Nov 03

How much money should you spend on maintenance?

Like any other investment, and maintenance is an investment, you should keep spending on maintenance whenever the returns exceed the costs. Or, when operating with limited resources, as we always are, whenever the returns on this investment are better than the returns on the next best investment. More...

May 19

As I write, the American President is castigating an oil company over the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. This is what politicians do because they and the people they represent refuse to accept that life in general and engineering in particular is inherently risky. This appears to be a relatively new social phenomenon. More...

Apr 07

Following on from me recent posts, ABC Radio National's the Philosopher's Zone recently discussed these very issues - you can find the audio here

Mar 29

We are going to play a game.

I have three boxes, 1 contains a great prize –let’s say a 3 course meal in a 5 star restaurant. The other 2 contain something evil – let’s say cold tinned spaghetti.

You get to choose 1 box. Take your time. Got it?

I am going to assume you chose box number 2.

I will now tell you that box number 1 contains spaghetti and give you the opportunity to swap your box number 2 for my box number 3.

The question is: should you a) swap, b) not swap or c) it doesn’t matter? More...

Mar 05

In an earlier post, I alluded to the challenge of navigating probabilities when new information comes to hand.

Consider the following scenario:

There is a horrible disease that does something horrible (I won’t be too specific because it is horrible). Its incidence in the general population is 1 in 100,000 (this is pretty rare; less than 250 cases in Australia). There is a screening test which is 100% effective at detecting the disease but has a 1% false positive (i.e. there is a 1% chance it will say you have the disease when you don’t). You have just been screened and have been given a positive result. Should you put your affairs in order? More...
Feb 04

So what does it mean to talk about probability for a unique event? The chance of you winning that contract or the chance of an accident at work, say. Hans Christian von BaeyerW in Information has this to say: More...

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