Right now, wrong tomorrow?

I looked out of the window and, although the ground was wet, the rain had ceased. The forecast was mostly cloudy for a time this morning, with showers or longer spells of rain. Later in the morning it would brighten up, but there was the added caveat that there would be a few showers around into the afternoon. Thinking that the rain had eased, I dressed for my run accordingly: I could cope with short showers. As I stepped out of the door, the rain came back. Phew, that was lucky. A quick change of my top to a running jacket and I was off. Half a mile into the run, the rain ceased and I started to warm up. Maybe I had been wrong to change. After another similar distance the rain returned again. My attire was validated. The persistent drizzle was quite refreshing. Living in the North West, I had walked and played sport in it all my life. Although I do not want it raining all of the time, I missed it during the hot summer months this year.

Rather than putting a dampener on my run, the rain enhanced it. The trees were in their autumn colours. I will leave you to read the many poets who have described autumn much better than I could aspire to but, needless to say, it was quite uplifting. The birds that I saw added to the experience and the recent rain had raised the level in the brook, so that its gurgling and bubbling, as it passed over the logs and stones, added to the sensory ingredients.

Running in such an environment allows you to enjoy the present but it also gives you time and space to let your mind wander. With it being Remembrance Sunday, that wandering included the past: remembering those who died and also those who survived, bearing the physical and mental scars. It is because they survived that I am here today. While this Remembrance stretched back 100 years, you will be reading this as we approach the end of 2018 and, at such time, it is only natural to look back on the past year. We may reflect on what has occurred and what impact there has been on the different aspects of our lives, before we begin in the New Year looking forward and making plans.

When I set out for my run, I had made the wrong decision regarding the weather. My initial reaction was that the weather forecast was wrong but, when I revisited it, I could see that it was my interpretation that was wrong and that the wording was sufficiently flexible to fit what actually occurred. Being wrong has different degrees attached to it. Last year, it was reported that Freddie Flintoff was convinced that the world is flat. While this was once an accepted belief, it has been known and proven for a long time that the world is round. There is a book with the title When the Earth Was Flat: All the Bits of Science We Got Wrong, written by Graeme Donald and first published by Michael O’Mara Books in 2012, which looks at the many instances where a belief or accepted hypothesis was subsequently shown to be wrong.

With the rapid development of technology, I was under the unstated impression that virtually all of these fundamental errors were some way in the past. That was until I read a book about the effect of the immune system on the mind. The author, Edward Bullmore, explained that he was taught that something called the ‘blood-brain barrier’ prevented the cells and proteins of the body’s immune system from passing into the brain: the immune system and the nervous system were kept completely separate. He went on to say that it is now clear that a lot of what he was taught in medical school was wrong! That had a big impact on me because Edward was at medical school in the 1980s. Thirty-five years may be a long time to some younger readers, but it was when I started out in NDT. It was the time of the public enquiry into the Sizewell B pressurised water reactor (PWR) and it was shown that the routine application of standards would not provide the required confidence in the quality of key components. Validation, now referred to as qualification, was instigated, along with a lot of basic research into the responses of defects and the effects of material structure.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is required of us all to maintain our professional competence. In particular, all Engineering Council registrants make a commitment to maintain and enhance their competence. Recording of CPD undertaken will become mandatory for registered engineers and technicians no later than January 2019. Additionally, CPD will require a reflective statement concerning the way in which the meeting or activity added to your competence or will help you perform better in the future. So, as you approach the end of the year and you reflect on what has passed, I ask you to have a think about NDT. What might we as a profession have got wrong? What belief do we have within the profession that may be shown in the future to be erroneous?

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within NDT News. They do not represent the views of Wood or BINDT.

Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Midsummer House, Riverside Way, Bedford Road, Northampton NN1 5NX. Fax: +44 (0)1604 438300; Email: ndtnews@bindt.org or email Bernard McGrath direct at bernard.mcgrath@woodplc.com

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