User:Egg Centric/Questions I asked on Knowledge Desk

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What psychological problems are likely to be faced by North Koreans upon unification?[edit]

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the new Kim (or whoever) doesn't markedly change the nature of regime, and it collapses rapidly. What psychological problems are likely to be faced by the average North Korean during reunification, and in paritcular, in discovering the true nature of the Dear and Great leaders? Egg Centric (talk) 19:47, 22 January 2011 (UTC)

Our Korean reunification article, especially the second section "Comparison to Germany" covers this, but not in much detail. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Csmiller (talkcontribs) 19:57, 22 January 2011 (UTC)
I'm sure North Koreans are already well aware of the "true nature of the Dear and Great leaders". Rimush (talk) 20:35, 22 January 2011 (UTC)
Most of what I've read has led me to think that they are not really that aware, and that even the ones that escape have a very hard time really believing that it could have been as bad as it was. Things look a lot different to you when you've been raised inside a system with no other point of reference. --Mr.98 (talk) 22:48, 22 January 2011 (UTC)
Well, they can, but people from outside can be fooled pretty badly about how badly the people inside are fooled. I recall that the media pretty much bought the idea that Romanians all loved Nicolae Ceauşescu, that his 99% re-election numbers or whatever were more or less real. Then at the first sign of a chink in his armor, they all lined up to be part of his firing squad. --Trovatore (talk) 01:14, 23 January 2011 (UTC)
People inside a totalitarian dictatorship can be thoroughly disgusted and resentful, but most of them will not be very well-informed about things outside their own personal experiences... AnonMoos (talk) 10:29, 23 January 2011 (UTC)
Here is an article on the shock North Koreans experience after defecting to South Korea -- [1]. Now multiply that times 24 million. -- Mwalcoff (talk) 00:52, 23 January 2011 (UTC)
Would it be anything like the problems Americans experience when they discover that the rest of the world does things differently from them, like spelling? (Sorry, been having a bad time correcting incorrect corrections to articles by ignorant editors - and I mean ignorant literally!) HiLo48 (talk) 01:20, 23 January 2011 (UTC)
I know it's funny to be a little glib about how the majority of English speakers speak differently than the style you grew up with, but a lot of the above posters have had very insightful, if not moving answers on a very serious issue. So no, I don't think assimilation from a totalitarian dictatorship that's something akin to 1984 is anything like your bias towards Americans. Not adding a "U" and a couple of unnecessary phrases isn't totalitarianism. Shadowjams (talk) 11:23, 23 January 2011 (UTC)
Missed the point entirely. The issue isn't the different spelling styles. I can handle that with no problems at all. It's the fact that so many Americans don't know that there other perfectly correct ways of spelling words in English, and go around "correcting" others' spelling when it's already correct. (In my country we all know that there are multiple forms of English.) THAT'S the parallel with North Korea. A lack of exposure to another system. Yes, I know it's a trivial example, but I was trying to bring it a little closer to home for some here. HiLo48 (talk) 11:54, 23 January 2011 (UTC)
It's entirely trivial. Shadowjams (talk) 11:58, 23 January 2011 (UTC)
Interestingly, the Washington Post article linked in Mwalcoff's post above tells of language variations being one of the challenges faced by defectors. HiLo48 (talk) 12:03, 23 January 2011 (UTC)
That article was about current North Korean defectors trying to assimilate into South Korea, when the South Korean dialects of Korean are spoken around them on a daily basis. Such a case would be highly unlikely in the event of a reunification, as there would not be a sudden migration of everyone southward or northward. People would stay where they were. Only the political and economic situations in the North would change. --KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 20:11, 23 January 2011 (UTC)
One thing that surprised many East Germans after the wall came down, and this might apply to North Koreans too, was the discovery that not everything they had been told about the West was, in fact, a complete lie. For example, the East German government had long told them that West Berlin and other large West German cities had a problem with drug addicts, and everyone simply assumed it was a lie - then the Wall came down, they drove into West Berlin, and discovered that there were in fact drug addicts in West Berlin - maybe not to the same dangerous extent as the propaganda had implied, but clearly present nevertheless. Pais (talk) 15:22, 24 January 2011 (UTC)

How old, most likely, is the oldest military secret?[edit]

Obviously there's no certain answer to this. But, for example, is it plausible that a government somewhere is keeping something discovered 150 years ago secret as it is still of military use? I assume not. How about World War I? It's certainly the case that some things dating back to World War II are at least nominally secret so I've established a lower bound there... Egg Centric (talk) 12:17, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

