Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Back for a limited time - Get 15% off sitewide on Slashdot Deals with coupon code "BLACKFRIDAY" (some exclusions apply)". ×

Submission + - Palm Trees Sprout in Moscow (

Martin Hellman writes: "Moscow demonstrations protesting recent elections didn’t portray Russia as heading toward another revolution, so Fox News substituted video footage of violent demonstrations in Athens, complete with scenes of streets on fire. A major clue was the appearance of palm trees in Moscow."

Submission + - Do nuclear weapons really deter? (

Martin Hellman writes: "In my Stanford seminar, “Nuclear Weapons, Risk and Hope,” I argue that much of the risk stems from a lack of critical thinking – accepting conventional wisdom on key points of national security, even when it is wrong. Much of the hope therefore lies in applying critical thinking to root out fallacious assumptions that form the foundation for our world view. One key assumption that deserves greater attention: Do nuclear weapons act as a deterrent? And, if so, what do they deter?"

Submission + - Leave Nuclear Deterrence To The Experts? (

Martin Hellman writes: "Sometimes it is claimed that we should leave nuclear matters to "oethose who know better" because classified information allows the experts to make better decisions. While I don'(TM)t have direct experience with classified information related to nuclear weapons, a very similar argument --" later proven to be false — was made repeatedly with respect to my work in cryptography."

Submission + - The Risk of "Multiple Improbable Factors" (

Martin Hellman writes: "On June 1, 2009, while en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, Air France 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean for no apparent reason, killing all 228 passengers and crew. A massive search recovered the “black box” flight recorders this May, and a just released report shows that a “combination of multiple improbable factors led to the disaster.” As explained in my recent blog post, unless we start to pay attention to similar dangers in our nuclear weapons strategy, another “combination of multiple improbable factors” could lead to the loss of all 7 billion passengers on space ship Earth."

Submission + - Inadvertent Erections Could Cause Nuclear War (

Martin Hellman writes: "Les Earnest is well known to digital cognoscenti for his contributions to artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet, but few know of
his warning that inadvertent erections could start a nuclear war:

In the 1950s I helped design the SAGE [Semi-Automatic Ground Environment] air defense system when we reviewed the BOMARC [Missile] launch control system, one of our engineers noticed a rather serious defect: if the launch command system was tested, the “test” switch was then returned to “operate” without individually resetting the control systems in each missile that had been tested, they would all immediately erect and launch! Needless to say, that “feature” was modified rather soon after we mentioned it to Boeing. The official name of the first BOMARC model was IM-99A, so I wrote a report about this problem titled "Inadvertent erection of the IM-99A.""


Submission + - Russian Censorship (

Martin Hellman writes: "The way Russia is portrayed in the mainstream media, it sometimes feels as if the old Soviet Union has been reincarnated, where any dissent from the party line invited harsh repercussions. While Russia certainly has its faults, a recent editorial in The Moscow Times provides a valuable window on the true situation. For details, see my excerpt and commentary, which includes a link to the full article."

Submission + - How Risky is a Nuclear Doomsday Machine? (

Martin Hellman writes: "How risky is it to build a nuclear arsenal that has the ability to destroy civilization? That is the fundamental question raised in my paper “How risky is nuclear optimism?” in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. While nuclear deterrence is not usually referred to as a Doomsday Machine, its other name, Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), brings out its similarity to the contraption in Stanley Kubrik's 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove. It is time to start Defusing the Nuclear Threat by dismantling our Doomsday Machine!"

Submission + - Cold Warriors Question Nukes (

Martin Hellman writes: "George Shultz served as President Reagan's Secretary of State, and Bill Perry as President Clinton's Secretary of Defense. Henry Kissinger was National Security Advisor and Secretary of State to both President Nixon and Ford. Sam Nunn was Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee for eight years. Their key roles in the Cold War has led many to call them "½ÂoeCold Warriors." That status makes their recent, repeated calls for fundamentally re-examining our nuclear posture all the more noteworthy. Their most recent attempt to awaken society to the unacceptable risk posed by nuclear weapons is an OpEd in today's Wall Street Journal Deterrence in the Age of Nuclear Proliferation. (That link requires a subscription to the Journal. There is also a subscription-free link at the Nuclear Threat Initiative.) Key excerpts and links to other resources are available."

Submission + - Will Democracy Solve Egypt’s Problems? (

Martin Hellman writes: Conventional wisdom says that democracy is the answer to the world’s problems, and by implication, Egypt's. Yet Hitler came to power in a democratic election, and it is democratic, but clearly wrong, when the dominant ethnic group in a nation supresses another. Our goal needs to be liberal democracy that protects minorities from a tyranny of the majority. So long as we mistakenly voice support for the wrong goal, a negative outcome in Egypt is more likely. All we need to do is add the L word.

At the source of every error which is blamed on the computer you will find at least two human errors, including the error of blaming it on the computer.