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Comment It's not horseshit. It's happening. (Score 5, Insightful) 444 444

I teach physics. The most depressing part of my job is teaching a general-education class where I have to explain global warming.

Scientists don't have a private agenda. We would LOVE to be wrong about this, but:
- Temperatures are going up worldwide
- Global temperatures are historically very well correlated to CO2 concentrations
- CO2 concentrations have a straightforward and well-understood effect on infrared light produced by
earth's blackbody radiation
- Even small changes to global temperature will create big changes to local climates
- We can stop this, but only if radical action is taken right now
- We're all fucked.

This is not the time for the debate about whether the effect is real. This is the time for debate about just how MUCH we should be panicking. We're in the deep shit here. We're talking about large proportions of humanity not having enough food to eat. The resulting warfare and hardship will be devastating.

Comment Not enough net capacity? Build more! (Score 5, Insightful) 361 361

The argument that the poor carriers are being bombarded by all this data (when our endpoint bandwidth is much less than other places in the world) is completely absurd. It's not because the internet wasn't "designed" for video, it's because competition hasn't spurred more development by the carriers. They've been living on capital rents.

This piece is naive in the extreme: it assumes implicitly that the only players are major content providers, carriers, and "consumers", and never speakers, telecoms, and citizens.

Comment Re:at some point... (Score 2, Interesting) 827 827

A couple of quick points..
- Tuition has gone up a LOT even since 2007.
- There are far fewer jobs to get, and those jobs are less flexible (since the employment situation means that employers can be pickier about people they take).
- There are fewer student jobs, because research funding is tighter (thanks, sequester!)
- Not all students have the ability to manage both a job and study. Just because you did it doesn't mean everyone can, and just because a student isn't brilliant doesn't mean they don't deserve an education.
- "Young white American male" has all sorts of implied privilege that not everyone has.
- Do we really want this to be the challenge?

Comment Education is not for job skills (Score 5, Insightful) 220 220

The primary purpose of higher education is to develop individuals who are capable problem solvers, who are capable of understanding complex ideas, and who have a broad base of knowledge for the context of those ideas. We need such individuals to have a thriving society and robust democracy. Few people seem to realize this.

Developing skill sets for the workplace is a decidedly secondary task of higher education. This isn't unimportant, but it isn't the primary purpose. This is why we don't have classes in plumbing or home finance, although those subjects could easily be taught at a university. Purely technical skills are valuable, but only to the degree to which they are generally applicable to a wide field.

Comment No, it's not the Boomers failing to retire. (Score 5, Informative) 489 489

No. This is what we as young academics have been told for twenty years: the Boomers and pre-Boomers are about to retire, and there will be a lot of jobs soon.

The reality is that no, there is no large spike of retirements coming down the pipe, and even if there were, it does not imply there are job openings. Universities rely on large classes, heavy teaching loads, and especially adjuncts / sessionals.

Moreover, it is well-known that in the next decade or so, there will be a slump in the number of students, due to simple demographics. So, fewer, weaker students, and fewer jobs per student.

The OP is not just bitter: this is the honest truth about academia right now. And it includes the sciences and professional studies, too.

Comment Re:Modulation (Score 2) 275 275

Actually, that's easy, and has been done:

(Full disclosure: I'm an author on that paper)

Modulation (strictly speaking) isn't required. To make the system work, you only need semi-reliable one-bit fast communication, and slow communication otherwise. On the slow channel:
"I'll be ready to send a neutrino pulse at 12:00:00.000000"
"Send me a neutrino bunch at 12:00:00.000000 if it would be profitable to buy "
Then the beamline simply pulses or doesn't-pulse the beam at that time, depending on the financial data of that instant. It's basically a matter of firing or not-firing the extraction kicker magnet that pulls the protons onto the target that makes neutrinos.

Of course, the article under discussion about financial communication is a complete parody, obviously written to suck in gullible financial types. It doesn't actually lie - the system could be made to work, no problem - it just conveniently discusses only the cost of the receiving unit, not the 'sending' unit. The sending unit costs rather a lot more, which isn't mentioned in the article, and can't be aimed.

Basically, it's a cynical and amusing attempt for the neutrino physicists to try to get the bankers to buy us the beamline we want for purely scientific purposes. A more nobel cause cannot be imagined. ;)

Comment Really? Then do it. (Score 1) 568 568

This sort of comment is so arrogant, I have to call foul.

