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Comment: Re:Just an opinion... (Score 5, Informative) 102

by Idarubicin (#47445365) Attached to: Elite Group of Researchers Rule Scientific Publishing

Given how relatively time-consuming research is(and how negative results, however valid, tend to have difficulty moving papers), it would be...surprising... to hear that one percent of the scientists are co-authoring 41 percent of the papers on sheer productivity.

Actually, not so surprising, depending on how the analysis is done. And it also depends a lot on how you want to measure "sheer productivity". A supervisor who helps design the experiment, interpret the data, write the paper, and communicate with journal editors probably spends fewer hours than the trainee (grad student or postdoc) who actually does all the bench work--but that doesn't mean that the supervisor hasn't earned an authorship credit.

If Alice, Bob, Carol, Dave, and Elsa are all graduate students in Dr. Frink's lab, and each of those students publishes two papers over the course of their PhD programs, then all of those students are going to be authors on 2 papers each, and Frink will be an author on 10 papers. Dr. Frink is 1 out of 6 scientists - a bit less than 17% - but is on 100% of the papers. If you have a big lab in a relatively hot (or well-funded) field, then your name is going to be on a lot of papers.

And papers these days - especially the high-impact, widely-read, highly-cited papers - tend to have a longer list of authors. If you look at the table of contents for the most recent issue of Science, the two Research Articles have 26 and 12 authors. Out of the dozen or so Reports, one has 4 authors, two have 5, all the rest have more. Speaking personally and anecdotally, my last three manuscripts (in the biomedical sciences) had 8, 3, and 7 authors.

Going back to "1% of scientists are on 45% of papers"--well, if those are all six-author papers, then that top 1% is only responsible for a 7.5% share (45 divided by 6) of the "output". Given that there is a very long tail of authors who only have 1, 2, or 3 authorships in their lifetime (the majority of PhD graduates never end up conducting research as university faculty; there just aren't enough jobs), I am willing to believe that there is a small fraction of productive, top scientists whose names are on a disproportionately large share of papers.

Comment: Re:Just an opinion... (Score 5, Interesting) 102

by Idarubicin (#47444885) Attached to: Elite Group of Researchers Rule Scientific Publishing

The intellectual penury that comes with serving with a leader in a given field seems to be gladly endured by most young researchers. This story ignores the fact that, although the senior researcher's name may be at the top of the paper, the junior researcher's name is right there below it.

Actually, in many of the sciences (mathematics and parts of physics are notable exceptions, where authors tend to be listed alphabetically) it is usually the graduate student or postdoc who did most of the work who is the first author on the paper. The senior researcher - a principal investigator who actually has the academic appointment, who may have secured the funding, and who is ultimately responsible for the lab - is generally listed as the last author on the manuscript. ("Middle" authorship has the least cachet by far.)

Broadly speaking, young scientists and trainees want to accumulate as many first-author papers as possible, to demonstrate their scientific productivity. Faculty members - senior scientists - want to accumulate last-author papers, to demonstrate that their labs are productive.

Comment: Re:Probable cause (Score 4, Insightful) 222

by jc42 (#47419055) Attached to: Meet the Muslim-American Leaders the FBI and NSA Have Been Spying On

I have nothing to hide, except the pron from my wife (she found it already) so why would I care what the FBI does? They aren't going to act on any of this unless these people actually plan to do something criminal and in that case, they should.

If you think you have nothing to hide, you should probably spend a bit of time studying the history of the FBI. Leading an exemplary life has never been a protection from them, if they suspect you may be part of whatever conspiracy is popular at the time. A few decades ago, it was Communists, and having no connection to any Communist organization was never protection from them or their colleagues in organizations like HUAC. It's quite clear that the "anti-terrorist" push nowadays is no more concerned with whether you have anything to hide; if they need a scapegoat and you're handy (perhaps because your name is vaguely like some name on one of their lists), they'll go after you and make your life a hell on Earth.

Having "nothing to hide" is one of the most naive misconceptions going around, and has been for at least a century. Dig into the history of the FBI and assorted other similar organizations. Google can find a lot of it for you. Then come back and tell us again whether you have anything to hide.

(And they probably already have a copy of your pron collection, added to their own. ;-)

Comment: Re:WTFis "as much energy as well-thrown baseballs" (Score 2) 144

by Idarubicin (#47415289) Attached to: Physicists Spot Potential Source of 'Oh-My-God' Particles

WTF is "as much energy as well-thrown baseballs"?

That should technically be something like "as much kinetic energy as a well-thrown baseball". In other words, about 50 joules: what you get from a baseball at about 60 miles per hour. So, not major-league fastball fast (90+ mph) but quite a respectable velocity.

