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Comment: why? (Score 1) 101

We already load up teachers with tech they have no idea how to use.

Teachers are not engineers or programmers.

Look, the landscape of teaching is shifting enough already. We're seriously going to drive these folks crazy if we continue to change major parts of their job on a yearly basis. The least we could do is give them a little time to catch up with the regulatory changes in teaching before starting on another technology refresh.

Comment: Re:so encourage domestic investors (Score 1) 132

You have to disclose any foreign investors in an application for government funding; usually you have to disclose all VC firms invested in your company. If the government doesn't like your investors, they're allowed to disqualify you from receiving a contract even if the work has no security implications at all.

If these guys are trying to invest and hide where they're from, that's different, but that's not what the FBI says is happening.

Comment: so encourage domestic investors (Score 2) 132

Investing in companies is hardly what I would call stealing.

Foreign companies can come in and poach talent and taxpayer funded research from Universities and the startups that come out of them. There's nothing illegal or even remotely unethical there. This is what we wanted! Russian capitalists investing in US companies, US students and US schools. Even if their goal is to move the company to Russia, that's part of how capitalism and globalization work. If we want to encourage researchers to stay in the US, we should do more to encourage direct domestic investment in startups rather than secondary investments like hedge funds.

If we want to completely protect our basic R&D, we have to classify it. That would be sure to drive researchers out of the country.

Comment: Re:Not so easy to do (Score 4, Informative) 126

by Goldsmith (#46531223) Attached to: Scientists Publish Letter Saying, "We Need More Scientific Mavericks"

What you describe is very close one of my first jobs when I worked for the government (100 proposals, one week, pick 4 winners, summary comments for all). It's not so hard to pick out the "good, but risky" proposals. (Another way to split up your proposal list is to point out that 80 of the proposals will be a re-hash of the same stuff, 30 of the proposals will be nonsense and 10 proposals will actually be about something unique and relevant.)

The most common reason for a creative proposal failing is simply that the program manager wasn't ready for it. You don't want to surprise a program manager because they have to properly prepare the bureaucracy around them to support your project *before* they get your proposal.

When a review committee makes a decision, there are still several government people who have to sign off on that decision before the money flows. There will always be at least one lawyer and one accountant with veto power over a committee selected proposal.

The last thing a program manager wants to do is end the fiscal year with money in their accounts. That can get them demoted or fired. They meet with their support staff sometimes for a year ahead of reviewing proposals to make sure everyone knows what's coming. Slowing things down, or failing to execute a grant, because of administrative surprises is very, very risky for a program manager. There's strong pressure to select institutions who have already worked with the office, and projects that fit well with the briefings given to everyone before proposals were solicited. For unusual ideas, it's better to convene a workshop and spend the next year developing a program around it (by which point all the usual suspects are involved).

Now it used to be that universities themselves funded research, and government scientists used to have broad authority to assign funding, and defense contractors had to spend 15% of their budgets on exploratory research, and we didn't have postdocs... To change things back requires a lot.

Comment: out of touch with reality (Score 1) 144

by Goldsmith (#46517145) Attached to: Lit Motors, Danny Kim, and Changing How Americans Drive

People may "commute" alone, but the primary reason for a car purchase is not the commute. We'd all be in smart cars and fiats if all that mattered was getting to work efficiently and staying out of the rain. I think they need to think a bit more about why people (ok, specifically americans) buy cars.

Maybe it's only 20% of the time I need cargo space, passenger space or the ability to mount a child's car seat. The reality is, it's that 20% of the time (moving kids around, weekend trips, runs to the hardware store) that determines what kind of car I drive.

Maybe there is an economic argument to be made for maintaining a second, extremely cheap to operate vehicle. That cost based argument fails here when you consider competing low cost options like a bicycle, electric scooter, bus or a carpool.

Comment: Re:On what basis can you make this demand? (Score 3, Insightful) 99

by Goldsmith (#46357501) Attached to: 'Obnoxious' RSA Protests, RSA Remains Mum

Sure, they can release the details of that contract. Government contracts are supposed to be public. Go take a look at and There are plenty of security contracts posted there, just not any between RSA and NSA. It's not the easiest system in the world to navigate, you have to know a lot about government contracting to make sense of it.

But, you'll see military hardware contracts, homeland security database contracts, all of them are published on federal websites as a matter of course (you have to get special approval to not post a contract publically). The government mandates this so that competing companies and the public can see that they're getting a "fair deal". Never mind that a lot of these show they weren't competed, no one actually takes advantage of government transparency when it's available.

Comment: still needs a miracle or two (Score 1) 374

by Goldsmith (#46345251) Attached to: Report: Space Elevators Are Feasible

Like everyone else looking at this, they assume we'll have to use a carbon nanotube tether. They propose a spun tether of nanotubes, but use the strength of individual nanotubes in their model. Nanotube yarn is about 1/10 the strength of the raw material (which is insufficient). Growing the raw material directly would only take a few thousands of years more than the four they plan on using.

