Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×

Comment A More Detailed Guide to Studying (Score 5, Informative) 329

For a more general set of suggestions on study skills based on cognitive science, see "How to Get the Most Out of Studying Video Series". This is by Steve Chew, who was recently named a "U.S. Professor of the Year" for his teaching ability. For something printed, but not as detailed, see his "Improving Classroom Performance by Challenging Student Misconceptions About Learning". I recommend the video to all my students (I'm a college economics professor).

Comment Re:The best option (Score 5, Interesting) 126

On human interaction in teaching (physics in college in fact), check out this 2.5 minute video: . A great study on how this leads to more learning than lecturing is this article from the journal Science: "Improved Learning in a Large Enrollment Physics Class" . Briefly, they compared 2 novice physics instructors who were trained in cognitive science (and thus how people learn) and who taught with a variety of non-lecture methods to an experienced, well-regarded lecturer. The students of the novice instructors had two standard deviations more learning. Note that the third author is a Nobel Laureate, U.S. Professor of the Year (given for teaching), and currently Deputy Science Adviser to the President for science education. For more on these methods, see "Don't Lecture Me," . This work deserves to be more widely known.

Comment Re:Arbitrage buys profit at the expense of trust (Score 1) 629

One way to look at what you describe is that during the depths of the crisis banks lost about 1/2 their capital. Without capital, they fail and take us with them (as happened during the Great Depression). One quick way to recapitalize them is to do exactly what you decry. Does it seem unfair? Yes. But, it also aids the economy by keeping the financial system afloat.

In a better world we'd have smaller institutions that individually don't pose as much risk. Not so easy to do that today given the funding that Wall Street provides to Washington.

Comment Re:1.2 trillion? (Score 1) 629

The 7.7 trillion comes about because many of the loans were very short term and rolled over repeatedly. If a bank borrowed $100M for one week and then renewed it for the 2nd week in this database it comes up as $200M in loans. This is NOT where the large debts that western nations are dealing with came about. This lending has just about dried up; see . Gray denotes lending to financial institutions.

Comment Re:Most do not know this but... (Score 2) 629

Rather, it is a "central bank" and every country has one. Ours was established by the Federal Reserve Act of nearly a century ago and periodically their mandate has changed with the passage of new laws. Also, its leaders are nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. While hardly perfect, it has helped reduce instability in the economy. Check out and you'll see that compared to the period before the establishment of the Fed, the last century has been much more stable. While they can indeed make a profit, it goes to the U.S. Treasury.

On the Fed's relative independence being a good or bad thing, the weight of the professional research literature suggests that countries with independent central banks have lower inflation. The reason is pretty obvious -- increases in the money supply is a pretty tempting thing for politicians to do.

It isn't widely recognized how severe the crisis was in the Fall of 2008 -- at one point U.S. banks had lost half their capital and interbank lending, a lifeblood to the system, was drying up. The U.S. financial system all but collapsed and if not for the intervention of the Fed it would have certainly dragged the economy down with it. Many claim that we should have let banks fail -- I understand the sentiment, but we tried that once -- it's widely known as the Great Depression. Back then 1/3 of U.S. banks shut their doors and this was in the days before deposit insurance.

Yes, the rescue was ugly and there is a lot to the point about socializing risk. But, back in 2008 that wasn't at the front of the Fed's mind. I'd be in favor of reducing the size of institutions so that we no longer have "systematically important institutions," but that doesn't carry much weight these days given Wall Street's influence in Washington.

Not that appeals to authority carry much weight, but among professional economists (I'm one) appeals to eliminate the Fed are seen as nutty. Also, much of this is covered in various college economics courses.

Comment Specifics on Maned Flights to Deep Space (Score 5, Interesting) 182

The current Scientific American has an interesting article on the path that manned exploration out of the Earth-Moon system might take. It employs aspects of the unmanned program to cut cots and to have a more flexible program. One interesting aspect is that the main spacecraft is parked in high earth orbit and human crews fly to it in a small craft. Once on the main craft, it does a swing by the Earth to get a speed boost. Its main engine is electric-power (off of solar arrays). While only part of the Scientific American article ("This Way to Mars," 12/2011 issue) is free, they do kindly provide links to its references at the bottom of the page. See .

Apparently, you need about 100 tons in low Earth orbit for such a craft. That would be two launches of SpaceX's proposed Falcon Heavy. It seems way more likely to fly than NASA's proposed Space Launch System (SLS).

Comment Re:First: Fund Methods That Have Evidence They Wor (Score 2) 92

Projects like Modeling, , are designed to ferret out misconceptions. They're typically deeply entrenched and you really have to address them head-on in really thoughtful ways. When you do, deep learning may then occur. Watching videos, not designed to ferret our misconceptions, isn't nearly as likely to do this.

This is totally anecdotal, but I've heard of reports of modeling instructors getting pressured to use Khan's videos. The former has sound pedagogy and tons of research behind it demonstrating improved student understanding and the latter has neither. Sigh.

To really assess you learning (if you're doing Newtonian Mechanics), see if your instructors will give you the "Force Concept Inventory." It's a standard in physics education research. For more on it, see . As they put it, "(1) commonsense beliefs about motion and force are incompatible with Newtonian concepts in most respects, (2) conventional physics instruction produces little change in these beliefs, and (3) this result is independent of the instructor and the mode of instruction." At last count, Google Scholar reports 1,400 citations to this paper. It's that important. With Khan's videos as taped lectures, this research implies that they don't produce much deep learning.

Comment First: Fund Methods That Have Evidence They Work (Score 5, Informative) 92

At least in physics there is a HUGE body of evidence that telling is basically not teaching, be it lectures or videos. That is, one must confront student misconceptions and more generally understand how people learn. We don't learn deeply by watching. Seriously, what elite athlete learned by watching and listening?

