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Lie detection

THE QUESTION: This week Nature magazine describes a new form of lie detection which is 83% accurate, using thermal imaging to detect increases in heat around the eyes. What would the construction industry make of such a device?

Being on the receiving end of this new truth-teller in the middle of a site meeting could be quite worrying. Who can honestly say that they have told the whole truth all the way through any meeting, even if the lie was just by omission of a fact or point? I am willing to bet that there is not an experienced engineer who reads this who can't think of a meeting they attended where they were absolutely sure that someone was lying through their teeth, and would have loved to have had the use of this new piece of kit to confront them!

Jim Goodbrand, 52, project engineer, West Sussex With the groundbreaking papers of Egan, the pioneering NEC form of contract, and the partnering philosophies sweeping through the construction industry, surely we have absolutely nothing to fear.

Comments like: 'I was paid overtime at my last job'; 'Is that labour rate really what you are paying your men?'; 'Are you sure you put 250m 3into that concrete pour?'; 'The last time I was on site everyone was wearing hard hats';

and 'This job shall be snag free!'

will be delivered as honestly and forthrightly as they have always been, and I suspect the machine will not even beep!

Charlie Hutchison, 37, group safety manager, Northern Ireland An intriguing invention but with only an 83% success rate it sounds a bit too fallible for me. It would certainly be inappropriate for a client-contractor meeting, as by implication you are accusing the other party of being dishonest or untrustworthy. Almost by definition any negotiation entails a little subterfuge, but you should at least start from the point of view that all parties will act honourably, particularly in the current partnering environment.

Simon Lawrence, 28, civil engineer, Cardiff I guess it could be handy during salary negotiations at work when the boss tells you that the company cannot afford the rise due to increasing costs. But just imagine the trouble these machines could cause if your wife or partner got hold of one. No longer could you rely on your poker face when answering dreaded questions such as 'Do you like my new haircut?', 'Do you still find me as attractive as the day we met?' or 'Does my bum look big in this dress?'

Nic Luker, 28, engineer, London How about asking Sir Bernard Ingham whether he really does believe that nuclear power is cost effective, or whether one needs to write-off all construction and decommissioning costs.

Chris Johnson, 47, senior structural engineer, Gloucester The problem with all lie detectors is that they may be able to tell if the person is lying, but there is no way to tell if the fact or belief the person holds is itself correct or true.

Andrew Chan, 41, reader in computational engineering, Birmingham

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