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+ - President of UT Austin declines chancellor's request to resign-> 2

Submitted by lfp98
lfp98 (740073) writes "President Bill Powers has long been in conflict with Governor Rick Perry over the direction and goals of the University of Texas' flagship Austin campus. This week, news leaked that the Chancellor requested Powers' resignation before this Thursday's meeting of the Regents (who are all Perry appointees), under threat of being fired at that meeting if he did not resign. So far Powers has refused, while expressing an openness to leaving after the end of the current academic year [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/06/bill-powers-ut-resign_n_5562317.html]. Powers is highly regarded by UT students, faculty, alumni [http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/college-sports/texas-longhorns/20140706-alumni-letter-calls-university-of-texas-president-s-forced-resignation-a-travesty.ece] and the larger academic community, but has been criticized by Perry and other conservatives for not being sufficiently focused on providing educational services at the lowest possible cost. Powers' supporters view the forced dismissal as brazen political interference with University governance, primarily for the purpose of allowing Perry to influence the choice of a new president before he leaves office in December [http://chronicle.com/article/As-Fight-Over-U-of-Texas/147535/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en]."
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Comment: Nothing new under the sun. (Score 1) 140

by lfp98 (#47120061) Attached to: Report: Verizon Claimed Public Utility Status To Get Government Perks
A real eye-opener, and almost an exact replay of the Credit Mobilier railroad scheme of the 1860s: A government-regulated corporation receives a monopoly franchise as well as generous subsidies from the government, yet still manages to rack up huge losses because so much of the money is siphoned off to other ventures, while a few of the principals accumulate astronomical wealth.

Comment: Odd Duck (Score 1) 659

by lfp98 (#47002391) Attached to: Future of Cars: Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Or Electric?
Even though a handful of owners of the original NiMH RAV4 EVs still rave about them, the vehicle has always struck me as rather an odd duck. Until and unless the price comes way, way down, the market for battery EVs consists of the environmentally conscious, and what environmentalist would want to drive an SUV, the quintessential symbol of profligate waste, self-importance and environmental degradation?.

Comment: Can't have it both ways (Score 2) 81

by lfp98 (#46997299) Attached to: New Battery Tech From Japan Could Supercharge EVs
Seems to me their claims are contradictory. If the cell doesn't heat up at all during charge/discharge, then it must have very low internal resistance and consequently if there is a short, it will release its energy almost instantaneously and be more, not less, susceptible to thermal runaway and fires (it's carbon after all). No matter how low the internal resistance, the energy when has to go somewhere. Relatively high internal resistance is what makes LiFePO4 cells safe for EV hobbyists - short out a cell and it will heat up and destroy itself, but slowly enough that it won't explode or catch fire. Proprietary lithium chemistries used in commercial EVs have lower resistance and better performance but are much more volatile.

Comment: IF (X/Y*Z) 100,300,50 (Score 1) 634

by lfp98 (#46964535) Attached to: Why Scientists Are Still Using FORTRAN in 2014
When I was in college (1968-72) the big contest was between FORTRAN and ALGOL. ALGOL was supposed to be more logical, readable and humane, but it certainly was more verbose, and FORTRAN won out with its brutal efficiency, telling the machine what to do, in the minimum possible number of characters. I remember being particularly fond of the Arithmetic IF (a legacy feature even then): IF (X/Y*Z) 100,300,50, which would go to statements 100, 300 or 50, depending on whether (X/Y*Z) was negative, zero or positive. I haven't written a FORTRAN program in decades, but I'm still saddened to hear that feature is now obsolete. (http://stackoverflow.com/questions/10758935/fortran-compiler-warning-obsolete-arithmetic-if-statement)

+ - NIH Reverses Course, Allows Resubmission of Rejected Grants

Submitted by lfp98
lfp98 (740073) writes "One of the most Draconian of the recent “enhancements” to peer review at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was a provision that any proposal not funded on the first try could only be revised and resubmitted once. (http://enhancing-peer-review.nih.gov) Since 2010, NIH staff have been screening incoming proposals and eliminating any judged to be merely a further revision of a previous proposal. After vociferous protests from scientists, NIH appears to have relented and scrapped the rule. Henceforth, any proposal not funded on the second try can simply be resubmitted as a new proposal. (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-14-074.html#sthash.RQBDcWCn.dpuf) For scientists, this is a huge deal, but whether for good or ill is hard to say. Allowing unlimited resubmissions won't increase the number of funded grants, but will surely increase the total number of applications, so that overloaded NIH grant review panels will become even more so, and already abysmal single-digit funding rates are likely to drop even lower."

Comment: Perverse Incentives (Score 1) 135

by lfp98 (#46756229) Attached to: U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable' Prominent Researchers Warn
Most of the authors' analysis rings true, but Dr. Harold Varmus, in particular, contributed enormously to the perverse incentives he now complains about when, as NIH Director, he mandated "modular grants", in which scientists simply request grant support in multiples of $25,000 without the traditional detailed budget and without any salary data. Indeed, scientists were (and still are) expressly forbidden from including in their application any information on exactly how they proposed to spend the requested grant money or what they were paying themselves. The predictable response of the universities (and I speak here from first-hand experience) was to strongly encourage faculty to put larger portions of their salaries onto grants, and be rewarded with higher base salaries. Such policies were enthusiastically sold by department chairmen to upper-level administrators as a way of incentivizing faculty to acquire more grant support, while at the same time raising faculty salaries, all at zero net cost to the University. The fact that all this occurred at the same time as the doubling of the NIH budget only encouraged the process. Now the hard times are here again, money is tight, and support personnel are being let go, but faculty are not giving up their higher salaries and the universities aren't going back to paying faculty from university funds to do research, at least not without a fight.

