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Comment Re:This is a surprise? (Score 4, Insightful) 483

I wouldn't be as... caustic in my critique of universities as the OP, but I can definitely understand the sentiment.

I think the problem is that many people think that universities should all act like non-profit educational institutions. In reality, the "best" universities act like (for-profit) partnerships performing professional research services, and they are very, very good at this. Certainly, this is where the majority of UC funding comes from.

If you paid for an undergrad degree at a research institution, and didn't understand that you should have been working in some famous professor's lab to actually get your education, you're going to be pretty upset when you get out.

Comment The first step (Score 5, Insightful) 99

I've been working in this field for a long time. If you look around the literature, you'll see my name on several papers on nanoelectronic detection of disease via breath. This is a great demo, and Haik is a very good guy in this field, but he's done only the easiest part. I've learned the hard way that publishing an academic paper and making something that doctors actually would buy to make treatment decisions are completely different things. This is the first step in the development process, not the last.

In this case, there are already medical breath tests, and entire clinics devoted to this kind of medical test (without the nanotech part). The tools are already cleared for use, and medical doctors have protocols and billing methods for using them. If the key part of this is really those 13 compounds, there's no need for nano wizardry; use the mass spec or whatever that the clinic already has. That's really the key here, why would anyone use his device, and not just his results? Often in sensor research, we don't understand the distinction there when the results get us such great publications and press. The grant manager paid for the nanotechnology (and the citations that come with it), but everyone else is interested in the medicine.

Comment not time yet (Score 1) 188

I got to do a rotation through the Navy lab that was working on LENR shortly before it was shut down. The folks running it were exactly the kind of scientist you want working on this: careful, self-critical, experienced, and most importantly, not part of a pro-LENR institute (they answered to skeptical Navy brass, not LENR true-believer donors and investors). Unfortunately, LENR is controversial, difficult to get funding for, and easy to tie up in regulatory red tape. They were caught in a strange Catch-22. As they were able to convince their bosses that nuclear reactions were happening, the facility and oversight requirements increased. At some point the safety and reporting requirements outpaced the resources they had access to. The Navy lab closed several years ago. As far as I know, there is no independent group like that studying LENR anymore.

Comment Re:Typical enviro extremism (Score 2) 143

I'm not sure you know how science (as a profession) works. These guys wrote the paper for a reason. They did the research for a reason. There's a grant manager and staff writing contracts, doing accounting and presenting reports to an NGO board about this work... all for a reason. This didn't just happen because of scientific curiosity, and it's absolutely insulting to scientists to remove us from policy and moral debates. I think if anything, we got into science to win those debates. (If you can't tell yet, I'm a scientist, and your comment royally pisses me off.) We do science because of our biases and because we want to change things.

So yeah. This work was ABSOLUTELY about making an argument blaming civilization for damaging the environment. There are many fields of science devoted to that purpose. The people doing this work are absolutely hoping that more people think about roads as a problem as a result of what they've written.

You're quoting the editor's blurb, not the scientists, by the way. The scientists end their abstract with

Global protection of ecologically valuable roadless areas is inadequate. International recognition and protection of roadless areas is urgently needed to halt their continued loss.

Those are not the words of someone just reporting the facts with no commentary. These guys got paid by their donors to do this because they're expected to make statements like this, and they're published in Science because they're good at making arguments like this. This is what professional scientists do.

They don't need you pretending that there is no moral message or call to action in the work they're doing.

Comment Re:What about red lights? (Score 1) 357

Wait, a minute here...

There's no counter evidence provided on Snopes, just a statement from Uber. That's not "better research." You're relying on a corporate cover-your-ass statement. What about Uber's history or corporate culture leads you to believe their statements are actually true?

Digging into the TechCrunch article, some of what's said there doesn't make any sense. This is an autonomous Volvo, custom built and owned by Uber specifically for this pilot program. There's no purpose other than this autonomous pilot program for this model Volvo with these modifications and special Uber livery. It was driven by one of their pilot project drivers. This happened during the period of time and in the location that Uber was running the pilot program. But Uber claims this specific vehicle (despite the livery, modifications, special driver, location, and timing) was not part of the pilot project.

So again, why do you think they're telling you the truth?

Comment They're going to get the names (Score 2) 858

There certainly are records of who worked on what project, who traveled to what conferences, and who belongs to what professional society. You don't work at DoE without the government knowing that information, it's part of the job.

Ignoring this request is easy: "We'll be happy to perform this important data collection, we think the budget required for this effort is approximately $2.4 million. As soon as Congress appropriates that, we'll get right on it." Delay, re-direct, give the task to the biggest fuck-up in the department... this could never get done.

