Category Archives: Uncategorized

Arthur C Clarke, 1917-2008, I salute you.

Arthur Charles Clarke, born December 16, 1917, passed away on March 18, 2008, in his home in Sri Lanka.

 A wonderful science fiction and science writer, he is popularly known for his film and novel “2001: A Space Odyssey” and his introduction of the concept of geosynchronous communication satellites. One of the best science fiction writers, and one of my favorites, he has left a large corpus of science fiction novels and short stories well-grounded in hard science and imaginatively written.

Clarke also introduced the three laws quoted below which are well known in the science/engineering and science  fiction communities. The third law is widely quoted, often without attribution to him.

1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
2. The limits of the possible can only be found by going beyond them into the impossible.
3. Any sufficiently advanced technology may, at first, be indistinguishable from magic.

(Note: These should not be confused with the three Laws of Robotics introduced by Clarke’s friend, the SF and science writer Isaac Asimov).

A nice obituary for Clarke has been published in the Guardian, here: http://books.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,2266521,00.html

Sir Arthur C. Clarke (he was knighted in 1998, the award being made in 2000)  recorded a message on the occasion of his 90th birthday last December which has been published on YouTube, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qLdeEjdbWE

Arthur C Clarke, 1917-2008, I salute you.

On my way back

Sorry, folks. I have been gone for a while. Travel, work, other engagements. If you have been checking the blog, thanks for your patience. I’ll be posting again now.

TV History of US Supreme Court

PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) will broadcast a TV program (on US television channels)  on the history of the US Supreme court. Twohour-long episodes will air on January 31, 2007, and two on February 07, 2007.

 A companion book by Jeffrey Rosen entitled “The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries That Defined America” has also been published. A web site with more information can be accessed here: http://historyofsupremecourt.org

Recent changes in bench composition and a new chief justice will have a very significant impact on American legal and social systems. This TV program should be useful to people who are interested in assessing what changes are likely to come about.

Cybercrime

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription may be required) this week by Samuel McQuade III of the Rochester Institute of Technology talks about cybercrime. He cites the following findings:

–   “Seventeen percent of students surveyed in 2004 by my institution, the Rochester Institute of Technology, reported that they had been harassed online. Eight percent said they had been threatened; 6 percent had been cyberstalked; and another 6 percent had been victims of identity theft. One in three claimed to know the perpetrator prior to the crime. That shouldn’t be surprising, given that the students also admitted to being offenders — especially in instances of pirating and academic dishonesty.

–   One in three children ages 6 to 17 reported having been victimized online in a 2005 study on cyberbullying conducted by University of Wisconsin and Florida State University researchers. The respondents also reported feeling angry, sad, or depressed as a result, and often did not tell their parents about the incidents for fear of losing computer privileges.

–   A 2006 national study of online youth victimization conducted by University of New Hampshire researchers found that one in seven reported receiving unwanted sexual solicitations. One in three received unwanted sexual material, and one in 11 experienced harassment, including threats.”

Mr. McQuade suggests that reduction in cybercrime cannot be achieved by using only technological and legal remedies. He recommends a greater focus on educating people about the types of threats and how to make themselves less vulnerable in the cyberworld e.g. by not posting highly personal information or photographs about themselves on the Web. Educational efforts would occur at all levels – K-12 schools, colleges, and public outreach.

The Department of Homeland Security is promoting awareness of Internet safety at the K-12 level and the State of Virginia requires school districts to provide Internet safety instruction.  More such programs are likely to be put in place over the next few years.

Each transition in technology brings with it issues related to exploitation, both positive and negative. The use of telephones prompted concerns about children answering the phone and becoming vulnerable to crime. At the heart of these concerns lies the issue of how much personal information is it safe to release in a given situation. New technologies provide new mechanisms for both disseminating and collecting information. It is useful to educate people about these mechanisms but it is even more critical to educate them about predatory behavior by people and how open they should be in various types of circumstances.

Thanks Barry @ WordPress

I must say I am impressed with the support at WordPress. The blogroll while sorted in alphabetical order wouldn’t publish in that order. I wrote to the Support group and Barry fixed the problem and made the change live within a few hours. Thanks Barry and WordPress!