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Comment: Re:Burried the lead (Score 1) 80 80

Yeah, this is really the amazing thing in science. There are a few high paying private sector jobs, but the best early-to-mid career positions are in the government.

When I worked in government, there was no understanding that while it was necessary to pay early career engineers well, there was no need to offer high salaries to scientists to recruit good people. The lab I worked at paid engineers and scientists on the same scale, which was great (for me, a physicist).

Retaining scientists is a different matter. Particularly if someone is good, it is extraordinarily difficult for the government to hold on to a scientist. Generally, simply trying to pay more isn't going to help there either.

Comment: Re:Interested in 3D printer for music (Score 4, Interesting) 266 266

Wow, this is an excellent idea for a very limited, very niche application.

As a physicist and a (very out of practice) trombone player, this is a niche I can get behind!

If you don't have designs already (or they're just along the lines of "what if..."), you should definitely find someone who knows something about acoustics to collaborate with. That's the kind of thing I would have done for fun in grad school.

For 3D printing, you may want to find someone who can help you out commercially. I used the UPS store for some very high resolution prototype parts for a medical device. I can't speak for all the UPS stores, but the one I went to had a guy who was very experienced with 3D printing. He did some minor tweaking of my files (I generally design for CNC, evidently designing for 3D printing is a little different). He also knew all the high-end 3D printing services in town, and was able to contract with one of them when his in-store printer was insufficient for what I needed.

In my case, I wanted to get my parts made, I didn't want a hands-on tutorial about 3D printing. So this all worked very well.

Comment: Re:Statism is the problem (Score 1) 939 939

San Diego has median house costs 2nd only to San Francisco in the nation, yet is also one of the least dense cities in the country, San Jose is similar...

Of course, San Diego and San Jose are both also "conservative" cities, so they don't fit the pattern of the parent either.

Comment: Re:There is no such thing as non-empirical science (Score 4, Insightful) 364 364

There's no problem at all with being a mathematician or a philosopher of science. I'm a physicist, and I don't think any of my colleagues would argue that these fields should go away or that physicists shouldn't work in them. Emmy Noether is a great example of how people outside physics can help develop new physics.

But... relativity wasn't accepted until it was tested. Neither should any other theory coming out of advanced mathematics. Simply being around for a long time is not enough to move a set of math from clever speculation into physics. We've been down this path before. Allowing foundational theories to be integrated into the rest of physics without verification might end up fine, or it might waste the careers of a generation of physicists. Today, that also might mean many billions of dollars of funding and significant public trust.

Comment: Re:Hmmm (Score 2) 67 67

No, he probably just goes to nanotechnology conferences. Nantero does have a pretty well earned reputation for spending a lot of money on not a lot of progress. Read TFA, they're claiming all this stuff in the summary is just "a few years" away, not actually here. This all has to do with Nantero closing another round of funding today not any technical milestones. It is unfair to pick on Nanotero though. There were a generation of Silicon Valley nanotech companies who all did the same thing. Nanotero has actually been very frugal and responsible compared to most of them.

Comment: Re:Idiots (Score 5, Informative) 234 234

I think you have a little too romantic view of universities.

I run a small research-heavy business. Big research universities are now very disciplined about insisting on NDAs and not doing any work without a contract. They have very high overhead rates, pushing typical business costs covered by investment and sales onto R&D contracts. Last, and worst, high level researchers have insane demands on their time outside of research. There are professors I visit who don't make it into their labs more than once a month, and haven't performed meaningful lab work with their own two hands in years. Instead they spend their time raising money and marketing their results. Why has the university system has turned our best scientists and engineers into business development executives? Is that really helpful?

Many of the professors I talk to would love to get out of academia, not because there's more money in the private sector (there's not, really), but because there's more opportunity to actually do real work. The trick is finding a business or business partner you can trust.

Comment: Re:Defensive (Score 2) 97 97

If that was truly the case, they could have filed the provisional, and then not followed on with the full filing. Or they could have made an announcement that they were simply preventing future lawsuits. Or they could have filed in the name of the actual inventors (which would be far more defensible in court than what they did)... you get the point.

When we're seeing non-profits being accused of corruption, bribery, racketeering, greed, and money laundering on massive scales, simply being a non-profit is not enough to earn the benefit of the doubt in a situation like this.

