Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Challenger Disaster....

A few weeks ago, I saw a documentary on the Challenger disaster. The disaster was not an unavoidable accident - far from it. Prior to the launch, engineers from the company making the 'O' rings highlighted there would be serious problems because they were not made for the low temperatures at the time of the launch. One engineer even screamed at the management and begged them not to go ahead. He was overruled and silenced because the management wanted to meet the launch schedule. The heroic engineer in the NASA story who fought his management never forgave himself for not fighting harder to prevent the deaths of the astronauts.

More than a decade ago, a bespectacled NUS lecturer warned of rising poverty and the risk of a ballooning income gap. PAP leaders accused him of engaging in the "politics of jealous", he was later bankrupted and jailed. His name is Chee Soon Juan and today our income gap is the highest in the developed world and we are now talking about an emerging ultra-underclass among us.

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

But for Chee Soon Juan, not only attacked by PAP, the electorate also rejected him 3 times at elections. Now cannot even contest due to bankruptcy.

Why like that and so how?

Anonymous said...

never trust people who see only $$$ in their eyes, and speak nothing but GDPee...

for such people will glad sacrifice lives, peace or war times.

Anonymous said...

rejection of CSJ by the electorate only means that the pap is good at fixing opposition; local media is ultra-biased and electorate not smart enough.

majority can be in the wrong, like German during Hitler and Chinese during cultural revolution.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

The Challenger Disaster is informative in many ways.

It was not caused by a single flaw or a single event, but a dangerous combination of a problematic system design, risky decision-making under time pressure, coupled with both good and bad luck.

How can good luck be dangerous?

1. If we focus on the launch itself, good luck prevented the mission controllers from noticing that the right solid rocket booster O-rings had been breached shortly after ignition.

Even though the hot gases burned through the O-rings in less than a second, by a stroke of luck aluminium oxides in the gas flow sealed the damaged joint, allowing the Shuttle to launch with normal right booster pressures.

Had the flight been smooth, this temporary seal might have lasted the two minutes of booster burn time giving the Shuttle a good chance to safely reach orbit.

Unfortunately by another stroke of luck, during the flight the Shuttle experienced a severe wind shear that broke the oxide seal and finally let the hot gases leak through and damage the external tank. Right booster internal pressure dropped and only then did mission controllers notice that something was wrong with it.

From that stage onwards, everything happened very quickly -14 seconds later, the whole vehicle disintegrated.

2. If we broaden the perspective to the whole Space Shuttle system, good luck masked the inherent flaws of the vehicle design.

The Space Shuttle looks impressive on its own, but in comparison to other manned systems, some problematic elements become visible.

Compared to the Soyuz and the Shenzhou, the Shuttle mainly depended on solid fuel boosters, which cannot be throttled down or shut down on command after ignition. All other systems use liquid fuel boosters.

Compared to the old Soviet Buran, the Shuttle has a peculiar engine layout. The main engines of the Shuttle are on the spaceplane itself drawing fuel from the attached external tank, whereas the Buran's main engines are positioned directly below its external tank and are not part of the spaceplane.

In an emergency, the Buran spaceplane can detach cleanly from the rocket stack, but the Shuttle cannot.

Worse of all, compared to the Soyuz, the Shenzhou and the old Apollo, the Shuttle has no crew escape system during the launch phase.

Evidence from the Challenger disaster indicates that most of the crew survived the destruction of the vehicle and were killed when the crew compartment smashed into the sea. They had no ejection seats or parachutes.

On the management side, with two dozen successful Shuttle missions by early 1986, there was little motivation to do anything about the deteriorating communication between the engineers and the managers.

In contrast, the Soyuz programme already experienced two fatal accidents in early missions; their "bad" luck motivated them to improve the system and processes, such that there has been no loss of life since 1971.

When the Space Shuttle retires next year, US astronauts will have to travel to the International Space Station in a Soyuz.

LuckySingaporean said...

