- Catastrophic failure
A catastrophic failure is a sudden and total failure of some system from which recovery is impossible. Catastrophic failures often lead to cascading systems failure.
The term is most commonly used for structural failures, but has often been extended to many other disciplines where total and irrecoverable loss occurs. Such failures are investigated using the methods of
forensic engineering, which aims to isolate the cause or causes of failure.
Examples of catastrophic failure of engineered structures include:
Tay Rail Bridgedisaster of 1879, where the center half mile of the bridge was completely destroyed while a train was crossing in a storm. The bridge was badly designed and its replacement was built as a separate structure upstream of the old.
* The collapse of
Galloping Gertie(the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge) of 1940, where the main deck of the road bridge was totally destroyed by dynamic oscillations in a 40 mph wind.
Banqiao Damfailure of 1975 and other dam failures April 27, 1987.
Hyatt Regency walkway collapseof 1981, where a suspended walkway in a hotel lobby collapsed completely, killing many people on the structure and those below.
* The Space Shuttle Challenger of 1986, in which an O-ring of the rocket booster failed, and the entire structure was lost,
* The Space Shuttle Columbia of 2003, where damage to a wing caused at take-off caused total loss on re-entry
* The total collapse of the multi-span
I-35W Mississippi River Bridgeon August 1, 2007
The term catastrophic failure is occasionally (and erroneously) used in computer software to indicate an unexpected error from which the system cannot meaningfully recover.
What Do You Care What Other People Think?", Richard Feynman, Ralph Leighton (contributor), W W Norton, 1988, ISBN 0-553-17334-0
* Peter R. Lewis, "Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay: Reinvestigating the Tay Bridge Disaster of 1879", Tempus, 2004, ISBN 0-7524-3160-9.
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