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Comment Only very best survive, and they like it that way! (Score 3, Insightful) 283

It's simple math really. As someone above pointed out, a university professor will graduate about 15 PhD's. Since the number of professor positions isn't quickly increasing, most of those PhD's aren't going to become university professors. So they either languish as post-docs or have to find a different job (either in or out of science).

This is good for the universities who can get the cream of the crop as professors. (And considering that getting a PhD in science is no trivial matter in the first place, this is really the cream of the cream of the crop). The bad part is that we've lead a huge number of people down a very challenging path without telling them that their odds of success would have been similar if they chased their dream of becoming a rock star, instead. (OK, maybe not quite, but you get the point).

On top of that, if they are one of the lucky/hardest working/brightest ones who manage to get a university position, they then face a 5-10 trial period before they get tenure, during which 80 hour weeks are the norm as they teach classes, train grad students, get grants, and publish or perish. After tenure, it doesn't get much easier if they want to keep doing research and feed their graduate students.

The easiest way to lower the number of science grad students is probably simply to be honest with them, and let them know this going in, instead of telling kids and young adults how important it is that people go into science. But, if we did that... 1 - the current system would fall apart because grad students (and post-docs) form an extremely valuable class of cheap and highly skilled labor for science research at universities. 2 - The quality of research in general would go down dramatically, as some of the best and brightest possible scientists (i.e., the few who make it, now) would choose other fields.

Comment Thanks (Score 1) 1521

Like so many here will no doubt be doing, I just wanted to say 'thanks'. Slashdot was not only my favourite source of news for many years, but also Slash (the 0.3-pre tarball!) was my introduction to coding in Perl, and out of that I built my career. So my sincere thanks for all you did here, and I hope you enjoy whatever you do next.

Comment Re:Here's an idea (Score 1) 897

We currently have petrol at £1.40 per litre in the UK, which is over $10/gallon. Our prices have been over $5/gallon for maybe 20 years or more. We still have single-occupant SUVs all over the place, in fact they're on the increase.

Comment Re:"Extreme Ultraviolet" (Score 2, Insightful) 362

because "X-rays" is such an UGLY word....

There's actually some truth to this. Originally it was called soft x-ray projection lithography. The other type of x-ray lithography was a near contact shadow technique using shorter (near 1nm) x-rays. To distinguish the two techniques they changed the name from soft x-ray to EUV.

This was also done for marketing reasons. X-ray lithography had failed (after sinking a lot of $$ into it), while optical lithography had successful moved from visible to UV, to DUV. By calling it EUV it sounds like the next logical step, instead of being associated with the failure that was x-ray lithography.

(Actually, x-ray lithography didn't really truly fail. It does work, but optical surpassed it before it was ready, so it became pointless)

Comment Extraordinary claims require evidence. (Score 5, Informative) 264

I'm a condensed matter physicist. This claim is weak beyond belief, and it pains me to no end to see it get picked up by slashdot and other sites ( To demonstrate superconductivity, you need to show (a) zero resistance over some range of current; (b) the Meissner effect (expulsion of magnetic flux, seen via magnetometry); (c) a characteristic feature of a phase transition in the heat capacity. This paper shows exactly none of these things. The noise level in the resistance measurements is so poor, you could not tell the difference between zero and 0.01 Ohms (which would be totally believable considering there is already a metal film in the system). This paper in its present form is not fit for publication. Seriously, you don't have to be an expert at this stuff to see that this is weak - just look at the noise level in the current-voltage curves and use some common sense!

Comment Re:GM (Score 1) 835

They may be able to buy politicians and hide their GM labels, but consumers are still a force to be reckoned with, and thanks to the internet - more informed than ever.

That's kind of like saying that consumers are underinformed because there are no autism warning labels on vaccines. Anti-vaccine people aren't demonstrating that they're more informed than the rest of us - they're just demonstrating that they don't know WTF they're talking about.

I don't think that's the same. If the label said that GM foods were bad for your health or the environment, then you'd have a point. If all the label says is that the food is GM then it's up to the consumer to decide what that means to him/her. I don't see anything wrong with this. If the consumer wants to vote with his/her wallet to avoid GM foods, then great - companies will respond to the desires of the people by producing less GM food. If people would rather buy GM food, well, then I can't really blame the companies for giving people what they want. (In the absence of evidence of harm to health and environment).


New Estimates Say Earth's Oceans Smaller Than Once Believed 263

Velcroman1 writes with this snippet from Fox News: "Using lead weights and depth sounders, scientists have made surprisingly accurate estimates of the ocean's depths in the past. Now, with satellites and radar, researchers have pinned down a more accurate answer to that age-old query: How deep is the ocean? And how big? As long ago as 1888, John Murray dangled lead weights from a rope off a ship to calculate the ocean's volume — the product of area and mean ocean depth. Using satellite data, researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute set out to more accurately answer that question — and found out that it's 320 million cubic miles. And despite miles-deep abysses like the Mariana Trench, the ocean's mean depth is just 2.29 miles, thanks to the varied and bumpy ocean floor."

Comment Re:Puritan pferd merde stops it in US (Score 1) 436

I really think the current schedule has a number of reasons: Sharing the buses between high school, middle school, and elementary school. High school students want to get out early for sports or jobs. Teachers probably also appreciate being done with classes earlier. I don't think Puritan culture has anything to do with it, at this point.

Comment Re:Loopholes (Score 1) 582

...Rich people of all religions seem to do it, but wealthy Jews seem to have a knack for it.

*(With very strong emphasis on "rich and arrogant". One of my closest friends from High School is a practicing Jew and I have no patience for antisemitism.)

Uhm, in your first sentence that I quoted you are, indeed, specifying that people who are Jewish are worse than other groups in this regard. One might consider judging a whole group like that to be prejudiced

I agree with the sentiment that you should get as you give, and that someone shouldn't expect donations if they aren't willing to give them. Dogma be damned. I don't think that Jews as a whole (or even just the wealthy ones) are any worse than other group in this regard.

As far as loopholes go, there is a cultural tradition for Jews to read, discuss, debate, and interpret the meaning of their laws. This can lead to some pretty bizarre practices, but how they follow their religion is up to them.

Comment Re:What a Tragedy and No Charges? (Score 1) 1343

Those cases are always heartbreaking. It's a mistake anyone of us could make. You multiply the large number of kids in child seats times the small likelihood of someone making this mistake and you are going to get a finite number of deaths a year. Most of the time the parents aren't being neglectful, they're just being human.

To some extent one could say the same about this case involving the gun. However, I don't think anything involving a gun (especially in a house with kids around) should ever be as routine as driving a kid around.

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