Lim Leng Hiong,

Thanks for the excellent write up. During the Challenger fatal flight there was a gust of high velocity wind that cause some turbulance which shifted the rocket boosters causing the temporary seal to fall out. That was very bad luck but the underlying cause was a group of men who made the decision to go ahead despite clear and substantial evidence that something can go wrong.

Anonymous said...

Unlike Challenger disaster, nobody died from rising poverty or ballooning income gap. Unless they commit suicide.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

"Thanks for the excellent write up. During the Challenger fatal flight there was a gust of high velocity wind that cause some turbulance which shifted the rocket boosters causing the temporary seal to fall out. That was very bad luck but the underlying cause was a group of men who made the decision to go ahead despite clear and substantial evidence that something can go wrong."

Good luck can mask bad management practices.

If the gust of wind didn't happen and Challenger made it safely to orbit, the management might have concluded that cold temperature launches were fine, proving that the engineers were wrong and proceeded to risk another crew.

There is a general tendency for leaders to claim credit for everything good that happens and ignore potential problems brewing under the surface as long as the "big picture" is achieved.

Sometimes, even constructive feedback is dismissed as lacking in "helicopter view".

In order to have a helicopter view, someone must to build a helicopter for the person to view from.

runroad said...

Hmm, your article brought back some memories. I was in the USA at the time of the Challenger disaster and well recall the bitter humour that spread through the office. Like the question, "What does NASA stand for"? Answer: Need Another Seven Astronauts.

People smiled at that, but in a sad way.

We understood how the NASA engineers felt because that same species of business management graduate full of text-book knowledge but empty of experience was infesting our ranks too. The end results when you force through decisions based on shaky data are always inevitable and for the seven victims on this occasion (including, let's not forget, that poor school-teacher on her maiden flight), fatal. All the school children were watching the launch because of her involvement.

Here, only now are we beginning to see the result of not heeding the warnings of so many voices crushed by our government. Hopefully for Singapore it won't be a fatal error.

Anonymous said...

more interestingly, a few years ago 2 NTU economics dons, deducing from the figures from published stats, came out to say that the manpower policy may need to be reexamined because most of the new jobs or benefits went to the foreigners. The then manpower minister (mini-lee) Ng came out blasting on the front page of the Running-dog Times and demanded a public apology and retraction. The two academics were cowed into silent oblivion for the next few years. It was only recently that one of them appeared in the limelight again.

Years later, seems like they were proven right. Imagine the pressure they received then from telling the truth and wanting to provide negative feedbacks so that the minister does not make too egregious a mistake.

Sometimes, there really need to be people who are willing to say "hey, the emperor is naked" to prevent the system from making egregious mistakes that may sink the ship, even if it makes the system less effiecient.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

"Sometimes, there really need to be people who are willing to say "hey, the emperor is naked" to prevent the system from making egregious mistakes that may sink the ship, even if it makes the system less effiecient."

Yes, but that is only half the equation - there must also be someone willing to listen.

http://www.onlineethics.org/Resources/Cases/RB-intro/Override.aspx

"Just as he finished his conclusion, Joe Kilminster asked for a five minute off-line caucus to re-evaluate the data, and as soon as the mute button was pushed our general manager, Jerry Mason, said in a soft voice, "We have to make a management decision." I became furious when I heard this because I knew that an attempt would be made by management to reverse our recommendation not to launch...

...What followed made me both sad and angry. The managers who were struggling to make a pro-launch list of supporting data actually supported a decision not to launch. During the closed managers' discussion, Jerry Mason asked in a low voice if he was the only one who wanted to fly. The discussion continued, then Mason turned to Bob Lund, the vice-president of engineering, and told him to take off his engineering hat and put on his management hat. The decision to launch resulted from the yes vote of only the four senior executives since the rest of us were excluded from both the final decision and the vote poll."

Rather scary how the decision was made by people unfamiliar with the engineering, while technical experts were rendered irrelevant by excluding them from the decision process.

Even so, if just one of the executives stood his ground and refused to "put on his management hat", they might have reconsidered the decision.

