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Comment Re:fubding (Score 1) 387

It's really interesting that you and I agree on the problem so closely, but we disagree on the economic system that's the root of the issue. I agree even that at the root, the problem we're discussing with science comes from what are essentially subsidies for already rich people and organizations at the expense of the workers. The difference is that I think that scientific research, as a market, has been socialized rather than left too open to the pressure of capitalist competition. The government controls every detail from the total size of the market down to how much lab techs are paid. The NIH, for example, had to be ordered by Congress to raise postdoc salaries (which they kind-of did) because the bureaucratic goal of maximizing the scientific workforce and productivity was at odds with their responsibility to pay people a fair salary.

I'm with you on the idea that modern states really use a mix of capitalism and communism. I really don't care how we describe the problem: I call it overly socialized, but I'd be just as happy to call it "crony capitalism." What I'd like is to see us improve the quality of science and the way we treat our young scientists.

Comment fubding (Score 1) 387

The physics analysis is not a controversial at all. The big controversy here is over what should be funded.

Cosmologists and quantum theorists are in good company when it comes to leveraging popular fantasies for fame and fortune. I'm a condensed matter physicist, and about every five years for a very long time we have discovered a material "stronger than steel," or that "will replace silicon."

This is now the culture of science (not just physics) because we have allowed basic research to become a profit center. Universities and (to a lesser extent) companies do not pay for scientific research any more, they get paid to do scientific research. Dig in to a university budget some time. The government is the only customer that matters in this world, and that all-important customer only cares about publications (peer reviewed articles, mass media, whatever). To keep our jobs, we have to be very good at telling stories and painting a picture of the future.

This is key because the customers for basic research used to care about actionable information first, and publicity second. We've reversed that.

The result is that most basic researchers are essentially professional science bloggers. Illuminating possibilities is a lot more interesting and lucrative than proving (or disproving) things.

Comment imperfect information (Score 1) 609

I am a physicist. What makes my job interesting is not endless connect-the-dots logical connections, but the opposite: my job is to make (educated) guesses based on imperfect information.

The interesting part comes in figuring out when there's enough evidence to make a reasonable conclusion. We (the other scientists and I) debate whether a piece of data is really "true," what conclusions could be supported by collected evidence, and what "reasonable" means in "reasonable conclusion." I work with two other physicists, one of whom I trained, and one was trained by my grad school mentor. Even with such similar backgrounds, we disagree on all of these seemingly logical and mathematically calculable things daily. We work at a company, and can't afford to continue gathering data until we all agree. So, I have to make decisions based on incomplete information and logical disagreement all the time.

My dad is a lawyer/politician who has held elected office for most of my life. As an elected official, his job is to make decisions with a very controlled timeline, and somewhat controlled budget. This means he's routinely making decisions without all the information one would wish. While law lacks the rigor of the statistical calculations we use in science, the idea of gradations of certainty is there, and is used in politics.

Essentially, the argument that evidence can be gathered until a logical political conclusion can be reached is impractical and not rooted in reality. We do not even do that in science. Further, the suggestion that scientists have a monopoly on logic and evidence determination is wrong. The implication that politicians and government officials broadly do not currently desire to make logical conclusions based on evidence is counter-productive and incorrect. Certainly there are corrupt officials who do not desire this, but to imply that our government as a whole is illogical is dangerous.

Comment Re:No justice (Score 2) 801

I don't think that's what the FBI statement is saying at all, and I think you're looking at something that's not the statement...

It's very clear that the FBI found that classified information was exposed, but not "in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice." The FBI characterization of what was done is "extremely careless." This is interesting wording because that is not a legal term associated with disclosure of classified material; "grossly negligent" is the legal term associated with the threshold for felony mishandling of classified information.

The FBI statement is also very clear on the security classification of what they found, which is why I think you're reading something else.

110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time; and eight contained Confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification.

That's pretty darn specific. If it was just the confidential stuff, I think your implication that the government classifies everything and this isn't a big deal would be very strong. Multiple accidental Top Secret information leaks is a bit different, though. In the last 15 years, we have sent many government workers to jail for leaking information like this, or even just having it stored at their house.

