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Comment: the math doesn't work (Score 1) 242

by Goldsmith (#49133871) Attached to: The Peculiar Economics of Developing New Antibiotics
In TFS, it's agreed that it costs $1B to develop a new antibiotic.

The success rate for drug development is about 10-15%.

Now, you're probably spending $1B cumulative on all the failed drugs to get one hit. They key here is that you're not actually guaranteed to get a drug that works. You could easily spend more than $2B on a program like this, with a little bad luck.

Let's look at this differently. About 250 million antibiotics prescriptions are given out in the US every year. Let's have every one of those pay $10 over cost of manufacture and marketing (for example) to the drug companies who have developed new antibiotics in the prior 10 years (that collective effort helps all the antibiotics companies). Now you're spreading around an "extra" $2.5 billion every year, not just once. That's going to compensate for higher risk approaches more quickly and contribute to a longer term solution for this.

Comment: this doesn't help anyone out (Score 3, Informative) 672

by Goldsmith (#49108749) Attached to: Bill Nye Disses "Regular" Software Writers' Science Knowledge

Ok "regular software programmers." Go actually read the article, and then come back and read the summary again.

Now, Nye was trying to say that our technical work force is not trained in enough science. Maybe that's right, and maybe it's wrong, that would be a better discussion for Slashdot. Nye (or the reporter) obviously did a bad job here. At the same getting offended at being called less scientifically literate than the top tier of scientists doesn't help either.

Comment: the particle physics culture problem (Score 1) 89

by Goldsmith (#49063081) Attached to: Scientists To Hunt For Supersymmetric Particle In LHC

Particle physics did an excellent job building a multidisciplinary, international, scientific workforce. As a field, they are largely independent of the world of 12-36 month grants and frequent peer reviewed publications the rest of us live in. More scientific fields should look to particle physics for guidance on self-organization and priority setting.

However, in the process, particle physics has separated itself from general physics. Outside of some cosmologists, there are not many other physicists who can (or care to) work with particle physics colleagues. We were on board for Higgs, but I think the physics and more importantly, the culture, has veered off so far from what we're used to that it's going to be hard to justify discoveries as "fundamental."

Comment: an old discussion, with new jargon (Score 1) 226

by Goldsmith (#48948775) Attached to: There Is No "You" In a Parallel Universe

This is a rehash of the Boltzman's Brain paradox, which doesn't require quantum mechanics, just infinity and statistical mechanics. It's a line of thinking in physics that goes back at least 80 years and probably back to the late 1800s. This doesn't mean it's wrong or bad, just that generations of physicists have thought about this (usually with a beer or two) and there's not a hard physical answer to the question: do I exist somewhere else in the universe?

It comes down to one little bit in that article: the universe could be infinite, and may have been infinite since before the big bang. The rest is the same line of reasoning about the improbability of growing toward infinity (gravitation at first, limits on inflation now) that we've been looking at for many generations. We're pretty sure we're not growing into an infinite universe. We still have no idea if the universe started off infinite. Addressing that is a bit outside of what we can currently do.

Comment: press release creep (Score 1) 38

Nanotechnology is particularly bad about press release creep. That's when the author of a paper publishes

"The proximity-induced ferromagnetic order in graphene can lead to novel transport phenomena such as the quantized AHE which are potentially useful for spintronics."

and it becomes

Graphene: Reversible Method of Magnetic Doping Paves Way For Semiconductor Use

Comment: Re:Hang on WTF? (Score 1) 191

by Goldsmith (#48856701) Attached to: Japanese Nobel Laureate Blasts His Country's Treatment of Inventors

Things may be different in Japan, but you do not understand how this works in the US. Investment in research doesn't mean you own the work.

Having a solid IP assignment agreement with a scientist and a strong cultural and political expectation of ownership is what determines who owns IP. Without a legal IP assignment contract (wording which has survived a court challenge, and an agreement in which both parties benefit - this is where investment comes in), the work IS owned by the inventor.

In terms of investment, you have a physicist who has invested $500k in specialized training (the current estimated personal cost of scientific training over 10+ years). In the US, the government funds the majority of training and early research (~$2-4M) through universities (who on average come out ahead financially in this arrangement). In the last stage, a company funds the final research leading to development (~$500k-$1M).

Who owns the patents to the work? In the US, the fundamental patents are owned by the university that trained the scientist. Universities generally don't invest in research, they get someone else to pay for it. Big universities generally don't count lab scientists as employees anymore (they're all contractors and 'visiting scholars' now). But, they do secure solid IP contracts from every contractor, student worker and professor who works on campus.

There's a very good argument that all of these government funded university patents should be owned by the government. Government grants generally include clauses claiming some ownership of IP generated. It's too bad that politically, that's not something that can be enforced.

Comment: Re:obviously these are the wrong articles (Score 1) 335

by Goldsmith (#48850209) Attached to: Lies, Damn Lies, and Tech Diversity Statistics

Which Kool-Aid are you referring to? The idea that all we need to do in science is write great grant applications and publish papers, then magically some engineer will license our work and turn it into a product? Or maybe you agree that a monolithic culture which has spent 30 years and over $30 billion on nanotech research without delivering any of the promised results could use a little shake up.

Comment: obviously these are the wrong articles (Score 1) 335

by Goldsmith (#48846073) Attached to: Lies, Damn Lies, and Tech Diversity Statistics

I'm a physicist, my field has a long history of domination by men, and very particular types of men. Our argument has long been that we are a hard meritocracy. If you can do physics, you can succeed, period.

