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tv   Tavis Smiley  WHUT  November 4, 2011 8:30am-9:00am EDT

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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. first up, a conversation with award winning author mark bowden. he has come up with a new book about cyber terrorism. his book is called "worm." somerandall's book tackle of the most basic questions of science.
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her book is called "knocking on heaven's door." >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with nio matyryve ay better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to sinationwide is on your side. >> brought to you by the aarp and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. it thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television]
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tavis: mark bowden is an award winning author. his newest book is called "worm: the first digital war." good to have you back on the program. the first digital world war, is a question of if or when? >> it is a case study of one of the most serious cyber threats launched in the last few years and trying to curb the worm required a global effort. they had to get the cooperation of every top-level country domain in the world to contain this thing. what that suggests is a global struggle. the book is an opportunity to take a look at what i think it's a fascinating process. "worm" tells the story of a
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little piece of militias software. it is called a worm, because of like a virus that requires you to do something stupid, a warm does not require you to do anything. it worms itself inside the operating system of your computer and turns it over to a remote controller. it connects it to millions of other computers around the world, giving the remote controller access to a supercomputer which is capable of all sorts of mischief. >> who is behind this? >> we know that it is probably a group of programmers. the suspicion is that they are from the ukraine. there was evidence wendy worm first appeared, one thing in did was to check to see if the computer had a ukrainian
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keyboard. we know that they are among the most sophisticated programmers in the world. conficer checks into your computer. it exploits a vulnerability that microsoft had already patched. because most people do not download updates and many windows operating systems are pirated, the war managed to infiltrate millions of computers. it had a way of hiding the comptroller that was more sophisticated than any seen prior to this one. did use some of the most advanced levels of encryption to prevent anybody from hijacking their communications. it was a very snazzy piece of
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software. tavis: i asked whether an all- out in digital world war was a question of if or when. what lessons were there or are there to learn from this first dust up and whether or not we are learning those lessons. >> the federal government will do this. president obama back in 2009 shortly after taking office specifically referred to the worm and noting how ill- prepared the federal government was to protect even its own computer networks. over the past two or three years, there have been a lot more aggressive efforts to beef up i think anybody in this busis will tell you that we are just
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one command away from somebody launching an attack that could crashed the internet itself. >> why would you want to crash the world's access to computers? >> evidently because they have not done it, the folks behind it have no desire to crash it. they built it to be a platform for computer crime, sabotage, spying. they lease out portions of their botnet to whoever wants to use them. a botnet of this size has the potential to launch an attack to take up the computer ritz -- internet itself. the only one that would want to do that is a nation state launching an attack or a war. that has happened. in russia in 2008 a cyber attack
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took out all of the internet in the ukraine before they launched an attack. tavis: it is really about cyber crime? >> it is. so far, it has been used to launch a number of criminal operations. most recently in europe. this group was caught. a group of programmers leased a portion and drain $72 million from american bank accounts overnight and transfer the money to their own bank accounts overnight. they got caught. we do not know the criminal enterprises where people have not been caught. tavis: i always assumed if people can design things like this for evil, then there must be some good that comes out of this as well. let me ask you a strange question.
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what is the good that has come out of these developments? >> the internet itself is unarguably a good thing. it is a wonderful tool that has proved enormously beneficial for people throughout the world. the anonymity with which you can function on the internet that allows criminals to work as allow people to band together and work in iran and throughout the middle east. tyrants throughout the world tremble at the power that the internet gives individuals. distributed networks like botnets have been used. one use is a program that is trying to monitor radio broadcasts from space in its search for intelligent life in the universe. they have created a network of hundreds of thousands of computers that analyzed bits of
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this problem. that is an application that is not dissimilar from a botnet. tavis: you made a distinguished meant that tells me that there is not a lot i can do to protect myself from worm. a virus we get because we click on something that we should not click on. are you saying that there is no way to protect myself? >> the worry is not necessarily your own computer. you can reasonably well protect your computer if you down the security updates. if you had been downloading your security updates for your computer, you would not have been vulnerable to being invaded. the problem is that it is more societal than individual. if you are vaccinated, you can protect yourself from the
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disease. if you fail to vaccinate yourself, you do not just failed to protect yourself, but you fail to protect society at large. it is more societal and individual. tavis: why should i not believe the notion that i now hold? the genie is out of the bottle. you cannot p her back in. what you are warning us about is ultimately a foregone conclusion. what we are discussing right now is someday going to long as there are people smart enough to figure out how to do it. >> that is true of any tool that has ever been invented that it can be used for harm as well as good. the internet was a creation of the late 1960's, early 1970's. it was created to help academic scientists and share data freely.