Comment: CMU 1968-72 (Score 2) 169

by lfp98 (#46682521) Attached to: Fifty Years Ago IBM 'Bet the Company' On the 360 Series Mainframe
When I arrived at Carnegie-Mellon University in 1968, all programs were running on a Univac 1108, soon to be replaced with a much more powerful IBM 360. In those days every science major learned to code in their freshman year. You would type your program onto punch cards, one instruction per card, then type your data onto cards, and dump into the submission box. Hours later you'd pick up your printout in your (physical) mailbox. Faster turnaround if you submitted at say 2AM. No security at all in those days, so occasionally your program cards would be stolen, if you hadn't duplicated it you'd have to start from scratch.

Comment: Re:At an affordable price (Score 1) 449

by lfp98 (#46614327) Attached to: WSJ: Prepare To Hang Up the Phone — Forever
The opaque price structures of both Verizon and the cable companies show just how essential a regulated service is. If the telcos want to abandon POTS, then in return they ought to be required to offer comparable service on whatever system they propose to replace it with, and at the same price it was on POTS, a price that can never rise more than inflation. After all, electronics costs are dropping all the time, and they ought to be saving millions not having to maintain 2 separate systems anymore. Instead they seem to be offering exactly nothing in return. Where it's still available voice + DSL can be had for $50. Any hardwired replacement, cable or fiber, approaches $100, and so does wireless with a data cap comparable to DSL (150 GB/month). In my area, you can't even get internet without also taking voice. It's criminal. The other thing they need to do is to ban bundling and teaser rates. Mandate standard, transparent pricing: one price for the connection, then separate prices for internet, TV and voice. As it is, the pricing structure all but forces consumers to buy entertainment services if they want a connection at all.

Comment: It's a bribe, pure and simple (Score 5, Insightful) 233

by lfp98 (#46198979) Attached to: 25% of Charter Schools Owe Their Soul To the Walmart Store
These charter-school folks have a long-term agenda, and that is the conversion of public education from a public service to a fully privatized profit center, with the added perk of eliminating teachers unions as a political force. A key factor in achieving this is that wealth inequality has become so extreme that local governments no longer have the resources to educate the nation's children, but billionaires do. Can parents and boards of education afford to say "no" when, in the face of decaying buildings and teacher layoffs, big-time donors come offering modern, well-staffed facilities, with all the latest IT and other equipment, if only you let the donors do it their way? Once the public school system is reduced to being merely a dumping ground for the worst, most disruptive and unresponsive students, the donors won't have to be so generous, they'll be making handsome profits as the contractors in a privatized fee-for-service education system. It's just like the 1990s when deep-pocketed for-profit HMOs offered healthcare at below-market rates. Once all the nonprofit hospitals and insurers were driven out of business, the for-profits jacked up premiums at double-digit rates for decades. It was a brilliant strategy, and it's happening all over again, in education.

Comment: NYT is worth it (Score 0) 361

by lfp98 (#46161575) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Online News Is Worth Paying For?
To me, the Times is well worth the 2 bucks a week I pay for it (with an .edu address). The articles are more comprehensive than any of the free news sites, and the ads are low-key. I feel news is something we should pay for, after all, someone has to pay all those reporters, editors, etc. It's become clear online ads aren't going to do it, and it shouldn't be governments paying them either. There are only going to be a few survivors in the online news game, but the Times might be one of them. They'll need millions of subscribers though, and last I heard they didn't even have a million yet.

Comment: Do the math (Score 1) 296

by lfp98 (#45672821) Attached to: Six Electric Cars Can Power an Office Building
Automotive grade lithium batteries are slowly falling in price but currently cost about $500 per kWh and can last perhaps 3000 charge-discharge cycles, so the cost to store and release one kWhr is about 16 cents, more than the total price of electricity in most of the US even at peak periods, but a good bit less than the retail price of electricity in Japan, about 32 cents. So in Japan it might actually make sense, depending of what the peak/off-peak differential is. But as suggested in the initial post, yes, is would make just as much sense to simply put some batteries in the basement and forget the cars. For that matter, you don't need lithium, lead batteries - cheaper but less durable - work out to about the same cost per kWh stored and released. But as lithium battery prices continue to fall, the day is not that far off when storing electricity from intermittent solar and wind sources in very large batteries will be economically feasible.

Comment: "can run at an 80 percent efficiency" ??? (Score 2) 379

by lfp98 (#44597449) Attached to: Dishwasher-Size, 25kW Fuel Cell In Development
"[it] can run at an 80 percent efficiency when used to provide both heat and power." This makes no sense. If you count the heat produced, any combustible material can easily yield much better than 80 percent efficiency just by burning it. Condensing natural gas boilers, for example, routinely run at >95% efficiency. Of course, they're producing all heat and no electricity, but by the specified criteria, that's more efficient than the Cube. Straight % efficiency in producing electricity only, would be a much more useful number. I doubt that they're only counting electricity in the 80%, but it's ambiguous as written.

Comment: The most frightening statistic I've heard (Score 2) 625

by lfp98 (#44590347) Attached to: Aging Is a Disease; Treat It Like One
We are in fact increasing longevity and slowing down the aging process, but that only means an ever-longer period of helplessness preceding death. The most frightening statistic I've heard is that for every year of increased longevity that modern medicine has provided, only seven months is an increase in the time one is in good health. The other five months is an increase in the time during which you're still alive but have lost the ability to care for yourself. What's really needed is to minimize that period of dependence, in other words, delay the aging process while at the same time making it more sudden. Slowing it down is the worst thing you can do.

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