Peter C. Olsen, P.E., Ae.E.

Registered Professional Engineer
Maryland License 12283
6904 Rawhide Ridge
Columbia, MD 21046
Phone: 410-997-8584
E-mail: olsen@sigmaxi.net

Mr. Olsen (Aero.E., Naval Postgraduate School, 1978) is a Member of the Senior Professional Staff of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. A former Coast Guard officer, he has extensive experience in applying mathematical models to solve practical problems in engineering and management -- and then convincing executive decision-makers to make use of the results. Among his successes are "Coast Guard Incorporated" (a capital investments model for the United States Coast Guard), the first National Strategy for Civil Aviation Security, and the mathematical model used to predict the work required to clean up the oil spilled by the Tank Vessel EXXON VALDEZ.


Some Crude Mathematics: Modeling the Work Required to Clean Up after the EXXON VALDEZ

The oil spill following the grounding of the Tank Vessel EXXON VALDEZ in Prince William Sound, Alaska, posed some monumental challenges. One such challenge was to estimate the amount of work that would be required to complete the clean up -- and to do it in time to allow enough men and material to be moved to the scene. This talk addresses the practical problems faced by two Coast Guard officers assigned to make that estimate by building a mathematical model that would be simultaneously accurate enough to be valuable, simple enough to be maintained, and understandable enough to be trusted by non-technical decision-makers. The result was a composite of simple assumptions and rough analyses that had only three virtues:

  1. It was completed on time,
  2. It was used by the people who paid for it, and
  3. Its predictions were borne out by events
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