Wednesday, June 28, 2006

NASA engineer fired for opposing Shuttle launch

The New York Daily News reports
"Charlie Camarda has been bumped from his top NASA engineering post for backing colleagues who questioned the safety of Saturday's planned space shuttle launch, NASA officials said yesterday. Camarda's removal heightened the turmoil over NASA Administrator Michael Griffin's decision to take the "acceptable risk" of launching the Discovery orbiter despite warnings of potentially fatal blastoff debris."
The Challenger Disaster was a case study in my engineering ethics course in the late 80s. It was attributed to NASA's command-control political environment that ignored warnings from engineers about the o-ring's susceptibility to failure in cold weather conditions. In the Rogers Commission, Richard Feynman (a prominent physicist) pointed out "the discrepancy between management claiming a 1 in 100,000 chance of serious failure and the engineers claiming 1 in only 100".

I am sorry to hear that Camarda was removed from the mission but glad to see someone at NASA stand up for the safety of his fellow astronauts.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Formula 1 Weekend

Formula 1 weekend in Montréal is not about watching a bunch of cars going round a track 71 times.

This is my second F1 and certainly not my last. Daniel, one of my sons, and I started the weekend together on Friday. Here's a shot from ourseatingg at the Senna curve, Grandstand 10.

The day started of with the Civic challenge. It may not seem like much but it's a lot of fun watching the civics take the turns and see their tires lift into the air. As well as seeing some F1 practice sessions, a number of Ferrari F430 owners brought out their cars. These cars are built specifically for racing on a special line at the Ferrari plant. The purring of the engines sends shivers down your spine. It was quite a competitive race with a few spin-outs at our curve and some accidents but no injuries.

Sunday's Formula 1 race was fantastic! Alonso started in pole with his team mate right behind, Raikkonen in third and Schumacher in Fifth.Alonsoa ran a near-perfect race with just one miss when Raikkonen almost had the opportunity to pass. Almost. From then on he dominated first place.

Raikkonen's team-mate, Montoya, lost it after he touched Rosberg, his race deteriorating and ending with his exit from the car at the Senna curve.

Schumacher quickly moved up to third place and with just 1.5 laps to go moved past Raikkonen to take second.

After the race, rather than wait 45 minutes in line for the metro from Parc Jean-Drapeau to Montréal, I took Pont de la Concorde - a 45 minute brisk walk to downtown. This picture was taken from the bridge, facing the skyline.

Being there is what it's all about. I can understand what would possess someone with the means to travel to each and every Grand Prix race around the world throughout a season. The smell of burning brakes and rubber, the deep rumble of the engines as they rev, their high-pitched scream as they fly by, down-shifting. The emotion of disappointment and victory. You just don't feel this when watching a televised broadcast. You've got to be there!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Technology News: Cutting Edge : Microsoft Developing Robotics Software

Great. Now we can look forward to real crashes as our robotic vacuum cleaners experience blue screens of death and terrorize our pets and small children while in a robotic psychosis.

Or what about when my robotic lawn mower is infected by a worm from my jealous neighbour who then takes control and mows over my wifes flower bed?

We will no longer have only zombie PCs to contend with but will be facing a world of zombie robots, doing the bidding of their evil hacker masters while we sleep.

I shudder to think of the chaos and mayhem Microsoft is about to unleash on the world.