Privacy and Rights

Vol. 7 No. 8 – September 2009

Privacy and Rights

Interviews

A Conversation with David Shaw

In a rare interview, David Shaw discusses how he's using computer science to unravel the mysteries of biochemistry. Bonus: Listen to an audio clip of material not found in the text version.

A Conversation with David Shaw

In a rare interview, David Shaw discusses how he's using computer science to unravel the mysteries of biochemistry.

David Shaw considers himself first and foremost a computer scientist. It's a fact that's sometimes overshadowed by the activities of his two highly successful, yet very different, ventures: the hedge fund D. E. Shaw & Co., which he founded 20 years ago, and the research lab D. E. Shaw Research, where he now conducts hands-on research in the field of computational biochemistry. The former makes money through rigorous quantitative and qualitative investment techniques, while the latter spends money simulating complex biochemical processes, but a key element to both organizations' success has been Shaw's background in computer science. As our interviewer, renowned Stanford computer science professor Pat Hanrahan (http://graphics.stanford.edu/~hanrahan/), points out, one of Shaw's unique gifts is his ability to effectively apply C.S. techniques to diverse problem domains.

In this interview, Hanrahan and Shaw discuss Shaw's latest project at D. E. Shaw Research: Anton, a special-purpose supercomputer designed to speed up molecular dynamics simulations by several orders of magnitude. Four 512-processor machines are now active and already helping scientists to understand how proteins interact with each other and with other molecules at an atomic level of detail. Shaw's hope is that these "molecular microscopes" will help unravel some biochemical mysteries that could lead to the development of more effective drugs for cancer and other diseases. If his track record is any indication, the world has a lot to be hopeful for.

Articles

Communications Surveillance: Privacy and Security at Risk

As the sophistication of wiretapping technology grows, so too do the risks it poses to our privacy and security.

Communications Surveillance: Privacy and Security at Risk

As the sophistication of wiretapping technology grows, so too do the risks it poses to our privacy and security.

Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau

We all know the scene: It is the basement of an apartment building and the lights are dim. The man is wearing a trench coat and a fedora pulled down low to hide his face. Between the hat and the coat we see headphones, and he appears to be listening intently to the output of a set of alligator clips attached to a phone line. He is a detective eavesdropping on a suspect's phone calls. This is wiretapping—as it was in the film noir era of 1930s Hollywood. It doesn't have much to do with modern electronic eavesdropping, which is about bits, packets, switches, and routers.


Wiretapping Technology

Scarcely a generation ago, phone calls traveled through wires between fixed locations, encoded as fluctuating electric signals. Now phones are mobile, and, through most of their journeys, phone calls are encoded in bits. Voices are digitized shortly after they leave the speaker's lips, carried over an IP network as packets, and returned to analog for presentation to the listener's ears.

by Whitfield Diffie, Susan Landau