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A wide field of innovation has developed from safety engineering that looks to eliminate or mitigate the effects of errors and build in redundancy. Safer airplane cockpits and spacecraft controls led to closer studies of how humans interact with technology and ways to minimize key failure points.

 

Colonel Stapp applied his work to car safety, bucking Air Force superiors by proving that more pilots died from car crashes than plane wrecks. He made the cover of Time magazine and showed up on TV shows, all of which probably cost him a promotion to General. But along with activists like Ralph Nader, Stapp helped enact laws for car seatbelts and padded dashboards, saving literally thousands of lives yearly. The proof? The U.S. went from 25 million drivers in 1940 to 72 million drivers in 2000, yet traffic deaths only rose from 40,000 to 42,000 per year. (Airbags undoubtedly helped too.)

 

Meanwhile, Murphy-style reliability engineering led to fault-tolerant computer design, better website usability, even those electrical plugs than can’t go in the wrong way.  It’s likely you may be reading these words on an electronic device, from a story found on a web site that itself is located on the Internet—a complex string of technology which depends on highly reliable design. Yet it all usually works, thanks to engineering like Ed Murphy and John Stapp practiced. What are the odds?

 

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Edward A. Murphy, Jr—The engineer who accidentally coined Murphy’s Law — Page 2

By Mark Martel