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Comment Re:Ridiculous and meaningless. (Score 1) 204

My main PC is supposed to be an outdated dinosaur that should have been upgraded and replaced every two years several times over - if you listen to the mainstream hype.

In actual fact my main computer was ordered in March 2005 for just under £1000 (I built it myself, the parts were ordered). This has just surprised me actually. Although I have swapped out the heart of it more recently it means my PC is now 'ten years old' and is still going strong and beating hands down the hundreds of machines I have looked at and had to fix for other people over the years. I regularly have to explain to others that no, you don't need to buy a new laptop, your one is just over a year or two old and is running slow because of how you have looked after it, not because all of a sudden the technology inside has deprecated and become obsolete.

Since then I still have the same case, the same RAM (OK ok .. it was swapped out after failure by Crucial with their excellent warranty), the same power supply, same original hard disk (now the third oldest set in the machine but still there), same DVD Write, same floppy and card reader. In actual fact the original hard disk STILL has the same Windows XP install on it, even though it has suffered a complete motherboard change (along with RAM, Graphics card) due to a motherboard problem a few years ago. Worth noting XP coped with the change and carried on as well!

So yes I have a 'new' motherboard but this was one bought second hand off eBay that is almost as old as my original one. I have a 'new' graphics card but again this is many generations old.

And does my machine work? All day every day. I use it heavily for work (education, programming, office, file related, graphics related etc) and for gaming (always been heavily into gaming). Do I feel the need to have the very latest games at the absolute top resolution? not quite because I am not willing to pay the premium to have the rig to run that as soon as the game comes out. Give it a year or two and all of a sudden this games crash in price and in the ability for the latest computers to handle them. Having said that my machine has still not had much of an upgrade and I have little problem running the vast majority of every day titles.

My bottle necks are

RAM (in the sense of the ability to have lots of programs working on the fly with no delay switching to them) Storage (always an issue no matter the upgrade, I now have a few TB of storage spread among my hard disks I have accumulated, that doesn't count external or cloud backups. Never enough.)

For work I have been given an iPad. I barely use it. At all. For anything. It is a pain in the backside for connectivity to my normal workflow and does not have the day to day items I need/want to use in work. It is excellent for connection in the sense of simple sharing/browsing online/using web features but that could be achieved by any handheld device. The biggest drawback for me with that, given the way I now work, is the coping with the file system storage and sharing structure. Not the processor, screen or RAM.

My phone gets daily use for all sorts of things. The biggest problem I have with it is simple storage. Given the price of smartphones today (especially on contract) why they cant all come with at least 100Gb of storage on a couple of cards is beyond me.

These problems are exactly the same ones I had with my first machine. A 386 DX (yes dad paid a LOT of extra money for the co-processor for my FORTRAN and to upgrade the hard disk from 20Mb to 40Mb). Then there were a lot of bottle necks: processor, co-processor, graphics, memory, highmem, RAM, storage, connectivity.

But the main ones I see across all devices for the last twenty plus years I have been using computers? RAM (to a lesser extent today on PCs) and storage.

Comment Re: chalk? (Score 1) 387

I teach maths and have taught various subjects for over 20 years. Since I have worked in mainstream schools the last 5 years or so I have come to use the electronic whiteboard more and more. I have no problem teaching off the top of my head with a pencil and paper (or a stick and some sand) but all my planned material revolves around the use and functionality of the IWB (and other devices such as using mobile devices - ipads in our case - to access electronic material).

It is so much more useful in the long run. The students can have an electronic copy of the lesson (before and after), you dont waste time "rubbing stuff out", you can come back to items whenever you please and you can reuse material so easily from lesson to lesson, year to year.

That is before you consider the inbuilt (and other) functionality the electronic whiteboard offers. In our case we have built in transformation tools, on screen rulers, protractors, compasses, graphing facilities etc. Then when you branch out and use apps, websites etc the amount of interactivity and usefulness increases massively.

