P. Djèlí Clark


How A Dead Djinn in Cairo was published – 00:00

Clark’s Double Life – 01:17

Clark’s Bio/Background – 02:00

1) Relationship between novelette and novel – 04:30

I like world building – 05:51

2) What research influenced your world building? – 08:30

3) Alternative Cairo made only from research or experience? – 14:43

4) Challenges/awards of spec. fiction to comment on social issues? – 16:30

5) What is your perspective on historical memory/purpose of history? – 20:52

Retro-futurism – 24:30

A world where the Armenian genocide never happened – 25:30

6) Microscopic code-switching intentional or studied? – 26:55

7) Through fantasy are you liberated to discuss politics and colonialism? – 30:30

Clark’s way of pushing against Orientalism – 32:40

This is not a utopia – 33:40

8) Inspiration behind writing such strong women? – 35:50

Read books by people who are like your characters – 40:20

9) Balance/marriage between science and religion? – 41:10

Djinns arrival in the world as first contact – 44:44

10) How involved were you in the audio book? – 46:30

Sweeping world, but never bogged down – 50:50

11) Process to create rich world and details – 51:20

12) Upload academic papers? – 56:30

13) Origin and reasons for the pen name? – 57:55

A Dead Djinn in Cairo taught in college – 1:03:00

14) More stories in this universe? – 1:05:20

Liberal Arts education is good – 1:07:30

15) Will you explore more Djinn-human relationship-power-magical-influence? 1:08:20

Goblins! – 1:11:33

16) Do you hate paperwork? – 1:12:00

17) Bound version of short stories in Dead Djinn universe? – 1:14:11

18) Trashy romance novel beef? – 1:15:30

19) Is Ghostface Killah or Raekwon the better emcee out of Wu-Tang? – 1:18:10

20) Who should we read now? – 1:18:55

Questions asked by: 1) John Knych 2), 3) Melissa DellaBartolomea 4) Stephanie Sabino 5) Brian Zielenski 6) Danielle 7) Eliane Boey 8) Ina Chang Torres 9) Tricia 10) Jen Ancker 11) John Knych 12) Brian Zielenski 13) Melissa DellaBartolomea 14) Ina Chang Torres 15) John Knych 16) John Knych 17) Stephanie Sabino 18) John Knych 19) John Knych 20) General

Edward Ashton

Edward Ashton discusses his most recent book, his writing path, humor, human-brain-cell-powered A.I., gene-editing, Shoguns resisting the adoption of gunpowder (poor decision), cancer research, the publishing world, books, and more!

Intro/Origin as a writer – 00:00

A Child of the 70s – 01:12

Ed’s writing hiatus – 01:51

Goodness in Ed’s books – 02:28

Publishing – 02:48

Robert Pattinson! – 04:10

Origin of Mal Goes to War – 05:34

Origin of his sense of humor – 09:12

Toning down of his humor – 11:07

Balancing humor and tragedy – 12:30

Writing is like cooking – 13:00

Constructing Mal / A.I. – 14:15

Do you think of sequels? – 16:57

Worldbuilding is hard – 19:25

Writing sequels is easier – 20:28

Tech progress resistance possible? – 21:57

A.I. structures – 24:00

Create infinite misery for A.I.s – 25:00

Shogun resistance of gunpowder – 25:45

Can’t put genie back in the bottle – 26:30

Mal’s inner-simulations – 27:00

Combat simulation innovation – 28:00

Techno-book faults – 28:25

Loved writing castle siege scene – 29:15

This book has been film optioned – 30:17

Book on film – 31:25

Enjoyed fantasy sequences – 31:51

War vs. band of friends – 32:15

Know what you know with writing – 33:05

Military Scifi – 33:37

Novel close to his heart – 34:54

Think of film while writing? – 35:22

Writing while having a job – 37:44

Founded cancer research company – 39:08

Job responsibilities – 39:50

Nothing is promised – 40:40

Grew up poor – 40:56

Write about cancer? – 41:41

Cancer therapy inspiring There Days in April – 42:30

Cancer treatment – 43:30

Energy to manage writing, job, life, how? – 46:09

My brain is weird – 46:50

Can shift focus easily – 47:30

Dialogue skill, how did you learn? – 48:30

Other writers who do dialogue well – 49:41

A.I. in daily work life – 51:10

Human personality emulators? – 52:08

Will humans gene-edit in our lifetimes? – 53:15

Scientists are playing with embryos now – 53:50

Finding neat ideas – 54:40

Reads everything – 55:30

Who do you recommend for us to read? – 55:48

New project = standalone – 57:15

The future of his career – 58:00

Sue Burke


Origin as a writer – 00:00

Seed idea of the book – 00:45

Nature of plants – 01:24

Plants communicate – 02:50

Rye volunteered! – 03:56

Plants are not passive! – 04:45

Do plants think? Depends – 05:20

How to add drama to plants – 06:34

Why skip generations in the story? – 07:51

Origin of pacing – 11:15

Inspiration for Stevland – 12:30

Plants as social beings – 13:15

Stevland motive – 14:45

Pando as inspiration – 15:15

Stevland is bamboo? – 16:15

Names stuck on things – 16:35

More reasons for Stevland – 17:30

Title origin – 18:20

What is your research process? – 20:18

Scientists are easy to talk to! – 22:26

Growing plants in space? – 23:33

How moss grows in space – 24:46

Andy Weir and The Martian – 25:35

Colonizing examples from history? – 26:40

Can they live in peace? – 27:51

Mistake in the book? – 28:25

Why not use Glassmaker writing in the first encounter? – 30:13

Why did the Glassmakers leave the city? – 31:04

Decisions for plant personalities? – 32:51

Origin of Stevland name – 34:18

Work as a translator informing work – 35:14

Glassmaker origin (ants/Mayans) – 36:15

Translator pitfalls – 37:45

Process of creating Glassmakers – 38:30

Ant knowledge – 39:20

World building process – 41:26

Looking for problems – 43:02

Novel = found enough problems – 44:40

Motivation for distinct generations – 47:11

Journalism work – 48:44

Generation preference? – 49:30

Poor Higgins – 49:45

Conflicts with generations – 51:30

Writing process (plan as much as possible) – 52:35

One sentence for each chapter plan – 53:40

Novel writing is complicated – 54:45

Color of floating cactus, why? – 55:25

Recommendation – 56:46

Meet Me in Another Life – 56:52

Thank you! – 58:00

How a Dead/Alive Cat in a Box is Responsible for Your Cell Phone

2.5 minute read

The technology behind cell phones is built on many theories, one of them quite bizarre. This bizarre theory is called quantum superposition.  If scientists hadn’t been able to come to a consensus concerning how this mysterious theory has practical implications, you wouldn’t be reading this on your cell phone. You’d probably be in a cave, warming your buttocks in front of a fire, and taking cover from the apocalypse. 

In 1935, Erwin Schrödinger wrote a letter to Albert Einstein. In this letter he was critiquing the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics (the prevailing theory at the time) via a dead/alive cat in a box. The Copenhagen interpretation said that quantum mechanics is inherently indeterministic. In other words, tiny objects have certain pairs of complementary properties, which cannot be observed or measured simultaneously (according to the complementarity principle). In more words: in a quantum system, an atom or a photon can exist as MULTIPLE states corresponding to DIFFERENT possible outcomes. How can a thing be multiple things? How can a state correspond to multiple states? What is this quackery? 

This indeterminism drove Schrö-Schrö and Einstein insane for a couple of reasons. Schrö-Schrö expressed his frustration with the theory by creating a thought experiment in his letter where a cat was in a box with a flask of poison and a radioactive source.

Why did you put me in here? I want tuna.

According to the Copenhagen interpretation, after a while this cat in the box will simultaneously be both alive and dead. Again: this didn’t make any sense. How could a cat be both alive and dead (in superposition) until it is observed or interacts with the external world? Basically, Schrö-Schrö’s cat experiment asks how long quantum superpositions last and when (or whether) they collapse. This question, concerning the timing, is currently unsolved in physics. Despite not being solved and the letter being a critique, Schrö-Schrö’s paradoxical thought experiment became part of the foundation of quantum mechanics. It was also the first time the term “entangled” was used, as he described the cat’s wave function as being entangled.

Quantum reality: a weird and contradictory place. The characteristics of this place meant that the physics of Einstein’s theory of relativity, which described how big things in the universe (like planets, gravity, black holes) worked, moved, and functioned, could not be applied to how little things (subatomic particles) worked, moved, and functioned. The inability to reconcile quantum mechanics and relativity would plague Einstein for the rest of his life.

People think I’m smart…but my theory isn’t complete…

How can the universe have two sets of physics’ principles, one for small things and one for big things? There must be a unifying theory that we are missing. Scientists have proposed string theory and multi-dimensions as a reconciliation, but our inability to rigorously test this theory prevents us from accepting it completely. Anyway, Schrödinger had issues with the Copenhagen theory. 

String theory, wtf is this

Unsolved question in physics: how does the quantum description of reality, which includes elements such as the superposition of states, give rise to the coherent reality we perceive? If you’d like to read an entertaining story that plays with this idea, check out Quarantine by Greg Egan, my favorite Science Fiction author.

Schrödinger shedding light on this bizarre phenomenon, reasonably and critically, allowed others to build off of his thinking. My purpose for this essay is to express how most of us are unaware of how theories, and even discussions of theories or ones not fully understood, underpin our lives. 

Enter American physicists John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley.

“Clashing egos until the end”

They were aware of the principles of quantum mechanics when they were working at Bell Labs in the 1940s. Their knowledge of quantum theory influenced their work on semiconductor physics. Their understanding of quantum mechanics played a CRUCIAL role in the development of the transistor (officially invented by them in 1947), as they were able to apply quantum principles (such as  quantum superposition) to manipulate the behavior of electrons in semiconductor materials.

Transistors: the building blocks of your cell phone.

Replica of the first transistor.

Transistors exploit quantum superposition by utilizing the ability of particles, such as electrons, to exist in multiple states simultaneously. In a transistor, this allows for the control of the flow of the electrons, enabling to act as a switch OR an amplifier in electronic devices. By using the principles of quantum superposition, transistors can perform complex operations. 

On average, a smart phone contains 10 billion transistors. 

