Newsletter Volume 30 Issue 12, Dec 2018
From The Editor
2018 was a year of skepticism, where sound advice was often shouted down by unconscious bias, but by year end there was some good news.
On the down side:
On climate change scepticism, a December 2018 study led by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) notes that “The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that more than 40 percent of the burden of environmentally related disease and about 90 percent of the burden of climate change is borne by children under five, although that age group constitutes only 10 percent of the global population”
On vaccination skepticism, the Science Media Centre (SMC) in the UK reports on low MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination rates, with the message ” It is appalling that at least 37 people have died in Europe this year from a completely preventable disease and, although no deaths have so far been reported, in England there have been over 800 cases. MMR is a safe, effective and readily available vaccine to prevent this highly infectious disease.”
Even our Australian Standards have come under attack, with skepticism on how much they cost, and a December, 2018 call for them to be free to Australian Businesses: Australian Standards: The Unfair Exchange
For the good news, see below, 2018: The Year of Skepticism. (For an overview of Ethical Scepticism, see our November 2018 article I think I am, therefore I am, I think.)
“In a fascinating editorial for a special plasma issue of EPJ H, called “Plasma physics in the 20th century as told by players,” three physicists share their perspectives on key events in the early history of plasma physics.” This December 19, 2018 ScienceDaily article from Springer reports on research “which has since been harnessed for everyday applications such as TV screens, chip etching and torches, but also propulsion and even sustained energy production via controlled fusion.” See below, The coming of age of plasma physics.
Good news for those who use the Australian government’s Information Security Manual (ISM). A 06/12/2018 article in The Mandarin reports “The latest update sees a net reduction of 20% on the 950 individual security tips that were listed in the previous version of the ISM. Others were “modified to merge in content from other security controls, clarify their intent or clarify the classifications that they were applicable to” as well, the Australian Cyber Security Centre reports. See below, Information Security Manual update: 20% less cyber controls, no more ‘should’ or ‘must’.
While progress on quantum communications is being reported in terms of the single photon exchange, there is still scepticism on whether we are really getting closer to quantum computing. “Experts estimate that the number of qubits needed for a useful quantum computer, one that could compete with your laptop in solving certain kinds of interesting problems, is between 1,000 and 100,000. So the number of continuous parameters describing the state of such a useful quantum computer at any given moment must be at least 21,000, which is to say about 10300. That’s a very big number indeed. How big? It is much, much greater than the number of subatomic particles in the observable universe.” This quote is from a 15 Nov 2018 article by Mikhail Dyakonov See below, The Case Against Quantum Computing
Articles in the current Issue cover:
On the upside, skepticism by scientists about generally accepted theories has yielded some surprising breakthroughs… Malicious intruders often operate by trying every single “door” of entry into a network to find a way in. It can be very difficult to prevent, or even detect, such attacks. Using sound, researchers can create a code so that every time someone enters a virtual door, a human operator or computer would hear a new pattern of music as a warning.
“The story ranges from the Soviet era and Russian efforts to the standpoints of French, Japanese, Chinese and American physicists involved in building tokamaks around the world — and more recently ITER- to experiment with controlled fusion, which is governed by plasma physics”.
“ Presumably, the idea is to encourage executives to take charge of managing cyber security risks and to use the ISM as a guide, but not to rely on it too much as a kind of checklist.”
“Even without considering these impossibly large numbers, it’s sobering that no one has yet figured out how to combine many physical qubits into a smaller number of logical qubits that can compute something useful. And it’s not like this hasn’t long been a key goal.”
Seriously…Trust Me, I’m a Scientist
Richard Dawkins on a worrying disconnect between scientists and society.
Presenting his first programme for Radio 4, the evolutionary biologist, author and former Professor for Public Understanding of Science, Richard Dawkins, investigates trust in science. It’s an issue of concern for scientists as well as others. Despite our scientific and technological advances, many people still believe the Earth is flat and that vaccines cause autism. Even the President of the United States has called climate change a hoax. See Seriously…Trust Me, I’m a Scientist
ACOSM18: IT Security – The Great Debate was a huge success despite the short lead up time to advertise it. Further joint events are planned for Feb/March 2019. Watch this space.
Quote of the Day
There’s a silly notion that failure’s not an option at NASA. Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough. – Elon Musk
Quote from Yesteryear
Marta was watching the football game with me when she said, “You know, most of these sports are based on the idea of one group protecting its territory from invasion by another group.” “Yeah,” I said, trying not to laugh. Girls are funny. – Jack Handy