Outer space is internationally accepted as the common heritage of mankind, but it is increasingly getting used for military purposes, cautions a recent report of the IDSA-Indian Pugwash Society Working Group titled ‘Space Security: Need for a proactive approach’ (www.academicfoundation.com).

“While surveillance by U-2 type spy planes was considered hostile in the 1960s, far superior satellite-based military reconnaissance capabilities of satellites for military applications have come to be accepted as legitimate use of outer space by most nations today. This transition, however, has not been very smooth,” the authors note.

The report sees the likely US deployment of Airborne Laser (ABL) by 2010 as a big leap towards ‘weaponisation of outer space,’ as much as the deployment of the ‘potential dual-purpose’ micro-satellites.

“The ABL does not burn through or disintegrate its target. It heats the missile skin, weakening it, causing failure from high speed flight stress. If proven successful, seven ABL-armed 747s will be built and assigned to two combat theatres,” reads a snatch in Wikipedia. At the heart of the system is a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser, on board a Boeing 747, flying at 13 km altitude. Future R&D in the ‘Directed Energy Weapons’ (DEW) technology may offer space-based X-Ray lasers for dramatic capabilities in space applications and earth wars, the report postulates.

It reasons that the unique advantage of space weapons in terms of global reach – as different from ICBMs that have hemispheric reach – will make future R&D on space-based lasers very attractive. New technologies such as Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) and nanotechnology may make the ‘Brilliant Pebble’ concept of SDI (Strategic Defence Initiative) very practical and economically tempting, the report adds.

Introduction of tiny satellites may facilitate the use of a large number of nanosatellites programmed to function as a group, almost like flying insects, with potential defence applications, the authors envisage.

“Such satellite clusters functioning together as a swarm could be provided with collective intelligence… These could communicate relevant information and could even be designed to reconfigure themselves, thereby autonomously changing direction in response to sensor inputs to achieve the mission at hand…”

Exciting read.

**

Cyberbullying

While much of the traditional discussion regarding ‘hate’ and victim-perpetrator relationships is about situations where the two parties occupy the same geographical space, the recent phenomenon of ‘cyberbullying,’ which occurs remotely, is becoming a significant form of bias-related harassment, especially for young people, say Neil Chakraborti and Jon Garland in ‘Hate Crime: Impact, causes and responses’ (www.sagepublications.com).

“It can take place via Internet message boards, or via social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo, in an environment that offers anonymity to the perpetrator and thus may facilitate even more vicious harassment than may occur in a ‘physical’ environment where the chances of being caught are greater. Whether such anonymity means that the perpetrator and the target are necessarily strangers is a moot point, though.”

Sadly, a simple search for ‘cyberbullying’ yields 360 results on Google News, at the time of writing this. Here are a few: ‘Principals to assemble over cyber bullies’ (Brisbane Times); ‘Cassia Co. schools crack down on cyber-bullying’ (Twin Falls Times-News); ‘Teacher subjected to cyber bullying’ (ABC Regional Online); ‘Police take the fight to schoolyard cyber-bullies’ (Australian IT); ‘Evidence of cyber bullying’ (Lismore Northern Star); ‘Cyber bullying common among teens’ (Capital Times); and ‘Cyberbullying-increasing form of harassment-what parents should know’ (Examiner.com).

The book mentions that there are an estimated 2,800 hate-related websites worldwide, with the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis and neo-Nazis, racist skinheads and so on having the most visible presence. The authors, for instance, trace how C18 (Combat 18, a faction based around the vicious ‘street politics’ that the British National Party was trying to leave behind) uses the Internet for raising finances; the Net has also ‘provided a multimedia environment that has given hate groups a more visible public presence, and a much more accessible platform…’

Citing studies, the authors state that “the ISD Records website, the self-styled ‘hate factory of white power music,’ which sells a vast array of CDs, MP3 music files and has a link to Blood and Honour radio, an extremist online station” has provided ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds for C18 to fund its campaigns of terror and hatred.’

Important study.

**

Avoid culture shock

As project teams and organisations become increasingly more diverse, the need for a heightened awareness of cultural influences and customary practices becomes critical, write Kim Heldman and Vanina Mangano in ‘PMP: Project Management Professional Exam Review Guide’ (www.wileyindia.com). The authors mention, as examples of such situations, virtual project teams with members in different physical locations, internal project stakeholders spread among global offices, offshore vendors or suppliers, and offshore partners.

“As part of cultural awareness, you will need to be proactive in the following: Protect yourself and your staff from experiencing culture shock; conduct diversity training as needed; and demonstrate respect for your neighbours.”

Culture shock, which involves a separation from what you would normally expect, can cause disorientation, frustration, breakdown of communication, and confusion, the authors caution. To avoid culture shock, they offer a few helpful tips: “Read about the country you’re going to work in before you go. Become familiar with customs and acceptable practices in foreign countries where you have dealings or will be visiting. When in doubt about a custom or situation, ask your hosts or a trusted contact from the company for guidance.”

Handy reference.

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Well-encapsulated class

The fundamental theory of an object-oriented language is that software is designed by creating discrete objects that interact to make up the functionality of the application, write Robert J. Liguori and Edward G. Finegan in ‘SCJA: Sun Certified Java Associate Study Guide’ (www.tatamcgrawhill.com). Encapsulation, they explain, as the concept of storing similar data and methods together in discrete classes.

“In many nonobject-oriented languages there is no association between where the data is and where the code is. This can increase the complexity of maintaining the code because oftentimes the variables that the code is using are spread apart over the code base. Bugs in the code can be hard to find and resolve due to different remote procedures using the same variables.”

How does encapsulation solve these problems? By grouping related variables and methods in classes, explain Liguori and Finegan. “A well-encapsulated class is one that has a single clear purpose. This class should only contain the methods and variables that are needed to fulfil its purpose.”

For the hands-on techie.

**

Tailpiece

“One of my first tasks as the IT adviser was…”

“To devise ways to increase the technology infrastructure in the state?”

“No, to teach the neta how big numbers such as Rs 1.6 lakh crore can be accommodated in his worksheet after widening the column and getting rid of the ‘e’ notation that always reminded him of the enforcement guys!”

**

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