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Comment: Re:How detached from reality is astrophysics? (Score 1) 52

by Pausanias (#48515415) Attached to: The Moment of Truth For BICEP2
Oh please. There is such a thing as overly inflated news reports science. In each field in astrophysics for example, there are dozens to hundreds of people working on a given topic. They regularly compete each year for an (at least in the US) increasingly drying-up pool of funds. The success rate in grant proposal review panels is something like 10-20% or worse. As a result, they need to gain "mindshare" by being the first/most famous of the bunch to arrive at a result. Because of this, there is an arms race of who can gain the media's attention and "sex up" their research so as to gain their 15 minutes of fame and rise above the crowd, thus increasing their chance at getting funded for their next mission. Witness the faster-than-light neutrinos debacle as another example. You might say "this is how science works," but the people at BICEP2 and the faster-than-light neutrino people should have know better than to make such a big announcement so prematurely. The press aren't technically competent so scientists need to self-police about what makes it to the top of the CNN science segment. The point is, for every self-aggrandizing scientific team, there are dozens that work hard, reviewing their results, testing over and over again, publishing in tough, reputable, but non-sexy journals, and these kinds of researchers doing important work rarely get the limelight that they reserved, as compared to the self-aggrandizing types who at the slightest hint of a controversial/world-changing results ring up the New York TImes.

Comment: Re:They should be getting jobs at univeristies (Score 1) 283

by Pausanias (#48092635) Attached to: Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science
You are forgetting something. Most of the increase in tuition over the past decades has gone to hire new administrators. There are deans of this, deans of that, VP of this, VP of that, each making something like 150-200K+ Meanwhile, professors everywhere except the top elite private universities have low stagnating salaries, because in the words of a university president, "I can get faculty anywhere," i.e. the problem discussed in this article.

Comment: Re:Where are the links? (Score 0) 425

by Pausanias (#47921407) Attached to: Apple Edits iPhone 6's Protruding Camera Out of Official Photos

Hey everyone, frnic is right---don't downmod on account of his French. The photoshopped pictures aren't actually anywhere on Apple's website; they are from rumor mills and third party sites.

As usual, the most insightful and informative comment is at the bottom where it won't be seen; the most sensationalist and factually inaccurate comments are at the top modded to +5.

Comment: Re:Tenure-hunting discourages risk (Score 1) 203

by Pausanias (#47832793) Attached to: Is There a Creativity Deficit In Science?

Peer review is fine. The problem is that there isn't enough reviewer guidance, nor are there enough pots for money for "high risk, high reward" situations. Government agencies are too afraid of "wasting" their money. These things can easily be remedied by having changes at the administrative level such that money is set aside for risky projects. Peer review can then go on the same way with revised criteria.

Also remember, for every story like the miracle cancer medicine that couldn't get funded for years but then became a runaway success, there are say 10-100 rejected projects that wouldn't have gone anywhere. What if there isn't any objective way to tell apart that 1-10% from the failures? Should we fund all of them? I don't think so as there is still much to be gained from "incremental" science.

Comment: Minimum mass (Score 1) 89

by Pausanias (#47785231) Attached to: Astronomers Find What May Be the Closest Exoplanet So Far

5.4 solar masses is m sin i, where i is the inclination of the orbit to the plane of the sky. Therefore, the mass could well be greater than 5.4 solar masses, and so it could be a neptune or in rare cases of close to face-on inclination have even higher mass.

This is a limitation of the radial velocity method, which was used in this detection; with transits (where you watch the star dim as the planet passes in front of it) you already know the inclination---it's 90 degrees to a high accuracy. So you know the mass once you have a transit and a radial velocity.

Comment: Re:I seem to remember... (Score 5, Insightful) 275

by Pausanias (#47745397) Attached to: Dropbox Caught Between Warring Giants Amazon and Google

What happened to all the penguins---are they no longer on Slashdot anymore? How about these reasons to like Dropbox over MS, Google, and the others:

- Linux client
- Follows symlinks
- Automatic infinite version history (for a fee)
- LAN syncing for faster speed
- Bandwidth controls
- Automatic full resolution photo uploading from mobile
- Sync that just works

It's not all about the price ya know. Some of us like quality too. I currently have 24GB of free storage through Dropbox which I got through a special promotion. It has always worked flawlessly and never let me down.

Comment: Re:Ready in 30 years (Score 5, Informative) 305

by Pausanias (#47709743) Attached to: If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly

What a load of bull. Only in the core of the Sun does fusion actually occur. The temperature at the core is 15 million Kelvin and the central density is 160,000 kg/m^3. That is an energy density fucking orders of magnitude about decomposing manure. The numbers you get are by averaging over the entire Sun, which is irrelevant, because only a tiny central region of the Sun is hot enough for fusion.

10+ years on Slashdot and in the past few years it has really been taken over by amateurs. Every hard physics / astronomy article is filled with nonsense patently FALSE comments modded up to +4. Our collective intelligence has been decreasing, friends.

Please know what you are doing before you mod up an incorrect article... a simple Wikipedia peek will fix it for you folks.

Comment: New scientist story leaves out a lot (Score 1) 127

by Pausanias (#47292827) Attached to: Big Bang Breakthrough Team Back-Pedals On Major Result

These BICEP2 guys didn't back-pedal of their own accord, friends---how about citing the much more senior and respected people, such as WMAP guru Spergel, who already DID the joint Planck analysis and showed them how hasty they had been? This is pretty poor reporting on NS's part.

BICEP2 were a bunch of young upstarts riding into town with guns a-blazing. The sheriff came down and told them to calm down, boys, calm down.

Comment: Thinking inside the box (Score 2) 33

by Pausanias (#47040999) Attached to: NASA Looks To Volcanic Rocks As Target For Next Mars Rover

I'm all in favor of spending money on space exploration, but the way I see it, Mars represents a point of diminishing returns. In the true spirit of exploration, we should begin looking at other interesting environments, such as drilling into Europa or Enceladus. This obsessive focus on Mars is a boon for Mars experts, but it has a real cost in terms delayed progress towards understanding other solar system and deep space targets.

Space exploration missions will inspire audiences and yield side-benefits no matter where they go. Why not spread what little wealth there is and look towards bolder, more exciting targets?

Here's another well-argued perspective on my point:

Comment: Re:Why it matters (Score 5, Interesting) 293

In general relativity, wormholes *do* require negative mass (or energy density), for sure. Outside the context of the Casimir effect, negative mass in wormholes and warp drives can yield causality violations. Causality is the last thing you'll pry from a physicist's cold, dead hands. Therefore, while it may be fun to speculate about such things, they lie squarely within the realm of science fiction for now.

To post on a news site that the galactic black hole "may be a wormhole" is like posting a headline saying that extraterrestrial aliens "may currently be among us." Both ideas are exciting. Both ideas are remotely within the realm of possibility. And both are so unlikely that they would readily be dismissed by all except those who are credulous or who like to drum up sensationalism for its own sake.

It's sensationalism for nerds.

Seen on a button at an SF Convention: Veteran of the Bermuda Triangle Expeditionary Force. 1990-1951.