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Comment Not blind giving, strategic giving (Score 1) 147

One strategy that they may be considering is giving this money away through a network of foundations. This way they can steer the money to organizations who are working in favor of Google and friend's own interests.

These could be public interest groups that lobby or advocate for policy friendly to this business model or even academic research that might pertain to future improvements on the various technologies.

They aren't going to just give all this money to little bald kids for photo ops, but some will probably go there, too. The non-profit sector is large (in the US) and enjoys favored status and lower operating costs. There are many hungry proposal writers out there who will churn out applications faster than this thing can print them.

Someone more familiar with this business niche could probably paint a better picture, but I'll bet you one Google Dollar (no cash value) the truth lies somewhere that way.

Comment Re:Dumb. (Score 1) 513

Yes, yes, yes. Post them on WikiLeaks. Please.

It would be Good Thing to get this in the public record. You write well and reasonably, so I encourage you to put a factual and detailed account on if you have time.

It's time for class warfare to go the other way for a change.

Yes, I said it. "Class warfare".

Comment Re:A great example of lying with statistics (Score 1) 373

Is it economics or evolution we are talking about? Please clarify. There's a great deal of conceptual overlap, but they are not the same at all.

To be clear, I was responding to your statement:

A basic assumption of evolution is that it's useless trying to prevent change in the environment.

This is not a basic assumption of evolution. It just isn't part of the theory. Evolution requires: variation, inheritance of that variation and selection among those variants. That's the fundamental basis of the theory.

That's why I mentioned Social Darwinism. If you are really interested in finding out more, it's a really interesting subject that helps clarify the difference between a scientific model and the complexity of the real world.

Evolution is a scientific theory mostly based on the simple mathematical model I just described. The implications of that model are vast and complicated, often very hard to detect in the real world.

The reason I responded is, well, I am an evolutionary biologist. It's a professional hazard, but I sometimes have to respond when people try to justify ideological stances using evolution.

I'm not judging your ideological stance, necessarily. I just want to point out that evolutionary theory also allows for the development of cooperative strategies. It's not just "all competition, all the time".

Competition dominates in the short-run, but long-term evolutionary history is dominated by those rare situations when the benefits of cooperation outweigh the benefits of competition.

Laws don't change physical principles. Please be fair. I never said that. However, laws change the potential cost of our actions because other people impose extra costs on law-breakers when they can.

Comment Re:A great example of lying with statistics (Score 1) 373

Are you really this thick ? A basic assumption of evolution is that it's useless trying to prevent change in the environment. You see if you disadvantage yourself, that will make others, who have zero regard for the environment do it.

This is not a basic assumption of evolutionary theory.

You are confusing Social Darwinism, which is an ideological stance, with evolutionary theory, which is a mathematical model that leads to testable hypotheses.

Perhaps you are also confusing the Tragedy of the Commons and other metaphors from economics?

It's fine to argue that it's okay to be as greedy and acquisitive as possible, just don't drag evolution into it. I don't agree and I point to the general agreement in the necessity of the rule of law as my support for my stance.

Comment Provisional Patent. (Score 1) 539

File a provisional patent. It costs less than a couple of hundred bucks and takes one day of focused work. It gives you a year to talk about the idea and seek feedback before over-investing.

If it turns out to be a good idea, you can file for a full patent that goes back retroactively to the filing date of the provisional.

Comment Re:Get a motorcycle! (Score 1) 1354

Absolutely must endorse this suggestion. It's an amazing hobby, you meet folks from all walks. It has really helped this shy person find friends and some strange now and then. You'll meet lots of techies, too, but also professionals, folks in the trades and gentlemen without visible means of support (i.e., they sell weed).

It can also be pretty affordable if you aren't a gear-pig or into Italian bikes.

The sex ratio is actually pretty even and even non-biker girls will be happy to hop on behind you if you don't smell too bad. Even people who don't ride like to stand around and kick the tires (don't actually kick anyone's tires, okay?). Lots of posturing and BS, sure, but that's what a social life is about.

In one way, bikers are like LARPers. It is fun to dress up and assume a persona. I'm stronger, feel tougher and more confident with my boots and gear on. The advantage is that cycling provides a real excuse for all the gear because it is protective. LARPers have a lot of 'splainin to do and don't have the same broad appeal.

My two centiAmeros,

Comment Re:I Sympathize With Him But Too Idyllic (Score 1) 677

I come from a school that still gives Doctor of Arts degrees in Biology and Math. The DA does exactly what you mention, gives subject area expertise and a moderate amount of edu-crat training which is necessary in small doses.

I have to agree with your philosophy. I got a regular PhD, but the DA folks that were in my cohort did excellent research, published more often than not and have had a relatively easy time getting tenure track teaching jobs. Some have gone to elite private high schools and loved it.

Now, how do we get them in public high schools?

Comment Re:Primates (Score 3, Interesting) 347

This doesn't follow (that there should be folks without fingerprints if they have no purpose). It depends on the genetic basis of fingerprints and the genetic history of our species.

