Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:No faith in thier own. (Score 1) 155

Although there is some truth to that, there typically is lots of diversity in PhD graduates from any one department due to the diversity of research groups/advising. A bulk (by time at least) of the undergrad education is coursework and most BS graduates in a CS department have all taken 70-90% the same courses. So there perhaps is some level of uniformity there. In contrast, the bulk of a PhD education is research-oriented and greatly impacted by the advisor you have / research lab you're in. There can be quite a bit of diversity in both culture and ideas coming out of one academic department.

Comment: Re:Glad they waited until I was done with college. (Score 1) 134

by discontinuity (#46416207) Attached to: College Board To Rethink the SAT, Partner With Khan Academy

This is an excellent comment. Would bump you up if I had mod points. The notion of practicing so that you can solve problems quickly is hugely important on these exams (any exam with a time limit).

The value of prep courses does extend beyond practicing, though. In particular, testing for things like arcane vocabulary encourages prep courses (or at least books and self prep). There also is some value in coaching and exam strategy. I suspect that this could lead to increases in people's scores (e.g., coaching students to not answer a question if they are unsure of the answer since, at least until the new format, you lose points for wrong answers).

The alliance with Khan Academy is interesting. The education system is stacked heavily in favor of those from the higher rungs of the economic ladder. Although it's not strictly about money (a free course is not useful if culture/family/teachers do not push students to take it and take it seriously), this is a nice step in the right direction.

Comment: Re:I took his AI class (Score 1) 339

by discontinuity (#40245069) Attached to: Online Courses and the $100 Graduate Degree

but that's the problem. $32k will only get you 20hrs per week. It varies by institution, but the full cost of a TA (stipend, tuition, fringe, etc.) is in the $30k range and for that you only can require they work 20 hours a week on average.

As far as feedback is concerned, it varies wildly by institution, professor, type of course, etc.

And I still don't see how you'd teach a lab oriented course (physics, many engineering subjects) in an online fashion. Maybe lecture, but that lab experience is necessary.

Comment: Re:I took his AI class (Score 3, Informative) 339

by discontinuity (#40240973) Attached to: Online Courses and the $100 Graduate Degree

160,000 students @ $100 each is $16M.

$16M at $32k buys 500 TAs / year.

160K students / 500 TAs is 320 students / TA.

One TA could give each student one dedicated hour every other month and maintain a regular 40 hr per week year round schedule.

That's not that far off from being reasonable.

If you pay the TAs only $15K-20K you would have budget for overhead and profit, or more TAs for more FTF time.

A full-load TA generally can work only 20 hours/week at the job, so the numbers are off by a factor of two. One hour per month is a little low to begin with, and 30 minutes per month is not workable unless the assignments are trivial to grade. 30 min/month is something like 7.5 minutes per week.

There are some efficiencies to be had by moving elements of education online. For example, discussion boards are a great way to answer a question once for the entire class to see. Sometimes students will even answer questions other students have posted. But there is no economy of scale on grading and providing useful feedback. Some things are inherently labor intensive.

Comment: Re:Yes but (Score 1) 191

by discontinuity (#38060418) Attached to: Researchers Locate Flaw In Bitcoin Protocol

Bullshit. Stockbrokers and lawyers are licensed and subsidized. The supply is artificially limited by government fiat, and demand is artificially increased. Not so for mechanics and programmers. And that's the reason for the difference. It has nothing to do with natural supply and demand.

Artificially limited by fiat? This suggests there is a quota for how many lawyers can be licensed in a given year. I am unaware of such a limit. Having to pass an examination is not the same thing.

Comment: Re:Aerospace Engineering Graduate Student (Score 1) 283

by discontinuity (#37812636) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Enter Private Space Industry As an Engineer?

The parent has a good point about getting involved in research. It is good for experience, connections, fun (you might get to work on some cool stuff, after all), etc. It is especially valuable if you intend to go to graduate school, but certainly won't hurt your prospects for getting a job with a BS.

