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AI Predicts Manhole Explosions In New York City

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the hell's-own-pop-top dept.

Software 213

reillymj writes "Every so often, a 300-pound manhole cover blows sky high in Gotham, followed sometimes by a column of flame and smoke. (There are a few hundred 'manhole incidents' per year in the city, not all of them this dramatic.) Researchers from Columbia University applied machine learning algorithms to Con Edison's warren of aging electrical wires and sewage access points around Manhattan. As the system learns where dangerous mixtures of sewer gas and decrepit wiring are likely to come in contact, it makes forecasts about trouble spots, including where the next explosion may occur. The team has just completed rankings for manholes in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and plans to return to Manhattan's grid, armed with the most recent inspection and repair data." The research was published in the July issue of Machine Learning.

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213 comments

I saw Batman, I remember this (3, Funny)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849488)

I thought those manhole popping incidents were due to the heavy microwave emitter vaporizing the water?

Re:I saw Batman, I remember this (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32849498)

I thought those manhole popping incidents were due to the heavy microwave emitter vaporizing the water?

Oh, you mean the device they stole on a boat where they turned it on and did not plummet to the bottom of the ocean floor, cooking in steam? The one that doesn't seem to affect the 70% of water that makes up your body?

I am not a physicist but I'm not stupid either.

Re:I saw Batman, I remember this (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849680)

Does that mean CowboyNeal wasn't involved after all?

Re:I saw Batman, I remember this (2, Funny)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850264)

Did anyone else read this and immediately just start giggling? In my defense, it IS Friday...

AI Predicts Manhole Explosions In New York City

Rio de Janeiro (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32849496)

They need something like this here in Rio de Janeiro. There have been several exploding electrical manholes around here too.

Re:Rio de Janeiro (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32850276)

We did not have such things in Berlin (or any other city i lived in) as electrical wiring and gas pipes are physical placed in different locations beneath the street. Further there has to be a minimal distance between gas and electricity and the electric wiring must be isolated in a way that there is no leakage. If so they replace the wiring/gas pipes. However, I expect that this will go downhill since they privatized such infrastructure lately.

Re:Rio de Janeiro (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850380)

Yeah, I've never heard of anything like this either (UK here). It seems like a recipe for disaster in a country where litigation famously isn't capped by actual loss, surely no matter how much it costs to separate these would be offset by avoiding the first couple of multi-million dollar lawsuits.

Re:Rio de Janeiro (2, Informative)

camelrider (46141) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850674)

The gas involved here is from the sewer system, not "gas lines". Access to the sewer system is through the passageways for electric, water, etc., which are above.

death by manhole cover? (3, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849500)

I wonder if anybody has ever died from being hit on the head with one of these, seems it is likely. Shouldn't there be a way to secure the covers to the ground with a bolt that would at least cause the cover to not fly up but just turn over in case of an explosion?

Re:death by manhole cover? (5, Funny)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849540)

They should just put them on bungee cords so they shoot into the air and then slam back down in place.

Re:death by manhole cover? (5, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849662)

Oh yeah, Coyote ACME style, the only problem is calculating the event at the precise moment when the roadrunner is right above the manhole cover, or so that it gets right underneath it, I still think it is the Coyote who'll get hurt.

Re:death by manhole cover? (5, Funny)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849752)

There may be some merit in a hinge, as suggested a bit further down, but how's about also incorporating a large-scale version of the party blower that uncurls with a whistling noise - this would channel the explosive force harmlessly upwards (20ft?) and provide some entertainment at the same time. /yeah, it's Friday!

Re:death by manhole cover? (5, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850136)

>> large-scale version of the party blower

I think this would have to make a tremendous farting noise.

Re:death by manhole cover? (1)

JediTrainer (314273) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849802)

They should just put them on bungee cords so they shoot into the air and then slam back down in place.

Now that we can detect when they will occur, I'm smelling a new opportunity for a Darwin Award winner....

Re:death by manhole cover? (1)

Flea of Pain (1577213) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850082)

Ya! I want to be the first to ride one like Silver Surfer! Although I guess I'd be the Dirty Iron Surfer...

