March 29, 2017

Edge at the Movies - The Fly (1986)

In this classic horror movie a mad scientist Seth Brundle creates two teleportation pod’s to transfer matter from one pod to another pod. Things go wrong when carrying out his final test as a common house fly enters the pod with Seth and in the process of teleportation has his DNA blended with the DNA of the house fly resulting in a horrible man fly with anger issues.

Seth is able to teleport inanimate objects but struggles with the live subjects. In one test a baboon is teleported but arrives at the other pod literally inside-out. Later he is successful in teleporting a baboon.

So, where did testing go wrong? In The Fly we are shown 3 test cases.

   Inanimate objects

   Live baboon

   Live human

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With teleportation, one places an object in one pod. The pod destroys the object and then reassembles the object in a different pod. My first thought is that this project is high risk with a very critical human safety element. So before human testing I would want total test coverage. My test cases would be more like:


  Small inanimate objects

  Large inanimate objects (human sized)

  Multiple inanimate objects

  Inanimate object with moving parts

  Inanimate objects with liquid like a cup of water

  Organic matter like a plant

  Organic matter like a body part (Heart, Liver, Lung, Skin, Nails, Hair, An eye! & 2 EYES!)

   Live animal Small

   Live animal Large

   Multiple live animals that are the same species

   Multiple live animals from different species

   Dead Human test subject

   Alive Human test subject (that is not the sole developer)

   Some exploratory testing (I would like to know what happens were you teleport an inside out baboon.)


Arguably, these tests are still not total coverage. With a set of requirements we would be able to understand the test cases required. I suspect that Seth has one requirement (teleport me) scribbled on a back of a packet of cigarettes.

Testing aside, the main problem here is that Seth is the sole engineer in this teleportation project. With the manufacturing and the software development there was only time for minimal testing. There was no time for an ethics review, apparently. There wasn't even time to run a vacuum around the laboratory. This was clearly a multiple person project. People work better as part of a team. With a larger team bouncing ideas off one another the test cases could have been somewhat closer to exhaustive.

And I don't know. Maybe someone would have suggested a Minimal Viable Project. Because - do we really need to be teleporting people around the place? Teleporting a hammer into the hand of the person that needs it may be sufficient. Or a spoon. If you need to, digitise the spoon, destroy the spoon and print a new spoon then why not just digitise the spoon and then print a spoon. Then you would have 2 spoons.

Maybe, this is how we have sporks.


By Johnny Hart - Test Analyst, Edge Testing