Thursday, October 11, 2012

Engine Failure

A SpaceX rocket docked with the International Space Station today. During its launch yesterday one of the engines failed. Fortunately the rocket's computer was programed to redistribute the fuel and power to the remaining engines to keep the rocket on course. How cool!

It is often better to account for the possibility of mistakes, and to have plans for addressing them, than to avoid them entirely. Sometimes it is simply a matter of economics and probabilities: it might be cheaper to have redundant engines (or computers or people) than to make sure an engine will not fail under any circumstance. Crowdsourcing is a bit like this: rather than finding the foremost "expert" on a topic you can often simply tap the "wisdom of the crowd".

Nico is training tennis so I used the example of learning to hit a good forehand: positioning is very important. You can't be too close or too far from the ball. But you won't always get the position right. So you must learn to compensate for your positioning mistakes - rather than focus exclusively on getting your position always 100% right.

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