This never replaces good old fashioned teaching and knowledge and methods, but as an added bonus it can be massive.

However, at the end of the day, you cannot do proper mathematics without resorting to proper work on paper, with a pen or pencil and a bit of brainpower and a lot of patience. That will never be replaced electronically.

Comment Re:Why is this exciting? (Score 1) 431

What sort of summary were you expecting to be 'written in stone'?
These ideas, fleshed out in detail, in science and mathematics, may grow to be so much more than a cliched one liner:
compare with

In what sense are these not science?

Maybe you are being confused over the terminology:

or more simply

Comment Re:Pretty sure their model didn't come close (Score 1) 144

Why is that? They have a valid model of a given universe with given parameters to a certain degree of "fineness". Why is that NOT modelling the universe? It is a model.. a mathematical model. (hmmm... interesting... one reply while logged in and one not)

Comment Re:No, but... (Score 1) 1010

I would contend that she does use algebra but she merely does not recognise it as such

Algebra essentially is "finding the missing thing" and it can be as simple as working out what your change is when you go shopping (as well as a million and one other examples).

People think that because they dont sit down with a pencil and paper and scribble some funny symbols they are not doing maths when in actual fact they are using those skills (maybe innate skills) all day, every day.

Comment Re:The only thing that surprises me is surprise (Score 1) 224

It doesnt actually matter how many planets or brown dwarfs you think we have missed

There are limits (for very good and well checked reasons) on how much ordinary (baryonic) matter there can actually be

We may have understimated the numbers of extrasolar planets or similar but that still wont account for the vast majority of the missing matter. In any case such calculations have been well looked at for a long period of time and screwed down pretty tight (this is what I did for my PhD almost 15 years ago. Even then it was pretty clear that brown dwarfs were not the be all and end all of accounting for dark matter within galaxies).

Regarding "move beyond the assumption that if we cant see it it isnt there"...surely that is the whole point of dark matter/dark energy. We are confident that 'something' is there, but we cant 'see' it, hence our insistence on using the term 'dark'.

Comment Re:The only thing that surprises me is surprise (Score 1) 224

It doesnt actually matter how many Brown Dwarfs we have missed

There are limits on how much "ordinary" (Baryonic) matter there can be, regardless of how much we actually have down on our named list here. So no matter how much we have underestimated the number of Brown Dwarfs (and we have done a pretty good job on estimating those numbers, that is what I was doing for my PhD pretty much 15 years ago and even then it was getting obvious that Brown Dwarfs or similar was not the answer) the fact remains that they cannot account for any significant proportion of "dark matter"

As regards "if we cant see it it isnt there" surely astrophysics actually assumes the opposite. Namely that there definately is something there but we cant "see" it. Hence the term dark.

Comment Teaching Mathematics - not teaching how to pass (Score 1) 1268

In my experience (over 15 years of tuition and teaching in mathematics and physics to all ages and abilities) people's 'understanding' of such mathematical statements varies wildly. I have had many students who could answer the question correctly and yet fail to explain (correctly) how or why they arrived at the answer. For me that they have not learnt any mathematics there but simply how to get by. I have also had students who could answer the question correctly but their 'explanation' was technically incorrect. In fact this is extremely common with such algebraic statements and most of it is down to how they were taught maths at a very early age. In my opinion most of this groundwork is laid at Primary school age (up to say age 11) and sticks with them for a long long time unless those misconceptions are tackled by an expert. The vast majority of primary school teachers (at least here in the UK) have no formal mathematical qualification (by that I mean at least a decent grade at A Level) and a tiny tiny percentage have any form of mathematical degree (that is before we consider the quality of that degree itself and their teaching) and yet they are responsible for getting this concepts down and clear and laying the foundation for potentially another 10 to 15 years of advanced maths. I have seen many of my A Level students (ages 16-18), some of whom were getting good grades, fail to truly understand or explain expressions similar to those above. It is quite important to tackle these ideas at an early age, and it is surprisingly easy to do as well. Sometimes it can be as simple as not ever explaining what the "=" actually means (or later the difference between an equation and an identity). Sometimes it is an over reliance on just one or two examples (when I introduce algebra I am sure to use a variety of letters, symbols, pictures and examples rather the age old standard "x" or "empy box"). Sometimes it is born out of poor technique ("move things to the other side" - no such mathematical operation). Sometimes it is as a result of the teacher failing to explain what they are doing and why (which can be difficult for abstract mathematics but the maths we want a 6 to 16 year old to learn can be firmly rooted in real life analogies and examples as long as it is made clear they truly are just a crutch to help the student understand).

