Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
For the out-of-band Slashdot experience (mostly headlines), follow us on Twitter, or Facebook. ×

Comment: Re:Calculus and Shakespeare (Score 1) 1010 1010

Emphasis mine. You've conveniently split your peers up into 3 categories - two 'bad' categories, complete with cutting descriptions, and a third that you happen to belong to. It's human nature to value your own worldview above other peoples, but I think it's worth pointing out what we're all reading here.

True. I appreciate your cynicism. It's a strange form of enlightenment to apply cynicism to yourself.

You go on to say that those other people are binging you down and making education worse for you. But I say those other points of view are quite valid, and the world doesn't revolve around your needs and desires.

I never said it does. I said that these groups of people need different things and need different experiences and I never really said that they were good or bad, although I could easily see you my terminology could cause you to believe that. Further, I do not claim (although did not explicitly state) to be part of the intellectual group, although I strive to be a part of it. I do however believe that the goal of promoters of general education wish to transform the "robots" into intellectuals and I believe that their approaches are not working well. The other groups do not bring quality down, the failure to tailor education has brought down quality.

We need to come to terms as a society that formal education is just for getting letters in front of your name, and to stop expecting so much from it.

I agree that formal education has become that, but as a student, I am trying to get the most out of my education. I figure, if I'm paying so much for it, I ought to milk it for all that its worth - connections, ideas, experiences, everything. So it's not a matter of expectations but a matter of personal ROI optimization that you're seeing here.

Here is my personal philosophy: the best we can hope for is to introduce someone to a topic that sparks their interest. The best work will come from personal study, no professors or classmates required. And if someone wants to have a beer and watch football instead, there is nothing wrong with that either.

Agreed. I wish we as a society could reach an agreement on these issues, but we will not. The reason is that fundamentally your statement is a statement that it is ok to "slack" in life - it's fundamentally a statement about the purpose of life. That's a question that philosophers have argued over for basically all of history.

Comment: Re:Calculus and Shakespeare (Score 4, Interesting) 1010 1010

I agree with both of you and the GP. I agree with the GP that such classes are annoying and largely useless to the specific discipline that the person chooses. I agree with the parent that you need to look beyond your discipline. A little background: I'm currently a college student (becoming a sophomore) at a big-name university, studying robotics. At this university, we have general education requirements of the following: Humanities, Social Science, Language, Natural Science. We also have a mandatory writing class and "Intro to the humanities". The goal, obviously, of these requirements is to make students well-rounded. This sounds good in principle, but in reality it fails.

Before I explain why, I must note that there are different types of students who respond differently to attempts to make them well-rounded. The first type, I call "robots." Robots essentially drag themselves through a fixed course in life - birth, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, career, marriage, kids, retirement, death. What kind of robot you get depends on the school you attend, but essentially they are all the same person. You get people who are insanely good at some subject (chemistry, biology, etc.) but not so good at everything else. Or so you'd think. What you actually get are people who have no intrinsic motivation, but are good at anything they have to do. That means they'll learn what they need for their career and they'll do well in these sort of general education classes if they have to get a degree. But, there's a problem: they'll never apply that knowledge to anything else. For example, if you have a robot who studies neuroscience and takes a required philosophy class, they won't consider the impact of neuroscience upon moral philosophy. Basically, requiring these students to take these sorts of classes is like programming an industrial welding robot to play a violin. While it might seem like you've done something, all you've really done is make a weird demonstration that doesn't really do much after it quits.

The second type of student here is the party animal. These students just party through college - they're not here for academics really, they're here for the connections. They are here for a variety of reasons - legacy, decent test scores, athletics, etc. As you might expect, they take a "C's get degrees" attitude to required courses. They don't gain anything from such courses but at least they push down to curve for the rest of us. Or you might assume. Actually, they take up valuable resources including TA and professor time, ask basic and banal questions and worst of all annoy the course staff and make them angry at the student body as a whole.

Lastly, there are some students who are truly intellectual. They actually integrate the ideas from the various disciplines together and create better ideas as a result. These students don't actually need much help being well-rounded. They'll read articles and get ideas from other fields on their own because that's part of there personality. They may take non-major related classes out of interest (I'm doing this with physics, chemistry, and maybe biology) for entertainment. The only benefit they may receive from these classes is a little push on the envelope (which they may hit anyway). The disadvantage is that they take required classes, which are bad because forced education is an inherently bad process. Students who don't want to learn are a pain to teach. This annoys professors that take that anger out on the student body. They also force professors to dumb down the course, in turn causing students who are actually engaged to be bored out of their minds. This bordem in turn causes them to become disinterested. Essentially, the entire thing fails for everyone at the same time.

So, to recap, required courses fail for each group of students for different reasons. Robots learn the material and then fail to apply it. Party animals flunk the classes. Intellectual students become disinterested in the basic classes and disconnected teachers. Solving the problem of making "robots" intellectual is not going to be done by dragging them through a few GE's. I don't know what the answer is, but I know we need to find it before the flesh-and-blood robots are replaced with silicon-and-steel ones.

