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Comment: Re:Use databases! (Score 1) 235

by spokedoke (#33276546) Attached to: How Do You Organize Your Experimental Data?
I agree, your three step program to data analysis is exactly what I use. I have become a believer in running lots of small scripts on data that is consistently distributed, as opposed to the lumping and sifting approach. I am suspect at being organized enough to eat lunch, let alone keep track of data.

Comment: Re:sounds familiar (Score 1) 422

by spokedoke (#30805040) Attached to: Wii Balance Board Gives $18,000 Medical Device a Run For Its Money

This parent should not be a troll, I think that defense equipment costs and medical equipment costs have a lot in common. For instance, my company is a defense contractor that makes a 'special' version of a commodity item. Meaning that we take a $4 dollar part and put in $1000 worth of non-standard testing and QC (advanced reliability, radiation, zero-failure, blah, blah, blah), then sell it to the government for $2000. It takes millions of dollars in research for a commodity part to become something that has zero-failures in a lot (by space qualified mil-spec standards), somehow that doesn't change the fact that a $4 part looks the same as a $2000 part.

Regarding the infamous hammer, this link (thefreelibrary.com) suggests that the cited cost of the hammer was the line item (proposed) cost, not the purchase order cost. Up front only the total amount of our contract is scrutinized, after an amount is agreed upon we fill in the line items in pseudo-random fashion. A 'best guess' at the overhead and supply costs is done knowing that on the back-end of the contract the actual cost of items will be scrutinized, both by our contracting agency and the DCAA. So there is some incentive to pad your guess, not that this particular guess was a good one. It seems that someone who didn't care was asked to fill out the budget.

Comment: Re:Black holes contribute to entropy ? (Score 1) 304

by spokedoke (#29666235) Attached to: Universe Has 100x More Entropy Than We Thought

Systems 'generate' entropy because that is the way entropy was defined at the time of invention. The point of the second law is that entropy has to move in the same single direction, and positive-increasing was picked to be that direction. Black holes might be one of the times that it may have been more intuitive to define entropy as negative-decreasing. Sorry that I didn't bother to write a wikipedia page so that I could have a citation, but Dehoff's Thermodynamics in Materials Science talks breifly about reasons that entropy should have been defined as being consumed instead of generated.

Relative to black holes, to my understanding the arrangement of matter at a singularity should have no physical meaning, which is probably your point. However, black holes have significant mass, and have corresponding processes that occur in and around them (i.e. gravity). These processes proceed in a specific direction, just like we are swirling in the giant toilet bowl towards the black hole at the center of our galaxy. As this occurs, entropy is increasing due to the affect of that black hole on all of us.

Whatever processes occur inside the black hole may have a significant contribution compared to the act of sucking up a whole galaxy, but I have no idea what is going on inside a black hole. It is quite possible that the universe after heat death will look very uninteresting, when all the galaxies and interacting black holes have swallowed up each other and entropy is maximized. Maybe there will just be one black hole sitting in nothing?

Comment: Re:or (Score 1) 51

by spokedoke (#29598395) Attached to: GPS Receiver Noise Can Be Used To Detect Snow Depth
This did cross my mind as well, although it should not be a replacement for proper use of an avy probe, more information is never a bad thing. Better yet, it would be great to use the variations in snow-pack density to predict the snow stability. Stupid and/or lazy people are everywhere, even skiing in the backcountry and this could help save their lives.

Comment: Re:Yes (Score 1) 712

by spokedoke (#29291439) Attached to: Has the Rate of Technical Progress Slowed?

The author ignores information technologies, but also blatantly discredits manufacturing technologies.

Perhaps technological revolutions in rich countries, like the states, have not been as prevalent in the last fifty years, but look at all the countries of the world with internet and cell phone infrastructure and tell me that their grandparents had the same technological leaps.

Revolutionary advancements in manufacturing technology has made the evolutionary gizmos available to everyone, everywhere.

