Category: science

"I am searching for the truth as long as I can"

I recently blogged about Ted Taylor, and the book he inspired. He passed away recently:

Thirty-one years ago, The New Yorker published a profile of nuclear
weapon designer Ted Taylor, written by John McPhee. Published in book
form as “The Curve of Binding Energy,” this was the first time the
prospect of nuclear terrorism was raised publicly as a genuine concern.
223The use of small numbers of covertly-delivered nuclear explosives by
groups of people that are not clearly identified with a national
government is more probable, in the near future, than the open use of
nuclear weapons by a nation for military purposes,224 Ted had warned
privately in 1966, adding that retaliation offered no protection
against subnational groups or 223an extremist group of U.S. citizens who
believe they are trying to save the U.S.224 Thanks to John McPhee’s help
in raising the alarm, and the work of countless individuals and
government officials (including Ted’s own work with the IAEA in
Vienna) we have not yet faced the tragedy that Ted Taylor feared.

Ted Taylor died in Bath, New York, on October 28, after a long battle
to regain his capacities after a series of strokes. Freeman Dyson, his
friend, colleague, and fellow patent-holder (on the TRIGA inherently
safe reactor) wrote [this] on October 29.

The Curve of Binding Energy

Is the story of Ted Taylor, one of the cleverest of the very clever men who designed nuclear bombs. He designed the largest bomb ever set off by the US, and the smallest. He once used a nuclear bomb to light a cigarette. And in the early 1970s, he was very concerned that terrorists could build a nuclear bomb.

He talked about this topic to anyone who would listen, and one of the people who listened was John McPhee. McPhee is one of the best wordsmiths out there. When he wrote for the New Yorker, it was always good, and frequently awe-inspiring.

The Curve of Binding Energy, available at fine bookstores everywhere, challenged the idea that building a nuclear device would take another Manhattan Project. Fortunately, to date, Taylor has been shown to be pessimistic, but you would be too, if you knew what he knew.

Hackers sabotage Waikato (NZ) food company

Computer hackers have emailed 3000 of the company’s customers, saying a company product – lamb chips – are being recalled due to an infectious agent, and the warning has since been posted on internet message boards.

Sad as it is for Erik Arndt and Aria Farm that this has happened, I think this is interesting as a foretaste of what’s to come as more business happens mostly online, and there’s money to be made in hacking.

“Fine store you’ve got here — shame if your customers were to get email announcing that your credit card database had been stolen…We can help you with that…”

Protecting your revenue stream from this sort of disruption is a fine way to justify security spending. Compare and contrast with “trust,” as suggested in the Computerworld story below.

(From a story” in STUFF.”)

More on Patches & EULAs

In a comment below, Nudecybot mentions Mark Rasch’s “You Need A Cyber-Lawyer” article in Wired News. I don’t buy this line of reasoning. Making a decent auto-lawyer requires being able to parse legalese, which is a hard problem. Now, legalese is a subset of English, so you might think that the weather parsers, or similar tools, could do a decent job of it. But the adversarial nature of legal documents makes this hard. I’d much prefer “The Pure Software Act of 2006,” which is Simson Garfinkel’s take on the same problem.

Financial Cryptography: The Medici Effect

Gramme has a long interview with the author of the Medici Effect over at Financial Cryptography. The book focuses on how the Medicis helped drive the Renaissance by bringing together a slew of people from different cultures and backgrounds. Far too often people become narrowly focused on issues that their peers agree are important. They lack perspective and freshness, and fail to explore new ideas vigorously. I’m a big fan of inter-disciplinary work in both business and academy to counter these problems.