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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: Re:Simple (Score 1) 92

by fiziko (#46845891) Attached to: Why Speed-Reading Apps Don't Work

Reading speed also depends greatly on the complexity of the text being read. I've taught grade five students, given them new selections and timed them, testing comprehension afterwards. The fastest I've seen (by a HUGE margin) was around 1400 words per minute with over 80% comprehension. That exceptional student could read and comprehend college level novels, so grade 5 was a joke, but he couldn't read the college level stuff at more than 250 words per minute.

Can you read the last novel you read at over 1000 words per minute? Not unless you are a hell of a lot faster than I can if you're also understanding it. (I top out around 750 wpm for the grade-9 level stuff you tend to see day to day.) Can you read kindergarten level text that quickly? Almost certainly, yes.

The original poster may have seen those numbers in a seemingly reliable source. Without grade levels involved, the numbers are meaningless. That doesn't mean the poster pulled them "out of his/her ass," but it does mean context is lacking.

Comment: Re:And there was much rejoicing (Score 2) 167

by fiziko (#46741107) Attached to: Anyone Can Buy Google Glass April 15

Google Glass may not bring about the end of privacy, but it's part of the problem. This is proprietary garbage, so you don't even know what it's doing. Anyone who buys it is a damn fool.

You aren't a damn fool just because you've bought one. Buying one just means you are curious and somewhat affluent. The "damn fool" part only kicks in if the thing is on and being worn while, say, doing Internet banking. As a teacher, I could see this being very beneficial to something like distance instruction, as it would be much more liberating than either teaching on a single whiteboard or depending on a third party camera person.

Comment: Of course not (Score 1) 650

by fiziko (#46683001) Attached to: Should Microsoft Be Required To Extend Support For Windows XP?

The end of XP has been a long time coming. Microsoft should not be legally obligated to provide XP support. The fact that XP is so pervasive is a side effect of the lack of appeal of its successors. The XP problem isn't a result of Microsoft failing to compete with others, it failed to compete with itself. If I worked at Microsoft, I'd maintain support in an attempt to maintain that customer base, but they are under no legal obligation to do so. The more likely result is that they'll end up driving people to Mac (and, in far lesser numbers, Linux) because the XP software customers use doesn't work in Windows 8, so they're looking at buying a lot of new software for any system.

Comment: More than that. (Score 1) 278

by fiziko (#46555097) Attached to: Don't Help Your Kids With Their Homework

As a professional educator working in the private industry, I can tell you that a lot of parents also cannot distinguish between "helping student understand principles better so student can do the homework independently" and "do homework for student." This can happen with poor tutors as well. If the "help" means the student doesn't understand the work enough to do it alone, it's not help. The student will then often end up in worse shape in the long run, as they won't understand future skills that the current skill is prerequisite to.

Comment: Re:Cultural bias biggest factor (Score 1) 384

by fiziko (#46462159) Attached to: Men And Women Think Women Are Bad At Basic Math

I live in Alberta. From 1965 to 2004, we climbed to having the #2 math performance in the world, second to Hong Kong and one notch above Japan. (At that time, matrix operations were still included in our semi-remedial math programs.) The gender gap was closing the entire time. Our standards have only dropped since then. As I said in another reply, that's a contributing factor, but it started more recently than the closing of the gender gap in this region.

Comment: Re:Cultural bias biggest factor (Score 1) 384

by fiziko (#46454663) Attached to: Men And Women Think Women Are Bad At Basic Math

That trend is out there, but started relatively recently compared to the closing of the gap. I also believe that will necessarily turn around at some point, as less competent local employees will force people hiring engineers and the like to hire from overseas in greater numbers than they are now. Something will have to give at some point in the near future.

BASIC is to computer programming as QWERTY is to typing. -- Seymour Papert