Tag Archives: safety

Outsourcing NASA could be, you know, dangerous

Astronaut Memorial Foundation's Space Mirror

Image via Wikipedia

Useful recommendations for NASA:

An aerospace panel is warning NASA that relying on private companies to send astronauts into space would raise serious safety issues.

The federal watchdog Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel said that outsourcing would be “unwise and probably not cost-effective” because private space companies are not yet technically advanced enough to safely put astronauts into orbit, The Wall Street Journal reported.

When has it ever raised safety issues before?

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Missing common sense on milk carton

In my own opinion, this is just a few short steps from yelling at kids to get off one’s lawn, but I think there are a couple of useful points that can lead us back to how and why this happened.

The image below shows the milk carton I bought yesterday to use in my coffee.  I initially kind of liked the little windows showing how much of the milk is left, but the more I looked the more the visual scheme started to bother me.  The text and graphic guides I added describe where I think the designers’ good intentions failed to add up to something useful.

milkfail

A designer suggested adding a little window on the carton to provide something easier for making a shopping list than a rough weight estimate.  The first round of design review probably added the volume markers, which are innocuous enough but unnecessary for the majority of milk drinkers.  Subsequent rounds probably added the wholly useless picture of the milk jugs and the placement of all this visually distracting detritus.

Is there anything beyond the little windows that substantially improves your ability to make decisions about the volume of milk?  Of course not.

What is actually happening here is that a potentially useful addition to the good old milk carton becomes something cluttered and misleading, and it smacks of committee work.  Will any harm come of it?  Probably not.  At most, it might be a little more confusing than necessary to anyone who bothers to look at it, which probably won’t be too many of us.  Imagine safety diagrams on an airplane or in a chemical plant, though;  how much distraction or confusion would be necessary to cause an accident?

You might think I’ve gone around the bend when I’m editorializing about milk cartons, but this is about more than pictures on paper.  The equivalent design on a fire extinguisher could result in someone getting hurt.  Not every idea in an organization deserves to make it into the final product.