Computer blunders, revealing Kasparov's sealed move Moscow, 16 october 1990 (tass) The computer used for the world chess title match between Kasparov and Karpov accidentally disclosed a move sealed by the reigning champion in the adjourned third game, Izvestia reports from New York today. Izvestia writes in its evening issue that Kasparov "moves the king to attack the white rook". This means the sealed move was 41...kd6. [Perhaps he was using the Gary Indiana Jones Beach Defense, and the computer had never seen seals there before. PGN]
The following is taken without permission from the October 14, 1990, edition of The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, VA. "NORFOLK — Glitches in the city's new emergency computer system and a dispatcher's mistake caused rescue workers to take 30 minutes to get to a 65-year-old heart attack victim in July, according to city records, and the delay may have been responsible for her death. "Shortly after 9 p.m. on July 7, Dorothy G. Morris of 8256 Wedgewood Drive became short of breath and called to her son, Michael, for help. Michael Morris, who lived with his mother, dialed the 911 emergency telephone number three time before an ambulance was dispatched. ... "... City documents show that after Dorothy Morris' death, city officials tried to pinpoint the cause of the delay. They interviewed dispatchers and checked call records and tapes of 911 phone calls. They also interviewed Michael Morris. "Records indicate that they discovered an internal audit, or `logging,' program — designed to track messages through the city's new computer- aided dispatch system — had not been installed as promised by the software vendor, PRC Public Management Services of McLean Va. The new $760,000 system, called CADMAS, has been on-line since May 1. "The omission was the latest problem encountered with the system and with PRC, said Martin Mendelsohn, director of the city's Department of General Services. He said the problems, which appeared after CADMAS was installed, included: too much computer down time; difficulties with a backup computer, which repeatedly failed to kick in automatically when the first computer crashed; turnovers and conflicts with PRC project managers; and the missing audit system. "But the most disturbing problem was the tendency for some message to disappear after they were entered into CADMAS, city officials and dispatchers have said. Police have said that messages for detectives and forensic investigators often disappeared between dispatchers' shift changes, and that the disappearances are continuing. Mendelsohn of Friday said he was aware of fewer then five messages that disappeared between May 1 and July 12, when the audit system was installed. "Mendelsohn said he was not aware of any disappearances after July 12. "City officials said that, even after an investigation, they are not sure what happened to the 911 message typed by the dispatcher when Michael Morris first called. "`The logging system would have tracked the message, but ... the logging system was not operational,' Mendelsohn said. `We could not prove whether the dispatcher entered the message improperly or whether it was somehow lost in the system.'
Gene Spafford writes about his decision to never again fly on Northwest airlines, citing that they have just purchased "a bunch of" A320s for domestic use. (The A320 is a controversial fly-by-wire airplane.) He forwarded us a "horror story" from his friend Rich Epstein, who appears to have been badly frightened by an airline experience in which rain leaked into the airplane and disabled the transponder and auto-pilot computer. In the story, the airliner departed from Chicago O'Hare enroute to Washington Dulles, but then has to turn back to O'Hare 15 minutes later because the air traffic controllers have lost radar contact with the flight. On the way back, the pilot made an announcement about the airplane having steel control cables, which Rich interprets as "a reference to the fact that an Airbus would probably have been disabled completely in a similar circumstance." In conclusion, Rich describes the further trauma of exiting the airplane at the terminal, having to pass through a thick sheet of rain, some of which was leaking into the airplane, which he speculates may not have been docked correctly. I am very skeptical about the safety of new airplane systems such as fly-by-wire, and I also wonder about the quality of the maintenence and procedures of the airlines, especially in light of the recent serious fines against Eastern. However, I am not sure that Gene's message or his friend's story sheds any light on these issues or supports any conclusions about the A320. The message did not make clear to me exactly what risks Gene finds unacceptable. The tone of fear and alarm, coupled with a lack of information about air traffic procedures, may lead to misunderstandings. I don't have any more information about what happened on that flight than what I read in the story. However, my interpretation would be a little bit different. The radar scopes that the air traffic controllers at O'Hare are watching, display targets based on both primary returns (the signal bouncing off the airplane), and secondary returns from the onboard transponder. The transponder makes detection more reliable, and also transmits such data as the flight identification number and present altitude. Radar contact is not a necesary to conduct a flight, even in bad weather. Radar is not used for navigation, nor is it required for landing. It does increase safety, and allows greater utilization of the airspace, since the controllers can track the progress of a plane more directly. Before the airliner took off, the details of its flight plan were arranged and airspace was reserved for it. The flight could have been conducted safely without radar, even if radio communications had been lost. The auto-pilot computer is not a critical part of the airplane, and it's loss is not very interesting. It merely means the pilots would have to actually put their hands on the controls and fly the plane. The flight was returned to the departure point in order to avoid any additional problems. The pilot probably declared an emergency for priority handling because nobody fully understood the extent of the failures. This accounts for the emergency vehicles at the airport. Most people have various degrees of fear regarding flying, and knowing that something has gone wrong with the plane, not understanding any of the details, being disconcerted about hanging around in the clouds, seeing the flashing lights of emergency vehicles, not having any control over your fate, and finallly getting rained on when you disembark your canceled flight, can all combine to thoroughly upset even a seasoned air traveler. My alternate interpretation of the pilot's remark about the "stainless steel" cables, is that he was attempting to calm the passengers by making a joke about the airplane controls not rusting in the rain. Maybe Gene is trying to make the analogy that if a computer in a regular airplane can get rained on and fail, that this would be catastrophic in a computer-controlled plane like the A320. However, this story does not support that idea, and it presents nothing particularly relavent to the safety of the A320, the airplane in the story, or the airline. Except perhaps to note that an onboard systems failure was easily handled, and resulted in nothing but inconvenienced passengers. Any proposed analogy to systems failures on the A320 is far too general to be very useful, since the A320 and the airplane in the story don't have the same design or the same kind of computer systems.
