Sunday, January 20, 2008

NATURE: Careless Code Recycling Causes Killer Kangaroos!

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."
Ephesians 5:1-2
It’s being reported that the reuse of old, object-oriented computer code has caused tactical stress for Australia's armed forces.

As virtual reality simulators assume larger roles in helicopter combat training, programmers have gone to great lengths to increase the realism of each scenario. This can include very real landscapes and wildlife (i.e., herds of kangaroos, since disturbed animals might reveal a helicopter's position), as in the case of the Northern Territory's “Operation Phoenix.”

The head of the Defense Science & Technology Organization's Land Operations/Simulation Division reportedly instructed program developers to model the local marsupials' movements and reactions to helicopters. To achieve certain efficiencies, programmers appropriated some code originally used to model infantry detachment reactions under attack conditions, changed the mapped icon from a soldier to a kangaroo, and increased the figures' speed of movement.

After release, some hotshot Aussie pilots, eager to demonstrate their flying skills for visiting American pilots, buzzed the virtual kangaroos in low-flight simulation. The kangaroos scattered as planned, and the visiting Yanks nodded appreciatively ... then did a double-take as the kangaroos reappeared from behind a virtual hill and launched a barrage of Stinger missiles at the hapless helicopter.

Apparently the capable programmers had forgotten to remove that part of the infantry detachment coding. Objects in computer code are defined with certain attributes, and any new object defined in terms of an old one inherits all of its attributes.

Humbled programmers learned to be more careful in reusing object-oriented code, the Americans gained new respect for Australian wildlife, and simulator supervisors report Australian pilots strictly avoid kangaroos now.

[From June 15, 1999 Defense Science and Technology Organization Lecture Series, Melbourne, Australia, and staff reports under the title “Mutant Marsupials Take Up Arms Against Australian Air Force”; via Good Clean Funnies List, online at; “This funny was received from Rodney Ford,” published December 1999. Edited for publication by SIEW.]

It’s critical we model the right people; as Christians it’s important we model Christ Jesus. When people imitate others, they inherit the attributes of the ones they imitate [1 Corinthians 15:33]; when we imitate the Lord, we inherit His attributes … faithfulness, goodness, kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, etc. I believe Paul called these the “fruits of the Spirit” [Galatians 5:22-23].

When we’re born-again, God appropriates the code originally intended for righteous lives, changes the mapped icon of our hearts from Satan to Christ, and increases our spiritual movement.

He does, however, allow some of the old, object-oriented code to remain … something we call free will. That’s why every once in a while, when we drop our shield of faith, there’s the devil, or one of his henchmen, slinging flaming missiles at the opening in our armor [Ephesians 6:16].

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