Comment: Re:What Material Is the Pantacene Sitting On? (Score 1) 169

by spokedoke (#29235419) Attached to: IBM Images a Single Molecule

Your question is more relevant than you likely realize. As a scanning probe scientist, I have spent a lot of time sitting in a room with colleagues having a laugh about the AFM and SPM images that we see routinely published in literature. There are a surprising number of images that are published by people who have no idea what they are doing (in charming sort of way). Analysis of the signals coming back from a scanning probe system can be extremely tedious and rarely straightforward. Not being familiar with this exact experiment, I would speculate that these images are probably generated either directly from a change in a higher order simple harmonic oscillator term or from the derivative with respect to time (more likely the second derivative for better confinement of the interaction to the tip of the tip) of a higher order simple harmonic oscillator term in the tip resonance.

Generically, the 'dimensions' of a structure are not measured by the tip, but by the adjustment of the piezoelectric transducer that controls the tip position. To achieve this level of resolution that feedback loop probably has to be broken and some obscure signal with little to no physical meaning is actually being monitored directly from the tip-sample interactions.

Comment: Re:How long has this been going on? (Score 3, Insightful) 791

by spokedoke (#28851229) Attached to: Formerly Classified Global Warming Spy Photos Released

As a practicing scientist, I share your sentiments of confusion about the negative reactions in ths string. I have occasionally come across trained scientists who know better, but it never ceases to amaze me at how unproductive conversations like this one can become.

Western science is built on the concept of adopting the best-known explanation of a phenomena until something better comes along.

If you have somehow come across a better explanation for climate change by googling and reading wikipedia, then out with it. Otherwise, I will stick with the explanations proposed by a large group of trained people collectively spending their lives working on the problem.

They might be wrong. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a single case where the scientific community is not wrong to some measureable degree. Stupid Newton somehow thought that F=ma was a useful description of bodies in motion, that doesn't work at high energy or near the speed of light, it's just a crappy approximation for large, slow objects. What an idiot.

Comment: Re:NASA's possible past vs. Railroad to the Future (Score 1) 199

by spokedoke (#28072567) Attached to: Obama Taps Charles Bolden To Lead NASA

Government and public money funded organizations do not deliver.

To bring your comment to the topic, are you suggesting that the future direction of NASA should be disbandment or just privatization?

My two cents is that the privately held government contractor that I work for, developing components for aerospace applications predominantly intended for space, has historically wasted money with tremendous efficiency.

More generically, I am only a lowly materials engineer, but I am sure that there is still plenty of meaningful work that can be done through studies in space. What I am not sure about is if we can build instruments of sufficient technical complexity and manufacturing quality at a low enough price to make that progress possible without sending people up there to upgrade or fix them once in a while.

Comment: Re:Why would anyone quit? (Score 1) 700

by spokedoke (#27495419) Attached to: Beware the Perils of Caffeine Withdrawal

There's no benefit at all to caffeine addiction.

I benefit from my caffeine addiction because I hate my job. Sure, I can put up with a lot if I going skiing at lunch, or ride singletrack to work, but in the shoulder seasons I have to do something.

If I try to put up with work un-caffeinated I get these terrible headaches and I can't sleep at night.

Comment: Re:Oh (Score 2, Interesting) 412

by spokedoke (#27380801) Attached to: Why Toddlers Don't Do What They're Told
Following the scientific method will take you far enough to get to a conjecture that is 'the-best-so-far', based on repeatable evidence. It is important to keep testing that best-conjecture-so-far against any other conjectures that come up. Anyone can throw their hat in the ring. I, for one probably-not-the-best conjecture, like to think that my toddler does stupid things because he has a tiny brain. When his brain gets bigger and he is still doing stupid things, I will likely modify my conjecture to something like, "He does stupid things because he takes after me." Then I will get a little sad, and likely have a strong motivation to look harder for a new best-conjecture.

It's not so hard to lift yourself by your bootstraps once you're off the ground. -- Daniel B. Luten

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