Comment Re:Huge Waste of Taxpayer Dollars (Score 1) 177

Not to mention that disassembling it will require a VAST amount of money and the market for several stories of detector and superconductors that require a good years installation isn't that great (outside of the academic sphere of influence that the LHC is sitting in). So even though I personally think it is money well spent, if you did take the view that it should be broken down and sold for bits, you wouldn't get much return on your investment. Far better to let it continue on and do what it was designed to do. And of course we could always raise the (same old tired) argument about why not spend our defence budget on the needy and homeless? Why not the media budget? and so forth.

Comment Re:Science Questions (Score 1) 656

>However, more worrying is that in my work with schools, I've come across all of the above categories of TEACHER. That's a lot more scary. I regularly see kids told off for daring to ask "Why?" or "Why not?" and, yes, some of them are just deliberately being annoying but I've witnessed no end of kids that are shut out of learning because the teacher "needs" to have a chat, text their husband, fill in paperwork, go to lunch, etc.

Unfortunately, all too often it is because the teacher themselves simply doesn't know (or doesn't really know in enough depth or detail)or simply does not possess the skills to explain to the child.

They all fall into a teaching rut, quoting the same old sentences day in and day out, without really thinking or making the kids think.

All too often it is recitation, not teaching. A crying shame but it does keep me in work!

Comment Re:Teach kids to find answers. . . (Score 1) 656

I agree.. to a point.

That is why teaching institutions exist... if it were all a simple matter of "look this up" I would be out of a job.

I have taught (private tuition) for nigh on 15 years and I have been involved in Scouting for many more, in short I spend almost all day every day working with kids of all ages.

Much of the teaching in schools actually resists kids asking questions. With my classes, I "have a go" at them for NOT asking questions. I teach them not to take everything I say at face value, to question, to ask why. But in order to complete that important part of their education I need to explain why, I need to answer their question, or explain why their question doesn't make sense or doesn't have an answer.

It takes children many many years at school (and university) to learn the schools of research and even then it can be difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff without expert knowledge.

Now I have had my fair share of kids that ask why, why, why just to be annoying, but these are easily dealt with. I can bore them back by explaining why, why, why... until it gets to a certain point that is ably demonstrated by something my step daughter and fiance said the other day:

"oh no... quick... stop asking... else I am going to catch his science germs".

Parents who are poorly educated are simply unable to help their kids find answers.

I have had umpteen homeworks handed in that are mere printouts of a webpage. Fine.. nothing wrong with that, in fact I encourage it. But in class the first question I ask them is : "Do you understand this?". The second is: "Can you explain this to me?". If not, I still have a job to do. :)

Comment Re:Not a single mention of MUDs??? (Score 1) 130

Indeed. I can remember whiling away many an hour on MUDs at university... the interaction and vast range of options seemed to really put them apart from the very limited PC games of the day. The great success of things like World of Warcraft today are very firmly based on MUDs, all that WOW has really is some very pretty graphics overlaid on the "interaction stuff in the background". If anything, I would say with some MUDs that there was much more interaction and depth than with modern MMORPGs.

"If Diet Coke did not exist it would have been neccessary to invent it." -- Karl Lehenbauer