February 3, 2003

addendum/statistics

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at February 3, 2003 9:36 PM Slate has the rest of their Columbia coverage up today. What particularly interested me was an entry in Mickey Kaus' weblog quoting Feynman's appendix to the Challenger investigation report. (Naturally any mention of Feynman will get my attention.) Kaus (or rather, one of his readers) notes that Feynman's order of magnitude estimate for the shuttles' failure rate - 1% - is pretty much on the mark. As much as I admire both Feynman's intellect and the power of order of magnitude techniques, I have to say that two data points don't yield a very precise value. (Certainly not worthy of the three significant figures quoted!) On the other hand, it's safe to say that the observed failure rate is not inconsistent with Feynman's estimate, as well as with the hypothesis that safety has not improved significantly since Challenger.

It would be interesting to revisit What Do You Care What Other People Think?, the second collection of Feynman anecdotes, since he comments extensively on the Challenger investigation. (I seem to recall that the appendix linked above is included in this book but I'm not sure. Unfortunately I don't have my copy here.)

One last thing I'd like to point out is that the world's political cartoonists collectively found many appropriate, non-biblical quotes to use in honoring the memory of Columbia. Tags:
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