Episode 16 – Certain Questions

Honesty and humility about uncertainty are an important part of safety. At one end of the spectrum is false certainty about safety, and at the other is dogmatism about particular ways of achieving safety. Both involve overconfidence in designs, methods, and the correctness of the person making the judgement. The main feature of this episode is an interview with senior safety researcher Michael Holloway. The episode also covers the 1971 Iraq Grain Disaster.

Episode 16 Transcript is here.


  1. Project Syndicate Report on Iraqi Disasters
  2. Science Magazine Article on Iraq Poison Grain Disaster
  3. Bulletin of the World Health Organisation article on the Iraqi Poison Grain Disaster

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Episode 15 – Disowning Fukushima

Sociologist John Downer talks about his recent paper, “Disowning Fukushima: Managing the Credibility of Nuclear Reliability Assessment in the Wake of Disaster”. If you’re in the business of producing or relying on quantitative risk assessment, what do you do when an event such as Fukushima occurs? Do you say that the event didn’t happen? Do you claim that the risk assessment wasn’t wrong? Do you say that their risk assessment was wrong, but yours isn’t? Maybe you admit that there was a problem, but claim that everything has now been sorted out.

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