* Posts by Brian

2 posts • joined 8 May 2008

'I can see dinosaurs from my back porch'


Science vs. Religion and the benefits of both...

I'm often truly depressed by the complete hypocrisy of many of those that would insist that evolution is garbage and that “intelligent design,” creationism, etc. is right and should be taught as a valid theory in science classes.

Let me start by giving an un-related example of hypocrisy, I knew a woman who was an avid protestor against animal testing. Her brother was diagnosed with a severe heart defect and in my opinion was lucky enough to obtain a transplant (obviously, the original “owner” of said heart wasn’t so lucky). After listening to one of her rants one day, I pointed out that her brother was alive because of animal testing (which I thought was exceedingly obvious). Unsurprisingly, she was extremely angry with me and proceeded to rant some more in a direction that could be best described as “that’s unfair – this is a different situation.” No, it wasn’t different. I am of the opinion that her brother was worthy of the transplant and that research to develop the techniques involved in heart transplant on animals and the development/testing of anti-organ-rejection drugs involving animals were a lesser “evil” than letting her brother die. Prior to that moment all animal testing was bad and evil to her. After that moment, her opinion evolved (I’m sorry I’m not trying to bait with the use of that term) to animal testing for the production of cosmetics is evil, etc. – OK, hard for me to argue against testing for the sake of vanity.

Evolution is a theory based on the scientific method. And it is really a pretty simple and logical theory on top of that – I would call it simple math – An animal of greater fitness for its current environment statistically bears more offspring than one of lesser fitness and after a number of generations there are fewer animals with the lesser trait. How can you not believe in that concept? How could you call that evil? The same logic would apply to restaurants/economics every day – quality restaurants with good marketing tend to prosper, bad quality restaurants or restaurants with bad marketing tend to fail. The difference between animals and restaurants – restaurants can change their basic nature and thus potentially become successful – a grazing animal with a short neck can’t become a giraffe because he wants to – his genetics don’t allow for that. However, if there is an advantage to the grazing animal with a longer neck over his companions he might very well have more kids and his kids might have more kids, etc.

So what is the relationship between the above story related to hypocrisy and Evolution vs. Creationism? I can only assume that almost all people firmly on the side of teaching Creationism in science enjoy the benefits of medicine, technology, infrastructure, etc. developed via the scientific method. Evolution is a product of the scientific method. Many current advancements in medicine are based on improvements in our understanding of DNA, RNA, etc., which are the direct result of analysis via the scientific method. The fact that Palin’s child could be in-vitro diagnosed with a DNA defect is a direct result of our improved understanding of genetic inheritance, gene mutation, etc. (which are all tenets of modern evolutionary theory). Therefore, in my opinion it is hypocritical to utilize the benefits (e.g.: knowing / being prepared ahead of time for a Down’s Syndrome baby) of science / critical thinking and turn around and insist on the teaching of an idea (Creationism) completely based on belief rather than scientific method. Similarly, you can’t blindly pluck crucial elements of scientific knowledge that contradict a Judeo-Christian interpretation of Creationism (e.g.: radio carbon dating based on radioactive decay), but utilize that same scientific method on a daily basis (nuclear power production based on radioactive decay) and it not smack of hypocrisy.

Let me finish my soap box “rant” by saying that Creationism is inherently un-scientific. The scientific method is a process of observation and measurement followed by the development of a hypothesis about the cause that yielded the observation or measurement. Creationism is the belief that everything is the way it is because God made it that way (unless you think stating that giraffes have long necks because God wanted them to have long necks is a scientific statement). That doesn’t make Creationism wrong. It does make it wrong for a science class and in my opinion there are other perfect platforms for the evaluation of Creationism (e.g.: religious or philosophical study classes).

The purpose of science courses are to teach our future scientists to think in a scientific pattern rather than assume something through belief. An example of the value in teaching them critical thinking is that they might be able to push our knowledge to the point that we could grow a new heart without needing transplants/ant-rejection drugs or miracles. Wouldn't a loving creator prefer that we obtain a level where we could help ourselves?


Rare SCADA bug poses power plant risk


@TMS9900 - You MUST be joking?

Bollocks on the Bollocks.

I'm sorry to flame, but I've encountered a number of SCADA systems connected to intranets and (stating the obvious) said intranets were connected to the internet. Yes, the regulatory (control networks) are generally segregated, but the supervisory (SCADA) is on the corporate intranet all the time. I'll grant you that traditionally, we as automation professionals (especially back in the DCS world of 10 years ago) generally discouraged customers from having interconnected networks. However, times have changed and I would be surprised if more than 20% of new installations (and that 20% would just about all be small stand-alone facilities) are built based on a closed network. The genie has been out of the bottle a while here and the OEMs have been playing (much-needed) catchup to adjust to the changes in the way automation solutions are implemented. Large corporations want (and need) access to the data provided via their SCADA systems for real-time applications such as MES/ERP, dash-boards, etc.

Thankfully, most of the integrated networks of any size are implemented with network segregation via routers, layer 3 switches, etc., - that should generally prevent DOS attacks from an outside source (assuming your network equipment hasn't been penetrated).

The key is to use some intelligence in implementing your network solution. Well, that and screaming at the OEMs to actually hire protocol & security experts for their software development. Now that the networks are integrated, the OEMs have to fight the same IT battles as anyone else. Similarly, automation professionals have to be even more dilligent to make sure that the code in their DCS/PLC/PAC is capable of running independently/safetly if the SCADA fails.

P.S. - PLCs/PACs/DCSs have Ethernet ports (and associated vulnerabilities too).

P.P.S. - To the MS haters - Oddly enough, SCADA workstations running on MS Windows rarely crash as long as they are only running OS + SCADA software. The issues normally only arise when the operator loads other crap on the machine and tries to run it simultaneously... Less MS's issue - more 3rd party apps.

2 Cents Delivered. Flame away.