Theres Hope -- From One Of The Brightest Minds Of Our Century : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Theres Hope -- From One Of The Brightest Minds Of Our Century

Had, another, once-in-a-lifetime-experience yesterday. Last night, Dr. Stephen W. Hawking lectured in Silicon Valley, on Science in the New Millennium. (Professor Hawking is known worldwide for capturing the popular imagination more than any other scientist since Albert Einstein). The lecture was sold out, but my intuition (gut feeling to others) was to go anyway and Id somehow get a ticket. Yep. What a brilliant and extended left-brain he has! (Right-brain capabilities need some attention though).

He did not discuss Y2K, sorry to say. In summary, one of our biggest scientific challenges is exponential population growth. He saw a direct correlation between electricity consumption and the publishing of scientific journals. (Joke).

He also refers to himself as, guess what, an optimist. He commented that the unexpected will happen, as it always has in the past. He discussed the impact of Quantum Physics on our current understanding of the world, and how there is never a direct line between point A and point B. Point A carries within it unlimited possibilities, as does the pathway to point B.

It is not clear that intelligence has much survival value. Bacteria do well without it. He expressed that if we get beyond blowing ourselves up with nuclear weapons, we may well survive. Not yet sure of the outcome.

His favorite science fiction movie is Dark Star. What is the name he gives to first cause? In his opinion, there isnt one. It just IS.

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Written program quotes:

These are truly unique times. We live and work in an unprecedented era where rapid and continuous change, innovation and growth are required to survive let alone prosper. The future -- is NOW. -- Dean, College of Science, San Jose State University

Intels newest pentium processor technology keeps me connected to the world, ... I have immediate access to the Internet and email wherever I am. (Referring to a wireless GSM, Global System for Mobile communications, connection and a notebook computer specially modified). I must be one of the most connected people in the world, and I can truly say, Im Intel inside. -- Dr Stephen Hawking.

Quotes from program article Awakening the Scientist in All of Us, by Dr. Stephen Hawking.

And we cannot stop inquiring minds thinking about basic science, even if they are not paid for it. The only way to prevent further developments would be a global totalitarian state that suppressed anything new. But human initiative and ingenuity is such that it wouldnt succeed, but merely slow the rate of change.

The public also has a great interest in science, particularly astronomy, as is shown by the large audiences for television series such as Cosmos, and for science fiction. What can be done to harness this interest and give the public the scientific background it needs to make informed decisions on subjects like acid rain, the greenhouse effect, nuclear weapons, or genetic engineering? It must be sold on science. [And I add, on Y2K?]

Even the most successful book is read by only a small proportion of the population. Only television can reach a truly mass audience.

TV producers should realize they have a responsibility to educate and not just entertain.

What are the science-related issues that the public will have to make decisions on in the near future? By far the most urgent is nuclear weapons. Other global problems, such as food supply or the greenhouse effect, are relatively slow acting. But a nuclear war could end all human life within a few days. The breakup of the Soviet Union raises the possibility of civil war like in Yugoslavia but with nuclear weapons. And a number of smaller countries like Israel, Pakistan and India, and possibly, South Africa already have nuclear weapons and will be joined by more.

It is important that the public realize the danger and put pressure on all governments to agree to large arms cuts. Even if we manage to avoid a nuclear war, there are still other dangers that could destroy us. Theres a sick joke that the reason we have not been contacted by an alien civilization is that civilizations tend to destroy themselves when they reach our stage. But I have sufficient faith in the sense of the public to believe that we might prove this wrong. -- Dr. Stephen W. Hawking, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, England.

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If you want to extrapolate the Y2K relevance of this post, just connect the dots. -- Diane

-- Diane J. Squire (, November 16, 1998


I just connected the dots. The good news is that Y2K will take care of that pesky population explosion problem, yes indeedee. The bad news is that bad computer code does not care about any of that stuff that the good Dr. had to say, and will prove him quite wrong (probably with a little help from Mr. Bacteria.). (No offense, E. Coli ....)

-- Jack (, November 16, 1998.

Food for thought on the "first cause", Diane. It's easy to describe the effects of a hurricane or tornado. It's harder to understand how these effects all come from the still, calm center of these storms...

-- Kevin (, November 16, 1998.

Oh I thought for a minute Hawking had found the silver bullet.

-- Richard Dale (, November 17, 1998.

Kevin -- Good centerpoint analogy.

Richard -- As Jack often says "IT CAN"T BE FIXED." That about sums it up. Right Jack? It's about making lemonaid with the Y2K lemon leftovers. Some people are fond of saying, "watch the money," which is quite valid, I prefer watching the "nukes" and am trying to reamin detached from the outcome (not easy, I love this planet). It is there where the "hottest" Y2K repercussions are, IMHO.



-- Diane J. Squire (, November 17, 1998.

I agree, Diane. One thing people don't usually consider is that Y2K could cause quite a few Chernobyls in the year 2000.

-- Kevin (, November 18, 1998.

Paradoxically perhaps, although I am convinced that Y2K will probably bring down everything else, I had always dicounted the idea of a nuclear meltdown due to Y2K.

Firstly, it is my understanding that the "innards" of a nuclear power plant uses very old, and very Y2K safe, analog technology, for anything that really counts in the way of what might otherwise cause a nuclear accident.