So many quantum superpositions…

The existence of GPS, computer chips, lasers and electron microscopes all attest that quantum theory works beautifully.

Thank you, dead-alive cat in a box, for providing the theoretical foundation of our modern world. Without you we wouldn’t be able to watch cute cat videos, 24/7, anywhere on the planet, until our retinas burn and our neurons fry.

Subscribe below:


cat, black/white photo and in a box photo: https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/schroedingers-cat-experiment-and-the-conundrum-that-rules-modern-physics

String theory photo: https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2020/02/26/why-string-theory-is-both-a-dream-and-a-nightmare/?sh=6ff1e2d63b1d


Ann Leckie

Ann intro – 00:00

Translation State Pitch – 00:57

Origin as a writer – 01:37

Pivotal Point as a writer – 03:18

Upcoming Short Story Collection – 04:28

Scifi or Fantasy? – 05:22

Scifi world building challenge – 07:00

Language/Identity/History – 09:38

Language in Fantasy – 10:15

Adoption/Attachment – 11:00

Pluralism of Language – 12:16

Lack of English Translations of Taiwan texts – 13:00

Reet as a figurehead – 14:30

Irish Catholic Identity – 15:00

How did you create the politics? – 17:30

What is the Treaty? – 18:30

Writing process/scenes – 18:55

Court Room Scene – 20:00

Sword’s Point Shoutout – 20:20

Mystery of the Presgers – 21:02

The Geck – 23:06

Climax/Reality Spiral question – 23:54

Narrative Voice Choices? (1st/3rd) – 25:25

Unconscious work – 28:10

Planning vs. Spontaneous – 28:30

Walls/obstacles in writing this – 29:20

Ways to push through blocks – 30:10

My Pandemic Book – 31:45

Martha Wells Nod/Influence – 33:00

Murderbot = cousin of Breq/influence – 34:30

Spoiler – ending clarification – 37:00

Product of meshing – 37:55

Previous jobs influence – 40:00

Waiting Tables – 40:53

Land Sureying – 42:26

Trilogy Connection – 43:05

Tea Drinker – 45:13

Beginning of Ancillary Sword – 46:44

A.I. gain rights? – 47:56

Joy writing Presger Translators – 48:17

Reet – 49:29

Sphene as fan service – 51:20

Next step in the Radch universe? – 53:30

Feedback from Readers? – 54:43

Thank you! – 58:29

Recording, what tech is for – 58:59

Questioning My Religion: Why (not) Mars?

Photo: Mars Perseverance Rover – “Crater Floor Fractured Rough” – July 8, 2021

The following essay is a summary and response to the article, “Why Not Mars,” published by Maciej Cegłowski on January 1st, 2023. I will also be digging deeper into the logistics of sending a human to Mars, the challenges to overcome, and the ethics on whether or not we should do this. Ever since I became obsessed with Science Fiction novels during the pandemic and witnessed how humanity can’t cooperate to fight against a virus, I’ve considered a Mars landing during my lifetime a priority for humanity. I’ve joined the Human-on-Mars religion and I believe that there are compelling reasons why humans must urgently accomplish the monumental task of putting a human on the red planet as soon as possible. Cegłowski makes good arguments for why we should delay our efforts (contamination, lack of stated objectives, complexity of the challenges), but I believe the risks humanity faces on Earth and the steady destruction of our environment warrant us to act now. Despite the enormous costs and challenges of transporting a human to Mars and back, it will act as a catalyst for future generations to solve the challenges of becoming an interplanetary species. 

My argument summarized here: The risks and costs of contaminating Mars do not outweigh the existential threat we face on Earth, and while the first steps to transporting a human to Mars will be clumsy and difficult, it will usher in an era of humans thinking about the challenges that need to be solved to begin our migration across the solar system.

Logistics and Challenges:

Estimated cost: $500 billion dollars

U.S. military budget in 2020: $448.9 billion

U.S. military budget in 2021: $408.8 billion

U.S. military budget in 2022: $344.4 billion

Estimated Timing: 2050

I share the military budget to show that the U.S. government has the funds to shift towards space exploration. The U.S. military, ranked #1 in the world, spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined. Do we really need more money spent on national security? In this essay I’m going to argue that landing a human Mars will open the door to not only protecting our species (call it species security), but saving more of Earth’s environment.

Cegłowski’s main argument for why humans should not go to Mars is that we will contaminate the red planet, and the robots we’ve constructed are not only 100x times cheaper than sending humans into but are becoming more and more sophisticated. The robots are so sophisticated that they could accomplish any task we can think of on Mars.

“Between 1960 and 2020, space probes improved by something like six orders of magnitude…The imbalance between human and robot is so overwhelming that, despite the presence of a $250 billion International Space Station National Laboratory, every major discovery made in space this century has come from robotic spacecraft.”

In addition, there are universes of microbes on Earth that we’ve only just discovered. “The fact that we failed to notice 99.999% of life on Earth until a few years ago is unsettling and has implications for Mars…The existence of a deep biosphere in particular narrows the habitability gap between our planets to the point where it probably doesn’t exist – there is likely at least one corner of Mars that an Earth organism could call home. It also adds support to the theory that life may have started as an interplanetary infection, a literal Veneral disease that spread across the early solar system by meteorite. If that is the case, and if our distant relatives are still alive in some deep Martian cave, then just about the worst way to go looking for them would be to land in a septic spacecraft.”

Cegłowski takes it as a given that studying microbes in an uncontaminated Martian cave and answering questions around the origin of life are more important than making steps to get humans, i.e. unpredictable, violent apes susceptible to mutating viruses and wielding nuclear weapons, off planet Earth. He downplays the existential risk of patiently waiting on Earth until our technology develops and dreams of all the interesting things we could learn in the meantime if we channeled money away from a human Mars mission into scattering probes across our solar system.

The first step of getting a human to Mars requires overcoming enormous challenges. But once we have done this, we will accelerate the process of sending more and more humans to Mars. We will usher ourselves into an era of interplanetary space travel.

The challenge of sending a human to Mars is first limited by human physiology. We must understand these limits well enough before we send a human to Mars, and this will require years of human experiences beyond low Earth orbit, or in anti-gravity chambers on Earth.

Before NASA can finalize a mission design, data must be collected concerning the physiological effects of partial gravity and the risk from heavy ion radiation. These experiments could take place on the moon. Before a Mars landing, there must be a working lunar base. The recent Artemis mission (in which the first woman and first person of color will go to the moon), is taking place to establish this lunar base where these tests can occur.

Even though testing the effects of radiation and partial gravity would be best accomplished on the moon, we can begin to test the physiological effects of partial gravity on Earth. “Various methods can be used for generating altered gravity, including orbital flight, parabolic flight, head down/up tilt, body loading/unloading, and centrifugation (Richard et.al.)” We must do more of these tests before a Mars mission. A Mars mission will take about a 1000 days and the longest time a human has spent in space is approximately 437 days, by Valeri Polyakov, whose first words upon his return were, “We can fly to Mars.” (He is currently 80 years old.)

“During spaceflight, the vestibular otolith organs no longer adequately sense gravito-inertial accelerations. Animal studies have shown that otolith afferents are initially hypersensitive to tilt after return to Earth. Perhaps as a result of this hypersensitivity, astronauts overestimate pitch and roll tilt for 1-2 days immediately after landing.” There are many other effects (astronauts exposed to microgravity experience physiological deconditioning, or space deconditioning, in particular with regards to the physiological systems sensitive to mechanical loading such as cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurovestibular, and musculoskeletal systems) but basically, since humans will be spending about a 1000 days in space in order to go to Mars, we need to see how human bodies will function for a 1000 days in space. We don’t want to spend $500 billion to send a human to Mars then have them unaccountably lose their eyesight (due to some unexpected relationship between gravity and retinal attachment) while approaching the red planet. 

Concerning the risk from heavy ion radiation, you can read all about it here, on NASA’s website, but the concept is the same: we don’t know how astronauts will cope with Galactic Cosmic Radiation (GCR) for long periods of time, since the amount of radiation an astronaut receives is determined by the altitude above the Earth, the solar cycle, and the individual’s susceptibility. We need to test humans in space for long periods of time to learn more about radiation’s effects (specifically, ionizing radiation, or particles that have enough energy to completely remove an electron from its orbit, thus creating a more positively charged atom). What compounds this challenge is that we don’t know the levels of radiation astronauts will face on a Mars mission, and even if we knew the rate at which GCR fluctuated in our solar system, we might not be able to avoid it since a “launch window” for Mars (when Earth and Mars are in orbital positions around the Sun that allow for a trip to Mars to last around 7-9 months) occurs once every 26 months (the last one being in August of 2022, the next one in September of 2024). That all being said, there are materials that can shield against cosmic radiation (such as lead) but the production of secondary particles inside these materials can cause other problems. We need to experiment with a range of materials to see what works best for shielding astronauts against GCR.

Another challenge is a lack of reliable closed-loop life support. According to Cegłowski, “With our current capability, NASA would struggle to keep a crew alive for six months on the White House lawn, let alone for years in a Martian yurt.”

Many people argue that we will have technological breakthroughs if we put a human on Mars, but Cegłowski argues that the “technology program [to solve the current challenges] would be remarkable circular, with no benefits outside the field of applied zero gravity zookeeping.” I would argue that we need to expand the field of “applied zero gravity zookeeping” if we are ever going to have a self-sustaining, viable society on Mars. Yes, the challenges are circular, but they exist in a system we need to master in order to become an interplanetary species.

What makes the challenge of life support in space so challenging is that, “…all the subcomponents interact with each other and the crew. There’s no such thing as a life support unit test; you have to run the whole system in space under conditions that mimic the target mission. Reliability engineering for life support involves solving mysteries like why gunk formed on a certain washer on Day 732, then praying on the next run that your fix doesn’t break on Day 733.” Again, I agree with the incredible complexity of the problem, and it is exactly why we need to start making attempts at solving it as soon as possible. We will only solve these challenges by doing them, by mimicking the target mission, by taking risks and failing again and again out in space. If we focus too much on robotic probes, sitting safe at home while writing science blogs, we’ll never get the chance to fail and learn.

