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Comment: Article is flame bait (Score 5, Informative) 259

by siwelwerd (#45622681) Attached to: Elsevier Going After Authors Sharing Their Own Papers

This is complete flame bait. Here is a link to what Elsevier allows authors to do with their articles: http://www.elsevier.com/journal-authors/author-rights-and-responsibilities#author-posting . The article asserts that posting to your own website is a violation of the agreement; note that Elsevier explicitly states that this is allowed. Posting the submitted version to preprint servers (e.g. arxiv.org) is explicitly allowed. What you can't do is post to some third party for-profit website, which is apparently how they view this academia.edu place. Given that they have an "about" page bragging about their investors, and they have a CEO, it does not seem far fetched to conclude that this academia.edu is gaining commercially from your posting the article, which is an explicit violation of the agreement with the publisher.

So to me, this is a non-story. Disclosure: I have no love for Elsevier, but I have published with them in the past and will again in the future (we junior faculty don't have the luxury of taking principled stands).

Comment: Not a great analogy (Score 5, Interesting) 168

by siwelwerd (#45567651) Attached to: Why Competing For Tenure Is Like Trying To Become a Drug Lord

I'm not really sure this is an apt analogy. Yes, you forgo higher wages while in graduate school, but if you don't make drug lord^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H a tenure track position, you can head to industry and make a good wage. I don't think street dealers have this option. Yes, most of us want to go into academia, but having a fallback option with 50-100% higher salary doesn't seem so bad (speaking as a mathematician here--maybe humanities Ph.D.'s really are like drug dealers).

Another thing they downplay in the reward side of academia is the time flexibility. There are absolutely zero vacation days, but for the most part, outside of hours physically spent in the classroom (usually less than 10 a week, less than 40 weeks a year), you get to arrange your schedule. I've known professors who worked from home in the morning and the office in the afternoon, and one who showed up at 4:00 PM and stayed until 12 or 1 (I was always amused when he joined us for a beer "after" work on occasion). To a lot of us, this is a huge perk

Comment: Re:Something Odd (Score 1) 210

by siwelwerd (#44911945) Attached to: LinkedIn Accused of Hacking Customers' E-Mails To Slurp Up Contacts

There is no possible way they could have accessed my email

The thought just occurred to me, that they don't need to access your email. Suppose you send an email to 10 people, and one of those 10 people lets Linked In access their email. Now they can pair off you with each of those 10 people, and suggest that each of these 10 people should connect with you, and that you should connect with them.

Comment: Re:What's in it for him? (Score 1) 216

by siwelwerd (#43928215) Attached to: Banker Offers $1M To Solve Beal Conjecture
He apparently does mathematics in his spare time and has spent a good amount of time working on this question (that's why it's named after him). The prize has been offered for several years actually, the news is that it has increased to $1M. The origin of the prize, along with some more details, here: http://www.ams.org/notices/199711/beal.pdf

Comment: Re:RO Water (Score 1) 325

by siwelwerd (#43834951) Attached to: German Brewers Warn Fracking Could Hurt Beer

You're saying the Reinhistegbot specifies that they use a minimum number of ingredients, and then just handwaves over the fact that one of those ingredients ("water") is actually highly variable ingredient containing a variety of unspecified impurities which are vitally necessary to the process. But you aren't allowed to start with actual pure water, and add those necessary impurities back in.

Yes. I didn't make the law, nor do I follow it in my brewing, but that's what the law says. Keep in mind it was written 400 years ago when water chemistry was not understood at all.

Comment: Re:RO Water (Score 1) 325

by siwelwerd (#43832651) Attached to: German Brewers Warn Fracking Could Hurt Beer
RO water is unsuitable for brewing as it lacks necessary ions (e.g. calcium for yeast health) and will result in an improper mash pH usually. It's not uncommon for (non-German) brewers to "build" their water by starting with RO and adding ions back. But this is not permissible under the Reinheistegbot, at best they could dilute their water with RO or DI, which dilutes any pollutants but does not remove them.

Comment: Re:Good idea (Score 2) 147

by siwelwerd (#43678929) Attached to: New 'Academic Redshirt' For Engineering Undergrads at UW

I tend to agree with you. But as a faculty member, I don't get any say in what goes on in K-12, or which students are admitted to college. All I get a say in is what to do with the students that do show up on campus. And this kind of program seems like something faculty members can do to better educate those students we do get.

I do agree, we need to bring the K-12 standards up, but that's a political game that has to be solved in a way approved by the teachers' unions and the state legislatures. At least at universities, we are more (but not completely) immune to the whims of politicians.

Comment: Re:So... they get eaten by the salt vampire? (Score 3, Insightful) 147

by siwelwerd (#43677921) Attached to: New 'Academic Redshirt' For Engineering Undergrads at UW

Why should they? Engineers are on the application side of things....they use the existing tools (equations) to build other things. They don't need to know exactly how the tools work as long as they can be trusted to work.

Teaching students how to do proofs teaches them an abstract way of thinking that is universally applicable to solving open ended problems--problems of the form "Here's point A. Point B is over there. How do we get there?". Not every engineer needs this kind of thinking, but some do, and the best will benefit from it. Some of the greatest engineering feats came from attacking these sorts of problems: "Here we are on Earth. There's the moon. Go put a man on it."

If you just want to write iPhone apps, you can probably skip the good math classes, but if you want to really learn how to think, take as much as you can. Saying an engineer won't need these kinds of thinking skills because you don't have a specific application in mind for them is the same short-sighted thinking as saying we shouldn't fund basic research if we don't have a clear application in mind before the research is done.

Comment: Re:Good idea (Score 3, Informative) 147

by siwelwerd (#43677133) Attached to: New 'Academic Redshirt' For Engineering Undergrads at UW

Alternately, why don't we teach the kids in high school the things they need to learn in high school so they aren't playing catch up when they go to college?

Nobody is arguing that we shouldn't try and prepare everyone well before they get to college, but the simple fact is that we (at the universities) get these underprepared students every year, and that is unlikely to change soon. Rather than just throw blame at others and tell them to fix it, this is a proactive approach: what can *we* (at the universities) do about this problem? We'll all be ecstatic when K-12 education improves to make this a moot point, but until then we shouldn't just ignore the problem.

Those who can, do; those who can't, simulate.

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