Friday, January 01, 2010

The panty-bomber's failure and its implications for British education 

If you're British, you have an entirely different reason to be concerned about the panty-bomber:

But surely we should consider what the miserable plot of the exploding smalls tells us about the worth of a British education these days. I mean, for heaven’s sake, the man paid $75,000 for a degree in mechanical engineering at University College London, yet he got on a plane with a load of explosives shoved down his undies and emerged with just a singed backside to show for it. $75,000!! That’s a lot of bucks for no bang. Obviously it’s a good outcome for humanity, but still, this ought to be a flashing red light to ministers.

Given that Britain seems to be a teeming hive of scum and villainy jihadis and fellow-travelers, poor engineering instruction may be a feature rather than a bug.


By Blogger SR, at Fri Jan 01, 06:52:00 PM:

Another kudo to that fine Euro government secondary education.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Fri Jan 01, 11:07:00 PM:

Why would the failure of a chemical explosive which he didn't build reflect poorly on his mechanical engineering degree?  

By Blogger John, at Sat Jan 02, 10:11:00 AM:

Sadly, as an engineer, that was the first thing I though of when I heard this story (as opposed to the "God, I'm glad everyone is safe"). When I discussed it with my work group, the engineers failure was viewed unanimously with abhorrence.

If your going to attempt a repeat of some previous task, and you know the mode of failure from the first time, you should not waltz into the same failure mode. And on top of that, if the primary failure mode can't be fully mitigated, have a secondary plan in place.

Here, the primary failure mode was known, and it still the problem still occurred.

In short, Dawn, engineering disciplines vary widely (mechanical vs. electrical, etc.), but an engineering mindset, and engineering problem solving methods do not. Being methodical in your in approach, paying attention to possible issues (especially if your acting outside your discipline) are a corner stone of engineering, and that is where the failure occurred.

In this case, I guess it was a good thing, but I still hate this guy for besmirching my profession. In the end, I guess what I'm saying, is that this would not have bothered me nearly as much if this guy had been a liberal arts major.  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Sat Jan 02, 10:43:00 AM:

From this are we to conclude that American flight schools deserve a pat on the back??!!  

By Anonymous Mad as Hell, at Sat Jan 02, 11:28:00 AM:

"From this are we to conclude that American flight schools deserve a pat on the back??!!" Very good ....

I thought the following important, and while off point to the lede, it does go to the BA Poli Sci majors vs. BS engineers angle. In the 2010 election cycle, the Republicans can simply run against Nancy & Co. By 2012, they'll need more when they go against Obama. "Elections have consequences" -- "Energy" is too important to just be a political football in 2012, We need to be decisive on our establishing a US energy policy for the 21st Century. This mostly requires government getting out of the way -- and the Greens not vetoing us into living in tree forts. Science and reason should hopefully carry the day here. By 2012, AGW should be thoroughly debunked, which is important to how the political dynamic plays out.

To me, Energy is more important than Healthcare. Healthcare will either get passed or not. If passed, it won't affect the typical American much from now until 2012 -- this is by design. Thus, I expect it will go back burner for most Americans -- and, if passed, we can always fix it later. Am I wrong on this? But Obama's Energy plans will kill our economy and aren't dependent on his getting legislation -- he'll do it through the EPA if he as to.

There's a post over on Instapundit on thorium reactors - The New Green Nukes. Thorium reactors create little waste and can't be used to make bombs. There's a lot of thorium all around the world. India and China are already looking ahead to this, as Instapundit notes.

Thorium reactors should be cheaper than coal. We know today for a fact that wind and solar will be a lot more expensive than coal. Worse still, wind and solar can't scale to meet more than 10% of our electric needs -- which would be half what we get from the 100 Brezhnev-era nuclear plants we currently have.