Comment: Re:Practicalities (Score 1) 136

by Goldsmith (#46341349) Attached to: Major Scientific Journal Publisher Requires Public Access To Data

We are paying for that access.

I've been a government employee overseeing research grants. Nearly every single one of them has a clause built in that the data is to be organized and shared with the government and the government has unlimited rights to that data, including all publications. Almost all of them have to have a data management plan and have to describe how the grantee will ensure access to the data.

Almost every single PI simply says "We will follow a standard data management plan." or some other nonsense. The government guys sign off on this, and that's that, there's no enforcement.

When you buy or build equipment on a government grant, you sometimes have a choice to hang on to it or return it to the government at the end of the grant. By agreeing to be the custodian of that equipment, you agree to maintain it, free of charge, for the government. By law, no one gets ownership of free equipment from the government. The government is absolutely terrible at enforcing this.

These legal documents researchers sign with the government have meaning. Read your contracts. That was the first thing I told my PIs. I don't think any of them did.

Comment: Re: DOE is there for teachers, not students (Score 1) 304

by Goldsmith (#46332021) Attached to: Oklahoma Schools Required To Teach Students Personal Finance

It's a bit silly to equate communities setting their own standards to community members having no rights. Should standards be set by those outside of the community? Should Arizona education standards should be set by... Delaware? Even then, you and I would agree that we're all part of the same national (and global) community. The only way to have a standard is for some representative(s) of the community to set it.

Some children will be poorly served by a communal standard, but that's part of living in a community. It's not about having rights or not. It's simply that not every group decision will be optimal for every individual in the group.

Comment: Re:again with the assumptions. (Score 3, Interesting) 108

by Goldsmith (#46304187) Attached to: Making Sure Our Lab Equipment Isn't Tricking Us

Exactly right.

There are two possibilities:
1) The universe is infinite, and it would be possible to find two quasars which never shared a quantum state.
2) The universe is not infinite and it is not possible to find two of anything which have never shared a quantum state.

They've completely failed to close this loophole.

Comment: Re:if this keeps up... (Score 1) 127

by Goldsmith (#46234351) Attached to: National Ignition Facility Takes First Steps Towards Fusion Energy

I don't think JET ever reached Q of 1, but it can handle the most energy dense fuel of any current tokamak (The JET Q of 0.6 is still ~100x larger than NIF). However, a Japanese tokamak did reach Q of 1.25 in the mid 90s, and it wasn't something guys in the field I knew talked about as a problem by the late 90s.

There's a big challenge in getting the energy out of a fusion reactor. There are parts of a reactor which need to collect energetic particles so they could even theoretically produce power. This screws with a lot of other things in the reactor; it's not easy. Magnetic guys have been at the stage of designing those parts for a while. Given their progress, they may never finish. But those problems are a lot closer to talking about "fusion energy" than what NIF does.

A guy working on diverter physics for ITER *has* to wonder why NIF gets all this press, while no one cares about the work he does on designing the part which could actually demonstrate extracting energy from fusion.

Comment: if this keeps up... (Score 2) 127

by Goldsmith (#46232319) Attached to: National Ignition Facility Takes First Steps Towards Fusion Energy

If this keeps up, the magnetic fusion guys, who achieved break even (ignition) decades ago, are going to start crashing NIF press conferences so they can get noticed. The NIF press push and lack of discussion of the field as a whole has got to drive them crazy. I'm sure it's not doing any favors for their budgets.

Comment: we've been through this before (Score 1) 2219

by Goldsmith (#46181459) Attached to: Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds!

This is the fourth major redesign around here (so version 5 is in beta). I liked version 3... a lot. We all got used to version 4 ("Classic", I guess it is now). It's not the end of the world here.

Anyone remember when they added ads? Do you really think this is a bigger change than that?

This is what a beta test is for. You're never going to convince me that this interface is perfect. Go ahead and try to improve it.

Comment: Re:uh... what? (Score 5, Interesting) 84

by Goldsmith (#46107663) Attached to: Silicon Brains That Think As Fast As a Fly Can Smell

You're pointing to articles on high end mammalian brain structures when TFA is referring to the most basic structures in an insect brain. Also, this blanket assumption that no one could possibly understand the complexity of a small group of neurons is way out of date.

Olfactory circuits are pretty well understood. This isn't the first simulation of neurons mimicking an olfactory bulb at the single neuron level. We've been watching videos and seeing presentations of these models for years now. What is neat, here, is that they're modeling a somewhat realistic hardware instantiation of a model (as in, this is something which maybe could be built).

I come at this from the other end. I make the chemical sensing hardware that mimics the response of a biological chemical sensor (an artificial insect 'nose'). There are long running collaborations between my field and neuromorphic computing folks to develop a combined sensor-processor that can electronically understand smell in the same way a living thing does. I have to sit through their talks on modeling neurons, and they have to sit through my talks on nanosensor arrays.

Administration: An ingenious abstraction in politics, designed to receive the kicks and cuffs due to the premier or president. -- Ambrose Bierce