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Should Undergraduates Be Taught Fortran? 794

Mike Croucher writes "Despite the fact that it is over 40 years old, Fortran is still taught at many Universities to students of Physics, Chemistry, Engineering and more as their first ever formal introduction to programming. According to this article that shouldn't be happening anymore, since there are much better alternatives, such as Python, that would serve a physical science undergraduate much better. There may come a time in some researchers' lives where they need Fortran, but this time isn't in 'programming for chemists 101.' What do people in the Slashdot community think?"

Comment Re:Teachers... (Score 1) 316

If students testing at the X percentile on a standardized Algebra test at the end of Algebra I end up at the end of Geometry testing at 1.1X in one teacher's class and at 0.9X in another teacher's class in the next classroom, it seems we have a pretty good hint which teacher is better.

I strongly disagree. Students can understand different subjects better than others. They can become different (better or worse) students from one year to another, for instance, because of home(less) and family situation, have friends in this class but not that class, or like the hot teacher but don't like the old, ugly hippy.

Sure, there are some subject areas that don't lend themselves to standardized testing (for example, various performing arts), but these don't seem to be the areas that are resulting in American High School graduates being non-competitive.

So what you're saying is, those subjects in which there aren't standardized tests are areas where we are competetive. Hmm... sounds like you made the opposite argument here. Feeling and intuition are just as important in "rigorous" fields such as math as in liberal arts. Can you point me to a computer that can solve all our number theory or mathematical logic problems?

... end up being frustrated by not being rewarded for their performance...

I agree. However, using standardized tests is most commonly seen as a method for punishing poor performance, so why would they be supportive of that?


Submission + - NASA spends money on lavish parties every launch (

doug141 writes:

NASA spends between $400,000 and $1.3 million on a party AT EVERY LAUNCH, according to CBS. Select personnel are treated to 5 days at a 4 star hotel. This year alone, they've spent $4 million on parties. NASA asked for, and was given, $1 billion more from the Senate this year. NASA proponents argue it makes more sense to give money to talented, productive people in exchange for scientific knowledge, than spend in on unproductive people in the form of straight welfare.

Data Storage

Submission + - Free online storage services reviewed

prostoalex writes: "ExtremeTech runs a review of free online storage offerings from, DropBoks, eSnips, MediaMax, OmniDrive and openomy. While there are many more companies offering online storage and backups, this review deals with free plans. and OmniDrive both get 8 stars out of 10: "All of these services reliably stored our test files, without any evidence of file corruption. The trend was for services that offered more advanced features to be more quirky and at times even buggy. If you just want no frills storage, choose DropBoks or openomy. If you need subfolders and would like a prettier interface, look into One thing we missed in many of these services was actual OS integration — with the sole exception of OmniDrive, which lets you upload files via a right-click option in Windows Explorer. Some of the other services, such as openomy and do allow developers to build such functionality. ""

Submission + - Free global virtual scientific library

An anonymous reader writes: More than 20,000 signatures, including several Nobel prize winners and 750 education, research, and cultural organisations from around the world came together to support free access to government funded research, "to create a freely available virtual scientific library available to the entire globe. The European Commission responded by committing more than $100m (£51m) towards facilitating greater open access through support for open access journals and for the building of the infrastructure needed to house institutional repositories that can store the millions of academic articles written each year. From the BBC article: "Last month five leading European research institutions launched a petition that called on the European Commission to establish a new policy that would require all government-funded research to be made available to the public shortly after publication. That requirement — called an open access principle — would leverage widespread internet connectivity with low-cost electronic publication to create a freely available virtual scientific library available to the entire globe." Isn't this the way its suppose to be?

Submission + - Big 'Ocean' Discovered Beneath Asia

anthemaniac writes: Seismic observations reveal a huge reservoir of water in Earth's mantle beneath Asia. It's actually rock saturated with water, but it's an ocean's worth of water ... as much as is in the whole Arctic Ocean. How did it get there? A slab of water-laden crust sank, and the water evaporated out when it was heated, and then it was trapped, the thinking goes. The discovery fits neatly with the region's heavy seismic activity and fits neatly with the idea that the planet's moving crustal plates are lubricated with water.

Submission + - Is your website banned in China?

tcd004 writes: "Is your site banned in China? FP Passport recently profiled a new online service,, which tests any website from a server based inside the Middle Kingdom, and reports back whether or not the page is available. Passport also notes that the Great Firewall reveals Chinese censorship whittles down websites to block out individual pages, instead of always applying a site-wide block. The site keeps a running log of each test so Censorship trends over time can be easily tracked."

Comment Re:Dreaming in technicolor (Score 4, Informative) 250

Did you even read the article?

The reason everyone isn't doing it is because it isn't economic.
The point of the work was to make it economical. There hasn't been any work, until now, on _small_ scale waste management that _directly_ produces electricity. Before, the inventions required the business to perform some technical/dangerous/expensive task, mainly storing the gas, or installing a permanent structure.

AFAICT, they are using the same process as everyone else. Ergo, they should have the same results as everyone else.
No, not ergo, because the "results" are not based only on the fuel production process. What they were measuring was the ratio between diesel fuel consumed and electricity produced. They are probably using a highly efficient, highly modified engine, as well as other more advanced parts.

The guys at Purdue didn't mention how nasty the waste product from their process might be.
From the article:

The machine produces a very small amount of its own waste, Warner said, mostly in the form of ash that the Environmental Protection Agency has designated as "benign," or non-hazardous.
Back to the Anonymous Coward:

I don't expect to see one of these behind my local restaurant any time soon.
True, but I don't expect you would even look.

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