Book Reviews From 2015

Countdown To Zero Day (book review)

Countdown To Zero DayI don’t typically read fiction books. So when I first began reading Countdown To Zero Day by Kim Zetter, I had to stop to double-check that what I was reading wan’t fiction. This book had such a gripping storyline from the opening page that it sounded just like a novel.

But it’s not. It’s a real story with possible deadly consequences for the computerized world.

Countdown To Zero Day is like a detective story or a spy thriller, where different groups are trying to unravel the mystery of a highly-advanced computer virus that appears to only be effecting a specific type of computer. The story alternates back and forth between the cyber-sleuths unraveling the Stuxnet virus, and a group from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) trying to reveal Iran’s attempts to coverup their advancing nuclear weapons programs.

I really liked the format of the book. Kim wrote the book for computer techies that understand much of the computer jargon and basic operations of computer viruses, but for those who are technically-challenged, the abundance of footnotes will quickly allow the reader to feel more technically savvy.

The book follows this one particular case to address the larger question: Is cyber-warfare the next threat for all of us to address? That’s a good question, and the book allows lots of world experts to weigh-in. Techies and non-techies alike will enjoy this book!

I am a Random House book reviewer.

A Mathematical Quote From Gerald Schroeder In “There Is A God”

There Is A GodAs I said in my book review of Anthony Flew’s There Is A God, the real value of this book is in the arguments which contributed to Flew’s shift from atheism to theism. You can read my full book review by clicking here.

Frankly, it’s hard to share a lot of the quotes because the context of the full argument would be lacking, but I’ve been sharing a few of them over several posts. To continue, here is an extensive quote from mathematician Gerald Schroeder, which is set up by a quote from Anthony Flew.

“Schroeder first referred to an experiment conducted by the British National Council of Arts. A computer was placed in a cage with six monkeys. After one month of hammering away at it (as well as using it as a bathroom!), The monkeys produced fifty typed pages—but not a single word. Schroeder noted that this was the case even though the shortest word in the English language is one letter (a or I). A is a word only if there is a space on either side of it. If we take it that the keyboard has thirty characters (the twenty-six letters and other symbols), then the likelihood of getting a one-letter word is 30 times 30 times 30, which is 27,000. The likelihood of getting a one-letter word is one chance out of 27,000. Schroeder then applied the probabilities to the sonnet analogy. ‘What’s the chance of getting a Shakespearean sonnet?’ he asked. He continued:

‘All the sonnets are the same length. They are by definition fourteen lines long. I picked the one I knew the opening line for, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” I counted the number of letters; there are 488 letters in that sonnet. What’s the likelihood of hammering away and getting 488 letters in the exact sequence as in “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” What you end up with is 26 multiplied by itself 488 times—or 26 to the 488th power. Or, in other words, in base 10, 10 to the 690th. 

‘Now the number of particles in the universe—not grains of sand, I am talking about protons, electrons, and neutrons—is 10 to the 80th. Ten to the 80th is one with 80 zeros after it. Ten to the 690 is one with 690 zeros after it. There are not enough particles in the universe to write down the trials; you’d be off by a factor of 10 to the 600th. 

‘If you took the entire universe and converted it to computer chips—forget the monkeys—each one weighing a millionth of a gram and had each computer chip able to spin out 488 trials at, say, one million times a second; if you turn the entire universe into these microcomputer chips and these chips were spinning a million times a second producing random letters, the number of trials you would get since the beginning of time would be 10 to the 90th trials. It would be off again by a factor of 10 to the 600th. You will never get a sonnet by chance. The universe would have to be 10 to the 600 times larger. Yet the world just thinks the monkeys can do it every time.’”

  • More quotes are forthcoming.
  • You can read some direct quotes from Anthony Flew by clicking here.
  • Some Albert Einstein quotes can be found by clicking here.
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