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Comment: CERNLIB on PC hardware: speaking from experience (Score 1) 385

by fiziko (#49290623) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Choosing a Laptop To Support Physics Research?

First my credentials: I have an M.Sc. in experimental particle physics and spent six months at CERN collecting and analyzing that data, so this is the voice of experience, not guesswork. I was there in the year 2000, and have since moved into teaching.

She'll want to be running the CERNlib under Linux. You can download that here. CERN is the world's biggest particle physics installation, and they produce PAW (Physics Analysis Workstation) and GEANT (forget the acronym; it was in beta and unavailable in my day) which are the standard software tools for particle physics analysis. CERN also releases their own version of Linux, available here. That's what she wants to be running for her goals, on a computer that has well above average processor power, memory and hard drive performance, but nothing particularly impressive for video and sound.

Comment: Re:this report is inconsistent (Score 3, Informative) 142

by fiziko (#48680907) Attached to: New Paper Claims Neutrino Is Likely a Faster-Than-Light Particle

There is no way to validly misinterpret "has a negative mass squared" and then you proceed to misinterpret it?

"The square of a negative mass" is a positive number. The square of an imaginary mass is negative, which is what they are talking about. It is clearly possible to misinterpret this. Before someone cries out that an imaginary mass is nonsense, I should point out that imaginary numbers appear in several legitimate places in science. I don't believe the results of this paper are correct, but I'm not about to dismiss them out of hand.

Comment: Re:this report is inconsistent (Score 3, Insightful) 142

by fiziko (#48680399) Attached to: New Paper Claims Neutrino Is Likely a Faster-Than-Light Particle

Saying "has a negative mass squared" can be misinterpreted more easily than "the square of the mass is negative." One person read it as intended, and another read it as "you take a negative mass and square it." If the wording was completely clear, that misinterpretation couldn't have happened. Different brains will associate the words "negative mass" as a complete unit while others will associate "mass squared" as a complete unit.

Comment: Re:this report is inconsistent (Score 5, Insightful) 142

by fiziko (#48679599) Attached to: New Paper Claims Neutrino Is Likely a Faster-Than-Light Particle

drdread66 doesn't have it backwards, the original article is unclear in its phrasing. It should have stated that the square of the mass is negative, which can be assumed when it accurately states that the mass is an imaginary number. Another commenter has linked back to the original paper on archiv.org; I always recommend going back to the source for science reporting anywhere online. As Einstein said when asked about his thoughts on a one page summary of the theory of relativity from a local paper, "things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

Comment: Re: Math author dies rich... (Score 5, Interesting) 170

by fiziko (#48639323) Attached to: Calculus Textbook Author James Stewart Has Died

The difference between his book and SO MANY of the other textbooks I have is that his is actually good. Why do you think everyone recognizes the name "James Stewart" as the calculus author? Is there a definite textbook author for any other courses? I've got two physics degrees and an education degree, and Stewart's calculus and David Griffiths' Electricity and Magnetism texts were the only two that seemed to be so pervasive.

The main complaints need to be directed at publishers, not authors. Stewart started with a slow update cycle, but then publishers started putting books out of print and demanding new editions every two years to eliminate the used textbook sales market and try to force every student onto new editions. (If a book is out of print, the prof needs to order a new edition, because there is no other way to ensure there are enough available for all students.) Stewart is one of the authors who chose to meet the accelerated publication schedule instead of bowing out. Why begrudge him for filling a void that the publisher would fill with or without his help? I once tried ordering a textbook through a local brick and mortar store. This was 1998: the book was $110 at the campus bookstore, and the local Chapters (now owned by Indigo) expected to bring it in for a cost of $95 to me as a special order. They called before finalizing the order because the publisher checked their address and noticed they were not on campus, and changed to cost to them. Using the same proportionate markup, they would now have to charge me $180 for the same book. Tell me there's not gouging of customers going on there... (I spent $110 on campus instead, and ordered the rest of my textbooks online in later years to compete without the address flag. Saved an average of 15%, even after shipping fees.)

Comment: Yes, they should: research supports this (Score 1) 421

by fiziko (#47639615) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Should Schooling Be Year-Round?

Research clearly shows that skills regress if students don't apply those skills for over three weeks (on average; different students naturally have different retention rates.) Year round schools don't generally have significantly more school days than those with long summer breaks, they just have shorter and more frequent breaks. Kids *still* get times to be kids, but the classroom spends less time in review so more forward progress can be made. Year round schooling is better for the students, but it's not the most important reform needed in North America at the moment.

Comment: Re:Really? (Score 4, Informative) 100

by fiziko (#47573325) Attached to: "ExamSoft" Bar Exam Software Fails Law Grads

The business next door proctors these and similar exams. They are expensive and not available in every community, so the test takers have often paid a relatively large amount of money at this stage of their lives, not just several hundred to take the test, but also travel, accommodations, missing day(s) of work, etc. to be where the test is available. The proctoring company does not charge them for the second attempt, but all of the expenses needed to be there get doubled.

Comment: Re:Which means (Score 1) 347

by fiziko (#47312457) Attached to: Evidence of a Correction To the Speed of Light

What lack of observational evidence? Neutrinos do not produce Cerenkov radiation (light booms, caused by traveling faster than light) in a vacuum, but they do in a fluid such as they do at neutrino detectors such as this one. This indicates that they travel faster than light when light is barely slowed down, but not when light is in a vacuum. Hence, the evidence indicates that neutrinos travel close to, but not at the speed of light. How close? We haven't measured that yet (to my knowledge) but we can: detect them in materials with refractive index progressively closer to 1.00 until the light booms stop. That's when the speeds match.

Comment: Digital Comic Museum (Score 3, Informative) 165

by fiziko (#47201823) Attached to: Recommendations For Classic Superhero Comic Collections?

I would head over to the Digital Comic Museum, create a free account, and start going through the public domain titles in addition to the Masterworks/Archives listed by others. The DCM will also give you access to stuff like The Spirit, Lev Gleason's Daredevil, Fawcett's Captain Marvel, Whiz (where CM first appeared), and Captain Billy's Whiz Bang, the golden age/western hero Ghost Rider (with the unfortunate outfit), and thousands of others. Follow your interests; the 1930s and 1940s were part of an era when superheroes weren't quite as dominant as they would later become, so you can find piles of romance, comedy, crime, and so forth in the mix.

Comment: Re:how soon before (Score 4, Informative) 223

by fiziko (#47037407) Attached to: Scientists Propose Collider That Could Turn Light Into Matter

Not entirely devoid, no, but in my experience (as a former researcher; still have the CERN employee ID card) there is still some that is free of politics. The fact that results need to be reproducible to be accepted helps. The main concern is funding. As long as you can confidently tell your backers that there is money to be made either way, or find different backers with vested interests in different results, there is no pressure to fudge results. In fact, the project I worked on (ATLAS) had no outside input asking for bias in results that I could see in any way, shape or form. Of course, if that was the case universally nobody would question vaccines, but it still happens often, especially in fields like particle physics (which this article is talking about) in which application is so far down the road that most financial backers really are looking for the spinoff technology it takes to produce the result moreso than the result itself.

Comment: Looters... (Score 1, Interesting) 769

by TheAngryMob (#46861055) Attached to: The Koch Brothers Attack On Solar Energy

You know, for people that calm to be devotees of Ayn Rand's work, the Koch Brothers (and the Tea Party in general) clearly haven't read Atlas Shrugged.

Using the government taxes and rules to crush your opponents (when you can't do it in the free market) was the main tactic...of the book's villains.

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome. -- Dr. Johnson

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