And we're not going to talk about assorted forms of chemical or nuclear potential energy in the baseball. If you set fire to a baseball, you could get quite a bit more thermal energy. And you could get a heck of a lot more energy out of a baseball if you fused all its component atoms down to iron.

Comment: Re:Hello Americans (Score 1) 340

by jc42 (#47404073) Attached to: On 4th of July:

being assholes is the america way

Now, now; that's a feature of humanity that's spread quite evenly throughout all societies. Yes, it's the American way, but it's also the British way and the Italian way and the Iranian way and the Chinese way and the Tahitian way and ...

Americans have no particularly valid claim on assholeness (assholicity? assholitude?). Look around yourself, and if you don't see any, it's probably because it's you.

Comment: Re:Windows as point of weakness (Score 1) 464

I would say that cockpit windows are a solved problem.

You could say that, but you would be wrong. Cockpit windows remain a weak point aboard modern aircraft. Extensive and costly preventive maintenance programs reduce the risks, but they still regularly crack and leak, and occasionally fail spectacularly. A bit of Googling turned up this freedom-of-information response from the UK's civil aviation authority. It lists 88 pages of in-flight incidents of windscreen damage and failure that occurred - just in the UK - between 2008 and 2013.

Comment: Re: Failsafe? (Score 1) 464

This illustrates an important point. From a purely rational safety perspective, you don't actually need the electronic display system to be perfect, with an absolutely impossible zero risk of failure. You just need the system to be less likely to fail - in a way that causes a serious accident - than the known weak point (window) it replaces.

Comment: Re:Why? (Score 1) 464

Nobody complains about all those people jammed into a metal tube with no windows powered by a nuclear reactor and dumped into the ocean(s)...

On the other hand, the number of accidents per passenger-mile is probably a lot worse in nuclear submarines than in passenger aircraft. Broadly speaking, an overall higher risk of accidents and fatalities is tolerated in the military.

And honestly, military submarines (or any submarines, really) tend to be much more heavily built than aircraft, and travel at much lower speeds, both of which tend to make crashes much more survivable. Consider, for example, the 2005 collision of the USS San Francisco with a poorly-charted seamount. The fast-attack sub was travelling at its maximum speed (probably around 40 mph) when it smacked into solid rock--that it couldn't see, as they had no windows. Nobody drowned; the ship didn't sink; all of the injuries (and the one fatality) were caused by crew members getting bounced about by the collision. Compare and contrast with just about any aircraft incident involving controlled flight into terrain, where aircraft crumple like beer cans and everybody dies.

Comment: Re:Failsafe? (Score 3, Interesting) 464

No, that would wreck the entire engineering of getting rid of the windows in the first place.

In principle, there could be 'emergency' windows that were smaller or more awkwardly placed (perhaps even requiring the use of a periscope or physical light pipe) that could nevertheless still be used to land a plane in the event of a complete failure of the electronic display system. From an engineering standpoint, even a switch from giant wrap-around windows to small portholes is still going to provide some improvement in strength and weight.

That said, it's worth noting two things. First, modern aircraft are so heavily electronics-dependent (and fly-by-wire driven) that in the event of a catastrophic failure of onboard electronics, the loss of virtual windows may not actually be the biggest problem on your plate. Second, modern aircraft are often rated for landing completely blind (at suitably equipped airports); even if you lose the view from the entire front 'window', a landing on instruments is still a reasonable option.

Comment: Re:It's Okay (Score 1) 712

by jc42 (#47396623) Attached to: When Beliefs and Facts Collide

Over here in the US, the fascist conservatives equate anything not as fascist as them to be socialists.

Actually, here in the US not one person in a million can tell you anything at all about what fascism stood for. The term is now just one of a growing list of political insult terms with no actual content.

Of course, the fraction of Americans who can actually define socialism or liberalism or any other -ism isn't much larger than one in a million. Such terms are really just the modern equivalent of tribal names. You're expected to hate anyone with a label different from yours, but you're not expected to actually know the meaning of any of the labels. Once you understand this situation, American political rhetoric becomes much more comprehensible.

Comment: Re:Illegal and Dangerous? (Score 0) 200

by jc42 (#47391053) Attached to: The View From Inside A Fireworks Show

Ridiculous? As a pilot I don't want people's toys flying around in my airspace. Hit a plane and there's a real chance you'll kill someone.

