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Comment Re:England (Score 2) 470

A lot of people do, and that's part of the problem. They're made from a kind of plastic that is designed to break down in exposure to ultraviolet. Store one in direct sunlight and it will turn to dust in a few months. Unfortunately, when they're stuck in the ground, they stay there for ages. The real solution would be developing a kind of plastic that doesn't break down in ultraviolet, but does in the presence of something in landfill. Presumably bin bags are made of something intended to be like that?

Comment Re:News for Nerds... (Score 1) 710

To be fair, science is effectively a belief system

Absolutely not. Belief systems say 'this is true'. Science says 'this is a story, and if we accept this story is true then we get these useful predictions out. If we find that the predictions are not true, then we need to reevaluate the story. In some cases (e.g. Newtonian motion), the predictions may still be useful, as they still work within a particular range and the story is simpler to understand than one that gives accurate predictions everywhere, but we still accept that it's wrong. If there is no story we can think of that correctly matches our observations, then it's fine to admit ignorance.'

Comment Re:Wife Selling (Score 1) 710

As an example of how this institution has varied, consider that in the mid nineteenth century in England it was considered legal for a man to try to sell his wife.

And from that link:

Although the custom had no basis in law and frequently resulted in prosecution, particularly from the mid-19th century onwards

Comment Re:Be a Gentleman Scientist (Score 1) 233

And the other big one: you don't need collaborators. One of the things that tempted me back into academia was that a lot of the problems that I'd encountered really needed expertise in fields complementary to my own. I could spend 5-10 years learning everything I needed to solve them (by which time they'd likely be irrelevant or solved by someone else), or I could work with other people, many of whom also have interesting problems that can benefit from my experience. There are increasingly few fields where you can make a significant contribution by yourself.

Comment Re:Horse already left the barn (Score 2) 233

I came a slightly unusual route, getting my PhD quite quickly and then spending five years freelancing, before being tempted back to academia. Oh, and I'm in the UK - it's a bit different in the USA. The base salary for a postdoc is not too exciting, but there are a few other things that make it attractive.

The first is that you get a lot more freedom than as a PhD student (or a junior employee in a corporate R&D lab). You start to be able to set your own research agenda. This depends a lot on institutions, but where I work there are a couple of projects with multi million dollar funding that are led by postdocs (a tenured faculty member has to be the name on the grant, but it's purely nominal). You may be able to supervise PhD students.

The second is the flexible working hours. I have a few hours a week when I actually need to be in the lab. The rest of the time, as long as I'm not blocking anyone else from getting things done, no one cares where I am (or what I'm doing, as long as some papers come out periodically).

The third is that I get to play with some very shiny toys. I'm typing this from a latest-generation MacBook Pro with all of the upgrades (2.6GHz CPU, 1TB SSD), which the lab bought for me yesterday, but that isn't too unusual for corporate side. Slightly more unusual is that when I started working here the only thing thing on my desk was an $8,000 FPGA board, which is just about to be replaced by a better one, and there's a big box of them if I need more than one (we're starting to play with boxes with 4 of the newer boards). The same thing extends to travel budgets. I've had a few months over the last year where I've claimed more in expenses than salary (which is less impressive when you remember the postdoc salary), and every time I go on a trip it's fairly common to tack some vacation time on. I don't really have to justify travel much beyond saying 'I'd like to visit this conference / university, it's probably sensible,' although part of that is the combination of funding rules that make it difficult to spend grant money on things that are not travel.

The fourth is that you are not limited to the working for the university. Most companies that want you to work full time expect you to work entirely for them. When I asked about consulting in my interview here, the reply was that of course they expected me to consult, how else would I stay up to date with trends in industry? You can add quite a lot (100% isn't too unusual) to your postdoc salary by consulting, and the flexible working hours make this very easy.

I interviewed at Google at the same time as I interviewed here. Google offered me quite a bit more money, but I don't regret making the choice I did. If you're thinking of a postdoc as a way of becoming more employable, then you're probably doing it wrong (unless you're aiming for a lectureship or a senior post in industrial R&D), but if you're looking on it as a way of being paid to have fun then it's a good deal. I'm basically doing now the things that I was doing in my spare time before, but now I have a lot more resources and I get paid for it. It sure beats working for a living...

Oh, and the $50K number you quote is close to the base salary for a postdoc here. It goes up to around $75K. I just checked a salary comparison site and apparently the postdoc salary is about the same as a software engineer would expect to be paid here, and about double the median salary.

Comment Re:Wagging the dog. (Score 1) 292

MS Office also has change tracking and can show you who made which changes to a document. It works well, except if you have more than one document, in which case tying versions together is very hard. Oh, and there's no merging support, so you can't have two people independently editing a document. Oh, and you can't split documents up for different people to work on different sections, because then cross-references break. But that's probably okay, because no enterprise actually has more than one employee or one document....

Comment Re:Sexually transmitted political power? (Score 5, Insightful) 730

The posited advantage of an hereditary monarchy is not so much that the new is the son of the old ruler, it's that he is raised from birth to rule adn the responsibilities that this entails. This can be a better idea than having someone with a sufficiently big ego to decide that they ought to be in power. The first problem is that you don't have a good fallback - if the next in line to the throne is a poor choice then ideally you'd have a dozen other candidates to pick from. The second is that monarchies traditionally don't provide a good way of deselecting the ruler. Perhaps the biggest selling point of democracy is that you get to have a revolution and overthrow the government every few years, without anyone having to die.

Comment Re:Sounds good on paper (Score 4, Insightful) 1216

Executives are paid high salaries because (good ones at least) are sought after

There are a very small number of truly exceptional C?Os and most of those know a single industry very well and do badly when translated to other markets. According to a study that was on Slashdot a couple of years ago, the vast majority make decisions that are no better for the company that a random selection. You can replace most Fortune 500 CEOs with a magic 8 ball and get about the same performance. That's not true of most of the other employees, including the janitors, so why are they paid several orders of magnitude more? Because most of the CEOs are on the boards of other companies and approve large salaries in exchange for the same favour being paid to them.

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