To go to Mars, we’d need two kinds of life support: spacecraft and surface, that together have to work for about 1000 days. “The spacecraft also has to demonstrate that it can go dormant for the time the crew is on Mars and still work when it wakes up.” This latter problem could be solved if we have an orbiting spacecraft around Mars and Earth that never stops functioning, as described in Andy Weir’s The Martian. What would be the costs and challenges of this project? I’ll leave those questions for another essay.

So while, “Humanity does not need a billion dollar shit dehydrator that can work for three years in zero gravity, but a Mars mission can’t leave Earth without it,” – we do need that shit dehydrator eventually if we ever want to have a society on Mars.

Cegłowski emphasizes his contamination argument: 

“Humans who land on Mars will not be able to avoid introducing a large ecosystem of microbes to the area around the landing site. If any fugitives from the spacecraft make their way to a survivable niche on Mars, we may never be able to tell whether biotic signatures later found on the planet are traces of native life, or were left by escapees from our first Martian outhouse. Like careless investigators who didn’t wear gloves to a crime scene, we would risk permanently destroying the evidence we came to collect.”

But what if we those investigators aren’t there to collect evidence in the first place? Does Cegłowski really have enough faith in humanity to believe that peace and prosperity will endure on the planet for generations to come?

He asks the question: “What incredible ability do astronauts have that justifies the risk [of contamination]? My response is: none. But again, beyond the astronauts abilities, what discoveries could we ever make on an uncontaminated planet with robots that could justify staying home and enduring the existential risk of extinction?

Cegłowski acknowledges the skeptics, saying that microbes have already landed on Mars, both on robotic landers and on the occasional meteorite. “But as we’ll see, the diverse microbiome that would travel with a human crew poses a qualitatively different threat…”

It is true that a human crew will bring a qualitatively different threat and that NASA is required by treaty to care about contamination. Concerns over contamination mean that many phenomena of scientific interest will be off-limits to astronauts, such as gullies, recurrent slope lineae, and underground water. “The crew will not live in a Martian pueblo, but something resembling a level 4 biocontainment facilities. And even there, they’ll have to do their lab work remotely, the same way it’s done today, raising the question of what exactly the hundreds of billions of dollars we’re spending to get to Mars are buying us.” My response is that we will solve the circular problems Cegłowski laid out before (i.e. applied zero gravity zookeeping, knowledge concerning the effects of long-term space travel on the human body), which are necessary to solve if we are ever going to have a living, self-sustaining society on Mars. Also, the act of sending a human to Mars, even if they will only sit in a level 4 biocontainment facility remotely controlling a probe, will act as a catalyst for research and progress in these areas. It will inspire future generations to work on the necessary challenges.


Cegłowski writes, “SpaceX has built some magnificent rockets, and their dynamism is a welcome change from the souls-trapped-in-powerpoint vibe at Nasa.” Would Elon Musk and SpaceX exist if it wasn’t for the moon landing? Elon Musk has stated in interviews that Neil Armstrong and Eugen Ceran are his heroes (even though they have disdained his space efforts). How many future Elon Musks will there be if we put a human on Mars by 2050? Maybe you don’t want more Elon Musks (I’m guessing Ceglowski doesn’t). But if we are going to leave Earth and survive elsewhere, we need them.

I don’t trust humanity. I don’t trust the viruses on this planet. In the past 100 years, a flicker in the geological timespan in which Cegłowski’s wonderful, mysterious microbes have flourished, humans have dropped nuclear bombs incinerating hundreds of thousands of people, had two World Wars, committed a holocaust, hosted genocides across the planet, had 6.83 million killed by Covid-19. Imagine if Covid-19 had been just a little more lethal? Imagine if Americans didn’t stop Germany during WWII? What’s preventing another virus from eliminating humanity? Another tyrant from rising? Today Russia is at war with Ukraine, and despite the most powerful countries in the world condemning it, the war is still going on and will likely continue into 2024. We must get off this planet and create a self-sustaining society elsewhere, so if something happens on Earth, nuclear war, an extremely lethal virus, whatever, we are still around to say, “Wow, we really contaminated the fuck out of Mars, didn’t we? Hold on a second why I go turn off the billion-dollar shit dehydrator.”

In addition, I believe that humans will keep “plugging in” to computers and virtual realities more and more. The average person spends 3.25 hours a day on their phones. The videogame industry is currently larger than Hollywood and North American sports industries combined. Add to this trend the fact that human population growth is not slowing down. We will keep growing and growing, requiring more and more resources. It is estimated that the human population will reach 11.2 billion by 2100. We need someplace to go that is self-sustaining. I imagine a future where many humans will spend the majority of their days in virtual realities. What better place to plug into a virtual reality than on the desolate, desert surface of Mars? As the human population approaches 50 billion, 100 billion, we will need to get off the planet Earth unless we want to ravage every last bit of organic life on this planet. If we don’t want Earth to become a sea of servers and concrete cities, we need to start building those elsewhere, to give people the option to go there and live in their virtual realities. And we need to start acting now, before it’s too late.

So let’s go to Mars.

The Hyper Algorithm

10 minute read

“I’ll be honest, Vance, this is going to feel like a spike being driven into the back of your skull.”


“Most patients pass out when the nano-bots are injected. Unfortunately, we can’t give you any sedatives or we’d compromise the installation. Now lean back.”

“Got it…and just to go over what you said before, this hyper algorithm will only be active when I’m wearing my genius glasses, right?”


“And if I pass out, I’ll wake up within at least ten minutes? Vincent, my son who you met in the waiting room, is participating in a bi-lingual experience at the Paris Brain Institute later this morning and I need to go with him.”

“Don’t worry. You’ll be out of here by eight o’clock. Now close your eyes…try and relax.” 

Thirty minutes later, on metro line 7, Vincent and I were jammed between bodies and automated doors (annual summer training strike) on our way to the Paris Brain Institute. Since I hadn’t read the proposal for the experiment thoroughly the night before, and I wanted to test out this new hyper algorithm, I glanced at my left forearm where my genius phone was implanted and scanned the proposal in more detail. Simultaneously I saw my hyper algorithm, customized to my personality and thought patterns, create a pop-up window in my genius glasses next to the text with links to recent developments in neuroscience, correctly measuring and predicting my ignorance and impending curiosity on the subject. Wow.  Ignoring this with a flick of my pupil (my genius glasses registering the movement and minimizing the neglected content) I turned back to the proposal and mentally summed up the academic acrobatics: the neuroscientists were going to measure how Vincent’s experience changed, using extremely detailed brain scans, as he spoke and thought in French or English. More specifically, they were going to measure changes during an eight hour window in his insular cortex, an older cortex in the brain that is folded deep within the lateral sulfus, the fissure separating the frontal and temporal lobes. My hyper algorithm seemed to read my thoughts: a pop-window and a picture re-appeared with clarification stating that the insular cortex/insula is where taste occurs, but more importantly it plays a role in visceral and emotional functions.

I returned to the recent developments with another pupil-flick and saw that in the past five years neuroscientists had also proven that the insular cortex represents experience from inside our bodies. In the 2020s, neuroscientists called the prefrontal cortex the seat of consciousness. In the 2030s, scientists confirmed that the insular cortex, a part of the prefrontal cortex, is the existential control panel, an anatomical integration hub with heavy connectivity to other parts of the brain which receives sensory inputs from all modalities.

“Dad, this is our stop right?”

“You got it.” I triple blinked to close the virtual windows as we pried ourselves out of the crush of bodies, crossed the platform, and climbed the stairs. 

“Finally,” Vincent raised his arms to the sky. “I can breathe.” We got out at Les Gobelins and walked northeast to the institute. 

It was an overcast, boiling hot day, the pavement seeming to sizzle, another summer where Paris was breaking heat records. Vincent didn’t mind the heat since he had grown up in this steadily burning urban hotbox, but I felt the baking waves and dense pollution as if they were cooking my skin and grating my throat. We passed a crumbling statue of a forgotten hero, a family of three picking through trash, and a restaurant with rows of wicker chairs and circular marble tables. Vincent said,

“Dad, I gotta piss like a race horse. Can I stop quick?”


While Vincent was in the bathroom I continued reading. I learned that other functions of the insular include autonomical and motor control, risk prediction and decision making, and complex social functions like empathy. In the proposal, the researchers wrote, If you see the person you’re in love with, attempt to listen to your own heartbeat, or desire a piece of peanut butter pie, your insular will show increased activity on a brain scan. I wondered how the human insular cortex differed from other animals, and on cue (which was starting to become a little frightening) my hyper algorithm shared a link: 

In lissencephalic species, including mice and rats, the insula lies exposed on the lateral surface of the brain above the rhinal fissure, while in human and primate brains the insula (which means “island” in Latin) is folded below the lateral sulcus and is hidden by the opercula. This shows us that the insular cortex is necessary but not sufficient for human consciousness; it cannot create consciousness on its own but consciousness cannot exist without it. I thought about how this current thought would look captured in my brain (a frozen, microscopic-fireworks-finale radiating throughout my skull?) Then I thought about how nature is overflowing with accidents on the treacherous path of evolution, but that it was unlikely a coincidence that as rodents evolved into apes, then humans, this essential part of consciousness would be tucked and hidden deeper inside the thinking apparatus if it wasn’t crucial to reality construction and manipulation. I felt a tickle in my left forearm, a sensation reserved for messages from family and close friends:

“Dad, not pissing, dumping. Will be out in a min.”

“Thanks for the update.” I continued reading. 

A unique characteristic of the insular cortex in humans (and whales, elephants, and great apes) is the presence of a special cell type called “von Economo neurons” first formally described by Constantin von Economo in the 1920s.

For over a century the exact function of this cell type was not known. Neuroscientists had only observed that these special cells, also known as spindle neurons, were selectively destroyed during frontotemporal dementia and were unique to animals with large brains and advanced socialization skills. The average human has about 82,000 such cells, a gorilla 16,000, and a bonobo 2,000. Whales have around 240,000. The large quantity of spindle neurons in whales shouldn’t be a surprise when we learn that whales communicate through massive song repertoires, recognizing their own songs and making up new ones, forming coalitions to plan hunting strategies, teaching these strategies to younger individuals, and creating evolved social networks. They also have 15 lb. brains, so the neural transport routes the spindle neuron has to travel to reach other parts of the brain are longer (average human size = about 3 lbs.). While initially neuroscientists believed that these spindle neurons were the foundations of sophisticated social behavior (orcas have complex social hierarchies with females at the top) more recent developments have shown how they also play an integral part in our conscious awareness of reality. Neuroscientists have acknowledged that you cannot separate social development, whatever species you are, from an understanding of your self, time, and space. Humans who have been in solitary confinement for long periods of time not only lose their social skills, they often lose their sense of self and their surroundings: their brains degrade as they experience memory loss, cell death in the hippocampus, overall cognitive decline, and depression. 

