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Comment: Re:Field dependent requirement (Score 4, Insightful) 1086

by zakaryah (#40936309) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Many of You Actually Use Math?
Mod parent up. It says a lot about math education that this discussion has focused on whether or not programmers ever implement routines related to calculus. Math is as much a way of thinking, solving problems and making useful definitions as it is about specific techniques or computations. To quote Wigner:

In fact, the definition of these concepts, with a realization that interesting and ingenious considerations could be applied to them, is the first demonstration of the ingeniousness of the mathematician who defines them. The depth of thought which goes into the formulation of the mathematical concepts is later justified by the skill with which these concepts are used.

Within computer programming alone, topics as diverse as decidability and Turing completeness, computational complexity, discrete probability, number theory for cryptography, calculus for almost any optimization problem, geometry not only for graphics but also for information theory, which is necessary for compression and coding - show that math is the heart and soul of all of these concepts! Beyond that, so many of the operations that computers are actually useful for carrying out are inherently mathematical. I get why so many people are dismissive of "higher" math - there is no shortage of lousy teachers or rote arithmetic in early education, boring classes and an overall negative reinforcement that can leave people jaded and scornful. But I've learned from experience that it IS possible to get young kids interested in real math, mostly by knowing some of the relationships to fascinating phenomena. Regardless, I think it is tragic to see such disparaging opinions of mathematics.

Comment: Re:Definition of "artist" has changed... (Score 1) 58

I agree with your post - I think the relatively minor point I was trying to make was interpreted as a condemnation of any post-Renaissance art, which it was not. My point was that work which is driven by a gimmick is often overtaken by the gimmick. My evidence in this case was that the artists talk much more about "hacking" and "glitches" than showing what they do. Although this could be the fault of the filmmaker, imagine Rothko dwelling on how his collaboration with the books of DJ Nietzsche inspired him to paint squares instead of faces, without any exhibition of his work. The demonstrations by Pollock of his techniques were always focused on the final work. I can imagine how exploiting some unintentional features of commercial products could lead to quite interesting art - some of the Machinima with grenades from the first Halo game could show in most New York galleries. However, from the video, it seems the potential is not quite being reached...

Comment: Definition of "artist" has changed... (Score 4, Insightful) 58

It now means dabbling in an engineering discipline... poorly. The nouveau team could probably exploit glitches to interesting effect. Although the video does an impressively bad job of conveying what these "artists" do, mostly they are shorting or breaking various connections on video cards to mess up the graphics.

Comment: Advice from a physicist (Score 3, Interesting) 279

by zakaryah (#39605581) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Advice For Budding Scientist?
Alarming pessimism is the defining trait of Slashdot culture... Science is like any field, and the majority of scientists are like the majority of other professionals - there is plenty to complain about, and plenty to be thankful for. If you want to see how it really works, I suggest trying to attend a small conference or summer school. The Les Houches schools are very good if you can go abroad, otherwise a school which is at least two weeks and has fewer than one hundred participants, mostly students, is ideal. You will meet people doing similar things to what you will be doing in the near future if you stay in physics, and you will learn a lot about the field beyond the textbook and canonical examples level of undergraduate studies. Which is not to disparage the textbooks - if you don't have Altland and Simons' book you should get it, it's fantastic.

Comment: Re:To the Bane of Grammar Nazi. (Score 2) 287

by zakaryah (#39403497) Attached to: Physicists Discover Evolutionary Laws of Language
From your post, it seems the assignation of the asshole title should not be exclusive... A grammarian would point out several errors in your post (mostly subject-verb agreements), and some of these even vary between British and American English. I'm sure everyone who read your post, or the post above it, understood what both of you were trying to say, so most of your arguments do not apply in this case. While I agree that abandoning grammatical rules can make communication very difficult, I also think some grammatical rules have been detrimental to clarity. Some rules are not even agreed upon - see ending a sentence with a preposition, where to put the punctuation with respect to the closing quotation mark, whether "everybody" can be plural, etc. Syntax is important, but a lot of language is like white-space, and languages that rigidly interpret white-space are a pain in the ass, just like grammarians.

+ - Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos (Probably) Don't Exist->

Submitted by
astroengine
astroengine writes "Neutrinos do not go faster than light, according to fresh measurements of a test last year that had suggested the particles broke the Universe's speed limit, CERN said on Friday. The new measurements were made by a team working independently from the scientists who had made the tentative but hugely controversial claim about "faster-than-light" particles. Their findings "indicate the neutrinos do not exceed the speed of light," the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) said in a press release."
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Politics

+ - From Anonymous To Shuttered Websites, The Evolution Of Online Protest->

Submitted by silentbrad
silentbrad (1488951) writes "The days of screaming activists marching with signs in hand to voice their displeasure at a particular politician are changing rapidly – just ask Vic Toews. Canada's public safety minister was the latest in a string of public-policy lightning rods to feel the wrath of Anonymous, a loose coalition of web-based activists who went after Toews for his overly vociferous promoting of the government's online surveillance bill. ... Graeme Hirst, a professor of computational linguistics at the University of Toronto, says that while Anonymous does share some properties of older protest movements, sometimes its motives can be called into question. "It's a kind of civil disobedience, so we can immediately make analogies to the Civil Rights movement of the '60s," Hirst said in an interview. "On the other hand, it's not entirely clear that Anonymous is as altruistically motivated as those protests were." ... Hirst viewed the January showdown as "the first legitimate online protest" that was really only about the online world and suggested that the key to its success was that it was organized not by individuals but by organizations — and ones with clout. ... Another apparently successful online campaign was the Cost of Knowledge protest started by an international group of researchers in January, following a blog post by Cambridge University math professor Timothy Gowers."
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Comment: Re:We're morons basically.. (Score 2) 489

by zakaryah (#39225169) Attached to: Is Poor Numeracy Ruining Lives?
Terribly insightful post - I wish that every parent who hated school thought about this. This force-feeding may be one small reason why the brightest kids tend to gravitate toward careers in IT or finance over science and math - every decent first course in programming shows a kid how to do or learn to do almost anything he or she can imagine doing, and with no oversight from the teacher. It's rare that a math or science teacher has the expertise to guide a student through any interesting independent project, and this is neglected in most curricula anyway. Instead you learn adding and subtraction for 5 years or more, then multiplication tables, then long division, and eventually basic algebra for word problems and differential calculus in the form of tables, again, if you are "advanced". On the other hand, once you've learned to program, especially with a computational bent, the jobs in finance and IT pay more and require less training that an academic job in math or science. It's silly to separate fundamental disciplines in such an artificial way, and it leads to exactly the symptoms described here.

Comment: Re:[a,a+]=1 (Score 2) 73

by zakaryah (#39216483) Attached to: Majorana Fermion May Have Been Spotted At TU Delft
It depends on the Hamiltonian. But, you can calculate it in the following way for some systems you are familiar with: Let a+ and a be creation/annihilation operators for your (non-Majorana) fermion. You can define new operators, which obey the commutation relation for fermions: b = (a+ + a)/2 and b' = (a+ - a)/2i. But both of these operators satisfy bi = bi+, so the quasiparticles on which these operators act are Majorana fermions. If you want the position representation for b or b', you just need the position representations of the underlying ladder operators a+ and a.

Comment: Re:[a,a+]=1 (Score 3, Insightful) 73

by zakaryah (#39215643) Attached to: Majorana Fermion May Have Been Spotted At TU Delft
For fermions, the canonical commutation relations must use the anticommutator: {a,b} = ab + ba. The Majorana fermion is a fermion. But, that doesn't completely answer your question, since you could correctly apply your reasoning to bosons which are their own antiparticle, like the photon, to claim that [a,a+]=0. But you have to keep in mind that the antiparticle of a photon is time-reversed compared to that photon - a+ and a are still distinct.
Wireless Networking

+ - Spray-on Nanoparticle Mix Turns Trees Into Antennas->

Submitted by Shisouka
Shisouka (1424151) writes "A small company called ChamTech Operations based in Utah has developed a nanoparticle mix that can be sprayed on any vertical object—like a tree—and make that object act as a high-powered antenna.

Not only can the sprayed-on nanoparticles make trees into antennas, but it can also extend the range of an existing antenna by a factor of 100, according to one of the principals of the company, Anthony Sutera. For instance, in RFID tags the nanoparticle spray extended the readable range of the tag from a mere five feet (1.5 meters) to 700 feet (200 m).

The material that Chamtech came up with contains nanoparticles that when sprayed on a surface act as nanocapacitors. The nanocapacitors charge and discharge very quickly and don’t create any heat that can reduce the efficiency of your typical copper antenna. The trick was to get the nanocapacitors to spread out in just the right pattern."

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Space

+ - 'Earth-like' Planets May Be Nothing Like Earth->

Submitted by
astroengine
astroengine writes "This past year there have been hundreds of news reports about the discovery of so-called "Earth-like" planets. But just because an "Earth-sized" world is discovered orbiting a "Sun-like" star within the habitable zone, it doesn't mean that world will be anything like Earth. It all depends on the chemical components that make up that exoplanet. Researchers from the Planetary Science Institute have identified two chemical ratios that, if only slightly different from Earth, can create a radically different worlds from our own. For example, one important ratio is between carbon and oxygen. Should the ratio tip in favor of carbon, water will be sucked out of the atmosphere and replaced with a lethal mix of carbon dioxide and methane. "Living on such a planet would be like living in Los Angeles, with nothing but smog and asphalt," says Discovery News' Ray Villard."
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