[Beowulf] Re: about clusters in high schools

Jim Lux James.P.Lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Mon Jan 30 06:56:44 PST 2006

At 07:28 PM 1/29/2006, Andrew Piskorski wrote:
>On Sun, Jan 29, 2006 at 04:04:48PM -0800, Jim Lux wrote:
> > At 01:31 PM 1/29/2006, James Cownie wrote:
> > >A whole class may be more than is necessary, but the inability of
> > >the Morton Thiokol engineers to produce a convincing presentation
> > >of their results which made
>No.  As Tufte pointed out, those engineers produced poorly analyzed
>chart-junk filled graphs which obscured rather than helped reveal the
>meaning in the data.  They could have instead easily produced an
>informative graph which would have helped illuminate the known and
>very severe risk of O-ring burn through.  They did not, and indeed,
>the graphs they DID generate were WORSE than useless.
>That was an ENGINEERING failure, and not one that would have been
>helped by any class on what is colloquially known as "presentation
>skills".  A serious, hard-core treatment of graph and information
>design, yes, that could have helped.  "Presentation skills", no.

Engineering problem with the seals, certainly.  The presentation skills 
would have helped the engineering management system "do the right thing", 
i.e. wait 'til it got warmer to launch.

On Columbia, it's uncertain that any amount of analysis and presentation 
would have helped during the actual mission.  You've got a big hole, and 
not a heck of a lot you can do about it, although, a lot of people would 
have been mobilized to try and come up with ideas.

To a certain extent, it's like having a lame horse and deciding whether to 
spend $500 to call the vet out and do X-rays.  The vast majority of 
lamenesses are treated in exactly the same way, light work and 
antiinflamation drugs for 6 weeks, so there's not necessarily much value 
added by knowing exactly why the darned beast is lame.

Knowing why the hole in the wing exists is useful for future missions, 
because you might be able to prevent it, but doesn't much help the folks 
with the hole.


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