June 18, 2005

Elec2103 notes

Lecture notes for the parts of the course which mattered is now available for every one's benefit.

[edit] Short lab notes for Lab 5 involving Laplace transforms is also avaliable now.

Good luck tomorrow!

Cheers,
Steve

June 16, 2005

The Manhattan Project

The project
T
he Manhattan project was the code name for the US efforts during World War II to develop an atomic bomb. It was partially motivated by Germany's progress whereby it was a race to be the first to develop a working atomic bomb, and hold the trump card that would turn the fate of the world.

The Manhattan project took place over 4 years at the cost of 1.8 billion dollars - the equivalent of over $20 billion dollars today. The result of the project was more than weapon superiority, it was also a major scientific breakthrough. Its a prime example of how scientific advance is accelerated in times of war or crisis.

Three bombs were produced by the project: Gadget, Little Boy, Fat Man. Gadget was used for testing purpose, Little Boy was detonated over the city of Hiroshima, and Fat Man was detonated over the city of Nagasaki.

Causes and effects
One of the most compelling reasons for the use of atomic bombs was to keep the Soviet Union out of the Pacific theatre which served to stem the influence of USSR and Germany on post war negotiations. In a sense, the atomic bomb was the stone that struck 2 birds: it ended the war quicker before USSR can extend its influence to the Pacific and Easter Europe, and it also served to diminish the power of USSR and Germany on the barging table when World War II ended.

While the politicians saw the atomic bomb as a means of securing the power of Alliance in the the post war world, the scientists developing it saw it as the trigger of an atomic arms race. For ethical reasons they urged that the Japan be shown the power of atomic bombs in demonstrations and allowed to surrender.

However the demonstrations did not happen, and despite heavy protest from scientists, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki went ahead under the guidance of President Truman.

The bombing of Hiroshima on 6th of August 1945 resulted instantly in the death of 66,000 people and over 69,000 were injured. The bombing of Nagasaki 3 days later on the 9th of August 1945 resulted in the death 39,000 people despite the plutonium bomb's greater power - it missed the city by 1 mile- with over 25,000 people injured.

Damages didn't stop there. The death toll continue to rise years after the detonation of both atomic bombs. The nuclear fallout that occurred afterward had far reaching effects. In Hiroshima alone it was estimated that between 1946 and 1951 over 60,000 people died from radiation related illness. Over all the death toll for Hiroshima was an estimated 140,000 people at the end of 1945, and 70,000 in Nagasaki.

After Japan surrendered World War II ended shortly after. In its wake the atomic arms race predicted by the scientists occurred. This is known to the world as the Cold War.

The Cold War resulted in both USSR and US spending large amounts of resources to further their own research into atomic weapons. This boosted the economy of both nations due to booms in the defence industry, and resulted in the invention of revolutionary products - spin offs of military applications.

The events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki also spawned the Council for a Liveable World in 1962, a Washington based lobby group dealing with nuclear arms control and foreign policy, and the civilian control of the Atomic Energy Commission in 1946. A means of regulating atomic weapons is thus created, in the aftermath of the Manhattan project.

Lessons
Humanity has gain a power that this planet has never before seen, yet our wisdom and ethics matched not our might. The Manhattan projects serves as evidence of this. Experts agree that World War II would have ended in 1945 even with out Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thousands of women, children, and civilians would have been spared death and pain if only US took the power of the atomic bomb, and the responsibility it brings with it.

The following quote by General Omar N. Bradley, Chief of Staff, United States Army, in 1945 condenses the problem society faces in the present world. Whether its stem cell research, cloning, DNA engineering or designer babies - the problem remains unchanged from when the Manhattan project raised it to the present day:
"We have too many men of science, too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon of the Mount . . . The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living."

The Manhattan projected affected not only the outcome of World War II, but also human civilization and history. We are now more than ever more powerful than any before us, and how we deal with such power and those yet to come will decide the fate of the human race. We are like children playing with fire - if we show no restraint, exhibit no morals, we will ultimately be destroyed by the knowledge we so dearly gained. Science with out responsibility is the shadow over our civilization.

Sincerely,
Steve

June 15, 2005

Googling skills

Google is the new god of knowledge and the Internet. Our world moves ever onwards, towards an age where this god will reign supreme. Your knowledge will not be measured by how much you remember, but rather by how well and how quickly you can find information. And google is far and away the best tool to do that.