Re:death by manhole cover? (4, Informative)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849558)

the problem is that just about any bolting scheme will fail due to the bolting frame getting ripped out of the street if something big enough goes BOOM.

oh btw i think most manhole covers in major cities are bolted down for security reasons

Re:death by manhole cover? (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849622)

oh btw i think most manhole covers in major cities are bolted down for security reasons

sure, they're bolted, but it's usually just a pentagonal head that's not particularly difficult to come up with. further, if you really want in, you can use a vehicle-mounted welder to weld a rebar handle onto the bolt so you can turn it with a cheater bar, or a vehicle-mounted plasma cutter to cut it out. This can be done in a surprisingly short period of time and there is ample opportunity around 3am in most cases.

Re:death by manhole cover? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32849670)

you spend an oddly large amount of time planning to break into sewers. Personally I put most of my effort into avoiding rivers of shit.

Re:death by manhole cover? (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849686)

you spend an oddly large amount of time planning to break into sewers. Personally I put most of my effort into avoiding rivers of shit.

There's a lot below manhole covers besides shit.

This took zero time planning; I have simply welded a bolt to the head of another bolt to get it out before. It's not rocket science. Hell, all you need is a couple of car batteries, some jumper cables, and some welding rod to do this, although you will want some way to clean the top of the bolt first.

Re:death by manhole cover? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849742)

There's a lot below manhole covers besides shit.

I know! I saw a documentary back in the 80's about a bunch of people living down there. One of them (I think his name was Vincent) had some weird mutation or birth defect or something though.

Re:death by manhole cover? (5, Interesting)

MetalPhalanx (1044938) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849900)

A friend of mine who does some professional photography takes some really cool pictures while "draining". There are a lot of neat places down there!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cshepherdson/ [flickr.com]

Sewer gas (2, Informative)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850364)

A friend of mine who does some professional photography takes some really cool pictures while "draining". There are a lot of neat places down there!

Yes there are.

But you can die in the drains - and it can happen very quickly.

Sewer gas is mostly methane but may include hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Improper disposal of petroleum products such as gasoline and mineral spirits can add to the fun. [freely adapted from the Wikipedia]

Methane is something to be feared:

Two kids among five killed by methane gas [msn.com]

Re:death by manhole cover? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32849992)

you spend an oddly large amount of time planning to break into sewers. Personally I put most of my effort into avoiding rivers of shit.

Dude's name is drinkypoo. What did you expect?

Re:death by manhole cover? (1)

ProppaT (557551) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849688)

If someone really wants one, they're going to get one...but I think the point was it's to prevent pranksters (read kids/teens) from pulling them out for fun. I fell in a loose manhole cover once...these things are dangerous if not secured properly or tampered with.

Re:death by manhole cover? (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850440)

I wonder, is there any reason they're a solid block and not a grid of bars or something instead - that way they help with draining and would surely alleviate the explosive build up situation too, which might mean you can secure them even better (I guess half the reason they're not that secure is because at the moment you want them to act as a vent if there's an explosive build up, at least the damage then happens in a location you can guarantee easy access to as opposed to under someone's home).

Re:death by manhole cover? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32849690)

"For information purpose only"

Re:death by manhole cover? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849632)

I mean bolts and some hinges to turn the thing over and slam it into the ground rather than for it to fly up

Not every major cities (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849714)

Around in Paris and the suburb (wonderful Banlieue...) all manhole cover can be removed with a metal crowbar. there is no bolting. And this is the first time I *ever* hear of manhole cover blowing up (stolen , oh yes, as a dangerous prank). I got the feeling it is not the wide spread problem in major city you think it is.

Re:death by manhole cover? (1)

AikonMGB (1013995) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850114)

I think the OP was proposing something along the lines of a hinged joint, such that as the pressure underneath the cover increased, it would pivot the cover about this hinge, somewhat like a butterfly [wikipedia.org] valve. An interesting proposition, though I'm not certain how you would stop it from flipping over if a heavy enough vehicle drove over it.

Aikon-

Re:death by manhole cover? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849582)

Good idea.

Submit it to the NYC government. The most costly thing is maintenance of the old monuments and buildings and infrastructure created by previous politicians.

