Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login

The second piece of code is not more complex, but it is (presumably) a lot more sophisticated.

The fact that I had to prefix that with "(presumably)"—i.e. I can't actually tell using my own expertise—is evidence of that.

Have you written motor control software before? If you haven't that might be why you can't tell. Whenever hardware is involved, with perhaps sometimes the exception of GPUs and workstation CPUs, I've noticed people's intuitions get a lot less reliable -- it's sort of like looking up the programming abstraction tower, lexical closures with higher-order functions to compute derivatives can seem awfully sophisticated to someone who's never seen something like it.

Of course if the sophistication is more about what they needed to know in order to break the things (and make that code change), then talking about this subsystem by itself that's either way lower or roughly the same as what they'd need to know to build and operate their own centrifuges. Much less, if they only needed to focus on one part of the process (motor control) that would cause problems (which might just be a brief consultant call with our own nuclear physicists and engineers, I don't know, nuclear science details seem as mysterious to me as high level language details might to impoverished programmers), or about the same, if they knew everything the Iranians knew about the systems (did we ever find out if they got all the blueprints and so forth and built replicas for end-to-end testing?) plus a bit extra on how and where to make it break without easily being detected.

Anyway how sophisticated can they really be when they didn't even use source control? (Old joke... https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4052597)

Uh, that’s one small but important conponent of Stuxnet. The complexity is in the delivery mechanism, and the way it disguised itself, and the way it actually broke the centrifuges.

upvoted thanks

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophistication

> Sophistication has come to mean a few things, but its original definition was "to denature, or simplify". Today it is common as a measure of refinement

So no, it can in many cases even be the precise opposite of complexity.

It actually originally comes from "sophistry", which is an ancient greek discipline of wisdom and excellence. I would generally associate the word with a high level of complexity that has been expertly reduced and refined to an elegant quality.

The sophists, as you say, were ancient Greek teachers.

But sophistry now means something rather different: using subtle, specious reasoning to deceive.

Typically, different words refer to different things. Most often, words considered synonyms actually refer to slightly different things.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact