Brady Heywood Podcast

Join forensic engineer Sean Brady as he discusses engineering failures and disasters. Sean examines both the technical and human causes of failure, explores failures in a range of professions, and talks about why our decision making is not nearly as rational as we’d like to think. Follow our Twitter updates at @BradyHeywoodPod
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May 16, 2018

We are still working hard to complete our 5 episode Apollo 13 series - apologies for the delay in releasing...

Dec 4, 2017

Listen to our Apollo 13 teaser, with actual audio from its launch on 11 April 1970.

In the New Year we will tackle the story of Apollo 13. In this episode we chat about the podcast journey so far and we discuss the new episodes currently in the planning stages.

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Nov 8, 2017

The collapse of the I40 bridge in 2002 was a tragedy, but its aftermath was a story you simply couldn't make up.

It begins with a barge, a bridge, and an impostor, and it ends with a prison sentence, Vladimir Putin, and cheque fraud in Alaska

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A photograph of the collapse is available at

Sep 9, 2017

Can ego knock a bridge down? How one man's decisions caused the collapse of the Quebec Bridge.

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The Royal Commission Report into the collapse can be found at

Jul 31, 2017

Why do the really big catastrophes happen? The earthquakes, the financial crashes, and even the outbreak of the First World War. In this episode we dive into the weird world of complexity theory.

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Mark Buchanan's Ubiquity can be found at

Jun 8, 2017

The aircraft crashes that changed the world of aviation. And the reason aircraft windows aren't square.

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A number of books cover the crash of the aircraft, but Henry Petroski's To Engineer is Human is one of the best:

There are a number of documentaries on YouTube, including:


May 1, 2017

On 1 August 2007 at 6:05 pm, during rush hour traffic, the I35-W Highway Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota collapsed into the Mississippi River.

We’ll look at how a bridge could suddenly collapse after 40 years of service. And we’ll ask was there an issue with design, or was there abnormal bridge loading at the time of the failure? Or was there both?

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The National Transportation Safety Board's report can be found at

A photograph of the loading on the bridge can be found in the NTSB failure report on page 26, see figure 16. 


Apr 3, 2017

Did the Hanging Garden of Babylon actually exist or was it myth?

And why bother talking about it in this podcast?

Because apart from whether or not the Garden existed, or more importantly where it was located, the story of its history is fascinating.

But even more fascinating is the extraordinary engineering achievement that may have underpinned its very existence. 

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A sketch of the Garden, as well as the bas relief depicting the garden at Ninevah, can be found here:

A detailed account of the discovery of the ruins at Jerwan can be found here:

A link to Dr Dalley's book can be found here:

Details of Jason Ur's work on declassified satellite imagery can be found here:

My article on the subject can be found in The Structural Engineer magazine here: 

Feb 27, 2017

With doctors saying her husband is dying, Emily Warren Roebling sets out on a path to see the great bridge through to completion.


Feb 13, 2017

The greatest engineering challenge of the age. A male dominated profession. One woman.

Emily Warren Roebling.


Jan 30, 2017

The collapse of the Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge is one of the world's most recognised structural failures.

Were there any warnings from history that this failure could have occurred, and more importantly, if failures like this had ever happened at the past - why did we as a profession forget the lessons learned?

Footage of the bridge collapse can be viewed on YouTube 

Jan 17, 2017

The tragic crash of the Virgin Galactic spacecraft carries lessons for all of us. Do failures happen because humans make mistakes? Or do they happen because we design systems that ultimately fail us as humans?

Detailed article on the disaster can be found at

The National Transportation Safety Board's report can be found at

The National Transportation Safety Board video of the seconds leading up to the disaster can be found at 

Dec 12, 2016

What does a stadium collapse, baseball, fire fighting, and taking a shower have in common?

In this episode we explore the concept of expertise and ask does it have a dark side? Indeed, can failures sometimes occur precisely because we possess expertise?

