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Comment Re:there are plenty (Score 2) 330

I wonder, if you are slow, or am I so unclear... Did you not see the requirement for pairs of links? One to a prediction, the other — to its confirmation?

Comment Re:Climate modeling (Score 1) 330

Dyson's big reason not to worry about climate change is that "I consider it likely that we shall have “genetically engineered carbon-eating trees” within twenty years, and almost certainly within fifty years. ... After we have mastered biotechnology, the rules of the climate game will be radically changed." I am not so sanguine about betting the world's economy on massive breakthroughs in genetic engineering technology. Maybe they're work out, but maybe this prediction will be about as useful as Dyson's designs for spaceships powered by nuclear bombs.

Comment Re:"writing" has nothing to do with it (Score 1) 122

Maybe you didn't understand what I was talking about. Your grant proposals and tenure review processes are secondary effects here. The primary driver is how the government sets its budget internally.

Thank you for the clarification. That context wasn't clear to me in your original comment and this makes it much clearer. I thought you were talking about how individual scientists' work is judged, but you were talking about how science is judged on a much larger scale, and in that context you are correct.

Comment Re:It is a problem (Score 1) 122

Physicists are very smart people. They have to be able to figure out a way to simplify the authorship issue on projects that large.

If large authorship were a problem, the kinds of fixes you suggest might be in order, but what is the problem? As publishing moves from dead trees to electrons, why is it a problem to list everyone who made a significant contribution to a large project as an author?

Comment Re:"writing" has nothing to do with it (Score 1) 122

Science today is judged by two metrics: papers published and students graduated.

It's important to actually understand that statement if you want to understand some of the quirks and problems with scientific culture.

You do not get credit for projects, advancements, talks, transition to industry, programs, results, etc..


First, the National Science Foundation only allows you to list ten papers on your biography for grant applications, so whether you published 10 papers or 1000 papers, you still can only list ten on your biographical sketch.

Also, regarding things other than papers: you are required to include in your grant applications a report on the results (including "boarder impacts to society") of all your previously funded research projects. People get big credit when applications of their work is picked up by industry and a grant officer on one of my grants said they were very happy when my reports included working code on github and submitted to CRAN in addition to the usual scientific publications. At a meeting of grant-recipients I attended in Washington recently, the NSF had one researcher give a featured presentation highlighting an open-source web-based platform he had developed for integrating hydrologic, climate, and agricultural data to help farmers deal with drought.

For promotion and tenure, talks, patents, projects, industry collaborations, etc. are indeed counted. Moreover, when a professor is up for tenure, they have to go through their publication list and explain what they contributed to each paper they list, so if you didn't do much, the paper doesn't count much for your promotion.

And the quality of papers is at least as important as the number of papers. For promotion, the university contacts a dozen or so major scientists in other institutions who have never worked directly with you or co-authored any papers with you, and asks each of them to evaluate how important your contribution to science was. If you are just one of 1000 authors on a bunch of papers, but no one knows of any major contributions that you made to those papers, you almost certainly won't get tenure.

Comment Re:It is a problem (Score 1) 122

However, the physics and genetic articles that have thousands of authors are much harder to justify, and absurd to even think that anyone would go through the list.

Consider high energy physics, where the papers require the combination of major efforts by more than a thousand physicists: People who designed and built the detectors, people who operated them 24/7 for runs lasting several months, people who wrote the triggering and data analysis code, people who conducted the data analysis, etc.

All of these different aspects are major contributions, deserving co-authorship, and the papers draw on all those parts. Leave any out. You can't write a paper using only the data from the muon detector.

During the writing of the paper every piece of the paper has to be approved by the experiment as a whole and everyone takes responsibility for the content.

Comment Re:Atomic clocks don't rely on nuclear decay..... (Score 1) 403

Atomic clocks won't work without electrical power, and would be subject to all the same physical rust and breakdown as other electronic devices over the years.

Indeed. I used to work at the Time and Frequency division at NIST, where they keep the master atomic clocks for the US. They had a big room full of 12-volt car batteries to provide backup power to the clocks in case of a power outage.

Comment RTGs in lighthouses (Score 3, Interesting) 403

The former Soviet Union built hundreds of automated lighthouses in remote locations powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators. Those use 90Sr, which has a half-life of 30 years so they can go for many decades. They were installed in the 1970s-90s, so most of them are around one half-life out. They could well continue operating for several decades, but some small solar-powered devices might well outlast them if they aren't damaged too badly by weather over the years.

Comment Re:K-12 Teacher (Score 1) 420

right now most of us are going to have many careers in our lifetime.

The idea that people are going to have many careers, and that people are changing jobs more frequently than in the past appears to be an urban myth that is not supported by actual data.

job stability hasn't changed all that much in the U.S. since the late 1990s ... the typical American worker's tenure with his or her current employer was 3.8 years in 1996, 3.5 years in 2000 and 4.1 years in 2008, the latest available data.

Comment Re:She has a point. (Score 1) 628

Also, if we look at real tenure track hirings, as opposed to hypothetical ones in a research study, we find that women are 35% of tenure-track hirings in biology, 30% in chemistry, 30% in civil engineering, 30% in electrical engineering, 30% in math, and 20% in physics.

This is hardly evidence that women "utterly dominate virtually every measure of academic success and achievement we have at pretty much every level."

"Survey says..." -- Richard Dawson, weenie, on "Family Feud"