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Comment Let's make a movie called "Baseball"! (Score 3, Insightful) 167

It's roughly the same dumb premise. If you asked a movie company to make a fictional movie about baseball, it would be a complete disaster. Lots of good films about baseball players, or baseball teams. But not about baseball in general. "Let's capture all of baseball in this film." It would be nuts.

Same thing here. "D&D" is just a framework in which fantasies are played out. Most are fun to engage with, but ultimately have very boring narratives to an external audience.

Gotta make the movie about something smaller.

Comment Re:Scaremongering. (Score 2) 156

Yes, exactly.

The thing you're probably not aware of is that cosmic rays can be very high energy - recorded cosmic ray interactions have single-particle energies many magnitudes larger than the most powerful accelerators ever constructed. (I think the biggest recorded is around 3 Joules of energy in a single proton.) The LHC collision energies are comparable to a very common set of interactions from cosmic rays. And there's lots of cosmic rays, and they've been colliding with the earth for millennia without turning us into a black hole. Right now the number of interactions in the LHC per second is far less than the rate in the atmosphere.

Comment Re:Scaremongering. (Score 5, Informative) 156

Not true. The collision energies in the sun are on the order of a few MeV - there's lots of them, but none at the TeV scale.

However, you're right it's scaremongering: cosmic rays interact in the atmosphere at LHC energies all the time: same kinds of particles, same energy (and higher!) at a rate that's much higher than the LHC collisions, once you add up the entire globe. If high-energy p-p collisions caused a problem, the earth would have blown up long ago. Or Jupiter. Or all of the stars in the universe.

So, it's pretty safe to assume that the LHC isn't doing anything that can possibly hurt us; it's going on already. (It's just not going on in the middle of a high-resolution particle tracker.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was.