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Re: [offtopic] The Airplane Example (was Re: Streami

  • To: XML Developers List <xml-dev@l...>
  • Subject: Re: [offtopic] The Airplane Example (was Re: Streaming XML)
  • From: Michael Champion <michaelc.champion@g...>
  • Date: Sat, 1 Jan 2005 12:19:49 -0500
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  • Reply-to: Michael Champion <michaelc.champion@g...>

cali plane crash
On Sat, 01 Jan 2005 14:57:05 +0000, Bill de hÓra
<bill.dehora@p...> wrote:

> On the other hand trying to delineate what's engineering and what's
> alchemy in a software sense is no bad thing 

I'm not sure I follow.  To me, it's not clear what is alchemy and what
is engineering and what is computer science in the real world.  The
Cali plane crash example seems to illustrate that -- the on-board
software worked as designed, and the design was rational, it just made
assumptions about a) the distribution of navigation beacons and b) the
attention to detail on the part of the pilots that turned out to be
over-optimistic.  Is this engineering or alchemy?  I'm not sure. 
Benjamin Franz seems to think that best practices are clear and a good
process could have caught these unrealistic assumptions in advance. 
Maybe, but I have a feeling that "best practice" is more of a
collection of hard lessons learned from investigating disasters, and
anticipating new flaws at the design phase is more in the realm of
alchemy than engineering.  But maybe this is just a matter of using
slippery and value laden words in inconsistent ways, not real
disagreement.

But remember that Newton was an alchemist, and Kepler was an
astrologer :-)  So, it probably is worth trying to delineate
engineering from alchemy, but I expect the line to be pretty fuzzy.

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