Greece to foster free thought, discussion of theories and debate. Unfortunately it would be very difficult if not impossible to find one operating on those principles today. Far to many invested egos.
    Petty squabbles belong in a pub discussed over a beer or wine.

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  10. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by drum365 View Post
    Great writeup, Jon. Your article's last 8 words have gone into my "Great Quotations" file!
    "...unlike people, errors are great at working together."

    Posts often contain jewels of wisdom, which I doubt any HMT.net'ers feel a need to shield exterior usage. But just in case, I've edited that statement into...
    Collectively and unlike people, mistakes demonstrate errors are great at working together.
    it's filed as drum365 suggested; and now keystone my resume with comments I made about common errors in quality control program.

    Here is education. Post-for-post, I don't think any HMT.net thread registers wrinkles in my grey matter faster than these 3 [so far] pages.
    Last edited by Toolmaker51; 06-25-2017 at 08:29 PM. Reason: the blinding light of observation
    Sincerely,
    Toolmaker51
    ...we'll learn more by wandering than searching...

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  12. #27

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    This reminds me of the astronaut who missed the earth by a million miles during re entry and said "damn that decimal point!"

  13. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by owen moore View Post
    This reminds me of the astronaut who missed the earth by a million miles during re entry and said "damn that decimal point!"
    I guess you are quoting the poor dummy driving Tesla's electric car

  14. #29
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    I first learned of this disaster when reading John Neal’s book on metrology, “All Done With Mirrors”. In this, he shows how the English foot is an integrated system of great antiquity, which system is a more accurate fraction of the polar axis than the meter, which unfortunately was calculated without taking into account the fact that the Earth is an oblate sphere . ( I do not subscribe to the notion that the Earth is flat and has 4 corners, although I know people who believe this!) Oh, I am also a graduate of the University of Wales, where I learned to respect opinions for what they are.

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  16. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Philip Davies View Post
    I first learned of this disaster when reading John Neal’s book on metrology, “All Done With Mirrors”. In this, he shows how the English foot is an integrated system of great antiquity, which system is a more accurate fraction of the polar axis than the meter, which unfortunately was calculated without taking into account the fact that the Earth is an oblate sphere . ( I do not subscribe to the notion that the Earth is flat and has 4 corners, although I know people who believe this!) Oh, I am also a graduate of the University of Wales, where I learned to respect opinions for what they are.
    Talking about the "accuracy" of the standard of a measurement system is pure, absolute nonsense!

    I suggest you read the following discussion...

    A glimmer of hope

    in particular, this paragraph...

    Some folks want to argue that the metric system is flawed because the length standard it uses is "wrong". The French set out to make the meter one ten-millionth of the distance from the Earth's equator to the North Pole. Their technique for measuring this quantity was inspired and they did an admirable job considering the tools available to them at the time. Still, the value they obtained was very slightly in error. But, NONE OF THIS MATTERS IN THE LEAST. All measurement systems are based on a choice of some arbitrary standard. Whether it's the length of the King's arms or the distance traveled by light in a vacuum in a given period of time, it's the fact that everyone agrees to use that length that's important and the real test of a measurement system is how well it satisfies the criteria outlined at the beginning of this text. THE NOTION OF "ACCURACY" OF A MEASUREMENT SYSTEM IS COMPLETE NONSENSE. Accuracy is a function of the measurement tools and techniques, not the system in which the measurements are expressed.
    ---
    Regards, Marv


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