10 Calculation Errors That Proved To Be Disastrous


A few months back, we saw how train operator SNCF made a blunder in its calculation/desk study and how it incurred huge losses owing to the mistake. However, that got us thinking that this can’t be the only time when companies/individuals have opted to act sorry instead of playing it safe and therefore, we have compiled this list where a slight miscalculation and overlooking a simple detail has cost lives and/or millions of dollars.

10. The Millennium Bridge

The Millennium Bridge in London was opened in June 2000, however, it soon became evident that the designers had forgotten to cater for the synchronized downfall and the side swaying and as a result, the bridge was closed to install the dampers. The bridge re-opened in February 2002. Although no incident took place, but still, it gave the people walking on it the thrill of a lifetime.

9. The Sochi biathlon track

Before the opening day of the Sochi Winter Olympics it was found out that the biathlon track was about 40 meters short and thank God it was the track that was short and not the swimming pool. The shortage was overcome within three days before the first event on the particular track took place.

8. Scott’s Diet Calculations

This one was a horrible miscalculation that resulted in a whole team of explorers to die of starvation. Robert Falcon Scott in his 1910-1912 expedition to the South Pole, made erroneous calculations for ration requirement of his team. It later turned out that the count was 3,000 calories less than what was required and the whole team starved to death.

7. The Laufenburg bridge

Sea level varies from place to place and every country uses a sea level that is locale to itself. However, what to do when you are in a location where two different sea levels merge? Such was the case for the Laufenburg Bridge which enjoys part of Germany and part of Switzerland. The end result was difference in elevation of the two ends of bridge that were supposed to join because the designers in Germany used another sea level whereas the designers in Switzerland used another. The difference was reported to be 27 cm and the German side had to lower their part of the bridge. The changes incurred huge losses to the government

6. Stonehenge model

Apparently, rock bands have a history with Stonehenge models; some ended up too large and some ended up as too big. Black Sabbath’s version turned out to be quite big because of a mix up between meters and feet whereas during the “This is Spinal Tap” show of a rock group, the Stonehenge megalith turned out to be small since feet were mistaken for inches.

5. Big Ben Bell

The House of Parliament in London houses the Big Ben bell, which cracked when it was tested back in 1857. Upon failure it was melted down and set for recasting. However, the new bell in 1859 also cracked only after three days of installation. Theories arose that blamed the size of bell whereas some took into account the composition of bell. However, the final decision came in the form of replacement of hammer with a lighter one and rotation of the bell by about one-eighth of a turn. The whole issue was not only an embarrassment for the government, but also incurred significant repair costs.

4. The Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Telescope, after it was launched, sent back the images it took and to the scientists’ dismay, those images were a bit blurred. It turned out that the main mirror was out by about 1/50th of a human hair. Although the error was too small, yet it was ample enough to jeopardize the whole project and that would have happened if the scientists didn’t come up with a quick fix that involved making corrective glasses for the Hubble Telescope. The glasses were named Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (Costar).

3. The Gimli Glider

It would seem that the blunder of units is a persistent mistake that keeps on happening every now and then. In 1983, an Air Canada flight that was among the first ones to employ the metric measurements found out that the crew had miscalculated the fuel quantity during refueling. Admittedly they mistook pounds of fuel for kilograms and this resulted in them getting half the fuel than what was required. Fortunately, the pilot was able to land the plane on Gimli runway after running out of fuel. This earned this particular the name; ‘Gimli Glider’.

2. The Vasa warship

Back in 1628, the world’s most powerful warship sank after travelling for about a mile into the maiden voyage. The accident resulted in the death of about 30 people who were on board. The warship was known as Vasa and had 64 bronze canons on board. The warship was raised in 1961 and the experts, after carrying out analysis stated that the ship was thicker on the port side as compared to the starboard side. Apparently 4 kind of rulers were used to build the ship; two were Swedish feet calibrated (12 inches) and two were calibrated in Amsterdam feet (11 inches).

1. The Mars Climate Orbiter

The first interplanetary weather satellite known as Mars Orbiter was lost back in 1999. The satellite was designed to orbit Mars as the name dictates however, the $125 million probe failed due to inconsistency of units. According to the investigation report; NASA used imperial units whereas the contractor used metric units.

Do you know any similar calculation mistakes? let us know in the comments section.