What do Pilot Suicide and the LHC Have in Common?

So, authorities now believe that the Germanwings crash was the result of pilot suicide. As my wife pointed out, they can’t actually prove that. As far as we know, there was no suicide note anywhere, and we don’t actually know what happened inside the cockpit – except that he locked the regular pilot out when he went to the bathroom.
Lots of suggestions are being made about how to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. That a stewardess should stay in the cockpit if the pilot has to go out, stuff like that (hey, pilot! It’s a 2 hour flight, can’t you hold it? Why didn’t you go in Barcelona?)
The ultimate safety feature is just around the technological corner. We have driverless cars; can driverless planes be far behind?
The technology will probably be the easy part. There is a natural human reluctance to completely trust machines. Although I’m convinced we’ll eventually get there – we got used to elevators without elevator boys and gas stations without attendants, eventually – there may well be a significant lag between technological capability and actual implementation.
I know I find it reassuring to realize there is a well-trained, professional pilot flying the plane. I always figure he (or she) wants to get through the flight alive as much as I do, and I’ll make it as long as they do. Now, I’m a little bit less certain of that.
In other news, the good folks at the Large Hadron Collider are going to attempt to create a miniature black hole. On the one hand, I’m excited about that and it’s cool; the march of science is a stirring parade. On the other hand, I saw Flash Forward. Actually, the TV series was set in L.A., and it devolved pretty quickly into a stupid cop show, but the book was set in Geneva, and it was the LHC that caused the problem.
Back on the first hand again, I take solace in the fact that people who work at the LHC are very smart, and don’t necessarily want to destoy the universe.
At least I hope so.
So, authorities now believe that the Germanwings crash was the result of pilot suicide. As my wife pointed out, they can’t actually prove that. As far as we know, there was no suicide note anywhere, and we don’t actually know what happened inside the cockpit – except that he locked the regular pilot out when he went to the bathroom.
Lots of suggestions are being made about how to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. That a stewardess should stay in the cockpit if the pilot has to go out, stuff like that (hey, pilot! It’s a 2 hour flight, can’t you hold it? Why didn’t you go in Barcelona?)
The ultimate safety feature is just around the technological corner. We have driverless cars; can driverless planes be far behind?
The technology will probably be the easy part. There is a natural human reluctance to completely trust machines. Although I’m convinced we’ll eventually get there – we got used to elevators without elevator boys and gas stations without attendants, eventually – there may well be a significant lag between technological capability and actual implementation.
I know I find it reassuring to realize there is a well-trained, professional pilot flying the plane. I always figure he (or she) wants to get through the flight alive as much as I do, and I’ll make it as long as they do. Now, I’m a little bit less certain of that.
In other news, the good folks at the Large Hadron Collider are going to attempt to create a miniature black hole. On the one hand, I’m excited about that and it’s cool; the march of science is a stirring parade. On the other hand, I saw Flash Forward. Actually, the TV series was set in L.A., and it devolved pretty quickly into a stupid cop show, but the book was set in Geneva, and it was the LHC that caused the problem.
Back on the first hand again, I take solace in the fact that people who work at the LHC are very smart, and don’t necessarily want to destoy the universe.
At least I hope so.

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