Re:death by manhole cover? (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849788)

I wonder if anybody has ever died from being hit on the head with one of these

Obviously, there is some danger, but still, how cool is it that manhole covers are shooting into the air in a column of flame?

Just a little something to make a New Yorker's day just that much more stressful.

Re:death by manhole cover? (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849972)

Why not vent the inspection covers? It would be trivial to create a manhole cover with a one-way valve to allow pressure to escape without explosively ejecting the whole thing.

Ah, I've just read a little lower down. As dkleinsc said, "maybe because there are no financial consequences to any organization if a manhole cover gets launched 300' up and lands on some 3-year-old."

I'm going to go one step further and use the word legal instead of financial.

Gotham? I thought the article was about NY? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32849514)

New York is Metropolis.

Chicago is Gotham.

Re:Gotham? I thought the article was about NY? (4, Interesting)

Morty (32057) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849626)

The skyline and culture for Gotham always seemed more like New York City. wikipedia also identifies Gotham City with NYC: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gotham_City#Origin_of_name [wikipedia.org]

Metropolis, meanwhile, appeared Midwestern in the early comics, although wikipedia claims that they haven't been consistent: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolis_(comics) [wikipedia.org]

Re:Gotham? I thought the article was about NY? (2, Informative)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850240)

The News Building in New York was the basis for the Daily Planet in the first two Superman movies. For reference: http://www.nyc-architecture.com/MID/MID014.htm [nyc-architecture.com]

As a side note, if you're in New York go visit the lobby of the building and walk around the globe exhibit therein. Look at the floor and note the distances to various locations. The walls surrounding the exhibit have clocks for different parts of the world as well.

Re:Gotham? I thought the article was about NY? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32850334)

Gotham actually came from a need to express the love for bacon and since Gotbacon sounds pretty weird, they decided to use Gotham.

Re:Gotham? I thought the article was about NY? (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850436)

Interesting. I'd always assumed Gotham's name came from the Gothic style of the comics, including the architecture.

Re:Gotham? I thought the article was about NY? (1)

ffejie (779512) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849696)

Christopher Nolan (director of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight) has adapted Gotham to be Chicago. However, throughout history, Gotham is most closely recognized as New York City in the Batman comics. Wikipedia weighs in. [wikipedia.org]. Search for Chicago.

Comics aside, one of New York Cities many nicknames is Gotham. Check the nickname sidebar. [wikipedia.org] Quite a few businesses in NYC have taken this nickname as part of their name. Most famously, the Gotham Gazette [wikipedia.org] and, more recently, Gothamist [wikipedia.org].

Re:Gotham? I thought the article was about NY? (3, Informative)

careysub (976506) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849798)

New York is Metropolis.

Chicago is Gotham.

Gotham is New York. This is a popular name for the city that dates from the Nineteenth Century (Washington Irving in 1807 to be precise).

The association with Bat Man is due to a DC writer's decision to invoke this nickname of the actual city of New York to evoke its essence in the fictional city.

A couple vent holes would let the gas escape (1)

Darth Sdlavrot (1614139) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849562)

Et voila, no more gas build up, no more explosions.

Even if they're primarily covers for electrical boxes there are obviously drains or some other means by which the sewer gas infiltrates.

Seems like the little bit of rain or snow that would get in through vents would be able to drain away.

Re:A couple vent holes would let the gas escape (5, Insightful)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849826)

Southern California Edison requires two ventilating pylons for each manhole. They are much bigger than you might expect, and need to be spaced apart. It greatly increases planning complexity.

Methane build-up is only one cause though. Venting that causes ...odors... that people tend to not want to be near. The more common cause is failure of oil-filled equipment ranging from link switches to transformers to oil-insulated cables. When these go you need someplace for the explosion to expand to... or you will destroy everything in the manhole.

This is an interesting solution to the problem, but I have trouble understanding how it is more effective than root-cause analysis and post-incident review of data they already have. It isn't like the combination of factors is the problem... more like aging and over-burdened equipment that should already be on a predictive-maintenance plan.

Re:A couple vent holes would let the gas escape (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849912)

It is likely just an improvement in their predictive maintenance.