Comment: Re:Powerpoint resulted in the loss of 2 space shut (Score 1) 327 327

Hey yeah, I can use Wikipedia too. This may come as a shock, but you probably shouldn't blindly trust everything you read there.

"Presenter" was the internal development name for the early versions of what became "PowerPoint". It still didn't exist as a commercially available Mac tool until 1987 (after Challenger). Even then, it was for a computer system not in use at NASA, and had nothing to do with creating technical reports until after the 1990 launch of the Windows product.

Comment: Re:Powerpoint resulted in the loss of 2 space shut (Score 2) 327 327


I know Microsoft gets hammered around here, but blaming the Challenger disaster (1986) on PowerPoint (1990) is really stretching the facts to match the story.

Bullet points and slide presentations did not start with PowerPoint. If anything, the "bullet point thinking" of the Challenger tragedy shows that we were already experts at presenting information poorly before we had software tools to make us more efficient at it.

Comment: fix the motivating factors (Score 1) 444 444

This is a general problem in science (not just biomedical research). I'm a physicist, and we see the same sorts of issues.

It all comes down to how academic research is funded and judged: number of papers, number of students graduated, and amount of money raised. Inside granting agencies, this is how different research efforts are compared to determine which programs get (more) funding and who gets cut. The importance of the work, the correctness of the work, and the ethical behavior (or not) of the researchers are not considered. Scientists are not stupid, if those are the metrics used to determine funding, they optimize for those things.

If we want to fix science we need a different set of metrics.

I'd suggest replacing the three metrics above with: number of validated results, public interest, and amount of private investment in the work. This would apply specifically to government granting programs.

"Validated results" requires a third party to validate, that should be government labs validating academic/commercial work (we're talking about reviews of government grants) and the opposite for new work done at government labs.

"Public interest" is much easier to track now than it used to be. A simple metric would just be google search ranking (although I'm sure something better could be used).

Private investment may seem overly commercial to some people, but we have a big problem right now with a lack of development of scientific work. Last year was the first time since 2000 that private investment in startup companies exceeded government investment in basic research (in the US). Commercialization is much more expensive than basic research; we're still only passing on a fraction of the potential practical work. We need to motivate people doing basic research to work more with industry (where appropriate, right). In addition, you have several diseases (usually "orphans") where private donations for disease research are greater than government investment (i.e. Lyme disease). Maybe that's fine, but the granting folks need to take a look at why that is and whether they're really investing public dollars where they need to go.

Lastly, I would change the system every 10 years or so. The longer any set metric is used, the more likely it is that people are gaming the system rather than working in the public interest.

Comment: what happens at universities? (Score 4, Insightful) 1094 1094

When minimum labor costs get too high for valuable or popular work, we end up with a lot of "volunteers." This happens all the time in science and medicine. In general, minimum wage hasn't had an impact on this (yet). Young scientists understand that working on a high profile project or in a "real world" clinic is good for your career. There's already enough downward pressure on scientific wages to prevent even the most jaded PI from offering a minimum wage position to paid technical staff. That all said, the average (non-graduate, but paid) student lab worker at UCLA makes $14/hr, with a $9/hr minimum. $15/hr is above the minimum salary for graduate researchers on campus. (Not picking on UCLA, their salary info is public and easy to search.)

So, we're getting into territory where minimum wage laws are putting cost pressure on scientific work. Interesting and a bit sad.

Will this even apply to schools? The federal and state governments usually don't apply all labor laws to universities.

I suppose University of Washington has the same issues. It would be nice to think that some of the more bloated administrative budgets would take a haircut to pay the student workers a bit more. It would be very sad if it simply became normal for young scientists to "work" for free their first few years.

Comment: quit your job (Score 1) 353 353

You're going to get fired and/or sued the way you're going. You may have a great relationship with management. How's your relationship with the investors for the company you're at now? They're who will eventually come after you if you start selling company software on the side (you may get your management fired along the way too). You can quit or you can wait for someone to fire you. Waiting to get fired may get you unemployment benefits, but you'll lose more of your work along the way.

Ok, a third possibility: if you really think there's uncaptured value in the software you're writing, try to sell it from within the company. You know, be a good employee and try to make your company money. (Don't be an idiot, ask for more salary and stock tied to performance of your software.) If you can't convince your management that you're on to something... then you can have discussions about buying the rights or maybe you should re-evaluate this whole idea.

Experiments must be reproducible; they should all fail in the same way.