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 [F] New York Times on the Web Forums  / Science  /

    Missile Defense

Technology has always found its greatest consumer in a nation's war and defense efforts. Since the last attempts at a "Star Wars" defense system, has technology changed considerably enough to make the latest Missile Defense initiatives more successful? Can such an application of science be successful? Is a militarized space inevitable, necessary or impossible?

Read Debates, a new Web-only feature culled from Readers' Opinions, published every Thursday.

Earliest Messages Previous Messages Recent Messages Outline (5523 previous messages)

rshow55 - 10:45am Nov 7, 2002 EST (# 5524 of 5526) Delete Message
Can we do a better job of finding truth? YES. Click "rshow55" for some things Lchic and I have done and worked for on this thread.

We need to learn to make peace - and to make defenses more stable. The technical basis of that is a lot solider than people think, so far as conventional military systems go.

I think commondata 11/7/02 6:01am is a great post. It includes these lines:

"I take on board all your six points, rshow, and it remains a mystery to me why shooting down all planes wasn't possible (cheaply) by all states decades ago.

What are special about animal-like controls? Is my assumption that the missile would just have to be more manoeuvrable than the target hopelessly ill-informed?

I hope not hopelessly misinformed - and animal-like controls really are different in kind from those now used in man-made controls - and the distinction IS the crucial reason why shooting down all planes wasn't possible (cheaply) by all states decades ago.

I'm going to copy some short, key parts from a good book Analysis of Nonlinear Control Systems by Dunstan Graham and Duane McRuer I've got the Dover edition - but it was first published in 1961 - which summarizes a lot of hard work motivated to try to solve "the mystery of why shooting down all planes with missiles isn't possible." The problem is in the controls - and the problems that were stumpers in 1961 remain.

A classical kind of instability is plainly on view in a picture of the wildly divergent flight path (as shown in the contrail) published in a Week In Review - Feb 11, 2001 - on the same page as James Dao's fine essay Please Do Not Disturb Us With Bombs . Let me collect those references . . . and try to respond to your questions of commondata 11/7/02 6:01am at Graham and McRuer's academic level - before tackling some of the explanatory problems that I spoke of last night. . . . back in a while.

rshow55 - 03:37pm Nov 7, 2002 EST (# 5525 of 5526) Delete Message
Can we do a better job of finding truth? YES. Click "rshow55" for some things Lchic and I have done and worked for on this thread.

There are a lot of good postings since 5515 rshow55 11/6/02 7:14pm and its hard to respond to them all - or respond to anything as fast as I'd like. I'm just slow, I guess.

5515 expressed a lot of wishes - including this one: "Wish I was a little clearer about how you explain calculus, comfortably, in plain english." . . . for decent and proportionate decisions, proportions have to be handled - and there are problems getting enough people in our society to undersand any math.

Mazza points out from time to time that the technical achievements of the military can be impressive, and did again in mazza9 11/6/02 11:07pm . Of course that's right - but the question is - what makes sense for the security of the United States - and what defenses can actually work - and make sense in the real world? Sometimes, mathematical judgements are critical if that question is to be sanely answered.

The Bush administation, like all administrations, is many headed, and not all of a piece. But they do want to do something admirable -- they want to make strong progress toward a goal I strongly share.

That goal is security for the United States - real security, an ability for Americans to go on with their own lives, without fear of the horrors of war - horrors which we've all been vulnerable to, and have feared, since the 1950's. With fears that have magnified (and become somewhat more rational, if as yet unbalanced) since September 11, 2001.

ABM systems WOULD be beautiful., if only they could be made to work. And we NEED to solve the problems that are standing in the way of the ABM, so that we can keep the earth from being destroyed by a giant meteors -- and for other reasons. There is plenty of reason to want to get that technology to work. And there's some beautiful stuff there - personally, my fingers itch when I think of some of it -- I'd like to work on it myself.

But, as of now, and for the forseeable future, at a number of essential levels, it doesn't work in the senses that make sense militarily. That makes it ugly.

A lot of our other military stances are ugly as well, in the sense of disproportionate parts of a larger whole. Even as we are, with other nations, making or getting close to great progress in other areas.

. U.S. Gives U.N. an Iraq Measure, Seeks a Council Vote By JULIA PRESTON

Risks and threats are very real - and our only workable solution has to involve ways of controlling and defusing conflicts more effectively than we have done.

The question of "what's workable" involves issues of judgement - of proportion. That's partly a moral, and partly a technical issue.

Sometimes that takes at least a rudimentary sense of math - at least enough knowledge and familiarity to cut fear levels down enough so people can look at some issues, and think about them.

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