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NPR: '80s Ads Are Responsible For the Lack of Women Coders 727

Posted by Soulskill
from the advertisers-driving-culture dept.
gollum123 writes: Back in the day, computer science was as legitimate a career path for women as medicine, law, or science. But in 1984, the number of women majoring in computing-related subjects began to fall, and the percentage of women is now significantly lower in CS than in those other fields. NPR's Planet Money sought to answer a simple question: Why? According to the show's experts, computers were advertised as a "boy's toy." This, combined with early '80s geek culture staples like the book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, as well as movies like War Games and Weird Science, conspired to instill the perception that computers were primarily for men.
Science

Australian Physicists Build Reversible Tractor Beam 70

Posted by Soulskill
from the take-that-wesley dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Physicists at Australian National University have developed a tiny tractor beam that improves in several ways upon previous attempts. First, it operates on scales which, while still tiny, are higher than in earlier experiments. The beam can move particles up to 200 microns in diameter, and it can do so over a distance of 20 cm. "Unlike previous techniques, which used photon momentum to impart motion, the ANU tractor beam relies on the energy of the laser heating up the particles and the air around them (abstract). The ANU team demonstrated the effect on gold-coated hollow glass particles. The particles are trapped in the dark center of the beam. Energy from the laser hits the particle and travels across its surface, where it is absorbed creating hotspots on the surface. Air particles colliding with the hotspots heat up and shoot away from the surface, which causes the particle to recoil, in the opposite direction. To manipulate the particle, the team move the position of the hotspot by carefully controlling the polarization of the laser beam."

Comment: Mass delta doesn't bring much to the table (Score 1) 984

Yep, I'd love to see a dozen more labs replicate this finding.

Now, you are demanding that investigators look for a picogram-level mass delta. But really, how much proof would that add; isn't it much easier to fake a tiny mass delta than to fake an overwhelming shift from Nickel-58/Nickel-60 to Nickel-62?

Comment: Whoa, not aspirin (Score 1) 381

by GPS Pilot (#48172973) Attached to: How Nigeria Stopped Ebola

after a few ICU places and a few quarantine beds, modern medicine is left with aspirin and electrolytes as far as 'treatment' goes which doesn't give us much edge on African medicine.

Probably not a good idea to mention aspirin in conjunction with Ebola treatment. Ebola patients suffer from decreased blood clotting and internal and external bleeding. Aspirin, a blood thinner, would exacerbate that situation.

Comment: Shortage? (Score 1) 389

by GPS Pilot (#48085017) Attached to: Is It Time To Throw Out the College Application System?

The US has a huge shortage in the trades because we stopped telling high school students to go into plumbing, welding, electrical

Thanks... that explains why half the time when I turn on the faucet or the light switch, nothing happens, and the other half of the time, it only works because I've spent a large fraction of my income on maintaining those systems, due to the exorbitant wages those tradesmen are able to demand due to the shortage of those skillsets.

Oh... the previous paragraph wasn't true at all? There isn't a shortage of those skillsets?

Actually, contrary to being a shortage, demand for most kinds of workers is too low. That's why the labor participation rate just fell to a 36-year low.

Comment: Painting worksheets with a broad brush (Score 1) 389

by GPS Pilot (#48084725) Attached to: Is It Time To Throw Out the College Application System?

Fill out this worksheet. Nobody actually benefits from you doing this

Most of the worksheets I filled out in school benefitted me, by presenting opportunities to practice valuable skills.

If your school passed out dumb worksheets that didn't reinforce vaulable skills (see: stupid Common Core math worksheet stumps dad with PhD), your school was doing it wrong. Sorry you had to go through that.

Comment: Evidence, please (Score 1) 488

by GPS Pilot (#48041741) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

Those who participate in net metering are selling surplus power when they have a surplus to sell, and buying power when they don't. It's rather absurd to say the power they purchase at night is "free," when in fact every single kilowatt-hour they purchase eats into the proceeds from their daytime power sales. If they are selling power at, say, a wholesale rate of $0.02 per kilowatt-hour, and buying power at a retail rate of $0.12 per kilowatt-hour, it massively eats into the proceeds from their daytime power sales.

If you were correct that every kilowatt-hour sold by a solar facility has to be "thrown away," or discharged into the ground, then you would also be correct that that's not a sustainable business model. But you present no evidence for this. Here I present evidence to the contrary:

A utility can look at the forecast for how sunny it will be, and then conservatively scale back production at its peaking plants and at its load-following plants, to minimize the amount of solar power that needs to be "thrown away."

Comment: That's not the definition of net metering (Score 1) 488

by GPS Pilot (#48031449) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

Since their net use is zero, their electric bill is zero

Wrong for several reasons.

Some households that participate in net metering are net producers of power, "exporting" more than they "import." Other households have remained net consumers of power. But no household has perfectly balanced exports with imports, resulting in zero net usage.

