Opinions, snark, more opinions, and things that catch my fancy
Monday, December 27, 2010
Julia Child, Scientist
Back when I was just a baby physicist, I was privileged to see a wonderful science film clip. Yes, you whippersnappers, a FILM CLIP. It was in a flat circular tin and you had to feed the FILM into a DEVICE that let you see it on a SCREEN. Not a video. Not YouTube. We *suffered* in those days. Don't even ask about text messaging.
-Schlock Mercenary Something is odd with Shep. -TwoLumps Christmas is the time when relatives conspire to irritate you. -Girl Genius Time to throw the switch! -Digger Bone Claw Mother strongly suggests Digger talk about it. -No Need For Bushido Lord Maru rearms, Gen. Atsumori gets a headache. -Delta Bravo Sierra You are GO! for Christmas, soldier! -Amya Faye finally gets some first aid for her burn. -xkcd -Lackadaisy Just as a note, if you are going to forge someone's signature you might want to know what it looks like first.
Maybe I was wrong about the constant dinning noise of multi-culti diversity lecturing. I had thought that it would merely harden existing prejudices and only encourage the fluffy-brained tree huggers that abound in this area to think that anybody listens to them. But the pictures don't lie. Poor Vladimir Illyich Lenin, exiled to the gulag of Fruitloopistan aka Fremont, has abandoned his "religion is the opiate of the people" ways after constant nagging. Not only is he wearing a tasteful "Merry Christmas" garland for a necklace, he has a blue lighted Star of David halo! It is quite pretty in the evening.
I am not a big fan of sappy Christmas movies. I also do not see the point of pretentious foreign films with Symbolism and dream sequences involving naked people dancing around to indicate a connection with nature or whatever. (More likely someone absconded with the costume budget.)
Yet there I was, watching a Finnish movie about Santa Claus.
Rare Exports is a wonderful, darkly funny movie about the *real* Santa Claus. You should be so lucky to only get coal in your stocking if you are naughty--this Santa boils children. And his "little helpers" look like dirty old men. That's a literal description, they are old geezers wearing nothing more than a generous amount of dirt. (So yeah, there were some naked people cavorting around but it was more scary than titillating. Naked old guys in the snow carrying pickaxes will do that.)
The story features a young Finn who sneaks up to the top of a mountain where mysterious mining operations are taking place. Once he realizes the plan is *really* to dig up a Primordial Santa Claus, frozen in ice, he tries to alert his father and anyone who will listen to the danger. He is properly ignored -- and then the yearly reindeer roundup fails when the entire herd is found slaughtered, and it all goes downhill from there.
One thing I found especially interesting is the apparent prevalence of guns in this setting. It's a dangerous place with hungry wolves about, and any children old enough to be outside on their own are simply expected to have a rifle or shotgun to protect themselves. Our young hero carries his shotgun along with his stuffed animal. Pretentious Europeans like to whine about how Americans are gun crazy, but they are completely ignoring the entirety of Finland which is, you know, right there next to them.
Not to worry, there is a happy ending (with explosions) and the newly unemployed elves are retrained and repurposed. And there are ginger cookies for everyone.
(N.B. No children are boiled or even harmed during the film, unless you count being stuffed in a potato sack.) (N.B.2 To avoid enraging Primordial Santas, please review the Safety Regulations and observe them at all times.)
A recent solar filament, caught by the SDO satellite. The massive twisty magnetic fields which you can't see, except for how they snare and drag a gobbet of the sun's surface, are AMAZING. Electromagnetics is a complex field, and the physics of the Sun is at extremes where minor terms in very long equations become very, very significant. A photon can take as long as 170,000 years to get to the surface of the Sun. Just thinking about Solar physics makes me gibber and flap my hands.
Stuxnet continues to amaze and intrigue me. First off, a rather technical paper that goes into some of the hairy details. If you aren't a hex-code-reading computer geek like me, don't worry -- there are plenty of interesting tidbits surrounding the screenshots of server barf (to use the technical term ...). I am pleased to report that these analysts believe Stuxnet had *excellent* QA testing, both software and hardware. It was also carefully coded to make use of at least four different OS configuration types for maximum effectiveness. I've done a lot of multi-platform testing and that is a non-trivial exercise.
Secondly, Dafydd of Big Lizards has a very insightful timeline that caused me to re-examine a few assumptions. I had firmly believed the USA had nothing to do with Stuxnet because the current occupant of the White House a) doesn't seem to care if Iran gets the bomb or if Israel gets vaporized by said bomb, and b) manifestly can't keep a secret (SEE: Wikileaks). However ... if Dafydd is correct, (and as a fellow science fiction writer he MUST be!) there is an extremely good chance Project Stuxnet was launched during George W. Bush's tenure. Symantec discovered it had an archived copy of Stuxnet dating June 2009, and estimated the coding alone took six months (I concur with this estimate). Given the rather complex code and hardware testing required and the extremely good quality of the resulting code, even more time needs to be included, pushing things well ahead of Obama's election.
So, I now think Stuxnet was very likely a collaboration between Israel and the United States, probably started when the Bushehr reactor ran into "funding difficulties" paying the Russians in 2007. Stuxnet is highly specific, however, and the Israelis are not known for putting all their eggs in one basket. I suspect the existence of a whole cyber-war *unit* dedicated to denying Iran (and possibly other countries) nuclear weapons, and Stuxnet is simply the first above-the-fence asset to be detected in combat. A ticked-off and unpaid Russia may have even provided, for a price, a good bit of the equipment information needed (like the serial number range of the Siemens controllers, centrifuge types, etc.)
I'm not so sure I agree with the Head Lizard's assertion that Obama was never briefed on the project. Hiding information from the boss rarely works well, since it only takes one disgruntled whistleblower to end the whole charade. I think that information was included in the "Welcome to Supreme Power!" binder, in one paragraph, deep in a 600 page document preceded by a lot of numbers and equations guaranteeing he would never read that far. Possibly even in an appendix. That way if questioned, people could blink wide, innocent eyes and say "but we DID tell you!". Unlikely to happen though. This president only notices golf balls and criticism from Sarah Palin.