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Comment look at the results (Score 1) 183

I may be biased by living in San Diego, but the "civilian" oversight of nuclear energy has failed. We have a nuclear power plant here 60 miles from downtown which is bogged down in endless hearings and oversight. Taking the safety issues seriously is great, but it's obvious the government teams lack the expertise and will to actually help get the reactor running again or decide to shut it down permanently.

Meanwhile there are 3+ perfectly fine nuclear reactors running on aircraft carriers and subs docked right at downtown San Diego all the time. No one seems to mind and no one seems to worry.

Whether that's justified or not doesn't really matter. The Navy can and does build new nuclear power plants and generally has the trust of the public to do that. The DOE does not. These are the results: the military has effective nuclear power, the civilians do not.

Comment surely, there were other results... (Score 4, Interesting) 151

A 26 year study, following 968,432 people and these guys draw a conclusion revolving around coffee and a cancer involving 0.09% of the people in the study?

That's some serious barrel scraping on that data set.

That said, it's one more argument to use when my wife complains that I drink too much coffee. Go science!

Comment as a physicist, I can say... (Score 1) 454

I am a physicist. I published a lot of nice papers in grad school, and sometimes I worked really long hours. Those two things are correlated.

Note that I did not say I always worked long hours. When you need to stay at work to babysit something (an experiment or observation), then do so. When you don't need to be at work, go do something else. You will be LESS effective working as much as you can, all the time. Good science requires creativity, not drudge work. The professors want results. They have no training in management and no interest in it either.

If you really want to see a culture change, don't get a PhD. Research funding pays for grad students, not staff scientists. Don't think that you'll be immune to this. Part of my job is to help the government manage research funding. Even when the economy is good, the government can't justify spending money on one professional when the same amount can get us 3-4 grad students (each working free overtime, right?). Think about what that means.

As long as grad students are happy working for peanuts, the system will continue. The accountants are merciless.

Comment just finished my lab (Score 1) 208

This question is extremely broad.

I just finished putting together a broad professional lab. It's also be far too expensive for me to contemplate putting together at home.

For electronics I put in a couple computers, a National Instruments CompactDAQ, a Solartron Modulab, an Agilent 4 port PNA-L (splurged on that) and a probe station with a USB camera. There's a bunch of small stuff around in storage, a soldering iron, power supplies, wires, components, old projects which are well characterized and stuff like that. There is one long workbench, a few chairs, a white board, and a sink. You don't really need to go crazy with stuff. There's a bunch of materials processing gear in there too, but that's not such a great thing to set up at your house. I have access to a good machine shop, so I didn't put any of that stuff in my lab.

Comment Get someone else (Score 1) 480

I've worked with "Brilliant Jerks" before. As a physicist, that's a large population of my colleagues. In every instance I've encountered a person like this, a team of "regular brilliant" people working well together outperforms the jerks by a landslide.

Being effective is different than being smart and requires teamwork at high levels.

Get rid of the jerks and get someone who knows how to use intensity, passion and knowledge as part of a team.

Comment yeah? so does my lab (Score 1) 133

I think I speak for a lot of scientists when I say we all could use more funding. This isn't to say there isn't enough money out there for us to do great things, but we all need to think hard about what we're doing and why.

I know I've moved out of some research areas because I couldn't really make a compelling argument that society needed to invest in them right now.

Maybe particle physicists should think about how many billions each year we really need to spend smashing things together at near the speed of light. Sure, it's cool, but maybe we have what we can reasonably expect to get out of the field at this point. For the last 10 years, observational cosmology has been a much more cost effective investment for probing the same research areas. Maybe it's time for those guys to ramp back up.

Comment been on a jury? (Score 2) 506

I wonder how many people here have been on a jury. I have been on several juries and been a jury foreman. Once the trial is completed, what you are allowed to ask as a juror is quite limited.

It is the lawyers' job to ask questions of the witnesses and explain the facts of the case. It is the judge's job to explain the relevant law (this is typically minimal and bound by legislation). It is the jury's job to determine what the relevant facts are and how they apply to the law. I've been on juries where we set things aside simply because we didn't see how it was applicable. That happens all the time.

It is often the case that some jurors understand certain things more than others. It is often the case that neither side's lawyer provides an adequate and complete description of the situation. It is often the case that a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the law is absent in the deliberation room. It is often the case that a jury has only part of the information available to those outside the jury. It is often the case that different jurors have different reasons for making a decision. None of that matters. It is the jury's job to come to a verdict with what THEY are given.

Comment Re:There is no way a tokamak can be cost competiti (Score 1) 184

So why are we still funding fusion research at a billion dollar level? Why can't program officers get the message up the chain that funding should go elsewhere? There are similar fields ticking along with $100M/year funding.

I'm just getting started reviewing programs, but I can't wrap my head around this concept that wasting money is what you have to do as part of government scientific oversight. There are way too many good projects that go unfunded to spend money on things serious scientists agree will never work.

I have seen that periodic cuts in government funding due to lack of progress spur research communities into being more creative and pragmatic. Old tired ideas just don't die otherwise.

Comment people aren't computers (Score 1) 840

As much as people here would like to compare genetics to computer software, there's only so far that analogy goes.

Your genes will not force or prevent you from having a particular personality trait. They don't "make" you rebellious or creative or intelligent. Many purely physical characteristics are highly dependent on your environment. In addition you are dependent on non-genetic as well as genetic inherited biology. DNA alone does not include all the information necessary to make a person.

There are many people here with sophisticated understanding of technology, but not so many who understand biology. Biology has been moving faster than any other field over the last 10 years. Things you learned 5 years ago are now understood to be wrong. Try not to have a knee-jerk reaction based on science fiction fears.

Let's start with simple things like food. What would happen if people could drink saltier water without dehydrating, or synthesize more vitamins internally, or digest cellulose? Would that be terrible?

Comment Re:I visited the National Ignition Facility this y (Score 1) 543

I completely agree with your statement that we need big science. I think the idea of NIF is great and the use of a national lab to host such a facility is great, but...

Scientists have become more adept at marketing and the sociology of government funding. You see the material you linked as glowing examples of scientific achievement. As a scientist familiar with fusion, I see a collection of half truths and misleading statements. They don't need to worry about me. With their size and mission they live or die by broad political and military support.

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