Monday, March 14, 2011
Out-of-town guests over the weekend and a minor emergency overnight have kept me mostly away from the news and a good night's sleep. (Fortunately, everything is fine.) Nevertheless, the tragic events in Japan have been inescapable. On that score, John Cook passes along the observation that engineering and high construction standards probably saved millions of lives from the earthquakes there. As he put it, "[I]t's natural to only see the people who died and not the people who did not."
This observation is quite similar to one I once made regarding a Greyhound bus crash:
But this wasn't dumb luck! This was an example of human genius in action, but the clue was mentioned only in passing: The bus "broke through the railing of a bridge." That railing impeded the bus enough to save all on board, and the engineers who designed it never came up. Were it not for the men who thought about how to make that highway as safe as it turned out to be, that bus would have plunged into the river and we'd have been reading about fatalities.In closing, I'll note that I don't agree with the near-universal assumption that the government should dictate construction standards (or the similar idea that people would not adopt such standards on their own). This means that my headline -- had I thought of making the point so creatively -- would have been simpler than Dave Ewing's: "Engineers Save Millions in Japan."