The RISKS Digest
Volume 9 Issue 10

Monday, 14th August 1989

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator

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o KAL007 - jury finds "willful misconduct"
Clifford Johnson
o California studies "drive-by-wire"
Rodney Hoffman
o NY State DMV Computer RISKS
Will Martin
o RISKS is back in gear (almost)
o "Radiation" or "Fields"
Jerry Leichter
Irving Wolfe
John H. Martin
Irving L. Chidsey
Klaus Rieckhoff
o Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

KAL007 - jury finds "willful misconduct"

"Clifford Johnson" <GA.CJJ@Forsythe.Stanford.EDU>
Thu, 3 Aug 89 08:59:49 PDT
New York Times, Aug. 3 (Richard Witkin):

    Families of victims of the 1983 downing of a Korean Air
    Lines jumbo jet by a Soviet fighter may collect unlimited
    compensatory damages from the airline because of the crew's
    "willful misconduct" in straying over Soviet air-space, a
    Federal court jury in Washington ruled yesterday . . .  The
    term is legally defined as an intentional act performed with
    knowledge of likely injury to passengers or "with reckless
    disregard of the consequences." . . . Judge Robinson earlier
    dismissed lawsuits against the Soviet Government; the Boeing
    Company, the builder of the 747; Litton Industries, which
    made its navigation systems; and the United States
    Government, which employed the traffic controllers involved
    in the first part of the flight.

N.B.  The suit against the U.S. government was dismissed at the outset of the
case some years ago, on the "ground" that the court refused to countenance U.S.
government involvement; and a gag order was placed on government employees.

California studies "drive-by-wire"

Rodney Hoffman <>
2 Aug 89 17:50:17 PDT (Wednesday)
Summary of a lengthy article by William Trombley in the 'Los Angeles Times'

The California Dept. of Transportation (Caltrans) has begun its most
ambitious research program, ranging all the way to "'Star Trek' systems
that would propel 'platoons' of vehicles down automated freeways at 70 mph
with only 50-foot separations between cars."

"In some areas, like Los Angeles, there's no more room for new freeways and
the next advace has to be technological," says Caltrans Director Robert
Best.  "We've paved the world, especially in the Los Angeles area," says
UCDavis mechnaical engineering Prof. Andrew Frank, "and now we've got to
make much more use of that pavement."

Caltrans' new Office of Traffic Improvement has spent about $6 million so
far, with most of the money going to the Univ. of California's Institute of
Transportation Studies, which is sponsoring research by at least two dozen
faculty members on several campuses.  Most of the work has been gathered
together in the Program on Advanced Technology on the Highway (PATH), which
includes research on navigation, electrification, and automated highways.

The article reviews a number of real and imagined systems.  One real one is
Pathfinder, a straightforward CD-based navigation system soon to be tested
in 25 test cars for use along LA's Santa Monica Freeway.  Other projects
study electric vehicles, human factors ("how effectively drivers use
automated equipment") and road pricing — charging motorists to use
automated highways, including higher rates at peak hours.

One complex project studies radar-equipped and computer-controlled cars,
held in the center of the lane by a lateral guidance system that depends on
electric sensors placed in the roadbed and provided with "a smarter version
of 'cruise control'" called longitudinal control — moving cars at high
speed without crashing into one another.  The radar system is to be tested
later this year with a "platoon" of six cars along an interstate highway
north of San Diego (in a reversible lane unused during mid-day).  The radar
collision-avoidance system costs about $10,000 per unit now.

A few key quotes from the final sections of the article:

  A major question is this:  How will the public react to a system that
  takes decisions out of the hands of the individual driver and gives
  them to a computer?...

  A second problem is what to do with all the new vehicles that a more
  efficient road system would accommodate.  Where will they park?...

  Then there is the question of liability... the Achilles heel of this
  research effort.  "This system would be much safer than what's out
  there now," says PATH Director Robert Parsons, "but with this tech-
  nology, you can trace fault [for accidents].  How do you limit
  liability and keep the 'deep pockets' thing from killing us before
  we get started?"

NY State DMV Computer RISKS

Will Martin <wmartin@STL-06SIMA.ARMY.MIL>
Tue, 1 Aug 89 10:19:35 CDT
The following brief item was in the "Regional News" section of the July 31,
1989, issue of CITY & STATE, a slick-paper tabloid trade paper for local
government topics, page 22:


  A dearth of safeguards for the state computers that hold information on
  New York's drivers could allow system users to erase driving convictions
  and wipe out other records, state Comptroller Edward V. Regan has charged.
  The state Department of Motor Vehicles also lacks contingency plans to
  keep its computers running if a disaster shuts down operations at the
  agency's computing center, Mr. Regan said. He recently made the charges
  in an audit that reviewed security and disaster planning at the center
  between April 1987 and March 1988.

