The Knowable and Unknowable

Hole.JPEG

So as we all do, I often come across challenging and perplexing issues or problems in life. 


And my nature is to try to understand them, solve them, fix them–is it survival or the challenge or both?


But then we come across some things that are just beyond our [mere mortal] understanding or ability to simply fix them. 


I remember as a youngster learning in Yeshiva about when it says in the Bible that G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he continued to refuse to let the Jews go from their enslavement in Egypt.


And the classic mind-bending question is how could G-d harden his heart if Pharaoh retained free will which we all have to choose good or evil.


Did G-d harden his heart or did he have free will–which is it?  And if G-d hardened his heart, then how could Pharaoh and the Egyptians be punished for something they didn’t fully control? 


One explanation is that by facing the punishing plagues, Pharoah was losing his free will to decide what to do with the Israelites, so by hardening his heart, G-d was actually restoring his free will to choose once again…interesting. 


Of course in life, there is also the philosophical dimensions of so many seeming contradictions such as the cliche about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.


Which wins out if one is unstoppable and the other is unmovable?


No, I don’t think these are just riddles, but the testing of the abilities of our human minds to understand further and further into the mysteries of G-d, creation, and the universe. 


So what do we do in life when confronted by things that are seemingly or really beyond our human capacities? 


– We ponder these weighty matters and sometimes we get frustrated and rip our little-left hair out or laugh at ourselves as to why we can’t just get it.


– We look to understand the deeper spiritual meanings of these challenges in the context of our earthly lives. 


– We try to solve and fix what we can within the confines of our spaghetti brain matter and flesh and bone bodies. 


– At the end of the day, we acknowledge our human limitations, and look to the Heavens for answers or at least for Divine guidance and protection along the way.


While we cannot understand everything or always reach our destination that we set for ourselves that should never prevent us from trying our hardest and going as far as we can on our journeys–and letting the next person, and the next person pick up the torch and carry it forward. 


In the Jewish prayers, we say that the matters of the earth are for our exploration and striving, but the ultimate secrets of the Heaven are for G-d alone. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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IT Security, The Frankenstein Way

Frankenstein

Here’s a riddle: When is a computer virus not a dangerous piece of malware? Answer: when it is hidden as Frankenstein code.

The Economist(25 August 2012) describes how computer viruses are now being secretly passed into computers, by simply sending a blueprint for the virus rather than the harmful code itself into your computer–then the code is harvested from innocuous programs and assembled to form the virus itself.

Like the fictional character, Frankenstein, that is stitched together out of scavenged body parts, the semantic blueprint pulls together code from host programs to form the viruses.

This results is a polymorphic viruses, where based on the actual code being drawn from other programs, each virus ends up appearing a little different and can potentially mask itself–bypassing antivirus, firewall, and other security barriers.

Flipping this strategy around, in a sense, Bloomberg Businessweek (20 June 2012) reports on a new IT security product by Bromiumthat prevents software downloads from entering the entire computer, and instead sets aside a virtual compartment to contain the code and ensure it is not malicious, and if the code is deemed dangerous, the cordoned-off compartment will dissolve preventing damage to the overall system.

So while on the offensive side, Frankenstein viruses stitch together parts of code to make a dangerous whole–here on the defensive side, we separate out dangerous code from potentially infecting the whole computer.

Computer attacks are getting more sinister as they attempt to do an end-run around standardized security mechanisms, leading to continually evolving computer defenses to keep the Frankensteins out there, harmless, at bay.

(Source Photo: herewith attribution to Dougal McGuire)