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Comment This is like the whole "learning styles" thing. (Score 1) 307

"Learning styles" takes an undeniable truth, that different people find it easiest to learn in different ways, exaggerates it to a falsehood (i.e., that people can only learn the way that's easiest for them), and then converts it to BS (e.g., "I'm a visual thinker, that's why I'm no good at math.")

The underlying mistaken assumption is that education should never require you to try something you find difficult or unnatural. If you are indeed a visual learner, that's something that you and your teachers can and should exploit, but you need to learn how to learn in modes that don't come easily to you. Life doesn't always give you a choice of forms for lessons you need to learn. Sometimes you ought to read the manual; other times there is no manual. You need to be adaptable to either case.

It's important to be sensitive to the fact that some students are introverts -- although that doesn't necessarily mean "shy" or "socially awkward"; that's just a stereotype, it's not what "introverted" means. But it is undeniably true that group work comes less naturally to introverts than extroverts. Nonetheless they still need to learn to work that way, just as extroverts need to learn how to work independently. If you just taught students to be able to do what comes naturally to them, what's the point of education?

Comment Re: the work he has put in does warrant appreciati (Score 2) 146

Self-amusement can't be a practical purpose for a hobby project?

It's one of those things we couldn't have imagined when the Internet was thrown open to anyone back in the early 90s. We didn't anticipate it would be used to spread cat memes, revive white supremacist ideology, or more to the point usher in a new golden age or priggery.

Comment Re:Punish the (really) guilty (Score 1) 956

I'm following the discussion at the Dallas morning news on this, and one word that comes up over and over is "normal". It's not normal for a kid to build something like this -- so he must be up to something. One popular theory is that he planned this to get arrested and start the whole media circus.

In these peoples' tiny little minds, you have a choice: you can choose to be "normal" or you can choose be some kind of deviant. Well if that's the case, I'll take "deviant" please.

Comment Re:Email the school and let them know what you thi (Score 1) 956

Don't for get the Chamber of Commerce; if you own or manage a business, why not let them know by posting on their Facebook ( or twitter feed ( how this affects your perception of Irving Texas as a place to do business.

Comment Re:Punish the (really) guilty (Score 1) 956

Because it takes balls for a cop to stand up and say, "I screwed up, because even though I'm supposed to protect people from things like bombs I have no friggin' idea what one looks like. I go by what I've seen in the movies." And obviously the cops in Irving don't have any, so they're hemming and hawing and implying that some kind of crime must have been committed, although they can't figure out what that might be.

Comment Re:Innocent until proven guilty (Score 1) 956

Tinkerers and inventors used to be a big thing in this country too, but we're no longer a country that makes things; we're a country that lives by managing the assets past generations have left us. No wonder we're afraid of immigrants and smart people -- and smart immigrants are our worst fear.

Comment Re:Theory (Score 1) 591

Well, I don't disagree with you on substance, but I have two issues with what you wrote. First, your usage of "theory" doesn't match the specific definition of the word as it is used in the term "Theory of Evolution". lists that definition first:

a coherent group of *tested* general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena...

[emphasis mine]

So "Theory" in this sense is the highest level of certainty there is in science. Physicists don't regard Newton's "Theory of Gravitation" as conjectural. That more common colloquial sense of "theory" (as something conjectural) is listed as the second definition.

Also, I feel the whole metaphor of science as a Darwinian struggle between ideas gets the spirit of the enterprise wrong; and I think this view of matters underlies misunderstandings we often see here about what "scientific consensus" means.

Scientific consensus is not about establishing a group agreement about what constitutes eternal, unassailable truth. It's about establishing an agreement about where the burden of proof lay. It could be with those who say an idea is true, with those who say it is false, or with both.

For example I think it's pretty clear that faster than light travel is inconsistent with currently accepted theories (sense 1) in physics like Special Relativity. That doesn't mean that some theoretical physicists don't have some ideas of how it might be accomplished, but at present those ideas fall under the heading of "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof". However any physicist is free to assert that FTL is twaddle without having to perform a lengthy re-hashing of all the evidence everyone's already familiar with anyway.

Now why not simply say everyone has the same burden of proof no matter what their position is? Wouldn't that be fair? Well, no. It wouldn't be fair to all the people who worked to gather and defend the evidence behind the current scientific consensus to give some random guy's brainstorm equal weight to that evidence. In any case that would be impractical. It makes no sense to demand that people who support the laws of thermodynamics muster the same level of detailed argument that you'd demand of someone who claimed to have built a perpetual motion machine. It'd be a waste of everyone's time.

Comment Speaking as a watch collector, (Score 3, Insightful) 112

that's $28,500 for a badly designed prop, except that it's not actually a prop, it's just an ugly and impractically cluttered commemorative watch.

The belt time indicator is an interesting idea, but it's not really impressive. Of course you can make series of mechanical belts tell time, and if you make only a few thousand of them a year by hand of course they'll cost like crazy. If you want to make it *impressive* you've got to make it small -- say 12mm thick by 45mm across at a minimum. 6mm thick would be better.

The humblest Chinese-made mechanical watch movement is a marvel of miniaturization. You can get one from a watch materials company like Esslinger or Otto Frei for under $15; self-winding movements for as little as $22. Typically the movement will be 11.5 ligne wide (that's 25.6 mm; "ligne" is a length unit used to measure watch movements and buttons); and about 5mm thick. If you look though a magnifier at the tiny gears running in their almost microscopic jeweled cups, it's astonishing that you can buy something like that for the price. For about 15x as much you can get a fine Swiss ETA movement that shaves 1.5mm off that thickness.

For less than half the price of this monstrosity you could have a Jaeger LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Jubilee, a watch that is only 4mm thick fully assembled. The movement is 1.85 mm thick, which is exactly halfway between the thickness of a quarter and a nickel.

Of course I understand that the market for *this* watch is not the market for fine watches; I'm not part of that market either, I collect *cheap* watches. But design should be more about separating customers from their money -- which by the way is the dominant design philosophy in the cheap watch market segment. That's what makes it challenging to find well-designed cheap watch. The technology in that price range is more than good enough, in fact on an objective level the technology in cheap watches is *better*. What's hard to find in a cheap watch is good taste.

Last yeer I kudn't spel Engineer. Now I are won.