It is only recently that I have understood that monoculture in physics has greatly damaged my field. Having people with actual different points of view intellectually and personally prevents blind spots, encourages more creative approaches, and creates much needed internal critical dialogue. This is the core of the argument for diversity, but having someone who looks different parroting the common assumptions isn't diversity. Without diverse points of view, we really are just replaceable cogs in a technology producing business engine. Our different approaches to life and problem solving make us valuable, not just technical skills. The lack of gender diversity in physics is a symptom of repression of diverse thought, not the cause. Fix the fundamental issue, and we will see more women interested in participating in the field.

Rather than hand wringing over demographics, we should be passing around articles talking about what diversity actually means. What does a "diverse technical team" actually mean? Why is that a good thing? This is where the discussion needs to start.


Dish Introduces $20-a-Month Streaming-TV Service 196

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-when-you-want dept.
wyattstorch516 writes "Dish Networks has unveiled Sling TV, its streaming service for customers who don't want to subscribe to Cable or Satellite. From the article: "For $20 a month — yes, twenty dollars — you get access to a lineup of cable networks that includes TNT, TBS, CNN, Food Network, HGTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, the Disney Channel, ESPN, and ESPN2. ESPN is obviously a huge get for Dish and could earn Sling TV plenty of customers all on its own. ESPN just ended another year as TV's leading cable network, and now you won't need a traditional cable package to watch it. For sports fanatics, that could prove enticing. But Dish has hinted that there may be limits on watching ESPN on mobile thanks to red tape from existing deals between the network and Verizon."

Writers Say They Feel Censored By Surveillance 130

Posted by samzenpus
from the sticks-and-stones-may-break-my-bones-but-words-may-imprison-me dept.
schwit1 writes with news about the impact of government surveillance on authors and their work worldwide . A survey of writers around the world by the PEN American Center has found that a significant majority said they were deeply concerned with government surveillance, with many reporting that they have avoided, or have considered avoiding, controversial topics in their work or in personal communications as a result. The findings show that writers consider freedom of expression to be under significant threat around the world in democratic and nondemocratic countries. Some 75 percent of respondents in countries classified as "free," 84 percent in "partly free" countries, and 80 percent in countries that were "not free" said that they were "very" or "somewhat" worried about government surveillance in their countries. The survey, which will be released Monday, was conducted anonymously online in fall 2014 and yielded 772 responses from fiction and nonfiction writers and related professionals, including translators and editors, in 50 countries.

Comment: why do basic R&D? (Score 1) 386

by Goldsmith (#48697833) Attached to: The One Mistake Google Keeps Making

Google (and Microsoft, and Qualcomm, and IBM, and ...) are trying to recreate the technological and commercial success that came out of places like Bell Labs. One of the big lessons learned is that you need to have some open ended development projects to allow for discovery and invention. You can't have profit-driving innovation without the profit-less starting point of invention. Someone else may make more money off of your invention, but you have to chose either the risks of stagnation or the risks of competition.

Google's big mistake here is not working on projects without an obvious commercial payoff. Their big mistake is trying to incubate these blue sky R&D projects in the cultural and managerial environment of their profit making businesses. Everything looks and feels like a vanity project rather than serious forward looking R&D. It's a good idea to geographically separate your board and upper management from your "outside-the-box" R&D lab by a few thousand miles.

Comment: Re:Loss of context and common sense (Score 1) 116

by Goldsmith (#48539593) Attached to: NSF Accused of Misuse of Funds In Giant Ecological Project

You've never done scientific work for the government.

These are not "meaningless" expenses, and this scale of project is not unusual, there is a real problem here. All of us who do this kind of work, from JSF contractors to small university professors, have to follow the same rules and be audited for the same things. It's understood that things like food and lobbying (!!) are not allowable expenses.

This doesn't necessarily show a lack of ethics, because a normal private contract may allow these things. What it shows is a complete disconnect from the culture of the scientific community. If the people running this are not scientists, and are not used to working on R&D projects, then why are they doing this and why do we think they'll produce useful information?

Moreover, why does everyone else in the multi-billion dollar government R&D market have to follow the rules (or be cut) and it's ok for them to mismanage funds?

Comment: seriously? (Score 2) 96

by Goldsmith (#48523241) Attached to: Windows 10 Adds Battery Saver Feature

I know windows phone doesn't have a large market share, but no one involved with this looked to see if this is a new feature? I've had this on my phone for a long time, it's not special at this point. It's on by default under 20% charge. It is a real thing and definitely slows down battery drain; definitely better than trying to manually adjust settings to get that extra hour of battery life.

Comment: lab book (Score 1) 127

by Goldsmith (#48472375) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Biometric Authentication System?

Ok, so retina scans and face recognition don't work well in a clean room because your people should be wearing goggles and a face mask. Also, this is about training, not technology.

I'm assuming you're going beyond the standard card access machines that are already in most clean rooms and are instead trying to track "little" things like wash steps, microscopy review, hot plate use, etc.

Electronic lab notebooks (this used to be a server-workstation kind of thing, but it's tablets now) are great for this. This doesn't need to be very expensive or have custom software. Plus you add the convenience of carrying a clock & timer around with you. If you want to get really fancy, you can have the tablet talk with your computers (I've never seen that done in a lab or clean room, but it's probably out there).

You should be able to get all the info you need right now with your regular clean room notebooks and some transcription. If that's not happening, you're simply not keeping records well enough. That's a training problem. The level of record keeping required for good clean room work is very high. Trying to find a technology solution to remove good note taking practice can encourage sloppy work unless all of your tooling is set up for complete automation (in which case, you wouldn't be asking this question...).

"All my life I wanted to be someone; I guess I should have been more specific." -- Jane Wagner