Making Causality

21st December 2016

At 14 episodes over as many months and with 2016 drawing to a close I wanted to take a few moments to walk through why and what I do to make this podcast. Throughout my career I’ve come across so many things that went wrong on different scales, some with lethal consequences but most, thankfully not. For the greater world there is no shortage of mistakes and incidents that I’ve taken a personal interest in during my life. As an engineer when I read about a cruise ship sinking, bridges collapsing, and nuclear reactors surviving a Tsunami (or not) I can’t help but think - what could have been done differently?

I approach every episode of Causality wearing my professional hat as best I can. If there’s anything I’m not convinced by, I’ll dig further until I’m satisfied. I’ve read a lot of inquiry findings and investigation reports and am aware of the biases that often creep in and affect the words on the page, the over-dramatisation of documentaries and the twisting of the facts to get the desired finding. Facts don’t lie if you dig deep enough.

Unsatisfied with the English translated section of the Amagasaki "accident" report I spent hours digging through the Japanese version of the sections relating to mental state of the driver bouncing between different translation tools to try and understand whether the driver had been getting enough sleep. Unable to locate a single definition source of information about Flint Michigan I went over dozens of articles on what lead up to the incident and dug through some textbooks on corrosion control techniques to understand what actually happened to the water supply. Unhappy with the popular documentary on BP Texas, I went through the multi-hundred page report and the Chemical Safety Board depiction of the event and stripped out the details that made the most sense as the root causes. That’s just three examples that come to mind.

This level of research, comprehension and effort takes time and that’s why it can take up to 30 hours of preparation and 5 hours of recording, editing and post-production to create a single episode of Causality. This is why there is typically one a month.

Causality has been a chance for me to connect my online and offline worlds in a positive way. I like to think that engineers listen to the show and can learn something from the conclusions drawn in each one. Even if they don’t, I personally have learned a huge amount from researching and questioning the official stories and in trying to comprehend what went wrong, I’ve ended up picking up some things to be wary of myself in my own career. It’s my hope that this can be a different way for people to learn about fault finding, root cause analysis and understanding that incidents can be prevented and that nothing is truly an "accident".

I will put whatever spare time I can into making every episode as good as I possibly can and whilst this is far from my full time job I try to treat it as if it were. I couldn’t make this show without the support of listeners and especially Patrons of the show via Patreon. Thank you all for your support, your encouragement and your feedback.

Welcome to Causality

10th October 2015

Causality is my (John Chidgey) solo podcast that dives into the details of the cause and effects of disasters, serious incidents and accidents that could have been prevented.

I’ve always been fascinated by cause and effect, fault tree analysis, failure prediction and learning from history, and inspired by the response to Episode 11 of Pragmatic I’m excited to tackle this show.

The show will air every fortnight starting next week and will be limited in length to 45 minutes. For longer topics I will be splitting that over two episodes, but I will try to avoid that when I can.

I hope you enjoy Causality.