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Comment Re:No Teaching Experience? (Score 1) 39

Some people are great at teaching, others are not.

I believe this is a self-perpetuating myth. What the data shows is that new teachers in America improve rapidly over the course of about three years, after which they are about as good as they'll ever be. So it's certainly not the case that some people are just naturally teachers; great teachers have to learn the craft through practice, and that learning comes after they finish their official training.

But maybe what we're seeing is that it takes teachers three years to reach their inborn teaching potential, after which they no longer are able to learn anything more that might help them. My question is, how do we know that? How do we know that American teachers are actually completely incapable of becoming better teachers after three years of in-classroom experience?

We don't know. The remarkable thing is that until very, very recently, very few American school systems have actually attempted to systematically improve the performance of their teachers through observation of what they're doing in the classroom. They may have "professional development" where they get more of the same kind of theoretical training they got in education school, but they usually don't follow up to see how the teacher actually puts that to use, or even to identify bad habits the teacher may have developed over the years, or good habits he hasn't. In my kids' school system kids are sent home early on "professional development days" so that working with actual students won't get in the way of a teacher's skill development. It's like trying to make someone a better baseball hitter by banning bats and balls from training and simply talking to players about the theory of biomechanics.

Imagine you own a factory and your assembly line is turning out too many defective widgets. How would you address that problem? Would you send your engineers to a seminar every year on manufacturing theory and ask them to make design changes when they came back from that seminar? Or would you go over the assembly line with a fine tooth comb? While the seminar idea has it's merits, it's too slow and it'd take sheer luck for the seminar to hit on the particular problem that's affecting the line.

In America we have a simple model for improving the teaching at a bad school: fire the bad teachers and hire better ones. But imagine, just for a moment, it is possible to use empirical methodologies to improve the performance of any teacher. Imagine for a moment some bad teachers could be transformed into mediocre ones; some mediocre teachers into good ones; and some good teachers into great ones. In a world where that was possible there'd still be a place for the hire and fire strategy, but relying on that strategy exclusively leads to two unfortunate and unnecessary results: (1) Poor districts have to make do mostly with inadequate teaching and (2) teaching in rich districts tends to be adequate, but great teaching remains uncommon.

Sound familiar?

Comment Re:long history indeed (Score 1) 603

What speech laws did Weimar Germany have? In practice, at least, virtually anything was permitted, from the revolutionary far-left to the revolutionary far-right, and everything in between. Hitler was never arrested for his speech; the only time he was arrested (1923), was because he led an armed paramilitary group to attempt a coup.

Comment We can't tell. Perhaps it's a trade secret. (Score 1) 359

There have been several recent announcements by relatively reputable companies that they will soon be building and selling a fusion generator. The details are a trade secret, so we can't reasonably evaluate them. All we can really say is "Somewhere between 5 years and 30^n years.". Perhaps it's a trade secret. They may be building a working reactor right now. Details are secret.

The skepticism above is quite reasonable, but the current crop of rumors differs significantly from prior "sort of" promises. Perhaps this time it's real. Don't hold your breath.

OTOH, it *WILL* require a special mixture of hydrogen isotopes. Different groups are making different promises, and I'm skeptical not only about each of them, but also about all of them. OTOH, I'm not denying it. Skeptical means I'm not going to stop doubting them until I see proof, it doesn't mean I believe they're lying (or even wrong).

Comment Re:Mission accomplished (Score 1) 359

It wouldn't necessarily be that expensive. You just need to redefine your goals. Suppose you build it to supply power to orbiting satellites. That cuts down the size of the plant and limits the requirements for power transmission. For extra credit imagine you could use it to power probes to outlying planets, asteroids, etc. You can still use a pretty low powered maser (IIUC, microwave power absorption works better than light frequencies. Possibly because it hard to build really small antennas.)

Design it to be modular, so you can add on additional generation as needed. This allows all of your other launches to be lighter, as they no longer need to carry along large power supplies. Just enough batteries to act as ballast for when they're out of site of the power station. (Well, human occupied satellites would still need more power capabilities, but then they need lots of other special support, too.)

