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Comment Re:It's been dropping for a long time (Score 1) 605

Woah, I had not realised how much we had progressed. This is terrible as a test. Latin and Greek version, people gave up upon, but would not have been hard for anyone taking the test (and of no use to them whatsoever). Although notions of Greek and Latin do come in handy to understand previously unheard words.

But the math part? The arithmetic, aside from the uselessness of it in days where you have calculators is the level of things I would do to distract myself when I was 15 (yes, I'm a sad person). And the geometry is trivial.

No physics, no economy, no algebra, no calculus, no philosophy. As for History, "compare Athens with Sparta" and "Pericles -- the Man and his Policy"... Cliche, much?

Clearly, the education people are receiving in the most dismal, underfunded inner city school is massively better than the tripe which would have gotten them into Harvard a century ago. Yay progress!

Comment Re:Wrong site (Score 1) 605

You need proper statistics to show a decline: old professors have been seeing a decline since at least Plato... Also, as a scientist, I can tell you this: yes, the first-year students lack basic math skills, and their English is dodgy (I blame the high school system in North America, where people have given up on calculus as a basic life skill). But somehow, they make up for it during their years at university, despite the amount of knowledge they need to acquire being much larger than in olden times.

I suspect this is because education has gotten broader, and basic skills have suffered somewhat, but on the other hand, the students are highly motivated and very flexible. Tradeoffs.

Comment Re:its normal (Score 2) 605

I suspect older folks might even be worse: after all, language on forums is not amazing, but it represent a massive amount of training in writing the older generation never had.

I find the quality of the writing on /. for example to be quite good in general: I suspect it comes from not being cogent leading to immediate downmoderation :)

Comment Re:Betteridge's Law has been beaten (Score 3, Insightful) 605

I'm sorry. But if an idiot wants to borrow some absurd amount of money to study something silly, it's their problem.

In the US if there is a fault from the gvt (assuming you don't consider higher education a public good to be provided by the gvt) is that you cannot default on your sudent loans, meaning that in effect, there is no risk to the lender other than the borrower dying an untimely death. Because even the poorest burger-flipper will over a lifetime be able to repay this outrageous amount of money.

Otherwise, of course, unievrsities will charge whatever people are ready to pay. That is what a market does.

Comment Re:Rejection (Score 1) 148

But PNAS is dodgy... Was it really peer-reviewed or was it invited?

It is true however that Science and Nature will publish on the grounds of sexyness above all consideration, sometimes at the expense of being actually correct. Also, there is a tendency to discount papers showing a mechanism in humans which is already known in mouse, despite the fact that there was no garantee of commonality and the fact that experiments using human cells are much harder.

I guess there is some underlying truth to the fact that no-one wants too much questionning of the usage of mouse models. The alternatives are much farther away from humans, or emotionally difficult to work with (cat models are great I hear, but unsurprisingly no one wants to do to cats what is commonly done to mice...)

Comment Re:The "two sides" (Score 1) 763

In my opinion, there is an ambiguity about the definition of "interpretation". I understand it as putting an explanation into words, using analogy and grammar to express some deeper physical meaning.

I think, and I suspect you may agreee, that it is valid to "interpret" using mathematics. Simply, at some point you cannot express the concepts using everyday language, because the loss of information is too great. I think this si what happens what QCD: it is not that we cannot interpret it, it is that any attempt in putting the thing into words destroys the deeper meaning laying in the mathematics.

But yes, of course, we all have to take the leap of faith that things exist beyond our minds. And further, when you do science, you have to believe that things exists beyond our minds and that they are all consistent with each other, somehow.

Comment Re:The "two sides" (Score 1) 763

You are assuming that there is graspable meaning or reason to things beyond their mathematical expression. At the limit, this may not be the case. A theory may well be "this is the mathematical expression the most adequate for the purpose of making predictions about this particular phenomenon". It may not cover the why, although theories tend to have common qualities, and have a tendency to have nice symetries and talk about preserved quantities.

Imagine that at the end of the day, we will find that some quantity which we will be able to measure, shlurm, is conserved, and that through clever math, we can use that to deduce the rest of physics. Call this shlurm theory. This is the ultimate theory of everything, there is no ambiguity, no magical constants other than the total amount of shlurm in the universe. We will never know why shlurm is conserved. We will have to accept that the universe is wholly described by this mathematical construct and no other. QCD is a bit like that, except for the final, definitive bit, and the single constant bit. And the whole of physics bit. But the point is that interpretation does not matter, not having an interpretation of QCD does not hinder its study or usefuleness, or its explanability.

Also, it's quantum field theory, and yes, the tool is quantum mechanics. But there is an underlying theory. It talks about the mathematical shape of reality. It cares not about why this shape is.

At the end of the day "why" is for theology, because you will have to accept that _something_ is some fundamental truth on which everything else is constructed.

Comment Re:The "two sides" (Score 1) 763

Actually, testability is not so onerous, and I absolutely agree that speculation is an important part of the scientific process. But if I formulate a theory, by which I mean make a proper, formal, well defined, mathematically expressed set of rules, the interpretation is not so important.

But I am probably not clear. Let us take continuum mechanics. Where stresses are tensor fields where infinitesimal forces are applied on infinitesimal bits of continuous matter. The _interpretation_ of that is that there are no atoms. Also, cracks have infinite stresses at their tips, but that's OK, because the energy is finite due to some properties of closed loop integrals in fields with finite numbers of singularities. Interpreting continuum mechanics is silly, and the conclusions about the nature of the universe you'd get from it are wrong. But it still, mechanical and civil engineering design are completely dependent on it.

Interpretation is the sugar coating around the real essence of scientific theory.

Comment Re:The "two sides" (Score 1) 763

Oh, they absolutely are useful in many ways. But they are neither a central nor a necessary part in the formulation of theories. Quantum Mechanics is crazy. But the maths work. What it means is pretty much open to debate, however.

My point is that although interpretation makes for amusing discussions, it is not necessary for science to give any interpretation at all. That just makes it harder to communicate. Case in point: I am an atheist. Evolution as a mechanism makes enormous sense to me, and has useful and important applications in, say, public health. If you wish to interpret it as "God's path to perfection for humanity", I'll think you are off your rocker, but we can still have an intelligent and useful discussion about how it happened/the fine points of the mechanism.

If you deny the mechanism, you had better have an amazingly strong argument as to why my genetic algorithm works and why it is completely different from selective pressure for living organisms. When you start denying such self-evidently, and provably right principles, the whole edifice of science will come down crumbling down on you.

Comment Re:The "two sides" (Score 1) 763

Interpretations are in the realm of science only if they are testable. Otherwise, it is not science anymore. In particular, quantum mechanics can yield interpretations which are consistent in themselves and crazy. And incompatible with one another. If you cannot distinguish between them by an experiment, and yet, QM still works brilliantly, then I believe this is the canonical example of why interpretation is not an important, or relevant part of the theory.

Comment Re:The "two sides" (Score 1) 763

This is precisely the point: what it "means" as en engineer is irrelevant, however you care very much that you can calculate anything at all and how. Thus "interpretations" are largely the realm of philosophy, not science.

They may help you understand, visualise or memorise., but they are not the essence of the theory.

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