Scientific Method: Applications in Failure Investigation and Forensic Science

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Most failure or accident investigations begin at the end of the story: after the explosion, after the fire has been extinguished, or after the collapse. In many instances, information about the last event and the starting event is known reasonably well. Information about what occurred between these endpoints, however, is often unclear, confusing, and perhaps contradictory. Scientific Method: Applications in Failure Investigation and Forensic Science explains how scientific investigative methods can best be used to determine why and how a particular event occurred.

While employing examples from forensic engineering, the book uses principles and ideas applicable to most of the forensic sciences. The author examines the role of the failure investigator, describes the fundamental method for investigation, discusses the optimal way to organize evidence, and explores the four most common reasons why some investigations fail. The book provides three case studies that exemplify proper report writing, contains a special chapter profiling a criminal case by noted forensic specialist Jon J. Nordby, and offers a reading list of resources for further study.

Concise and illustrative, this volume demonstrates how the scientific method can be applied to failure investigation in ways that avoid flawed reasoning while delivering convincing reconstruction scenarios. Investigators can pinpoint where things went wrong, providing valuable information that can prevent another catastrophe.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The well-organized text and excellent cause-and-effect tables and graphics make the subject matter very palatable while delivering a virtual investigation blueprint. If you are remotely interested in why something fails and how to prevent a recurrence, this book is not only a great read, but an absolute must for your personal maintenance Body of Knowledge!
— Ken Bannister, writing in Maintenance Technology

At the end of the day a forensic reconstruction is only as reliable as the science applied
to the data, which in turn is only as reliable as the data collected, documented, and preserved. This book goes a long way in preparing or reminding a person of their obligations as a forensic investigator in order to distinguish what is reliable science and what is prejudice, chance, or just a good guess.
Dalton Brown, writing in MVC Forensics

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Randall K. Noon owns a consulting firm in Hiawatha, Kansas.

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Table of Contents

The Fog Went Thud v

Series Preface xi

Foreword xiii

Preface xvii

About the Author xix

1 Introduction 1

General 1

What a Failure Investigator Does 4

The Conclusion Pyramid 6

Some Common Terms of the Art 9

Crime versus Failure 14

How Accidents and Failures Occur 15

Eyewitness Information 16

Exchange I 17

Exchange II 17

Some Investigative Methods 17

Role in the Legal System 18

2 The Fundamental Method 21

The Fundamental Basis for Investigation 21

The Scientific Method 22

The Value of Falsification 27

Iteration: The Evolution of a Hypothesis 36

Lessons Learned 42

3 More about the Fundamental Method 43

More Historical Background 43

A Comparison of Deductive and Inductive Reasoning 51

Apriorism and Aposteriorism 59

Sophistry 63

The Method of Exhaustion 69

Coincidence, Correlation, and Causation 72

Applying the Scientific Method to Determine a Root Cause 74

The Scientific Method and the Legal System 75

Convergence of Independent Methods 76

Occam's Razor 77

4 Organizing Evidence 81

Data Collection and Efficient Sorting Schemes 81

Verification of Facts 83

Organization of Data and Evidence: Timelines 86

Cause-and-Effect Diagrams 89

A Place to Start 96

Event and Causal Factors Diagrams 97

Investigation Strategies 101

Scientific Method 101

Fault Tree Analysis (FTA) 101

Why Staircase 102

Human Performance Evaluation Process (HPEP) 103

Change Analysis 104

Barrier Analysis 105

Motive, Means, and Opportunity (MMO) 107

Management Organizational Risk Tree (MORT) 109

Proprietary Investigation Methods 110

5 Four Common Reasons Why Some Investigations Fail 113

Introduction 113

Reason 1 The Tail Wagging the Dog 113

Reason 2 Lipstick on a Corpse 115

Reason 3 Elementary, My Dear Watson, Elementary 116

Reason 4 Dilution of the Solution 118

6 Report Writing: Three Case Studies 121

Reporting the Findings of an Investigation 121

Three Sample Reports 127

7 Misplaced Method in the Science of Murder Jon J. Nordby 155

Introduction 155

The Scene 155

Further Search of the Premises 157

The State's Expert Reconstructs the Murder from the Clues 158

Revisiting the Scene Science: The Problem of Data 160

Testing to Develop Scientific Inferences from Data 162

Scientific Inferences from the Decedent's Sweater 162

Scientific Inferences from the Suspect's Glasses 166

Scientific Conclusions about the Shooting Events 172

8 Reading List 173

Books and Monographs 173

Papers and Articles 108

Index 183

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