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Comment one to one map impossible (Score 1) 745

We are beginning to be able to map some parts of the brain. In the very foreseeable future, it may be possible to simulate an entire brain, and to feed it with the world info that may surround it. That (simulated) person will believe it is in a real world, or may believe, like I do and basically like Descartes did, that the question is immaterial. Perhaps some of us are real and some are not, in a sort of Truman Show-like simulation. But there are problems when it comes to simulations at a large scale. Our universe and the knowledge we have is fairly large (to my imagination), so if this was a simulation, that would mean that the simulating universe would have to be infinitely larger. Otherwise there would be the Borges mapping problem:

By the way, just got back from the slashcott, and was immediately redirected to the beta. It's awful. It's trying to be like the rest of the new web, e.g. arstecnica, pinterest-style multi-column graphics-heavy at the top, giant text, and tons of scrolling to get thru content. Have you seen Drudge's new design? Nah, didn't think so, because it isn't needed. Google's search methods were nice, but more importantly the simplicity was easy on the eyes.

comments are a double-edged sword. There's a lot of junk on here nowadays, but if you're willing to wade thru it you can still get a lot of good stuff, especially if you ignore the ratings. Ratings used to work, but it seems like they've been gamed and a lot of idiots are holding the reins. Afraid to say it, but it would be nice to socialize it, say, and let you follow half-decent commenters (but definitely not via fb). That actually might incentivize me to log in and contribute to the discussion more often, as opposed to being ignored with low scores while dorks give 3rd-grade level responses and get 5's and insightful.

Comment Use what your adviser/group members/colleagues use (Score 1) 465

For scientific computing, you will be doing a lot of collaboration and very likely sharing codes with other scientific programmers, very few of whom enjoy learning new programming languages all the time. To simplify/enable collaboration, you should follow what the community uses. In physics, generally that means Fortran. Anything past Fortran90 is basically modern, it's really not too bad to learn and even has basic object-oriented stuff, though not as good as C++. F77 is mostly obsolete and a major pain in the neck, but you will see it around in older codes, as well as a lot of the libraries. There are C/C++/Python/f77/etc codes around, but most physicists use >F90, especially in high performance/parallel computational work. But there are subfields of physics with their own popular tools too. My advice is to go with whatever the majority of your colleagues are using, placing a very big premium on what your adviser and group members use, which is who you will collaborate with the most. What the majority in the field uses is usually suitable for the job anyway.

It sounds like you're interested in parallel computing as well. Fortran is probably the best option then, mostly for the libraries, but you can still interface from C/C++ or whatever. Also, if you have a lot of computationally intensive stuff, you should try to get supercomputer access. Ask around, you should be able to work something out. You'll need to decide on OpenMP or MPI for parallel programming, depending e.g. on your memory, shared/distributed etc. Here's a quick rundown:
Most scientific hpc (high performance computing/supercomputer/parallel) is on unix/linux.

What field are you in exactly, and what is the nature of your data mining?

Submission + - Sleep is the Ultimate Brainwasher (

sciencehabit writes: Every night since humans first evolved, we have made what might be considered a baffling, dangerous mistake. Despite the once-prevalent threat of being eaten by predators, and the loss of valuable time for gathering food, accumulating wealth, or having sex, we go to sleep. Scientists have long speculated and argued about why we devote roughly a third of our lives to sleep, but with little concrete data to support any particular theory. Now, new evidence has refreshed a long-held hypothesis: During sleep, the brain cleans itself.

Submission + - Facebook Letting Everyone See How Much Data-Center Power It Consumes (

Nerval's Lobster writes: Facebook has added real-time dashboards for measuring the efficiency of its data centers’ internal power and water use. Two dashboards monitor the company’s Prineville, Ore. (here) and Forest City, N.C. data centers (here), measuring both the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and Water Usage Effectiveness of those facilities, in addition to the ambient temperature and humidity. So far, visitors to the Prineville and Forest City dashboards only see a limited snapshot of the Facebook data: the display only covers 24 hours, and is delayed by 2.5 hours on both sites. Facebook also hasn’t disclosed how many servers the data represents, which could conceivably be used by competitors to get a sense of the social network’s total computing power. The company said that once its data center in Luleå, Sweden, comes online, Facebook will begin adding data from that location, as well. Although Facebook said it provided the information out of a sense of openness, the data—showing PUEs of about 1.09 for both facilities as of press time—is a bit of a boast, as well; as recently as 2011, Uptime Institute said that the average data center’s PUE was approximately 1.8. So far, Facebook hasn’t said whether it will provide access to the dashboards via an API, so third parties can get a better sense of how Facebook is managing power and water use over time, and through various seasons of the year.

Comment once-in-a-lifetime opportunity -- don't waste it (Score 1) 228

When you begin working on your PhD, you will continue working on your PhD until it is complete, at which time you will either directly enter industry or a postdoc. A gap in a resume is a serious concern to many employers, unfortunately. If you do a postdoc, you will continue doing postdocs until you get a job and then you will work for the rest of your life, with bills to pay and mouths to feed. A three-month vacation is not in your forecast at any other time in your life other than after you retire. Now would be a good time, not just to vacation, but to have the best vacation of your life. Go where you've always wanted to go with someone you'll have a great time with. The probability that you will ever have another opportunity like this is slim to nil. And go ahead and spend some money. It's okay. You won't be as poor being a grad student as you were when you were an undergrad.

