Dick Lugar Speaks. 4/12/17

As he was my favorite US Senator for most of his time in office [after Bentsen left the Senate] I am always interested in his views.


Quantum Future – copied right, 2017

Personal note – the story I “copied right” below is of special interest to me. Some years ago, at dinner with my friend Fred Moore, now a retired sub-atomic physics specialist and professor at UT, he described to me a lab experiment his team had successfully completed whereby a signal was sent instantaneously using the property of quanta that they are “paired”; thus it was a signal that need not be encrypted to be unintelligible in transit because no actual particle carried the signal from point A to point B – it just appeared by pairing. This was mind boggling to me then, and Fred went on to explain that their work was turned over to the feds, DARPA, I think, for investigation for military/security use. Buried in this article is the news that China is using that very technological breakthrough in a satellite that can receive and transmit these “global, unhackable” signals. In a sea of otherwise good news, I hope to God DARPA or NASA have done this too.

Quantum leaps
The strangeness of the quantum realm opens up exciting new technological possibilities
The Economist Mar 11th 2017

A BATHING cap that can watch individual neurons, allowing others to monitor the wearer’s mind. A sensor that can spot hidden nuclear submarines. A computer that can discover new drugs, revolutionise securities trading and design new materials. A global network of communication links whose security is underwritten by unbreakable physical laws. Such—and more—is the promise of quantum.


All this potential arises from improvements in scientists’ ability to trap, poke and prod single atoms and wispy particles of light called photons. Today’s computer chips get cheaper and faster as their features get smaller, but quantum mechanics says that at tiny enough scales, particles sail through solids, short-circuiting the chip’s innards. Quantum technologies come at the problem from the other direction. Rather than scale devices down, quantum technologies employ the unusual behaviours of single atoms and particles and scale them up. Like computerisation before it, this unlocks a world of possibilities, with applications in nearly every existing industry—and the potential to spark entirely new ones.


Quantum mechanics—a theory of the behaviour at the atomic level put together in the early 20th century—has a well-earned reputation for weirdness. That is because the world as humanity sees it is not, in fact, how the world works. Quantum mechanics replaced wholesale the centuries-old notion of a clockwork, deterministic universe with a reality that deals in probabilities rather than certainties—one where the very act of measurement affects what is measured.


Along with that upheaval came a few truly mind-bending implications, such as the fact that particles are fundamentally neither here nor there but, until pinned down, both here and there at the same time: they are in a “superposition” of here-there-ness. The theory also suggested that particles can be spookily linked: do something to one and the change is felt instantaneously by the other, even across vast reaches of space. This “entanglement” confounded even the theory’s originators.


It is exactly these effects that show such promise now: the techniques that were refined in a bid to learn more about the quantum world are now being harnessed to put it to good use. Gizmos that exploit superposition and entanglement can vastly outperform existing ones—and accomplish things once thought to be impossible.


Improving atomic clocks by incorporating entanglement, for example, makes them more accurate than those used today in satellite positioning. That could improve navigational precision by orders of magnitude, which would make self-driving cars safer and more reliable. And because the strength of the local gravitational field affects the flow of time (according to general relativity, another immensely successful but counter-intuitive theory), such clocks would also be able to measure tiny variations in gravity. That could be used to spot underground pipes without having to dig up the road, or track submarines far below the waves.


Other aspects of quantum theory permit messaging without worries about eavesdroppers. Signals encoded using either superposed or entangled particles cannot be intercepted, duplicated and passed on. That has obvious appeal to companies and governments the world over. China has already launched a satellite that can receive and reroute such signals; a global, unhackable network could eventually follow.

The advantageous interplay between odd quantum effects reaches its zenith in quantum computers. Rather than the 0s and 1s of standard computing, a quantum computer’s bits are in superpositions of both, and each “qubit” is entangled with every other. Using algorithms that recast problems in quantum-amenable forms, such computers will be able to chomp their way through calculations that would take today’s best supercomputers millennia. Even as high-security quantum networks are being developed, a countervailing worry is that quantum computers will eventually render obsolete today’s cryptographic techniques, which are based on hard mathematical problems.


Long before that happens, however, smaller quantum computers will make other contributions in industries from energy and logistics to drug design and finance. Even simple quantum computers should be able to tackle classes of problems that choke conventional machines, such as optimising trading strategies or plucking promising drug candidates from scientific literature. Google said last week that such machines are only five years from commercial exploitability. This week IBM, which already runs a publicly accessible, rudimentary quantum computer, announced expansion plans. As our Technology Quarterly in this issue explains, big tech firms and startups alike are developing software to exploit these devices’ curious abilities. A new ecosystem of middlemen is emerging to match new hardware to industries that might benefit.


