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Comment: a bit misleading (Score 1) 195

by Goldsmith (#49534659) Attached to: House Bill Slashes Research Critical To Cybersecurity

There are three issues here 1) overall science funding, 2) geosciences funding, 3) social science funding.

This is a funding proposal that increases NSF (aka "basic science") funding by the government by 3.4%. It increases computer science funding at NSF by 14%. The government already provides more basic and applied research funding per year than the combined angel and VC annual investment in all US startup companies. That's pretty damn good. Government funding is not the rate limiting factor in scientific advancement.

Geoscience is primarily funded through NASA and DOE (both have bigger budgets in this area). This NSF cut will get a bunch of people on record as saying more global warming study is needed. Then politicians can play a big game of "gotcha" in committee meetings later. Short version: this is a trap. Modern politics sucks. The more geoscientists say "more study is needed," the more ammunition folks like Ted Cruz will have to put off solving the problem. It's really not fair, but geoscientists need to take the cut.

Lastly, social sciences. They knew this day was coming. These poor guys are a victim of the ($300M per year) BRAIN Initiative and the associated strong political support for hard science based cognition research. Their funding, plus some, is going to NIH to be gobbled up by neuroscientists. Coincidentally, all of the major centers administered by this branch of NSF finish a 10-year funding cycle this year. Maybe it's actually time for a change, maybe they're getting a raw deal, but now is a reasonable time to start major renovations in the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic sciences.

So, overall science budget is going up. Minor budget battles in climate research may do more harm than good (and that might be on purpose). And behavioral research is moving to a different agency.

Comment: Re:The obvious answer (Score 1) 332

by Goldsmith (#49458311) Attached to: California Looks To the Sea For a Drink of Water

That's a good description of the problem. I don't know many people who would be happy to see the price of an InNOut burger jump by $5 when their locally sourced ingredients are in short supply.

We're going to pay for water around here, one way or another.

There are some great models of water recycling and responsible water management in southern California. The small city of Poway incorporated essentially to handle their own water. They now have a well-managed water recycling/reservoir system (Including sewer recycling). Many of the larger cities around here have started incorporating the waste water recycling practices Poway has used for a few decades.

Building the desalination plant may seem like an extreme step, but building out recycling to the 24 water agencies that make up the local district and the 1000 square miles or so covered by the district would also be pretty extreme. They've been digging up the old 1940s era sewer and stormdrains in my small neighborhood for the last 3 years to modernize it. I don't know that it's practical to drastically speed up sewer modernization, but I'd be happy to see an additional $5 on my water bill to try.


Senate Draft of No Child Left Behind Act Draft Makes CS a 'Core' Subject 216

Posted by timothy
from the your-best-interests-at-heart dept.
theodp (442580) writes "If at first you don't succeed, lobby, lobby again. That's a lesson to be learned from Microsoft and Google, who in 2010 launched advocacy coalition Computing in the Core, which aimed "to strengthen K-12 computer science education and ensure that computer science is one of the core academic subjects that prepares students for jobs in our digital society." In 2013, Computing in the Core "merged" with, a new nonprofit led by the next door neighbor of Microsoft's General Counsel and funded by wealthy tech execs and their companies. When 'taught President Obama to code' in a widely-publicized White House event last December, visitor records indicate that Google, Microsoft, and execs had a sitdown immediately afterwards with the head of the NSF, and a Microsoft lobbyist in attendance returned to the White House the next day with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and General Counsel Brad Smith (who also sits on's Board) in tow. Looks like all of that hard work may finally pay off. Education Week reports that computer science has been quietly added to the list of disciplines defined as 'core academic subjects' in the Senate draft of the rewritten No Child Left Behind Act, a status that opens the doors to a number of funding opportunities. After expressing concern that his teenage daughters hadn't taken to coding the way he'd like, President Obama added, "I think they got started a little bit late. Part of what you want to do is introduce this with the ABCs and the colors." So, don't be too surprised if your little ones are soon focusing on the four R's — reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic, and Rapunzel — in school!"

Comment: Re:Keep the foreigners at bay! (Score 1) 442

You've got it a bit backward. Remember that the H1B program is a supplement to "normal" immigration. It's used as an action by the government to artificially increase immigration in a particular economic sector over every other economic sector. The arguments used to support it (such as yours) are more applicable to the O-1 and EB programs than the H-1B program.

On the opposite end, there are laws in place preventing foreign immigrants from competing with native born citizens for jobs in law, medicine, politics and finance. We actually have a shortage of doctors, and legal fees have steadily risen for a very long time now. Why can't foreign doctors and lawyers work here?

What makes science and technology different? Why do we need a large specialty VISA program specifically for what we do? "Normal" immigration is fine for every other sector of the economy.

"The best" foreign people in science and tech are more likely to be here on a different program anyway. I just did a round of interviews for my company. Three of the top applicants were foreign born. One was in the real "exceptional technical ability" temporary visa program (O-1), one was a greencard holder (EB-2), and one was a naturalized citizen. These program work a lot better than H-1B (they have more protections for the employee as well), why don't we expand those instead?

Comment: Re:Overrated (Score 1) 200

by Goldsmith (#49423099) Attached to: Snowden Demystified: Can the Government See My Junk?

These are the same sort of complaints you hear from older politicians. The quality of the media has absolutely decreased significantly over the last 20 years. That's come with a drastic decrease in how much time they have to work stories, budgets, salaries, etc. It's telling that we're discussing a comedian interviewing Snowden for a subscription-only television channel's fake news program, rather than someone on broadcast network news or something like 60 minutes. Two years ago, 60 minutes did a report on Snowden, but couldn't figure out how to get to Russia to talk with him, so they did a hit-piece.

