Friday, May 31, 2013

Saturday, Nevil Shute and Slide Rule

Tomorrow I will lead a discussion of Nevil Shute's autobiography, Slide Rule, at the Howe library in Hanover.  We will be at the library from 2 to 4 p.m., it's free, and there will be refreshments.  I hope some of you will be able to come.

If you remember, my course on Engineering Adventures with Nevil Shute led to the formation of a local chapter of the Nevil Shute society.  Tomorrow is the third meeting of our chapter, and I will be leading the discussion. Thanks to the tireless work of C.J. Smith, the Dartmouth Chapter has a great web site (NevilShuteDartmouth) with information about the meetings, contact list and more.  C. J. also made the poster, shown above.  My own notes for the meeting are below.


Dartmouth Chapter of the Nevil Shute Society

On Saturday June 1 2013, the Dartmouth Chapter of the Nevil Shute Society will meet at Howe Library from 2 to 4 to discuss Shute’s autobiography: Slide Rule.

Meredith Angwin will lead the discussion.  Angwin led the successful ILEAD course “Engineering Adventures with Nevil Shute” and the discussion of Slide Rule will follow the format of the course. In this particular discussion, we will try to understand the decision making about two airships:
R100, which Nevil Shute helped to design,
R101, designed and built in a government facility.

The R100 flew successfully to Canada, but the R101 crashed on its first voyage. Why the difference?

Questions For Discussion:

Was the R101 doomed by:
Being built in a government facility?
Not having pilots as designers?
Lack of project management?
Changing specifications mid-stream?
Other issues (air-worthiness certification rules, for example)?

Have you ever been in a project where upward communication was controlled by political constraints:  “It’s going great! Trust us!”

Structure of the meeting:

1) First Hour: Only the book.  In the first hour, we discuss questions from completely within the context of the book. This constraint encourages everyone to contribute to the discussion.

2) Second Hour: Personal anecdotes and specialized knowledge. The second hour encourages discussion of personal anecdotes about similar projects, specialized knowledge about airships, and more.

Further reading: 

The book is the only reading needed for this meeting, but you might be interested in other course material available at “Downloads for the Nevil Shute Course.”

 PO Box 5731, Hanover NH  03755, 603-790-8291,

1 comment:

Joffan said...

Enjoy your meeting! It's a great book to take time discussing.

The crash of the R101 could also - from Nevil Shute's account - be attributed to the recklessness of the pilots - or, equivalently, the pressure on them for results. What we would call a lack of safety culture, even given the difference in the standards of the time. Of course that might also be viewed as the last link in a chain of problems.