Fun_People Archive
20 Dec
Code Reuse in Australia & the Dynamics of Gossip

Content-Type: text/plain
Mime-Version: 1.0 (NeXT Mail 3.3 v118.2)
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 99 15:39:45 -0800
To: Fun_People
Precedence: bulk
Subject: Code Reuse in Australia & the Dynamics of Gossip

X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649  -=[ Fun_People ]=-
Forwarded-by: david mankins
Subject: SEC: UNCLASSIFIED the real story on simulated armed kangaroos
From: "Thompson, Grant" <>

Dear folks,

A media inquiry has drawn my attention to your interest and involvement in
passing on the Stinger-armed kangaroos electronic myth which has spread like
a virus around the Internet since May this year. Perhaps you would like the
real story, from the original source.

There is just a grain of truth, and a growing accumulation of creative
imagination, in the e-myth we chuckle about here at Australia's Defence
Science and Technology Organisation as our secret weapon: "armed
reconnaissance kangaroos". I'm intrigued to see how the latest versions
reflect ongoing evolutions - and how none of the authors (only some
journalists) have checked their facts with us. This in itself could be a
study in the dynamics of gossip.

Someone with more imagination than reporting skill posted the first
embellished and inaccurate version on an Internet newsgroup in May this
year. Since then it has hopped away in all directions. Much as I regret
letting the facts spoil what e-myth-makers consider a good story, here are
the facts, as told by Dr Anne-Marie Grisogono, who heads the Synthetic
Environments Research Facility in DSTO's Land Operations Division at
Salisbury, South Australia:

    "I related this story as part of a talk on Simulation for Defence, at
the Australian Science Festival on May 6th [1999] in Canberra.
    "The Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter mission simulators built by the
Synthetic Environments Research Facility in Land Operations Division of
DSTO, fly in a fairly high fidelity environment which is a 4000 sq km piece
of real outback Australia around Katherine, built from elevation data,
overlaid with aerial photographs and with 2.5 million realistic 3-D trees
placed in the terrain in those areas where the photographs indicated real
trees actually exist.
    "For a bit of extra fun (and not for any strategic reason like kangaroos
betraying your cover!) our programmers decided to put in a bit of animated
wildlife. Since ModSAF is our simulation tool, these were modelled on
ModSAF's Stinger detachments so that the associated detection model could
be used to determine when a helo approached, and the behaviour invoked by
such contact was set to 'retreat'. Replace the visual model of the Stinger
detachment in your stealth viewer with a visual model of a kangaroo (or
buffalo...) and you have wildlife that moves away when approached.
    "As I said in my talk, the first time this was tried in the lab, we
discovered that we had forgotten to remove the weapons and the 'fire'
behaviour. It is NOT true that this happened in front of a bunch of visitors
(American or any other flavour). We don't normally try things for the first
time in front of an audience!
    "I usually conclude the story by reassuring the audience that we have
now disarmed the kangaroos and it is again safe to fly in Australia."

So, the real story has nothing to do with embarrassing demonstrations,
visiting Americans or any other visitors, pilots, or even the Chief of
DSTO's Land Operations Division. It was just "a laugh in the lab".
Nevertheless, as I recall (I was present as an organiser of the Defence
Science Talks during the Australian Science Festival) the audience at Dr
Grisogono's talk laughed at her authentic version of the story. This seems
not to have been enough for a chain of people who decided it needed
incremental "improvements".


Grant Thompson
Corporate Communications Coordinator, Canberra
Defence Science & Technology Organisation, Canberra (Russell Offices
Phone 02-6265 7947

Visit DSTO's web site at

________(Incorrect version 1)______________________________________________

 Forwarded-by: "Per Hammer" <>
 Forwarded-by: Gudrun_Hammer@Mitel.COM

 This is supposedly a true story from a recent Defence ScienceLectures
 Series, as related by the head of the Australian DSTO's Land
 Operations/Simulation division.They've been working on some really nifty
 virtual reality simulators, the case in point being to incorporate Armed
 Reconnaissance Helicopters into exercises (from the data fusion point of
 view). Most of the people they employ on this sort of thing are ex- (or
 future) computer game programmers. Anyway, as part of the reality
 parameters, they include things like trees and animals. For the Australian
 simulation they included kangaroos. In particular, they had to model
 kangaroo movements and reactions to helicopters (since hordes of disturbed
 kangaroos might well give away a helicopter's position).Being good
 programmers, they just stole some code (which was originally used to model
 infantry detachments reactions under the same stimuli), and changed the
 mapped icon, the speed parameters, etc. The first time they've gone to
 demonstrate this to some visiting Americans, the hotshot pilots have decided
 to get "down and dirty" with the virtual kangaroos. So, they buzz them, and
 watch them scatter. The visitingAmericans nod appreciatively... then gape
 as the kangaroos duck arounda hill, and launch about two dozen Stinger
 missiles at the hapless helicopter. Programmers look rather embarrassed at
 forgetting to remove*that* part of the infantry coding... and Americans
 leave muttering comments about not wanting to mess with the Aussie
 wildlife...As an addendum, simulator pilots from that point onwards avoided
 kangaroos like the plague, just like they were meant to do in the first

________(Incorrect version 2)______________________________________________


 Mutant Marsupials Take Up Arms Against Australian Air Force

 The reuse of some object-oriented code has caused tactical headaches 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 their scenarios, including detailed landscapes and
 - in the case of the Northern Territory's Operation Phoenix- herds of
 kangaroos (since disturbed animals might well give away a helicopter's

 The head of the Defense Science & Technology Organization's Land
 Operations/Simulation division reportedly instructed developers to model
 the local marsupials' movements and reactions to helicopters. Being
 efficient programmers, they just re-appropriated some code originally used
 to model infantry detachment reactions under the same stimuli, changed the
 mapped icon from a soldier to a kangaroo, and increased the figures' speed
 of movement.

 Eager to demonstrate their flying skills for some visiting American pilots,
 the hotshot Aussies "buzzed" the virtual kangaroos in low flight during a
 simulation. The kangaroos scattered, as predicted, and the visiting
 Americans nodded appreciatively... then did a double-take as the kangaroos
 reappeared from behind a hill and launched a barrage of Stinger missiles
 at the hapless helicopter. (Apparently the programmers had forgotten to
 remove that part of the infantry coding.)

 The lesson learned?

 Objects are defined with certain attributes, and any new object defined in
 terms of an old one inherits all the attributes. The embarrassed
 programmers had learned to be careful when reusing object-oriented code,
 and the Yanks left with a newfound respect for Australian wildlife.

 Simulator supervisors report that pilots from that point onward have
 strictly avoided kangaroos, just as they were meant to.

   *  From June 15, 1999 Defense Science and Technology Organization Lecture
   Series, Melbourne, Australia, and staff reports

prev [=] prev © 1999 Peter Langston []