That doesn't mean some preparation won't help. First of all, you should try to think about what kind of biologist you want to be. You should try to be good at it, whatever it is. It's going to require some planning and introspection. One thing to anticipate is that you're going to be very busy and under a lot of pressure. You should plan for ways to deal with that in advance. One way of dealing is to have some hobby or something as an occasional escape. Be careful though in choosing your hobby. Try to choose something that doesn't take much time, and that isn't intellectually taxing. My hobby was learning Japanese, a bad choice on both grounds. If I was to do it over, I would try a sport or something physical. That gets your mind off your work, and it can release a lot of stress. Another thing to prepare for is planning time for your own personal study. You're going to be terribly busy studying for exams and doing homework, etc. Find something that you're interested in, and look into that. Figure something out on your own that is not required work. This actually helped me a lot at the times when I felt overwhelmed. Another thing you're going to want to work into your schedule is some career planning. Do something once every few weeks. Look at, craigslist, jobiology or whatever, and see what companies are looking for. As bad as it sounds for biologists, as I'm looking for jobs, there are many more options there than for physicists. If you're reading slashdot, you likely have some technical abilities. Programming often comes in handy. In physics, some programming was used in about 80% of PhD's, and I'd guess it's somewhere around 60-70% of biologists, but don't quote me on that. Anyway, if you like programming, it couldn't hurt to get a little more experience here. Scientific programming is different from sys-admin or soft-dev, so maybe look into some of the well-known programs in your field and get to know them. Chances are, these days, a lot of them will be open-source. At least many in physics are. Personally, I think it's a good idea to program in a language that is common in your field. If it's Fortran, then it's Fortran (it's not as bad as it used to be). But go with the group on this so you can cooperate with your colleagues.

In your PhD, the three keys to success are not location location location, it's Adviser Adviser Adviser. This is one of the big choices you will make in your life. Do it carefully. Your adviser will be your parent, prosecutor, parole officer, and savior (or destructor), all in one. There are some very excellent advisers out there and there are some real assholes too, and it's actually kind of hard to tell even after being there fore a couple of years. Other commentors have mentioned some useful ideas for selecting an adviser, so see those too. It's sometimes hard to get an honest comment from current students of some advisers because of the conflict of interest, so really ask around and talk through your ideas with some of the older grad students, but definitely more than one. One other point I'd like to make is that you should select someone as good/prestigious as possible. I opted not to go with the best because I saw how many students he had and I figured he would be too busy, but it's not the quantity of interaction you have with your adviser, it's the quality. When you get going on your project, and really get into the details, you will know more about it than your adviser, probably, and anyway you will be doing 99% of the work all by your lonesome. What can really make or break you is that 1% of the time and whether your adviser can help you out at that point. Also, better advisers are way better at lining you up with a good project, something that is publishable, important, and doable within a reasonable time span. Crappy advisers are more gamblers, will throw you at what looks like promising projects, but turn out to be fads or total time-sinks or just plain shite. And they won't be helping you out with your career, you will be padding their resumes with your publications. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, professors get raises when you publish more, so they may push you to publish earlier than is reasonable. You will have to walk a fine line between doing questionable work and not pissing off your adviser. Unless you get a good one, then you don't have to worry so much. But they need publications too. Anyway, if you realize you've got a crappy adviser, switch if it's early enough, or just stick with it if you can. I finally told my adviser to fo and now I'm in a bad way. Anyway, as a bit of personal advice, just as you shouldn't date a co-worker, you shouldn't try to be friends with your adviser. Keep it professional. But then again, you're kind of stuck with whatever they want the relationship to be. I guess just roll with the punches.

Graduate courses are weird. They're much harder than undergrad courses, but then again, in some ways, they're about the same. I don't know. One thing you may realize is that the sky is the limit, that there are an infinite number of things you feel you should study, and you just don't have the capacity. It's crazy, probably none of the other grads will agree, but my advice is to compare yourself with the other grad students. If you're understanding things about as good or better than most, then you're okay. You don't need to be a genius. It's supposed to be difficult. That's why you're there. It's hard for geniuses too. The first two years of courses were the hardest, but they were also the time when I felt the most capable. You're going to feel overwhelmed and like you don't understand anything, but when you're done you're going to look back and say, "I know kung fu!" or whatever it is you know, and you can be proud of that.

