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Rebecca Slayton's Arguments that Count: Physics, Computing, and Missile PDF

By Rebecca Slayton

In a quickly altering global, we depend upon specialists to evaluate the promise and hazards of recent know-how. yet how do those specialists make feel of a hugely doubtful destiny? In Arguments that Count, Rebecca Slayton deals an enormous new viewpoint. Drawing on new ancient records and interviews in addition to views in technological know-how and know-how reports, she offers an unique account of ways scientists got here to phrases with the remarkable risk of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). She compares how assorted expert groups -- physicists and laptop scientists -- developed arguments concerning the dangers of missile protection, and the way those arguments replaced over the years. Slayton indicates that our realizing of technological dangers is formed by way of disciplinary repertoires -- the codified wisdom and mathematical ideas that specialists use to border new demanding situations. And, considerably, a brand new repertoire can carry long-neglected hazards into transparent view.

In the Nineteen Fifties, scientists well-known that high-speed pcs will be had to deal with the unheard of pace of ICBMs. however the nation's elite technology advisors had no option to study the hazards of pcs so used physics to evaluate what they can: radar and missile functionality. in basic terms many years later, after constructing computing as a technological know-how, have been advisors capable of study authoritatively the dangers linked to complicated software program -- such a lot particularly, the danger of a catastrophic failure. As we proceed to confront new threats, together with that of cyber assault, Slayton deals invaluable perception into how other kinds of craftsmanship can restrict or extend our skill to handle novel technological risks.

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Additional resources for Arguments that Count: Physics, Computing, and Missile Defense, 1949-2012

Example text

Ivan Getting, who earned a PhD in astrophysics at Oxford in 1935, left a position at Harvard to direct the Rad Lab’s division on ground-based fire control. 20 Like the physicists who worked on microwave radar, those who worked on systems engineering emerged from World War II with expanded levels of influence. Valley and Getting both became members of MIT’s faculty, while Loomis recruited Ridenour to the University of Illinois. But while the physicists who worked in microwave radar were rising rapidly through academic administration, the systems engineers were finding influence in the Air Force, a new and growing service.

And whom or what 42 Chapter 2 would it protect? These questions loomed large in the 1950s. There were no obvious criteria for evaluating the best path forward. So how did scientific advisors make sense of the problem? This chapter shows how scientists’ disciplinary repertoire—physics and electrical engineering—shaped the way they directed the missile defense program in the 1950s. 2 While previous accounts have noted advisors’ conclusions—they opposed the Army’s proposed deployment of defense—this chapter looks more closely at how scientists reached their conclusions, and reveals their influence on far more than questions of deployment.

That Jacobs began organizing the programming effort, managers in the digital computer project acknowledged a change in hiring policy. ”92 He couldn’t hire more people because Forrester’s group had already grown to the maximum allowed by MIT—534 personnel, twice what Forrester had proposed just a few years earlier. Asking RAND to hire programmers didn’t resolve the issues since there was no place to put them. 94 But managers seemed unable to get a grip on the slippage; just how far behind were they?

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