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Comment: Re:I Am an Astrophysicist (but you do not salute m (Score 1) 229

by Mr_Wisenheimer (#47955681) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

This is really excellent advice. Once you're in the "industry" so to speak, you start building your resume and can pursue learning on your own time, and usually these jobs have flexible hours.

Also, it is worth noting that if you have a background in computer science, you can usually start working right away on research projects if you go back to school, because a lot of students who want to do research, even if they have the necessary physics and astronomy knowledge, struggle with coding programs to analyze the data so many researchers are happier to teach an undergraduate or MS student to do science rather than teaching them to do programming.

Comment: Re:Astronomy? Physics? Astro-physics? Run Linux! (Score 1) 229

by Mr_Wisenheimer (#47955653) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

OSX is very popular in astronomy because of the combination of commercial and open-source tools available for it: i.e. you can run Word, Excel, Matlab, Mathematica, IDL, iraf, ds9, et cetera.

Personally, I prefer Windows and I have found a combination of Windows and Ubuntu can combine to run pretty much anything. Technically, you can get most UNIX software that astronomers use working under Cygwin, but it can be a real hassle (getting working under Ubuntu and OSX can also be problematic).

However, I have to say that hands-down, the best two planetarium programs out there are:

1) Microsoft Worldwide Telescope. This is free software that gives you access to huge astronomical databases. This program is used by the most advanced planetariums in the world. The downsides are that it requires a constant internet connection, Windows 7 or better (there is a java version that lacks most of the best features), a good graphical coprocessor or two (this program is used to drive some of the highest-resolution screens in the world so it can be GPU intensive depending on your setup and may be unsuitable for laptops without a good discrete GPU), and the level of customization of some programs.

2) Starry Night: this is a great program, but it is also expensive and OSX and Windows only.

Open source planetarium programs range from mediocre to quite excellent. The ones you mention are probably some of the best, along with KDEStars.

It's hard to get too far in astronomy or astrophysics without some kind of UNIX access, whether it be cygwin, OS X (seems to be the most popular), Linux dual-boot/VM/discrete workstation, or UNIX server access (Solaris/ HP-UX/BSD seems mostly to have died in physics/astronomy except for big servers or legacy workstations).

Comment: Re:Swinburne Astronomy Online (Score 1) 229

by Mr_Wisenheimer (#47955621) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

Absolutely this sounds like an awesome program, but keep in mind that if you don't have an undergraduate degree in physics, astronomy, or something similar, you are going to have a hard time continuing with your studies after you complete this particular MSc, because you will not have the mathematical or physics skills required for most research-based positions as well as having little or no research experience. This means that if you wanted to continue on, you would probably have to go back to school to get an MSr in physics or something similar.

On the other hand, there are quite a number of jobs in astronomy that probably do not require strong mathematical rigor, such as teaching high school astronomy, teaching GE astronomy at a 2 year college, being a science writer, and certain technical jobs in astronomy.

Comment: Re:As a hobby yes, as a job NO (Score 1) 229

by Mr_Wisenheimer (#47940973) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

That's not really true. I would say that astronomy and astrophysics classes typically had between 5-20 students, probably averaging around 12. At the PhD level (which you need to obtain to train astronomers and astronomy teachers), it might actually be less than one astronomy/astrophysics student per PhD-holder. There are a lot of people who get an astronomy/astrophysics degree at the undergraduate and graduate level who do not get a PhD or do not teach university students. Some teach primary, secondary, and post-secondary students like at high schools or junior colleges. Some work in the civilian and military government sectors. Some apply their astronomy skills toward writing financial algorithms for big traders and banks. Some have academic positions with little or no teaching responsibilities. Some work for non-profits like science museums and research centers. Some become science communicators or facilitators, either to the public or among scientists.

There are probably around 10,000 professional astronomers in the US. There are maybe 100-300 astronomy and astrophysics PhD's awarded each year. There are not a lot of jobs, but there is not a lot of competition either, especially when you consider the number of GE astronomy classes offered at universities and colleges across the US. At the very least, you could probably find a job as a lecturer without too many problems.

Comment: Most of astronomy is analyzing images. . . (Score 2) 229

by Mr_Wisenheimer (#47938579) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

. . . and drawing conclusions. Most of astrophysics is creating models based on a deep understanding of the physics involved in astronomical objects. In both cases, it boils down primarily to having a good understanding of the physics of what you are doing and being good with computer programming and analyzing data.

The barrier for entry is theoretically really low, because most people have a fast computer. But can you really learn years of physics and astronomy as well as analytical techniques on your own? Quite possibly, especially if you already took the whole lower division math and physics courses as part of another degree (3 Semesters of Physics, 3 semesters of calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, computer programming for science and engineering, statistics). A lot of astronomy is done with the data already available from first class telescopes such as the Hubble and you could probably read all the basic undergraduate and introductory graduate texts on your own.

