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Comment: Re:Volunteers are Usually Welcome (Score 1) 234

by tylikcat (#47967195) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

Well, let's see. I volunteered in a computational biochemistry / bioengineering lab, a mycology lab (though rather casually), and a genetics lab (though I was a registered student for the whole time I was in the genetics lab). Those were all at my previous institution. I currently am getting my PhD in neurobiology, and we have volunteers, some of whom are not students (I just sent a really wonderful high school student off to Northwestern for her first year of college, and had another who was hoping to get research experience before applying to medical school). I know the biologically inspired robotics lab here is open to volunteers - there's been some talk of my nephew spending a summer there. Really, it's quite common. Some institutions have age restrictions, and often there is some kind of required safety training (depending on what work you're doing) - and here it's a complete pain for someone who isn't student staff or faculty to get key access, though they can come and work as long as there's someone else to let them in.

Comment: What Drivel. (Score 1) 794

by tylikcat (#47964897) Attached to: How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

"What distinguishes modern science from other forms of knowledge such as philosophy is that it explicitly forsakes abstract reasoning about the ultimate causes of things and instead tests empirical theories through controlled investigation."

This is utter drivel. (Unless, perhaps, ones narrows the definitions of ultimate causes in a ridiculous way.) Scientists reason about ultimate causes, and proximate causes, and causes that just happened to be wandering down the street at that time all the time. This is a major part of hypothesis generation. Science isn't about randomly going around doing a bunch of experiments - well, okay, it's somewhat about that too, if you count high throughput techniques as random, but even then its random inside of controlled parameters. It's about taking all the understanding you think you've gleaned from your observation and your high minded reasoning and what you talked about at the pub and that thing that occurred to you in the shower - all of it - and turning it into a testable hypothesis. Y'know, one that can actually be wrong.

And then testing it.

It's not about foresaking abstract reasoning in the least. It's just about checking in with reality from time to time, as well.

+ - Science Has a Sexual Assault Problem->

Submitted by cold fjord
cold fjord (826450) writes " reports, "The life sciences have come under fire recently with a study published in PLOS ONE that investigated the level of sexual harassment and sexual assault of trainees in academic fieldwork environments. The study found 71% of women and 41% of men respondents experienced sexual harassment, while 26% of women and 6% of men reported experiencing sexual assault. The research team also found that within the hierarchy of academic field sites surveyed, the majority of incidents were perpetrated by peers and supervisors. — More at The New York Times where it notes, "Most of these women encountered this abuse very early in their careers, as trainees. The travel inherent to scientific fieldwork increases vulnerability as one struggles to work within unfamiliar and unpredictable conditions..." ""
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:Volunteers are Usually Welcome (Score 1) 234

by tylikcat (#47941673) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

There is definitely a lack of people who are a serious about their computer science as they are their science area of interest. (I will spare you the rants, other than to mention that my doctoral work is evenly split between experimental and computational work.) "Programmer" is a bit of a gloss. I mean, technically, yeah, I'm a decent programmer, but I'm a much better designer, auditor and analyst - perhaps "engineer"? I build things and make things work. As a matter of preference, I don't actually like to spend much than a third to a half at the outside of my working time on code, and I actually enjoy managing small teams. And I left my original lab for a number of reasons*, as much as I loved it, but partially because I really wanted to be in a situation where I could be doing bench work. (And I really had to fight to do bench work, because most PIs really wanted to chain me to a computer. Though by the time I was applying to grad school I'd gotten decent bench skills.**) Or at least have research students working for me who were doing bench work. A lot of my current research is possible because of surgical techniques I developed early on this lab.

Relatively little of what I've done in research has directly used my skills from tech. It's much more been a generally confidence that I can jump into a situation, and learn about it, and be smart and stubborn at it and beat my head against it until it works. I don't think that's about having a particular job title***, or skill set per se. Which isn't to say that I think it's easy for everyone.

* Partially because I didn't want to have people asking me to support the dratted database for the rest of my life.
** Though, word to the wise, never work in two labs at the same time. Especially if you are trying to get a paper out at the same time. Particularly if you value your car.
*** Admittedly, I go way out of my way to encourage my research students to learn to code, and to do so in a practical fashion that helps them with their research.

Comment: Re:Volunteers are Usually Welcome (Score 1) 234

by tylikcat (#47940811) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

A lot of it is going to depend on the particular project and what skills and qualities the individual can bring to the table. I did have a background in high performance distributed network computing*, and a lot of general systems design work, but nothing beyond that to suggest that I could walk into a computational biochemistry lab and be managing a major project in under a year. I had no biology, very little chemistry, no biochem, certainly not enough physics, and there I am doing MD protein dynamics work (and a lot of multidimensional database work, but that part almost makes sense). (Yes, I also took quite a few classes.) I'm certainly bright, and I couldn't have pulled it off otherwise. And certainly my interests have always been pretty broad, and my background wasn't "IT" per se in the first place - but then, I figure anyone who has the gumption to be interested in research while having a career in IT probably knows more than the minimum required for their job. Seriously, though, a lot of it was having the guts to start asking around. I was surprised how many PIs offered me positions on the programming background alone.

* Though for that matter, I pretty much talked and worked my way into that, too - I was a Chinese major, though my father was a CS prof and I was programming from an early age.

