Tuesday, 20 April 2010

When it comes to the ash cloud and planes, trust the scientists

Full article on guardian.co.uk

There's a brilliant scene in the film Fight Club where Edward Norton's character is unnerving a woman on a plane. In this scene, Norton explains the process by which the company he works for, a carmaker, decides whether or not to issue recalls of faulty lines.

"Take the number of vehicles in the field, A. Multiply by the probable rate of failure, B. Multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C," Norton calmly explains. "A times B times C equals X.

"If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one."

It's macabre to the extreme, but there's an innate rationality to the logic of allowing bad things to happen. After all, car manufacturers, like airlines, are in the business of risk management. It's part and parcel of their existence that they take calculated risks, some of which will affect the sanctity of life for a few, very unlucky individuals...