bosons

may i please borrow some bosons?

because without particulate matter i am dead
in fact i will cease to be
my mind will be clear and my spirit quite free
but the world will be minus a fred

i don’t need that many, but i do need a few
just a handful perhaps, how ’bout three?
one to laugh, another to sing,
and third so i can ask all the questions i ask all the time to everyone i see wherever i am

that will complete what is me.

Advertisements

GAO Reports of Interest (Feb 2012)

Reducing Duplication, Overlap and Fragmentation, Achieving Savings, and Enhancing Revenue
2012 Annual Report: GAO-12-342SP, February 28, Link
Follow-up on 2011 Report: GAO-12-453SP, February 28, Link
More Efficient and Effective Government Report: GAO-12-449T, February 28, Link
Tags: Government Operations

Department of Homeland Security: Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen Strategic Planning and Management Functions
GAO-12-382T, February 3, Link
Tags: Homeland Security

Maritime Security: Coast Guard Needs to Improve Use and Management of Interagency Operations Centers
GAO-12-202, February 13, Link
Tags: Homeland Security

Humanitarian and Development Assistance: Project Evaluations and Better Information Sharing Needed to Manage the Military’s Efforts
GAO-12-359, February 8, Link
Tags: Information Management, International Affairs

Cybersecurity: Challenges in Securing the Modernized Electricity Grid
GAO-12-507T, February 28, Link
Tags: Information Security

Information Technology: Departments of Defense and Energy Need to Address Potentially Duplicative Investments
GAO-12-241, February 17, Link
Tags: Information Technology

Information Technology: Potentially Duplicative Investments Exist at the Departments of Defense and Energy
GAO-12-462T, February 17, Link
Tags: Information Technology

Afghanistan: Improvements Needed to Strengthen Management of U.S. Civilian Presence
GAO-12-285, February 27, Link
Tags: International Affairs

Uncertain Political and Security Situation Challenges U.S. Efforts to Implement a Comprehensive Strategy in Yemen
GAO-12-432R, February 29, Link
Tags: International Affairs

Warfighter Support: DOD Needs Strategic Outcome-Related Goals and Visibility over Its Counter-IED Efforts
GAO-12-280, February 22, Link
Tags: National Defense

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science Uses a Multilayered Process for Prioritizing Research
GAO-12-410R, February 24, Link
Tags: Energy, Science and Technology

Emergency Communications: Various Challenges Likely to Slow Implementation of a Public Safety Broadband Network
GAO-12-343, February 22, Link
Tags: Telecommunications

GAO Reports of Interest (Jan 2012)

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education: Strategic Planning Needed to Better Manage Overlapping Programs across Multiple Agencies
GAO-12-108, January 20, Link
Tags: Education, Science and Technology

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education: Survey of Federal Programs (GAO-12-110SP, January 2012), an E-supplement to GAO-12-108
GAO-12-110SP, January 20, Link
Tags: Education, Science and Technology

Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Risk Assessments: DHS Should Establish More Specific Guidance for Their Use
GAO-12-272, January 25, Link
Tags: Homeland Security

Critical Infrastructure Protection: Cybersecurity Guidance Is Available, but More Can Be Done to Promote Its Use
GAO-12-92, December 9, Link
Tags: Homeland Security, Information Security

Chemical Assessments: Challenges Remain with EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System Program
GAO-12-42, December 9, Link
Tags: Information Technology, Natural Resources and Environment

Defense Contracting: Improved Policies and Tools Could Help Increase Competition on DOD’s National Security Exception Procurements
GAO-12-263, January 13, Link
Tags: National Defense

Elections: Views on Implementing Federal Elections on a Weekend
GAO-12-69, January 12, Link
Tags: Government Operations

2011 Tax Filing: Processing Gains, but Taxpayer Assistance Could Be Enhanced by More Self-Service Tools
GAO-12-176, December 15, Link
Tags: Tax Policy and Administration

GAO Reports of Interest (Nov 2011)

