Why failure IS an option


James Dyson
James Dyson: Image/www.dyson.co.uk

James Dyson, he of eponymous cyclone vacuum  fame, has just penned a rather good post in Wired Magazine all about failure.


In most instances we regard failure as a negative, a bad thing and something to be avoided.  In most instances failure is accompanied with a feeling not unlike being punched repeatedly in the stomach – you know that sickening feeling when your sports team loses or news that you have failed an exam or test.

Seldom do you see or hear people rushing into the street, jumping up and down, screaming in delight that they have failed. But Dyson suggests that perhaps we should re-evaluate our approach to failure.

On the road to invention, failures are just problems that have yet to be solved – James Dyson

And he has ample proof –  from the point at which Dyson arrived at his notion that a cyclone would be the best way to boost the suction of his normal vacuum cleaner to actually launching the product – there was a period of 15 years of constant tweaking design.

He made a whopping 5,127 prototypes for the DC01. The company is now on its 35th model.

The ability to learn from mistakes — trial and error — is a valuable skill we learn early on. Recent studies show that encouraging children to learn new things on their own fosters creativity. Direct instruction leads to children being less curious and less likely to discover new things. – James Dyson

Dyson’s point is a good one – you tend to learn a lot from your mistakes – but it’s not a new one.

American inventor Thomas Alva Edison was making the same claim almost 100 years ago, discussing his invention of

Thomas Edison: Image/Library of Congress

the lightbulb:


Results? Why, man, I have gotten lots of results! If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward….

So perhaps failure is an option after all?






Da Vinci plays operation

The board game Operation lets you play at being a surgeon, the object of the game is to carefully remove unwanted foreign objects from the body of the hapless patient with a pair of tweezers, without setting off a buzzer and lighting up the patient’s bulbous red nose – he should really see a doctor about that!

Now some students at Johns Hopkins University have used the amazing surgical Da Vinci robot to play the game – with winning results!

Engineering a solution for safe drinking water

Video demonstration by Michael Pritchard of Lifesaver Systems gives a demonstration of his invention which helps transform contaminated drinking water into something that’s safe to drink. Video from TED Talks

Building a giant AirBus A380 in 7 minutes

Ever wanted to know what goes into building one of those massive airliners? The answers are revealed in this incredible seven minute video charting the fabrication of one of these giants of the sky.

Ludwig’s role in the development of the CD

Ever wondered why somethings end up looking like they do? You know, why do most bicycles have a diamond frame, why do cars have an accelerator, brake and clutch?

Well, a writer on Marginal Revolution has unearthed evidence of why the CD is 12cm in diameter, and it’s got nothing to do with the ability to be able to stick them to the front of the Sunday papers.

Beethoven painted by Joseph Karl Stieler
Crazy hair, crazy guy: Beethoven

Apparently it’s all to do with Ludwig Van Beethoven, the brilliant German composer, most famous for being profoundly deaf and having a hair cut that wouldn’t look out-of-place on Christopher Lloyd from Back to the Future.

While the boffins were working on the new music format there was some debate over its size. The decision was taken to base it on fitting the longest piece of music on one disc. the electronics giant Sony chose Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. They chose one of the longest recordings – coming in at 74 minutes long – which equated to 12cm in diameter.

Read the full story in Marginal Revolution  here

0-motorbike in less than 90 seconds

Great time-lapse video of workers at Italian motorbike manufacturer Ducati building it’s Diavel model at its factory in Bologna, Italy.
Provided by Motorcycle News

Forget making, let’s print a product

Reuters news report on the future of fabrication – 3D printing.  Providing the ability to print objects using similar technology to your desktop printer at home.

Wow! Stuff’s latest. . . .

Acts like a variation on the dancing flower (see here) from many moons ago, but apparently came from a different idea altogether- “an interactive dancing robot designed by scientists to help therapists improve the social development of autistic children” [Found at the Telegraph online]

Apparently this is set to be a Christmas blockbuster, retailing at around £25 rather than the cool £20k of the original!

Real world reactive cartoons

Scientists have developed an interactive projector which can beam animations onto any surface and interact with what they find. Via New Scientist

Amazing walking junk-built ‘bot


Amazing video of the Togolese student who designed and built a walking robot from spare parts, in a bid to inspire fellow students and school children. Via BotJunkie