Secondly, nuclear plants are so heavily regulated, the big impact that they will have with Y2K is having to be shutdown because: a) they will not be Y2K compliant (not that anything else will be), and the NRC has pledged to shut them down if they are not; and b) With loss of telecommunications and other services due to Y2K problems, they would have to shutdown due to safety regs.

At least, this is what I have gleaned, again I have not been really focusing on the nuclear side, other than noting that if these plants shut down, there goes a big hunk of where our electricity comes from. Anyone know differently??

-- Jack (, November 18, 1998.

Jack, Arnie posted these on another thread. I was just focusing on the nuclear arsenal aspect of Y2K. Dicey, huh? Im curious about the interelated aspects of the power plants too. Anyone? -- Diane

CNN Reporting

Nuclear arsenals at risk for Year 2000 computer bug

November 12, 1998 Web posted at: 11:31 p.m. EDT (2331 GMT)

From Correspondent Rick Lockridge

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- For nuclear weapons to work as designed, a lot of things have to go right -- targeting, launching, delivery. All of those steps are controlled by computer chips, and all of those chips need to work together harmoniously.

Reliance on thousands of chips and millions of lines of computer code could make nuclear weapons especially vulnerable to the Year 2000 computer bug.

A new report by a group opposing nuclear weapons, the British American Security Information Center, claims the Defense Department will be unable to stop the Y2K bug from infesting thousands of nuclear weapons all over the world.

The report singles out American submarine-based missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as Russian land-based nuclear weapons. But the center claims that China and all other nuclear powers will also have problems with the bug.

[Note: Clintons scheduled trip to China, Gore taking his place.]

The group recommends deactivating all nuclear weapons before January 1, 2000, so there is no chance of an unanticipated nuclear disaster.

"This would get rid of, completely, the fear of surprise attack," said Michael Kraig, the report's author.

Pentagon officials responsible for dealing with the Y2K bug declined to comment directly on the report. But a Pentagon spokeswoman told CNN that "nuclear command and control centers have been given the highest priority, and we feel that we are in pretty good shape there."

No one knows for sure whether or how the Y2K bug might affect nuclear weapons -- and no one will know until the calendar turns.


USA Today

11/13/98- Updated 02:15 AM ET The Nation's Homepage By M.J. Zuckerman, USA TODAY

U.S. aims to avert Y2K-induced war

WASHINGTON - Concerned that the Year 2000 computer bug could disrupt military early-warning systems, the United States is reaching out to the world's nuclear powers in an unprecedented effort to avoid an accidental conflict.

Pentagon officials say they are confident that U.S. nuclear command and control systems will be ready for the so-called Y2K problem, but worry that foreign early warning systems could malfunction and falsely indicate an attack.

"We're working with all the nuclear powers we can have a relationship with, to physically share people," says Marvin Langston, who directs Pentagon Y2K programs. "Their people will sit in our control centers and our people in their control centers to keep the communications open."

Efforts are also being made through the State Department and intelligence community to establish "back channel" contacts with nations that deny having nuclear capability and others hostile toward the United States, he says.

[Remember the Secretary of State recently visited Cisco Systems, the internet backbone].

Although plans are not finalized, Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre says he hopes to have some cooperative efforts in place next year.

"We have agreed we will have a center that will provide resources," says Hamre, adding,"We'll move as fast as we can with the Russians."

There is general agreement that Y2K - a date-sensitive programming problem that could disable computers after Dec. 31, 1999 - will not cause missiles to launch mistakenly, but early-warning systems could malfunction. For instance, in January 1995, Russian equipment mistook a NASA launch for a missile attack.

"We have a huge stake in Russia's early warning systems working properly," says former senator Sam Nunn, who raised concerns last June.

Russian authorities first focused on Y2K this summer, finding their space-based tracking equipment was likely to fail.

"Up to 80% of all defense ministry systems could be affected," says Sergey Rogov, an adviser to the Russian Duma on Year 2000 issues.

An arms control think tank, British American Security Information Council, issued a report Thursday questioning the Pentagon's ability to secure its nuclear systems from Y2K distress.

The Government Accounting Office and members of Congress have questioned the ability of the Pentagon, and other government agencies, to complete all its Y2K efforts before Jan. 1, 2000.

Rogov says that "maybe the Year 2000 problem provides us with the impetus to go into the next century with an entirely different relationship of our two nuclear forces."

-- Diane J. Squire (, November 18, 1998.

Thanks, Diane. As if I was not already worried enough....

In reading the articles, for some reason, that old movie "Fail Safe" stirred up out of a cobweb. (For those who don't know, the movie's plot was that a handfull of U.S. nuclear bomber planes had been -- accidentally, due to a computer glitch -- given the order to fly to Moscow and bomb the city. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. [as it was known then, this was the early 1960s] had to work closely together to try to prevent this from happening.) Remember the U.S. General who said something like, "Hey, this was an honest accident and all, but gee, as long as its going to happen anyway, why don't we just go all-out and nuke the Reds?" I can't help but wonder if any military types, anywhere, are starting to think along these lines regarding Y2K....

-- Jack (, November 18, 1998.

Jack, if "they" aren't, then I suspect it's occured to the professional disruptors. *Sigh*

I guess I look at the whole Y2K advance experience as both self and planetary analysis to the "nth" degree. We need to get this one, without triggering the catastrophic mistakes. Hard choices coming up.


-- Diane J. Squire (, November 19, 1998.


What you said said about nuclear power plants and regulation is true...IN THE U.S...

-- Kevin (, November 19, 1998.

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