Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Much idiocy, the occasional triumph of common sense, and a look ahead

So: a virologist decided to investigate how to make the avian flu (aka, H5N1) more contagious.

It apparently wasn't enough to know that the disease -- transmitted through contact with the feces of infected birds -- has killed 600 people and has a 60% human fatality rate. Now there's an airborne strain. Pleased at punch with his accomplishments, said virologist wanted to get the details published. Because, you know, no one could possibly abuse this research.


I'm not one to advocate censorship -- few authors are -- but this is one of the exceptions that proves the rule. The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity recommended against full publication.  Happily, Science and the researcher went along.  We can all breathe easier -- literally -- for a bit longer.

See: "Dutch Scientist Agrees to Omit Published Details of Highly Contagious Bird Flu Findings."

KH-9 spy satellite
For an example of potentially dangerous information successfully protected, see "Decades later, a Cold War secret is revealed." After long years in which these quiet heroes could say nothing about their work, the declassification must have been a relief.  The work they did on spy satellites helped make the world a safer place.

As we're early in the year, some topical wackiness.  "Is It Time to Overhaul the Calendar?" To avoid taxing our brains with most holidays falling on differing days of the week in different years, this proposed calendar would give us -- wait for it -- a leap week every five or six years. Yeah, that's a whole lot simpler.

What, you don't want to take a five-minute survey about your online experience ordering a two-dollar HDMI cable?  Then you'll understand why "For some consumers, surveys breed feedback fatigue."

You've been good sports reading this far. To end today's post on a high note, enjoy IEEE Spectrum's "Top Tech 2012," predictions from the premier electrical-engineering journal on this year's technology winners and losers.


jaguar said...


Thank you very much for let me know very interesting page IEEE spectrum.
New technologies cheer me up.
Also new year gift to me.

My new year gift to myself are two books of InterstellarNet, Amazon Japan brought me this monday.
I have just finished the first story. My thinking is adrift from mass of ideas.

Edward M. Lerner said...

Hi Jaguar,

Happy New Year, and thank you for your kind note.

- Ed