Justification for the importance of spindle neurons in consciousness was found in 2028 in a study on schizophrenics. In 2016 it was shown that subjects with early onset schizophrenia (and a longer duration of the illness) had a reduced spindle neuron density. In 2028 post-mortem analysis of brains of schizophrenics was able to show how the degree of delusions experienced by the subjects (measured before their deaths by interviews recording the self-reported quantity of imaginary voices/people experienced by the subject) related directly with the degree of degradation of their VENs (von economo neurons). VENs provide rapid transmission of information to other parts of the brain, and if these neurons can’t do their jobs we begin losing our grip on what’s real or not. I wondered if a future human would ever “evolve” a neuron more sophisticated than these spindle neurons and how this new neuron would alter behavior or the reality experienced. Then I refocused on the proposal and saw that the Paris Brain institute was going to analyze the activity of VENs in Vincent’s brain. 

“I’m back!” Vincent came running out of the restaurant. “Didn’t know I had to drop the kids off at the pool.” 

“I had a feeling you would.”


“I follow your eating habits and we share similar digestive tracts.”


The Paris brain institute is in a U-shaped building that has floor to ceiling black windows wrapping around the exterior. Built in 2010, it is a modern architectural island amongst rows of decaying yellow brick buildings. The structure (I snapped a picture with my genius glasses) resembles a giant, glass magnet.

We crossed a wooden bridge, pushed through the glass doors, and were greeted by stern-faced security guards. After giving us the “once-over” one of them said,

“Bi-lingual experiment?”


“Leave an I.D. at the front desk and follow me.” 

We passed a piece of artwork, a marble circle with a piece missing (I snapped another picture), were led down a nondescript corridor, then entered a cavernous auditorium.

Parents and their teenagers were already sitting in cushioned seats, reading and poking tablets. 

“Welcome, Bonjour, Vincent and Vance.” A young man with wispy, parted hair and eyes framed by round glasses approached us. Vincent turned to me.

“How does this guy know who we are?”

“I’m informed by security each time a new participant arrives.” He gestured to a genius implant in his left forearm, which was blinking with a message: arrival of new participants. “My name is Sigmundus Vetus. Pleasure to meet you both.”

The man made me uneasy. But we shook hands anyway and I let him hand us two tablets. 

“The parent fills out the release form, the child a quick survey. I’m sure you know the drill.” I didn’t, but again I nodded and took the tablets. 

We sat in two seats away from the others and started filling out the forms, clicking boxes and signing our names with our index fingers. My form only took thirty seconds, basically saying that I wouldn’t engage in legal action if anything went awry. I ignored the twenty pages of fine print, and was about to return to my research stemming from the proposal when Vincent nudged my shoulder. 

“You should really read the fine print, dad.”

“Why’s that? If they kidnap you or cut your brain out, it’ll be for the glory of science.” My generation had grown up ignoring “terms of agreement” and fine print supplements. Vincent had been warned against this, probably from teachers. He smiled, but his voice was firm. 

“No joke. It’s the same idea as that hybrid algorithm you just bought. You should really read the fine print on those things. New technology can be dangerous. Especially when your mind spent decades without it.” I faked a robotic, monotone voice, staring blankly into the distance. 


“I’m serious. I read the fine print on your hyper algorithm and there’s been reported incidents of the technology comprising other implants.”

“Appreciate you looking out for me. I’ll be careful. But I need this algorithm for work. The firm paid for half of it so I could finish a contract I’m working on before a deadline.”

“Yeah but will they pay for permanent neural damage?”

“Probably not. But I take risks so you can live your pampered life of luxury.”

Vincent shrugged and continued filling out his survey, and I looked over his shoulder at the questions. They were fairly “establishing a psychological baseline basic,” asking about diet, screen time, how many books he reads per week, how much sleep he gets, exercise, and emotional variability. I double blinked and looked back at the proposal description:

Before the observational period would begin the participants were going to be injected with a contrast material, gandolinium, a rare earth metal that when present in the body alters the magnetic properties of nearby water molecules. (Is that why the building is shaped like a magnet, an architectural wink to M.R.I. machines?)

Gandolinium improves the quality of the brain scan through enhancing the sensitivity and specificity of the images. 

In the early 2020s, when subjects received brain scans, they would have to lie in a big M.R.I machine, remaining still for +30 minutes, while a machine hummed and buzzed. (I remembered lying in one numerous times as a teenager for the 4 stress fractures I developed in my tibias from running a lot). Now the technology had progressed to the point where subjects just had to wear a bulky helmet, a mobile upgraded “head coil.” This allowed the neuroscientists to create more realistic environments and get more accurate results. Another breakthrough in neuroscience in the past five years was recognizing the importance of mobility in brain analysis and development. The participants in this study would be moving about and tasting various foods while either speaking (and thinking) in French or English. A giant machine, likely hidden in the ceiling, would be sending and receiving waves, uploading the brain scans to a quantum computer. 

When I read this part of the proposal, the fireside science critic in me immediately raised a red flag: how could these neuroscientists think that they could separate language’s impact on experience from culture’s impact? Isn’t language inextricably entwined with the cultural traditions, values, and history in which it was born and developed? Of course Vincent would experience more brain activity while thinking in French and tasting than in English, French culture is a food culture, valuing culinary experiences (in general) more highly than English speaking cultures (have you ever tried English cooking/eaten out of a dumpster?) In the past two years I’d heard Vincent have 30-60 minute conversations with his friends about food (how it was prepared, how it compared to other dishes, how it could be improved, etc.) Even though English has 6x more words than French (600,000 vs. 100,000) French has more ways to describe taste and food than any other language. (The French language’s 100,000 words has 350,000 meanings). What does culture’s impact on our identities look like in the brain? 

My hyper algorithm must have been measuring how long I was stuck on a sentence, and sensed my doubt and reflection, because the machine infiltrated the proposal (how did it do this?) and scrolled down to the bottom where the neuroscientists had already responded to potential criticisms.

We acknowledge the cultural influence on language and the challenge of separating a language’s influence on reality from the culture’s influence. We do not believe this undermines the purpose of our research nor the results.


When Vincent finished filling out the form he was called into another room with the other participants.

“See ya, dad.”

“See ya, son.” Vincent looked off into the distance, mimicking me when I did the robot voice.

“Humanity will never be the same again once they have learned what’s happening inside this brain.”

“God help us. Go get your pay check.” He smiled and left. Five minutes later Sigmundus Vetus returned to the auditorium to address the remaining parents, friends, or guardians.

“If any of you would like to observe the beginning of the experiment, please follow me.” A few of us followed the doctor out of the room, up some stairs, then into a chamber with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bi-lingual subjects. I saw Vincent being shown how to put the M.R.I. head coil on his head by a nurse while another nurse put a needle in his arm (injecting the gandolinium, I assumed). For the next ten minutes I heard Vincent and the other participants being told directions, speaking French, being offered various foods, and being observed by doctors. My hyper algorithm blinked a reminder on the edge of my vision: work. I left and went to the office.

About 7 hours later I was back at the Paris Brain Institute to pick Vincent up. In the auditorium the lights were dim and Sigmundus Vetus was on the verge of an announcement. Vincent was sitting in the back row and motioned me over to a seat.

“How’d it go?” I asked.

“Boring, but check it out.” Vincent showed me his phone with a payment accepted from the Paris Brain Institute enlarged: $680.

“Good. Now you can start buying toilet paper.”

“Do we have to stay for this?”

“No, let’s get out of here. Mom made a quiche.”

On the 7 line back home I thought about the experiment and told myself that I would follow up on the results. Vincent was reading a book. There was more space in the metro, we weren’t packed like sardines, but there still weren’t any seats available and we were standing in front of the doors. 

I’ve always believed that movement and activity stimulates and accelerates the formation of ideas. For months I had been stuck on an engineering problem at work, holed up in my office, surviving on coffee and croissants. But after going out with Vincent and being on the periphery of new research, of witnessing humanity pushing the boundaries of our understanding firsthand, something in my brain started to turn. Vincent looked up and smiled. I felt an idea begin to take shape, its contours and attributes becoming gradually clearer, like a sunrise over a rocky landscape. The answer to a structural problem appeared in my mind’s eye. The answer and path to get there was raw, uneven, and jumbled, it would still need work and tweaking, but at least I knew which direction to go, which step to take, and-

My visual field seemed to explode. I felt an excruciating pain in my left wrist, a constricting sensation in my genius implant. My hyper algorithm was filling my genius glasses with thousands of pop-windows, links, video clips, recommendations, warnings, graphs, an avalanche of images. My retinas burned, my right ankle, which was loaded with nano bots all connected to my hybrid algorithm via a health monitor, crumpled. All of this happened in a spilt second, the malfunction causing me to seize up as if having an epileptic seizure. My legs buckled, I started to fall, then I felt an arm encircle my lower back, preventing my head from smashing the metro floor. 

Vincent had somehow caught me mid-fall, taken off the genius glasses with a deft swipe, then easily lifted me back up to a standing position. The travelers around us stared at Vincent in awe. An old man with a dog even chuckled and clapped. Vincent turned the genius glasses over in his hand. 

“I knew that hyper algorithm was fricking dangerous.” I was still getting a grip on what had just happened, waiting for my implants to return to baseline, processing the previous five seconds. Before I could say anything, Vincent looked up.

“You had an idea. Didn’t you? That’s why your hyper algorithm went bezerk. It knew you were on the edge of something.”

“What? That’s…how did you know?”

“C’mon dad, I can see it in your face ten seconds out.” 