That's all the info I have; maybe some NY-state people have more info from
their local media on this topic.
                                                Will Martin

RISKS is back in gear (almost)

Peter G. Neumann <Neumann@KL.SRI.COM>
Mon, 14 Aug 89 20:00:01 PDT
After a few exciting moments with airlines and some eccentric East-coast
weather, I am back on the West coast, but backlogged with 17 days of EMAIL.
Flying is not what it used to be.  But then, as Arthur Clarke once lamented,
regarding how difficult writing good science fiction was becoming, "The
future isn't what it used to be."  On the other hand, judging from the
material waiting for RISKS-9.9, there are still lots of topics ready for
this forum, and RISKS is again in there ready to dig it out for you.

However, I see that I am not quite fully in the swing of things.  Before
everyone jumps on me, let me apologize for not setting the date on the
masthead of RISKS-9.9, which of course should have been * 14 Aug 1989 *.
With some people having gotten a net-gratuitous copy of RISKS-8.81 a month
and a half late, I needn't have added further to the confusion.  Sorry!

By the way, I hope to move RISKS from KL.SRI.COM to CSL.SRI.COM this month.
The archives will probably move to CRVAX.SRI.COM, because the KL is being
decommissioned.  The mailing list differences should be sorted out very
soon, but a few of you may experience some bumps in the process.  There are
also a bunch of nonworking addresses at the moment, and I am hoping that the
CSL (Sun) mailer tables will simplify matters.  (For example, the KL does
not let me ANSwer mail from BITNET or UUCP, while the CSL does.  That is a
real pain.)  So, a little patience is in order.  Thanks.  Peter

Thu, 20 Jul 89 12:30 EDT
Subject: "Radiation" or "Fields"

In RISKS 9.7, Jan Wolitzky takes Gordon Hester to task for distinguishing
"fields" from "radiation" in discussion the hazards of ELF electromagnetic

It is quite true that "radiation" is the scientifically correct word across
the entire electromagnetic spectrum.  But things are not quite that simple.
When we think about an electromagnetic radiator, we almost always think of
its "far field" - the region in which it behaves in the familiar way as a
traveling way of crossed E and B fields.  But there is also a "near field"
region with quite different characteristics.  It's been way too many years
since I looked at this stuff, so I can't vouch for any of the details, but as
I recall near field effects drop off exponentially, so are not an issue except
very close to the radiator.  But near enough, they are dominant.

If you think only in terms of far field effects, you are hard pressed to
explain how a transformer can possibly work at 60 Hz - the "radiator" and
receiver are tiny fractions of a wavelength long!

When one talks about shielding for appliances, one talks about shielding the
magnetic and electic fields independently.  This would be meaningless in the
far field, where the connection between the two is fixed.

I'm not certain that it was this distinction that Hester was getting at, nor
do I know exactly what the significance of the near/far field distinction in
this area is - though I expect its essential:  The far field produced by any
object the size of an appliance at 60 Hz must be minuscule.  (Note that this
may be very different from a power transmission line.)
                            — Jerry

New Yorker Radiation Articles by Paul Brodeur

Irving Wolfe <>
21 Jul 89 18:52:15 PDT (Fri)
Unlike Gordon Hester in volume 9, issue 6, I found Paul Brodeur's series of
three articles in The New Yorker Magazine balanced and fascinating.  He
discusses the clearly-shown (epidemiologically & statistically, not by
argument based on theoretical considerations) health effects of three
different types of non-ionizing radiation.  At least one of these — magnetic
fields from CRT terminals — most readers of Risks are probably heavily
exposed to.

These articles seem so worth reading that I will refrain from providing any
summary at all.  The New Yorker is available in most good libraries, and the
stories appeared in successive issues beginning June 12.

Rather than be dissuaded from reading them by Mr. Hester's comments, go to the
library and judge for yourself.

Radiation (Re: RISKS-9.7)

Fri, 21 Jul 89 20:00:18 EDT
I have some real problems with Jan Wolitzky's comments on Gordon
Hester's review of Paul Brodeur's New Yorker article.

Wolitzky's high school education seems to have been an example of the crisis in
science education we hear so much about.  The correct technical term is field.
(I have a Ph.D. in chemical physics, and in a former life taught some of the
introductory physics courses at Harvard, so I think I'm on reasonably safe
ground here.)

The purest example of the difference between the electromagnetic field and
electromagnetic radiation is a static charge - a charged capacitor doesn't
radiate at all but it certainly has an electric field.  Maxwell's equations
are FIELD equations that turn out to have electromagnetic radiation as one
set of solutions.  The quantum picture, with wave/particle duality and all
that, muddies the picture a little, but in quantum physics one usually says
"radiation" with the single-isolated-particle view (i.e., with single
photons, neutrons, alpha particles, etc.) and "fields" with the
collective-action view.  In fact most of the concerns about EMF concern the
near-field effects surrounding powerlines, electric blankets, computer
terminals, and so on, and not the radiation from such devices, which is
relatively small.