The solace of quantum


This landscape has much in common with the state of the internet in the early 1990s: a largely laboratory-based affair that had occupied scientists for decades, but in which industry was starting to see broader potential. Blue-chip firms are buying into it, or developing their own research efforts.


Startups are multiplying. Governments are investing “strategically”, having paid for the underlying research for many years—a reminder that there are some goods, such as blue-sky scientific work, that markets cannot be relied upon to provide.


Fortunately for quantum technologists, the remaining challenges are mostly engineering ones, rather than scientific. And today’s quantum-enhanced gizmos are just the beginning. What is most exciting about quantum technology is its as yet untapped potential. Experts at the frontier of any transformative technology have a spotty record of foreseeing many of the uses it will find; Thomas Edison thought his phonograph’s strength would lie in elocution lessons. For much of the 20th century “quantum” has, in the popular consciousness, simply signified “weird”. In the 21st, it will come to mean “better”.

Secrecy 1/23/17


I read Moynihan’s book, back then. I don’t remember what I read, in detail. So I dug up the above linked review from the NYT as an easy reference. I do recall that it was entertaining, but infuriating, to the point where all I could do was laugh when I learned that Gen. Bradley did not tell Truman what Army Intelligence knew about Alger Hiss, even though the two Missourians liked each other and even went fishing together. This, because it was an Army “secret”.

I heard a report this morning that Flynn is under CIA investigation for his Russia ties. Also, that the Trump campaign is under investigation, for the same.

How awkward. If CIA develops classified information that implicates Flynn they must report it to the President, right? Or do they make a “need to know” assessment of some sort? And what if they determine, correctly or not, that Trump has questionable ties to the Kremlin, that color his national security decisions in a way that compromises American interests? Do they go to their Congressional oversight committees first? I suppose that would be my choice if I were the Agency.

To be clear, I think the con artist we elected is just that – merely a clever con man, not a traitor.



We’re # 4!

Germany’s “Heritage” ranking alone justified labeling this post “Goofy”.

Beethoven, Mozart, and uh…

Who Needs to Internet Hack a Secured Computer if the Hired Hands can Walk Out With Thumb Drives Every Night?

They expressed astonishment that Mr. Martin managed to take home such a vast collection of classified material over at least 16 years, undetected by security officers at his workplaces, including the N.S.A., the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Pentagon offices.

I could understand a contractor coming in for a specific project requiring a specialist.

One of my remaining Friday morning group of friends, George, was the electronics/room environment/controls specialist at IBM’s huge Austin facility until he retired at 58. Since then, he has done month long projects for other folks, including Chinese companies, finding glitches and spikes, hunting down and changing out motherboards with heating problems, measuring the cooling necessary in an enclosed area, imposing clean standards in a room, but also rewriting control software code and substituting parts that gives him access to secret or proprietary stuff. George often faces days of security checks on his work that slow him down, as one result, but allay his employer’s fears, as another.

Of course I am sure NSA has in-house employed engineers for the job of keeping the control systems operational and up to date, but I am sure there would be a need for specialists from time-to-time.

I draw a distinction between that use of short term one-off specialists and Martin having so many years of continuing access. That’s crazy.

Working at NSA should come with weekly polygraph tests and federal courthouse level searches every morning and every night, at least. Whatever they are doing to secure against physical theft by thumb drive, it isn’t working.

DJT Lost $1B

Assuming DJT lost @$1B in one year, his loss carry forward is check the box stuff, neither “genius”(Giuliani) nor “meretricious”or “suspect”(his media critics apparent take-away).

Somehow the media, by missing this point, has lost focus on the fact that this con man

lost one billion dollars.

A  purely technical point: any losses that resulted in debt cancellation, either through bankruptcies or agreement, generated income to him if he benefited from the cancellation. This is probable, due to what has been revealed in litigation about the structure of his businesses.  I begin to understand why DJT gets audited a lot.

I used to get audited a lot, but always ended up with tax savings through the audit because I purposely overpaid my taxes for years with the foreknowledge that I was being targeted.

FWIW, targeting is sometimes intentional, sometimes the result of one asshole in a bureaucracy, and actually usually based on the “flags” the computer looks for.  I had “flags” because of – wait for it – real estate investments.

And when the S&L crisis hit in the 80s and my little empire almost went under, costing me hundreds of thousands – but NOT A BILLION – I got audited for my loss carry-forwards.  For the last twenty years I practiced, sans multiple real estate investments, I was never audited.  No flags on simple returns.

Open Thread: Your Take on the Debate 9/27/16

There was a debate last night.  International currency traders thought HRC won, 15 minutes in, and did not change their opinion going forward.  This was explained this morning by an executive at Forex.


Your thoughts?

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