Some of the other commenters have given you some decent advice. The PhD is a serious journey with a lot of cool stuff and a lot of total shite all the way through. It's also a gamble. First off, many will flunk out or simply quit grad school. Many flunk on preliminary exams or in qualifying exams, but some quit because of crap projects or advisers. And you hear people with the PhD's complaining about the job market! Next, for some reason, we pay doctors, lawyers, MBA's and bankers exhorbitant sums of cash, but scientists get little pecuniary respect, generally speaking. When you begin grad school, you will probably be a T.A. for which you will be paid, on top of having your tuition taken care of, and you'll think, oh snap, this is a sweet deal! But you have to realize that the $20k or so per year you're getting is only a fraction of what your engineering pals are already getting paid right out of college, or what your construction buds are getting with no real education whatsoever. If you're lucky it will take 5 years. I think one or two out of forty in my class graduated in 5. The average is between six and seven, but many also take eight and some nine years. So at $20k/year for 6 or seven years, you'll basically be working for room and board, even though you're already one of the most highly skilled, highly trained people around in an area that's critical to the U.S.'s economic growth. And then things really get dicey after you've spent all that time getting superior training. I'm not saying don't do it. But I'm telling you, honestly, it's a gamble. And these are some of your best years, when you are setting the course of your career. There is some real risk here. I don't want to dissuade you from the PhD. I think it's probably a good option if that's what you want to do, but I don't want you to go in there blind. Your school is your main source of info on your career at this point, but they really do keep you in the dark on a lot of things.

Well, there's a lot more I could say, but it's getting late and you've probably stopped reading a long time ago, so I'll stop here. Wow, looking back, it sounds fairly pessimistic. I guess I was just one of those for whom the gamble didn't pay off. I'm a better physicist than 90% of PhD-holders, but got a crappy adviser and crap project. If I had the opportunity to go back, would I do it again? Yeah, I'm pretty sure. I'd just choose another adviser. There really is a lot of cool stuff that happens as a PhD student, etc. Good luck to you, whatever you do.

To summarize, be smart, stay tough, deal with the stress, and strive to be a master at what you do. There is no spoon.

Comment TI's were predicted, confirmed previous to this (Score 1) 238

Topological Insulators (2D and 3D) are strange, but definitely not an "IF". Check this: from 2010. Several have been predicted and confirmed experimentally previous to this.

SmB6 is great because it's not based on weak interactions (like other topological insulators) but on strongly-correlated electrons, and the new relation of the Kondo insulator to the Topological Insulator.

Comment selection at video stores better than Netflix (Score 1) 547

Look at top-film lists for any genre or time-period and then see which of those are available on Netflix (streaming). It's less than 1 in 10. Then look at new releases. Very few are available on Netflix for download. Selection is a big divider for Netflix and brick/mortars. These two areas (popular/classic favorites and new releases) are Netflix weaknesses that are local video store strengths. Hang on to these and try to do them well.

Common weaknesses are general selection. The fact is there are millions of movies out there, and not even Netflix can offer all of them. I'd really like to see all the films of Francois Truffaut, for example, but you can't on Netflix. You also can't at your local video store. But this is where I like what another slashdot commentor said: let the user sponsor the dvd. I think they said through buy-back, which is a good option if the store wants the disc, but if not, I'd also let them purchase the dvd and share in any profits from rentals and let them own the disc after a time if no one's renting it.

One area where video rentals could have innovated 10 years ago but are still resisting is in video research. Put up a kiosk in your store where people can do movie research and that shows them whether the movie they want is available (for rent, and whether currently in-stock) in your store. Put this online too, so people can look it up before they drive all the way to your store. You already have computerized systems that tell the store the same info, so it can't be too hard to make it available to the customers. Even Netflix is squandering this possibility, especially since they split the dvd and streaming business lines. Now when you search for a movie that is not in their streaming-only system, it doesn't show you the title and say 'sorry-not available for streaming' or give you the option to rent-by-mail, it actually suggests totally different movies, making you think you entered the wrong title or something. And while you're at it, give the users a flat-screen tv to watch movie trailers on while they're there.

There are ways for brick/mortar's to survivce for a bit longer, but I give dvd/hd rental companies 3-5 years max, for the ones that really try to hang on. The ideas I've given above are areas where locals can offer big advantages over digital streaming services, but those wrinkles will be ironed out soon enough in streaming. I guess then you could try to target poor areas where the net isn't ubiquitous. Long-term, perhaps there is a way to take advantage of the meat-space aspect of local stores, but I can't think of any, except for the general fostering of community. Sorry I can't help in this area, but if you want to survive long-term, it's got to be in the community--something that puts customers face-to-face and interacting in a fun way.

Comment News can be easily improved (Score 1) 839

I'd like to be able to select only the newscast segments I'm interested in, queue them up, and watch them all at once. In addition to removing bloat and irrelevant segments, it also would cut out those annoying teasers.

Added bonus (next gen): selecting to hear either the long or the short story for each bit.


Submission + - Does Javascript suck?

allwheat writes: "I've been working on a personal project/webapp (and possible future mobile app) which involves html/css, php, and mysql. But I need some client-side functionality--specifically, I need forms that can be altered client-side before being submitted. So I've begun looking and was thinking about going with Javascript, but then I saw the leaked google email that said everything except Java sucks ( Does that statement include Javascript? Should I be going with Java instead?"

Submission + - Skype Goes After Reverse-Engineering ( 1

An anonymous reader writes: It appears that Microsoft's Skype Division is cracking down on reverse-engineering of the Skype client. Skype recently rolled out a new set of APIs for integration into other desktop applications, but they have issued multiple DMCA takedown notices to a researcher publishing open-source code to send Skype messages.

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