Why is the media on this "race to the bottom?" Professional media only exists if they can actually make money doing it. Were we better off before the internet allowed us to directly exchange information and ideas (like we're doing now)?

"The media" is going to change with the changes to society that the internet has brought. Just wanting them to stay the same isn't enough.

Comment: cost in R&D is not cost in production (Score 1) 62

When you have a team of PhDs working on a project essentially for free (paid for by the government, not CalTech), in a subsidized (nearly free) clean room, on a device where yield doesn't really matter, "cost" tends to not be realistically estimated.

It is not more realistic to estimate the cost by looking at the actual money spent by all sources on the project. That's likely a couple hundred thousand dollars on this one (or so) chip, but most of that is NRE.

When someone tries to fit this into a commercial process and figures out what custom processes are required, we'll find out what the real cost is. It may be $1000/chip, and that may still be very marketable.

Comment: Re:So what? (Score 2) 538

I appreciate what you're trying to say here, but it's a bit misplaced.

Feinstein is one of the few people in the country with access to all of the information on the online intelligence gathering done by the federal government. It's part of her job to perform oversight on those programs (not her staff's job, this is one of those things only very specific members of congress can do). If she doesn't understand the internet, that's a serious problem. People have a right to be upset that she hasn't done her job.

Read a bit more about her, and you'll see there are many very good reasons people are upset with her.

Comment: complicated (Score 1) 96

by Goldsmith (#49398159) Attached to: The Democratization of Medical Diagnosis and Discovery

I'm helping to make a new diagnostic for Lyme, which is one of these diseases where patients are often very informed, and traditional techniques fail.

Lyme has many "non standard" diagnostic options. If you run a clean lab, you can sell a non-FDA cleared test directly to a patient without really explaining what it is or allowing anyone "under the hood.". However, to get a treatment prescription most doctors require test results they understand, or at least results from a test that has the backing of a large medical oversight organization (CDC, FDA, AMA...). This is a matter of medical ethics and medical economics. The doctor needs to understand why a prescription is necessary and his insurance need to be able to cover that decision if something goes wrong.

When you have a proliferation of tests without oversight, two things happen: 1) you do get a lot of fraudulent tests, and 2) you develop a terrible relationship between patient groups and medical oversight groups. If you want doctors to treat people based on your test results, your test absolutely must go through serious vetting by some "establishment" medical group (i.e. FDA clearance).

On the positive side, developing tests you can sell directly to patients means you can sell the test for less money, at higher volume, for more overall profit and more overall positive patient outcomes. That is a really, really great win-win situation. It is also far easier right now to get investment for development of a direct to patient test than a "traditional" test. The medical community would be wise to use this current funding environment to help drive patient care forward. The difficult part comes in how oversight is done. It's not going to work to put all of the risk on the front-line clinicians.

Comment: finger pointing (Score 1) 407

by Goldsmith (#49351433) Attached to: Millennial Tech Workers Losing Ground In US

I think at this point everyone agrees that the STEM job market in the US is screwed up. Right now we're all pointing fingers at eachother blaming millennials, gen X, baby boomers, immigrants, business owners, politicians, civil servants, the whole government, high schools, colleges, testing services, misogynists, political correctness, investors, people who don't invest, Obama, Bush...

Anyone have any ideas on what to do about it? How about we work on that now.

Comment: doesn't make sense (Score 2) 149

by Goldsmith (#49320785) Attached to: Obama To Announce $240M In New Pledges For STEM Education

There are billions poured into STEM, and encouraging early career scientists through programs at NSF, NIH, DARPA, etc. None of that is working (less than 50% of people trained in science stay in science). When I was still training students, the best of them generally ended up working in finance, not physics. An additional $250 million is not going to make a notable difference. We need a cultural and structural change in how we train and retain good scientists and engineers, not a meaningless bandaid.

Comment: anyone actually beeen here? (Score 1) 417

by Goldsmith (#49315971) Attached to: How 'Virtual Water' Can Help Ease California's Drought

If you've been through California's central valley, you know that it's not a desert. We're talking about some of the most fertile farmland in the world. More than half of the USA's fresh produce comes from California. Just the almond market alone is $2.8 billion a year. Despite that, California's central valley is also one of the poorest, least educated populations in the USA.

Given all that, is "screw the farmers" really the best solution here? Maybe we should make more fresh water? This isn't theoretical. The largest water desalination plant in the western hemisphere is being constructed in San Diego. It "only" took 18 years of regulatory and legal wrangling and $1 billion of financing. We need about another dozen of these plants to make a real impact on the statewide water supply. Now that the regulatory and legal framework is set, increasing the cost of water to construct additional desalination plants and related infrastructure would make more sense than choking agriculture out of the state.

Comment: they're missing something (Score 1) 112

by Goldsmith (#49288817) Attached to: How To Make Moonshots

It always seems like these guys are missing something. Bell Labs had this figured out. Arguably, IBM has done a better job of this in recent decades. I get the impression the people at Google just kind of heard about a bunch of failed DARPA projects and decided to try and fix them up. Self driving cars, enhanced reality headsets, balloon based networks, nanoparticle diagnostics, jetpacks, neural network enhanced computer vision... all legacy military development projects... all very cool, but not really lightning strikes of inspiration.

Is it that they don't have the right people? Are their projects too fast? Are they too structured? Maybe they're purposefully trying to only do things others have already tried and failed for some reason. Perhaps it's that they've forgotten the difference between innovation and invention. Innovation builds successful companies, but they'll need a hefty dose of invention if they really want a "moon shot."

"Freedom is still the most radical idea of all." -- Nathaniel Branden