And even if a household did happen, one month, to export exactly the same number of kilowatt-hours as it imports, the fact of net metering does not guarantee that the utility will pay retail price for the exported power. The term "net metering" also applies when a utility pays wholesale price:

Net metering policies can vary significantly by country and by state or province: if net metering is available, if and how long you can keep your banked credits, and how much the credits are worth (retail/wholesale).

It doesn't make sense that a utility should be forced to pay retail price for each tiny trickle of power generated by amateur mom-and-pop producers, when bulk power generated by professionally-managed plants can be purchased at wholesale price.

Comment: Re:Catastrophe? (Score 1) 488

by GPS Pilot (#48031363) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

A one- or two-percent annual failure rate for such an expensive device is a financial catastrophe, at the very least.

Nope... that means it will fail, on average, every 50 - 100 years. That's a pretty good service life for any device... and if it became commonplace for households to have a flywheel, failure should be covered by homeowner's insurance, just as roof replacement is (which needs to be done every 20 - 30 years).

Comment: Catastrophe? (Score 1) 488

by GPS Pilot (#48029195) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

a flywheel that has a distressing tendency to self-disassemble. Catastrophically.

GP did specify a buried flywheel. If pieces of flywheel become embedded in the soil four or five feet under my lawn, I fail to see the catastrophe. A one- or two-percent annual failure rate for a device like that would be quite acceptable.

Comment: No magic needed (Score 1) 488

by GPS Pilot (#48029157) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

If everyone is doing net metering, you need a magic free energy source the other 20 hours per day.

Why, when we already have a non-magic, non-free network of generating plants? Some of them burn fossil fuels, some of them don't, but that network as a whole becomes more robust when supplemented by distributed solar power installations that produce during hours of peak demand. Brownouts become less likely, etc.

I'm not in favor of going solar when other sources are more cost-effective -- and I'm not in favor of subsidies that merely give solar the illusion of being more cost-effective. Having said that, you've built a strawman: I haven't heard anyone asking to be provided with "free" energy from the grid during hours when the sun's not shining.

Comment: (1) Eliminate subsidies, (2) Solar profits (Score 1) 488

by GPS Pilot (#48028935) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

Allowing utilities to pass along 100% of "the fixed cost for just being hooked up" will -- in the long run, and not-so-ironically, if you think about it -- actually be good for adoption of solar power.

Because the alternative -- bankruptcy for the entities that add value to solar power installations, by maintaining the grid that ties them together and delivering power when the sun's not shining -- is not sustainable.

The utilities' current opposition to solar implies that they're being forced to provide money-losing subsidies for grid connections. Eliminate those, and everyone will benefit from the new transparency in the cost structure.

Comment: Dead hand of capitalism? (Score 1) 488

by GPS Pilot (#48028835) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

Actually capitalism is the only thing that is encouraging Americans to install solar power systems in any significant numbers. And within my city's limits, nobody has solar because the government-owned utility forbids residents from doing business with that capitalistic company (or its competitors).

Businesses

The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy 602

Posted by Soulskill
from the less-than-bright-ideas dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Markus Krajewski reports that today, with many countries phasing out incandescent lighting in favor of more-efficient and pricier LEDs, it's worth revisiting the history of the Phoebus cartel — not simply as a quirky anecdote from the annals of technology, but as a cautionary tale about the strange and unexpected pitfalls that can arise when a new technology vanquishes an old one. Prior to the Phoebus cartel's formation in 1924, household light bulbs typically burned for a total of 1,500 to 2,500 hours; cartel members agreed to shorten that life span to a standard 1,000 hours.

Each factory regularly sent lightbulb samples to the cartel's central laboratory in Switzerland for verification. If any factory submitted bulbs lasting longer or shorter than the regulated life span for its type, the factory was obliged to pay a fine. Though long gone, the Phoebus cartel still casts a shadow today because it reduced competition in the light bulb industry for almost twenty years, and has been accused of preventing technological advances that would have produced longer-lasting light bulbs. Will history repeat itself as the lighting industry is now going through its most tumultuous period of technological change since the invention of the incandescent bulb?

"Consumers are expected to pay more money for bulbs that are up to 10 times as efficient and that are touted to last a fantastically long time—up to 50,000 hours in the case of LED lights. In normal usage, these lamps will last so long that their owners will probably sell the house they're in before having to change the bulbs," writes Krajewski. "Whether or not these pricier bulbs will actually last that long is still an open question, and not one that the average consumer is likely to investigate." There are already reports of CFLs and LED lamps burning out long before their rated lifetimes are reached. "Such incidents may well have resulted from nothing more sinister than careless manufacturing. But there is no denying that these far more technologically sophisticated products offer tempting opportunities for the inclusion of purposefully engineered life-shortening defects.""

If a thing's worth having, it's worth cheating for. -- W.C. Fields

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