It's kind of mind boggling to me (as someone who worked as a government scientist) that the management would fight instead. You get constant calls for information reports and surveys as a federal employee. A good number of them are for nothing other than identifying political enemies of the current administration, the GAO, the EPA, some important Congressman, your Secretary... lots of people try this technique. Ignoring them carries far less risk than responding.

Keep your head down, and work on what you're paid for, and you'll stay out of trouble. As a civil servant, any attention is bad attention. I've seen someone get hit with a BS lab safety investigation based on an award talk he gave.

Fighting, on the other hand, is a sure fire way to lose your position and your project. There is nothing that management likes better than finding reasons to de-fund or transfer "troublemakers." Also, all government scientists are "troublemakers."

Comment Re:No (Score 2) 400

While the growth of those neighborhoods definitely effects politics, it's not even close to the whole story. How about the local newspaper. Note that the local Democratic stronghold is the University neighborhood (which is maybe better for everyone than identity politics).

This is the first time since 1936 that OC went blue. In a place with ~200,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats, Clinton won by almost 100,000 votes, with another ~64k votes going to 3rd party (or no one), with a very high turnout all around. This all adds up to a very significant number of Republicans voting against their nominee in a very strong Republican stronghold, in an election won nationally by the Republican. Even though Trump won, I think we are still seeing the death of the Republican party as we knew it.

Comment Re:No (Score 1) 400

Hey, calm down Mr. Sensitive! If you read what I'm writing carefully you'll notice that I'm not disagreeing with you on a lot of what you're saying. What you actually said:

It's not Trump's message to the working man that got him elected. It's his appeal to the rich. If he gets his way, wave goodbye to the estate tax...

Your argument was that it was his appeal to the rich that got him elected, not that rich people voted for him because he pandered to them. There's a subtle, but important difference.

I agree it makes no sense for... well, anyone to vote for Trump. Where we disagree is that I don't think there are enough "rich" voters out there to elect him. In places with lots of rich people, he lost. Badly. Probably because those people were far more educated than his typical voter. Frankly, I don't see how he wins anything relying on rich voters. There are not enough rich, uneducated people out there, and the Democrats have done an excellent job pandering to the rich themselves recently.

Again, the party leadership for both parties, and the editorial boards for major media see the rural, white, working-class voter as the key to his election. As improbable as it is (and you make great arguments for why this shouldn't have happened), these folks voted for him.

Now, to everyone's surprise, they guy won. What he does now, I think (I hope), is support "his base." Trump is a rich jerk, but he loves being loved more than anything. I think we see him pander to these people who filled his rallies.

Comment Re:No (Score 1) 400

Do you really think all those rural Obama voters in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan were thinking about the estate tax when they voted for Trump? I don't know what they were thinking, but it's a real stretch to claim they're wealthy enough to care about things like the estate tax.

You may not like it or understand why anyone would have voted for him, but this is how the election came out. A group of working class people felt overlooked and were very motivated to show up and vote for Trump in precisely the areas he needed to win. Some traditional "country club" Republican strongholds, like Orange County California, voted for Clinton. Those are typically the folks you reach with discussion about cancelling the estate tax. He didn't need any of "the OC" Republicans. He didn't need to win all the working class vote, just a very specific sub-set of it, which he got.

Putting your head in the sand and pretending something else happened is going to keep you surprised and off-balance for the next couple of years.

If you still strongly believe that this view of the election is wrong, you should see that this is the narrative the politicians on both sides, as well as the media are accepting as true. Perception is reality here, it really doesn't matter if it's a myth. These people are seen as "the base" of Trump's political support, real or not. For at least the next two years, savvy lobbyists and pundits (even those whose secret priority is the estate tax) will try to frame every argument to Trump in a way to pander to this rural working class base. This is his political identity, for now.

Comment Re:So... (Score 4, Insightful) 1321

I think the "fake news" part of this is really under appreciated.

This is exactly the kind of thing that erodes people's faith in the ability of the news media to report facts, and to report facts without bias.

It's a pretty big deal to suggest you have evidence the presidential election was stolen. This is not a feel-good fluff piece, it deserves a little editorial attention. A review of the evidence by an expert in election statistics shows that it's really just normal voting patterns. Some people are going to read the article on CNN, read the actual statisticians response elsewhere, and know CNN was putting out click bait, not a real news story. If you're upset that other people putting out fake click bait articles skewed the election, then what CNN is doing here should really piss you off.

There is no way a responsible journalist publishes this story, or a responsible news organization carries it. It is BS like this that supports the idea that there are different standards for "truth" in the media depending on the politics attached to article.

I think a different standard applies to Halderman. He's a computer security researcher who is using the election as an example of a vulnerable system. It's great for him to put out his Medium piece, he's not pretending to be anything other than a guy really interested in the mechanisms for verifying information systems, and he right up front is clear that he's not making any claim that the election was actually stolen.

