Monday, December 09, 2013

Random bullets of interesting news

1. You know how people are always warned to make hard-to-crack passwords and end up using "password" or "12345678" or something easy anyway?  Would it make you feel better to know that the people behind the nuclear launch codes felt the same way?

From Making Light:
Given how nervous many of us were during the Cold War, it’s just as well that we didn’t know the interesting fact recently reported in The Guardian and Gizmodo: for about twenty years, and in direct contravention of orders from presidents and defense secretaries, the U.S. military had the eight-digit nuclear launch codes for Minuteman missile silos set to 00000000.

Apparently they resented the eight-digit “fire only if ordered to do so by the president” security system imposed on them in 1962, as it made firing nuclear missiles slower and more difficult. They responded by permanently assigning the system a single launch code that was the moral equivalent of using “password” or “12345678” or “qwerty” as the overall password for your online account.
But it gets worse: 

[I]n case you actually did forget the code, it was handily written down on a checklist handed out to the soldiers. As Dr. Bruce G. Blair, who was once a Minuteman launch officer, stated:
Our launch checklist in fact instructed us, the firing crew, to double-check the locking panel in our underground launch bunker to ensure that no digits other than zero had been inadvertently dialed into the panel.
This ensured that there was no need to wait for Presidential confirmation….
Feel safer now? 
2. And in MOOC news:
Many speakers repeatedly pointed out that the cost of MOOC production -- which can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars -- has created classes of MOOC producing and MOOC consuming institutions. This creates issues for both groups; the former doesn't want to appear elitist, while the latter rejects content not created by their own faculty members.
“Maybe this seems obvious,” said Christopher Brooks, a research fellow at the University of Michigan School of Information. “Lots of things seem obvious in hindsight.”
Or maybe, for some, in foresight. 

3. In closer-to-home news, I'm trying the "append only a final comment" to their last papers based on advice you've all given.    The comment gives feedback on the paper, but I didn't put in any marginal comments. The students have all been invited (via the comment) to come and talk to me next semester if they want a more complete set of comments on their papers. Do my hands twitch to add marginal comments? Yes, sort of. Is the time tradeoff worth it? Yes.


Historiann said...

YAY! You will have a much better winter break because of your final comment only discipline. Congratulations.

Dr. Koshary said...

Isn't it disconcerting to realize how close to reality Dr. Strangelove really was? General Turgidson would definitely have opted for all zeros, whilst complaining that the whole process wasted valuable annihilation time.

undine said...

Thanks, Historiann! No regrets so far, and no emails begging, "Oh, Professor Undine, please do send me further comments so I can brood about them over the break."

Dr. Koshary--Exactly! Who knew that movie was nearly a documentary?

undine said...

P. S. Historiann--I keep commenting over at your place but the comments don't show up--am I maybe in the spam filter?