Recently I have been seeing a lot of Facebook and Twitter post about the potential failure of the Three Gorges Dam in China. Most of the posts are speculating about total failure of the dam. This Twitter thread is a case in point:
𝐖𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐋𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐞 (𝐨𝐫 𝐃𝐚𝐦) 𝐁𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐤𝐬
1,000 km upriver from Shanghai and the mouth of the Yangtze Delta sits a marvel of modern mega-engineering:
The Three Gorges Dam.
It might be about to collapse. What happens if it does?
I think that looking at a total dam failure potentially misses the more likely partial failure and I thought that I would look at some failures that don’t involve the total collapse of the dam, but are still very bad. Here is a simulation of what could happen if the dam fails.
To call it potential disaster is understating the case. A small dam failure in Jonestown PA is still talked about a century later as a major disaster. If Three Gorges fails, the scope of the disaster will be incalculable.
The Samsung phone debacle. From corporate level, this has been a disaster. Samsung has lost significant portions of it’s market value and smart phone market share. Yet no one would normally assume that a battery would be the issue.
He has a rather snarky take on the anomaly and frankly I think he went a little overboard. He’s right that NASA hasn’t had a ground based failure since the old Atlas days. So far until this happened SpaceX hadn’t had any fueling issues either. So I don’t think that SpaceX is as incompetent as Thunderf00t seems to think that they are.
He gives an interesting study of how they failed. It turns out that it was a thermal issue rather than a component issue. My question is why anybody would produce stuff that certain to fail. Now if there were large assembly or component cost issue I could understand it, but the LEDs and resistors are going to cost within 1/10ths of a cent of each other and the bulbs are probably machine assembled. So the issue has to come down to design. I suspect that one problem is that it’s so easy to get Altium and make up a simple board like this. And if you print out the board and light everything up it works just fine, for a while. The design may have even been fine with the more expensive PCBs used for the prototypes. Which was the same PCBs the first few batches had.