Dear Colleagues

We are flooded on a daily basis with too much data and because we are in such a hurry we often don’t verify the truth of an assertion. And then we take action based on these anecdotal assertions.

Some suggestions in your engineering work:
1. Assess anecdotal information carefully for facts, otherwise file it away as untested.

2. Trace and audit any data which you suspect is second hand - it may have been copied from another source and contain inaccuracies.

3. Use the ‘common sense’ test – this will quickly eliminate the faulty data or statement.

4. Be suspicious of any data or assumptions which appear to be ‘too clean’, predictable, smooth, spherical - nature is unfortunately unpredictable, jagged and bumpy.

5. Apply some quick calculation tests to your newly acquired data to see if it does fit

In the worse case, where the system is ‘infected’ with faulty data or assumptions, ensure you own up quickly and let everyone know so it can be rectified - this is the sign of a true professional - being honest about your mistakes.
Remember that in nature, as the venerable Mark Twain once observed with some exasperation: “Truth is more of a stranger than fiction.”

Yours in engineering learning


Mackay’s Musings – 9th April’12 #473
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