A Different Approach to System Security

I enjoy it when science fiction has something useful to say about computer security. Towards the end of Iain M. Banks’ Matter, there’s a big space battle and we find this passage: “Compromised,” Hippinse told him. “Taken over by the other side. Persuaded by a sort of thought-infection.” “Does that happen a lot, sir?” “It… Continue reading A Different Approach to System Security

The Children of the Sky

Basically anything Vernor Vinge writes will get reviewed here; he’s one of my favorite SF authors and certainly the best CSF (computer science fiction) writer working today. His latest book, The Children of the Sky, is a direct sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep and a cousin to A Deepness in the Sky. A… Continue reading The Children of the Sky

A Fire Upon The Deep — Retrospective and E-book

Over the last few weeks I read A Fire Upon The Deep, surely one of the top five works of computer science fiction. The proximate reason for the re-read was the upcoming release of a sequel, Children of the Sky, which I am impatiently awaiting. I read the “special edition” which contains about 1500 of… Continue reading A Fire Upon The Deep — Retrospective and E-book

Good Book: Idaho Falls

This book, like the one I wrote about yesterday, is a horror story for engineers. Idaho Falls is about the SL-1, a prototype nuclear reactor in the desert in Idaho. Although it had been designed for a 3 MW thermal capacity, in early 1961 its output briefly reached something like 18 GW when the single… Continue reading Good Book: Idaho Falls

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Good Book: Space Systems Failures

Space Systems Failures is like a horror novel for engineers: years of people’s lives and hundreds of millions of dollars are wasted because somebody crossed a wire or skipped a test. The real reasons for failures of launch vehicles and their payloads, however, are more interesting: Margins are slim because adding margin is expensive System… Continue reading Good Book: Space Systems Failures

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Sensor Network Technology in Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky

An important function of science fiction is to help us understand sociological, technological, and other aspects of our future. A really good SF novel — like some of those produced by Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Le Guin, Niven, and Vinge — is so full of ideas and possibilities that the reader’s mind is expanded a little.… Continue reading Sensor Network Technology in Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky

Book Review: Pale Fire

Pale Fire is a 999-line poem written by John Shade.  It is also a novel by Vladimir Nabokov that contains an introduction by Charles Kinbote, the poem, and Kinbote’s extended commentary on the poem. On the surface, Pale Fire is straightforward.  The poem is a touching — but not, it would seem, terribly good —… Continue reading Book Review: Pale Fire

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Book Review: Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to go to Grad School

Good jobs have barriers to entry.  Sometimes these barriers are natural (not everyone is capable of writing a novel or being a leader) and sometimes they are artificial (not everyone is born in the right place or to the right parents).  Many well-paid jobs requiring very specialized skills are protected by — among other mechanisms… Continue reading Book Review: Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to go to Grad School

Book Review: Sustainable Energy — Without the Hot Air

The premises are simple.  First, energy consumption must be met by energy production.  Second, use of fossil fuels is unsustainable.  Third, no magical technological fix to the energy problem is going to arrive.  Finally, to understand a sustainable future, we must think quantitatively.  That is, to proceed with a debate about, for example, wind or… Continue reading Book Review: Sustainable Energy — Without the Hot Air