Adventure 1 - Waves, Chips, and Language

ELF Radiation

How would one hail a submarine that is below the surface of the ocean? Sending a normal radio communications is impossible due to the conductive nature of seawater, so navies have to blast extremely low frequency (to increase penetration) waves to tell their ships to surface, then communicate via normal means. The cool thing about this is that antenna size is proportional to wavelength, so massive equipment (miles long) is used to generate these waves!

Clipper Chip

The Clipper Chip was a proposed computer chipset developed by the NSA for use by telecommunications companies. The idea was that the chip allowed encrypted communication, but that the government could listen in any time it wanted. This absurd (a backdoor for the government is a backdoor for everyone) proposal marked a major defeat for the government in what was known as the Crypto Wars when it was swiftly shown to be technically flawed.

Unfortunately, the government did not learn its lesson and has now come back for a second round. In accordance with its obsession for spying on citizens, the US Government has now called for the introduction of "Responsible Encryption". Essentially, the FBI is bothered that it can no longer perform illegal warrantless wiretaps due the widespread adoption of End to End Encryption, and is once again using the "National Security" argument to gain support for imposing a mandatory crippling of encryption.

If you interested in government/encryption relationship, take a look at the final paper I wrote for my Computers, Freedom, and Privacy course this year. It should bring you up to speed with the current technical and legal landscape.

Ancient Languages

I have always been skeptical of the phrase "There is no way to say ____ in your language" because I don't think that there exists a culture on Earth so advanced or different that they have ideas that are simply incomprehensible to other cultures. Obviously, there is not a 1:1 mapping of words between any two languages, however, given enough space, I always believed that you could make a translation between any two languages.

For example, consider a civilization that has not yet invented the clock or a way of telling time. The English word "hour" would not have a corresponding word in their language, but you could teach them what an hour is based on shared physical phenomena (day length, shadow creep, ...). Concepts are universal, specific words are not.

This stack exchange page is interesting because it makes the claim that not only are modern languages all equally expressive, but the languages of thousands of years ago are also comparable. The second link relates to something I was discussing with a coworker (a linguistics student) that ties in directly with the stack exchange answer.