You certainly shouldn't design your first SPSS with the intention of powering the planet. That would be foolish.

Comment Re:Is quantum mechanics a theory? (Score 1) 206

Sorry, I never worked out the math. I did talk to a physics grad student about the concept (of refactoring the equations to put all of the distortion into time) and he said it was valid. I was never an advanced math student, and tensors baffle me, so I'm not the person to work out the math. I just throw out the idea from time to time to see if someone else will develop it.

But I do think it would work.

Comment Re:Because this will be unlike Biosphere 2 how? (Score 4, Informative) 68

To answer your question, smaller habitat, no experiment at maintaining atmospheric composition, outside excursions in "space suits" etc. Its not very much like Biosphere II.

As for why not under the sea or Antarctica I can give at least three reasons. (1) cost of building, transporting and maintaining the habitat; (2) all the support and research personnel live in Hawaii, above water; (3) the research objectives don't require putting the experiment in a dangerous or inaccessible place.

Now someday when we have an actual habitat design along with all the actual support systems we plan to send to Mars, a trial on top of a super high mountain would make sense as a kind of Mars analog. But we don't have such stuff to test so we don't need the Mars analog with all the expense and complication.

Submission + - Developers Wanted: No CS Degree Necessary 1

theodp writes: In a WSJ Op-Ed, Dittach CEO Daniel Gelernter explains Why I’m Not Looking to Hire Computer-Science Majors (reg. req. or Google it). "The thing I look for in a developer," writes Gelernter, "is a longtime love of coding-people who taught themselves to code in high school and still can’t get enough of it. The eager but not innately passionate coders being churned out of 12- and 19-week boot camps in New York tend not to be the best: There are too many people simply looking for a career transition, and not enough who love coding for its own sake. The thing I don’t look for in a developer is a degree in computer science University computer science departments are in miserable shape: 10 years behind in a field that changes every 10 minutes. Computer science departments prepare their students for academic or research careers and spurn jobs that actually pay money. They teach students how to design an operating system, but not how to work with a real, live development team. There isn’t a single course in iPhone or Android development in the computer science departments of Yale or Princeton. Harvard has one, but you can’t make a good developer in one term. So if a college graduate has the coding skills that tech startups need, he most likely learned them on his own, in between problem sets. As one of my developers told me: 'The people who were good at the school part of computer science-just weren’t good developers.' My experience in hiring shows exactly that." Gelernter concludes, "There is an opportunity to relieve the drought of qualified software developers that has driven up prices and is stunting startup growth: A serious alternative to the $100,000 four-year college degree wouldn’t even need to be accredited—it would merely need to teach students the skills that startups are desperate for, and that universities couldn’t care less about."

Comment Re:Furthermore, Saudi Arabia must be destroyed (Score 4, Insightful) 359

Not everyone in Saudi Arabia are bedouin; in particular the ruling House of Saud is descended from town dwelling Arabs.

I'll go out on a limb and guess that not everyone in Saudi Arabia is worthless. Even people involved in managing their oil. And as for the elite they don't seem to be worse than anyone else who's inherited oil-based wealth; they've managed that for the long term benefit of themselves and their families. If they're ostentatious with their wealth, well they have a lot of it and it hasn't bankrupted them yet.

So there's no rational reason to want to destroy Saudi Arabia. But there's every reason not to want to be so dependent upon them.

Comment Re:All bullshit (Score 1) 249

1) you're assuming that the argument is based on shame. My actual argument was based on potential economic cost. The shame concept could work either way. (It can be pretty expensive to raise a kid, though. And not only in direct costs.)

2) you're assuming that I'm contemplating only official complaints. I have a very hard time imagining a teen going to the police and saying she was raped unless coerced by her family.

That said, I still expect that the official claim of rape would be quite rare wrt even actual rape (especially if you count sexual contact induced by sufficient alcohol [etc.] to render acquiescence illegitimate). I believe that such statistics as are available (poor) validate my belief. Look up "date rape". Also "rohypnol".

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