From a broader perspective, if the top leadership of an organization is made of like-minded yes-men who all put their "helicopter view" business concerns ahead of other concerns such as employee safety and evidence-based data, then the outcome shouldn't be too surprising.

Anonymous said...

Hey someone ought to dig into the diplomatic car accident...The story on the straits times is a lie.....

Towkay said...

Correct me if I am wrong why should the government care about the ultra underclass and people who can't feed themselves? Singapore is a meritocratic country, citizenship is a privilege and should be based on whether you can contribute to the country or not.

If these people cannot contribute, then some arrangements should be made to ship them out to other countries. People are our only resources, and we have space constraints. We can't have leeches leeching on our resources and occupying previous space while not contributing much.

Foreign talent cost less, are less fussy, consume least resources (i.e. can squeeze them 30 into a 4 room flat and eat economy rice for every meal) while contributing a lot (work 12 hours 6, 7 days a week).

We should be looking at some arrangements with Batam or JB to send our less productive people there, where they can waste their time away. Give them say, S$200 a month as living allowances (considered a lot of money in JB and Batam) Then bring in productive foreign talent in.

Anonymous said...

It's OK, Lucky. Unstable system will come fall apart. It's nature. One day, the PAP will find it hard to contain it, which is good.

While the PAP is in control, overseas Singaporean should continue to use their connection/influence, however small, to smear the PAP's name and hasten its fall one day. Battle order must be set up from overseas, just like what Mr Sun Yat Sen did a century ago.

Anonymous said...

Towkay:

You are really helping the opposition a lot. Not sure if it is intentional. Thanks a lot any way. =)

Anonymous said...

"Unlike Challenger disaster, nobody died from rising poverty or ballooning income gap."

perhaps, you may want to enjoy the experience of being one of poorest and being a lesser member of the widening ballooning income gap. need not have to worry, no death involved.

Anonymous said...

"Correct me if I am wrong why should the government care about the ultra underclass and people who can't feed themselves?"

Bcos of social contract. Else, government should not interfere those ultra underclass in resorting to whatever means they need to survive.

Anonymous said...

"If these people cannot contribute, then some arrangements should be made to ship them out to other countries. People are our only resources, and we have space constraints. We can't have leeches leeching on our resources and occupying previous space while not contributing much.

Foreign talent cost less, are less fussy, consume least resources (i.e. can squeeze them 30 into a 4 room flat and eat economy rice for every meal) while contributing a lot (work 12 hours 6, 7 days a week)."

By artificially allowing more foreigners in (& the world is always flooded with cheap workers relative to the number we can take), more benefits will flow to owners of enterprises. Just to show you one simple example : -

Profit = S$10/- less S$3/- (cost of foreigner) = S$7/-

Profit = S$10/- less S$5/- (cost of local) = S$5/-

In both cases, enterprise owner makes profit however the use of locals will give a more even distribution of benefits to locals. We are talking about one worker only assuming only labour cost.

In our country, there are other costs of operation involved like utilities, transportation & fuel, rental, phone bills, etc which both workers & enterprise owners are at the mercy and may not have control.

However, some people deem it fitting to control labour units & costs (if they can allow foreigners in), at the expense of our own blood & sweat locals, as you can't control the imported costs of other commodities.

The use of foreigner will create a job for the foreigner and better benefit for the owner, however social problem for the local one.

Real life example will be more complex, however the overall net impact will be there.

Most of time, you will see the workers worth off not the owners. Of course, some owners will fail however they will be more and less balanced up by those who succeed and those workers who may be daring to try and in turn succeed.

runroad said...

Well said, Towkay, well said! You're so right. Best idea I've heard in years. Better than Khaw's silly care homes in Batam and JB.

Could you please be certain to post your sure-win recipe for a successful S'pore to the MSM and all other interest groups too? Singapore really needs to hear those excellent suggestions. Will they be in your 2011 manifesto Staying Together, Moving Ah Mah & Ah Pek?

