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Copyright (c) 2008 Design/Analysis Consultants, Inc.
DESIGN/ANALYSIS NEWSLETTER
4th
Qtr
2008
Dedicated to Design Excellence
Feedback: newsletter@daci-wca.com
OUR VIEW
Sightings is a collection of true experiences as reported by credible sources
SIGHTINGS: THE ALMOST FATAL FLAW
An industrial controller circuit malfunctioned, nearly causing a fatal mishap. The manufacturer's design team didn't understand what triggered the failure, so the CEO called Charlie the consultant and asked if he could help. Charlie agreed, and a few days later met with the team to review the circuitry.

Charlie was impressed by the thoroughness of the design from a safety perspective. It had the features that Charlie himself recommended for such applications, including independent and redundant hardware-only fail-safe circuitry. After checking the details, Charlie had to agree that he saw no problems with the approach or in its implementation. So he decided to back up a step and look at the big picture. Charlie reviewed the product specifications, witnessed a demonstration of how the product was typically used, and read the product brochure which described the range of potential applications. Then he went home and thought things over.

The next day he had a meeting with the CEO and the design team. "I think you have an environmental issue," Charlie told them.

"No," blurted the project engineer. "All the components were properly selected to meet the high temperature spec, with good margin."

"I agree that the parts have the appropriate ratings for your application," responded Charlie. "But temperature is only one environmental variable of many. In particular, you also have to be concerned with water."

"Water?" said the CEO, tilting his head back in surprise.

"Yes," said Charlie. "Your product is sometimes used in a high humidity environment where condensation is likely to occur. Since your circuit boards aren't coated, moisture can introduce a multitude of random shorts right in the middle of all of your beautifully designed fail-safe circuitry, rendering it useless."

There was silence for several moments. Finally the CEO put his head in his hands, sighed, and said, "After all the time and effort we put into creating a fail-safe design, you're telling me that it doesn't mean anything since we didn't coat the boards?"

"I'm afraid that's correct" said Charlie. "It was an almost fatal flaw."
The Ongoing Corruption of Science...
NEWS BULLETS
"Physicians can no longer rely on the medical literature for valid and reliable information."
Marcia Angell, MD, veteran editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, as quoted in the 3 September 2008 issue of JAMA
Let DACI help you toughen up those circuit designs:
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Master the art of design analysis with our Design Analysis Handbook, “…a book that should be on the shelf of every analog or digital electronic system designer."
The DESIGN ANALYSIS HANDBOOK
–Frank Goodenough, Electronic Design
Up Till Now / The Autobiography
For those of us whose path to engineering was heavily influenced by the wonders portrayed in the science fiction novels, TV shows, and movies of our youth, Up Till Now will evoke some fond memories, plus provoke lots of spasmodic laughter. That's because William Shatner, best known to millions as the iconic Captain Kirk of Star Trek fame, is a funny guy. Very funny.
Up Till Now is Shatner's engaging, off-beat, and often hilarious autobiography. Its candor is refreshing, and its unique and original style are evidence that Shatner possesses a creative and witty mind that was not often displayed by the various characters he portrayed over the years. In other words, the real William Shatner is not always Shatnerian, a term used to denote an acting style that some have called overly melodramatic, because it --- incorporates --- a halting --- speech pattern.

Shatner copiously covers not only Star Trek, but all of his career "up till now," including his recent role as Denny Crane on Boston Legal. But the overarching value of Up Till Now is its unpretentious good humor. For example, although lots of folks have poked fun at Star Trek (including us; see Captain Kirk: Technology Manager), Shatner takes it all in stride. He relates a Saturday Night Live skit in which he played himself at a
Star Trek convention, wherein from the speaker's podium he urged the attending Trekkies to "get a life."

Up Till Now is good fun and highly recommended.

by William Shatner (St. Martin's Press)
... Should Make Us Question Conventional Wisdom, such as Flu Shots
"A brand new study published in the October issue of the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine found that vaccinating young children against the flu had no impact on flu-related hospitalizations or doctor visits during two recent flu seasons. The researchers concluded that 'significant influenza vaccine effectiveness could not be demonstrated for any season, age, or setting examined.'"
Mercola.com (click for details)