Biosurveillance: Nonfederal Capabilities Should Be Considered in Creating a National Biosurveillance Strategy
GAO-12-55, October 31 (101 pages)
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-55
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1255high.pdf
Tags: Health Care

Information Technology: Critical Factors Underlying Successful Major Acquisitions
GAO-12-7, October 21 (57 pages)
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-7
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d127high.pdf
Tags: Government Operations; Information Technology

DHS Research and Development: Science and Technology Directorate’s Test and Evaluation and Reorganization Efforts
GAO-12-239T, November 17 (14 pages)
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-239T
Tags: Homeland Security; Science and Technology

Cybersecurity Human Capital: Initiatives Need Better Planning and Coordination
GAO-12-8, November 29 (86 pages)
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-8
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d128high.pdf
Tags: Employment; Human Capital; Information Security

Nuclear Fuel Cycle Options: DOE Needs to Enhance Planning for Technology Assessment and Collaboration with Industry and Other Countries
GAO-12-70, October 17 (76 pages)
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-70
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1270high.pdf
Tags: Energy

Recovery Act: Status of Science-Related Funding
GAO-12-279T, November 30 (23 pages)
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-279T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d12279thigh.pdf
Tags: Government Operations

Climate Change Adaptation: Federal Efforts to Provide Information Could Help Government Decision Making
GAO-12-238T, November 16 (13 pages)
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-238T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d12238thigh.pdf
Tags: Natural Resources and Environment

Arizona Border Surveillance Technology: More Information on Plans and Costs Is Needed before Proceeding
GAO-12-22, November 4 (58 pages)
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-22
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1222high.pdf
Tags: Health Care; Homeland Security

Transportation Security Information Sharing: Results of GAO’s Survey of Stakeholder Satisfaction with TSA Products and Mechanisms
(GAO-12-67SP, November 2011), an E-supplement to GAO-12-44, GAO-12-67SP, November 21
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-67SP
Tags: Information Management; Transportation

Transportation Security Information Sharing: Stakeholders Generally Satisfied but TSA Could Improve Analysis, Awareness, and Accountability
GAO-12-44, November 21 (58 pages)
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-44
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1244high.pdf
Tags: Information Management; Transportation

How Fast (Or Slow) Is The Speed Of Light?

A Little Background

The first recorded discussion regarding the speed of light was in and around 300 B.C. where Aristotle quotes Empedocles as theorizing that the light from the sun must take some time to reach the Earth. Almost two millennia later during the Scientific Revolution (circa 1620 A.D.), Descartes theorized that light was instantaneous. At about the same time, Galileo gave a more general thought that light was much faster than sound but not instantaneous, offering up some ideas as to how it might be tested using lanterns and telescopes. At what point would these theories actually be tested and how?

About half a century after Descartes and Galileo, the Danish astronomer Ole Römer began measuring the actual speed of light through observation of Io, one of Jupiter’s moons. He recognized that as the Earth and Jupiter moved in their orbits, the distance between them varied. The light from Io (reflected sunlight) took time to reach the earth, and took the longest time when the earth was furthest away.  When the Earth was furthest from Jupiter, there was an extra distance for light to travel.  The observed eclipses were furthest behind the predicted times when the earth was furthest from Jupiter.  By measuring the difference in time and using a little math, the speed of light could essentially be calculated.

From that point forward, numerous scientists tackled this quest through a diverse set of accompanying theories and experiments. The speed of light would be more accurately determined, leading to wide applications in optics, astronomy, and physics. For example, in the early 1900’s, the speed of light became a foundational component of Einstein’s theories (general and special) of relativity, proven to relate energy to mass (E=m*c^2 where c = speed of light). As a result of these applications, the calculation of the speed of light was a major platform for new scientific discovery and enlightenment.

So How Fast Is It?

