December 1999

Columns

HPIn SHE: Unit processes

Earlier, I was jotting down notes for this column while eating a greasy, undercooked breakfast, in an unheated, alcohol-free, departure lounge, waiting to board an aircraft, which had its last full se..

Whetton, Chris, ility Engineering

Earlier, I was jotting down notes for this column while eating a greasy, undercooked breakfast, in an unheated, alcohol-free, departure lounge, waiting to board an aircraft, which had its last full service in 1945 – we consultants lead a very glamorous life. During breakfast, I read in the paper NASA had officially admitted that the Mars Orbiter spacecraft had been lost through a simple error in units. One part of the software used metric units while another used imperial (English) units. It was déjà vu all over again. Trevor Kletz, in his excellent book What Went Wrong?, has several examples of incidents caused by confusion over units. I have my own store, suggesting

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