Page 14: of Maritime Reporter Magazine (September 2022)

The Marine Design Edition

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Back to the Drawing Board

Pondering Truths in Design

By Rik van Hemmen “T e great liability of the engineer compared to men of other professions is that his works are out in the open where all can see them.” st

Herbert Hoover, 31 President of the United States of America n producing a column for the Marine Design issue, I know there are some things we do not know. But there considered a number of subjects, but in starting to write are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know about them, somehow my mind connected to “Beam is we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history

ICheap.” I have a faint memory of being made aware of of our country and other free countries, it is the latter this during a discussion of a ship design by a design luminary category that tends to be the dif? cult ones.” very early in my career, but I don’t remember who it was. Rummy cast his comment in the realm of historical evalu-

When ? rst putting pencil to paper on some design, I always ation, but that is just hindsight. Designers engage in foresight think about that when I make my ? rst rough sketch. It is a and every designer deals with the Rumsfeld matrix.

very powerful truism, and over the years I have seen it applied You always design based on things you know, and you quite effectively quite a number of times. avoid the things you do not know; but you cannot prevent

The weird thing about this truism is that it may never be getting bitten by the things you do not know you do not know.

apparent to a young Naval Architect until somebody mentions In our presently very rapidly changing technological world it and then she will go: Hmm, yes, wow! Yes, beam is cheap! (and, trust me, it is changing faster today than in the last 40

Even when the problem is discovered after the vessel has years in my career), we will be faced with many unknowns we been built, sponsons are often the only cost-effective ? x, and, did not know we did not know.

while not exactly pretty, they are quite cheap compared to all This is something all designers (engineers) live with and the alternatives. the great engineer, and president with bad timing, Herbert

Since my “Beam is Cheap” discovery, I have run into oth- Hoover, expressed it as: ers truisms, but most are detail truisms. Such as: I can always make a more ef? cient structure in cold molded wood than “The great liability of the engineer compared to men standard ? berglass, or engines burn ½ pound of fuel per horse- of other professions is that his works are out in the power per hour. open where all can see them. His acts, step by step,

There are fewer design truisms that can be applied in a more are in hard substance. He cannot bury his mistakes in general fashion. the grave like the doctors. He cannot argue them into

I will discuss two of them. The ? rst one is relatively fa- thin air or blame the judge like the lawyers. He cannot, mous, but not generally considered to be a design truism. It is like the architects, cover his failures with trees and the Rumsfeld matrix. vines. He cannot, like the politicians, screen his short-

He provided that matrix when asked about the lack of comings by blaming his opponents and hope that the evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of people will forget. The engineer simply cannot deny weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. Rumsfeld that he did it. If his works do not work, he is damned. waf? ed about providing an answer, but, oddly, his de? ection That is the phantasmagoria that haunts his nights and was quite true. He said: dogs his days. He comes from the job at the end of the day resolved to calculate it again. He wakes in the “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are night in a cold sweat and puts something on paper that always interesting to me, because as we know, there are looks silly in the morning. All day he shivers at the known knowns; there are things we know we know. We thought of the bugs which will inevitably appear to jolt also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we its smooth consummation.” 14 Maritime Reporter & Engineering News • September 2022

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