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August 22, 2006

Katrina death toll drops to 1723

Nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, the official death toll for the storm now sits at 1723, down from an earlier estimate of 1836. The revised estimate reflects reclassification of out-of-state deaths.


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I am a professional engineer and I am wondering how many lives would have been saved if the New Orleans levies had a proper and deep foundation and had been maintained properly. The idea is to encourage young engineers to design things properly even though the thing's construction may cost a little more. It looks like it would be a little complicated but do-able. What do you think?

I hope that professional engineers will step up and offer their expertise, to the general public and to engineering students. They have a lot to contribute.

When I was in high school/college I had many friends in the engineering program at the University of British Columbia, They all laughed at their required course called "Society and the Engineer." I have no idea whether the course was good or not. I'm sure some of them made a point of denouncing it to me just for fun because they knew I would rise to the bait. (It's partly why I like engineers. They're almost as recreationally contentious as philosophers.)

Since then, there have been at least two major events that pertain directly to engineering expertise: Katrina and collapse of the twin towers on 9/11. I think these two events are relevant to engineering professional ethics in different ways. It would be great to get engineers to talk to students about professional ethics and advocacy. My friends learned about how to resist the pressure to endorse things they knew were wrong, but they didn't really learn how to leverage their expertise to ensure that society listens to engineers about best practices. (Katrina) Likewise, I don't think they got training about how to contribute to debates where pseudo-science is rife. (Twin towers conspiracy theories)

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