As noted on various previous occasions, it is always nice to report computer-related successes in avoiding risks, but they seem to get scant notice. Perhaps some of you can keep your eyes open. I had a phone report last night of a TV news item in Washington DC, relating to a computerized aircraft collision-avoidance system that succeeded in preventing what otherwise would have been a midair collision yesterday. Can anyone provide details? Peter
Martin Minow's note about the effect that computerized stock traders can have on the market brings up an interesting general situation. Any self-correcting system which has a delay in the feedback loop (as opposed to something like a spring, where the feedback is instantaneous) can fail to correct itself if it is pushed too hard during a single feedback period. Further, if the forces acting on the system are themselves made a function of the system, there is the possibility of increasingly amplified oscillation until the system breaks down at some point. The stock market is a case in point. Stock prices drift according to the buying and selling of the stock. But in the case Martin Minow cites, I am guessing that the computers were able to deluge the system with sell orders before the price could adjust itself. The delay in price adjustment was not a problem until we had computers capable of swamping it with orders. Thus we may be introducing computers into environments where slowness provides some degree of stability to a process. Speed itself has its dangers. Eric Nickell Nickell.pasa@Xerox.xcom
D.C. FINANCE ANALYST LOCKED OUT OF OFFICE, GIVEN NEW DUTIES Deputy Mayor's Employe Changed Computer by Peter Perl, Washington Post Staff Writer
Plutonium on the Space Shuttle415)486-5954]
Tue, 11 Feb 86 09:49:49 pstRecent Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) information has revealed that NASA officials considered the possibility of a Space Shuttle exploding to be so remote that the dangers of carrying tens of pounds of Plutonium aboard was not given much thought. Plans are apparently still in the works to launch these Plutonium driven space probes starting in May of this year. The manufacturer of these probes has claimed that the Plutonium element would have survived the Challenger explosion as material of similar strength was recovered from the debris.
Request to RISKS Readers from COMPASS 86 (COMPuter ASSurance)Al Friend <friend@nrl-csr> Tue, 11 Feb 86 10:41:50 estWE NEED YOUR HELP ----------------- TO: The readers of the RISKS FORUM FROM: Program Committee COMPASS 86 1. We need an estimate of attendees and authors at a conference we are planning. Also, we need input in terms of ideas and events for it. 2. The conference is COMPASS 86, which stands for COMPuter ASSurance. This conference is all about the things we are discussing in this forum. The security and safety of processes rather than data banks, or communication links. We have in mind not only weapons and defense type systems, but medical systems, tranportation systems, and the multitude of computer controlled systems that touch our everyday lives. Dave Parnas will be the keynote speaker. There will be a series of panel discussions, which will address everything from SDI to the application of AI. Papers will be reviewed by computer and software scientists working in the areas of safety and security from the University of California, SRI, and the Naval Research Laboratory. The idea is to encourage new ideas, new applications of neglected ideas and promote useful interactions. 3. The conference specifics are: DATE: 7-11 July 1986 PLACE: The George Washington University, Wash., DC HONORARY CHAIRMAN (prospective): Ruth Davis, former Assistant to Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Advanced Technology GENERAL CHAIRMAN (prospective): H.O. LUBBES, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (lubbes@nrl-csr) SPONSOR: IEEE Washington Section 4. It would help us if the readers of this forum could give us some feedback on the number of people likely to attend and the number of people likely to submit papers. Also, we would like to incorporate any special events that people would like to see into it. The important dates are: March 31 --- Abstracts Due April 30 --- Authors Notified May 30 --- Camera Ready Manuscripts Due The call for papers is in the February issue of IEEE Computer. Also, a version of it ran a little while back in this forum. [I won't comment on the risks of running the first conference of its kind! Good luck. PGN]
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