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greengalloway

As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Monday, December 05, 2005

I am the Warrior Lord of the Forties





Computers vs NuclearPower

Backtracking through numerous sources (books), it looks as if both computers and nuclear energy (weapons and power stations) had their origins in the Second Great War, that of 1939-45.

Today's computers have their origin in Alan Turing's 1936 paper on Computable Numbers. At the same time, various experiments were being done which indicated the possibility of a uranium based nuclear chain reaction.

The outbreak of war pushed these developments from theory into practice.

1. Turing's theories informed attempts to decode secret German cyphers at Bletchley Park. Although not directly involved in its creation, the Colossus 'computer' which emerged out of this process drew on Turing's work. The ability to decode the less complex Enigma codes (whichTuring was directly involved with) -especially as regards the North Atlantic u-boat campaign- were critical in the survival of the UK as centre for opposition to Nazi Germany in the period (1940/41) prior to USA involvement post Pearl Harbour.

2. At the same time, and relying heavily on input from 'aliens' [foreign nationals] , the potential of nuclear energy was also being developed in the UK. This included the critical realisation that a nuclear bomb could be constructed.

3. In both cases, and especially re nuclear bomb, the UK alone was unable to deploy the resources necessary to 'exploit' the theoretical potential of these developments. What happened was that post- Pearl Harbour, the USA was able to use its much larger resources to develop and manifest the actuality of nuclear bomb and computers.

4. Post 1945, an impoverished UK was pushed out of the loop.

5.1 ooking through the histories, there are not many direct 'people' connections, but in the USA, the first computers were used to process the mass of data needed to create the hydrogen bomb. [John von Neumann]

5.2 In the fifties and sixties, the need to create a 'nuclear war survivable' communciation network stimulated (Paul Baran) the development of what was to become the Internet. Similar processes pushed the general development of computing forwards.

5.3 The link back to nuclear physics comes via Tim Berners-Lee who created the World Wide Web at CERN in the early nineties.

6. Is any of this significant?

6.1 Yes, it is. My theory is that if the power of a'computer in every home' could be linked to the ability of every home to be a generator of energy via mini-wind, solar etc power sources and if the power needs of every home could be managed by home computers, then the need for nuclear power as a centralised solution to future energy needs would be diminished.

6.2 Energy as power could be devolved, as it is in modern computer networks, to the micro-level. The centralisation of power as energy which is implicit in the nuclear model would be negated.

7. This is just an idea.

Links:

http://www.turing.org.uk/turing/

http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Von_Neumann.html

http://paul-baran.biography.ms/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TUBE_ALLOYS

http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/

http://memex.naughtons.org/

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