"I never joke, Chico. The truth is quite adequately
-- Len Deighton, Funeral in Berlin
My father, a railroad man, spent most of his life investigating
transportation accidents and potentially fraudulent claims.
One of my cousins managed development of on-board software
for several Apollo missions. These influences may account
for some of the selection bias evident below.
Many of these links are ephemeral.
Please inform me
if you find a stale link.
- Dustin Self was 19 years old.
He had read Into the Wild,
and was eager to test himself against wilderness.
He bought a
knife, tent, and sleeping bag,
and "read a lot about how to survive."
After he had driven from his native Oklahoma
to the high desert of eastern Oregon,
his GPS navigation software told him the most direct route to
the town of Lakeview followed a dirt road over
Mountain. Self trusted his software.
One month later,
a ranch foreman found Self's pickup truck,
which had slid off the muddy jeep track.
Eighteen months later,
found what was left of Dustin Self.
Instead of walking two and a half miles back down the road,
he had walked seven miles
Possibly because his GPS software had told him to go over Steens Mountain.
GPS device told a 28-year-old woman to drive her
vehicle into a remote part of Death Valley.
She survived, but her 11-year-old son didn't.
Therac-25 accidents of 1985-87 killed three people and injured
at least three others.
Two causal factors were "overconfidence in software" and
"confusing reliability with safety".
Climate Orbiter was lost on 23 September 1999
because part of its software did not satisfy its specification.
This error cost about $125 million.
According to an article in IEEE Computer
(no longer online),
this problem could have been corrected during the flight had JPL
managers been more willing to consider the possibility of errors
- A software problem that cost $1.2 billion dollars:
destruction of a Titan 4 rocket and its payload, 30 April 1999.
Ariane 5: the destruction of Flight 501, 4 June 1996.
pseudoscientist demonstrates the
who thinks I'm a "paid Pentagon blogger".
That same pilot,
now claims to have mathematical proof Flight 77 could not
have hit the Pentagon on 11 September 2001, but (oops!)
his math is wrong.
and 9/11 conspiracy theorist
who denied the validity of his own data
because his data contradict his paper based on that data.
- The music critic who
that 112 equals 126.
- Technical risks
of shipboard systems.
- Why you should
check your bags
when travelling through Des Moines or San Francisco.
- The asteroid is coming.
Einstein's general theory of relativity
implied the family of
which led Georges Lemaître to predict
universe and what is now known as big bang cosmology.
After the expanding universe was confirmed, others predicted the
cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation.
Precise measurements of the CMB show nearly perfect agreement with
the predicted isotropic black-body spectrum.
- How the on-board shuttle group
- Not everyone views the on-board shuttle software as a success.
For an opposing view, read
"Mob Software: The Erotic Life of Code"
by Richard P. Gabriel
and Ron Goldman.
is one of the great success stories of computer science.
(In 1975, as an undergraduate at the University of Texas,
I used an early version of the Boyer-Moore theorem prover
in a graduate course taught by Woody Bledsoe.)
- An Australian programmer named Warren Stutt
recovered the missing four seconds of data recorded
at the end of Flight 77.
calculations had been based on Rob's insistence,
in the face of all evidence, that no seconds were missing. Oops.)
- No list of success stories would be complete
without mentioning the
43rd President of the United States.
Last updated 30 December 2014.