Monthly Archives: May 2012

Gregory Koger Tries to Head Off the Death Star Construction Program

U Miami Political Science Professor Gregory Koger knows how to get way ahead of the curve, and has published a comprehensive treatment of what will someday be a major political issue — Should we build a Death Star?:

I wish to address the most important policy question of the millenium: should we build a Death Star?  This debate picked up this year after some Lehigh University students estimated that just the steel for a Death Star would cost $852 quadrillion, or 13,000 times the current GDP of the Earth. Kevin Drum suggests this cost estimate is too low but, in the context of a galactic economy, a Death Star is perfectly affordable and “totally worth it.” Seth Masket and Jamelle Bouie highlight the military downside of the Death Star, suggesting that more people might rebel against the wholesale genocide of the Empire, and that the Death Star would be the prime target of any rebellion. I have two thoughts to add. First, the Death Star is a bit misunderstood. It is primarily a tool of domestic politics rather than warfare, and should be compared to alternative means of suppressing the population of a galaxy. Second, as a weapon of war, it should be compared to alternative uses of scarce defense resources. Understood properly, the Death Star is not worth it.

And there’s lots more where that came from.

I look forward to subsequent articles about the costs, benefits, and ethical ramifications of building a time machine, a Stargate, and a transporter.

Posted in Econ & Money, National Security, Sufficiently Advanced Technology, U.Miami | 2 Comments

Key Cryptography Concept Explained

I thought this video explanation of Public Key Cryptography: Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange [or, if you prefer, Diffie-Hellman-Merkle key exchange] was unusually clear. Secure key exchange is really important, because exchanging keys securely with someone is an essential prerequisite to creating a secure communications channel with them.

This video is great for people who want an intro to one of the central ideas in modern cryptography:

OK, there was a little math in there, but not so much.

Posted in Cryptography | 1 Comment

Taking It for a Test Drive

I’m trying out the phrase “past experience” as an addition to my list of pet peeves.

Posted in Personal | Leave a comment

My Brother on Hardball

Dan is talking about Karl Rove’s “non-profit” that runs attack ads on Democrats but which claims they’re just tax-exempt public education.

Great content, but I still say that a couple of hours media training wouldn’t hurt.

Posted in Dan Froomkin, Politics: US | Leave a comment

New Terms of Use Coming to Wikipedia

English language version of Wikpedia’s new terms of use, effective May 25, 2012.

One interesting aspect of these TOS is that they have a very American flavor. There seems to have been no attempt to cherry pick law; the Wikimedia Foundation is in the US and it relies on US law, both helpful (CDA § 230) and perhaps less helpful (DMCA).

I did enjoy reading part of it in French. But that didn’t seem to change the substance, which undoubtedly is the idea.

Posted in Internet | 1 Comment

GIMP 2.8 Released

GIMP ReleasedThe latest from Gimp.org looks like a significant upgrade — better aesthetically, bigger feature set, it also feels snappier so far.

Versions seem available for just about every platform.

(GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a free and open source solution that rivals Photoshop. And did I mention free?)

Posted in Software | Leave a comment