Library Assignment and Paper

Answers to reading questions that were due Oct. 29

  1. According to lawyer F. Lee Bailey, what was the former occupation of Hank Asher, whose company wrote the MATRIX database software?
  2. a pilot for drug smugglers

  3. If Alice wants to send a secret message to Bob using the RSA algorithm (based on large prime numbers), what "key" does she need?
  4. Bob's public key

  5. According to the Taipei Times, which computer operating system in Taiwan is being damaged most by "Trojan Horse" programs?
  6. 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)

  7. 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.

Reading questions due Nov. 5

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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?