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Set Phasers on Stun: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error 2 Sub Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0963617880
ISBN-10: 0963617885
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Editorial Reviews

Review

...extremely readable and fascinating... recommended to anyone, particularly those interested in human factors research or design. Marine Technology -- Marine Technology

Shows how basic paradigms, assumptions, and minor oversights of the designer combine with those of the user to produce disastrous consequences. Health Physics -- Health Physics

Steven Casey has put together an astonishing collection of graphic and depicting stories of human and technological error... you will not be able to put it down. American Scientist -- American Scientist

These skillfully told anecdotes take the reader through an array of settings from an A320 Airbus, to ConEd, to the wizardry of Wall Street... Casey has written a book that demonstrates to laypersons and technocrats alike how far we are from adequately controlling hazards and managing risks. How safe is safe enough? Design Management Journal

-- Design Management Journal

From the Inside Flap

In the new and expanded Second Edition of 'Set Phasers on Stun' and Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error, noted designer and author Steven Casey presents 20 factual and arresting stories about people and their attempts to use modern technological creations. Set Phasers on Stun demonstrates - - with shocking and graphic candor - - how technological failures result from the incompatibilities between the way things are designed and the way people actually perceive, think, and act. New technologies will succeed or fail based on our ability to minimize these incompatibilities between the characteristics of people and the characteristics of the things we create and use.

Two new chapters, as well as a new introduction, have been added to this Second Edition. In Murphy's Law and Newton's Law', listen in as a team of Swedish rocket technicians prepare to launch a payload into space above the arctic circle, and learn how the user interface on a simple device resulted in one of the most horrific but least publicized accidents in the history of rocketry. In The Price of the Amagasaki', accompany British Navy diver James Kull as he attempts a night-time attack on a Japanese warship off Singapore while using a new and poorly understood oxygen rebreather. Read the gripping stories of a tragic air show demonstration in France involving a new computer-controlled cockpit, the disaster of the supertanker Torrey Canyon, the human factors at play in the runaway chemical reaction that we have come to know as Bhopal, and, last but not least, Set Phasers on Stun, the tragic tale of a medical patient who meets his fate beneath a poorly designed radiotherapy machine in Texas.

From space above Russia, an island in the South Pacific, the hustle and bustle of Wall Street, remote Newfoundland, a bar in Topeka, northern Iraq, and the Pacific Northwest, Steven Casey lets the reader understand first hand how the combination of technology and human limitations can go wrong.

Set Phasers on Stun' and Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error affirms the harsh consequences of designing things that are incompatible with the characteristics of the people who will use them.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 251 pages
  • Publisher: Aegean; 2 Sub edition (January 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0963617885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0963617880
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #172,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on February 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A perfect 6.0 on technical merit and artistic interpretation! `Set Phasers on Stun' is a fascinating series of 20 true stories about human factors, user interface design, and design-induced human error. Like a well-told fable used to enforce a useful truth, each story cleverly teaches you something interesting and instructive about the importance of the user interface in modern technology. Casey tells each story from the perspective of the user of the thing or system, so you can really see how people get sucked into a particular situation and understand the unfortunate consequences of the designer's decisions. There is a good blending of technical detail, emotion, and great writing. Addressed are, among other things, a crash in the Airbus computerized cockpit, a Soviet space fatality, assorted medical errors (`Set Phasers on Stun' - - the title story about a patient being zapped during a radiation treatment), the launching of a rocket inside a building in Sweden, a diving accident, the Bhopal disaster, and the supertanker Torrey Canyon. I was originally introduced to this book in an engineering class, and it really "turned on the light" as the saying goes.
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Format: Hardcover
Steve Casey has provided a valuable service to engineers, designers, and human factors professionals with his true tales of design-induced human error. These engaging stories range from disasters at sea and failures of space systems, to casualties caused by inappropriate procedures and the packaging of consumer items. The lesson from each story is different, but there is a single theme: the incidents could have been avoided if proper attention had been paid to the user during the design of the item or system. I have given copies of Set Phasers on Stun to several people to illustrate the importance of considering human limitations, as well as capabilities, when designing systems for human use. The book is an entertaining read for anyone. I highly recommend Set Phasers on Stun.
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Format: Hardcover
A number of friends had recommended "Set Phasers on Stun" to me as a good book on technology and human error. The 20 short stories in the book cover everything from the accidental launching of a rocket to some horrific accidents in hospitals. Each story is written in a way that takes the reader on an engaging, informative, and, quite often, wild ride. Casey's writing style works perfectly with this short story format. I highly recommend "Set Phasers on Stun" to anyone interested in design and technology, or anyone who likes reading very good short stories. The best part is that all of the events covered

by the book are true.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first read Set Phasers on Stun (the first edition) as a textbook in one of my safety classes in college. In addition to being one of the most entertaining textbooks I ever had, it also had the deepest impact on me as far as illustrating how quickly and easily catastrophes can happen. Many of the cases presented in the book leave you shaking your head and wondering how such a simple mistake or oversight could lead to such horrific consequences.
I've used many of the cases in this book as examples when trying to make a point during my safety career. I would highly recommend this book to any engineer or safety professional. It's also entertaining reading for anyone with an interest in technology and complex systems.
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This book is very entertaining and an easy read. It's made up of several short cases of how poor user design resulted in catastrophic results. For those who deal with design and human factors occasionally, the stories stay pretty fresh in the mind and serve as a great reminder to ensure reasonable effort is put into human factor design aspects of projects.
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This book wasn't as good as I thought it was going to be. The stories of each disaster are good, but I was also expecting a detailed post-mortem on each one, listing and discussing all the things that went wrong, the lessons learned, and more details on the fixes that were applied afterwards. There's almost none of that in the book! The things that went wrong, or were poorly designed, are only mentioned in a conversational way during each story, and sprinkled around the rest of the story. So I felt like almost every story wasn't finished, they need a proper conclusion to each one. I was disappointed about that.
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Format: Hardcover
Extremely interesting accounts of tragedy and near catastrophe incidents. I was pleasantly surprised to see numerous references to the incidents discussed at the end of each article so I could follow up. Some cases tell accounts from the first person of people who have perished as a result of the design flaw / human error, and I had to wonder as to the accuracy of these particular cases - i.e. if they died, how did the author know what they were thinking (?). These are the minority of cases though. Written in a very simple style, which is very easy to read for the layperson or the expert wanting actual events to discuss in training, as examples of the importance of design, or persons simply interested in human error.
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It's frightening to read accounts of tragedies and disasters that occur when designers can't put themselves in the position of a typical user operating the equipment they have designed. If I had a dollar for each time a software engineer asked me "why would anyone ever do it that way?"...
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