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Comment: My own path through science (Score 1) 580

OK, I started out as a Physics/ Astronomy major, and even got through three semesters of intro (all the way to elementary QM) and three semesters of math (thru diffy Q) as an undergrad. My problem, and why I became an English major: I was in the 3rd semester phys class and the math breaks out, and I am fine until they started using bra-ket notation. (If you don't know what I mean it's stuff like and used a lot in QM) I had no idea what it was. I hadn't seen it in a math class yet. the math and physics departments evidently never spoke to one another so there wasn't ay "matching" of the curricula, so if you got to the right notation in math you were ok but god help you if it was unfamiliar. I was too embarrassed to ask about it, probably. I didn't give up a sci major for *just* that reason. Originally I wanted to do both a liberal arts and a science degree. Yeah, I bit off more than I could chew. And I got interested in a lot of other things, like language learning (which I was more naturally talented at no question). But I did feel that I was falling behind in physics and was getting a bit frustrated I think. Even with pretty OK grades. But all that said, math builds up from one step to the other. I think it's like bicycle riding -- a lot of things stay once burned in. Anyhow, I did OK in my physics classes, and even the math. I was a B student and probably could have stuck it out. Interestingly, 20 years down the line I am back in math again. And I did Vector Calc and loved the class. My prof gave a take-home exam and I loved the fact that me and other students could argue over solutions. In one interesting instance I had the answer to a problem and I had to convince 2 other people I was right. I really learned that one! I think, even though I got a B-, (I glitched on the final, blanking on L'Hopital's rule for more than one variable, for christ's sake, I was so anxious) but my teacher was so good I felt like I learned a lot. And I still remembered, with a little prodding, the calc I took 20 years ago. Funny how it stays with you. Then this summer I was in Linear Algebra. And it was the most frustrating math class ever, for me. Lots of memorization of proofs. Abstractions way more than Vector Calc. I found it VERY hard. Much more so than vector calc even. A totally different skill set. I find that kind of abstract math more challenging for some reason. (Though I finally learned what the hell bra-ket notation meant. If someone had told me that in 1989... ) I think it's a combination of difficulty, preparedness, and the hit-or-miss setup of curricula at various colleges. And you have to have - as others here have said -- instructors who can help students with the things they struggle with. That's an art and there are no hard and fast answers or easy methods. I'll be taking partial diffs at some point soon I think. Will have to break out my old calc book and study ahead tho. (Finishing that physics BA. I really kind of dug intermediate E&M this time around).
Science

+ - New Cyanide Antidote Could Save Lives In Terror Attacks->

Submitted by RedEaredSlider
RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "If you plan on terrorizing the world with cyanide poison, you may have to think up another way. Steve Patterson, at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Drug Design, and his team have made an antidote that can be given with a simple injection. It's based on a sulfanegen triethanolamine (TEA). The sulfanogen allows the body to convert the cyanide to a much less toxic chemical called thiocyanate. It works fast, in minutes rather than hours, and is less involved than current antidotes to administer. It could also be a big help in industrial accidents, in which a few people get injured or killed by cyanide every year."
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Power

+ - Dry Run Brings Fusion Closer? ->

Submitted by RedEaredSlider
RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Fusion is often derided as "the energy source of the future — and it always will be." But now at Sandia they've done the first in a series of experiments that could lead to a working reactor, and one that doesn't require developing new technologies or a tokamak. Using a cylinder of berylium, they showed that you can crush it with a magnetic field, which would in turn crush any (pre-heated) deuterium-tritium mix inside it. That would result in a fusion reaction. The next step is to try the same experiment with real fuel inside. There's still some way to go, but this experiment does show what concrete steps can be taken (assuming each experiment works) on the way to building real fusion power plants."
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Data Storage

+ - Flash Memory Slashes Power Use At Data Centers->

Submitted by RedEaredSlider
RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Researchers from Princeton's School of Engineering and Applied Science have written a program called SSDAlloc, which tells a computer running to pretend that it's running using RAM, even though it's actually accessing the storage (flash) memory.

Most computers are designed to look in the RAM first for the data they need. Only after that does the operating look elsewhere, such as on the hard drive or a flash drive. That kind of hierarchical searching around can really slow things down.

SSDAlloc changes that, basically making a computer pretend the flash is the RAM. That cuts power consumption by up to 90 percent, the researchers say, because flash doesn't need power to run nor does it use the power that hard drives do."

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Displays

+ - New Glass Gets No Grit, Repels Water->

Submitted by RedEaredSlider
RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Researchers at MIT have developed a new kind of glass for displays — one that repels water and grit. The bonus: it can be made with exiting technology and equipment. The glass surface is made up of nanometer-scale cones (they actually can stand up to quite a lot of force) that prevent dirt and water from sticking to the surface."
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Medicine

+ - 'Cyberplasm' Robot Could Detect Disease->

Submitted by RedEaredSlider
RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Scientists are looking at the lowly lamprey for inspiration on building a robot that would swim around the insides of people and check for various disorders. The idea is to combine microelectronics with advances in glucose-powered artificial muscles, and use living cells as parts of the sensor. The lamprey-like bot is called a 'Cyberplasm' and would react to the environment the way an animal does."
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Transportation

+ - Biplane Could Go Supersonic Without the Boom->

Submitted by RedEaredSlider
RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes ""Supersonic passenger jet service ended with the Concorde's retirement in October, 2003, but that hasn't stopped people from trying to build a successor. At MIT an aeronautics professor turned to a design that dates to the 1950s to design a biplane that can travel faster than sound.