The article says there are hundreds of incidents each year spread across the 51,000 manholes, and it implies that many of the incidents are not particularly spectacular, so this could just be one of those things where the outlier events that do occur show that they are spending approximately enough money (because the events are outliers).

Pathetic humans! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32849568)

Always one step behind the CHUDs.

WTF? (2, Insightful)

Dr. Hok (702268) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849588)

That's a joke, right? Exploding manhole covers? In pre-Snake Plissken-New York? OMG

Re:WTF? (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849700)

You wonder why they're still afraid of terrorists when their ordinary standard normal manholes that exist in every street can just detonate at any moment.

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32850690)

No it's true. The most advanced country in the world is not able to implement and maintain its infrastructure in a safe way. However, they can send their troops to any place on the globe in days, but they cannot send enough people to New Orleans (or fix the dikes in advance). This is all really strange and it shows that the problem are not real of a technical nature, but a policy and priority problem. And we have such policy and priority problems in all (so called) Western countries.

I can beat the machine (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849590)

I predict massive manhole manhole cover blowouts and big explosions anywhere within a mile radius of the next Michael Bay movie.

Its a male, male, male world (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32849592)

Why not call it 'humanhole incidents', you male chauvinistic pigs??

Re:Its a male, male, male world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32850040)

Why not call it 'humanhole incidents', you male chauvinistic pigs??

Because 'man' is actually gender neutral, as are many 'masculine' words, and have been for hundreds of years. Quirk of the way the language evolved. "Man" was and is gender neutral, "Wyf" was a female and "Were" was a male. The French (Well... the Normans) came in and fucked everything up, so "Man" became both gender neutral AND masculine. And thus it's been for almost a thousand years now. It wasn't until "womynists" were too stupid to grasp that that anybody had an issue.

Re:Its a male, male, male world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32850120)

Why not call it 'humanhole incidents', you male chauvinistic pigs??

Because as goatse clearly indicates, it's a manhole thing. Women just don't do that.

Re:Its a male, male, male world (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850694)

A woman I know recently asked the questions "Why do they call it menopause and menistration?

Who? (1)

Thinine (869482) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849614)

Who the fuck is Al and why should I care if he predicts manhole explosions? What, is he psychic or something?

Re:Who? (2, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849816)

No Al is a hologram projected from the real person in the future... He actually doesn't predict it himself he uses Ziggy a supercomputer with a personality, to do the actual predictions. He is telling us this so his friend Sam Becket (who looks a lot like Captain Archer from Star Trek Enterprise) can Quantum Leap again hopefully back to his own time...

DC is just going downhill (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849620)

So they are now doing villians that spend their time blowing up manhole covers. Remember the good old days when Gotham would be under the attack of villians like Ra's al Ghul and Bane.

Poo Energy (2, Interesting)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849678)

Couldn't they harness all that energy that blows up manhole covers into some kind of renewable energy? Feed the sewer gas back into natural gas lines, attach pistons to manhole covers, etc

Re:Poo Energy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32850042)

I could see trying to harness the gas and use it in a power plant, but do you realize how much energy it would take (both electrical and man) to implement and maintain something like "attach pistons to manhole covers" and how little energy you'd get out of that? It's not like they go off every three hours, this might happen to a single manhole once in its lifetime.

In all seriousness (2, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849762)

So we have millions of people desperate for work, and a whole lot of dangerous wiring all over New York City. Why aren't we (and by "we", I mean ConEd or any level of government) investing in training up as many electricians as we can and replacing the bad wiring while it's relatively cheaper to do so?

Oh, wait, maybe because there are no financial consequences to any organization if a manhole cover gets launched 300' up and lands on some 3-year-old.

Re:In all seriousness (0, Redundant)

gerddie (173963) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849924)

I would guess that in a country where a hot coffee can get you sued, someone would have to pay, but ...

A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.

It is left as an exercise to the reader to (a) name the movie and (b) translate this to the scenario of accepting manhole incidents instead of repairing the bad wiring.

