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Insights and opinions from our readers

Digital Theaters: Coming Soon?

With regard to the speed with which Michael Hiltzik suggests digital projection will proliferate (“Digital Cinema, Take 2,” TR September 2002), I think a point is being missed. Once a theater has digital-projection capability, it can show many products, from rock concerts to corporate presentations. In Great Britain, a recent experiment with digital projection of three Broadway-based shows drew rave reviews and commanded premium ticket prices. There are also some fairly big savings to the studios from not having to deliver prints to each theater. I suspect the theater chains may move to this digital medium more quickly than conventional wisdom thinks.

Jack Rivkin
Amagansett, NY

Fired Up Over Firewalls

Simson Garfinkel’s column (“Firewall Follies” TR September 2002) should be required reading for upper managers before they sign off on information technology budgets. Firewalls, like other network devices, are not an install-and-forget type of technology. The vast majority of organizations have no idea who made what changes to their network infrastructure or why the changes were made. The poor security methodologies that are standard practice-typically a single, broadly shared password-don’t allow for tracking changes. Until this is resolved, the network infrastructure can’t be trusted.

Jonathan Wolf
Waltham, MA

How To Handle Megaterror

Your article on “The Technology of Megaterror” (TR September 2002) is excellent. However, I do not share writer Richard Garwin’s belief that we are safe from smallpox. We are not.

Aside from the fact that the general population has not been vaccinated recently, there is the deadly possibility that the Soviets or a subsequent bioweapons-research team has developed mutant versions of the smallpox virus for which the existing vaccine does not work.

Ralph Chang
Arlington, MA

Garwin asserts that radiological dispersal devices “pose limited immediate harm.” I disagree. Although it is true that alpha and beta particles contaminating a dust or vapor cloud could easily be removed by hygiene measures, these particles would be extremely toxic and possibly life threatening if inhaled or ingested.

To lessen the impact of such an event, an early-warning-and-response system could direct potential victims within range of a contaminated cloud plume to remain indoors so that they would avoid inhalation. Homeowners could deploy “safe rooms” sealed with material as simple as plastic and duct tape or use self-contained breathing apparatuses to protect themselves from exposure. In addition, the filtration and positive-pressure systems recommended for protection against bioterrorism could be leveraged to mitigate the effects of radiological dispersal. Buildings or office clusters could be identified for sequestering members of the traveling public until they could be evacuated, or relocated.

William F. Mead
U.S. Search and
Rescue Task Force
Elkins Park, PA

Push Here For Innovation

The suggestions in Michael Schrage’s column, “Push-Button Innovation” (TR September 2002) are good, but he neglects one crucial element: voice controls to bypass those tiny keyboards altogether. Voice recognition would go a long way to making the cell phone easier to use. Tie in a way to record voice memos and parts of a phone conversation. Use it to convert your voice to a text message for e-mailing.

The phone is supposed to be about verbal communication. Make its control verbal, and you’ve got a real innovation  people will appreciate.

Steve Jordan
Germantown, MD

Who First Tamed The Skies?

I read the recent article on Glenn Hammond Curtiss (“The Flight That Tamed the Skies” TR September 2002) with great interest. However, I was surprised to see the claim that the NC-4 aircraft designed by him was the first to successfully cross the Atlantic in 1919. We in Great Britain are taught that this honor fell to the Vickers Vimy, piloted by Sir John Alcock and Arthur Brown.

John Steedman
Winchester, England

Editor’s response: Alcock and Brown were first to fly nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean. Curtiss’s seaplane made the trip in several hops.

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