Indeed, why should we waste one cent more of our hard-earned money supporting those past their sell-by date? We already lost $100b, man! Money dun grow on trees, you know? We're a meritocracy as you say and they have used up their merit. Let them rot elsewhere.

In fact I have some old German business contacts. Maybe we could start up a nice joint venture in selling and servicing really, really, big multi-storey industrial gas ovens with a modern twist - full automation. What do you think? That will surely raise our productivity and the GDP at a stroke, dude!

I'm so thrilled with the potential that I'm already trying to think up a catchy slogan. How about:

TOWKAY Hotels - the underclass check in but they NEVER check out! Guaranteed.

What say you?

Anonymous said...

So what kind of disaster can or will happen to Singapore with poverty rising and widening income gap?

When will it likely take place? What will be the scenario?

Or is the current situation a disaster already for some? But not for others? Depending on who you talk to?

Anonymous said...

Consider that we have much less welfare than America, consider the dire plight of the poor in America. Consider that our cost of living is higher. We are living a disaster.

The streets are clean, you dun see the poor. But looking at the stats, you know they are there. Just like the privileged North Koreans in Ponyang never see the starving...

Incidentally, I am sure lots of people dire of poverty. No money to get regular medical check-ups (detect cancer only at terminal stage), high stress, broken homes leading to children with similar problems.

Anonymous said...

The engineer was silenced for not willing to play "their" game.

Chee Soon Juan was bankrupted for not willing to play "their" game.

"They" have too much power, so much so that "they" decide what's right and wrong, and who goes to jail.

There are some, the Voldemorts whom I shall not name, who play the game and receive favours in return. In exchange for those favours, they allow those in power to control their lives.

Anonymous said...

"The streets are clean, you dun see the poor."

That is the point of inept gov. Their Modus Operandi is "We have no substance, but at least we create the form to make thing look good. Beneath the surface, we know the SINs are doomed ! So let's hoodwink them as long as possible until the foreigners dilute their voice and votes. Don't blame us because The end justifies the means as taught by our old fart !"

Anonymous said...

"The streets are clean, you dun see the poor. But looking at the stats, you know they are there."

in our country, there is law to prevent substantial gathering (aka protests) of like-minded people to consolidate their grievances, if any, and present in full view so that the public knows the the gravity of the problem is strong enough to warrant serious & quick attention.

what you see is a clean outer shell with possible rotten core. we can't really tell as we can't really see. what we can see are bits and pieces of dirt which quickly gets swept away.

Onlooker said...

The challenger disaster is avoidable.

Anonymous said...

Chee Soon Juan...

I saw him many times. He struck me as someone lacking in leadership, weak, easily manipulated kind of person...

I never like him and so far never see him offer nation plans that are PRAGMATIC. VERY EASILY TO SAY THINGS LIKE .... TAKE CARE OF THE POOR, NO ONE LEFT BEHIND hahaha sounds familiar.

I prefer a opposition with gusty personality like Mr Low of hougang.

Towkay said...

After next GE when PAP have consolidated their power, I'm importing hungry Africans in. They are hungrier than PRCs, Filipinos and Indians. Big size and fierce, they are fighting for survival, very good workers. Some of them can even become executives with the right training. Imagine hiring a manager that costs only $400 a month!

Hope they will send a message to useless Singapore residents that they should get out if they still refuse to accept lower wages and poor working conditions.

Anonymous said...

"Big size and fierce, they are fighting for survival, very good workers. "

make strong and big black babies too.

Anonymous said...

Towkay 19:32

Your African "jokes" are getting stale. Please try something else.

Towkay said...

Sorry for repeating but so far it seems like the useless Singapore workers are not getting the idea. They should get out asap to make way for cheap faster better imports. They lost their jobs but at least should retain their dignity, don't stand in the way of others making money.

Towkay said...

I also don't like Chee Soon Juan, the asshole is anti-Singapore. Singapore is built on meritocracy, this means whoever can do the job better faster and cheaper should get the job, regardless of nationality.

