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Volume 27, Issue 3

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The Iceberg Theorem

Written by  Gregg Jacobsen, CBCP November 22, 2007

Some years back, while in the defense industry, I met a fellow who mentioned that he once worked with a Hughes reliability engineer named Murphy, the very man responsible for “Murphy’s Law.” Reliability engineers are principally involved in analyzing why systems fail tests so they can determine changes to the materials, components and/or processes that will prevent a recurrence of the failure. This work tends to engender a lot of sarcastic commentary among its practitioners, so one can easily understand coming to conclusion that, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” A few years later, I came across a corollary to Murphy’s Law that I have seen proven out many times: Marshall’s Generalized Iceberg Theorem: “Seven-eighths of everything can’t be seen.” Man the Lookout Towers Of course, those familiar with icebergs understand that the specific gravity (a measure of relative density) of ice is such that, in salt water, only about one-eighth

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