Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Russia’s Hacking U.S. Networks the Next Sputnik?

A little history here:
After WWII, we got German rocket scientists – especially Von Braun – and the Russians got some too.  This was latter half of the 1940’s and early 1950’s – which was also the start of the Cold War.

A new reality became apparent to anyone who followed current events: The Russians were not going to give up control of the land they had taken during the war – especially Eastern Germany, and the agreement over how Berlin would be divided and operated became meaningless.  (Churchill may have seen this coming.)

So, we put our German rocket scientists, along with our on scientists, to work to develop a V2-like missile for the U.S. to fight the new enemy just as the Germans did to attack England.  Russia did too.  However, Russia went further – much further – into uncharted development the likes of which few if any had ever considered.

A little more history here (Russia history):
While Russia may have come into the twentieth century one of the more backward countries in Europe and Asia, Russians are not a backward people.  Some very intelligent genes course through their veins, and while they may have selected a economic/governmental system that was doomed to fail – including their latest one – there are some very smart techies doing innovative “stuff” even as I post this blog.  Russia proves the saying “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.  Google up living in Russia if you don’t believe me.

Anyway, back to my comparing this recent hacking by the Russians to Sputnik.  This could have as big an impact as Sputnik did on science.  When Russia launch Sputnik in 1957, and it started flying over the U.S. and any red-blooded American could see it or here it beeps, it scared the hell out of a lot of people.

And what did this lead to?  The race to the moon, NASA, all manner of satellites such as GPS, weather, and those only the CIA knows about, and the current space station.

Given this past history of innovative development of new technologies, might the Russians’ hacking follow a similar path that came after Sputnik?  Is there another young Lev Sergeyevich Termen, or Léon Theremin as he is known in the United States, coming up with some new spying technology that we not even grasp or understand as has happen in the past?  We can only watch and wonder.  

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Email to Bill O’Reilly – Really?

After watching a Bill O’Reilly show, I thought about emailing him to question his comments on Hillary’s email fiasco, but after sobering up, thought wiser of it.

I agreed with the big “O” that Hillary’s use of her email while Sec. of State was not only irresponsible and negligence, but could – and probably -  put national security in jeopardy.  Where I found Mr. No Spin wanting in his criticism was not commenting on Trump doing the same thing.

True, Trump is waging an unprecedented campaign for the Presidency, but he is following a trail already blazed by Hillary in his constant and excessive use of the internet and social media such as Twitter.  And, his actions seem to send a signal that he will continue to do so – even as he is being informed on U.S. government policy.

Major candidates are briefed about ongoing policy so they will not be totally ignorant of what is going on should they be elected President.  Will Trump keep that info out of his tweets.  Yea, right.  He has already shown he is politically incorrect in the use of the internet, and while this may, or may not, be helping his unconventional campaign, what happens when he starting getting sensitive information.

And who among us really believe he will stop it should he get elected.  Hillary didn’t after becoming Sec. of State.  She was probably doing it when she was a senator and had access to sensitive information.  Who knows, given Trump’s current stumbles and fumbles in using the internet, he may pull a “Hillary” before the November vote comes around.

But no mention of this from Bill who was so distraught over Hillary, and I was going to bring that to his attention.

I didn’t do the email because the sheer chance O’Reilly might select mine for publication on his show.  He would flash up my name and hometown, and after contemplating that for a while, I decided not to it, and blog it instead.

It wasn’t so much my friends teasing me or even the hometown news featuring me in some story as making it to the “big time” on O’Reilly as other nightmares that might ensue.  I hear and read stories of people doing something similar to what I just described and becoming the target of hate mail, telephone calls, and even threats against their life and family, and then there’s the threat of hackers coming after me.  That’s why I did not send any email to the Big O.

Another noteworthy point I would have included in the email to O’Reilly was what is going to happen when Hillary becomes President.  When Hillary is elected and takes office, the clock starts ticking.  The Republican Congress will open an investigation into her misused emails, and just like the Benghazi witch hunt, it will go on forever.  Will they find any impeachable offenses?  This is why her selection of VP as a running mate is more significant than usual.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Self in Self-Driving Cars

The Rand Corporation had a post referenced in the science news aggregator RealClearScience about self-driving cars which is a subject that greatly interest me.  Rand questioned what is the current state of the whole situation, and I have to agree with them – as far as they go.  The major point of the Rand article was that even if self-driving cars where tested for way more miles than they have currently run, it still would not be enough to determine their safety on the road compared with human driven cars.

One major subject not being mentioned about self-driving transportation is that it has already existed for hundreds of years.  It was called the horse.  All kinds of stories exist of drunks or just overly drowsy riders going out and getting in a carriage or “back in the saddle” and being safely transported home.  And why?  Because the horse knew the way home and was neither drunk or asleep.

Also – and this is the key to the self-driving car discussion – the horse did not use the riders form of intelligence to get home safely.  It used its own (horse sense?) – so too should self-driving cars.  And while we are on the subject of going from horse to automobile form of transportation, infrastructure had to change when we went from one form to the other.  This has been true all through history:  gas lighting to electricity, sailing ships to steam, letter writing communication to telegraph to telephone to radio and TV, and let’s not forget the Internet.  So too does this need to happen when going to self-driving cars.  I would think a group like the Rand Corporation should lead the way instead of describing what is wrong.

Self-driving cars should not try to observe the road the same way a human does.  Trying to scan road markings, the general direction of the blacktop, gutters, curbs, or even road signs meant for humans is a failure waiting to happen, as the Rand posting so aptly describes.

Electrical broadcasting transponders describing the local road would be the best, but that requires power, so a passive transponder with a description of the immediate roadway which the self-driving car would scan to read would probably work better.  Communicate with the car’s programming (AI?) in a way it could more effectively use.

Self-driving cars will have to continue to scan the road ahead as they do now for unexpected or unforeseen obstructions, pedestrians, and no telling what else, but comparing what it scans with what is being told should be there would be better than what it is trying to do now.

Have self-driving cars communicate with each other would help a lot.  They could send current velocity, trajectory, and other info so the car’s program knows what is going on better than trying to scan another moving vehicle.  Importantly, this should include communicated information from non-self-driving cars, also.

Another significant development for self-driving cars would be communication between traffic devices, such as red lights at intersections.  Don’t scan the traffic signal to determine its color.  Just have the red light communicate directly with the self-driving car.  If this was developed the red light could communicate with self-driving cars at greater distances so that they need not stop at the intersection because the red light could send a message that if the self-driving car would slow or speed up a 5-miles an hour, by the time they got to the intersection, they could pass through without stopping.

Of course, that would not happen at a heavily congested intersection but a traffic signal communicating with all approaching vehicles would change everything, and hopefully reduce a lot of congestion.  Once again, new infrastructure may include new – and as yet unthought-of – traffic devices.

The eight hundred pound gorilla in this new technology is self-driving trucks.  The development of the interstate highway system changed how we transport goods and supply ourselves, and to not take this into consideration when discussing self-driving vehicles leaves it grievously wanting.  I could really see this if self-driving trucks were restricted to the interstate highway system with large parking places at on and off raps.  Human drivers would take them to their destination on our local roads.

A test track will all these infrastructure changes mentioned above would go a long way in proving self-driving vehicles are the future of transportation.  Development of self-driving vehicles trying to copy human perception of the road has no future – at least not until artificial intelligence catches up with that of humans.  And that’s a subject for a whole different posting.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Most Astounding Fact About the Universe

An interesting article in Forbes asked the question: What Is The Most Astounding Fact About The Universe?  The answer by a noted astrophysicist, author, and blogger Ethan Siegel was “that it exists in such a way that it can be understood at all”.  To me, the most amazing fact about the universe is that most of it missing – at least from our point of view.  As he noted in his post, science tells us what we know, but what to me is also very important about science is that it tells us what we don’t know.

And for what we can see and measure in the universe – repeatedly by many observers – most of it cannot be seen.  Indirectly measured but unseen.  It is as if we have come full circle to where we were several thousand years ago when the prevailing theory of the universe was that the earth was the center and everything in the universe revolved around us.  We could see, measure, and note with only the naked eye what was going on in the sky above us, but concocted religious/mythical theories to explain it.  That religious connection proved to be a sticky problem when better observations and calculations where later developed.