Comment Re:a little reality on funding (Score 1) 430

Fraud, secrecy and funding through a small number of select people are all still a big part of science. That's precisely the problem.

I think you're relying on a lot of myths rather than facts. Lord Kelvin was a professor, with a modern academic career path. His father was a math professor, his grandfather a farmer. He is "Lord" Kelvin because he was ennobled later in life. We use the same apprenticeship and government sponsored training system that Kelvin did, as well as the scientists for several generations before him.

Science is also a money making proposition for a great many organizations, and has been for a long time. Universities in particular turn a big profit on pure scientific research, as do many small business "SBIR shops."

My biggest quibble though, is that there is a clear demarcation where science ends and technology begins. That's very hard to nail down to the point of being meaningless.

Think about it from my view. I'm a scientist. I also build and sell what I consider technology. This technology is an integrated graphene-biochemical sensor. People outside of my company and customers very firmly consider this science, because they've barely had a few years exposure to this field as a science and have never seen or heard of this as a technology. At what point is it a technology? This year when we launched a new marketing effort? Last year when we launched our dev kit? A year before that when my design was adapted by a professional engineer? A year before that when I built a complete system using only consumer grade components? Several years before that when I trained other people to build these? In my mind, this became a technology once I'd built the first system and knew how to build more. There were about 10 years of "science" funding between then and now. Having gone through this progression, these advances had much more to do with available funding than any scientific or technical understanding.

Both my example and yours (Xerox, US profiting off of British inventions) have more to do with business acumen than science or technology. Scientists are part of this process! It used to be assumed that scientists would move strait from the lab to take leading roles at big companies, sit on boards, or serve as CEOs. That's no longer part of scientific culture, and it's at the root of why you don't trust the GMO testing practices. The best scientists now stay at the bench (university) and there is a barrier between commercialization and research.

Comment a little reality on funding (Score 2) 430

The NSF periodically puts out reports on science funding, which you can read yourself. Or, if you want the most relevant quote:

...the U.S. invests twice as much as any other single nation in R&D, despite slipping to tenth in world ranking of the percentage of its GDP it devotes to R&D. In 2011, the U.S. spent $429 billion on R&D, compared to China's $208 billion and Japan's $146 billion. Among other S&T metrics, the U.S. leads in high quality research publications, patents, and income from intellectual property exports.

To put a little perspective on that, we spend $40 billion a year on startup companies.

There are a few scientists who will leave the US because they get poached by governments abroad. That has happened already and would continue, no matter what we do. Our pie is the biggest, but we have a lot of people to feed. There are also scientists who will have to leave because of visa issues. That has been happening (a lot) anyway too. We've had a labor surplus in science in the US for a long time.

The world will not end if other countries are allowed to be good at science. We will not implode if the government cuts science funding. As scientists, there are plenty of structural problems we can improve during a time of change.

We rely too much on cheap academic labor. We no longer have a working system for transitioning young, high level scientists from training to independence. The government only funds about 1/3 of scientific work, but with the slow and continuing death of real commercial research, the government funds far more than it's share of these young scientists, and this puts stress on the whole system. In general, we have become bad at commercializing scientific work. From the cost to develop new pharmaceuticals, to clean energy, to nanotechnology, we have not delivered in the fields that were supposed to have application. We are now extremely bad at understanding how our work can be applied to everyday life in a non-threatening way (think GMOs...). Our professional organizations organize these calls for increased funding, but we don't address any of our other structural issues. We have an opportunity here to work on some of these things.

Comment populist cop-out (Score 1) 1081

The argument for elimination of the electoral college is an argument for old-school tyranny.

We are purposefully not a democracy. The electoral college exists to protect from the kind of upheaval that ended the Roman Republic. Our founders were obsessed with this, and it's still worth learning about today.

The EC prevents one population from having complete control. It requires people in the economic centers of the country to pay extra (even unfair) attention to the people on the margins. The purpose is to keep the country together.

Comment Re:Some backroom chatter is necessary for democrac (Score 1) 304

You do know that these guys already (voluntarily) video tape most public meetings. They don't video tape the ones where no one shows up. This doesn't change any of the Legislature's actions. Regardless of whether this bill passes, they're still going to tape their meetings.

Now, I don't disagree that this is all for political theater. That's why they record in the first place. Our legislature is pretty screwed up. It's been 20 years since the Republicans threatened any sort of legislative control in the state. So pretty much we've been living with back room deals and internal party politics governing us for most of that time (political parties and their meetings are private, so one party rule is not really open to the public). In the mid 90s there was a very brief (1 year) time where actual compromise flourished in the legislature. Horrible things like mixing the party affiliation of the major committee chairs happened.

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