+ - The 2014 Ig Nobel Prizes will be awarded tonight->

Submitted by alphadogg
alphadogg (971356) writes "At Harvard University’s Sanders Theater this evening, a collection of the most off-the-wall, bizarre and lurid scientific efforts of the past year will be dubiously honored with an Ig Nobel Prize. The Ig Nobels are awarded annually by Improbable Research, an organization devoted to scientific education that publishes the Annals of Improbable Research magazine six times a year. Past honorees have included:*A study about homosexual necrophilia in ducks; Competitive analysis of breakfast cereal sogginess; The discovery that dung beetles can navigate using the Milky Way galaxy. The ceremony begins at 6 p.m. EST, and can be viewed online for free here."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Volunteers are Usually Welcome (Score 3, Interesting) 234

by tylikcat (#47938241) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

It's unlikely you can make the transition to working in the field without some really major sacrifices. (And if you do, it will probably be more on the computational side.) But if you love it for it's own sake I'd suggest talking to local labs and seeing if you can get involved in any projects - especially projects where you can work remotely at least part of the time, since your time is limited. And as a volunteer, you often get to avoid some of the more tedious bits that people who are being paid have to work on. My experience is that people with solid computer skills are needed, and people who will work are needed, and there's way more cool work to be done than there are money and people to do it.

And, of course, if there are any opportunities for you to work in a paid capacity, you'll be in the perfect position to hear about them.

I made the transition from tech to computational biochemistry to neurobio - but I had a lot of stock options, and I've been willing to become a grad student, and live mostly like a grad student, which is hard to do when you have a family. And while biomed funding has been cut, there's a lot more of it out there to begin with.

(I'm not generically saying that people should work for free, BTW. I know for me, research turned out to be what I wanted to be doing when I wasn't worrying about money. Though, um, then there were a couple of stock market crashes...)

Comment: Re:Does HFCS count? (Score 1) 294

by tylikcat (#47936483) Attached to: Study Finds Link Between Artificial Sweeteners and Glucose Intolerance

IIRC, the sweeteners in stevia are glycosides, which is to say that they're a sugar bound up to an alglycon. While eventually they're broken down and one of the by products is sugar, it's far enough down the digestive tract that it's not absorbed. So... it's only kind of a sugar.

+ - Satanists dramatize distribution of religious materials at schools

Submitted by tylikcat
tylikcat (1578365) writes "In response to a ruling allowing Christian groups to distribute bibles and other Christian oriented materials in schools, the Satanic Temple has decided to distributed their own The Satanic Children's Big Book of Activities. Let the games begin!

To be fair, the Satanic Temple is is forthright in stating that they would not have sought the right to distibute such materials on their own, but point out that most children will already be aware of Christianity, but this might be the first time they encounter to the practice of Satanism."

Comment: Re:Actually against Islam (Score 2) 976

by tylikcat (#47927807) Attached to: ISIS Bans Math and Social Studies For Children

Certainly, when you look at the role of Islamic scholars in developing, say, Algebra, it seems like a pretty awful departure from some aspects of history. Of course, history is full of many things, and the Qoran is full of many things, and can be used to justify many things. (You can, for instance, make a pretty solid argument that the Qoran is a lot more progressive with regard to women's rights than other monotheistic religious texts... but certainly this hasn't been playing out in implementation this century, so much. Of course, I seem to recall some arguments that the rules regarding inheritance laid down in the Qoran necissitated the devlopment of algebra as well, though my own reading is that you can only stretch that argument so far.)

Comment: Re:Contacting BBC, via VPN (Score 1) 363

by tylikcat (#47860669) Attached to: BBC: ISPs Should Assume VPN Users Are Pirates

The BBC has gotten markedly more consevative over the last year or so (after a number of scandals, though not necessarily in response to those scandals.) I wouldn't go so far as to call them right wing - if anything, I thing the stronger trend has been towards lower quality reporting and more heart warming stories of this or that (ugh). But the change in political slant has been notable, even if it's been smaller than the change in quality.

Of course, I've noticed a smaller though similar trend towards more conservative reporting with The Economist, so I wonder if there's a social shift in play? I really need to find more international internet radio news for my workout and commute, because the BBC used to be one of my standbys, and these days I spend too much time being annoyed at their interviewers. "Oh, so your home is destroyed, half your family is dead and most of the rest is missing - how do you FEEL about that?"

Comment: Re:South Lake Union vs Redmond Headquarters (Score 1) 246

by tylikcat (#47845239) Attached to: Protesters Blockade Microsoft's Seattle Headquarters Over Tax Breaks

It's more visible, and culturally, trying to get someone from Seattle proper to go to the eastside has always been a bit of an uphill battle, even moreso with the general cuts to public transportation.* I moved from Wallingford to Woodinville while I worked at Microsoft**, and was always impressed by the extent to which eastsiders think little of going across the lake for a show of a class, but westsiders (at least, those who don't already work on the eastside) are loathe to head in the other direction without mounting an expedition.

* Though in fairness, while I'm still spending several weeks in Seattle each year, I'm not spending much of that commuting back and forth to the eastside, so I don't know if those systems have been hit as hard as Seattle Metro.
** My logic being that in fact I didn't really live in Wallingford, I lived on the 520 bridge.

Nothing succeeds like success. -- Alexandre Dumas