Life is a gamble, they say. Well, we’re going to roll the dice and take a look at risk. Today, on Engineering Works!
Some things are just risky. Everybody knows that â€” bungee jumping, skydiving. How about driving to work every morning or living across town from a nuclear reactor?
Engineers think about risk all the time. It’s a lot of what they do. To engineers, risk is something they can calculate. How long until that transistor burns out. What happens then, and what can we do about it? Will the airplane crash? Or will your TV just go black. Same transistor; different risk.
Most of us think about risks with our guts instead of our heads. We all know people who refuse to fly because it’s risky. Those same people drive to work on crowded highways and think nothing of it. If you look it up, traffic accidents injure and kill many more people than airplane crashes.
We all have little quirks like this. Usually it has to do with the way we think about what we do. If it’s something we think we control, it must not be very risky. If someone else controls it, it feels riskier.
Engineers help us reduce many of life’s risks. Others we can’t avoid. The most useful thing is to try to understand the risks around us and make intelligent choices.
And maybe take a pass on the sky-surfing lessons.