I really prefer having an engine!

Nick Nash was a summer intern at IBM shortly after we had formed the Internet Division of the company 15 years ago. Nick went on to get a degree, magna cum laude, at Harvard. He is now a Vice President at General Atlantic, a global growth equity firm. Nick was an excellent communicator and he asked me one day if he could do an interview on the subject of aviation. Following is a transcription of the interview, which Nick titled “I really prefer having an engine!”
Tuesday, August 20, 1996
John Patrick reflects on his early interest in flying
Interview by Nick Nash
IBM VP of Internet Technology John Patrick is best known today for his role in shaping the evolution of the Internet, but before there was the Web, Patrick took to the skies to enjoy the thrill of “flying by the instruments”. I was curious to learn how this unusual hobby began.
Q: What got you first interested in flying?
A: I was stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida during the Vietnam Era as a member of the headquarters of the U.S. STRIKE Command. Although I was an army draftee, I was stationed in this multi-service group on an Air Force base, and therefore had a chance to take flying lessons at a private flying club hosted on the airbase. I got my private license in a Cessna 150.
After leaving the army and returning to Bethlehem,  Pennsylvania, I was able to continue and earn my commercial pilot’s license in a Cessna 150 using the VA Benefits. A few years later, after moving to the Philadelphia area, I got my instrument rating and bought a Cessna 172 with two acquaintances. We shared it for a few years, but after moving to Armonk, New York, in 1981, with the busiest TCA in the nation, I decided this was a hobby I couldn’t continue.

Q: What’s a TCA?
A: The TCA, or Terminal Control Area, is a “control zone” which the FAA puts in place over key metropolitan area airports. The TCA is designed to improve safety by imposing a lot of rules and controls, but if you don’t fly in the TCA on a frequent basis you can easily forget the rules. It wasn’t the TCA per se that impacted my decision to stop flying but more the need I felt to fly on instruments a couple of times per week in order to stay sharp. Got to the point where I just couldn’t fly often enough. Now I fly with the Microsoft flight simulator using the Logitech Wingman joystick.
Q: What kind of trips did you make? What was it like?
A: I did some flying for business purposes, and at several occasions took customers to an IBM plant or laboratory for business purposes, and took family vacations. It was a weekend hobby. Flying “on instruments” was really a very intellectual hobby, very rewarding — it was fun. And by owning a plane with two other people, it was affordable.
Q: Have you tried flying other airplanes?
A: I’ve flown Piper Cherokees – they’re bigger than the Cessna. I also tried flying a glider once, but I really prefer having an engine. Maybe I’m a control freak, but I really prefer having an engine!
Q: How much have planes changed since you left flying? And what are some ways airplanes could benefit from the latest computer technology?
A: Not much can change on the outside. The basics of aerodynamics for a propeller driven airplane are centered around basically very simple ideas. You have thrust from the propeller and drag from the plane in the horizontal direction, and lift from the curvature of the wing and the weight of the plane in the vertical direction. Inside the airplane….well, I haven’t kept up with it. I’m sure the gauges are more digital than analog. Pilots might be using GPS, for example. I suspect that the accuracy and capability of autopilots and direction finders and VOR/VORTAC are significantly greater, and I suspect that these are the areas in which the most progress would be, moving forward. I know this is already happening in corporate and commercial jets.
Q: Do you follow amateur flying on the web, or do you subscribe to any flying newsgroups?
A: Not really. Back in the days when I was flying, there was no World Wide Web, so if you wanted to have a chat session, you did it in the hanger!
(1) STRIKE stands for “Swift Tactical Retaliation In any Known Environment”. This went on to become led by General Norman Schwartzkopf of Gulf War fame.

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Visible Human Project

A prisoner in Texas spent his life as a drug abuser, alcoholic, robber and killer. In 1993 the state of Texas injected him with lethal chemicals and took his life away. Through a federally funded project called “The Visible Human the prisoner (who had willed his body to science) was digitized and put on the World Wide Web for all to see. Gray’s Anatomy has been replaced and medicine will never be the same again.

A teacher in a Colorado school uses the Visible Human to let his students see a body in a way that has never been seen before. Instead of dissecting a frog, they can dissect a human being on the Internet. There’s no smell and no blood.

The technology used to create the Visible Human is quite amazing. After the body was frozen high resolution CCD photographs (2,000 x 2,000) and CT scans were taken from “head to toe”. After each series a millimeter was milled away. For the Visible Man there were 1,878 “slices” and for the Visible Woman (milled every 1/3 of a millimeter) nearly 5,000 “slices”. The resulting data captured was used to reconstruct or “reverse engineer” the human body. Each voxel of data can now have meta data attached to it which can include characteristics of that part of the body. Examples might include consistency, color, resistance to a needle, friction toward a scalpel, etc. Current technology is yielding approximately 2 billion voxels1 for the body. With 12 bytes of meta data per voxel the characteristics of the entire body could potentially be represented in just 24 gigabytes of data.

Now that a human body has been reengineered it will become possible to perform human simulations; i.e. moving a muscle or emitting blood after a scalpel cuts through the skin. Future possibilities are boundless. We will be able to age and de-age the Visible Human, amputate an arm, add a torn ligament, introduce a heart attack or throw in a bullet wound. Doctors will be able to perform angioplasty insertions and actually experience the feel that would have been present if he or she were inserting into the arm of the Texas prisoner. Kinetic models based on real human data will surely lead to artificial knees that someday may run a marathon. Perhaps with enough computing power the Visible Human will be made to sit or walk or run opening up amazing simulation possibilities for sports medicine and saving of lives.

