Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mitigating climate change isn't simple.

Jim Morris has an interesting new wiki, The Temperate Zone, that attempts a comprehensive and balanced synthesis of current knowledge, opinions, and options for dealing with global climate change. He solicits your feedback.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Is America Falling off the Flat Earth?

New free book from the National Academies Press.

The aviation and telecommunication revolutions have conspired to make distance increasingly irrelevant. An important consequence of this is that US citizens, accustomed to competing with their neighbors for jobs, now must compete with candidates from all around the world. These candidates are numerous, highly motivated, increasingly well educated, and willing to work for a fraction of the compensation traditionally expected by US workers.

If the United States is to offset the latter disadvantage and provide its citizens with the opportunity for high-quality jobs, it will require the nation to excel at innovation—that is, to be first to market new products and services based on new knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge. This capacity to discover, create and market will continue to be heavily dependent on the nation’s prowess in science and technology.

Indicators of trends in these fields are, at best, highly disconcerting. While many factors warrant urgent attention, the two most critical are these: (1) America must repair its failing K-12 educational system, particularly in mathematics and science, in part by providing more teachers qualified to teach those subjects, and (2) the federal government must markedly increase its investment in basic research, that is, in the creation of new knowledge.

Only by providing leading-edge human capital and knowledge capital can America continue to maintain a high standard of living—including providing national security—for its citizens...

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Security and Privacy in State Voter Registraton Databases

The Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academies is sponsoring a Study Committee on State Voter Registration Databases (VRDB). I was on a panel discussing Security and Privacy at their second public workshop.

The questions we were asked in advance to address were:
  • What principles should guide security decisions? How might these apply to voter registration databases?
  • What privacy considerations need to be taken into account?
  • What standard, adversarial test could be applied against each state's database? What would you include in such a test?

My thoughts on these topics are summarized in my slides. The presentations by my co-panelists Peter Neumann and Bradley A. Malin are also quite informative.

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All tested DRE voting machines fail in Ohio study

The Ohio Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, has released a collection of reports from the experts she commissioned to study each kind of direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machine used in Ohio. All failed miserably. This is quite consistent with the results of the similar study in California.

The manufacturers, of course, insist that all problems will be solved by the next election. Somehow, they are going to become competent overnight.

Avi Rubin's blog has an excellent summary, which I can't improve on.

Updated to add: Matt Blaze, one of the principals in the study, also has an interesting post.

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