Back in March, I wrote in my Editor's Page about how a hydraulics failure had been blamed for a malfunction during the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. You may recall that three arms were supposed to raise out of the floor, but only two did. Announcers — and an spokesperson for the Olympics — mentioned a malfunction of the hydraulic system as the cause.
This may not seem like the time to be writing about the Winter Olympics, but some news arrived I thought I'd share.
I had written that something else probably caused the malfunction — possibly a switch or sensor. I had made several inquiries to find the actual cause of the malfunction, but to no avail.
Eventually, though, I did hear from John Saluk, P.E., from Edmunton, Ab. John wrote, "My first reaction to the missing arm was, 'There's some hydraulic guy sweating!' Then I thought about it and said to my wife, 'I'll bet it's an electrical issue.' Later I heard a spokesman explain that some switch was either disconnected or not working. This didn't allow the top plate to slide back preventing the arm from raising."
So not only has hydraulics technology been vindicated, but I was in good company with my suggestion that the root cause of the failure was in the electrical control system. The problem is, millions of people heard hydraulics get blamed, but very few actually learned the real cause.