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Comment Re:I knew something was up (Score 1, Interesting) 298

No worries. With the Great Global Warming Conspiracy in place, power companies have already been raising rates and gouging people for years and anticipated being able to do so for decades. Solar simply bites into that with net metering.

But it is nothing like the bite that is going to happen if any of the three or four companies or major projects that claim to be on the verge of fusion energy turn out to be correct within the allotted timeframe. Or, better yet, if two or three companies solve it slightly differently at once, so there isn't even a window of real patent-monopoly free from competition.

Of course that is also going to more or less kill solar in its tracks unless/until they can get prices down to order of $0.10/watt/decade of operation. That will break even with fusion, maybe, possibly -- the difference between free but unreliable "fuel" in the case of solar vs almost free and reliable fuel in the case of fusion, with both of them costing order of $100 million/GW for the generation facility, a quantity that is recoverable at current retail rates in a matter of days of operating at capacity (power companies charge order of a billion dollars for ten hours of the electricity produced by a gigawatt plant).

If Lockheed-Martin's semi-sized megawatt plant works, we might even see the real demise of the electrical grid and giant regulated monopolies, over time. Communities could buy off-the-shelf generation in a modular way and plug it into a municipal grid and pay for it on a co-op basis.

In the meantime, all measures taken to combat carbon dioxide raise the cost of electricity. All things that raise the cost of electricity increase the profits of the government regulated monopolies that sell it, that are usually permitted only a more or less fixed marginal profit. They'll make electricity using squirrels in cages if that's what the public mandates, as long as they get a fixed MARGINAL profit on the final retail price.

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Comment Re:"I forgot" (Score 1) 500

Ah, I see what you are doing there...

Proposition A) We should never let crazy or stupid people own or carry firearms, just like we shouldn't let them reproduce, vote, operate power tools, drive, teach, preach, or work in government.

Proposition B) It is crazy and stupid to own a firearm! Studies show that you are more likely to shoot a relative than a criminal (even if that relative DID "need killin'"). They are expensive. They serve no useful purpose except to enable an individual to hurt someone or punch meaningless holes in things from a distance. Criminals have a higher probability of carrying firearms than the general population, which means that it is a provable fact that firearm owners are more likely to be criminals. So crazy, stupid and you're probably a criminal as well you gun owners you.

Conclusion) If you want to own a firearm, you shouldn't be allowed to. Only people who have no interest in owning firearms should be allowed to own or carry them. And only then if they aren't, by a definition that I (being sane and smart) would be happy to write down as a standard to be fairly applied to the entire populace, crazy or stupid or both.

Carry on the good work, brother! We can work on the reproduction, voting, etc later!

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Comment A simple solution... (Score 3, Funny) 500

... we could all just fly naked. Think of the advantages! No more worries about concealed weapons that are any larger than will comfortably fit in an orifice. An opportunity to really get to know your neighbor. Necessarily improved climate control -- no more flights that are too cold or too warm. And a complete lack of literalist religious folk on the aircraft, because for most of them appearing naked in public is an even bigger sin than allowing infidels to spread lies about the one true faith or failing to bring on the apocalypse so Jesus can return to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The merely prudish would, of course, take the train, which would be a welcome burst of new business for alternative transportation. Throw in a little alcohol and a whole new meaning of "in-flight entertainment" could emerge as a new cultural norm. The increased happiness among fliers could lead us to world peace!

It's the perfect solution. At least as long as they have one of those boxes that say "your body must fit inside of this box in order to take this flight" -- for humans...

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Comment Re:"Social justice" made giving bad grades dangero (Score 1) 57

Again, do you have the slightest bit of actual evidence to support this? I know for a fact that students at Duke who's families have donated millions of dollars to the University have been given F's and expelled for cheating. Also, I do not understand these words: "take back a failing grade". No, professors never have to "take back a grade" that was correctly assigned. Duke has a written policy that grades CANNOT be changed once assigned. Most faculty have no idea who the family of any given student is and whether or not they are big donors -- names mean nothing and nobody comes around and says "Suzy Q comes from the powerful Q family, don't give her a failing grade".

