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The Bunny, the Witch, and the War Room

Sharon Weinberger’s new book, The Imagineers of War, reveals some real-life X-Files

11 min read
photo of person with wired sensors attached to face
Photo: The Voohees

Among the Stanford Research Institute’smany classified research projects in the early 1970s was a contract supported by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of Technical Service, a division headed by Sidney Gottlieb, perhaps the most notorious scientist ever to work for the spy agency. The secret program was testing different forms of parapsychology, such as whether humans had the ability to use their minds to visualize or even influence remote objects. Believing the work was showing promise, Gottlieb one day invited the director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), Stephen Lukasik, over to his CIA office to discuss it.

Editor’s note: This article is based on a chapter of the author’s newly released book, The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World (Alfred A. Knopf).

Gottlieb, a chemist by training, was both an unconventional thinker and an unwavering patriot, who believed his work served the good of the nation. “Friends and enemies alike say Mr. Gottlieb was a kind of genius, striving to explore the frontiers of the human mind for his country,” read the 1999 New York Times obituary of Gottlieb, “while searching for religious and spiritual meaning in his life.” In the end, however, Gottlieb would be remembered most for what looked like a willful contempt of common decency.

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Paying Tribute to Computer Science Pioneer Frederick Brooks, Jr.

He helped develop the IBM System/360 and its operating system

3 min read
portrait of an elderly man in a a red tie and blazer with a bookcase in the background
University of North Carolina

Frederick P. Brooks Jr., a prolific computer scientist and longtime professor of computer science, died on 17 November at the age of 91.

While working as a project manager at IBM in the 1960s, the IEEE Life Fellow led the development of the System/360 computer family. It was the first vertically compatible family of mainframe computers. Brooks also developed IBM’s OS/360, the world’s largest software project at the time. He is credited with coining the term computer architecture, which is used to describe how hardware and software are organized to make up a computer system and the operations which guide its function. He wrote The Mythical Man-Month, a book of essays published in 1975 that detailed lessons he learned from challenges he faced while developing the OS/360.

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