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Why Aluminum Doesn’t Burn…and the Aluminum Twins

Aluminum doesn’t burn because it is a metal with a melting point of 1,220.40 degrees Fahrenheit (660.3 Celsius) at Standard Pressure. What gives aluminum such a high melting point is the structural nature of its molecules. Molecules with strong bonds require more energy to break and aluminum has strong, covalent bonds*. Covalent bonds are chemical bonds which involve the sharing of electrons between atoms to form electron pairs. These pairs of electrons, or shared pairs/bonding pairs, allow each atom to attain the equivalent of a “full valence shell,” which corresponds to a stable electronic configuration. Stable electron configuration = you can put your leftover quiche on a strip of aluminum foil in the oven without causing a fiery explosion:

Aluminum is the world’s most abundant metal, making up about 8.2% of the Earth’s crust. This helps explains why the cost of the metal is so low when compared to other, less-common metals. But this low cost is a relatively recent/post 1860s phenomenon. Aluminum is never found in a pure state in nature, it is always mixed with other elements, in compounds like alum and aluminum oxide.

Alum/new rock from your local crystal dealer
Aluminum oxide/bumpy dirt

For years aluminum was expensive because humans hadn’t mastered the refining process yet.

To obtain aluminum today, humans first mine the substance bauxite, the basic raw material from which most of aluminum is produced.

Bauxite…contains more than 50% aluminum oxide…looks a bit like a cow’s kneecap
A bauxite-extraction “Surface Miner” machine in Guinea / Machine #492 from the Dune series, described in Appendix xxii – vxii

Bauxite was named after the French castle Les Baux, in Provence, where it was first discovered. Here’s a photo from Les Baux in December of 2019:

Provence pretty af

During the refining process bauxite is crushed, mixed in a sodium hydroxide solution, then the impurities are taken away through filtration and settling, which leaves us with alumina.

Alumina. Used by the Illuminati as fake cocaine since 1797.

The alumina is then dissolved by heating it via pressurized steam.

When Aluminum was first discovered in the late 1700s, it was considered a precious metal and was worth more than gold. It was considered so valuable that when the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. was first built between 1848 and 1884 (starting and stopping for 36 years due to lack of funds, bloody Civil War, etc.), the U.S. government wanted to have a precious metal cap, and chose aluminum (at this point the price of aluminum was about the same price as silver, $1.10 an ounce).

The Monument in 1860, year 12 of construction

They hired William Frishmuth of Philadelphia, a German chemist who had emigrated to the U.S. and who had worked as a secret agent for the War Department at a request from Abraham Lincoln, for the commission of creating the monument’s apex. The Washington Monument would be the tallest structure in the world for five years between 1884 and 1889, before being overtaken by the Eiffel Tower.

Someday this triangle is going to be worth $.06754 an ounce, 1,628x less than it’s worth today!

Frismuth had spent 28 years and $53,000 of his own money ($1.6 million today) experimenting with the refinement of aluminum. The process that he had created was to heat the ore until the alumina vaporized, then add sodium vapor. When he created the tip of the Washington monument, it was the largest piece of aluminum cast up until that time, at 8 inches tall. Cost = $225 ($7,000 today).

The aluminum pyramid itself was only 22.6 cm in height, 13.9 cm at its base, and weighed 2.85 kg. In this photo, the photographer Theodore Horydczak admires the “jewel-like” aluminum pyramid, which is now worth (novelty of being the monument cap aside) $5.88 based on current aluminum prices.

Less than two years after the completion of the Washington Monument, Charles Martin Hall (a recent graduate of Oberlin College, Ohio), discovered a process for making aluminum common and cheap…so cheap that Aluminum would replace iron as the #1 most widely-used metal by humans, which iron had held uncontested since it’s prehistoric discovery 5,000 years prior.

Charles (after numerous experiments in a homemade coal-fired furnace and bellows in a shed behind his family home) dissolved alumina in a molten cryolite bath, then ran electricity through the mixture for 2 hours. He was left with a puddle of aluminum in the bottom of the “retort”/container in which substances are heated at high temperatures. Success. In 1886 he filed a patent on the following reaction:

For two years he couldn’t get financial support at home so in 1888 he went to Pittsburg and founded the Pittsburg Reduction Company with $20,000. The process he created would reduce the price of aluminum by a factor of 200. He’d go on to make a fortune of $27 million. The Reduction Company later became the Aluminum Company of America, then Alcoa, which is a company that earned $12.152 billion in revenue last year.

Charles Hall: “I also put electricity through my hair to achieve this perfect part.”

At the same time a young Frenchman named Paul Heroult who was the exact same age as Charles Hall (22) was working on the same, refining process. He succeeded with it two months after Hall.

Paul Heroult: “Vous avez peut-être découvert le processus de raffinage de l’aluminium deux mois avant moi, arrogant Américain avec des yeux tristes et jolis, mais au moins je sais cuisiner et faire l’amour aux femmes !

At the age of 15 they had both read the same “famous” book on aluminum by Henri Sainte-Claire Deville, De l’aluminium. Ses propriétés, sa fabrication et ses applications. Heroult would also patent his discovery the same year (1886) and set up his process at an industrial scale, creating the SEMF/Société Électro-Métallurgique Française. Despite these parallels, they were polar opposites in personalities. While Charles was quiet, obedient, and studious Héroult was “sent to a series of boarding schools, possibly in part to tame his rebelliousness.” Christian Bickert of the Pechiny corporation, a major aluminum conglomerate based in France, described Paul:

“Paul Héroult had none of the attributes of the traditional scholar. He was highstrung, unruly, occasionally hard and insolent; he did not fit the image of wise, disciplined men of science. He loved games, the company of women, travels by land and sea; he was a free spirit in an impetuous body. No comparison with the austere scientist, struggling with stubborn mysteries. His discoveries were not the result of long sleepless nights spent in a laboratory, or of complicated scientific demonstrations. Héroult loved life, and could not have borne such restrictions. Instead, his inventions appeared suddenly, out of the blue, a stroke of common sense, or of genius, sometimes during a lively game of billiards, his favorite pastime.”

Due to the close timing of Hall and Heroult’s discoveries the process is now known as the Hall-Héroult process, the major industrial process for smelting aluminum. They would both die the same year, at the age of 51 in the year 1914. Hall was unmarried and childless, and left most of his fortune to charity. Heroult left behind a son named Paul, billiard tables, and a 35 meter yacht named Samva.

But wait…how does aluminum become aluminum foil? Here:

Anybody wanna go halfsies on a $90,000 Aluminum Foil Container Making Machine?

The French wikipedia page on Paul Héroult is considered the oldest French article on the website, dated May 19, 2001.

Thank you, Aluminum twins, brothers across cultures, countries, and character…for your contribution that has echoed across a century, a contribution that has formed an essential foundation to the manufacturing edifice that quietly supports our modern habits, responsible for necessary goods such as airplane parts, beer kegs, window frames, kitchen utensils, cans, roofing, insulation, electronic devices, guttering, skyscrapers, flat screen TVs, mirrors, coffee machines, tablet PCs, bridges, the outer cases of cell phones, and doors…the potential technologies and worlds we build will forever pay homage to your discovered method of extraction.

*(Bonds can break because of increased heat/increased energy flow…solids become liquids become gasses become plasma. Neon signs and lightning = plasma/most abundant form of ordinary matter in the universe.)

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Interview with Christophe Lemaitre, 200 M. Bronze medalist in the Rio Olympics

Entretien avec Christophe Lemaitre: Bronze medalist in the 200 m. at the Rio Olympics, French National Record holder in outdoor 200 m. (19.80)

English Transcription below

John Knych (JK): When I was in the train, the train passed Culoz, you grew up there?

Christophe LeMaitre (CL): Culoz.

JK: First I’m curious of your childhood there, because it’s a little town.

CL: Yes a little village.

JK: 3000 people?

CL: Yes, around there.

JK: So your childhood there, what did you do for fun? When you were little?

CL: There was not a lot to do, to be honest. Spend time with friends, play soccer, go outside.

JK: You have two older brothers?

CL: Yes.

JK: Are they also fast?

CL: No.

JK: Do you get along with your brothers?

CL: Yes, we got along, they were athletic too, played sports, like I did when I was a kid, but they didn’t sprint.

JK: Why?

CL: They didn’t have track at Culoz. And it didn’t interest them.

JK: And what do you parents do?

CL: My mom didn’t play sports. But my father played a lot of sports in the past, he was athletic. He did swimming and wrestling. But not sprinting.

JK: And I read that you played handball and rugby?

CL: That’s right.

JK: And that you found running by accident. There was the Tour de fête de Belly?

CL: Belay

JK: When you were 15 years old? Are you able to tell me about that experience? When you found the sport?

CL: Yeah but it wasn’t really by accident. We can say that…with my mother we were looking for another sport.

JK: Why?

CL: Because all of the other sports I did weren’t interesting. Or, it’s not that they weren’t interesting but…I wasn’t ah…I wasn’t enthusiastic. I didn’t have the desire to look for new experiences in those sports. And so while I was searching for new sports, I had my classmates and my gym teacher who were doing sprints and who said that I ran fast. So we looked for a place to prove myself. And at Belay there was a coach who tested athletes for the 50 meter sprint.

JK: Yes. Was it Pierre Carraz?

CL: No he was my first coach. The one who found me was Jean Pierre. And he started training me. He did the test and told me that I sprinted fast and that I had the quality.

JK: That you were talented?

CL: That’s it.

JK: How much time after this experience did you meet Pierre Carraz [his first coach]?

CL: I believe it was two years after, I think in 2005, or in 2007 I met him and started training with him.

JK: How did you meet Pierre?

CL: I think the first time was at a competition? Or I think it was the first time I went to Aix-les-Bains for training. It was there that he started to coach me. That he wanted to train me.

JK: And when did you know that you could succeed with running? In international competitions?

CL: I believe that it was…in 2007. With the Junior World Championships. I qualified in the 100 and 200 meters. And I finished 4th in the 100 meters and 5th in the 200 meters. And at the time in a new group for junior athletes. And I did that after only two years of training.

JK: That’s crazy. You started at 15 years old and three years later you were champion at the World Junior Olympics.

CL: That’s right.

JK: That’s unbelievable. So during those three years you were always working? Did you progress gradually, how was it?

