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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ars Technia and Ruiu's Questionable Results

I am fascinated by this article at ArsTechnica.

It describes a computer security researcher named Drago Ruiu studying what he calls "BadBIOS."  BadBIOS is supposedly some kind of virus that lives in a computer's BIOS (the BIOS is a low level memory where basic instructions on startup, accessing the disk, display, etc. are stored).

BadBIOS supposedly allows computers with no internet or wired or wireless connection to become infected by, supposedly again, mysterious means, e.g., audio data transfer, and so on.

A subsequent Ars article here describes how others are unable to duplicate Ruiu's results.

What interesting is not this information per se but rather how this reflects on today's notion of "science" and credibility.

Unlike, for example, "climate science" a laptop is a closed system.  A device without access to the internet that is supposedly exhibiting problems with self infection of computer viruses.

No one so far can "duplicate" Ruiu's results.

But Ars can still write articles about these results even though there are basically nonsense.

If we (or they) can't reliably decode what a laptop is doing how can we decode, for example, the climate?

The laptop is a closed environment that sits on your lap.  The climate represents a planet-wide phenomena.

What the fascination is here is that no one at Ars questions the ineptitude of Ruiu.  Computers are based on boolean logic and deterministic electronics.  Yet Ruiu is unable to demonstrate actual results.

This is a common phenomena when debugging large, complex software systems.  Its easy to fool yourself (as I wrote about here in "Through the Keyhole") about what's going wrong.  Perhaps Ruiu (and the editors at Ars) should read my posts regarding this phenomena before publishing articles.

Yet Ars still writes about this nonsense - and climate science as well.  If we can't understand a laptop how can we understand climate?

I wrote here about how 1 in 20 scientific studies are basically bogus - I think that the modern notion of science is flawed and guys like Ruiu are really just lost.

Yet Ars represents a world where we can talk about intermediate results of scientific efforts as if they are news.

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