Sources to help designers grow – especially from an ethical/moral perspective.

Many of you have heard me tell of Richard Feynman and the antics he got up during the Manhattan project, his passion to visit Tunnu Tuva (Leighton Ralph (1991) Tuva or Bust! London: Penguin), playing the Bongos for a Ballet or unravelling (?alone and unaided) the 1986 Challenger Shuttle “major malfunction” that was a catastrophic explosion 73 seconds after launch.
The BBC and OU have made a documentary (drama style) upon this Richard and Challenger topic. It is scheduled to be broadcast on Monday, 18th March 2013 at 9:00pm on BBC2 (90 minutes) and will live on, no doubt on iPlayer for a week, perhaps more! I also expected the video to appear in OU materials but these latter may not be widely accessible.
There are many reasons for watching this programme but one is the ethical/moral perspective that drove the decision to launch even when the Engineers were, to put it most optimistically, “unsure” that it was safe to do so.
Christa McAuliffe was to be the first “teacher in space” and all American Schools had opened early to watch the launch live but this was delayed for over two hours (?a door problem). No doubt the pupils and their teachers were getting restless and also concerned that the lesson taught from space planned for later that day might be postponed. NASA did not want to disappoint by delaying the launch further and the solid rocket booster contractors (Morton Thiokol) needed more work and thus the managers did not wish to be blamed/held responsible for even more delay. (In fact the need for the sectioned design which failed was established years earlier when the company was awarded the contract was expected to undertake the work in a particular place Brigham City (Utah) for employment and political reasons. This added a maximum section size constraint to the original specification of the re-usable solid fuel booster rocket)
Associated with the decision to launch Challenger you will find a short informative ethics quiz at: . The informative article by Davis (Davis, Michael (1991) “Thinking Like an Engineer: The Place of a Code of Ethics in the Practice of a Profession”. Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Spring), pp. 150-167) or via the University library at .
Ronald Regan’s live TV eulogistic speech (written by Peggy Noonan in 5 hours) demonstrated the benefit to the nation of having an actor as President and the best writers on hand. One of the best speeches of the C20?
The engrossing filmed documentary of Don McCullin gives another perspective on ethical behaviour. How does he resolve the conflicts that arise between his, thoughtful, ethical standards and the imperative to record/report conflict and disaster? By focusing (literally) on the aftermath and how the citizen and community are abused and destroyed? The photojournalist cannot stand back and report from a distance; the abuse, assault, grief and tragedy must fill the frame. McCullin does this and the movie contains some of the most powerful images of his or any other war photographer’s career plus insightful comments. It is easy to see why this is the most dangerous of professions with death and injury rates generally higher than the among the combatants themselves. This film is showing again at the Tyneside Monday 01/04 @13:20 –  If possible book ahead as last-time-around the showings completely sold-out. In addition you may find the brief discussion of recent record or rescue ethical case un-nerving.
These articles/films/broadcast raise giant questions but ones you need to consider before you decide how you will create– for good or ill – and the boundaries that you will apply to your contribution to the future. You also need to think about the beneficence imparted and sustainability of your design proposals – does our planet need your work, can the world afford to let you influence it with the impact and leverage of a designer?
“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” Richard Feynman (Appendix F – Personal Observations on Reliability of Shuttle, Rogers’ Commission Report into the Challenger Crash. (

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