- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press; unk edition (March 19, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691122253
- ISBN-13: 978-0691122250
- Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,571,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Success through Failure: The Paradox of Design unk Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
From the clumsy packaging of Aleve pain reliever to the space shuttle Columbia disaster, this engrossing study mourns and celebrates failed designs that spur further improvement. Civil engineer Petroski, author of The Evolution of Useful Things and other meditations on manufactured objects, reminds us that setbacks teach us more than triumphs. The principle is easy to see in gargantuan construction projects; the art of bridge building, he notes, advances over the rubble of collapsed spans. But the essence of engineering, he contends, is to construe every limiting aspect of existence as a remediable malfunction; even the elemental wooden pointer is an underperforming contraption with a bug—finite length—corrected in the next generation of laser pointers. The moral Petroski draws—success breeds hubris and catastrophe, failure nurtures humility and insight—is worth pondering, but his conceit mainly furnishes a peg for his trademark historical sketches of the world of objects, full of evocative observations of, say, those interludes during the glitch-prone dawn of PowerPoint presentations when "everyone just stood around or sat by and watched in silence as the bashful new technology was coaxed out of its black box." He delivers a lesson in the price of progress and another perceptive look at the relationship between man and his stuff. Photos. B&w illus. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Civil engineer and historian Petroski interprets the 1940 collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge as a cautionary tale for designers. That bridge failed because engineers made it by enlarging a previously successful idea. Wise designers, Petroski insists, must always contemplate the possibility of failure. Indeed, it is usually failure that spurs designers on toward improved blueprints. Failure-induced improvement may mean merely that lecturers can use a laser pointer in place of a yardstick, but it may also mean that physicians can turn to lifesaving diagnostic software far superior to fallible human protocols. The potential for failure manifests itself before the event to those designers blessed with prescience, but often improvements are only implemented in the wake of actual failures. From ancient Roman engineers dismayed at the failure of stone-arch bridges to twenty-first-century American architects stunned by the collapse of the Twin Towers, designers have frequently learned valuable principles through hard tutelage. Lucid and concise, this study invites nonspecialists to share in the challenge of trial-and-error engineering. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top customer reviews
It starts with basic examples and expands each.
Each chapter develops similarly. The examples are clear. The progression is logical. The book explains the why and how to think in an organized and methodical fashion. There is also a thought in education that students and research can't fail. Very often failure is often the inspiration for future success. This book brings that idea that success can come from failure out.
Using examples from engineering he demonstrates this. Most of the exemplar stories are interesting, though some get bogged down. I can't say that the book is a cogent masterpiece. His first chapter, a summary of a presentation he made, does not seem to fit the premise. Nonetheless, the book and it's perspective-shifting thesis is, in my opinion, extremely important.
I'd recommend this if you also just want an abridged history of engineering design, even though you might not be one.
Most recent customer reviews
It's even painful to read, like listening to a crazy person on bus ranting about stuff.Read more