Making Economic Decisions: Could the World Trade Center Have Withstood the 9/11 Attacks?

In the immediate after math of the terrorist attacks of September II, 200I, most commentators assumed that no structure, however well built, could have withstood the damage inflicted by fully fueled passenger jets traveling at top speed.

But questions soon began to be raised. Investigators scrutinizing the towers' collapse noted that they had withstood the initial impact with amazing resiliency. What brought them down was the fires that followed.

Knowledgeable investigators noted that the rapid progress of the Twin Towers' fires showed similarities with earlier high-rise blazes that had resulted frommore mundane causes, suggesting that better fire prevention measures could have saved the ,buildingsfrom crumbling.

In spring 2002, a report drafted by the Federal EmergencyManagement Agency and the American Society of Civil Engineers suggested that the light, fluffy spray-applied fireproofing used throughout the towers might have been particularly vulnerable to damage from an impact or bomb blast. Sturdier material had been available, but it would have added significantweight to the building.

This book is about making decisions. Decision making is a broad topic, for it is a major aspect of everyday human existence. This book develops the tools to properly analyze and solve the economic problems that are commorny faced by engineers. Even very complex situations can be broken down into components from which sensible solutions are produced. If one understands the decision-making process and has tools for obtaining realistic comparisons between alternatives, one can expect to make better decisions.

Although we will focus on solving problems that confront firms in the marketplace, we will also use examples of how these techniques may be applied to the problems faced in daily life. Since decisionmaking or problem solving is our objective, let us start by looking at some problems.

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