Comment Re:Skipped at the shareholders' meeting? (Score 1) 232

Thanks for sharing.

One thing stands out in your recollection for me: the inspirational focus on product innovation. Setting the circuses aside, that sounds very different from board meetings I'm used to (in the USA). I can see the appeal of that. While very profitable, innovations in marketing are not so inspirational.

Comment Re:He really hates Google (Score 1) 246

In an abstract way, this is true. Practically though, no one can effectively compete with Google.

There is not much difference in the effective power Google has compared to AT&T prior to being broken up. Both AT&T (then) and Google (now) use intense vertical integration, bundling of various services at below a-la-carte market prices, and large R&D efforts to maintain dominance. While people (such as Sprint) were free to compete with AT&T prior to 1982, the (legal) fact is that there was no economic way to effectively compete with them. The same is nearly true of Yahoo and Bing in contrast with Google today.

Comment Re:Skipped at the shareholders' meeting? (Score 1) 232

Ok, I actually do have a sincere (and off-topic) question for you.

Why do you go to these meetings?

I present for my company at meetings. It seems phone calls are much preferred to face to face meetings unless there's something really critical (bad) going on. Certainly, we don't get anyone who isn't fluent in English. So... why do you go to the Japanese shareholder meetings?

Maybe they're entertaining? I've never seen any ruckii at our meetings. To have that happen almost annually would be incredible. Now, the on-topic discussion is Sony's ethical mis-steps, so maybe they've earned these disruptions.

In my view, good investor management nearly demands that shareholder meetings are boring and predictable. If there's something good happening that you can raise money on, don't sit on it! If there's something bad going on, don't surprise your investors with it. A formal meeting recaps communications that have been going on since the last formal meeting.


Americans Used Nearly 10 Trillion Megabytes of Mobile Data Last Year (washingtonpost.com) 91

An anonymous reader writes: A report from CTIA released Monday found that consumers have nearly doubled their consumption of mobile data last year. It found that last month, consumers chugged down 804 billion megabytes of data, which adds up to a total of 9.65 billion gigabytes. The numbers are especially significant when compared to previous years. "From December 2013 to December 2014, U.S. data consumption grew by about 26 percent. But over the following year, it grew by 137 percent," writes Washington Post. YouTube and Netflix account for over half of North American internet traffic at peak hours, according to the networking equipment firm Sandvine. That figure spikes to 70 percent when streaming audio is part of the mix. The wireless industry as a result raked in nearly $200 billion last year alone, which is a 70 percent jump compared to a decade ago. The numbers are likely to rise as more and more devices become connected to the internet. With news of films from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar coming to Netflix this September, we're likely to see mobile data use increase even more this year.

'Eat, Sleep, Code, Repeat' Approach Is Such Bullshit (signalvnoise.com) 192

At its I/O developer conference, Google had the message "Eat. Sleep. Code. Repeat." spread everywhere -- walls, t-shirts you name it. Dan Kim, a programmer at Basecamp, has shared an interesting view on the same. He says while he gets the "coding is awesome and we want to do it all the time!" enthusiasm from the company, but he doubts if that's the approach a programmer should take, adding that the company is wittingly or not promoting an "unhealthy perspective that programming is an all or nothing endeavor -- that to excel at it, you have to go all in." He writes: Whether it's racing cars, loving art, reading, hiking, spending time in nature, playing with their dog, running, gardening, or just hanging out with their family, these top-notch programmers love life outside of code. That's because they know that a truly balanced lifestyle -- one that gives your brain and your soul some space to breath non-programming airâS -- actually makes you a better programmer. Life outside of code helps nurture important qualities: inspiration, creative thinking, patience, flexibility, empathy, and many more. All of these skills make you a better programmer, and you can't fully realize them by just coding.

Comment good luck (Score 2) 85

I'm a scientist and have worked in the sensor field for a long time. I have had students I've trained attempt this (commercial breath detection of cancer) with promising initial results. It's pretty easy to do the demo these guys are doing. It's very hard to do this with real people. The gap between cool academic demo and manufactured product is huge. The gap between product and FDA cleared diagnostic is even larger.