If you're a pilot who's "airspace" includes a volume in which a fireworks display is scheduled, please informs us of that fact, because I don't think I'd ever want to be a passenger in a plane controlled by a pilot like you. The possibility that your plane might hit a drone would be the least of my worries. ;-)

Comment: Re:Illegal and Dangerous? (Score 1) 200

by jc42 (#47391043) Attached to: The View From Inside A Fireworks Show

Read about the new ridiculous rules the FAA imposed about drones...

Until some moron flys one into the path of a commercial airliner, small plane, or helicopter, and people die - than it's "why isn't the FAA doing something about this?"

Rules won't stop someone from doing that because it's obviously intended to try to hurt someone. I say try because in a battle between a jet engine with the power to push 400 tons of steel into the sky VS a drone I'm going to put my money on the jet engine lasting long enough for them to turn around and land again.

Wait; there were jet aircraft flying through the fireworks display's volume? How did the drone miss getting a picture of that? That'd have been really fun to watch, especially when the fireworks started hitting the airplane.

(Given that there was a fireworks display going on in that airspace at the time, I'm kinda doubtful that there were any pilots in the area who weren't well aware of them. And I also sorta doubt that there were any children running around under the fireworks. That's usually strongly discouraged at fireworks displays, and this one was over water. ;-)

Comment: Re:Efficiency (Score 3, Informative) 133

The point is, those solar lights at the dollar store? Yea... Make millions of them, throw them out in the desert, viola, carbon sink. You need to do something more with it beyond the acid, but this is the sort of idea we need to reduce already emitted CO2 after we've stopped creating all the extra.

Even if we ignore the carbon (and other toxic) footprint of creating and strewing millions of semiconductor devices across the desert, I really think you need to think about what happens to the formic acid. Left to its own devices, formic acid slowly and spontaneously decomposes to water and...carbon monoxide. Which is unpleasant enough by itself (and a greenhouse gas in its own right), but which in turn is slowly oxidized in the atmosphere right back to...carbon dioxide.

Comment: Re:Treatment sort of worked (Score 2) 296

by Idarubicin (#47375415) Attached to: Site of 1976 "Atomic Man" Accident To Be Cleaned

He died of heart problems. If you read the health effects they are claiming many of them seem just normal for a older person at that time. The rest might could also have been caused by chemical issues more than radiation. Heavy metals are for a large part things you want to avoid putting into your body.

For people who are interested in this sort of thing, the TOXNET entry for americium contains a number of excerpts from published work about the case, medical follow up, and eventual autopsy results. The first six case report entries on that page all involve publications involving McC|uskey; look for entries that refer specifically to "US Transuranium Registry (USTUR) Case 246". Because americium is an alpha emitter that principally deposits in bone, it is the bone and bone marrow that are most affected by exposure, and which show the most lasting (and ongoing) damage.

"...Eight yrs after a 64-year old man was exposed to americium-241 in a chemical explosion/, leukopenia was evaluated by a hematologist. Diagnosis of a possible hypoproliferative, myeloproliferative, or myelodysplastic syndrome was considered...."

"...The bone marrow of /USTUR Case 246/ had been substantially damaged by alpha-irradiation from americium, principally on the bone surfaces. A ... finding was a marked decrease in bone marrow cellularity associated with dilatation of blood sinusoids. The severity of these effects varied according to site and was greatest in the vertebral body, where the marrow was almost acellular, and least in the clavicle. In addition, extensive peritrabecular marrow fibrosis was present in some bones, including the rib and clavicle. ... Fibrosis is a common observation in bones irradiated by bone-seeking radionuclides and has been linked to bone sarcoma induction...."

"...The bones examined were the patella, clavicle, sternum, rib, vertebral body and ossified thyroid cartilage; all showed evidence of radiation damage. The cellularity of most bones was reduced, and little evidence of recent active bone remodeling was seen in any bone other than the vertebra, as concluded from the redistribution of the americium in the vertebral body. In several bones, the architecture was disrupted, with woven bone, abnormal appositional bone deposits, bizarre trabecular structures and marked peritrabecular fibrosis. Growth arrest lines were common. When compared with trabecular bone modeling, that of cortical bone in the rib appeared less disrupted. Overall, the results obtained are consistent with those observed in dogs at a similar level of actinide intake...."

In other words, he was 'lucky' that this accident occurred when he was in his mid-sixties, and that he managed to die of heart disease in his mid-seventies. If the patient had been forty years old instead, he likely would have been looking at a cancer of either the bone (an osteosarcoma or some such, and probably at multiple sites if he lived long enough) or the blood-forming cells (leukemia of some sort).

The reason that every major university maintains a department of mathematics is that it's cheaper than institutionalizing all those people.