But before all that we'll join a group of firefighters about to step into an obscure valley in Montana in 1949...

Sean delivered this presentation to approximately 550 delegates attending the Queensland Mining Industry Health and Safety Conference in August 2016. The title of the presentation was “Wedded to Our Tools – Why Expertise Can Hold Us back”.

Look out for the next episode of the Brady Heywood Podcast in mid January 2017.

Detailed information on the Mann Gulch fire can be found at and

Nov 19, 2016

What is not well known about the West Gate Bridge collapse in Melbourne, Australia in 1970 was that it was only one of a string of similar bridge failures that happened around the world.

The failures highlighted that the engineering profession’s understanding of these bridge types was clearly lacking. In Melbourne the profession paid the ultimate price: 35 fatalities.

Nov 15, 2016

What can heart attack diagnosis tell us about engineering failures?

Perhaps not much directly, but it does provide fascinating insight into whether or not more information really leads to better decision making.

This episode examines the story of the system developed at Cook County Hospital in Chicago to diagnose if someone was at risk of having a heart attack. It shows that in some cases less (information) really is more.

For a detailed description of Cook County Hospital and their heart attack diagnosis system refer to Chapter 4 of Malcolm Gladwell's excellent Blink.


Oct 31, 2016

While the technical cause of failure of the Malahide Viaduct in Ireland was straight-forward, the human factor that collapsed the bridge was a relatively new phenomenon: corporate memory loss.


Detailed article on the collapse can be found at

The Rail Accident Investigation Unit report on the collapse can be found at


Oct 15, 2016

Organ donation rates provide surprising insight into how we as humans make rational decisions. This podcast looks at this insight and examines how it can play a role in engineering failure, specifically examining the 2007 collapse of the I-35W Highway Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Johnson and Goldstein paper can be found at

Detailed article on the I-35W Highway Bridge collapse can be found at

The National Transportation Safety Board’s final report on the I-35W Highway Bridge collapse can be found at  

Sep 27, 2016

In 1978 an engineering design error was discovered in the Citicorp Tower in Manhattan. It was so serious that it threatened the tower’s integrity. This is the story of how it was found and the race against time to fix it.

Detailed article can be found at


Sep 26, 2016

What is the difference between a forensic structural engineer, as opposed to an ‘ordinary’ structural engineer? And what are the roles of these two very different types of engineers in legal disputes?

Detailed article can be found at

Sep 25, 2016

The structural collapse of walkways at the Hyatt Regency in 1981 was one of the most devastating collapses in US history. 114 died, over 200 were injured – needing the emergency rooms of 17 hospitals to treat them. We look at the story from the perspective of those involved.

Detailed article can be found at

Sep 24, 2016

Welcome to the Brady Heywood podcast – the podcast where we look at engineering failures and disasters.

My name is Sean Brady, and I’m a forensic structural engineer, which means I investigate the causes of engineering failures. And while I usually focus on figuring out the technical cause of a failure, I’m also interested in the role of human factors in these disasters. Because for every technical cause of failure – not just in engineering, but in any profession – there are a range of human factors that allow these technical issues to culminate in disaster.

Which brings us to the subject of these podcasts. We’ll be looking at stories of engineering failure, and talking about the lessons learned from them. We will also be looking at how forensic engineers go about the job of investigating collapses, and we’ll be chatting about their role in legal disputes. Occasionally, we’ll look at successes – but again this from the perspective of asking what were the lessons learned. And from time to time we’ll get into the world of psychology, which will help us look at how we as humans make decisions.

So these podcasts are aimed at a wide audience. The good news is that I’ve no plans on getting bogged down technically – for those of you who are interested in the technology I’ll point you in the right direction of the websites and articles you should have a look at.

I hope you enjoy these podcasts, and I hope they’ll help you reflect on how you approach your chosen profession – whatever it may be. At the very least I hope they’ll illustrate that sometimes our decision making is not near as rational as we’d like to think it is.