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very little thought was given for the need to protect data. it is certainly possible to build protections or defenses within the internet. what you will see soon are parallel internet's available for use that provide individual users a higher level of security than the public internet that currently exists. there are solutions to this problem. they are not here with us yet. tavis: to the discussion we were having earlier about what there is to learn about what worm offers us, the pentagon changed its policy to suggest that they view cyber attacks as an act of war. your thoughts on what that means politically. >> we increasingly lean on the
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internet for vital infrastructure in this country. the electric grid, banking, commerce, other vital systems in our country lean on the internet, which is still a very fragile tool. what we need to learn is that if we are going to lean heavily on this thing, it has to protect us as well as enable us to share information. tavis: the book is called "worm:: the first digital war it. up next, a physicist lisa randall. lisa randall is a physicist at harvard and at a member of the
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time 100, the 100 most influential people in the world. her book is called "knocking on heaven's door." let me start by asking you a pretty straightforward question. why do you do what you do? >> part of it is probably selfish. it is a lot of fun. i like seeing how the world works and how it fits together. i like when there is some sort of order to the universe. it is like finding a truth that has some sort of return on nature to it. it is a very valuable way of thinking. it is important that we keep making progress. what i'd do is very theoretical. it won't necessarily have implications for anything that anybody is doing tomorrow. you know that there is a sense
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of progress in science. tavis: you spent a good part of the book, thankfully, talking about this debate that seems to be ongoing between science and religion. i had a conversation with a professor on my radio show. everywhere you look, there is a debate between science and religion. how did you see that debate? >> it is not the main focus of my book. what i wanted to do was explain the nature of science. it is part of the story of signs to distinguish it from other portions of the world. people can take this for what they are. the two questions is, where is the difference? why do we care? those were the questions.
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it is part of a general discussion. for me, my distinguished religion as involving a deity that comes in and changes the world today in any way whether it is by changing the physical universe or changing my decisions. religion can have psychological and social aspects. in explaining how things work, science acts differently. they explain material elements. it does not mean that we understand how everything works based on the material elements, but we know that they are there. it is a very different way of thinking about the universe. if you can feel happier about thinking of it as an external force. for science, it is all internal. the ingredients are there. we are trying to piece them
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together. tavis: i wonder whether or not you think that necessarily or just thinking differently has a value in a plea in and of itself, but just thinking differently about these issues lead us to better decisions? >> it depends on what you mean by thinking differently. what do you have in mind? tavis: the scientific issues that you are working on. >> i believe that science has an internal structure and it makes sense. it does not mean that we are answering all questions. if we are certainly not answering all questions right away. what happens is that people get this very limited view of science. when you are working on science, it is much more amorphous process. it is not like we know all of the answers right away. you are trying to put together data. you are trying to fit it
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together economically. there are things that can be tested. you have experience, you have ideas, does it all fit together? as human beings, we can think about things that we like. what is great about science is that they're ultimately is a record. it does not mean that we ultimately know the right answers. over time, we do. tavis: i just thought about this title for a few minutes. there are four or five different things that came to mind as to why you would name the book "knocking on heaven's door." >> i wanted some way of expressing how i see science. we have this solid body of knowledge that is evolving. we are trying to reach the edges. as technology advances, we
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include what we knew before. why do science? you are just going to show what everything you did before was wrong. what we knew before might have been an approximation. a really good one that worked well. i am excited about the physics of elementary particles. i want to know, how does that go with what i learned in school? we have a series of particle physics. people sometimes think of matter like a russian doll. it is not true. we look inside matter and we found atoms. you may or may not be excited about that. we have quantum mechanics. that is a completely different way of thinking abo the universe than classical physics. the rules really change will we got inside the nucleus. we found the strong nuclear force.
