By Rebecca Slayton
In a swiftly altering international, we depend upon specialists to evaluate the promise and dangers of recent know-how. yet how do those specialists make feel of a hugely doubtful destiny? In Arguments that Count, Rebecca Slayton deals an immense new standpoint. Drawing on new old records and interviews in addition to views in technological know-how and know-how experiences, she offers an unique account of the way scientists got here to phrases with the extraordinary probability of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). She compares how varied specialist groups -- physicists and desktop scientists -- developed arguments in regards to the dangers of missile safety, and the way those arguments replaced through the years. Slayton exhibits that our realizing of technological hazards is formed via disciplinary repertoires -- the codified wisdom and mathematical principles that specialists use to border new demanding situations. And, considerably, a brand new repertoire can convey long-neglected dangers into transparent view.
In the Nineteen Fifties, scientists famous that high-speed pcs will be had to do something about the unheard of pace of ICBMs. however the nation's elite technology advisors had no technique to examine the hazards of desktops so used physics to evaluate what they can: radar and missile functionality. simply many years later, after developing computing as a technology, have been advisors capable of study authoritatively the hazards linked to complicated software program -- such a lot significantly, the chance of a catastrophic failure. As we proceed to confront new threats, together with that of cyber assault, Slayton bargains helpful perception into how other kinds of workmanship can restrict or extend our means to handle novel technological risks.
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Extra resources for Arguments that Count: Physics, Computing, and Missile Defense, 1949-2012
A three-dimensional interception was out of the question. So his group prescribed the height of the “hostile” aircraft and programmed the computer to conduct its calculations in two dimensions. ”40 But Forrester needed to do more than demonstrate the feasibility of Whirlwind. He also needed to make the case that an electronic digital computer was the best way to coordinate a complex system. ”41 Rather than building complicated electronic equipment to connect each new piece of hardware, engineers would just write a computer program.
The decoys and chaff would move at the same speed as the warhead, while reflecting confusing signals back to radars. These and many other countermeasures were so readily derived from well-known principles in physics and radar engineering, that they would eventually be published in the open literature, as we will see in future chapters. 10 Thus, members of the Killian committee expected that warheads would only become visible in their final few minutes of flight, as they plummeted down through the earth’s atmosphere, while lightweight decoys slowed or burned up.
The EDSAC was one floor up from the equipment necessary to write or change a program. Wilkes repeatedly amended code on the first floor and tested code on the second: “On one of my journeys . . ”14 Wilkes and others took steps to make programming more intuitive. Rather than writing all their programs in binary machine language, Wilkes Software and the Race against Surprise Attack 21 introduced equipment that translated letter instructions into binary code. And his team designed “subroutine libraries,” collections of short, frequently used programs stored on tape.