Library Assignment and Paper
Pick a topic (perhaps a question to answer or at least discuss) within the general theme of the threat posed by some specific form of Dark Information (infectious disease of humans or agriculturally important species, computer viruses or worms, or harmful memes such as vicious rumors circulated by email) or possible defenses.
Find and turn in a photocopy of one academic journal article not available on the web on this topic. "Academic journal article" means an article from a periodical published weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even annually (Annual Review of…) which is found in the UCD library and is not sold at supermarkets, newstands, etc. "Not available on the web" means I can't find the complete text of the article with a Google search or at JSTOR.org (JSTOR archives back issues of certain academic journals -- check their website to see which ones). Look for an article you can "sort of" understand (just the main points) so you can discuss it in your paper. I recommend Web of Knowledge (available from UCD Library web page) as a search engine for finding academic journal articles.
Find one web page that provides additional information on the topic and turn in the web address. Google.com may be useful.
This assignment is due Nov. 12 (i.e., I will deduct points after that) but try to get it in earlier -- early-birds will have until Nov. 12 to make any corrections needed ( if you thought Newsweek was an academic journal or forgot to check JSTOR) for full credit.
Your 3-5 page paper, which may use additional reference materials, is due Nov. 19.
Questions? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 2-9688.
Answers to reading questions that were due Oct. 29
- According to lawyer F. Lee Bailey, what was the former occupation of Hank Asher, whose company wrote the MATRIX database software?
a pilot for drug smugglers
- If Alice wants to send a secret message to Bob using the RSA algorithm (based on large prime numbers), what "key" does she need?
Bob's public key
- According to the Taipei Times, which computer operating system in Taiwan is being damaged most by "Trojan Horse" programs?
Microsoft Windows (this is usually true, but people argue about whether this reflects inherent problems with Windows, relative to Mac OS or Linux, or if it's just that more hackers target Windows)
- What capabilities must a computer program have to qualify as a "digital organism"?
it must be able to self-replicate (make copies of itself), mutate (alter its own computer code), and evolve (in biology, evolution refers to changes in the genetic composition of a group of individuals or an entire species -- a change in an individual is just a mutation -- so it is the collection of programs that evolves, as different versions become more or less common).
Reading for Nov. 5
Read the following, on reserve at Shields Library. Estimated reading time: 25 minutes but understanding may take longer.
- YS86337. Excerpt from Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. Only pages 198-207 are assigned (in other words, skip "Yali's Question" and the beginning of "Lethal Gift of Livestock" unless you are interested in this book's big question).
- YS86338. Excerpt from Evolution of Infectious Disease by Paul Ewald. Only the first part (through the first half of page 91) is assigned.
- YS86232. Chemical synthesis of poliovirus… Only the abstract is assigned.
- YS86133. Accelerated vaccination for Ebola virus…. Only the abstract (bold first paragraph) is assigned.
Reading questions due Nov. 5
What would happen to a virus like the one that causes measles (as opposed to the people it infects) in small isolated communities like the Faeroe Islands, if they kept out all outside visitors?
How are diseases transmitted by doctors and nurses touching several patients without changing gloves (or touching their cell phones with a contaminated and then a "clean" glove) similar to diseases transmitted by mosquitoes?
Plants, animals, and even bacteria come from similar life forms and have not yet been created "from scratch" in the laboratory, so people assumed that if we destroy the last samples of smallpox virus, then smallpox would be gone for ever. But the simpler polio virus has now been made without "natural template" -- meaning they didn't start with any virus. List one key ingredient (chemical or information) they used.
How long did it take to complete immunizations with the old experimental vaccine, before this improved version was developed?
Questions to think about and discuss in class
Consider the possibility that some underground group had released an unknown deadly virus whose effects aren't apparent for years (like HIV) -- or one that never even makes people sick, but has more subtle effects (reduced fertility, personality changes) -- what if this virus were spreading through the US right now, without our knowing about it?
- Should some government agency be on the lookout for this scenario? If so, what should they be doing to determine if this is happening?
- What could we (individually or collectively) do to present the spread of pathogens that we don't know about and/or to increase the chances that they will evolve into less harmful forms?
- What would be the likely negative (or positive) side-effects on society of each of the proposed answers to the previous question?