Philosophical Society of Washington

Risks and Trade-Offs

Robert L. Hershey, P. E.

2114th Meeting Abstract
Friday, February 11, 2000 at 8:30 P.M.


Risks and trade-offs affect the decisions we make as individuals and as a society. How much money does a bettor lose and how much money does the state make on an average lottery ticket? Is it advantageous to buy collision insurance for a car? These questions involve the "mathematical expectation" what you can expect to gain minus what you can expect to lose. What is the probability of glass breaking under dynamic loading, such as wind, blast, or sonic boom? A protective laminated glass barrier has been proposed for the White House by architect Arthur Cotton Moore. What are the trade-offs of using such a glass barrier in reopening Pennsylvania Avenue? The closing of Pennsylvania Avenue has cost tens of millions of dollars per year in lost time due to traffic congestion. Trade-offs also occur in considering the costs of pollution controls. Examples of controlling particulate emissions in Eastern Europe will be discussed.

About the Author:

Robert L. Hershey received his B.S. summa cum laude in mechanical engineering from Tufts University in 1963 and his M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT in 1964. He received his Ph.D. in engineering from Catholic University of America in 1973. His doctoral dissertation was a statistical model to determine the probability of glass breakage under dynamic loading. He has held engineering and management positions at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Weston Instruments, BBN, and Booz Allen and Hamilton. As Division Vice President of Science Management Corporation, he ran the firm's Washington operations, consulting in energy and environment. Since 1988, he has been a consulting engineer in program planning. He has written articles for the Horizon section of the Washington Post, and he is the author of the book "How to Think with Numbers."

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