Changing the Way We Think

Isn't it frustrating that, despite the endless number of TV channels available on satellite, cable and Freeview, when you flop lower yourself slowly down on the settee for a few minutes respite, you often cannot find a programme that you want to watch? Now, I know that recording on hard disc drives (and on video before them of course) can alleviate this trivial problem of modern life, but most programmes are an hour long and my “flops” are often of a shorter duration. I have watched a number of recorded programmes piecemeal: a twenty minute burst here and a twenty minute burst there. But there are some programmes that you want to watch from start to finish without an extended break, or breaks, in the middle. As a consequence, I have accumulated a digital pile which matches the physical piles of papers and is a constant reminder of the need for better time management!

Just before sitting down to write this text, I added another TV programme to my digital pile. I have subsequently discovered that it was the first of a series so I'll have to record even more! This was the programme “The Real Noah's Ark”. For those of you that didn't see it, Dr Irving Finkel, who works at the British Museum, describes how he was given a small tablet, covered in ancient writing, which details instructions on how to build Noah's ark. The programme goes on to show the construction of a replica. Unfortunately, I don't think that the 3,700-year-old instructions contained copies of the NDT procedures applied to the ark but having not yet watched the programme I can't be sure. However, I have seen enough of the trailers for the programme to know that it does have, what I consider to be, an important lesson for the NDT profession.

If I had asked you, before the information given in the TV programme was publicised, to draw a picture of Noah's Ark then I suspect that nearly all of you, and myself included, would have drawn something like the picture on the left. OK, the more creative of you would have added a giraffe and an elephant. The key observation is that we would have drawn something based on our common concept of how a ship /boat should look like: larger in the length than in the width with a bow and a stern. The instructions given on the tablet lead to the construction of a round boat, similar to a coracle, as shown in the picture on the right, which runs contrary to what we would have drawn. Yet, it is a more sensible approach.  As the programme points out, the coracle was a common craft in  use at the time and the objective of the Ark was not to travel from A to B, but to keep afloat until the flood waters subsided.

I expressed my opinion last month that the barriers identified in the KTN report are there because of the historical development of the NDT profession, which we continue to allow to persist in the 21st century: I believe that we are stuck in the mode of group thinking that leads us to draw the Ark with the shape of a typical modern ship.  We need to start thinking creatively to achieve a “coracle” view of NDT.

Much to my delight, at the BINDT conference last month, when “On the Job” went on the road the audience rose to the challenge and issues were raised and suggestions made:

  • TOFD could have been a quicker success if the technique and equipment details had been freely disseminated
  • There is problem with developing new equipment and then it being replicated better and cheaper by others
  • There is a need for a place to test new technology before taking it to clients
  • There is a need to manage the client's perception of NDT

So a start has been made, but there is still a way to go and we need you to participate by sending in your responses to the issues raised by the KTN report. How do we improve the development and acceptance of techniques and equipment whilst protecting a company's intellectual property? How do we persuade clients of the importance of NDT? How do we attract more people into the profession?

Post your ideas and comments on the BINDT facebook page, tweet them @BINDT, e-mail them to the editor or myself at the email addresses below or enter into the discussion on the BINDT LinkedIn group at:

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within the NDT Newspaper. They do not represent the views of AMEC or the HSE who funded the PANI projects.

Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Newton Building, St George’s Avenue, Northampton NN2 6JB. Fax: 01604 89 3861; Email:

or email Bernard McGrath direct at

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