LEVI McPHERSON, a graduate student of analytical chemistry at the University of North Central Florida, is approached by agents of the Homeland Security’s Counter-terrorism Unit. The agency is recruiting Lee to study and expose the loopholes of screening instruments in airports. Struggling financially, he accepted the offer, making him a paid, benevolent hacker of the nation’s gateway. Yet Levi is horrified when an Airbus from Los Angeles disintegrated in mid-air.

At 40, when everybody’s career trajectory is going up, Levi’s still a poor graduate student, struggling financially. His research projects however, are worth million dollars. Researching the highly classified and heavily guarded secrets of detecting traces of explosives, what Lee know was a goldmine. The agency's offer is his financial break . So Levi tackles the problem like a scientist, detailing the loopholes of the aviation security and turning what he knew into a big time money machine.

JIM and JONATHAN of the counter-terrorism unit, where nowhere to be found after Charlotte International Airport, a hub of Delta Airlines closed abruptly because of instrument malfunctions in their security lines. And in a post-Osama Bin Laden’s era, the biggest blow to the United Stated after the 9/11 disaster comes unexpectedly when a passenger plane blew up in the skies of Washington D.C., in the heart of the nation.

Levi knew it was only the start of more troubles, so he recruits his fellow graduate students to counter the future attacks. They have to think like criminals—and scientists too. With the help of FBI counter-terrorism experts, Homeland Security and Transportation Security Agency, the team races to close and plug the loopholes Lee identified.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Yesterday, this was President Obama's response to the critics of Solyndra, a solar panel company that went bankrupt, losing all the money the government invested on it.

The remarks reminded me of the Black Swan, a controversial book with the recurring theme that we cannot predict the future.

Nassim Taleb is the maverick thinker and author of the book. When I first read the book, it became apparent to me that the sentences were long. I was always told, as a science writer, to be concise and direct to the point. His however was long. Nassim infuses a lot of statistics in his book, and I must say, I was seldom lost. 

The Black Swan showed me that long sentences has its place in scientific books, and also showed me the idea that we cannot pinpoint any reason for anything.

How Google became the wealthiest company? We may never know never know, but in hindsight we can pinpoint explanations.

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