If anyone knew the answer to the OP's question, it wouldn't be a secret would it? (talk) 13:33, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
No, but I was hoping this might stimulate some discussion. It may be this is the wrong place to ask, so we'll see... Egg Centric (talk) 14:35, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
I assume many governments consider basic things about natural features (good or poor ground for troop movement, caves to hide in, ...) to be military secrets without knowing how much of it is already known by potential enemies (damn Google Earth, now we are wide open for invaders!) Such things could go back really far but I don't have references. PrimeHunter (talk) 14:55, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
In the past, the secret of "Greek fire" was supposedly kept for centuries. As for WW2, information on many of the allied decryption efforts was kept classified into the 1980s... AnonMoos (talk) 15:01, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
I'm interpreting the question as meaning a secret that is currently being actively kept (that is, still is under a secrecy order and will not be released upon being requested), and specifically being related to technical secrecy rather than, say, diplomatic secrecy (what arrangements we made with some other nation a long time ago), or, say, bureaucratic secrecy (why someone got promoted or denied promotion and other things that are usually kept very private).
In the United States, the bureaucratic and legal apparatus for true technical military secrecy as we think of it today did not really begin until the turn of the century (a good overview), and technical secrecy per se really didn't pick up until around World War I (when people started realizing that technical information was pretty vital to making weapons, etc.). Some of the known oldest still-classified documents deposited in NARA relate to steganography formulas (invisible ink) from the World War I period.[2][3] Some of the oldest secret patents (no article? See Invention Secrecy Act) that have been released are related to WWI signals technology. My guess is that there is really nothing very technically secret earlier than these sorts of things relating to encryption or steganography. The reason you might keep such things secret today is that they are not so much about being clever, as about knowing the specific formula (or settings, or circuits) that reveal the messages. Now, what's silly about it is that surely they are not using those same old methods today.
For other countries, I have no clue. The US is a good case study though because it actually has legal mechanisms to force secrets to be reviewed and released (the Freedom of Information Act), so you can really say "they are purposefully keeping this a secret" when they deny your request (whichever agency it is). Our secrecy laws are, for all of the ballyhooing they get, also much more codified than many other countries. I do know that technical secrecy in the UK perks up at around the same time as it does in the US (see David Vincent's excellent The Culture of Secrecy). I don't know about other nations, though. --Mr.98 (talk) 15:11, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
The US has laws about how long military documents that are marked "Secret" may be held before they must be made available to the public upon request. I think (I could be wrong) it is something like 25 or 30 years (which would definitely make anything from WWII or before no longer secret). Other countries have different rules... and some may well allow secrets to remain so forever. Blueboar (talk) 15:35, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
In the US, the law says that the document has to be reviewed after a certain amount of time. It doesn't mean they are released. There are plenty of exemptions that allow them to keep things secret if they are still dangerous (like, say, designs for the first atomic bombs, or whatever). It just means that someone has to actually look at it and give you a definite, "no, you can't have this." The goal of such laws (not really laws—it is an Executive Order, though which one is currently governing, I can't remember; every President modifies it somewhat when they take power, and Obama issued his own not long after taking office) is just to force the government to review things regularly, so that the secrets don't just get "forgotten" and stay secret on accident, rather than on purpose. --Mr.98 (talk) 01:01, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
Well when I made my WWII comments I was thinking about the atomic bomb specifically, which certainly has plenty still classified.
Mr.98 - thanks for the info, very interesting. Just a minor point: it's good of you to clarify my vague question; it's not clear but I would like to include diplomatic secrets in this as well. Could there be a secret component to the entente cordial, for example ;)? Egg Centric (talk) 15:51, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
I left out diplomatic secrets in part because it's not something I know as much about, to be honest. --Mr.98 (talk) 01:01, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
What kind of secrets are we talking about? The known unknowns or the Unknown unknowns? --Jayron32 15:54, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
Of course this is a problem... necessarily this is going to be speculative! Both, basically. The greek fire was interesting, I knew of it but hadn't realised it was kept secret for so long. Egg Centric (talk) 16:02, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

See the Ark of the Covenant. --KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 16:05, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

When Brazil won the War of the Triple Alliance (1864-1870) and devastated Paraguay, it kept and took to Brazil the Paraguayan archives. They were kept in secret, and they still are. This is known in the Brazilian press as the "sigilo eterno" ("eternal secret") MBelgrano (talk) 16:15, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