Like now, the ancient math back then was accurate.  Several different civilizations around the earth knew when and where a heavenly body would rise and set, but couldn’t explain why.  Built 5,000 years ago, Stonehenge is still accurate today.  We could even track and predict those five stars that seem to wander the heavens – what would later become known as planets – but once again, we could not explain why.

The theory of Dark Matter and Dark Energy may explain what we are seeing, and the theory goes that dark matter is everywhere.  But a recent MIT observation could not find any evidence of dark matter within our own solar system (So long ago, I can’t find it on the Internet.), however it was confirmed later by two Russia astronomers in the summer of 2013.  Soooo, where’s our dark matter?  These observations sort of begs the question of the dark matter theory.  Currently, according to the theory, the only way we can see dark matter in our own solar system is to be standing still while it passes by several light years away from our observation.

As for proving astronomical theories locally, in the late 50’s astronomers were able to solve a problem with observations of Mercury’s orbit and Newton's law of universal gravitation using Einstein’s special relativity theory of gravity and wrapped space.  However, there is still a major unknown in trying to combine special relativity and particle physics, but that’s a subject for an entirely different post.

At any rate, looking back at how wrong those earth centric theories of the universe were, they at least got the moon right.  It does circle the earth.   Let us hope that our theories of the missing universe have a higher percentage of accuracy, but since most of the universe is missing, and that fact alone could affect what is really going on, makes it the most amazing fact about the universe.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Our Two/Four Brains

An interesting post popped up at a site named Think, a Case Western Reserve University site in Cleveland, Ohio, of all places.  It is about how we have two brains, and how these two brains affect our religious belief.  Brains and religious belief: who could ask for a more blog worthy post?

The article states that we have two brains: analytical and empathy.  Then it goes into great detail about how that affects peoples’ switching between the two brains to come up with their religious philosophy.

This brought up my problem with those Christians who desperately need a factual basis for their belief in God.  Of the three major Middle Easter based religious, Christian, Judaism, and Muslim, Christianity is the only one whose founder, Jesus Christ, was martyred because of religious intolerance – and yet, no one will past judgement on you quicker than a Christian.

Anyway, the article goes on and on about the problem people have going between their analytical brain and empathic brain trying to resolve their religious belief.

As for my beliefs here goes:  Belief in science is a matter of fact, it can be proven or disproven.  Belief in God is a matter of faith, it can neither be proven nor disproven.  There can be no facts in faith.  If so, then it is no longer faith.  It is something else entirely.

To me that is the beauty of belief in God:  One of our greatest blessings is understanding the universe around us.  It is one of God’s greatest gifts.  However, you cannot use the gift to know the Giver.  For that, you can only have faith.

It is as if the whole world was blind and no creature on this planet could see.  And God gave humans a set of eyewear glasses with which they could see, and with it the blessing that everything we could see we could come to know and understand.  And not only that, we could see how to grind glass so we could see even further into the universe or lens to see the smallest of objects on earth, and the promise held: everything we could see we could come to know and understand.  However, no matter how far into the universe we could see or microscopic an object we could see, we could never see God.  To do that we must take off the glasses, go blind again, and see God through faith – only.

Enough about the preaching.  One area about our consciousness the article did not cover in this two brained world is the left brain/right brain controversy.  I was going to supply link but you would be better to Google it up for the latest in such exotic topics as lateralization of brain function or functional specialization, and that is just Wikipedia.  It all has to do with that Y chromosome.  The chromosome that contains the genes that makes a male.  If those genes are not present in the womb during pregnancy, the offspring will be female.

And as part of becoming male, the male genes in the Y chromosome rewire the right brain of the developing male child.  Supposedly (theoretically?), males can visualize and turn a 3D object in their heads more so than females.  Because of this rewiring, males can throw an object at a moving target more accurately than females.  That is why males are perceived as the hunter in our culture.

This last argument (theory) seems to be begging the question since in most species hunting is done by females.  Maybe the rewiring only occurs in humans.

The flip side of this special rewiring of the male brain and in relation to the article in Think on our two brains is that females are more empathic than males.  This reminds me of an old saying by Lyndon Johnson that if you can’t walk into a room and tell who is on your side and who isn’t, you shouldn’t be in politics.  Given that females have more brain power for empathy, they should make the better politician.  Go figure.