CL: Of course I progressed little by little. In every race I beat my personal best time. However I didn’t really know a lot about training. I started with three sessions per week. The year after 4 sessions. There you go, I trained as much as the people in my athletics club.

JK: And immediately you got used to the life of an athlete? A serious athlete? Just after finding running did you get used to the rhythm of an athlete’s life? Or was it difficult in the beginning?

CL: No it was difficult because during some training sessions I had difficulty with…with long sprints. With 300 meters or 400 meters, I was really far behind my teammates.

JK: Why?

CL: Because I was bad. *Laugh/exacerbated sigh concerning the poor question* I didn’t have endurance. At the time I…in fact the cardio and endurance was very complicated for me. Aerobic sessions were horrible for me. It was really took 5 or 6 years for me to be able to handle those sessions.

JK: That’s interesting because the 200 meters is really your event. And of course that requires more endurance than 100 meters.

CL: Of course

JK: So your endurance improved little by little.

CL: That’s right.

JK: When did you realize for the first time that you could win a medal in the Olympics? After 2008 when you won the Junior Olympics?

CL: No it was much later. I think it was after Daegu. 2011. World Championships. Because there I ran the 19.80, the French 200 meter record. And I won the bronze. So I said to myself, the next year, in London, maybe I have a chance. To win a medal.

JK: So before Daegu you didn’t think that you could win a medal?

CL: Before? No. Because I was aware of my times in the beginning. 20.83. At the World Junior Championships. So when I saw sprinters running faster than 20 seconds, I knew I was far away. I was thinking really that I was incapable of achieving that level.

JK: But you did it. I read in an article that you said that if Teddy Tamgho can do it, so can I. Was he an inspiration for you?

CL: For the Junior Olympics?

JK: Yes.

CL: In fact no because I didn’t see him. While he was jumping I was preparing for my event. So when I finished I didn’t know that he was the World Champion.

JK: Okay. What’s more important to you, records or medals?

CL: Medals. Without a doubt.

JK: What is your relation with your coach? You told me that after two years you found Pierre Carraz. Today you work with Thierry Tribondeau.

CL: To be clear I am still working with Pierre Carraz. I have two coaches. It was Pierre who asked Thierry to join us for helping with my preparation.

JK: And your relationship with Pierre Carraz. Tell me, do you have complete confidence in him, do you call him every day, how do you work with him?

CL: Yes he is someone who I have confidence in for my training and preparation. He is someone with a lot of experience. And he has an eye for seeing the strengths and weaknesses in an athlete. And so yes I have complete confidence in him because he can prepare me well for the major competitions.

JK: I read in article in France Bleu that Pierre said, “We know where we are going.” Just after your performance in Rio, he said “That night we asked ourselves how we can prepare for the Tokyo Olympics.” Is that true?

CL: Well, I wasn’t there. But yes I heard that Triboneau called Carraz to start planning for the Tokyo Olympics.

JK: Wow. Did you party after winning the bronze medal? Or did you start working immediately after?

CL: After I finished the games, yeah I went to Club France to celebrate with the French fans who came to Rio to support the French team. I celebrated with them, there you go.”

JK: I saw a video of your teammate on the bus, he wasn’t sure that you had won because it was so close, the rest of the team of France, they were excited. You choose to study and prepare here instead of Paris? For what reasons?

CL: The atmosphere of Paris, I don’t see myself living there, to be honest.

JK: Why?

CL: It’s totally different. I need calm and a place to relax. It moves 24/7. Everything is grey. There’s all these buildings. There are no mountains or forests. There’s nothing. There’s no nature. It’s horrible. The people are always hurrying and are unpleasant. To visit, sure, but to live, no. It’s not my thing.

JK: Soon you are going to begin intense training for Tokyo. Can you share with me what your life is like when you are in the most intense part of your training? The daily routine?

CL: I discuss with my coach to prepare. All the work that we have to do. Five or six sessions per week. With a part that is short sprints, long sprints, a lifting session, and a general physical session. So in the winter we build the base. The goal is that we compete internationally. In the winter we go someplace with better weather for training. Because it is really quite cold here.

JK: Lot’s of snow?

CL: Not really snow, because of the lake next to us, it creates a micro-climate. But yes were are next to mountains so it gets really cold. So sometimes we go to the south. Or to another country. To find better conditions. Then the summer arrives and we need to run fast because there is the selection for the Olympic team. And it’s early. I think it’s in June. I hope I’m not making a mistake with that. But we have to run fast early. If we hope to make the list.

JK: My best French friend wanted me to ask you this question: how many kilometers per week do you run? In general? Do you know? [Christophe thought I asked: how fast do you run? I didn’t understand that he didn’t understand my question right away.]

CL: How many kilometers/hour? 40 kilometers. Between 40-42. After, to run 10.00 for 100 meters you have to run an average of 37 kilometers/per hour.

JK: But how many kilometers do you run per week? Total?

CL: Ah, we don’t run lot. For example, we run more in the winter. 3 laps of the track and we’re finished. The we do other things.

JK: How do you relax? I read that you like Overwatch? Is that your favorite way to relax?

CL: It’s not necessary my favorite way to relax. It’s mostly a way to pass the time. To distract myself. I play the saxophone. And there are other things. I stay busy.

JK: I’ve talked with the athletes who are constantly thinking about their sport. But you, when you’re not running, you try to do other things and not think of track? Because it’s so intense. Do you follow the success of other athletes? How much are you a student of the sport?

CL: In general yes. I follow the other athletes’ performances. Diamond league. World challenge. In France too. It interests me. I love watching, with my friends, the competitions. I love my sport.

JK: I read that your hero is Usain Bolt. I saw a video where you are in a photo with him. How are you inspired by him and what have you learned from him? I read that he has respect for you and for your victory. Have you learned things from him?

CL: Usain Bolt…I think of him first as an adversary like the others. Despite him being the best sprinter in he world, and conquering so many others, I always considered him like any other adversary. Like any other sprinter.

JK: So he wasn’t really your hero, just another competitor?

CL: Yes, exactly. But I always considered a race against him as a chance…because you know that the race is going to be fast when there’s Usain Bolt. So it’s necessary that you take advantage of this opportunity, to try and hold on, to not lose your head, to run fast.

JK: Would you say that Jimmy Vicaut is your rival? Because you ran with him in the relay?

CL: For Jimmy it’s like Bolt, he’s a competitor like any other. When we were in the relay together, things change, we were teammates, we worked together, to win the relay. But beyond that, I didn’t consider him as being more important than the others because he is French.

JK: So you wouldn’t change your training?

CL: No, he trains in Paris, I train here. We only see each other in big competitions. But that’s it.

JK: Now I have a difficult question, what did you feel in Doha when the team didn’t finish the race. How do you handle the obstacles, the injuries, the losses in your career? Because I read in an article that you said something very profound, you said, “The secret of sport is to not be imprisoned in your previous race.” Can you explain this phrase? It’s powerful.

CL: I said that because there was a time when I was practically 100% consumed by athletics in my head. And I did nothing on the side. All I did was training, recovery, working with the team, competition. And I think I was into it too much. I was always consumed by ambition, to perform well, to succeed, and so during the moments when it was difficult, when I wasn’t performing well, or when I was injured, I had nothing on the side to forget it, to think of it less, to move on. I was completely disappointed and always thought to run and run to rid myself of the bad races or injuries, etc. Except I wasn’t improving and I was frustrated because I was working more than I had in previous years when things were working, and I didn’t understand that I was training more and harder without the same results. So I changed my method, saw a Sports psychologist to help me put my ideas in order, to feel mentally better, to be capable do succeed for me. Because before I run to shut up the critics to show others that I’m capable of running fast. And that my career wasn’t behind me. I changed that by running for my own pleasure. So when I had injuries or low moments I was able to stay positive and keep my head because I knew that the critics were just sport and it’s a part of my life, but not my whole life, I do other things that I’m passionate about and that I love. It’s going to stop someday so I’ll make the most of it now, but I’m not just Christophe Lemaître the athlete but Christopher Lemaître who does athletics, not just an athlete, I’m someone just like anybody else, athletics is not my whole life, just a part.

JK: Concerning the question of the critics, I read that your coach said, “It’s part of the daily routine of high-performance athletes, when you’re in the light you’re exposed to critics, if you’re not being criticized you’re in your little garden doing little chores.” For you, do you follow or ignore the critics? Do critics feed you or do you say to yourself, “they’ll say whatever they want, I’m me, and I don’t give a shit.”

CL: At an earlier time I read a lot of the critics and like I said I read to shut them up. But I don’t think that it was good thing. Because they don’t know how you train. They feel they can judge you but they don’t know your training. They don’t know where you’ve come from, your moments of doubt, the extremely difficult moments. And that pisses you off. You want to show them that they’re wrong. That I’m someone who can still perform well. And I’m not someone who does nothing, but that I work really hard. And now I’ve learned to ignore it all. When I have bad performances, I don’t look at the critics at all. That was just a phase. I think that no matter what happens there’s always someone who will be critical of you, even when you do things well. And they give criticism that’s not at all constructive. So it’s necessary not to listen to them. They can scream all they want. Keep living your life how you know how.

JK: So how do your previous experiences in Rio influence your life today? I read that Vicaut said that, “In Rio, you were ranked 35, and you placed 3rd.” And I read that Doha is a trampoline for the Tokyo Olympics. So now…I read that your objective for 4 years has been Tokyo. So now how does your experience compare with your experiences before Rio? Because before Rio you had injuries. How do you feel now? How do you feel compared with the year before Rio?

CL: The year before Rio it was complicated because I had a lot of injuries. And I didn’t make the finals of the World Championships. In addition it was just complicated. But there was something that I knew: if I wasn’t injured I knew I could run really fast because the only times I couldn’t run fast were when I was injured, and the injuries affected my training. I knew that if I had a year with no injuries or very few injuries, I could succeed. So the goal for Tokyo is to avoid injuries as much as I can, to give attention to any little pain, to get out of the psychology of injury. If I feel bad I take a week off. It’s necessary to be vigilant, to every little alert of the body. And don’t fear injury. It can happen at any time. An injury can be a sign that I need to take a break before a worse injury. Be careful, be vigilant. Be capable of not training. Better to miss a day here or there than get injured and miss weeks.

