Learning from Engineering Failure

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

As designs get more technologically complex, Henry Petroski, professor of civil engineering and history at Duke University and the author most recently of To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure, says it's more important to study patterns of failure in past projects -- and in historical incidents like the sinking of the Titanic.


Henry Petroski

Comments [9]

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Mar. 06 2013 11:57 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Blame Management and typical British hubris.

Apr. 12 2012 07:00 AM

The Titanic and racism:

Wow, ol' CheezleWhiz comes through, yet again!

Apr. 11 2012 11:58 AM
Amy from Manhattan

On the Titanic, it was the rivets. They had too much slag in them. See

The Times science section also had an article about how the design of the Twin Towers led to the way they collapsed.

Apr. 11 2012 11:57 AM
jonathan gordon from dobbs ferry

I heard the learned guest say "it should help." should is the most dangerous word in the English language, to my experience.

Apr. 11 2012 11:55 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Martin

I have long held the belief that "social science" is an oxymoron. IF we still can't even engineer buildings from collapsing,how can those who failed math and physics think they can engineer society without it collapsing even faster than usual?

Apr. 11 2012 11:53 AM
mike from Manhattan

In terms of not learning from past failures. An article in the New York Times today: Lenders Are Again Dealing Credit to Risky Clients

Apr. 11 2012 11:53 AM
gary from queens

Perhaps Mr Petroski can shed light on unique engineering aspects of the former Twin Towers?

One of the main contentions by crazy 911 Truthers is that no other building ever collapsed inwardly in such rapid fashion. Thus, they claim, there had to be exposive charges planted.

Questions: How were the Towers designed differently than most others to account for the way it collapsed? How would most other buildings have collapsed? Would they have collapsed? Why did building 7 collapse?

Also, there were many architectural studies on the matter by many companies and agencies of government. Why aren't they readily available on the internet to counter Truther ignorance?

Apr. 11 2012 10:12 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Brian, please ask if there is a model for applying the same scrutiny to "social engineering"?? Then we could assess the lack of efficacy (stagnant/falling educational performance in our unionized schools)……or even outright harm (the dissolution of the nuclear family and a 75% single parent birth rate among African-Americans)…… that the liberal elites have devised for us?
There seems to be no process for “Learning from SOCIAL engineering failure” and no desire by the media for government accountability of its countless programs, many of them now 40+ years old.

Apr. 11 2012 09:05 AM

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