Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Space Food Sticks

A few blasts from the past:

If you were a kid in the mid-1960s to mid-1970s, you probably yearn for space food sticks (and remember this advertisement), washed down with Tang. Yes, space food sticks are available again. NPR did a "beyond Tang" story last summer.

Boingboing reminded me how kooky television was back then. It inspired me to find the Willie Mays warning that must have run daily after school, I think right after Gilligan's Island. I've still haven't seen a blasting cap.

A couple of things that aren't ancient history: I was surprised to see a paper in the January/February 2008 issue of Transactions on Software Engineering ("Applying formal methods to a certifiably secure system") describing techniques similar to what we were doing in the mid-1980s at UCSB with formal specification of critical systems. I've always liked the approach of formally defining a top level specification (TLS) and the critical properties, then showing that the TLS maintains the properties. The authors also talk about specifying "no changes", which was the topic of my first professional paper, presented at HICSS in 1986 :)

Speaking of formal specifications, at JPL we worked on formal specs in John Kelly's group. This is how I met PVS and John Rushby, whom the authors of the recent paper cite several times.

In any case, John Kelly has moved on from JPL and is at NASA headquarters. He is quoted in an interesting two-page article "Inspecting the history of inspections: An example of evidence-based technology diffusion" in the January/February issue of IEEE Software. Here's an excerpt:
“What was really convincing was the personal testimony and experience of people at JPL, plus they had data. Data is what speaks. If you’re going to take things to engineers, you have to have data." A common theme throughout our conversation was the need for both hard, quantitative numbers and anecdotal experience reports to convince potential adopters. Both data types played a role throughout the dissemination story.
Fresno State people can click here and Hawaii people here for the article.