Re:In all seriousness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32850152)

I would guess that in a country where coffee that is heated beyond all industry standards, and served to customers at a temperature unfit for human consumption can get you sued

Fixed that for you. Kindly read up on the Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants case [lectlaw.com] before repeating the bullshit that "all lawsuits are bad."

Re:In all seriousness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32850336)

Fight Club!

Re:In all seriousness (2, Informative)

izomiac (815208) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850358)

Two points. The first is that while there are plenty of frivolous lawsuits, the plantiff in the McDonalds coffee was hospitalized for over a week and had to have skin graphs because the coffee was almost boiling when served. The second is that your quote isn't applicable to bad wiring because bad wiring has to be replaced eventually, and the cost for maintaining that wiring is likely rising until it's replaced.

Re:In all seriousness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32850132)

As someone that has personally worked with ConEd for the past number of years, I can say that there is so much burecratic red tape in that organization that getting anything done requires at least two years of hassle.

Re:In all seriousness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32850150)

If the wiring would be own be the city (the people) and the regulations would demand that the wiring has to fulfill certain criteria, then they would fix it. This would make energy a little bit more expensive as more safety is always a little bit pricey while unsafe structures only cost lives. As long as the public makes no issue out of it nothing will happen.

Re:In all seriousness (0, Flamebait)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850172)

Yah, lets deficit spend our way out of this! People need jobs, why doesn't the government just hire them and give them busy work!

Re:In all seriousness (5, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850444)

An investment in repairing decaying infrastructure and even putting in new infrastructure is not a zero sum game. Let the infrastructure decay long enough and you will no longer be able to support industry and commerce, leading to an exponential rate of decay. Meanwhile, working laborers will be able to afford to consume and increase the growth of industry and commerce.

The New deal gave us a national network of interstates, bridges and highways that have dramatically increased the productivity of the nation as a whole for the last 50 years. These were only designed to last about 50 years. Now after 30+ years of neglect and decay they are falling apart. Now more than ever, we need a reinvestment in national infrastructure. I am not talking about just roads and bridges; but power, water and information distribution systems as well.

Re:In all seriousness (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850234)

I suspect that there are several complicating factors:

Getting electricians who are competent to work on high voltage or high current distribution systems(and not make the situation worse) is probably a trifle harder than getting ones capable of doing home wiring without the place burning down(the latter, now that the fad for building shitty houses in the exurbs that nobody wants, should be in excellent supply). Not impossible; but you are probably looking at a nontrivial amount of theory, plus some time following around people who know what they are doing.

Second, in dense urban areas, maintenance often means cutting power to whiny people, or digging up roads for days at a time that a bunch of complainers were trying to "commute" on. I strongly suspect that, if you cornered the highest ranking guy at ConEd who wears a hard hat for purposes other than publicity photos, he could tell you all kinds of upgrades and repairs that he would love to make. After the third scotch, he could probably stop shaking and tell you about the various obstacles in his way...

Prognostication process revealed (1, Funny)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849764)

Some wise guy just noticed one day that all known incidents happened near the locations of Taco Bell toilet sewer pipe connections, and so extrapolated the other locations from all known franchise pipe connections.

Video? (1)

shish (588640) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849772)

Every so often, a 300-pound manhole cover blows sky high in Gotham, followed sometimes by a column of flame and smoke.

Video or it didn't happen.

Re:Video? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32850122)

Video or it didn't happen.

Youtube is your friend!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZcIwdVY3n4

Re:Video? (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850192)

Will a crappy video of a steam pipe explosion suffice?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENCflNuklH0 [youtube.com]

It happens right about 14 seconds in and takes place right behind the date/time stamp

Than there's this cruddy video which shows a nice amount of flames coming from a manhole cover. No explosion however. There is also a nice voiceover describing how the explosions occur.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxW78fYo5z0&feature=related [youtube.com]

Changes in predictions (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849806)

Won't a "save" or two totally screw with the AI's pattern matching since the gas isn't building up the same way as it would have? It will have to let a lot go pop before learning a new pattern.

Re:Changes in predictions (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850246)

I would assume that there is some way for maintenance incidents to be fed into the system. Heck, those are probably even more instructive than simple explosions; because it is a lot easier to measure things like transformer coolant levels/temps, line amperages, atmospheric methance concentrations, etc. before everything is a smoldering mess...

