Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My Bad

Think about human error and what comes to mind?

Something bad?

Exxon Valdez


2003, Largest fire in California history

Three Mile Island

Something funny?

Perhaps something good?
Ivory Soap
Legend has it that a line worker left a mixer on while he went to lunch. When he returned, he found a batch of soap which was frothier and fluffier than the prescribed process and, later, Proctor and Gamble realized the bars of soap made with this lighter concoction would float. There are arguments as to the veracity of this legend and whether P&G intended to create a floating soap. It is, however, fact that this event happened. Human error, 99.44% worth.

Sir Alexander Fleming, a scientist, was searching for a wonder drug that could cure diseases. However, it wasn't until he abandoned his experiment and threw his research aside that he found what he was looking for. Luckily for all of us, Fleming noticed that mold growing in a discarded Petri dish was killing all of the surrounding bacteria. 

John Hopps, an electrical engineer, was conducting research on hypothermia and was experimenting with radio frequency heating to restore body temperature. During his experiment, he noticed a stopped heart could be restarted with artificial stimulation. Beware of microwaves!

And who could imagine a childhood without these mistakes:
Richard Jones, a naval engineer, was trying to create a meter to monitor power on naval battleships. He dropped a tension spring, which continued bouncing after hitting the ground. Hello, Slinky.

James Wright, an engineer at GE, was trying to make a rubber substitute during WWII. His invention (boric acid added to silicon) was not able to make boots and tires, but it did create quite a distraction for generations of children. 

I’m amazed at fully-grown and vetted adults who cannot own up to a mistake. Someone jams the copier at work and walks away. Someone backs into your car in a parking lot and doesn’t leave a note.  People will – and have – gone to extremes to deny and even lie about their involvement in a mistake. Those three little words elude even the most conscientious and moral among us – I did it.

Mea culpa. The whole concept is frightening and can weigh on you like 20 albatross hanging around your neck. But there’s something in the fragility, the candor, of ‘fessing up. Catholics understand the exercise and ultimate forgiveness that comes with confession.

Perhaps we, as a society, need less of this:

And a little more this: