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Comment Standardized Assessment is Necessary (Score 1) 663

I work for a firm that analyzes student data and gives recommendations to schools as to which students ought to go in which math classes. The ordinary way this is decided is to give the math teachers full discretion as to who is ready for what. Unfortunately, this is an extremely poor predictive model, and tends to reward students who have absolutely no intention of going into a career which requires math, but are extremely hardworking and do their absolute best on homework and tests, while punishing both lazy computer geeks and most minorities.

This has been going on for about two generations, and has led to the complete subjugation of America's position as the most innovative nation, primarily in the past decade or so. Most or all of the chairs in an advanced math class are filled with people who go on to be doctors, lawyers, marketing consultants, or what have you, NOT engineers, physicists, or mathematicians. This has had tremendous consequences on our economy. The Department of Defence, for instance, has been outsourcing nearly all of their software and cryptography needs to Indian firms, not because they're cheaper (they would pay extra for the ability to 'buy American'), but because there were literally zero qualified American applicants. Even the government outsources, and the private sector has even less incentive to buy American, so... Well, you can imagine.

So, how do we fix this problem? Well, there are two primary goals. 1) Find better algorithms for determining math placement. We've made much progress on this front, with value-added predictive models approaching 99% accuracy with high precision. As an example, SAS's EVAAS software, when the political environment has allowed it to be tested, gives math placement recommendations with the result of nearly doubling the median scores on standardized tests at the end of the year; the students really do belong there, and the teachers did not correctly perceive those students' potential. The teacher unions will continue to lose power and this analytical coup de tat will fill the gap, or we will continue to train the wrong people to compete in the global economy.

The second goal, 2) Find better algorithms for determining content mastery. Once again, the teachers have too much influence. Homework grades, participation grades, minor or major bias in grading, and sometimes even incompetency on the part of the teacher, all conspire to add a randomizing effect to any assessment of students' abilities based on grades and GPAs. We require some sort of standardized curriculum and standardized assessment system, so that we can get enough data to figure out what we should be changing about the way we educate children.

There are a couple added benefits. From the perspective of laize fair capitalism, having the institution which teaches content mastery and the institution which assesses content mastery be the same institution is utterly ludicrous, and will lead to ridiculous market pressures favoring cheating (look what happened in Atlanta, where the a small cabal was able to alter all of the test scores for the whole city). While the politicians aren't exactly the best custodians of the assessment half of education (since they get rotated out so quickly, they are focused heavily on short-term goals), they will perform the job significantly better than the very same teachers who teach the content to be assessed, for the simple fact that there's much less pressure towards dishonest behavior.

Common Core is the first attempt at standardizing the assessment criteria so that the system provides meaningful data instead of pure, opaque noise. I'll be the first to admit it is not a very good system, and in many ways in these early days does more harm than good.

But do not doubt for a second that something *like* Common Core is necessary for the future survival of our Nation.

Comment Solar is the only option (Score 1) 663

Here's the problem. Every piece of energy we've ever had has come, originally, from Solar. We need to max out our solar power efficiency, and we need to do it soon. Fossil fuels are basically batteries, and we are currently abusing the fact that we are billions of years into Earth's having had life. There are a lot of random things in the ground that happened to have absorbed lots of solar energy and happened to be easy to burn. This makes the cost of energy seem much lower than it actually is, and so solar power would appear to be "cost inefficient".

Of course it is cost inefficient, when you compare it to these ridiculous batteries that have been storing power for billions of years in a highly compressed and easy to extract form! And it's lucky that during our industrialization phase, we had batteries like coal and oil. It's a very good thing, or else we never would have gotten to the stage of making good solar power.

Dyson's Spheres 4Ever Yo

Comment Re:Profile of attacker already available.. (Score 1) 461

He wasn't suggesting a relationship between the Tea Party and terrorism. He said nothing of the sort. He was giving a description of the senator, i.e. a typical neoconservative. Pro gun, anti abortion, anti immigration. Specifically, he said "too fond of earmarks to be a hit with team Tea Party", implying only that the Tea Party doesn't like earmarks.

You're the one strawmanning here, bro.

Comment Re:The two purposes are not mutually exclusive. (Score 1) 398

If I converted all of my USD to Euro, and then all of the problems with Greece, Cypress, and Spain got sorted out and the Euro went up in value, and I turned all my money back into USD, I would say that I had "made quite a bit of money" in the exact same way, and I don't think that anyone thinks that euros aren't "real" money.

Comment Re:The two purposes are not mutually exclusive. (Score 4, Interesting) 398

It not only has value as an investment (I personally put about $1000 in when the price hit $14usd/1btc, sold half at $55 and half at $65 and made quite a bit of money), but it also is useful for grey market transactions.

For instance, I purchased some Modafinil, a prescription drug which is hard to acquire in the US but is non-recreational and not of concern to the DEA, and I used bitcoins to do it simply because it was the only way to easily pay in such a way that the vendor didn't know anything about me beyond the wallet ID of the one-time use wallet I generated specifically for this transaction, I don't know anything about the vendor outside of his (probably also one-time-use) wallet ID, and yet I ended up with some Modafinil and he ended up with some cash.

As a long-term investment, Bitcoin is ludicrous; I agree with this. The price is about to crash as the new ASIC miners come out, and this cycle will likely happen again several times before we hit the 22 million hard cap, which makes it the domain of day traders, not investers. But as a currency, it is wildly more useful than USD, or whatever. You can send bitcoins to someone quickly, easily, and without using a third party transfer service. You can easily purchase bitcoins using cash with websites like localbitcoins.com. There are many websites selling legitimate products, things like computer hardware or ebooks, and the list grows every day.

Bitcoin's value is not as an investment. Bitcoin's value is that, even without the backing of a major government or whatever, it has value as a currency simply because of its featureset.

We don't consider the 'featureset' of a currency very often, since most currencies have exactly the same featureset as every other currency; you can take it to a bank and change it into 'electronic' money, deposit it into your paypal, etc. But bitcoin has all of those features built into the actual currency itself, with no reliance on third parties and built-in (relative) privacy.

Comment Re:Quit promoting it when it doesn't work (Score 1) 205

I don't care what your doctor says. I certainly don't care what YOU say.

Do you really think your story carries any weight at all compared to, say, a study conducted over ten thousand people?

If you compare a population of people who all got a flu shot, compared with a population of people who all didn't get a flu shot... The first population still gets the flu! Just not as much! You seem to think that since YOU got a flu shot and then YOU got the flu, that this disproves the efficacy of flu shots. But what you don't seem to understand, is, the second population GETS the flu more often, and more important, DIES more often.

Homeopathic substances have been proven, time and time again, to do no better than placebos. In fact, they *are* placebos, just labeled as if they are medicine. Homeopathy is where you take a medicine, like the bark of willow (aspirin), and then dillute it in water, such that the aspirin is in a 1:10 ratio with the water. Then you do it again, 1:100. Then again, 1:1000. And again and again until you end up with a '10x' (1:10,000,000,000) dillution, or perhaps even greater. At this point, it's unlikely that a single molecule of aspirin remains in the solution.

And keep in mind, since what you now have is essentially a bottle of clean water... that clean water has been through the sewage system, where the same thing happened to it. They dilluted the dirty water with clean water, and then separated out the dirt, and then did it again, over and over until the water was clean.

So, my question to you is, how come your homeopathic medicine remembers the aspirin it had, but not the collective feces of everything that ever shit in water?

Comment Re:Quit promoting it when it doesn't work (Score 1) 205

the amount of mercury in this year's flu shot is about the amount in 1/1000th of a tuna sandwich, 12.5 micrograms (source: http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/VaccineSafety/UCM096228#thi) (25ug thimerosal, which is 50% ethylmercury, which has none of the dangerous properties of mercury).

There is no formaldehyde in vaccines.

There certainly isn't MSG in vaccines; you may be thinking about chinese food.

I don't know what's wrong with the brains of the anti-vaccine crowd, but science has shown again and again that they are incorrect as a simple matter of fact.

Comment Re:Catch 22: (Score 1) 342

To be honest, I'm not sure. I did get very nervous when they opened with the dog question, but I was nervous because I simply couldn't believe that they knew the name of my dog from 20 years ago, not because I didn't know the answer. I didn't inquire as to why or how they had that information, because I needed things to go as smoothly as possible, but it scared the hell out of me.

Comment Re:Catch 22: (Score 2) 342

I have another anecdote opposite yours. I was once in Florida in my wallet got stolen including my plane ticket and my ID. I didn't notice until I got to the airport. Homeland security pulled me aside and said they could help, if I could just answer a few questions to prove my identity. they asked me the name of the dog that I had when I was 8 years old, the name of my third grade teacher, and the name of the church where I was married. , but they gave me my plane ticket and said I was good to go.

Comment Re:No Death Penalty (Score 4, Informative) 379

The Penn and Teller: Bullshit! episode on the death penalty showed quite a lot of evidence that the concoction of chemicals used to euthanize pets is significantly less painful than the one used to execute death row inmates. I don't know if it's still true, or if P&T made it up for TV, but I remember being quite impressed with the evidence they had.

Comment Re:Let me know when it's open to homebrew (Score 2) 276

I'm sure it's on bushing's to-do list. (Using the new colloquial definition of root) He got the Wii rooted in like six months. Nowadays you can easily get a "Homebrew Channel" on your homescreen, which acts like an App Store for awesome stuff like emulators, gameshark-esque hacking devices, media players, even a virtualmachine host.

Comment Re:Not how statistics works (Score 2) 576

Yes, it does work like that.

Nate Silver made more than a hundred predictions at around 80% confidence. 100% of those predictions came true. Therefore he is undercalibrated.

Unless you are saying he made one prediction, that the polls were not biased in favor of democracts, and gave this prediction 80% confidence... in which case, yes, that's a fair point.

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