As an example of how the term "radiation" can "mislead the unwary," consider
the phrase marked with carets above.  In addition to its fuzziness
(wavelength is inversely proportional to frequency, which is directly
proportional to energy PER PHOTON; they are intimately interrelated in
modern physical theory but not "different ways of expressing the same
thing"), it entirely misses the point of the difference between
low-frequency EMF and ionizing radiation:

Biological effects of low-frequency EMF can't have any relation at all to
individual photons — a 60 Hz photon has a trillionth of the thermal energy
surging around in a molecule at body temperature or in one of the infrared
photons that swarm around us as thermal background.  The normal fluctuations in
a molecule's heat energy from picosecond to picosecond far exceed the energy of
such a photon.  Biological effects can only stem from the collective action of
the field and the energy (or better, the strength) of the field, which is
unrelated to its frequency and wavelength; the effects themselves may have a
frequency dependence through dispersive phenomena in the body, and might also
depend on the orientation of the field.

Perhaps Wolitzky needs to go back to school.  Now somewhere I have a copy of
Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics, crammed into my head by Nico Bloembergen
(who later won a Nobel Prize for his work on lasers), that I might be willing
to part with...

John H. Martin, Kendall Square Research Corporation,
170 Tracer Lane, Waltham, MA 02154

Radiation ( Re: RISKS-9.7 )

Thu, 20 Jul 89 11:55:22 EDT
The difference between radiation and fields is somewhat pedantic.  But, if your
close enough to a power line to have to worry, you are well inside the near
field and the couplings wsill be much easier to compute by field theory than by
radiation theory.

The differentiation from ionizing radiation is not pedantic.  We have some
knowledge about the damage mechanism of ionizing radiation.  We have no
knowledge about the damage mechanism of ELF fields except that they are subtle
and almost certainly different from those of ionizing radiation.

To ignore the possibility of damage is foolish, to confuse the two is to cause
confusion and unnecessary fear.  We have to keep the problems separate.


I do not have signature authority.  I am not authorized to sign anything.  I am
not authorized to commit the BRL, the DOA, the DOD, or the US Government to
anything, not even by implication.                        Irving L. Chidsey

EM radiation effects

Thu, 3 Aug 89 14:31:08 PDT
In 1963 (yes, I am that old),while doing nonlinear optical work at the IBM
research lab. in San Jose,I was invited by people at the US-Army Medical
Research Headquarters in Fort Knox, Kentucky,to give them the benefit of my
advice regarding some peculiar experimental results that they had obtained and
which some people there believed to be related to multiphoton absorption (on
which I with some others had just published some papers).

I accepted the invitation and spent a very interesting day with them. They were
a group of medical doctors and some biophysicists looking into biological EMF
effects in a variety of ways. This is not the place for a general comment
though I shall point out that I (a Canadian and thus a foreign national) was
never asked to keep anything I saw or talked with them about confidential and,
in fact, expected to see some of their work published in due course.

The specific experiment I was consulted on, looked at the the deactivation of
the enzyme alpha-amylase by extremely low intensity rf fields in the region of
about 10 MHz (they used an old General Radio rf generator)and the deactivation
occurred (in aqueous solution, I believe) at very sharply defined frequencies
that had a regular spacing with some integral relationships (I don't recall the
exact details) of the spacing, something like multiples of 150 KHz and with
widths of KHz.

While their results seemed to have absolutely nothing to do with my own
research, as an experimental physicist I looked very carefully at their
experimental setup and could find nothing wrong with it and no obvious possible
explanation for their results in terms of an experimental artifact. I found the
results extremely intriguing, particularly as they had found similar (although
experimentally more difficult and less clear in terms of confidence) effects on
gamma globulin in the region of 200 MHz.

The implications of low intensity biological effects on enzymatic activity are
profound to say the least, though by their very nature they would be very
difficult to pin down, particularly in complex organisms like rats or mice, let
alone men (or women).

Naturally, I expected to hear more about this and over the years have broached
the subject with many friends and colleagues in physics as well as biology.
None had ever heard about this.  Some in the 60s wrote to the people in Fort
Knox about it,but never received an answer.In all the writings on the subject
of biological EMF effects, for instance in reviews in SCIENCE etc., I have
never heard a mention.

This is the end of the story.

Now my questions:

Has anybody heard about this type of effect?  Is anybody interested in this?
Has someone suggestions as to how one could (after all these years) find out
more about this?  I still find it hard to believe that what I saw turned out to
be an experimental error of the cold fusion kind.  Also, I find it still
strange, that nobody should ever have tried to look for low field-strength EMF
effect on enzyme activity.  But then I have certainly no time to look into that
kind of literature. However, some of the people I talked to should have heard
about such research. None have.

Klaus Rieckhoff, Dept.of Physics, Simon Fraser University,
Burnaby,B.C. V5A 1S6, Canada.  USERKLUS@SFU.BITNET

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