Breathalyzer That Detects Lung Cancer Early From a Single Breath Wins $100K Entrepreneurship Competition (mit.edu) 85

Lung cancer "breathalyzer," developed by a team of MIT and Harvard University students, has won $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. The breathalyzer connects to a smartphone and is able to detect lung cancer early from a single breath, reports MIT News. From the report: Astraeus Technologies has developed a postage-stamp-sized device, called the L CARD, that detects certain gases indicative of lung cancer. When someone blows onto the device, a connected mobile app turns a smartphone screen red if those gases are present and green if they aren't. "The L CARD reacts and sends instantaneous information to the physician that further attention is required," Joseph Azzarelli, an MIT PhD student in chemistry said while a ripple of excitement spread through the crowd. Lung cancer is the deadliest type of cancer in the United States, causing more deaths than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined, according to the World Health Organization.

Comment typical san diego (Score 1) 113

My favorite part of this is the tortured logic around the (lack of) funding for anything. The budget for 2017 plans on $106M being spent on street repairs. For the climate action plan, they hope that 10% of the street repairs are helpful for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. So, that's a $10.6M expenditure on the CAP plan! The vast majority of the people being "hired" on this plan are being hired into the sewer repair project. This is a long-term program that was going to hire those people anyway. Also, this is part of the reason the roads need to be repaired so badly, they're being torn up all over town, and then "repaired" when the sewer guys move on.

These are both good things to do, but we were doing them anyway, and not because we're trying to fight climate change. They money being "spent" in this plan, and the people being "hired" have nothing to do at all with the headline.

Comment commercialization is the challenge (Score 1) 154

Since 1999 the US government has paid more for basic research to universities than the combined private and public investment in early stage commercialization (government research grants vs angel investing + venture capital + SBIR). We've built our R&D system such that it costs more to commercialize a good idea than it does to do the basic research. Basic research costs are kept low by subsidies from the researchers who accept degrees, PhDs, postdoctoral fellowships, and tenure in lieu of money.

So, now we have an overabundance of basic research ideas and projects, and a shortage of commercialization opportunities and industry funding.

How does that lead to the government needing to spend more? The government is spending enough.

1) Let's go back to requiring DoD contractors spend 15% of their overhead funding on internal R&D.
2) Let's require SBIR recipients to work on their funded projects full time.
3) Let's require that "diversified investments" advertised to the general public include 0.5% of total funds invested in companies less than 5 years old.

The money is out there, and the researchers are out there. The government doesn't need to pay for everything, nor the scientific community accept the expansive view of "basic" research to include everything up to sales (and in some cases, past that). There needs to be a nudge in the right direction though.

Comment Re:Not gonna happen (Score 1) 148

The problem with this approach to patents is that when I create a patent that covers similar technology as the "non-working" version, but actually works properly, I still get my patent granted.

You *can* patent nonsense, but that doesn't prevent actual patents of existing inventions from parallel (non-infringing by addition of crucial invention) patents.


New Smartwatches Allow Students To Cheat On Exams 394

HughPickens.com writes: The Independent reports that smartwatches that allow students to cheat on exams are being openly sold on Amazon. An advert for one such watch, called a "New 2016 Student 8GB cheating watch," is offered on Amazon for $51.68. "This watch is specifically designed for cheating on exams with a special programmed software. It is perfect for covertly viewing exam notes directly on your wrist, by storing text and pictures in the 8GB memory storage. It supports various file formats, such as: TXT, MP3, JPG, GIF, WAV, WMV, AVI, etc. It has an emergency button, so when you press it — the watch's screen display changes from text to a regular clock, and blocks all other buttons." The watch has garnered good reviews. "this is amazing. it helps me cheat on my test and it is smart and i never got caught," writes one reviewer. Joe Sidders, the deputy head at Monkton Combe senior school, in Bath, told BBC News that such devices were making exams a "nightmare to administer". "I expect the hidden market for these sorts of devices is significant, and this offering on Amazon is just the tip of the iceberg." A spokesman for Amazon said the company did not want to comment on the sale of the cheating watches. But professors are striking back. "My microbiology professor does a watch check every time we have a test," says Abigail Lauze. "If it's not an old school analog it has to come off and go in the cell phone bin."

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