I notice lots of responders advising that you go to this or that school. I am faculty in mechanical engineering at a top-tier university and I can tell you the following: as long as you go somewhere reputable and work hard, you should be fine. Ask 10 different people and you'll get 10 different recommendations about what is the best school to put you on a specific career path. In my opinion, the identity of the "best" school depends on the individual. Personal happiness matters as much as US News and World Report rankings. (That being said, if you're capable of getting in to a top-10 engineering program then you'd have to have a pretty big personal reason to settle for someplace ranked 100+.)

What you should do no matter where you wind up is try to get an internship with SpaceX or someone else in that industry. Internships are a great potential pathway to a full-time offer when you graduate as well as a great way for you to figure out if this is really where you want to work.

Going back to the "which college" issue, I believe SpaceX and companies like them take interns from numerous institutions. Some intern hiring has a geographic bias (because companies do not always offer relocation benefits). But I never would choose a university solely for its proximity to a particular company.

To convey my own observations: One of my graduate students interned with SpaceX this past summer (after working for Tesla Motors the summer prior). Although we are a highly reputable engineering school (ranked in top 15 by USN&WR), we're not MIT or CalTech and SpaceX isn't located where we are. Yet this didn't stop my student (and a few undergrads I know here) from landing internships with SpaceX.

The bottom line is that the school is only part of the equation. You need to work hard when you get there and it helps an awful lot to go someplace you will be happy (or else you won't want to work very hard).

Good luck!

Comment: Re:Why have any racial indicators? (Score 1) 464

by discontinuity (#37146366) Attached to: American Grant Writing: Race Matters

Chances are someone with a White Sounding name a Todd vs. Tyrone will get a grant because chances are better that a Todd will have more political connections then a Tyrone will.

Although perhaps this type of bias does crop up in some cases, there actually is political pressure to give grants to a "Tyrone" over a "Todd". For example, the NSF proposal review criteria include consideration of the "Broader Impacts" of the research. One way to address this criterion is to include outreach activities in your proposal that would include underrepresented minorities (could be anything from interacting with minority high school students to involving undergraduate minorities in the research project). So faculty who are black or who are at a historically black university might plausibly have an advantage in this aspect of the review process. There even is pressure from NSF such that any NSF Research Center (major multimillion dollar centers that involve multiple universities) oftentimes must include at least one historically minority institution.

So yes, it is true that PMs must defend the awards they give to politicians and other superiors and therefore are subject to political pressures. However, such pressures are not uniformly stacked against minority groups. I am unfamiliar with NIH, but there is at least some effort to level the field at NSF. (All of that being said, it doesn't matter what your outreach activities look like if the intellectual aspects are judged inadequate by the review panel, which is more on-point to what TFA is talking about. All I'm saying here is that if the intellectual merit of two proposals are deemed equal, the proposal with more minority outreach/participation actually would get the nod at NSF.)

Comment: Re:Mod parent to infinity (Score 1) 278

by discontinuity (#36835242) Attached to: Predictions of the Future...From the 1960s

Why would you expect scientists in academia to behave differently from people in any other walk of life? Did you expect monks?

It is important to remember that science is a process. It is folly to look at any one study and bet your life on the results (because there may have been errors in the experiment, the data was limited in size/scope, or the researcher was a hack of the type that you suggest). It only is meaningful to look at a body of work over time. To borrow and tweak your phraseology a bit, I would never do something because a scientist says so, but I would be inclined on the basis that science says so. If a topic is important, there will be more than one scientist working in the area and, eventually, the scientific process should self correct for mistakes and overreaches by any one individual. If one researcher is screaming about the greatness of furry purple nipples, then eventually someone else will contest this claim (in their own self-aggrandizing-interest; perhaps in an effort to advance their own theory about slippery green nipples) and bring to light the deficiencies of the original work. These things get sorted out on important matters, albeit on a rather slow time scale compared to the patience of the average onlooker (think years and decades).