Try out these links:

"Khan Academy and the Effectiveness of Science Videos"

"Improved Learning in a Large Enrollment Physics Class"

"Why Not Try a Scientific Approach to Science Education?" (the author is both a Nobel Laureate and a U.S. University Professor of the Year; he's currently Deputy Science Adviser to the President for science education)

It is a sad commentary that methods that have rigorously been shown to work, like , could really use more funding when Khan gets such funding on just the publicity.

Comment "Software Carpentry" (Score 1) 253

The site Software Carpentry aims to teach scientists and engineers key programming tools and approaches to write better code. There are many, many resources to help non-programmers write better code. The fellow who runs it, Greg Wilson, has done yeoman work in this regard. I was so impressed that I invited him to an academic conference and we were really pleased.

My entry into this problem is "Where's the Real Bottleneck in Scientific Computing?" (from the American Scientist). It says everything that the article here does and much more. Highly recommended.

Comment Uh, What About Research-Based Methods? (Score 5, Interesting) 240

It is great to see this interest in learning, but too bad that methods that careful research have shown to increase learning haven't received the same publicity (my understanding is that research based on the Khan Academy has yet to come out). I have in mind: Improved Learning in a Large Enrollment Physics Class," Deslauriers, Schelew, and Wieman, Science, May, 2011 (a postdoc and grad student, using research based methods, get 2 standard deviations more learning in a physics class than an experienced prof with high student evaluations who lectured). . Note that Wieman is a both a Nobel Laureate and a U.S. Professor of the Year (given for teaching). Another article is Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses, which again shows a 2-standard deviation increase in learning by not lecturing.

There is even evidence that watching Khan videos leads to a false sense of learning. See Khan Academy and the Effectiveness of Science Videos" It basically shows that while students think they're learning a lot by watching videos, their actual learning is minimal.

A great into to all this is Wieman's Why Not Try a Scientific Approach to Science Education?" As he puts it, to increase learning, we need to use
  • Practices and conclusions based on objective data rather than—as is frequently the case in education—anecdote or tradition. This includes using the results of prior research, such as work on how people learn.
  • Disseminating results in a scholarly manner and copying and building upon what works. Too often in education, particularly at the postsecondary level, everything is reinvented, often in a highly flawed form, every time a different instructor teaches a course. (I call this problem “reinventing the square wheel.”)
  • Fully utilizing modern technology. Just as we are always looking for ways to use technology to advance scientific research, we need to do the same in education.

At best, Khan Academy only does the third of these.

The Internet

6 Homeless People Saved By the Internet 94

An anonymous reader writes "With Ted Williams's story (the homeless man with the golden voice, saved by the internet) blowing up online, and in the traditional media, we figured it was time to tell the stories of 5 other homeless people who've found success, be it financial or personal, through the wonderful use of this series of tubes we call The Internet."

Comment Re:Nice (Score 1) 69

We certainly had booms and busts well before we had a central bank (i.e. the Fed, which was established in 1913). As time has gone by, they've generally gotten better at central banking; the period from 1982 to 2007 is often called the "Great Moderation" for this quarter century of stable growth: two mild recessions and stable and low inflation; see . Also, take a look at the real GDP data from (put together by economic historians) and note the falling volatility over the last century (easiest seen in the log view). Finally check out (from the people who officially date recessions) and note the increasing length of expansions and shorter recessions.

Comment Re:Nice (Score 3, Insightful) 69

They weren't paid, it was loaned, and all but some $30 billion came back. Also, we once let the financial system collapse and we didn't do a thing to stop it -- today it's widely known as the Great Depression. Back then 1/3 of banks in the U.S. shut their doors in the days before the FDIC. The details were different this time, but the impact could have been the same as bank capital went from $1.3 trillion to $.3 trillion in a few months. We complain that Washington doesn't "do the right thing," but in this case they did (Congress, Bush, and Obama), and now they catch hell for it. Finally, there's a reason that Bernanke was Time's Person of the Year.
The Courts

Judge Berates Prosecutors In Xbox Modding Trial 285

mrbongo writes with this excerpt from Wired: "Opening statements in the first-of-its-kind Xbox 360 criminal hacking trial were delayed here Wednesday after a federal judge unleashed a 30-minute tirade at prosecutors in open court, saying he had 'serious concerns about the government's case.' ... Gutierrez slammed the prosecution over everything from alleged unlawful behavior by government witnesses, to proposed jury instructions harmful to the defense. When the verbal assault finally subsided, federal prosecutors asked for a recess to determine whether they would offer the defendant a deal, dismiss or move forward with the case that was slated to become the first jury trial of its type. A jury was seated Tuesday."

AMD Demos Llano Fusion APU, Radeon 6800 Series 116

MojoKid writes "At a press event for the impending launch of AMD's new Radeon HD 6870 and HD 6850 series graphics cards, the company took the opportunity to provide an early look at the first, fully functional samples of their upcoming 'Llano' processor, or APU (Applications Processer Unit). For those unfamiliar with Llano, it's 32nm 'Fusion' product that integrates CPU, GPU, and Northbridge functions on a single die. The chip is a low-power derivative of the company's current Phenom II architecture fused with a GPU that will target a wide range of operating environments at speeds of 3GHz or higher. Test systems showed the integrated GPU had no trouble running Alien vs. Predator at a moderate resolution with DirectX 11 features enabled. In terms of the Radeon 6800 series, board shots have been unveiled today, as well as scenes from AMD's upcoming tech demo, Mecha Warrior, showcasing the new graphics technology and advanced effects from the open source Bullet Physics library."

Slashdot Top Deals

Real Programmers don't write in PL/I. PL/I is for programmers who can't decide whether to write in COBOL or FORTRAN.