Qiqi Wang, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, used Busemann's Biplane, named for Adolf Busemann, as the basis for his idea. Sixty years ago, Busemann proposed that a plane moving at supersonic speeds that had two pairs of wings, almost joined at the tips to form a hollow space, would create an airflow that eliminated sonic booms.""

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The Internet

+ - Digital Dictionaries Save Vanishing Languages ->

Submitted by RedEaredSlider
RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "There are some 7,000 languages spoken in the world, and half of them could be gone by 2100. To rescue these languages, two linguists decided to use a combination of digital recording technology and the Internet.

K. David Harrison and Gregory Anderson are compiling what they call "talking dictionaries." Some of the languages they recorded have never been documented before. In 2010, they made the first recordings of Koro, for example, a language spoken by only a few hundred people in northeastern India.
Some of the work is available online. In one case, a community in Papua New Guinea that speaks a language called Matukar Panau, with only 600 speakers, asked that the language be put on the Internet even though it was only in the last two years that their village received electricity."

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The Internet

+ - Avoiding Red Lights by Booking Ahead->

Submitted by RedEaredSlider
RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Peter Stone, associate professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, has presented an idea at the AAAS meeting today for managing intersections: a computer in a car calls ahead to the nearest intersection it is headed towards, and says it will arrive at a given time. The intersection checks to see if anyone else is arriving then, and if the slot is open, it tells the car to proceed. If it isn't, it tells the car that and the car is responsible for slowing down or stopping.

He says that even with only a few connected cars, the system still works, even if the benefits are still only to those who have the connected vehicles."

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Science

+ - A Cloak In Time Can Secure Networks->

Submitted by RedEaredSlider
RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Cloaks in time as well as space have been studied as a way to hide things — but they can also reveal. Some work on the time cloaking at Cornell has led some scientists to the idea that you can use the cloaking effect to show whether a signal has been tampered with. Stitching together two pieces of a pulse of light masks any events that take place in the gap between the parts of the pulse, but if you tamper with the signal the gap shows up again."
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Government

+ - An End To Removing Shoes In Airports? ->

Submitted by RedEaredSlider
RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "The ritual of shoe removal has become familiar to air travelers flying inside and out of the United States, but most people still don’t like it. It takes time to do and slows down the security line.

Matthew Staymates of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, thinks he and his colleagues might have developed a way around having every passenger remove shoes for screening. The trick is to pick up trace amounts of explosives. Staymates came up with a device that blows particles off surfaces and analyze them.

The air jets to blow the particles off the passenger’s shoe would be located in some strategic locations. One version of the device might be a kiosk-style contraption the passengers would step into (similar to the body scanners in use at many airports). The sampling system can collect particles in a few seconds."

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Iphone

+ - The Robot With a Smart Phone Brain->

Submitted by RedEaredSlider
RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "One of the limitations of robot kits is that they can be complicated to use and build, and even the simplest ones require some hardware expertise. But now any smart phone can be a robot, thanks to the folks at Romotive.

The concept is quite simple: put a wheeled chassis on a smart phone or iPod Touch that allows for using the device as the “brain.” But that simplicity is what makes the robot, called Romo, powerful. Since the controls are contained entirely within the phone, they can be downloaded as apps. One can add new physical capabilities to Romo -– a claw, or a scoop -– but that doesn’t require any new additions to the phone.
Also, the controls are through the headphone jack. That simplifies the design and means that the robot doesn’t need to be linked with only one brand of smart phone."

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Space

+ - New Telescopes Might See Alien City Lights-> 2

Submitted by RedEaredSlider
RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Forget radio signals. Two scientists, Abraham Loeb, of Harvard University and Edwin Turner, from Princeton University, have said it may be possible with the next generation of telescopes to pick up the lights from cities on alien planets. On Earth, city lights are so bright they can be seen from space — and their spectral signature differs from that of the gases in the atmosphere and the sun. If one were looking at an alien civilization, one would expect to see the same thing.

The reason they proposed this is that aliens may not generate as much radio energy as their technology improves, given that on Earth we bleed less radio energy into space as we have moved to fiber optics."

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Hardware

+ - Gecko-Inspired Robot Rolls Up Walls->

Submitted by
RedEaredSlider
RedEaredSlider writes "We all love climbing robots. A group of researchers in Canada has decided to combine the mechanism geckos use to stick to walls with the simplicity of a tank tread. The result is a 'bot that can roll up smooth (and some not so smooth) surfaces. Such robots are easier to control than those that try to simulate walking directly."
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The Military

+ - Terminator-Like 'Bot Moves LIke a Human->

Submitted by RedEaredSlider
RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Boston Dynamics, with funding from DARPA, has built a robot that simulates human movement and looks a lot like the Terminator. But it isn't designed for hunting down enemy soldiers — it's for testing out military equipment such as chemical and biohazard suits. By moving realistically it can test the suits without needing to call for volunteers."
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The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made. -- Jean Giraudoux

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