Also, if the professor is paying for the grad student, paying for the equipment/supplies the grad student is using, or committing time to advise him/her, then the faculty member's name certainly should go on the paper. I suppose it is akin to a situation in which an employee at a private company does work on company time/with company equipment and wants to publish or patent it--it's not like the employee can do this without company permission or giving the company credit in some form. You may disagree with this in principle, but the fact is that this reality exists pretty much anywhere you go. So it's not like professors are outliers on this one. (Now, if the grad student did the research completely on his/her own time with no supervision from the professor and with no equipment/supplies from the professor's lab, then maybe there is an issue. But I think such situations are exceptionally rare.)

Anyway, that's the $0.02 for today.

Comment: nothing new -- why so surprised? (Score 1) 532

by discontinuity (#35965024) Attached to: University Proposes Tuition Based On Major

This is nothing new, though perhaps the scale is larger. Engineering students have been paying more than most other students for decades. The difference was that these differences were called "lab fees" rather than differential tuition. However, they were just as mandatory as tuition. Now by calling tuition, it may occasionally benefit students in terms of some loans and scholarships (occasionally, money can be used for tuition but not for things called fees).

Differential tuition also occurs for business schools, particularly for MBA programs.

What I don't understand is why the /. crowed is so shocked this. The truth is that engineering degrees are more expensive to produce. Usually if a good or service is more expensive to produce, it costs more to buy. The lab fees that engineering students pay covers only a small fraction of the additional cost of engineering education. Have you ever looked at the difference between the salary for an engineering professor and that of a professor in a liberal arts field? This is a consequence of supply and demand. I'm not saying an engineering degree should cost 10x or even 2x what a LA degree costs. My point simply is that differential tuition is a reaction to basic market forces that we've been ignoring for a long time.

Comment: Re:Surprised? (Score 5, Insightful) 582

by discontinuity (#28306203) Attached to: Teen Diagnoses Her Own Disease In Science Class

Crohn's disease is pretty common, so how come it wasn't diagnosed? The idiot medicos just pocketed the money for tests, hospital stays, appointments, medical certs etc for 8 years while the girl suffered? Hmmm. Come to think of it I'm not that surprised. There are far more quacks out there than decent doctors in my experience.

Well, Wikipedia can be suspect at times, but here's what it says (

Many people with Crohn's disease have symptoms for years prior to the diagnosis.[12] The usual onset is between 15 and 30 years of age but can occur at any age.[13] Because of the 'patchy' nature of the gastrointestinal disease and the depth of tissue involvement, initial symptoms can be more vague than with ulcerative colitis. People with Crohn's disease will go through periods of flare-ups and remission.

Really sounds to me like a combo of on-again off-again symptoms and symptoms that are fairly generic (i.e., shared w/ lots of conditions) than doctors and labs trying to squeeze ever last buck out of someone and their insurance. Now, if there is a problem if the first thing they do is run expensive tests for exotic diseases or something like that. I mean, a responsible physician would consider the a priori odds of each condition. And while I'm sure there are plenty of "quacks" out there, I'm not sure that's the first conclusion I would reach for in this particular case.


+ - Mysterious Sound Waves Can Destroy Rockets

Submitted by
Ponca City, We love you
Ponca City, We love you writes "Scientists believe that powerful and unstable sound waves, created by energy supplied by the combustion process, were the cause of rocket failures in several US and Russian rockets and have also observed these mysterious oscillations in other propulsion and power-generating systems such as missiles and gas turbines. Now, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a liquid rocket engine simulator and imaging techniques to help demystify the cause of these explosive sound waves and bring scientists a little closer to being able to understand and prevent them. The team was able to clearly demonstrate that the phenomenon manifests itself in the form of spinning acoustic waves that gain destructive power as they rotate around the rocket's combustion chamber at a rate of 5,000 revolutions per second. Researchers developed a low-pressure combustor to simulate larger rocket engines then used a very-high-speed camera with fiber optic probes to observe the formation and behavior of excited spinning sound waves within the engine. "This is a very troublesome phenomenon in rockets," said Professor Ben Zinn. "These spinning acoustic oscillations destroy engines without anyone fully understanding how these waves are formed. Visualizing this phenomenon brings us a step closer to understanding it.""

"I'm a mean green mother from outer space" -- Audrey II, The Little Shop of Horrors