JK: You have become more skilled to read and watch your body. To say: now, I need rest.

CL: That’s it.

JK: I watched this video, the revenge of the unliked. France TV sports. Have you seen it?

CL: No.

JK: It was the..

CL: Oh yes, the television segment.

JK: Yes, and I know it may be difficult to talk about it, but can you tell, your adolescence wasn’t easy. I learned that the other students weren’t kind to you. In what way were the other students cruel to you? I read that when you were 11, you closed your off. Can you talk about this period in your life?

CL: Yes, it lasted all through middle school. It was a lot of mockery. The remarks which hurt me. And even sometimes happened outside of school when I crossed the students who were mocking me.

JK: And this part of you life, how did you keep going? When the others weren’t kind, how did you fight against it, or deal with the mockery?

CL: I never really was able to deal with it. I was really very timid. I didn’t dare…I had difficulty talking, the only time I dared to do something, it came back to hurt me. It wasn’t working. When you are alone in a group, even when you try to fit in, it doesn’t work, you feel like everything is against you, you can’t do anything. It’s complicated to get out.

JK: Between 11 and 15 you were mostly alone?

CL: That’s it.

JK: And when you found sport it opened a door for you? And you life completely changed?

CL: Yes.

JK: I read two phrases online: “He will function better not caring about the others…he was not going to struggle or shed tears against their mockery.”

CL: Hmm-hmm

JK: When you said that…the recognition of others…I would like friends…but you didn’t have the way to make friends. That second phrase: not going to shed tears against their mockery. What does it mean?

CL: It means…when the students mocked me, I didn’t know how to react or change it, how to get out of it. In the beginning I thought it was pass, the it was just something fleeting, and that they will stop, when they’re older, or find someone else. But it never stopped. And I didn’t know how to get rid of it.

JK: I read that after Rio you were proud to be France. Is that true?

CL: Yes. Proud to win a medal to France. Yes I had the desire to win a medal for France. When I had it I was happy to be able to be with the other champions. In Paris. To be with those who supported me.

JK: What would you like Americans to know of what it means to be French? I know it’s question a little bizarre.

CL: Yes. Pffff. I think that it is the same for Americans, we are proud of where we come from, I know that Americans are very patriotic, but there’s still a pride of being French, a cultural pride. For athletes there is this desire to make France shine, whatever the way you do that, a pride of singing the Marseillaise. A strong pride of being French. Despite the multi-cultural aspect of France, people from different regions, people are still proud of being French. People are happy to see athletes who shine.

JK: The 200 meters is your specialty. What part of the race are you trying to improve right now? To achieve the next level?

CL: I think I want to improve every part. But the part I can improve the most is probably the turn. The first part of the turn, it’s all right, but the second part of the turn I am capable to move better into the straight and to hold my speed and to conserve it. I can improve that. I know that I can hold my speed right to the end. It’s just that part of the turn which is a little complicated.

JK: Of course Tokyo is in your head right now. But 2024 the Olympics are in Paris. Is there a part of you that thinks: if my body can hold on, Paris is a possibility? Or is too far to think about?

CL: Yes at the moment it is a bit far away. I have always had the habit to think year by year. For 2024 I’ll have to think later, if my body still capable of running fast? Also mentally do I still want to keep training? To continue to keep trying to reach a higher level.

JK: Is it tiring, in general, the life, your life, the life of an athlete? Or have you found a good rhythm with things like the saxophone?

CL: I think that it is necessary, to endure, you have to be capable of doing other things, because it’s true that it’s exhausting to think 24/7 of sport, I think it’s important to, like I said, think of other things. To liberate the spirit and the head, other activities.

JK: And you study here, in Aix-les-Bains, also, industrial…you’re at university?

CL: Not here. Annecy. Business collective communication. Yes it’s important to have other projects.

JK: Have you visited the United States before?

CL: Yes, twice, 2-3 times for my sporting internship, also a school trip.

JK: So you ran there.

CL: Yes, 400 meters with my club. The team of France was presented. It was super, great. And I had did 100 meters and I won there.

JK: Do you think that after your career you want to stay in the world of athletics, to be a coach, or other things, or do you not think of that?

CL: Of course I think of it that is why I have my studies. But still the future is still vague. To stay in the sport as a coach…I could…or do other things…do something completely different. Social media, management.

JK: When I watched the video of your victory in the Olympics. I saw that you have a routine before your race. How to you relax before a competition. How do you prepare right before a race? How do you relax? Like before the Olympic race?

CL: In general, I stay relaxed. For me the stress of the competition just comes a few hours before the race. And in general before that I’m rather relaxed. I watch TV, take a nap. Even the day of the competition I can sleep thirty minutes in the afternoon. It’s not a problem. I pass my time tranquilly.

JK: And now you work with your coach, is it the same time with Pierre as with Triboneau?

CL: Now in fact the preparation is created by both of them. They make it together. For the season. There’s not time with one, time with the other. They are both there and they observe me and give me their opinions. There’s not one or there other.

JK: I saw that you are the first white man to run faster than 10 seconds for 100 meters. I read that you don’t like this title. I read that you don’t like this title. What do you think of this though, to be the first man under 10 seconds for 100 meters?

CL: Yes it’s something that I don’t like because it ignores the important fact that I broke 10 seconds that I’m a man who is capable of that, and at the time it was new French record, which is very rare for France at the time, and that was totally ignored for the fact that I was the first white man to break 10. I prefer to be judged in the domain sportive. The color is anecdotal.

JK: What do you think that you can improve more easily, the 100 meters or 200 meters? Now you have the record of 200 meters. And Jimmy Vicaut has 100 meters. Do you think that you can run faster in the 100 meters? Or do you prefer to concentrate on the 200 meters?

CL: I think that, in my opinion, it’s preferable to concentrate on 200 meters rather than 100 meter because that’s where I’ve proved myself and that’s where I have the better chance of earning a metal, in relation to my potential. But I think I’m still capable of running fast in the 100 meters. I think it’s important to run the 100 meters to prepare for the 200 meters. Running the 100 meters will improve my speed. The pure, basic speed. To prepare for the 200 meters.

JK: Do you have the gold medal in your head for Tokyo? Or do you think: I just want to run the fastest that I can? If I win, I win.

CL: Of course it is my dream, I think every athlete has it, to be the Olympic champion. But I know that there is lot of unknown in sport. More important is to just want to be in peak form for the competitions, for the Olympics. After to be capable to bring out my best race, my best moments, and to medal.

JK: When you think of your adolescence, is it like another life for you? Or when you think of that time are you more motivated?

CL: Not it’s totally finished. I don’t think of it at all. Now is time when I think of myself and my projects, I live my life serenely, without a problem. I feel good. I’m happy with what I’ve done and I’m happy with what I do, that’s the main thing. It’s the mocking of the critics, it’s my performances that count.

JK: And your family, your brother, they are proud of you? You’ve had a lot of success. What do your family think of your victory.

CL: Yes well of course they are happy and proud, they have already told me, of course. I think that any family would be proud and happy to receive this honor in sport, of course. It was surprising for them. But they follow and support me.

JK: Christophe, thank yo use much, it was a pleasure for me. The coffee is on me.

CL: Thank you.

JK: I think that’s all I would like to talk with you about…*pause*…and again, pardon me for my French.

CL: No, it was comprehensive, it’s good.


How To Take Down The Internet

4 minute read

Traduction française ci-dessous

All the computers that form the internet are identified through long numbers called IP addresses. But when you want to visit a place like Twitter, you don’t want to type in, “,” (which is one of the IP addresses of one of the servers that host Twitter), but rather www.Twitter.com.

This means that your computer needs to translate www.Twitter.com into the right IP address. So your computer makes a series of requests: it asks your operating system where to go (in this case let’s say it doesn’t “know”), then a recursive name server (nope, doesn’t know either), then the world’s 13 root servers (yes!) which sends you to the appropriate top-level domain server, the one that runs all the “.coms,” who sends you to the correct authoritative name server, which says, “yes Twitter is” The 13 root servers can be found throughout the world, run by organizations like the U.S Department of Defense, University of Maryland, University of Southern California, Information of Sciences Institute, a U.S. Army Research Lab, etc.

This whole system (called the DNS, The Domain Name System, or the phone book of the internet) of directing your computer to IP addresses needs to be administered by someone..or something… Why?

1.) To verify that IP addresses aren’t given to people or organizations with nefarious aims (so when you type in www.a-bank-I-can-depend-on.com it doesn’t bring you to a website which asks for your banking information and steals your $) 

2.) To keep the whole system secure 

The system is administered by ICANN, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, an American multi stakeholder group and nonprofit organization. 

(Here’s their most recent press release, 28 February 2022, ICANN-Managed Root Server Clusters to Strengthen Africa’s Internet Infrastructure.

ICANN authenticates and secures the DNS system though a system called DNSSEC.

But what are those keys in the picture? How does the authentication process work?

Asymmetrical encryption. First proposed in 1976 by Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman in their paper « New Directions in Cryptography » Quote from the paper’s abstract:

“Widening applications of teleprocessing [computer processing via remote terminals] have given rise to a need for new types of cryptographic systems, which minimize the need for secure key distribution channels and supply the equivalent of a written signature. This paper suggests ways to solve these currently open problems. It also discusses how the theories of communication and computation are beginning to provide the tools to solve cryptographic problems of long standing.”

[This was 46 years before the first Bitcoin in 2009, 8 years before Mark Zuckerberg hatched out of a lizard egg in 1984.]

Introduction: We stand today [1976] on the brink of a revolution in cryptography. The development of cheap digital hardware has freed it from the design limitations of mechanical computing and brought the cost of high grade cryptographic devices down to where they can be used in such commercial applications as remote cash dispensers and computer terminals.”

ATM in 1981, Wellington New Zealand,
Source: https://teara.govt.nz/en
Genesis Bitcoin Mining, founded in 2013, 3rd largest Bitcoin operation in the world, first located in China and Bosnia, now relocated to Iceland and Canada. Source: https://www.publish0x.com/muchograph/top-5-biggest-bitcoin-mining-farms-in-the-world-with-picture-xqmyqr

“…The development of computer controlled communication networks promises effortless and inexpensive contact between people or computers on opposite sides of the world, replacing most mail and many excursions with telecommunications.” -(The article’s worth a read, only 10 pages long.)