And LBJ’s saying doesn’t just apply to politicians.  Police detectives and reporters need that trait, also.  You don’t have to watch too many of today’s real life crime stories on TV to see this in action.  A really good detective will comment that the person they are questioning is holding something back or not.  Same is true for a reporter interviewing someone for a potential news story.  If you can’t sense whether you are getting the whole story or not, you should get out of the news business.

What the rewiring of the right half of the brain has to do with the arguments in the Think piece, I'm not sure.  Males have a brain lobe set up to be more analytical and females don't so they should be more empathic, so how this affects the sexes religious philosophy may be ever more so than the Think piece indicates.

So it goes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spin on the Trump Phenomenon

I’ve been waiting to comment on the Trump Phenomenon for more returns from primaries which are closed and only card carrying Republicans are allowed to vote.  This will answer the question of whether the Trump Phenomenon is the result of crossover Democrats, independent voters, and infrequent voters who are fired up by Trump choosing to vote Republican in open primaries or die heart Republicans are supporting the Trump Phenomenon. 

The pontification has it that working class Republicans have had enough of the type of politics exemplified by Cruz and Rubio.  However, the results of the closed primaries do not fully support this pontificate.  While Trump has won some closed primaries – Cruz has won most and came in a close second where Trump did win.  Of the 11 that have occurred so far, Trump has won 5 -- and Surprise! Surprise! (to me) Cruz has won 6.

Cruz’s returns tell me the old Tea Party – so far right that the center looks liberal – is still supporting its extreme right wing politics that currently dominates the House of Reps.    And although Trump has done well in closed primaries, there no mass flight of disillusioned rank and file Republicans to his cause.

It’s the open primaries that are driving the Trump Phenomenon.  Some recent reports on voter turnout support the argument that it is infrequent voters who can vote Republican in open primaries may be a big part of the Trump bump.  Add to that Democratic crossovers and independence and that explains where Trump is getting his numbers.  This does not bode well for Hillary.  Trump could give her a run in the general election.

Trump is using our mass news media as though it was a paid advertiser for one of his programs.  Why buy time on TV when you can say something outlandish and the 24-hr news program will suck it up and run with for hours – and I do mean hours – as though that was the major news story of the moment.

What is going on between Saudi Arabia and Iran is way more significant that what Trump just said.  What is going on in the Middle East – especially between those two countries – could lead to WW III.  Also, let’s not forget our current unrest in the House of Reps.  They turned on Boehner, currently will not pass a budget, and the clock is ticking on when they turn on Ryan.  But you have to dig into the back pages of newspaper or Google it to find anything about those stories.

And Yet!  The 24-hour new program run with the latest Trump hype.  And the most galling aspect of the coverage is the latest Trump supposedly news hysteria becomes old news, forgotten and replace by something entirely new.  The NYTimes had a recent article on this subject that nail it.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Cuba Libre Economy

Opening up relations with Cuba continues the smartest strategy we’ve formulated for those that believe capitalism is the best economy we’ve come with for providing the most people with the highest standard of living.  It’s not perfect but it’s the best one yet.

And one of the keys to making it work is peace.  Our economy is what won the Cold War.   Military confinement of the spread of Communism was key, important, and necessary.  Commies took over by force.  People didn’t have a choice, so stopping the spread was necessary, but it was peace that won the war.  From the Berlin airlift in ’48-’49 to Détente in the late ‘70’s, peaceful accords did way more for free market economies than the planned economies of the communist world.  No matter how many 5-year plans they came up with, they just could not keep up.

I never understood why those planned economies with no capitalist exploiting the working class and removing profits did not outperform the capitalists driven free market economies, and here is the kicker, they had absolute control.   If a change was needed to increase production, they could do it without the interference of owners, investors, or shareholders.

And yet, the free market economies literally kick the planned economies ass.  Whether you compare Russia to the U.S., East and West Europe, the two Germanys or Berlin, China and Hong Kong and Taiwan, the working class had a higher standard of living – even with the boom and bust cycles of free market economies.  You could see it from space at night.  The West was all lit up while the East was in the dark.  You can still that effect in North and South Korea.

So!!!!  Our opening the door to Cuba on peaceful terms is the way to go.