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Comment: Re: Cost savings (Score 1) 104

by JanneM (#49144065) Attached to: Argonne National Laboratory Shuts Down Online Ask a Scientist Program

It is ridiculous of course. It is also a common attitude among PI's toward their postdocs and students, especially in high-profile, high-pressure labs.

This letter from a PI to a worker made the rounds a few years ago. The PI claimed later it was a joke. It doesn't read like a joke, and the exact same attidude is not uncommon at all:

Comment: Re:I live in the Netherlands (Score 1) 301

by JanneM (#49134991) Attached to: I ride a bike ...

I used to ride every day. But my place of work changed, so now I walk and take the train instead. Around home we generally walk as well, so my bike sits unused for months on end.

Walking is also good exercize of course, but it does limit the range of places to go. I should fix up the bike and start using it again come spring.

Comment: Re:Black Mirror (Score 5, Insightful) 255

by JanneM (#49134869) Attached to: 5 White Collar Jobs Robots Already Have Taken

Automation changes the source of production from workers to machines. And that separates the source of production from the source of consumption.

To put it simply, robots produce wealth but does not consume it. Humans consume wealth, but (in this possible future) can no longer produce it. Robots have owners of course, but even if you ignore what happens to the majority of people, a few extremely wealthy people can not possibly make up for the consumption shortfall. Ten-thousand people with 10k each vastly outconsume (by necessity) a single person worth 100M.

So, if the entities making wealth and those using wealth become separate, you need a way to transfer wealth from one to the other. If not, you will see a slow-moving economic collapse, as lack of demand and cost-cutting automation drive each other down.

A basic income, generated from a tax on production (transaction tax, energy tax, direct tax on machinery) is one way, and has the benefit of being simple, straightforward and having low administrative overhead.

Comment: Re:Sounds pretty awesome... (Score 2) 131

by JanneM (#49133731) Attached to: Developers Disclose Schematics For 50-1000 MHz Software-Defined Transceiver

That said, I spend several years of my life helping to get rid of the Morse Code test for radio hams, so that smart folks like you could just take technical tests to get the license.

I'm currently assembling a Softrock Ensemble receiver just to play with SDR. I'm starting to become interested in more than passive receiving â" but a major part of my curiousity is about Morse, not voice. I can talk to anybody over the net after all, while Morse code communication feels like a very different kind of thing.

Comment: Re:Politics? (Score 4, Insightful) 104

by JanneM (#49133663) Attached to: Argonne National Laboratory Shuts Down Online Ask a Scientist Program

[...] and rather than cutting the least important program, they cut the most visible program, in an attempt to get their funding restored.

Honestly, though, a qestion-answer service for school children probably does rank among the least important programs for a research lab. I very much doubt this is part of their written remit (as opposed to communicate their actual research to the public), and the people spending time at work answering the questions certainly get zero professional recognition for it.

It does sound like a very nice, fun service. And I do agree that this kind of outreach is important. But if this is not part of what their funders want them to do, then it should come as no surprise if it's among the first things to go when money becomes tight.

You want this kind of thing to continue? Make sure there's funding (and paid time) earmarked for doing it. In fact, that may be a good idea in general: add a small fraction (.1% or even less) to any research grant over a certain size for general science outreach. If it's part of your funding, that also removes the career obstacles toward doing outreach we too often have now.

Comment: Re:amazing (Score 4, Interesting) 279

by JanneM (#49117441) Attached to: Intel Moving Forward With 10nm, Will Switch Away From Silicon For 7nm

I'm talking about the silicon chips doing the things that our brain can do, such as designing the next intel chip.

The major stumbling block isn't processor speed or capacity. It's that we don't know how to architect such a system in the first place.

And if you think about it, a lot of the "smart" things we want to automate really don't need anything like human-level or human-like intelligence. A car with the smarts of a mouse would do great as an autonomous vehicle. Real mice manage to navigate around a much more difficult, unpredictable and dangerous environment, using a far more complex and tricky locomotion system, after all.

Comment: Re:Diminishing Returns (Score 1) 422

by JanneM (#48995155) Attached to: What Happened To the Photography Industry In 2014?

Not quite what I'm saying. Your tools make some things easier, and other things harder. And what those things are will change depending on which tool you have on hand.

To take your kitchen analogy, if you have a blender/food processor it's easy to make things that need a lot of fine mincing or difficult blending. You _could_ still do it by hand with a kitchen knife, a bowl and a whisk, but as a practical matter you're less likely to even consider such recipes because of the time and effort required. Imperfect analogy, but it sort of points to what I want to say.

Back to photography, I have a DSLR, a 35mm compact and a medium-format rangefinder, all with the same field of view. And technically I can take the same shots and get the same picture with any one of them (modulo technical quality differences). Yet, the different way they handle nudges me to look for different kinds of situations and different subjects. In theory I _could_ take the same picture with any one of them. As a practical matter I could not.

Comment: Re:Diminishing Returns (Score 1) 422

by JanneM (#48993401) Attached to: What Happened To the Photography Industry In 2014?

These are tools.

Off on a tangent, but yes, these are tools. And the tool we use shapes not just the result but what we attempt to do, and how we approach the task. In other words, irregardless of the technical similarities, using a different kind of camera (or camera-lens combination) will give you different results.

As a simple example, if you have a long zoom lens on your DSLR, you will look for, and shoot, very different kinds of pictures than if you had a small, wide fix-focus lens on it. A DSLR will invite different kinds of pictures than a pocket cam, or a smartphone. Switch to a film camera and the limited shots and lack of feedback invites yet other ways to see pictures around you. Go further out and try an old TLR, or a medium-format folder - or a view camera! - and the world will change around you again.

We want to have many different cameras not because one of technically reasons, but because they enable different kinds of photography. Nobody expects the car industry to settle down on a single type of car. Why should cameras?

Comment: Re:Government Intervention (Score 1) 495

by JanneM (#48935205) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: When and How Did Europe Leapfrog the US For Internet Access?

Unfortunately, the US does not have free market capitalism on broadband communications. In most areas it is either monopoly or duopoly

That's what a free market will usually naturally gravitate to. Competition is bad for all competitors, so cartels or monopolies are strong attractors in the system. If you want competition and choice you need market regulation to make it happen.

Comment: Re:I prefer a tablet for some things to a smart ph (Score 2) 307

by JanneM (#48927927) Attached to: The iPad Is 5 Years Old This Week, But You Still Don't Need One

I kind of want the opposite. I've got a big, capable laptop at home, and several computers at work. When I go out, though, I'm not going to do any real programming or make a presentation or things like that when I'm at a cafe with my wife, or sitting on the train home from work. I'll surf the web, read a paper or play games. A tablet lets me do that just fine.

A small, light laptop has too many compromises; little memory, slow CPU (that gets throttled after more than a few seconds at 100%), small screen and keyboard. And it's still much heavier than the Tablet Z I carry. The tablet is light and thin enough that I really don't notice it in my bag at all.

We're all hunting for the impossible: a matchbox-size computer with the power of a workstation and a 40" screen. Instead we have to compromise. And we all end up with different compromises. I've even thought of cancelling my smartphone and go back to a small, light feature-phone. It's cheaper, more durable and the battery lasts for a week. Use only the tablet for apps.

Have you reconsidered a computer career?