Asymmetrical encryption involves a public and private key. Each key is made up of long numbers that are linked mathematically. This mathematical link creates trust for outsiders accessing a place or a person on the internet. 

You can see in this picture that the mathematical link between Alice’s private key and Alice’s public key allows Bob to trust that the message (Hello Bob) is actually from Alice.

And what is the “mathematical link?” The public and private key are not actually keys but really large prime numbers that are mathematically related to one another. Who knew that prime number’s refusal to be evenly divided by anything besides itself and 1 would help connect millions of humans through trust-injected-super-fast-computer-math?

Everyone can access and read the public key. The private key is extremely secret and can only be held by one entity. 

With a private key, you can make a digital signature over a document/website, thus authenticating the document/website. Because when an outsider wants to access the document/website and verify that it’s authentic, they can “look” at the public key (which again is mathematically linked to the private key) and go “yes, only the corresponding private key could have authenticated this document/website/place, so I know it’s safe.”

This is how DNS is authenticated: the information that www.Twitter.com is is “signed” by Twitter using their private key, then your computer uses Twitter’s public key and the private key signature and goes, “yes, the private key signature can ONLY have been signed by Twitter, it’s safe/really there.”

But is Twitter’s public key also safe and legitimate?

Twitter’s public key is “signed off by a higher authority”: the top level domain server mentioned above, who runs all dotcoms using their private key. And our computers use the top level domain server’s public key to verify that yes, their private signature on Twitter’s public key is legitimate. 

But what about the top level domain server’s public key? What higher authority signs off on that? Basically, we go “up and up” the public/private key chain with higher authorities signing off on “lower rung public keys with higher private keys” until we arrive at ICANN, the company mentioned above.

Up and up and up and up. Root Certificate = highest private key

ICANN has a single private key. 

Every website’s IP address in DNS is secured by ICANN’s single public and private key which is called…

The trust anchor.

Not this anchor…Source: https://www.venafi.com/sites/default/files/styles/823×390/public/content/blog/2020-04/largeanchor_newblog.png?itok=X4W5oe3A

ICANN’s public key is this:

Source: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuCkxoKLYO_EQ2GeFtbM_bw

So how could we access ICANN’s private key to take down the internet?

The numbers that form the private key of ICANN that secure the whole DNS are stored on hard drives inside physical boxes called Hardware Security Modules (HSMs). 


There are 4 HSMs in the world, kept in 2 pairs,

One pair is located in Culpepper, Virginia and the other in El Segundo Californian, kept 2,500 miles apart: 

Source: Google Maps

To access either of these pairs of HSMs you gotta get passed armed guards, pin pads, card scanners, monitored cages, and biometric stops.

Biometric stop being made by computer-generated hand, https://medium.com/gdg-vit/is-biometric-authentication-the-one-stop-solution-for-security-breaches-778d9e91c49

Even if you obtain an HSM, an HSM  “resists physical tampering,” in that if someone tries to open the device or even drops it, the HSM erases all the keys it stores to prevent a compromise. So to open the HSMs you need several smart cards. And those those smart cards are kept in other boxes which can only be opened by physical keys, which are held by seven people all over the world. Those people (security experts designated by ICANN) are:

If DNS is ever compromised, 5/7 keyholders would have to go to an ICANN facility, use their keys in what is called a “key ceremony,” to obtain the smart cards, then use the smart cards to physically open the HSM to obtain ICANN’s private key. Then use the private key to shut DNS, and almost all of the internet, off.

But how can the private key “shut the internet off?” I’m not 100% certain, but I think you could tamper with the private key in such a way (change a digit in the prime number?) that the public key associated with it wouldn’t allow lower-rung-keys to trust itself/the public key, because the private key had not “signed off on it”, which would be the equivalent of burning the single phone book that everybody uses to access IP addresses/websites, and there would be this chain reaction of mistrust/computers’ inabilities to access pages down the public-private key chain because they couldn’t verify the addresses as being safe/authentic places so when you try to-

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Tous les ordinateurs qui forment l’internet sont identifiés par de longs numéros appelés adresses IP. Mais lorsque vous voulez visiter un endroit comme Twitter, vous ne voulez pas taper “” (qui est l’une des adresses IP de l’un des serveurs qui hébergent Twitter), mais plutôt www.Twitter.com.

Cela signifie que votre ordinateur doit traduire www.Twitter.com en la bonne adresse IP. Votre ordinateur effectue donc une série de requêtes : il demande à votre système d’exploitation où aller (dans ce cas, disons qu’il ne “sait” pas), puis un serveur de noms récursif (non, il ne sait pas non plus), puis les 13 serveurs racine du monde (oui !) qui vous envoient au serveur de domaine de premier niveau approprié, celui qui gère tous les “.com”, qui vous envoie au bon serveur de noms faisant autorité, qui dit “oui, Twitter est”. Les 13 serveurs racine se trouvent dans le monde entier, gérés par des organisations telles que le ministère de la défense des États-Unis, l’université du Maryland, l’université de Californie du Sud, l’Institut des sciences de l’information, un laboratoire de recherche de l’armée américaine, etc.

Tout ce système (appelé DNS, The Domain Name System, ou l’annuaire téléphonique d’internet) consistant à diriger votre ordinateur vers des adresses IP doit être administré par quelqu’un…ou quelque chose…. Pourquoi ?

1.) Pour vérifier que les adresses IP ne sont pas attribuées à des personnes ou des organisations ayant des objectifs néfastes (ainsi, lorsque vous tapez www.a-bank-I-can-depend-on.com, vous n’êtes pas redirigé vers un site web qui vous demande vos informations bancaires et vous vole votre argent).
2.) Pour assurer la sécurité de l’ensemble du système

Le système est administré par l’ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), un groupe américain composé de plusieurs parties prenantes et une organisation à but non lucratif.

L’ICANN authentifie et sécurise le système DNS grâce à un système appelé DNSSEC.

Mais que sont ces clés dans l’image ? Comment fonctionne le processus d’authentification ?

Le cryptage asymétrique. Proposé pour la première fois en 1976 par Whitfield Diffie et Martin Hellman dans leur article New Directions in Cryptography&nbsp. Citation du résumé de l’article :

“L’élargissement des applications du télétraitement [traitement informatique via des terminaux distants] a fait naître le besoin de nouveaux types de systèmes cryptographiques, qui minimisent le besoin de canaux de distribution de clés sécurisés et fournissent l’équivalent d’une signature écrite. Cet article propose des moyens de résoudre ces problèmes actuellement ouverts. Il examine également comment les théories de la communication et du calcul commencent à fournir les outils nécessaires pour résoudre les problèmes cryptographiques de longue date.”

C’était 46 ans avant le premier Bitcoin en 2009, 8 ans avant que Mark Zuckerberg n’éclose d’un œuf de lézard en 1984.

Introduction : Nous nous trouvons aujourd’hui [1976] à l’aube d’une révolution dans le domaine de la cryptographie. Le développement d’un matériel numérique bon marché l’a libéré des limites de conception de l’informatique mécanique et a fait baisser le coût des dispositifs cryptographiques de haute qualité au point qu’ils peuvent être utilisés dans des applications commerciales telles que les distributeurs de billets à distance et les terminaux informatiques.”

“…Le développement des réseaux de communication contrôlés par ordinateur promet un contact sans effort et peu coûteux entre des personnes ou des ordinateurs situés aux antipodes, remplaçant la plupart des courriers et de nombreuses excursions par des télécommunications.”

Le cryptage asymétrique implique une clé publique et une clé privée. Chaque clé est composée de longs chiffres qui sont liés mathématiquement. Ce lien mathématique crée un climat de confiance pour les personnes extérieures qui accèdent à un lieu ou à une personne sur l’internet.

Et quel est le ” lien mathématique ” ? La clé publique et la clé privée ne sont pas réellement des clés mais de très grands nombres premiers qui sont mathématiquement liés les uns aux autres. Qui aurait cru que le refus d’un nombre premier d’être divisé de manière égale par autre chose que lui-même et 1 aiderait à connecter des millions d’humains par le biais d’une mathématique informatique injectée de confiance et super rapide ?

Tout le monde peut accéder à la clé publique et la lire. La clé privée est extrêmement secrète et ne peut être détenue que par une seule entité.

Avec une clé privée, vous pouvez faire une signature numérique sur un document/site web, ce qui permet d’authentifier le document/site web. Parce que lorsqu’une personne extérieure veut accéder au document/site web et vérifier qu’il est authentique, elle peut “regarder” la clé publique (qui, là encore, est mathématiquement liée à la clé privée) et se dire “oui, seule la clé privée correspondante aurait pu authentifier ce document/site web/lieu, donc je sais qu’il est sûr.

C’est ainsi que le DNS est authentifié : l’information que www.Twitter.com est est “signée” par Twitter en utilisant leur clé privée, puis votre ordinateur utilise la clé publique de Twitter et la signature de la clé privée et va, “oui, la signature de la clé privée ne peut SEULEMENT avoir été signée par Twitter, c’est sûr/réellement là.”

Mais la clé publique de Twitter est-elle également sûre et légitime ?

La clé publique de Twitter est “signée par une autorité supérieure” : le serveur de domaine de premier niveau mentionné ci-dessus, qui gère tous les dotcoms en utilisant leur clé privée. Et nos ordinateurs utilisent la clé publique du serveur de domaine de premier niveau pour vérifier que oui, leur signature privée sur la clé publique de Twitter est légitime.

Mais qu’en est-il de la clé publique du serveur du domaine de premier niveau ? Quelle autorité supérieure signe pour cela ? Fondamentalement, nous allons “de haut en bas” de la chaîne de clés publiques/privées avec des autorités supérieures qui signent des “clés publiques d’échelon inférieur avec des clés privées supérieures” jusqu’à ce que nous arrivions à l’ICANN, la société mentionnée ci-dessus.

D’autres traductions seront bientôt disponibles … si vous mourrez d’envie de lire ce qui suit, envoyez-moi un message et je le mettrai en tête de liste des projets…

Primary source for the material in this piece: The Seven People Who Could Turn Off The Internet.