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that, to me, is very exciting. tavis: i am glad you said what you said a moment ago. speaking of your point a moment ago about the things that we learn in school and the theory of relativity, i was not a great student in science. i struggled with a lot of different parts of it. i thought i have quite understood einstein's theory of relativity. i was reading the other day about articles about whether or not einstein was wrong and whether or not he made a mistake. is it neutrinos'? >> this is actually very interesting. first of all, what was measured was physical particles called neutrinos. they can go long distances without interacting. they went 720 kilometers. in the process, and they
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measured how fast they went. according to the measurements that they did, it look like it went faster than the speed of light. we do not think that it was correct and neither do the experimenters. some did not want to sign it. it is not clear and that the result is right. it is not clear where the mistake is. let's put out the paper to the scientific community nancy if that can find out what is wrong with it. let's say that there result was right. tavis: how does that change physics? >> does that mean einstein made a mistake? absolutely not. the theory works really well. it has been tested. it might mean that the assumptions that he made were only approximations. the speed of light seems to be constant, but how do we know that unless we keep testing it?
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are these absolutely true or do they break down? it does not mean that einstein was wrong, just like newton was not wrong. we know the quantum mechanics is right. when you can do things more precisely or measure them differently, you can find more precise answers. if feinstein made and the state, it means that the assumptions had not been sufficiently well tested. tavis: let me ask another broad question. how concerned are you to the extent that you are concerned at all that we are losing ground in our country on science? the data seems to suggest that our students are not being drawn like a magnet to math and science. what do you think about that? >> it is definitely an important
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issue. it is particularly an issue with engineering. i still see some great students. there is something in general. i think we are losing our respect for science and rational thinking and numbers and the scientific method. you see that not just in science, but in policy debates. people are almost embarrassed to talk about scientific measurements or scientific facts. that is a greater danger for our country. without doing science and scientific thinking is also important. i am glad you bring that up. i still think we have many exceptional students that will do great things was science. not all of them will go into science. at a lower rate than before. we want to pay attention to investing in science, investing
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in infrastructure. people should stop being afraid of thinking in a scientific manner. tavis: there were a bunch of great blurbs. a politician extraordinary endorses the book. you talk about the way science is being maltreated as it were. what is the long-term danger of policy makers raising their nose or turning down their nose at scientific data at? >> i do not want to completely second-guess politicians. we have some serious problems. the world is changing a lot. we have some serious issues. why you would not want to use all of the methods at your disposal and be proud of the fact that you are. death behind the scenes, some
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politicians are doing those calculations. why can we not say, this is the reason we are doing this? it seems that given the kind of issues that we are facing, this is the only way out of it. tavis: what is the abiding lesson that you want us to take from this book? >> two lessons. one is about the physics itself. i talk about the physics that i do. the physics of dark matter. what the collir is going to leon is what we are talking about. science is not a simple process. ret. ary to ai dplexnpl the creative elements? what is the role of uncertainty? what is the role of risk? all of these will help us make the -- better decisions not just
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about science, but the world. tavis: you mentioned the lhc in france in the underground. tell me about that. derstand the fundamental nature of matter. we might even learn about the nature of space. we can learn properties of matter forces and also possibly even the nature of space time. there are some pretty exciting things on the horizon. tavis: i have waited my job if you understood even half of that tonight. we got through it. the book is called "knocking on heaven's door." lisa randall, professor at harvard, physicist there. >> thank you so much. tavis: that is our show for tonight. see you next time on pbs. >> for more information on
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today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with susan herma on her new book "taking liberties." >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation ate. aim t detiwi ion >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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