Brownian thought space

Cognitive science, mostly, but more a sometimes structured random walk about things.

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Location: Rochester, United States

Chronically curious モ..

Monday, May 25, 2009

Backup systems on spaceships

Watching old Star Trek: Next Generation. In this episode (Disaster) the Enterprise collides with a quantum filament (whatever that might be), and things aren't very spiffy anymore aboard the vessel. Life support systems are compromised and the field holding the ship together is packing up for a little vacation.
Anyhow, that got me thinking - if I were to have any say in the design of a spaceship, I think that besides the various backup systems, fault tolerance, hierarchical, modular structures and self-healing material, to also make sure that for each critical system, there was at least one backup with a totally different technology. So, for e.g., if a quantum filament hits you and quantum systems are jinxed, you can switch over to a classical system. The fundamental idea being that the cause of the damaging element would be unlikely to affect two technologies that were fundamentally differently implemented.
Which nicely brings us back to Marr and his levels :)  To restate: the spaceship would benefit if the systems for each critical function (the computational level) was implemented (implementational level) in two distinct ways, so that if something caused a failure of the implementational bits of one system, it would be unlikely to also affect the implementational bits of the second system. 


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