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Comment O noes! (Score 1) 469

Software in a wearable gadget that does what my brain used to be able to do? Oh yes, fear this software! Run away, run away!

The last thing we want individuals to be able to do is have access to cognitive assistive software.

Besides, facial recognition of members of the lumpen proletariat is a power reserved to our corporate and government masters. Allowing the proles to do the same thing turns surveillance into sousveillance, which is obviously unacceptible.

The software should be banned. We should also mandate surgery to as to prevent anyone from using their internal processing capacity to reconnize faces. Harrison Bergeron had it right..

Comment Re:Horse already left the barn (Score 1) 233

If grad school has at best a questionable return, how could a postdoc - indentured servitude, slavery - be any better an idea?

In plain English, it's cheap labor. As I understand it, once upon a time in America, somebody reasonably good who got their Ph.D. could move to a faculty position fairly quickly. Not tenured at first of course, but likely tenure track. When we started getting more Ph.D.'s than we needed, they invented the post-doc. String 'em along, get lots of cheap labor, and every once in a while give somebody a faculty position so the rest could dream. But hey, everybody knows we've got a STEM shortage, right?

Back in the 80's the NSF pushed for a big increase in student visas. They noted that it would probably push down the salaries of Ph.D.'s, though I'm sure that wasn't a motivation.

Speaking from my experience in the physical sciences:

Postdocs are not cheap labor, at least by academic standards. Funding schemes vary, but grad students are often free, meaning you only have to dig up money for consumables/materials/etc. Those that aren't free are relatively cheap, again, depending on the system, some can have their salaries (and tuition) paid by being teaching assistants. If you want them to spend more time in the lab, you can pay their (paltry) salaries. They also have scholarships available.

Hiring a postdoc means hiring a "real" employee on a temporary contract. Most universities have fixed pay scales or guidelines, but that is the gross salary for the postdoc. The overhead for a postdoc is comparatively enormous because you have to pay for insurance, pensions, employer tax contributions, etc. In exchange you get someone with a PhD devoting 100% of their effort to your research. They aren't making six figures because their goal is to publish papers, which is best done in an academic lab. Also, the low pay acts as an incentive for them to move on... at least, in theory. Usually, though, if they stay on long enough they become "senior research assistants" or whatever, and move up the pay scale.

Also, it's not like academic pay scales are that great for anyone. Assistant professors make considerably less than their industry counterparts and work considerably more. The traditional ways to make money in academia are to be famous enough that other universities want to poach you and companies will pay you for consulting or to found a spinoff. The rest are stuck with standard pay scales. It's the coaches and administrators that pull down the big bucks. If you're curious, the state of California publishes the salaries of all UC professors.

Keep in mind that most/all of the costs for hiring postdocs are funded from an increasingly small pool of grant money. We're not talking about private companies, we're talking about a professor trying to keep cash flowing into the lab by competing for grants, which means publishing papers, which is best accomplished by postdocs, and so on.

I think--but I'm not at all sure--that the modern postdoc is closer to what we used to call an assistant professor. In the "old" system (which is still in place in much of Europe) assistant professors were literally assistants to a full professor. They would work in a lab for years until the full professor retired, at which point one would be promoted (via associate professor). An assistant professor in that capacity functions just like a modern postdoc. We now use the term assistant professor to mean "tenure-track professor," which is basically a postdoc that has five years to prove themselves capable or be fired (and of course takes on much more responsibility).

BTW I think the entire system is broken, but taking a principled stand will destroy your career. A professor who pays their postdocs 100k a year is at a competitive disadvantage and is likely to miss out on funding as a result. A postdoc who holds out for 100k a year will never be hired. What disturbs/saddens me is the seemingly endless supply of postdocs willing to work wherever, for however long, and for whatever money just to "stay in the game" in the hopes of landing a tenure-track position. There is clearly a supply-demand imbalance there that creates opportunities to abuse hungry postdocs, particularly from countries without robust university systems. I have seen people trying to raise children while moving half-way around the world every two years earning a postdoc salary; no severance, no moving expenses, no permanent contracts.

Comment This will end well... (Score 1) 152

Great idea. Record sales and profits for Makerbot, and a broken-down dust catcher in the corner of every classroom. Meanwhile, the teachers will still be sending notes home at the beginning of each school year asking for donations of paper, pens and pencils, and other basic supplies.

Comment Internet vectored infection! (Score 1) 261

This could become worse than the Dancing Plague of 1518 or the June Bug epidemic of 1962!

Worse, this shows every sign of being a hysterical contagion, capable of being transmitted over the Internet and infecting it's victims through contact with their computers, tablets, and smartphones!

The good news is that I know of a possible cure, and if I can reach my Kickstarter goal of $500,000, I can begin work on a treatment for the unfortunate victims...

Comment More fingerprints in the Real World... (Score 1) 303

Just yesterday, I picked up a water glass in a restaurant. I also used the silverware.

5 bucks to a busboy, and someone could have gotten a pretty clear set of my prints. Oops.