This is all fantasy. It's all the stuff of bad novels, or Animal House quality movies, not reality. Neither I nor anyone I've ever taught with or heard of teaching in other courses has ever, ever, been questioned about a failure. Nor, for the record, are we pressured concerning athletes famous or otherwise that we teach. I won't say there is no sexism or racism at all, but it is a per-individual-teacher thing and is strongly opposed, in writing and in active practice, on pretty much every University community and, by the way, in law.

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Comment Re:Bah, more Rubbish! (Score 1) 57

Saying we now need statistical hullabaloo is laughable. Not even close. We need to get Universities to actually teach people instead of coddle them, and we need professors and Deans willing to do the same. College has become a joke on the public in order to grow government and make a few people rich. Even if you want to teach as a professor, the Deans will not defend you because they fear a student's opinion more than care for the Universities reputation. Yes, that's right. A history teacher can't teach history if it "offends" a student because feelings" now trump facts in college. That's fucking scary!

Not that I want to interrupt a lovely rant, and I don't disagree with everything you say, but this paragraph does make me pause and do it anyway. Most of the faculty I know (and I know quite a lot of faculty, being a member of the faculty and preparing to teach several courses for the spring semester starting next Wednesday:-) do sincerely want to teach and do their best to teach. Coddling is not even an issue, with a very few exceptions. I also am very curious as to why you would say that Deans won't defend professors who teach (against who, Evil Students? Parents? An angry mob?) because they "fear a student's opinion more than they care for the University's reputation". That doesn't even make complete sense and is completely contradicted by all of my experience with many, many deans over 39 year of teaching at one level or another in college. I would therefore argue that you need to support this statement with more than just an assertion that this happens. Sure, maybe, probably, somewhere, sometime. But is it the rule rather than the exception? I think not.

It doesn't even make sense. First of all, as far as I know once you are given a course to teach, you are God with a capital G for that course. Sure, there are guidelines for what should be taught and some (reasonable) expectations for how you will teach it, but the whole "Ivory Tower" thing and "tenure" ensures that there isn't a whole lot they can do about it if you choose to be a maverick but give you crappy courses to teach, a broom closet for an office, and as few promotions as they can get away with. Oh, sure, maybe stern talkings to as well. This is assuming that you don't actually break one of the few rules that ARE written down, such as Thou Shalt Not Fondle thy Students. Not even a Dean can go in and override grades I give in a course, for example, at least to the best of my knowledge.

Second, to MY experience the Deans mostly work the exact opposite of the way you assert. They are the court of last resort for the student, not to "force" the instructor to change but to mediate any honest disputes and, usually, to enforce the University's less pleasant rules on the student, not the faculty. Who deals with cheats? A student is LUCKY if it is only their professor -- then they only get an F and thrown out of the course. Once deans get involved, it is more likely to be suspension or expulsion. Who tracks the problem students as they wend through the system? Deans. Who has to deal with deaths in the students' families, with mono mid-semester, with learning disabilities, and sure, sometimes with faculty who really are assholes or asshats or both? Deans.

I cherish the deans I interact with, and I interact with deans a lot because I am lead professor in large courses rather frequently, so I have a large student population with a higher probability of students with problems in there I cannot solve. Deans are invaluable -- they are not only much needed lubrication in a system with lots of rough edges and a lot of stress, they are the final level of human judgment on top of a system of impersonal and sometimes overly harsh rules. Deans have the power to do great good for both students and faculty, and almost without exception do an exemplary job. Animal House really was just a funny movie, not reality.

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Comment Re:"Social justice" made giving bad grades dangero (Score 3, Interesting) 57

That's a beautiful, passionate, almost poetic response. Sadly, it is completely wrong. None of that stuff ever happens at any significant rate outside of your fantasy life. In fact, I can't recall having heard of any student who ever made any of those claims, although I'm sure that there must be some, somewhere, that have (personality disorders being as prevalent as they are in the general population).