Are you an educator? Then why haven't you done this yourself? Why isn't education revolutionized as we speak?
Are you actually ignorant about how to teach? Then maybe you should learn about it before proclaiming yourself an expert.

Teaching is fundamentally about one and only one interaction: a teaching talking with a student. Notice the word "with": although some teaching can happen with one-way transmission, it's not effective. Humans learn through iterative processes of getting challenged, making mistakes, getting feedback, changing, improving, perfecting. This happens at every stage, even in the course of a five minute lesson or lecture.

Even when I am teaching college students, in a lecture setting, there is a LOT of two-way communication. I can tell when they don't get things. I can ask them questions to see how fast they respond. I can see them nod or frown. I can see them stare at their laps, smiling (which means they are texting instead of thinking). I can walk between them and look over their shoulders. They can ask questions. They can see my enthusiasm. They can participate in groups or singly.

Teaching is about conversation. Although there are ways of having meaningful conversation with 2,5, 10, even 20 people, the effectiveness of that conversation drops as the group sizes get larger, until you are in the 200 person lecture hall and the conversation becomes almost unidirectional.

Comment "Scientists Say" (Score 4, Insightful) 1276 1276

Speaking as a scientist, whenever you see an article refer to "scientists" without any attribution, the best policy is to ignore it. Credit the specific person or group. "Scientists" are not a cohesive whole who all agree on everything, and this statement is almost assuredly not consensus opinion.

As to the content:
"Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
--Winston Churchill

Comment Agreed. Search engines show what people think. (Score 3, Insightful) 775 775

At least, that's the basic idea behind both Google and other engines: show results that aggregate the opinions or outlook of many people. Authoritative links are ones which many people use, useless links are one that no one uses.

The whole thing with Santorum is that, actually, there is a very large segment of people that despise what he stands for. This group is at least competing with (if not more powerful than) the population of people that think he's a sane politician worth listening to.

The disconnect here is mass media. According to the rules they have adopted, candidates are to be taken seriously when they hit a certain (small) proportion of support, at least if they are right-wing candidates, and open mockery or confrontation are simply not done. Hence, Santorum is a "real candidate" and shouldn't have this level of opposition.

But that's not reality. I agree: a disclaimer would implicitly say that the voice of the people is political... which is rather obvious and useless, since it's always true.

Comment Re:High school doesn't prepare you for college (Score 1) 841 841

This is indeed the problem I see teaching introductory physics at a small college: students are smart, students are hard-working, but they don't have either the technical or study skills they need.

If there were better prepared in STEM fields, they wouldn't have as far to catch up in their first year, and so the "death march" would be substantially easier.

If they were better prepared to be challenged, to accept intellectual problems of much larger magnitude than they have seen before, then they would also be OK. They would know how use their hard work instead of revving in neutral, madly reading and re-reading textbooks they don't understand.

There are lots of things we can do to teach better, but all of those things require time, in class and out. We can't just 'make time' to do them: that would leave an undergraduate student without a complete education. (For example: we could cover only half of the topics on the MCAT, so future doctors would need to take twice as long learning science requirements, delaying their medical school by years and driving up their debt load.)

Comment Pointless Apple-bashing (Score 5, Insightful) 149 149

So, it took them 1 week to come out with an update to patch their browser? That doesn't seem an egregious delay to me. I haven't yet patched any of my other browsers yet. I'd be surprised if most users patch within the week of bugfix releases anyway.

And if I understand it, this "security hole" is basically that you won't get bad-certificate warnings if you visit certain fraudulent sites... which isn't likely to happen unless you're clicking links in phishing emails.

This hyperbole about apple being slow seems like hot air to me.

Comment Looks like maybe bad science (Score 2, Insightful) 246 246

Apparently my cheap-ass university doesn't have download rights to the original article in Neuroscience, but my guess is that the weak point is in the paper-and-pencil questionarre. The problem is that they aren't asking people how often they get distracted... they're asking people how often they _remember_ getting distracted.

An equally valid hypothesis is that big-brained people remember getting distracted more than small-brained people.

Again, I haven't RTFA so maybe they deal with it. They talk about inheritability of the 'distraction' scores, but that just means that it's something either genetic or social. In fact, there could instead be a correlation between 'big brained' and 'more honest'.

Sometimes, too long is too long. - Joe Crowe