If all this becomes possible what are the implications? Wired Magazine had a story that described in great deal why BMUS (Beam Me Up Scottie) would not be possible. I am not so sure since I have learned about the Visible Human project. If a voxel is actually a subatomic voxel and the meta data includes every possible aspect of state and if a simulation can enable the Visible Human to move then could a scanning technology be developed to capture living voxels which could then be teleported? Still not something in the foreseeable future but thinking about the Visible Human project makes me think that someday BMUS may actually happen. Let’s see, now where would I like to get beamed up to?

You can learn more about the Visible Human at www.nlm.nih.gov/research .

1 A voxel is point in three dimensional space with a defined x, y, z position, color, and density.

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China Visit

In February I had a wonderful trip to Beijing to offer an Internet seminar to many officials of the Chinese government. Hugo Krawczck from IBM Research accompanied me on the trip and provided the security expertise that made the trip so valuable to our Chinese customers. Gloria Zhao of the IBM government relations office in Beijing was invaluable to Hugo and I as interpreter, guide, and professional associate throughout the trip. Here are a few pictures that show a history of the Great Wall, Hugo and I at Tianamen Square, and Gloria and I on the Great Wall at Badaling.

History of the Great Wall

History of the Great Wall

Gloria Zhao and John Patrick standing on the Great Wall

John Patrick and Gloria Zhao

Hugo Krawczck and John Patrick at Tianamen Square

John Patrick and Hugo Krawczck

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Where Were You When…?

Compass RoseNovember 1995 (edited September 11, 2003 and November 23, 2011 and Mar. 26, 2013)
Most of us remember vividly where we were on September 11, 2001. In my case, I was in Danbury, Connecticut in the board room at Bristol Technology meeting with their CEO, Keith Blackwell. Remember where you were when you first heard that President Kennedy was assassinated? (or Jerry Garcia died if you are too young to remember JFK). Most of us remember major events and exactly where we were at the time — even if it was decades before. Things like that you just don’t forget. But do you remember exactly where you were? I mean the exact latitude and longitude. I didn’t remember the JFK location either; that is until I went back to Lehigh University for my 30th reunion with my handheld GPS receiver and captured the precise coordinates. A nearby building had been torn down and a new one constructed but dead reckoning got me to the right spot shown below. This might have seemed strange in 1995 when I wrote the first version of this story.

Precise spot at Lehigh where I was when JFK was assassinated:

There are so many occasions when time and place get recorded. Auto accidents, package deliveries, construction sites, interviews, meetings and events of all kinds. We capture the time with great precision; e.g. Saturday July 4, 1998 at 2:15 PM. At times, we also record the location: e.g. IBM Corporate headquarters in Armonk, New York. We could be much more precise, however. How about N41° 06.774′, W73° 43.043′ (41 degrees, 6.774 minutes north and 73 degrees, 43.043 minutes west)?
Location (place) awareness has been an integral part of the history of mankind and the development of modern society. We don’t give it much thought, but location and navigation are inextricable parts of how us humans operate. Most of us have a built in ability to find our way around using “dead reckoning”. Since the beginning of time, man has noticed that stars provide a handy reference where landmarks are not available. Polynesians were able to travel great distances to tiny islands using only wind, waves, and the stars with nothing more significant than the width of an outstretched hand or finger. To study navigation and location is to study Columbus, Magellan, Lewis and Clark, Byrd, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins — Apollo 13’s famous “Earth limb shot”. Not to mention the scientists that made it possible. Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, Huygens, Fourier, Newton, Morley, Einstein, Marrconi, Mercator, Euler, and Gauss just to name a few!
Trade, commerce and free societies are not possible without location awareness. In a sense it is the very essence of our being. Primarily because of the different availabilities of technology we were able to have time awareness long before we had location awareness even though the two are so intimately tied together. New GPS technology closes the gap. (not new now, but new in 1995).
Over time we will start to think of the precision of place as being just as important as the precision of time. Starting now and into the future there will be no uncertainty about when and where somebody meant when they refer to location information; especially with the advent of incredible GPS devices such as those coming out of Garmin and Magellan. These amazing devices are powerful handheld computers. They capture your precise location very quickly, tell you your speed and direction, store routes and hundreds of waypoints and enable you to back-track over a course to the starting point or points along the way. The advent of smaller and smaller silicon germanium chips may make embedded GPS capabilities closer than you think. After all, what exactly is the physical makeup of a GPS receiver? They have a microprocessor chip set of some kind, navigation keys, display, and an antenna. Which of these does a cell phone have? How about a camera? Could these non-GPS devices capture a conversation or a picture and supplement that data with a person’s precise lattitude and longitude?
Imagine if every camera had a GPS capability in it. Once this happens there will no longer be a question as to the legitimacy of certain pictures that depict something that was to have happened — whether it is an accident of some kind or a special event. You might even cryptographically sign the picture plus the coordinates with your digital certificate and thereby establish authentication and non-repudiation of the event. Or imagine that you find yourself lost in an unfamiliar city but since you have your portable phone with you with a digital readout, it can point you to the nearest library, ATM machine or hospital. Just this week a company announced a mobile phone for Muslims that has a built in pointer to Mecca.
Seems to me we are about to enter an age where an explosion of new data is going to be generated. All of it will find its way into databases, Web servers, new applications and be available for user access. This is part of the fast, always on, everywhere, natural, intelligent, easy, and trusted world that is upon us.
Epilogue: there are a lot of links in this story. I had fun researching them and I hope they become valuable to at least some of my readers. The accomplishments of the famous referred to are quite amazing and inspiring.
Note: This is an edited version of a story I wrote in 1995.
Copyright: John R. Patrick 1995 2003 2011 2013

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