Skip to comments.Too Bad Hippocrates Wasn't an Engineer
Posted on 06/11/2006 9:53:40 PM PDT by neverdem
IN ancient Babylon, they knew from accountability. Under the Code of Hammurabi, "If a builder build a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built fall in and kill its owner, then that builder shall be put to death." What's more, "If it kill the son of the owner, the son of that builder shall be put to death."
Engineers these days don't have that worry. Mistakes may carry legal penalties and a measure of shame. The people who die are those who depend on the engineers' work.
Nearly 1,600 people died in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that followed. A June 1 report from investigators working for the Army Corps of Engineers concluded that flaws in the design, building and maintenance of the New Orleans hurricane protection system the levees, floodwalls, pumps and gates played a big role in putting 80 percent of the city under water.
Critics of the corps had argued for months that mistakes made the toll worse than it might have been, and they've alleged that there were more flaws in the system than the corps' report conceded. But with the admission by the corps, the tragedy of Katrina moved officially from the exclusive realm of natural disasters to that of disasters caused, in part, by man. John Barry, author of "Rising Tide," about the Mississippi floods of 1927, called the Katrina flooding "by a large margin, the worst engineering mistake in the history of civilization."
Thus do the dirt, concrete and steel of New Orleans take their place on the dishonor roll of engineering disasters. The list is long, and includes the failure of the Teton Dam in Idaho in 1976, which killed 11 people and caused an estimated $1 billion in...
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
Is it possible that the engineering mistake was to choose to build a city below sea level?
Nawww,,,,,, we can do that!
I've heard that at one time parachutists in the service were dying because of improperly packed chutes. So they implimented a policy of making the parachute packers jump using one of the chutes they packed, picked at ramdom. It cut way down on chutes that failed to properly deploy.
I wonder what kind of engineering we would get if the lives of the engineers depended on the consequences of their poor design?
Too bad journalists and editors aren't held to the same standard engineers are. A good 99% would be in jail by now.
So you don't think that engineers drive cars, live in buildings, lived in New Orleans, fly on airplanes, ride on trains? They share the same risk of "poor designs" everyone else face.
I know engineers that have gone to jail for malfeasance.
For railroad bridges it used to be that the engineer would stand under it when there was the first [test] train driven across the bridge.
Those of us trapped in 56K dialup HELL really appreciate it!
Live in a swamp
Die in a swamp
My liberal NYC enviro sister sez New Orleans will be under water within a certain number of years anyway
Why rebuild on below seal level land that sinks more as you add more weight above it and is surrounded by water?
Money wasted on bridge studies, water fountains, casinos, bribes -
If they had wanted to hold back the waters they would have copied the Dutch
But instead the New Orleans politicians and scammers went for the quick and dirty buck instead -
the NY Times had a hand in covering up the deaths of millions of people during Stalin's reign of terror. Since then, the NY Times has had a hand in bringing Castro to power, as well as in helping the North Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge come to power. I wonder what the penalty should be for a newspaper that repeatedly does things like that?
No. That was a political mistake. The engineering mistake was in determining the building and maintenance requirements (the first and fourth steps in most standard engineering projects).
When I was in the Navy operating nuclear reactors we had to periodically test everything to make sure that our equipment operated up to specifications. You never build something and expect it to last forever. In some cases it was difficult to test something by conventional means so alternate tests were performed (such as using radiography to test welds). But nothing was ignored.
Contrast this with the levees in New Orleans. How did they know (and certify) each year that the levees would operate to specifications? They didn't in reality. They just signed paperwork to make it look like they were. The most significant flaw was the settling of the levees and the sinking of the city so that the levees were overtopped. By measuring the height of the levees they could have determined if they needed to be repaired.
The biggest issue in this disaster is that the Army Corps of Engineers gave custody of the levees to the corrupt New Orleans Levee Districts assuming that since levee failure would hurt them the most, they would do a good job of making sure the levees were in specification. What a mistake!
Additional testing is more expensive. Perhaps New Orleans and the federal government wouldn't have bought the levees if they realized that. But that was a political issue. As far as I can tell, the initial design engineers did their jobs correctly. The maintenance engineers and politicians fouled this hole situation up.
We'd walk everywhere we go - for starters.
The levee wasn't designed to take a cat 5 hurricane straight on.
Those of us trapped in 56K dialup HELL really appreciate it!
What about the pics in comment# 1? Do they cause any grief?
I concur. The politicians didn't want to build one that big. But that isn't the primary issue with the New Orleans levee failure. The levees failed because the water level was over specification. That is problem #1. Problem #2 is that some of the levees had sunk below design specification.
As someone who had to evaluate operational failures I can't really say much about problem #1 other than to say you get what you pay for. On problem #2, which made this casuality worse, I would rip out the hearts of the maintenance engineers and politicians.
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