Actually, students have a pretty finely honed sense of fair play. If you flunk them and they deserve to flunk, you rarely get more than whimpering and sometimes begging. Ditto for most other grades, and grade boundaries. If you flunk them on a technicality, of course, they will be resentful -- and with some reason. But no, students do not in general argue over grades claiming that the professor is biased against them due to race, creed, color, etc, except possibly in the very rare cases where there is some reason to make the argument.

As for learning analytics -- I have to say that it is (also sadly) mostly bullshit. I don't know about soft subjects, but in things like math and physics:

a) It is painfully, oppressively difficult to find a good object instrument to measure "learning" at the college level. And I say this as somebody that has used what there is for upwards of a decade. The instruments themselves are badly flawed and it is impossible to prevent an instructor from teaching to the test if they so desire (indeed, it is difficult NOT to teach to the test if you know what is on it and what weight will be assigned to outcomes in terms of "ranking" teaching/learning performance in the course.

b) There is nothing like standardization of the courses at the level required to build a uniform instrument that might be of some use. In Europe they have such a thing, supposedly, and too bad for them! If Joe gives a wussy, "physics lite" algebraic physics course but Suzie gives a tough, full calculus course covering exactly the same chapters, how do you even compare them. Now imagine comparing them and developing performance analytics when they don't even cover the same chapters from the same book in the same order and with the same basic understanding of the material they are teaching...

Here's a single example of the problems we really do face. I give all of my entering physics students an assessment to determine how much they remember of basic math. A page of algebra. A page of simultaneous equations. A page of differential calculus. A page of integral calculus. A bit of vectors and trig. Nothing difficult as far as calculus goes -- one can manage a typical intro physics course with five -- that's right, only five -- integral/derivative rules on board, plus the chain rule/u-substitution, plus the product rule/integration by parts.

Every student entering the class is supposed to have passed two full semester college calculus courses. Yet the mean score on the assessment is around 50%, with plenty of students scoring as low as 15 to 25%. And these are bright students at a very good university.

Forget "analytics". The problem is deep, not shallow. It isn't going to be solved by improved statistics on more tests.

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Comment Re:Are The Computers Better (Score 1) 64

Are you trying to tell me that the burned patch on my toast isn't a divinely placed image of Jesus, part of a message intended for Me Alone to help me Believe?

Next you will tell me that the clouds aren't really full of fluffy little sheep being eaten by equally fluffy sharks.

You brute.

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Comment Re: Screw Em (Score 1) 267

Sometimes even AC deserves a positive mod point for sheer irony. Ironically enough, I have none to give you, and besides, I don't want to be perceived of as supporting someone on a government watch list, especially someone that mumbles back and forth to him/her anonymous self almost as if they were multiple personalities.

Comment Re:Strong AI claims another researcher! . (Score 1) 106

Sorry, I let a reference to Bishop Berkeley, who made all of these arguments long ago back in the heyday of the materialism vs idealism wars. The idealism argument lost to everybody who wasn't religious a couple of centuries ago:

http://www.iep.utm.edu/berkele...

I just didn't have the patience to walk through the entire tired argumentation associated with Berkeley and his tree falling in the quad and god and David Hume's empiricism that ultimately won the argument and ended the era of bullshit philosophy. But I can, if you like.

Several posts in the thread do a perfectly fine job of it, though. Solipsism cannot be refuted, but neither is there any good reason to think it is true. The same is the case for Berkeley's arguments. Scientific materialism, OTOH, is supported empirically to the extent that nobody seriously doubts it compared to the alternatives simply because there is no evidence to oppose it and every minute of our existences constitutes experience that tends to support it.

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Comment Re:Strong AI claims another researcher! . (Score 1) 106

Rather, you should have said, "the one thing *I* have irrefutable evidence for is just my own experience -- I don't know that anything outside of my own thoughts exists, and I could be participating in a pseudo-masturbatory exercise of pretending that there is an external world and other people out there and this imaginary place called Slashdot where I pretend to communicate with these figments of my imagination."...

...in which case you should be wondering, "Why am I bothering to pretend to argue with myself about this?" and return to pretending that if you jump out of a tall building over hard pavement that those illusory "laws of physics" won't erase your brain function and self very much like a squashed bug.

Or that a stroke or simple old age won't do the trick, like it or not, over time.

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