And the difference was . . . ?

A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible. There are no prima donnas in engineering.
Freeman Dyson—physicist

Almost everyone saw at least a couple of the men brought to the surface from the mine in Chile. It was a heartwarming scene, as one by one, the men were rescued and led into the arms of their families and their President.

In Chile, one could argue that it was a miracle. Here in the United States, that is probably not an option. A miracle would indicate some intervention by God, and that is not politically correct. Still, it was a miracle of emergency innovation. All those engineers, working through all the variables, every contingency, minimizing the risks, until their designs worked perfectly. Everyone brought up with no mishaps. Amazing!

Another amazing thing was where those engineers came from: everywhere. They came together from all over the world. The best brains in mining and rescue, all brought together by a supportive and encouraging President to defeat disaster. The political and common classes pulled together to get the job done.

One cannot avoid making a comparison to the BP oil-spill disaster. Although the rush was not to save a specific number of men, it was a disaster requiring immediate action. It had two specific problems to overcome: shutting off the flow of oil and cleaning up the spill. Both required special knowledge, tools and equipment.

Fortunately, as in the case of Chile’s disaster, the offers for help, from all over the world, began immediately. Unfortunately, there was no support or encouragement to be found here. The best brains in oil drilling and cleanup were not brought together. President Obama decided BP could handle this world-class disaster on its own—until  the voice of public opinion was shouting so loud he could no longer ignore it.

Would the trapped miners have been rescued by today if Chile’s President had turned away the experts? There is not a chance. Would they even be alive? There is no way to tell.

It is interesting to see the differences in the way the presidents of two different countries handle disasters. How long before we can expect to hear the people chanting, “U-S-A, U-S-A,” on the gulf coast beaches.

Published in: on October 14, 2010 at 3:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

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