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Resources: Member Publications
Member Publications

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Mathematical Foundations of System Safety Engineering: A Road Map for the Future

by Richard Zito

The book is avialable for purchase through Springer.

The eminent biologist David Attenborough once said, “There are some four million (species of) animals and plants- four million solutions to the problems of staying alive.”  In a sense, that is what Mathematical Foundations of System Safety Engineering is about- solutions to the problems of staying alive.  Since this book deals primarily with complex non-living hardware/firmware/software systems, the expression “staying alive” should be interpreted as continuing to perform a desired function.  Of course, collateral loss of human life as well as environmental damage can also occur during the failure of complex non-living systems.  Furthermore, even the casual observer cannot help noticing that catastrophic failures of nuclear reactors, submarines, aircraft, and other potentially dangerous complex systems occur far more frequently than anyone would want.  Ideally, such disasters should never occur!  In spite of engineers’ best efforts, there seems to be no way to stop such draconian accidents.  This record of failures naturally begs the question, “Is there any way to build a perfect failure-proof complex system?”  Or, at least, is there any systematic, scientific, way to design a complex system that minimizes risk?  And, how does one define “perfect” and “risk” for real systems?  This book attempts to answer these difficult questions.  Traditionally, the task of “mishap” (accident) prediction, as well as detection, and correction of system “hazards” (flaws that have not yet become mishaps) has been a heuristic activity of personnel who have gained their experience via “lessons learned” over (hopefully) many years of analyzing accidents.  This hit-and-miss approach to system safety is not what Mathematical Foundations is about.  Here, mathematical tools are described that provide certain, or at least probabilistic, solutions to the problems of prediction, detection, and correction.  As such, this textbook provides a definite course of study, instead of an apprenticeship of indefinite length and effectiveness.  Furthermore, it is a course of study that opens a new branch of engineering, and a new branch of scientific inquiry.   


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