Probably the oldest military secret is which type of rock makes the best weapon... and exactly how to chip it so it will remain sharp and will not shatter when you hit Thag over the head with it. Blueboar (talk) 16:28, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
Gosh, that's interesting. Have to admit it may be worth an article - I can have a go but not sure it's my place to write about something I knew nothing about 20 minutes ago! Some good stuff here on the concept of eternal secrecy. Egg Centric (talk) 16:47, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

The Vatican is one of the older entities still around that (at one time) conducted wars, and may well have a store of military artifacts that nobody knows about. Probably not secret tactical knowledge, but maybe secret stuff. And you'll never go wrong with conspiracy theories about Vatican secrets. (Just don't be fooled by the Vatican Secret Archives, which aren't secret.) Staecker (talk) 21:27, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

I'm not sure if KageTora intended to imply this anyway, but the last sentence of the plot summary of Raiders of the Lost Ark is relevant here (the very last scene in the film, incidentally.) Governments and military forces have kept secrets (military plans and operations, military techniques, military technologies) for thousands of years, and it's very possible that some material is kept not through a conscious process of reviewing the material once a decade and deciding "gosh, we can't possibly release this yet", but simply because the material is sitting in a storeroom alongside crates and crates of other stuff that the powers-that-be initially deemed secret, but later just forgot was there. If the paperwork decays or is just lost or burned before it's ever released to the public, does that mean that the government concerned still "kept" that secret? If so, in that category there would be secrets going back the best part of a thousand years. If the paperwork has to still exist - somewhere - for it to count, then I would guess there would be some material from between 1600AD to 1800AD that's still unwittingly possessed by a government archive or store and has never been properly reviewed so that it can be publicly released. (Samuel Pepys would be the type of bureaucrat dealing with military arrangements in the first half of that period.) --Demiurge1000 (talk) 21:47, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
There's a really big difference between something which is "secret" because nobody was told it, and something being classified as "SECRET" or "TOP SECRET" according to military regulations (and thus falling under laws like the Espionage Act). The former have really no regulations regarding them, and may or may not exist to this day, and may or may not be purposefully kept, and what have you. They have no legal authority, either. The latter are a legal category which requires, technically, that they are kept under certain conditions ("TOP SECRET" requires significant safes and armed guards and things like that, and keeping track of every copy of every page in a big ledger), and carry with them all sorts of penalties for mis-use (technically if you "mutilate" a piece of Restricted Data, you can go to jail for decades! You used to be able to be executed, but they repealed that part of the Atomic Energy Act some time ago...). The up-side of this from the perspective of an historian or concerned citizen is that they go missing a whole lot less than other documents, and they are usually not too hard for the powers that be to find. Now all of this is relative, of course — when you have billions of pages of documents, there's no way you know where they are all of the time. But it's a considerable difference regarding these documents as compared to other documents. They don't get burned before being released to the public, for example, because by law they have to be stored in a facility that is very secure! This is, of course, all in the United States context. --Mr.98 (talk) 01:01, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
Well, indeed - secrets were around a long time before the USA existed. The USA didn't invent "ULTRA SECRET" as the ranking above "TOP SECRET", after all, and the original poster's question didn't specify USA or a specific legal term. For anything before the late 1700's, a USA legal definition of "SECRET" or "TOP SECRET" is irrelevant to this anyway. Maybe the term "state secrets" is relevant here somewhere. --Demiurge1000 (talk) 01:16, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
For any time before even 1911 or so, "SECRET" had no legal meaning. You could stamp it on something, but it didn't carry any real weight — it wasn't a form of regulation at that point, it was just instructions to whomever had it that the contents were considered sensitive. --Mr.98 (talk) 03:50, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
I'd expect that lots of info from the WW2 Manhattan project is still classified, for obvious and practical reasons. (talk) 22:05, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
Less than you'd think, actually! Most of the basic info regarding HEU and Plutonium was declassified as part of Atoms for Peace (because it is vital for reactor work as well). Reactors were classified during WWII but released in the 1950s. Centrifuges were considered inefficient and declassified early on; it was only in the 1960s that it became clear they were a major proliferation issue. Electromagnetic separation was declassified in the 1950s because it was considered inefficient. Gaseous diffusion is still largely classified. Specifics about weapons designs are usually but not always classified. Exact dimensions of weapons designs are classified. Specific equations of state regarding plutonium and HEU in bombs are classified. But that stuff makes up a tiny, tiny part of the overall Manhattan Project. I would estimate that maybe 90% of what was considered secret about the bomb during WWII has since been declassified and released. --Mr.98 (talk) 01:01, 16 January 2011 (UTC)