World’s Toughest Fixes

If you haven’t seen this show, it is about these incredibly difficult real-world physical engineering fixes and how they are performed.  So, for instance, they replace the turbine in a nuclear reactor (to make the reactor more efficient, etc.).

Couple of things that leap out when I watch these shows:

- they actually f&*king work.  With the nuclear reactor turbine, they have to unbolt exterior casing, unbolt interior casing, unbolt the actual turbine, lift it out on a crane, then bring in the new one, lower it into place, with something like a thousandth of an inch tolerance, line it up, replace the casing, sacrifice a goat, and other things, all while making sure there is no radioactivity leaks.  Oh, and when you turn it on?  It can’t explode.  I know that there is an amazing amount of work that goes into it, but I’m awed that you can do something like this and have it actually work (the fact that the Space Shuttle doesn’t experience a catastrophic failure every third flight surprises me…when all you need is one important thing to go wrong, and there are a lot of things that qualify as important, how do more things not go wrong?)

- software.  As in, they (practically) never mention it.  You know there *had* to have been some software design work around the new turbine (they show some of how they line it up), but they don’t really mention it.  I’m pretty sure it took neither of these forms:

“As a nuclear reactor owner/I want a more efficient turbine/So that I can make more money”

“Given I replace the turbine in my nuclear reactor/When I turn it on/ Then it doesn’t blow up”

but I have no idea what they actually did during the design phase on the software end. 

Working in an industry where it can often take dozens of people hundreds of hours to figure out how to get config file changes properly propagated through different environments (and I’m maybe only slightly exaggerating), this show fascinates me.  How do more bridges (like the one in Minnesota) not collapse?  Since I work in a tall building, how do fewer elevators experience cable breaks? 

Although I have no proof that there is anything connected to this, has anyone else ever worked in an IT department and noticed how many IT professionals cannot figure out how the friggin’ coffee machine works?

posted on Monday, October 27, 2008 6:33 PM Print
# re: World’s Toughest Fixes
Sergio Pereira
10/28/2008 2:19 PM
Our job is incredibly easy compared to these other ones... Maybe we just hide our incompetence behind the undecipherable source code and crazy diagramming tools. BTW, how do I submi...oh, enter this code and *then* press the button.
# re: World’s Toughest Fixes
Troy Tuttle
10/28/2008 11:14 PM
I haven't laughed this hard at a tech blog post in a long while. The user stories are priceless.

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