Well, the measured speed of light in a vacuum is exactly 299,792,458 meters per second, often approximated as 300,000 kilometers per second (3.0 * 10^8 m/s or 3.0 * 10^5 m/s) or 186,000 miles per second. Outside of a vacuum where there might be atoms and molecules that act as impeding forces, the speed of light slows down based on the refractive index of the material. For a given substance with refractive index (n), the actual speed of light (v) is given by v=c/n where c is the constant speed of light in a vacuum. Of note:

v(air) = 299,704,764 m/s (n=1.0002926 at standard room temperature)
v(water) = 224,900,568 m/s (n=1.3330)
v(salt) = 194,166,100 m/s (n=1.544)
v(diamond) = 123,932,392 m/s (n=2.419)

Let’s put the speed of light, in air, in a bit of context…

The circumference of the Earth is about 40,000 km on average. That means that light could travel around the Earth 7.5 times in a second.

The distance between the Earth and its moon is about 380,000 km on average. It takes light about 1.27 seconds to travel from one to another. Click here for a demonstration.

On the size of our solar system, it takes light from the sun about 8 seconds to reach Earth, 43 minutes to reach Jupiter, and nearly 7 hours to pass the orbit of Pluto.

On the size of our galactic realm, the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy. Our solar system is located on what is called Orion’s arm, about 25,000 light years from the center of the Milky Way’s center. One light year is the distance light travels in one Earth year. In more earthly terms, that’s about (3*10^5 km/s)*(60 s/min)*(60 min/hr)*(24 hrs/day)*(365 days/yr) = 9,460,800,000,000 kilometers. And I thought a marathon was far.

Beyond our Milky Way galaxy and looking at our Local Group of galaxies, it extends about 4 million light years across. That means for light to run from a galaxy one side of our Local Group to a galaxy on the other side of our Local Group, it takes 4 million years. Yikes.

And our Local Group of galaxies is part of a larger “supercluster” that is 150 million light years across. The dinosaurs roamed Earth from 230 million to 65 million years ago. In other words, light from the Ursa Major and Virgo galactic clusters still hasn’t reached us if it was emitted during the extinction of dinosaurs. Makes light seem pretty slow now, no?

Whether quick relative to earthly distances or slow through vast cosmic voids, even light has meaning. It provides perspective, foundation, discovery, and well, light.

For more on the speed of light and the depths of the universe and time, I highly recommend Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything (it’s my favorite book).

Technology And Intelligence In The Next Decade

The below is an essay I wrote for my Technology and Intelligence class in early 2008 (STIA-432 at Georgetown University). It is meant to describe a few of the current problems faced and the nature of those problems, but not to offer up solutions. In the past year we have certainly seen the continuation of existing challenges coupled with the emergence of new ones. Today’s scientific and technological paradigm is by no means a simple one. But I do believe that with the collaboration of bright minds and the continued objective to ride and guide the progressive technological waves of the 21st century, substantial risks will be mitigated.

If History Could Tell

Since the establishment of the Office of Strategic Services in 1942 and subsequently the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947 (via the National Security Act), a core mission has been the collection and analysis of strategic, actionable information. This process has always required technology in the form of communications equipment, navigational tools, security systems, listening devices, and many more. Historically, the Intelligence Community as a whole has been way ahead of the technological curve, and in most cases, has established and controlled the curve. With information security and access to federal funds, various agencies have been given the ability to turn novel ideas into useful instruments for collection, analysis, and dissemination. However, history has become the past, and no longer dictates the way in which the world of technological development can move forward. Federal and international regulations, advancement in information theory, collaborative networks, and the global information age via the internet have all contributed to rapid, world-wide technological development that is no longer behind the IC on the tech curve. In the next decade, the Intelligence Community has the potential to fall even or behind any lines of global technological development, and as a result will find new struggles in all sources of intelligence, whether clandestine or not. Some arguments state that the IC, with some elements of special authority granted to preserve national security interests, will flourish as a developing technical lab for operations. However, the best and the brightest technical and analytical minds are not necessarily organized within the IC anymore, but rather are connected without boundary via the internet. Open-source development and the speed at which the commercial world can access capital may eventually move the IC technical approach to the back of the line.

