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Some disasters attributable to bad numerical computing

Posted on 06 November 2002 by Demian Turner

Are you sure you have enough pressure on you to design good software? Read some of these to put your latest project in context 😉

Have you been paying attention in your numerical analysis or scientific computation courses? If not, it could be a costly mistake. Here are some real life examples of what can happen when numerical algorithms are not correctly applied.

The Patriot Missile failure, in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, on February 25, 1991 which resulted in 28 deaths, is ultimately attributable to poor handling of rounding errors.

The explosion of the Ariane 5 rocket just after lift-off on its maiden voyage off French Guiana, on June 4, 1996, was ultimately the consequence of a simple overflow.

The sinking of the Sleipner A offshore platform in Gandsfjorden near Stavanger, Norway, on August 23, 1991, resulted in a loss of nearly one billion dollars. It was found to be the result of inaccurate finite element analysis.

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