Worried about someone getting YOUR fingerprints? Wear gloves everywhere. Bring along a handkerchief to wipe everything down if you momentarily have the gloves off.

Low tech doesn't mean no tech.

Comment Re:Or... (Score 5, Informative) 341

> when and if sea level actually starts to rise... we'll talk

Water level measurements from the San Francisco gage (CA Station ID: 9414290) indicate that mean sea level rose by an average of 2.01 millimeters (mm) per year from 1897 to 2006, equivalent to a change of eight inches in the last century. The rate of rise has increased to about 3 mm per year over the past 15 years.

This is the oldest tidal guage in continuous operation in the United States, and is located near the Golden Gate.


Comment Re:Sugar (Score 1) 926

You must be outside the U.S.

In the U.S. we've been using High Fructose Corn Syrup as our sweetener for a couple decades now. Why import something natural when you can synthesize something much worse locally?

Tragically that is the result of political decisions ranging from Cold War era corn subsidies to trying to undermine the sugar cane industries in countries that we don't like. At one point there was simply too much corn being grown to consume, so industries started looking for other things to do with it. They have done some amazingly clever things, but also things like HFCS and ethanol. Eventually the food industry basically broke food into its constituent parts: fat, salt, and sugar. Fat from (hydrogenated) vegetable oil and sugar from refined corn. Toss in some texture from modified soy, maybe a bit of wheat, sprinkle salt on it and add some circus grade meat so you can put "beef" on the box--poof, Hot Pockets.

...so in a way, it's the government that made us fat.

Comment Re:Failure to even Attempt to process the article. (Score 2) 926

youre body doesnt "decide" to poop out calories. who the hell taught you biology?

Food moves through the intestine at roughly a constant rate. If it takes more time to absorb calories than it does to make it to the colon, then those calories don't make it into your bloodstream. That is why liquid calories are so dangerous; they are very efficiently absorbed and don't contain the fiber, etc. necessary to feel full.

Comment Re:Failure to even Attempt to process the article. (Score 1) 926

If I might add to your spot-on assertions: There was a documentary on obesity called The Weight of the Nation that quite clearly explains the differences in basal metabolic rates between two people.

Two women of the same size and weight are sitting at a table drinking tea (or whatever). One consumes 2000 calories a day as she always has and has never had a weight problem. The other struggled with weight her whole life and eventually dieted to get down to her current weight. She consumes 1300 calories a day to maintain that weight. The difference is in their base metabolic needs; the naturally thin woman is less calorie efficient than the dieting woman. Thus, if they eat the same amount of food--2000 calories a day--one women will keep her same weight, while the other will start gaining. That is also the core of the "yo-yo diet" problem.

There are all kinds of other examples, such as Native American populations that have lived off of fish and basic agriculture for centuries becoming obese and struggling with diabetes and heart disease because they gained access to McDonald's, while the near-by white populations remained unchanged.

I think that people confuse the fact that a calorie deficit will necessarily lead to weight loss with a linear relationship between food intake and metabolized calories when in reality everyone's ability to metabolize food into calories is different.

Comment Re:Sugar (Score 1) 926

Really. So you think it is chemically the same as glucose? The difference is that sucrose provides half sucrose half fructose. The fructose gets metabolized in an entirely different way to the glucose.

The two main issues are that fructose by itself provides energy in such a way that it does not make the body feel "full", and that unlike the normal sugar we would expect (sucrose) we get no glucose from using it as an alternative.

Normal consumption of fructose in a natural setting also would include fibre which helps signal the body about satiation. This has been a major contributing factor in the whole "processed foods" vs "weight gain" issue. HCFS is a major component of most of the processed products that we rely on for our bulk energy needs. Really, do take a look at the lecture. The biochemistry component on how fructose gets metabolized in the liver is very interesting.

Most of what you said is spot-on, but fructose is not really metabolized differently than glucose. Both are six-carbon sugars and fructose is immediately rearranged to glucose enzymatically. But, again, not disagreeing with the rest of what you said--it makes a huge difference how we consume sugars and what they are consumed in combination with.

Comment Re:Sugar (Score 3, Interesting) 926

lol fructose is just a disaccharide, its technically a more complex carb chain than glucose (monosaccharide). do you mean high fructose corn syrup? you're sort of right. typically what you see is HFCS55 which is 55% fructose and 41% glucose. to put it in perspective, granulated sugar is 50/50 fructose/glucose. so HFCS is only marginally more fructose than regular sugar, so you're wrong. but you're also right, because sugar, hfcs and all the other high glycemic carbs are what's really causing this problem.

Sucrose is cleaved into fructose and glucose by enzymes in the saliva, but there is also an odd glitch in our metabolic pathways that tends to divert energy derived from free fructose directly into fat storage instead of converting it all to glucose. One theory is that since fruits ripen during the warm months and fruits often contain an abundance of fructose, that it once served as a trigger to start storing fat for Winter, but who knows. The problem boils down to more calories in than out, but it can make a difference how those calories are consumed.

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