Friday, January 07, 2022

Test What You Detonate, Detonate What You Test

Another great article from the national security blog War On The Rocks: "When Software Bugs Go Nuclear: Testing A Digital Arsenal" by Laura Epifanovskaya, a researcher formerly in the U.S. Department of Energy's nuclear weapons program.

Motivated by the fact that the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile is transitioning from analog to digital control systems - so as to interface with the digital systems in the latest generation of strategic weapons delivery platforms - she writes about the need for formal methods, Design For Test (a design methodology that applies to software as well as hardware), and NASA's motto "Test what you fly, fly what you test", in critical reliability systems.

There is a lot here that is applicable, not just to nuclear weapons, but to any complex high-technology system that absolutely, positively has to work right the first time - and never work when it's not supposed to. Her article also has some interesting tidbits into how nuclear weapons are tested without actually setting off a fusion reaction. Fascinating stuff.

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