The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts

Collaborative technologies have particularly flourished in the past five years. Social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Flickr, knowledge management platforms such as Microsoft SharePoint and TheBrain Technologies, and the entire blogosphere have accelerated communications without any distance barriers to get around. Information is passed, shared, and edited with the click of a button. SourceForge, an online network for open-source software development, has brought a vast array of new technologies to a market that never before existed. This lack of predictability for the technological market puts the IC in “catch-up” mode. Wikipedia, as well as other information warehouses, accelerates knowledge consumption for the individual – not just a business or state entity. With a horizontal, access-free, organizational structure, these applications have few barriers. Although the IC works to chase these technologies with A-Space and Intellipedia, an accompanying hierarchical structure and tiered-access system could truly dampen collaboration on a technological front.

Getting Small Could Lead To…

As the world grows in size and energy, the capability to pack information, data, and logic into smaller and smaller units continues to develop. Through nanotechnology and quantum computing, academic research groups as well as large corporations have minimized size requirements and increased processing speed in the same products. The associated power that now exists in these products outside of the Intelligence Community weakens the IC’s ongoing ability to leverage such products for foreign surveillance tactics with communications, imagery, measurements, and signals collection.

…A Much Bigger Problem

In the next decade, the IC and the United States as a whole will face incredible security and technological challenges. The tension will be increased as national policy will have to deal with finding a balance between civil liberties and national security interests. With recent information warfare events such as hacks into Pentagon computers, developmental advantages can change in an instant. International policies will also affect development within the U.S. government and could unfortunately give an edge to non-governmental organizations that have easier ability to practice CBRN weapons testing (with high-tech delivery instruments), removed from many international regulations. Unfortunately, if the Intelligence Community is to drift toward a more reactionary state, the technological and security risks become increasingly more serious.

A (New) Final Thought

It’s just as important to anticipate the wave as it is to ride and guide the wave. Surfers find waves through reaction AND proaction. The same goes for the collection, analysis, and technological development. There is more historical and real-time data than ever before. Deterministic and probabilistic models are more advanced than ever before. We can do something with all this data to find patterns and indications of technological risk. At the same time, we have more intellectual and psychological understanding of cultures around the world, and the associated mechanisms of travel, prayer, consumption, loyalty, and desire than ever before. Pairing one with the other gives us the connect-the-dot power that can truly shape our understanding and awareness of the world and the technological risks that threaten our security and sustainability as people.

The Intersection Of Expertise

As I begin my job search (25 applications in 2 days so far!) I keep asking myself how to describe what I’m looking for in a job and in what realm do I wish to work? There is no specific job title that describes my experience and education (e.g. “doctor” or “software engineer”) and there is no one department in which I’ve worked or wish to work (e.g. “Operations” or “Logistics” ). Yes, I have an academic background in mathematics & statistics yet it’s difficult to communicate why I have that academic background. I do not necessarily want to become a statistician but rather I fully understand the quantitative nature of things and the power that numbers, math, and quantitative methods have in all aspects of business, government, and life.

So where does this leave me? Well, unemployed and confused, for one. But that’s okay with me. I’m confident that with my capabilities, no matter how hard they may be to communicate in an application or even to a recruiter, I’ll find the position that leverages my abilities and motivation.

That being said, I think I’m at least getting close to describing where I stand, and in real-world terms. It’s at an intersection of sorts – between quantitative methods, scientific and technological realms, and the human element. It’s interdisciplinary – can fit within any group or team or stand alone as an independent researcher or consultant. It’s also dynamic – parallels the speed with which modern business operates and the flexibility required to optimally support the needs and requirements of many types of personnel.

I’ve used a similar image a few times, in posts on knowledge innovation and math in 2010 and beyond. Here I’ve intersected three main topics while including some of my strengths in the middle. Now if I could only match those to a job title…

At what intersection do you operate?