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Comment: Re:Not new (Score 1) 185

by AstroMatt (#46059063) Attached to: A Thermodynamics Theory of the Origins of Life
Entropy is the log of the number of available states. If you start with large N atoms, you have a huge, but calculable entropy. If you now let the atoms form molecules, the entropy of the system goes up, even though a molecule is more complex than single atoms. The energy from the sun provides heat that moves stuff around and close enough for bonding (and sometimes splitting those bonds). Eventually, you fill up the statistical distribution of allowed states (chem compounds, complex organic molecules, etc.). All the while the entropy of the entire system is increasing. It's very simple. Second law of thermodynamics drives at least basic evolution towards complexity within pockets of a system.

Comment: Re:Not new (Score 1) 185

by AstroMatt (#46058973) Attached to: A Thermodynamics Theory of the Origins of Life
No kidding - I had this idea 30+ years ago in grad school while waiting to fall asleep for the night. Fantastic idea and I knew on the spot it to be true that the second law of thermodynamics *drives* evolution. Figured it wasn't new, but was still happy that I thought of it, and next day checked the library - yep it wasn't a new idea even 30 years ago ...

Comment: Re:Don't try (Score 1) 726

by AstroMatt (#40397573) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Science-Fiction/Fantasy For Kids?
As a kid my dad had a bunch of SF books around, so I just picked them up w/o him trying to foist them on me. For content, I recommend the anthologies that are out there "best SF of YEAR". Also, there's a lot of Escape Pod ( podcasts that are age appropriate - download and play on longer car trips.

Comment: Re:The News Is Not Reality (Score 2) 279

by AstroMatt (#39610087) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Advice For Budding Scientist?
Good question - unemployment isn't much of a problem from what I understand, but underemployment (employed in a related field) is. It's important to meet as many people as possible. I went to the biggest grad school that would accept me and that I felt I could succeed in (U. Texas Austin) because they had TA support, and people working in almost every subfield (I wasn't sure what I wanted to do). Beyond working hard (my advisor: "every time you're eating an ice cream cone, some Caltech weanie is at the computer lab working, and that's who you're really competing with, not those here in our department"), give a lot of presentations at meetings and in house. There's a book "Don't be such a scientist: Talking substance in an age of style" by Randy Olson that's pretty good. Anyway, yes, it's not easy, and your reward if you make it is a smaller salary and longer hours than if you'd just focussed on money... but it's a great gig if you can get it. Oh, and I have been at a relatively small school with a higher teaching load - that's still the norm unless you're a real star. Good luck and have fun, Matt

Comment: Re:The News Is Not Reality (Score 2) 279

by AstroMatt (#39605671) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Advice For Budding Scientist?
Agreed. I've been a professor for 20 years. I can't imagine a better job. Research is still fun sometimes to the point of controlled obsession, teaching is satisfying and the students are mostly good to great, the downsides of the job are minimal, and the pay is good. There's nothing else I'd rather do. Matt Wood, Professor Dept Physics & Space Sciences Florida Institute of Technology Melbourne, FL 32901

Comment: Re:Easier way to learn it (Score 2) 358

by AstroMatt (#37235756) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Math Curriculum To Understand General Relativity?
The Book by Taylor and Wheeler "Exploring Black Holes: Introduction to General Relativity" is very nice, and roughly at your level. Matt A. Wood Physics & Space Sciences Dept Florida Institute of Technology Melbourne, FL 32901

Comment: Re:We're no danger to the Galaxy... (Score 1) 534

by AstroMatt (#37141316) Attached to: What If Aliens Came To Save the Galaxy From Mankind?
The sun's radius is about 100x Earth's radius, and Earth orbit is about 200 solar radii. Our unmanned spacecraft have gone about 40x this distance. Shrink the sun down to the size of a softball and typical interstellar distances scale to about 3500 km. The energy requirements to make such a trip are extraordinary (if not prohibitive). The time to make the trip is also quite substantial, even accelerating at a constant 1g. Short answer: If they have the tech to get here, they can do whatever they want, and we'd have no defense. Easiest: raise enough dust/soot in the atmosphere (nuclear weapons in remote areas, or just targeted asteroids) for a few years to block the sun. Sagan's "nuclear winter". Clean up, move in, or move on. Matt -- "Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati" (When all else fails, play dead)

Neckties strangle clear thinking. -- Lin Yutang