His suggestions of reserving jobs and minimum wages for Singaporeans are anti-meritocracy, therefore anti-Singapore.

Anonymous said...

"After next GE when PAP have consolidated their power, I'm importing hungry Africans in. They are hungrier than PRCs, Filipinos and Indians. Big size and fierce, they are fighting for survival, very good workers."

Please do, and we like to see you get eaten by the hungrier cannibals from Africa. Don't wait until election, do it now. We should not keep those Africans from starving anymore. Your skull will be kept as trophy to remind Singaporeans of how hungry those Africans are.

To those Africans, enjoy your meals.

Anonymous said...

Hey LuckyBama

Remember the old days when you used plenty of satire?

Judging by the response to Towkay, its a good thing you no longer do that. Singaporeans are so bloody literally ... and the folks here are already the better educated ones.

Interesting link. No kidding!!! Really. No bluff!!!

http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/provider/providerarticle.aspx?feed=AP&date=20091218&id=10902518

Featherless Chicken

Anonymous said...

Another interesting article

http://suddendebt.blogspot.com/2009/12/euros-trojan-horse.html

Btw, what's your view on

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a3lUUctgSWI4&pos=8

Your advice needed. Serious. No kidding!!!

Clear eyed said...

Towkay, agree with you wholeheartedly when you say "Singapore is built on meritocracy, this means whoever can do the job better faster and cheaper should get the job, regardless of nationality." Could you help to bring in a couple of hundred starving Africans to replace those now sitting comfortably and prettily in the bloated parliament, cabinet, istana and other ivory towers dotted all over the land? The billions of $$$ which can be saved every year should convince our pragmatic and live-by-meritocracy- leaders that this is the way to go.

Anonymous said...

why wait for change? why wait until election to effect changes?

i tend to believe people who wait till then are more interested in ceasing power then to dissolve power.

if the objective is justice for all, then who is stopping you?

let the rulers rule and the checks and balances come from those who care...NOW, not when you get to rule.

then the rulers shall be ruled by the ruled!

Towkay said...

Clear eyed,

It is not up to me to say whether our leaders should be replaced by Africans. Singapore is based on meritocracy, if the people think they should be replaced, then they would.

So far only Singapore workers are to be replaced.

Towkay said...

"Please do, and we like to see you get eaten by the hungrier cannibals from Africa. Don't wait until election, do it now. We should not keep those Africans from starving anymore. Your skull will be kept as trophy to remind Singaporeans of how hungry those Africans are.

To those Africans, enjoy your meals."

This is a very good idea. Useless Singapore workers can be used as food for Africans. But not sure if people can accept this concept now, it won't be popular. Maybe after PAP win the next election, we can explore this idea further.

Singaporean said...

Hi Towkay,

I think you are only baiting but its ok to have some light hearted banter.

Just curious....

When your Pa and Ma are old and cannot contribute to your wellbeing anymore, do you

a) Feed them
b) Employ them
c) Let them collect tin cans
d) Send them to JB ?

When you are old and weak, will you

a) Live like a minister
b) Live in JB
C) Sell tissue paper
d) Kill yourself ?

If you give the correct answers...Ding....you go to the next level....

Anonymous said...

""Of the 83,800 unemployed residents in September, 5,200 (6.2 per cent) were diploma-holders while 18,400 were degree-holders (21.9 per cent)."""
How does the unemployment numbers come about?
A lot of people (esp those above 45) are jobless, and they did not report, or do not know where to report they are unemployed.
Even if they report, what is the point?
So th actual figures must be much higher.

Anonymous said...

Anon 18:44,

Yes, the figure could be a lot higher. But MAJORITY are employed. And some of those unemployed PMETs are rich and have chosen to retire, even if only 40+.

Most have a lot of savings, so they can still manage for a couple of years and for some even the rest of their lives.

Overall the situation is not so bad that PAP will lose its 2/3 majority in elections or cause street protests. The middle class is still quite solid.

That's why Chee Soon Juan did not succeed, whether at elections or through street protests.

Like any country, there will always be good and bad things. What is important is the good things are much more than bad things. Just like there are more good people than bad people.

Anonymous said...

warning:

interbreeding between shingapoorean and afreaker men may result in giants.

Anonymous said...

//
Chee Soon Juan...

I saw him many times. He struck me as someone lacking in leadership, weak, easily manipulated kind of person...
//

Eh are we talking about the same Chee who lost everything and (with his followers) went to jail for his belief?

Or are you describing the guy who never had the guts to stand for election and shut down his blog quickly each time the Gahmen makes some noise?

Anonymous said...

Giant pain pain, no good.

Anonymous said...

to Anon 19:34

r u PAP IB?

Anonymous said...

"""Most have a lot of savings, so they can still manage for a couple of years and for some even the rest of their lives."""

People already so pitiful, so poor thing, u still make fun of them???

Can only tell u, please don't make fun of us. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

"That's why Chee Soon Juan did not succeed, whether at elections or through street protests."

sure or not ? the financial is so fresh, to be exact the real bang is less than 2 years or less.

CSJ did not succeed because of the law and not because of lacking in support. In fact, any aunty or uncle or even you will not succeed in any street protests and I guess you know the reason.

"Like any country, there will always be good and bad things. What is important is the good things are much more than bad things."

Surely you know by now that the chaces of seeing & knowing good things here are more than bad things.

Let me guide you again to the following famous quote : -

"People do want to know, there is curiosity, it is a matter of public interest. That is not sufficient reason to disclose information. It is not sufficient that there be curiosity and interest that you want to disclose information.”

Anonymous said...

"And some of those unemployed PMETs are rich and have chosen to retire, even if only 40+."

Some only lah ? This fortunate group, do not need to worry for them and they probably have their own lobang.

The bulk are like any average joe, some of whom may probably be stuck with some title inflation but drawing middle income or slightly better which will not last if they stayed unemployed for too long.

Anonymous said...

"And some of those unemployed PMETs are rich and have chosen to retire, even if only 40+."
Last time they could have some saving bec there was no FTs to take over their jobs. There was no FTs to jack up the HDB prices. There was no FTs to jack up the food prices. And there ws no FT to depressed the wages & salary.And bec last time the HDB prics were low. But about the youngr generation? Now they have no savings, if they are jobless even for a shortwhile, the conseq is serious.

Anonymous said...

Hey LuckyBama

I think your readers have no idea what u mean by "underclass".

Allow me to help with the description

No Joke!!! Serious!!!

http://taxidiary.blogspot.com/2009/11/may-26-2009-tuesday-eighty-year-old.html

PS: your supporters dun seem to like Mr Chee too much. I guess they just want people who makes the right noises and not the people who actually do something about it?

Anon 19:34

Anonymous said...

Some anons dun get it...it seems

Every now and then, there will be some anons who will (like the govt people and scholars) stuff ideas and perceptions down people's throats.

I am sure people like lim, leng hiong and runroad are people with their own opinions and fairly capable of discerning issues on their own. Anyway, that is my opinion.

Anon above, speaking for myself, I might agree with Lucky on many things and I think likewise, I will disagree on many things as well if I know him well. I am not sure I am speaking for everyone else, but please do not assume that people who are here are supporters of Lucky. We are here to discuss, share and learn about each other thinking, perception and knowledge.

I like leng hiong's rather logical and perceptive reasoning, lim and runroad humor and witty writings. For me, this blog happens to be a common 'place' for us to 'gather' and of course if we do not 'click', I do not think we will bother to come to this blog. Please do not try to 'insult' or blanket all of us as lucky supporters.

Anonymous said...

whatever your intent is...

Anonymous said...

whatever your intent is...

Anonymous said...

i like anon 19/12/09 20:26 writing

short,sharp and insightful.

Anonymous said...

"whatever your intent is..."

he has been around for quite a long while and you are still figuring ................