I find the dissemination of this kind of misinformation troubling, especially when it apparently comes from a source that should know the correct information. The aircraft in question was most certainly not "invisible". How "an Air Force ROTC student" could claim radar requires transponders is beyond comprehension (so that`s how stealth technology works - turn off the transponder!). However, what is most disturbing about this is not the apparent ignorance of a (hopefully) poor student, but the easy accept ence of this "expert" information by non-experts. Since the original source of this story allowed one of his friends to forward it to RISKS, it is very likely that many other channels of communication has been used to speard this story. Undoubtabley there are now more people who are now even less confident in the air traffic control system, based on completely erroneous information. It seems to me that this is a much greater risk then it might appear on simple reflection. As our society becomes increasingl y technical, it becomes less possible for each individual to determine if information outside their area of expertise is correct. Unfortunately, I submit that most "technical" information that is disseminated is in fact either incorrect or, even worse, deliberately distorted. Try watching reading your local newspaper or watching TV news programs and pay close attention to the level of accuracy in technical matters. A very good example to the current "debate" on the greenhouse effect - people with a political agenda are attempting to lead the public`s opinion by selective use of information. Indeed, some "greenhouse backers" have been candid enough to admit that they do not feel that real evidence of any such phenomena is required, rather a public perception of a problem is all they require. Remember the ridicule when then President Reagen said that plants were the largest contributors of carbon dioxide "polluiton". Well, there is growing evidence that the rise in CO2 may well be largely due to purely natural effects caused by plants - a process that man likely cannot alter for good or ill. But this is not politcally correct science, so it is buried in silence. And witness the neat trick used in another recent RISKS article about bank computer security - banks have security problems, they don't want them discussed, so if they deny there are any this is proof they don't like to discuss problems (you are mentally ill and the fact that you deny this is proof that you are mentally ill). It is very likely that most readers of this piece simply believed the implication that such massive breaches of systems is common and (for the hacker) simple. Unfortunately, there is no proof of the claims. Many of these stories have a suspicously similar format and are strikingly like many of the popular urban myths - no hard evidence, but "I heard from someone that they heard". Faced with the pronouncements of experts or those percieved as experts, how can outsiders make correct decisions, if the experts are supplying false or misleading information? Perhaps we should all start examining our sources more critically, but more important, we should make certain that we are not responseable for spreading misinformation. Are you certain that the person to whom you just explained a techincal matter outside their field really understood what you said? Do you pass on as "true", information you only partially (mis)understand. Above I implied that the ROTC student was to blame for the mistaken information about radar, but perhaps the listener gleaned that "fact" when something quite different was said. The wise man speaks only what he knows is the truth and knows his own ignorance. Richard Neitzel National Center For Atmospheric Research Box 3000 Boulder, CO 80307-3000 303-497-2057
I hate to deflate a good story, but there is another reason why 747-400s are used on the Minneapolis to Detroit run. The 747-400s are mainly intended for trans-Pacific use. However, each aircraft that is intended for such international use must first be operated within the US before it is certified by the FAA. I believe that the operation is both in total hours and in takeoffs/landings. Hence, using short runs allows the airplane to accumulate many takeoffs and landings. In addition, the large capacity of the aircraft allows better use of the heavily-travelled corridor (I believe that they take two smaller planes off the run). Craig A. Finseth, University Networking Services, University of Minnesota 130 Lind Hall, 207 Church St SE Minneapolis MN 55455-0134 +1 612 624 3375
Today's EDUCOM keynote speech, by former President Jimmy Carter was open-captioned for the hearing impaired. The big-video display in the auditorium showed a textual representation of the speech as Carter spoke. This was provided by "11-Alive," an Atlanta television station. The system must have used some kind of voice-recognition algorithm, because no human typist that I know could have kept up with the speaker at times. The weakness of the voice-recognition system was made painfully obvious to attendees, when those with the ability to hear the presentation noticed substitutions like: "man well" noriega, "wak dem iks" for academics, "oath yope yam" for Ethiopia, "Jap neens" for Japanese, "My Robe by" N Nairobi for "Ken Yeah" for Kenya, "Home Jean yes" for homogeneous. Carter's speech was thoughtful and moving (he talked about academia's moral responsibilities to the third world), but the seriousness of the speech was undercut by the occasional giggle from the audience. Later in the speech, human control seemed to be asserted a bit more, and "another country" was frequently substituted for the name of a third-world country, but Carter must have been most puzzled when he explained that the Carter Foundation was nonpartisan, and that "Prominent Republicans" worked closely with him on every major project. It was presented to the hearing-impaired (and to the rest of us) as "Prominent Rubble Cans." Of course, the audience broke into laughter, and I suspect he still doesn't know why. I'm a strong supporter for appropriate adaptive technology, but a low-tech solution (an ASL interpreter) would have been less distracting and reached many (though not all) of the hearing-impaired.
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