Coal currently provides 50% of our electricity. We have a lot of it, but it's dirty. If we pursue Obama's energy plans we can expect this percentage to actually go up, as old nuclear plants are retired and "renewables" fail to fill the gap ... and as our total electric production declines. Energy costs will be a lot higher ... which will have consequences.

continuing .....  

By Anonymous Mad as Hell, at Sat Jan 02, 11:31:00 AM:

continuing ..

Obama said so himself to a semi-private meeting back in 2008 ... "Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket." That's one hell of an admission. Obama even lumped natural gas in with coal, as he spoke.

videotape source: http://www.forumeter.com/video/178449/Obama-My-Plan-Makes-Electricity-Rates-Skyrocket

After the lobbyists got through with it, the cap and trade plan that passed the House is actually worse than Obama's plan. "Coal" won free permits for its current base of emissions. CO2 is declared to be a pollutant and acceptable levels of CO2 emissions are chiseled into stone. Specific renewables are favored -- wind, solar, biomass. Nuclear gets fried. Any novel ideas are implicitly disfavored -- this is subtle but important as novel ideas won't get funding at any level ... including thorium reactors. Thorium will be the dog that didn't bark ... at least not in the USA ... but a dog that may bark in India and China.

The House Energy bill may die in the Senate, but this train has already left the station as the EPA has already declared CO2 to be a pollutant. Much of Obama's energy plans will get adopted through regulatory mechanism and funding priorities. "Legislation ... I don't need no stinking legislation !."

Obama's beliefs on Energy are based on his professed acceptance of AGW theory. But our politics have gotten us to the point where -- even if you believe in AGW -- we'll have the worst of all possible outcomes ... much, much higher kwh costs and more global pollution ... and that's even without a blow-up in the Middle East.

The answer needs to be "all of the above ... and fast."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jan 02, 11:58:00 AM:

If passed, it won't affect the typical American much from now until 2012

You mean won't affect them much other than to impoverish them more with higher taxes they're not in a position to pay.  

By Anonymous Mad As Hell, at Sat Jan 02, 12:28:00 PM:

"If passed, it won't affect the typical American much from now until 2012"

Correct me if I'm wrong ... working backwards, (1) the individual mandate doesn't start to apply until 2014 and tax penalties are phased in over time, (2) surcharge taxes on high earners don't start until 2013, (3) the annual fee tax on health insurance doesn't start until 2011 and is low compared to fully phased in amounts.

The rudder on this big oil tanker will be turned in a very different direction but most of us won't notice the turn for many years. If passed, Healthcare will have an immediate affect on those in that industry as they adjust to their Brave New World. I expect that many medical students and interns will want to slit their wrists. But most of the rest of us will focus on more immediate concerns. This is a thesis ... I could be very wrong ... but if I'm right, Healthcare won't be as hot a political issue as we get to 2012.

We're in a sugar rush of huge deficit spending right now, facilitated by the Fed. As we get into 2011 -- if our economy is sputtering, and we hear backfiring, and some states need bailouts, and private sector unemployment is still high -- that'll be issue #1 in 2012.  

By OpenID FuzzyFace, at Sun Jan 03, 12:22:00 AM:

I wonder if the misfire of the bomb might not have been intended. Had the plan been blown up, we would have suspected terrorism, but wouldn't be sure - what actions would we have taken, with no useful info?

As it is, the TSA has added more stupid rules that make flying less convenient, and whatever fear would have resulted from an actual explosion is probably achieved anyway.  

By Blogger Don Cox, at Sun Jan 03, 10:13:00 AM:

Before criticizing the whole of British education on the basis of one student, it would be a good thing to find out if he passed the course, and if he passed, with what grade? Did he have to retake any modules? This could be a student who just about scraped through.

However, even if he was a good student, he was also a fool blinded by religious brainwashing. I doubt he was capable of any kind of rational thought about the bomb.

The main thing wrong with British "education" is the large number of bogus colleges set up to help "students" to get visas. No doubt there are some bogus colleges in the US, too.  

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