On the surface it appears quite simple. Type what you are looking for into the box and if there is information about it, it will be returned. In reality, this is far from the truth. The title link shows just some of the many tricky things that can be done to modify a google search. There was even a book produced

But even without using these features, googling is an art. It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that knowing the best search terms to enter is a skill acquired not only by practice, but by an intuitive understanding of how the search engine works. I've lost count of the number of times I've been told by someone that they've googled to no avail, only to try it myself and find what they are looking for within the first three results.

Today we are moving towards teaching our children to be computer-literate. Computing courses are no longer just for aspiring developers and engineers - they are for everyone. We give lessons on how to use word processors, web browsers and email clients. Search engines, however, are neglected, most likely because they are appear to be so simple to use. And indeed they are - at a basic level. The subtleties involved in using them effectively are more difficult and need to be imparted to the general populace if we are to move forward in the information age. We are approaching a time when Google is becoming a vital part of research and everyday life - to 'google' has even entered the popular vocabulary.

I don't know what it is that makes the difference between a good googler and a bad one - from my experience it does not appear to be dependent on knowledge of computers, programming ability or anything else that would jump to mind. Perhaps I have learnt better than others simply because I am a self-avowed Google fan and have read widely on the topic. Perhaps it's just a natural talent, I don't know. But I believe "How to google 101" needs to be added to our list of things that people should know about computers. In the years ahead, googling will be a vital skill and it is not as simple as many people think.

June 14, 2005

On Bibles

This label should be mandatory.

Cheers,
Steve

Politics

Been meaning to get this one out for a while now, pictures are worth a thousand words and all that:

blowjob

I'll let you draw your own conclusions from that.

Cheers,
Steve

June 13, 2005

New home

Now that atomicscript.com is back up, its the new home for Journey's End. I'll be leaving the old posts on the ausgamer site while I slowly convert all the links to point properly.

Cheers,
Steve

June 12, 2005

Compassion

Its a rare thing that happened today on a global scale: compassion. Firstly some background:

Group of Eight consists of the world's leading industrialised nations:
  1. Canada
  2. France
  3. Germany
  4. Italy
  5. Japan
  6. Russia
  7. United Kingdom
  8. United States
  9. European Union [ that's right EU is the 9th member, the name update is coming ]
G-8 today announced it will write off $40 billion USD of debt from 19 [ note that almost all sources report 18 when its in fact 19 ] developing countries, many of which are in Africa. Its a moved designed to lift Africa out of poverty by allowing a combined 1.5 billion USD each year normally used to pay interests to be reinvested with in the respective nations. What is even more surprising is the lack of any strings - the White House has stated that this act "would not jeopardize future aid funding". If that wasn't enough. Bush Administration has "agreed that rich nations would provide extra money to the multilateral bodies to compensate for the assets written off, and ensure future aid packages would not be affected."

By the way, the 19 countries are:
  1. Benin
  2. Burkina Faso
  3. Ethiopia
  4. Ghana
  5. Guyana
  6. Madagascar
  7. Mali
  8. Mauritania
  9. Mozambique
  10. Niger
  11. Rwanda
  12. Senegal
  13. Tanzania
  14. Uganda
  15. Zambia
  16. Bolivia
  17. Guyana
  18. Honduras
  19. Nicaragua.
These countries will benefit immensely from this act of compassion. For example, one in five Malawians is HIV-positive and the country spends more on debt interest payments than health.

In today's profit driven world where corporations aim only to increase their profit margin, this is a welcomed move from the leading Governments in the world. Here compassion shone through greed, through selfishness and illuminated a better path for nations in need.

It doesn't stop here though. Plans are on the drawing board for further debt write-offs - 20 other country are eligible provided they meet strict requirements which demonstrates the integrity and ability of their Government. Potentially $55 billion USD of debt will be written off.

If only business can be convinced to do the same for people in need - widows, single parents, students. People who are struggling to pay back debts where interest alone cripples their ability to lead a better life.

I must admit I am pleasantly surprised by this move. It goes to show that compassion still exists in our world's leaders and all is not lost.

To the world's leaders - well done, and my thanks.

Cheers,
Steve