Comment: Re:Aquaponics (Score 1) 592 592

Another solution with wind alone might be to build a sort of water tower. You could pump water up to the top of the tower whenever the wind was active. Then all that water could fall down and during that process pump more water. In essence, you could use water as an energy storage medium, thereby eliminating all the batteries and biodiesel and stuff. You can also put the wind turbine on the water tower, saving construction costs. If you make the water tower taller than the height of the 1.5 meters you are actually pumping the water, you can use falling water to pump more water. A brief math explanation:
Let H_t be the height of the tower from the bottom of the farm.
Let H_f be the height of the top of the farm from the bottom of the farm. (1.5 m in your case)
g = earth's gravity.
Note 1 kg of water = 1 liter of water.
Now, for every kg of water in the tower, (H_t - H_f) * g joules of energy are released. Each kg pulled up from the bottom of the tower uses up H_f * g joules of energy. So thus, every kg down can lift up (H_t/H_f - 1) kgs of water. So, if the tower is 15 meters tall, then you only need 1 kg to get 9 kg up. In your case, for example, if the tower is 15 m tall and you want 3000 kg/hour, you only need 300 liters of water in the tower to run it for an hour assuming your mechanical pumping system is 100% efficient (obvious it won't be, but it probably will be pretty close). The falling water can also run the air pump, solving that problem while you're at it. You can still have the electric system as a back up. Note that it is often much more windy at night than during the day so you might want a 24 hour storage system. This might get big, but if you are already building a huge tower for the wind turbine, it might not be all that bad.

Comment: Re:155mph isn't green using any fuel (Score 1) 105 105

The EROEI of biodiesel fuels is around 3-3.5. Straight vegetable oil, like this, is higher because there is no conversion process. Also, the Haber-Bosch process does not consume natural gas, it consumes hydrogen, and in the past was a totally renewable processing using hydroelectricity and electrolysis systems. Now the economics are different. Also, energy consumption doesn't matter in the end, only emissions.

Comment: Re:Ehrlich was right, just a little early. (Score 1) 522 522

Simon was actually right. Right now we are in the peak of human growth. I think it will slow down as more of the world develops and affluence appears.

The "simple physics" is not so simple when you have a sentient and innovative race in the picture. As the materials are depleted, we are finding increasing substitutes, for example, we instead of steel, we are making cars out of carbon. We are using aluminum instead of copper, etc. I eventually think we will end up with plastic wires. Plastic and carbon are a virtually inexhaustible resource (iron and steel is too), especially, with the increasing amount of work done on the electrolysis of carbon dioxide (I.E. the reversal of fossil fuel consumption) using renewable energy.

Simon's theory did not predict a constant decline of prices. Instead, he predicted that prices would rise. Then innovators would create radical new technologies and business models, causing prices to crash. Larger businesses continue to reduce prices little by little until they reach the price floor. Then prices rise again, repeating the cycle. You can think of these price increases as a bubble. For example, we are in an oil and energy conservation bubble. With renewable energy growth and falling prices in that sector, we will see an energy crash and glut.

I also believe that one day we will exhaust the resources of earth. I also predict we will be flying off to space the next day. I expect this to be very far in the future, but I do not know when.

Comment: Re:Ehrlich was right, just a little early. (Score 1) 522 522

Energy isn't getting any cheaper.

Stop. Fact ignored. Solar energy prices fall 9% per year continuously. The amount of energy available from the sun is extreme, you can power the consumption of a US suburban family's life off of the energy hitting their roof with 20% efficient (typical) solar. The issue is mainly a manufacturing/cost reduction issue.

There is nothing else. Fossil fuels were a one time windfall for humanity. We squandered it and there's nothing we can do about it.

Using gasification and synthesis technology, we can foresee many potential solutions, including the diverse schemes that have been proposed and demonstrated for the conversion of CO2 and H2O in to oil using solar energy.

Comment: Re:all societies will always censor (Score 2) 56 56

Irregardless of the differences between what is censored between the different nations, there is one huge difference between nothing ever censored at all and something censored: infrastructure. The infrastructure is a drag on businesses and individuals alike. For example, if I am responsible if someone posts something "bad" in a comment on a blog I run, then that makes it much harder for me to run my own blog. If I am a common carrier, then that makes it a lot easier to do.

Comment: Re:Containment (Score 1) 360 360

Not much at all. Solar hydrocarbon. If you look at the reaction data, you'll find that the reaction H2+CO2 -> H2O+CO will occur with mild heating (from a solar concentrator). Once you get a mixture of H2 + CO, you have syngas, and from there you can make just about anything.

Comment: Re:Different ways of giving back. (Score 1) 326 326

But the OSS community went and said Ohh look their Bad lets make GPL3 that stops these evil money making people from using OSS in that way.

Because we don't care about market share. We don't give a damn about companies using our software. We care about freedom, of us and our users. Suppose you fought for freedom and democracy, and as an ancillary effect, painted stuff blue. Then a world dictator offered to paint the whole world blue. Would you want that? No, because you really don't care about painting stuff blue (having people use Linux). What you really care freedom and democracy (freedom to modify software), which is incompatible with the existence of the dictator. What good is having a free and open system if you can't make use of your freedoms?

At work I had to be sure I never imported a GPL Library, because the rules would conflict with the companies business model.

Yes, it's a shame you can't take software without paying for it. However, IANAL, but for the most part this is ok with LGPL'd code. It really depends on the details, but LGPL'd libraries, (most useful libs are LGPL) are not GPL'd. You also can call out to a GPL'd program within proprietary code, AFAIK. For example, you could run a GPL'd "ls" shell command and read back the results and that would be ok.

Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition. - Isaac Asimov