Better Re-Check Those Numbers
Here is a lesson in how placing total faith in computer simulations can be utter folly - and deadly! As part of NASA's investigation into the shuttle Columbia's breakup over TX last winter, Boeing, builder of the wing leading edge (LE) sections, presented simulations proving that the dislodged chunk of main fuel tank insulating foam that struck the LE could not possibly have compromised the structure and therefore precipitate the disaster. Later, NASA engineers fired a similarly-sized real chunk of foam at a real wing LE, and were shocked to witness the resulting 16" hole! Boeing's detailed report, complete with tables, graphs and charts from their simulations, insists the hole isn't really there.