Sun researchers: Computers do bad math

On Feb. 25, 1991, during the first Gulf War, a Scud missile hit U.S. Army barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 U.S. soldiers. The barracks was defended by a Patriot missile defense system, which for some reason failed to track and intercept the incoming Scud. A year later, a U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) investigation into the Patriot's failure concluded that the battery's weapon control system suffered from a fatal flaw: It was bad at math.

On Tuesday, researchers at Sun Microsystems Inc. discussed work they are doing, as part of a three-year, $50 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant, that aims to avoid the kind of errors that caused the Patriot failure. Mathematical errors are far more common in the computer industry than most people realize, said Greg Papadopoulos, Sun's executive vice president and chief technology officer. While his company is normally the first to accuse Microsoft Corp. of shoddy operating system design, bad math and not Windows is sometimes behind those unexplained PC crashes, he admits.

News source: InfoWorld

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