PRV (1)

spdiscus (810661) | more than 3 years ago | (#32849810)

How about some sort of pressure relief valve... so it just steams people alive instead of squashing them.

These things can explode spectacularly... (5, Interesting)

What'sInAName (115383) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850030)

One time I witnessed one of these explosions in Boston, and let me tell you, it's quite impressive! It was a hot August day and I was standing about 20 ft away from it, when out of nowhere, BOOMBOOMBOOM! There were actually a series of explosions that knocked the manhole cover a foot or two in the air each time, and each time the cover came back down perfectly on the hole, as if nothing ever happened. There was a college kid who was even closer to it than I was. He was just a few feet away when it happened and I could see that it shook him up pretty badly.

I asked the workman who was there a short time later what exactly had happened and he said a transformer had blown.

What about fixing broken infrastructure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32850050)

I wonder why they need to predict that. Wouldn't it be better to fix the stuff? I've heard that sometime animals get electrified in NY because the wiring is broken. I don't know, but when such thing happens I would either fire the responsible person and order to fix it (as mayor) or when the infrastructure is not state/city owned (which is definitely stupid) I would revoke their commission on the lines.

Questions (yes I did RTFA) (1)

TheLoneGundam (615596) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850078)

Do they have any way to measure the accuracy of the prediction algorithm? The article says of a 'blind study'that "The top 2 percent of manholes ranked as vulnerable by the algorithm included 11 percent of the manholes that had recently had a fire or explosion" but to me that seems like statistical blather: do they mean that if they ranked 10,000 manholes and there had been 100 incidents recently then the top 200 manholes they ranked included 11 manholes that had incidents? And if the answer to that is 'Yes' then how does that compare to a random guess? In my view (I am not a professional statistician), you could flip a coin about whether the manhole will have a problem or not, and probably come up with 11 correct answers out of the first 200 flips.

Am I missing something here? (1)

BangaIorean (1848966) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850312)

As a concept, this AI thingy to 'predict' manhole explosions sounds cool - but can anyone explain why they don't just change the 'decrepit wiring'? First time I'm hearing of exploding manholes, and on top of that, a cool technique to 'forecast those explosions'!

How accurately? (1)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850476)

Making predictions is not impressive. Making *accurate* predictions is. I'm sure you could get a psychic to predict this too if you paid one.

My Cousins injured by manhole explosion (1)

hydromike2 (1457879) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850518)

I had never heard of this happening before a week and a half ago, my cousin and his wife were crossing the street in Rio de Janeiro and a manhole cover blew off throwing her a few meters and burning 80% of her body and cousin only had 35% of his body burned. They are both doing ok, luckily no third degree burns, but the idea that this can happen is absurd. I thought that is was ridiculous that this could happen in South American country, but especially so that it happens in NYC.

Algorithm looks like failure (3, Interesting)

odin84gk (1162545) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850592)

Con Edison blind-tested the team’s model by withholding information on a recent set of fires and explosions. The top 2 percent of manholes ranked as vulnerable by the algorithm included 11 percent of the manholes that had recently had a fire or explosion, Rudin notes.

According to the article, there are about 51,000 manholes in New York. A few hundred explosions occur every year. (Lets say 300). So the algorithm listed (51,000*.02)=1020 manholes that were high risk. Out of that 1020 manholes, they were correct on (300*.11)=33 manholes.

In my industry, we would call this a complete failure. Even the weather forecaster would call this a failure. It reminds me of Demolition Man

Chief George Earle: We can just wait for another code to go red. And when Phoenix performs another Murder Death Kill, we'll know exactly where to pounce.
John Spartan: [sarcastic] Great plan.
Chief George Earle: [not realising the sarcasm] Thank you.
Erwin: He likes your plan, Chief!

Please, think of the children... (3, Funny)

wzzzzrd (886091) | more than 3 years ago | (#32850656)

...err, foreigners. Don't use words like "manhole" in headlines. My native tongue isn't English, and you don't want to know what kind of associations comes to a foreign mind while reading the word "manhole".
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