On the other hand, if you're coming into the field with no background in math and physics, it's going to be tough to read books full of differential equations, triple integrals, and electromechanics. Could you learn all that math and physics background on your own? Possibly, but you'd probably be best served with night school at the JC.

On the other hand, amateur astronomy can be fun. You can collaborate with professional astronomers on projects, and you can learn at your own pace without getting bogged down in the details right away. It is a lot more fun to look at Orion nebula through a 12" scope than it is to calibrate it for spectroscopy or photometry and analyze the data.

Comment: US Children would be singing in the streets. . . (Score 1) 950

by Mr_Wisenheimer (#47928133) Attached to: ISIS Bans Math and Social Studies For Children

. . . school's out forever!

Education in the US is like media in the digital age. When you have the potential for unlimited consumption, you do not appreciate what you have. Only when it is a scarce commodity does a population appreciate the value of education.

Comment: Re:When the cat's absent, the mice rejoice (Score 1) 286

I disagree.

Presuming that you subscribe to the notion that uploading child pornography should be a crime (which indeed it is by federal law), then it is not unreasonable to open an investigation into any computer located in the US which is openly offering to upload child pornography.

There is nothing wrong with "casting a wide net" in a situation like this, because the only IP's you are going to snag are those used to commit crimes. I would see it as similar to installing a license plate reader at a toll plaza that triggers an alarm when a stolen car passes by.

Now, there are some specific issues I think are relevant.

1) There is not a lot of evidence that most people who share this material are actually involved in harming children in any way.

2) Even being accused of such a crime can cause irreparable harm to someone.

3) Many of the IP's involved may be compromised in some way or used by someone who is not the owner, someone likely to suffer significant social, legal, financial, and occupational consequences even if the charges are dismissed.

But those concerns aside, what the agent did was perfectly appropriate and lawful. The conviction was thrown out not because "casting a wide net" in this regard is unconstitutional, but because he did not have law enforcement authority over civilians per the federal code, so basically, it was thrown out on a technicality designed to keep the military out of police work.

Comment: I switched to Android when the new OS was released (Score 2, Insightful) 352

The old Windows CE based OS's were the most open devices on the market, but with the new OS, Microsoft has gone the Apple route, which is a shame.

The new Windows Phones are very friendly to the unsophisticated consumer, perhaps even more so than the iPhone, but they were so slow to react to the iPhone and lost so much market share that I'm not sure the product will ever be the success it once was.

That said, it is smart to integrate Windows RT and Windows Phone.

Their biggest challenge is to convince developers to actually release for this OS. They are far behind since deciding to kill off open development and switch to the iOS model of software sales.

Comment: Re:Another wasted research project (Score 1) 588

by Mr_Wisenheimer (#47874873) Attached to: Low-Carb Diet Trumps Low-Fat Diet In Major New Study

If you do not already understand the difference between a publisher and a website selling a product, I'm not sure that I can enlighten you. In Nature, the peer-reviewed research is produced primarily in academia, government, and other non-profits. Nature simply publishes the result of their research the same way that Slashdot publishes your comments.

Also, your claim that you "made no claims" is false. You made all sorts of claims in your original post, which is why I responded. "Reciting knowledge" is synonymous with making a claim. That is why when you read published peer reviewed research, all "knowledge" that is "recited" is referenced to a specific credible source rather than simply presented as true without reference.

You are not "required" to do anything, but failing to provide credible sources to support your claim means that the claim should be assumed to be invalid and dismissed as not credible.

And yes, I studied science in school, so my professors did not simply recite things without showing they were true. They showed us how to derive proofs from first principals and, when questioned, always provided evidence to back up any claim they were making. They either proved it themselves, assigned to us to prove it, or referenced a credible source where it was proved or evidenced empirically. Anyone who says, "you should believe me because I have a PhD" has no business in academia. All of our textbooks listed their references and sources.

Good teachers do not want you to "trust" them. They want you to challenge them because they know they make mistakes all the time, just like everyone else. Science is all about challenging anything and everything people believe and teach. That is why it works.

Also, as I pointed out, anything "may cause cancer". Saccharine has been extensively studied and constantly failed to provide any evidence of causing human cancers. Claiming it "may cause cancer" is a weasel word.

Comment: I would wear Google glasses first. . . (Score 1) 471

by Mr_Wisenheimer (#47873869) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Smartwatch Apps Could You See Yourself Using?

I am one of those anachronistic people who still wears a watch. A good Swiss watch starts at about the same price as a high-end smart watch. It's rugged, it keeps time for years or even decades without needing a battery (depending on whether it is quartz or automatic). You can dive much deeper with a good watch than you can hold your breath. The watch face is made of hard crystal and the case of thick metal to protect it from damage. People are still handing down to their great grandchildren their Rolex's and Omegas they got back during WWII. It also puts the most relevant information, which is they time, at your fingertips.

