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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 + - 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.

Submission + - Risky Nuclear Designs

Martin Hellman writes: Yesterday, Slashdot reported that a system failure at Warren AFB in Wyoming affected 50 ICBM’s and that “various security protocols built into the missile delivery system, like intrusion alarms and warhead separation alarms, were offline.” Assuaging fears that America’s nuclear deterrent might have been compromised during this failure, the source article notes that the missiles still could be launched from airborne command centers. Other reports cite an administration official offering assurances that "at no time did the president's ability [to launch] decrease." Given the difficulty of debugging software and hardware that is probably not a good thing. The history of nuclear command and control systems has too many examples of risky designs that favor the ability to launch over the danger of an accidental one.

Submission + - What to do when DC is nuked ( 2

Martin Hellman writes: When terrorists detonate a nuclear weapon in DC — and, unless we start to take this issue more seriously, it is probably "when," not "if" — a study at Stanford's Biz School has concluded that you're better off hiding in your basement than trying to evacuate. Hopefully, more people will start to take action to prevent that disaster in the first place.

Submission + - Wall Street's Lessons for Nuclear Deterrence (

Martin Hellman writes: What do auction rate preferred securities (ARPS) and nuclear deterrence have in common? Both work well for a long period of time, but are destined to fail catastrophically. ARPS have already imploded, with many falsely claiming that "no one could have foreseen the crisis." Let's learn our lesson before nuclear deterrence follows suit.

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