Smart watches are all incredibly flawed in some way. Apple's watch face looks rugged but the case is flimsy and the bezel is a huge point of failure and easily smashed by anyone who is active. Apple uses a backlit LCD, so the charge will not last very long. It certainly is not something meant for active people. You won't be able to take it with you into the field. Other watches use e-ink, so they have less of a problem with the battery, but they usually are not rugged devices.

And, to top things off, the only thing you really need to keep constant track of is the time. It's not that hard to stop and glance at your smartphone if you really need to check messages. The watch really adds very little.

Compare that to Google glasses. They actually have novel uses, such as working as a poor-man's heads up display so you can see navigation information while you drive, fly, bike, or walk. I see people staring at their cell phones all the time as they walk and drive, so at least the google glasses fits into that paradigm and makes the activity safer. I can see a future for Google glasses, because there are so many potential killer apps. The only killer app for watches is telling time, and many watches already do it better.

Comment: Re:Meanwhile in the real world... (Score 1) 427

by Mr_Wisenheimer (#47864085) Attached to: UN Study Shows Record-High Increases For Atmospheric CO2 In 2013

Hot years are not incompatible with a "hiatus" in lower atmosphere warming. Obviously, more recent years are going to be the hottest even if global warming stopped completely, because global cooling would be required to return to where we were in the past.

The Earth has continued to warm the past decade, just at a much more modest rate than it had been warming in the 1990's or even since the 1950's.

The reason is because the bulk of that extra heat is not being stored in the lower atmosphere like it was in the 1990's. More likely it has been absorbed in large part by the oceans.

Comment: Re:Talking Point (Score 1) 427

by Mr_Wisenheimer (#47864031) Attached to: UN Study Shows Record-High Increases For Atmospheric CO2 In 2013

Our models of gravity are constantly being adjusted. Still, they have excellent predictive power and so do climate models.

Also, different models serve different purposes. The simple models which show how much extra heat is being trapped are very straightforward and are not changed much because they have been highly accurate for the longest time.

The models that predict where that heat ends up are much more complicated and have been tweaked over decades.

The basic model is not a massive system that we know little about. It is basic undergraduate thermodynamics and astrophysics. We can measure the albedo, we can measure, the net change caused by the greenhouse effect, and we can measure the solar irradience. This is a simple system that gives us a highly accurate measurement of how much net energy is gained or lost from year to year.

The complicated part is figuring out how all that extra energy caused by the buildup of greenhouse gasses is distributed.

Comment: Tomorrow doesn't have a climate (Score 2) 427

by Mr_Wisenheimer (#47863955) Attached to: UN Study Shows Record-High Increases For Atmospheric CO2 In 2013

That is a huge mistake people keep making. Tomorrow has weather. Predicting the weather and predicting the climate are too very different things.

Predicting the climate is akin to predicting when you will need certain repairs on your car. Climatologists cannot say exactly when the median temperature will increase by 1 K, but they can say it will happen and predict about when it will happen. The engineers at BMW cannot predict exactly when your water pump will fail, but they can tell you that eventually it will fail and that it probably will fail around 150,000 km with about 10% accuracy.

Predicting the weather is akin to predicting whether your water pump will fail tomorrow. It's much harder to do. Maybe it sounds funny, but it might take months to fail. Maybe it sounds fine but develops a sudden unexpected leak.

It amazes me that with all the education we have, people are still confusing climate and weather.

Comment: Re:Broadband should be equal to broadcast quality (Score 1) 528

by Mr_Wisenheimer (#47857209) Attached to: AT&T Says 10Mbps Is Too Fast For "Broadband," 4Mbps Is Enough

"Quality" of compressed video is a subjective standard.

For 1080p video, the only objective standard of quality is uncompressed, which is 1.24 Gb/s for a movie and nearly 3 Gb/s for a 60 FPS show or 6 Gb/s for a 60 FPS 3D movie. For 4K video we are talking about about 24 Gb/s for full quality.

Sure, you can squeeze a 1080p video down into whatever bitrate you want by lossy compression, but you lose information. What might be acceptable compression quality to you may not be acceptable to someone else. Netflix can, in theory, deliver 4K TV over a 50 Mb/s connection, but it is (at least to me) an unacceptable loss in quality. Once 4K becomes a legitimate standard, we should expect high speed broadband to be delivering data at 200 Mb/s (more or less) at a minimum. Right now, 50Mb/s is acceptable because it allows for the streaming of full quality 1080p video and for highly compressed 4K video.

Anything less that 100 Mb/s is pitifully slow and does not meet the qualitative expectation of "high speed" internet. It meets the minimum expectation for normal consumer tasks such as streaming highly compressed video.

Anything less than 10 Mb/s does not even meet that standard and it should be designed as low speed as it is inadequate for many common consumer tasks.

The cost of feathers has risen, even down is up!