One thing we have learned about human genetics is that the human population went through several 'bottlenecks' where the population was reduced to low numbers. Is this what you are referring to?

It's a process called genetic drift. My old botany prof described it with a fun story. Imagine some disaster that reduces the entire human species to a small group on a raft. Everyone is dark-skinned except for Gunter, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed nordic type. Gunter trips and falls off the raft and gets carried away by the current (he drifts away, get it).

It's an accident that has nothing to do with his reproductive potential. Anyone else could just as easily have had the same accident. If they had, the genes for blonde-hair and blue eyes would still be in the human population and human evolutionary history would be different in that respect. Small population sizes increase the importance of drift.

Of course, other factors come in to play when you imagine the difficulties a fair skinned guy would have on a raft relative to other human types. That's another story.

Comment Neutrality (Score 1) 347

This is not as simple as it sounds. 'Mutation' can mean any of a very large number of kinds of changes to DNA. IAAEB, by the way., so I have to chime in. It almost counts as working.

It's really more accurate to say that most mutations that are kept are *not harmful*. While this may seem like nit-picking, you have to remember that the reason evolutionary theory is hard is that it is based on mathematical models of really complicated processes.

When you express a mathematical model in plain language, you have to be nit-picky or you won't express the real meaning of the model and you can draw false conclusions.

About the only way to say that a physical feature is 'for' some particular purpose is by a lot of experimentation using gene knockouts, breeding experiments or other techniques. Even then, we can't be sure we have found the full evolutionary reason for the feature.

This is the reason most biologists don't have to think about evolutionary theory very much. It is difficult enough to figure out the genetic basis (the functional 'how') for a physical feature let alone try to figure out the evolutionary 'why'. Many a full career can be spent just figuring out the 'how'.

Comment Re:Communication (Score 1) 484

Yes. I think that is what the parent is saying, IMHO. One major purpose of science is to make and test models of the universe. It's probably the most important purpose when it comes to justifying public investment in basic research.

The best models are as simple as possible without misrepresenting the system they were built to imitate. The process of defining the system and the domain (conditions under which the model is useful) is hard, but the proof of success comes when the model passes the tests *and* can be explained to a broad audience.

This is an ideal, of course. Truly revolutionary new models only come once a generation or so. It's hard work and specialists do need specialized modes of communication. It's like laws and sausage, it's often better to not see how they are made unless you have a compelling reason.

Comment Re:Massive reverse engineering job (Score 1) 185

The separation between industry and academic research is almost non-existent at the larger scale, the scale of 'progress in the field'.

Sure, the average guy/gal handling the equipment and publishing studies in journals may be picking away at problems in a non-groundbreaking way. The 'ecosystem' of expertise that enables them is much more diverse than the picture you paint.

The level of collaboration between industry and the major international genomics centers is very intense. In fact, it is silly to hold to a strict distinction between academic research and industrial R&D. There are cultural differences, but one cannot function or advance without the other.

Case in point. Illumina is a fast growing company whose main product is a high-throughput sequencing/genotyping platform. Who are their major clients? Cancer research hospitals and academic institutes. Who developed the core technologies that gave Illumina's engineers something to work with? Academic researchers. There's a real positive feed-back loop here.

Here's another example from one of Illumina's competitors, 454. One of the key technologies in their sequencing platform is a technique called 'emulsion PCR'. Who developed this technique? An academic researcher doing basic research on protein structure-function prediction. The industrialists at 454 had developed some key components of their tech. The rest they bought/licensed from academic researchers.

To sum up, industry gets its innovation and ingenuity in large part from non-industrial labs. You can't really separate them without missing the essential point. We need both kinds of people.

Comment Re:AI amature hour (Score 1) 291

The explosion of journals isn't a bad thing in itself. (I'm not saying you said it was.) As long as the standards of review are good, more journals is a good thing.

Publishing is about the only way to measure scientific output in a reasonable way. Administrators and other decision makers can't wait a generation to find out who's work was worth promoting.

The director of my institute is always trying to find a meaningful statistic to apply to publication records to tell which scientists are cranking out fluff and which are focusing more on scientific merit than on pub rate.

It's not easy when, say, two immunologists are so specialized that they can't quickly judge the relevance or timeliness of each others work. Try being a director of a department or institute full of specialists and having to make budgetary decisions. Imagine also that you really care about Science and want to make the correct decisions so as to advance knowledge generally rather than just feathering your nest.

When publication (and indexing and retrieval) costs go down and there are competent review processes in place, more journals and more publications is a good thing.

Someday my obscure work on optimizing the Wackenheimer Transform may be just what we need to suppress the robot revolution. In the more likely event that it's just cerebral wanking, the marginal cost is low.

Comment Re:AI amature hour (Score 1) 291

If you can get a dozen people to read and cite your obscure academic writing, you have achieved a massive success and will get tenure easily at all but the most competitive institutions.

This comment isn't just for snark. It's humbling how HARD it is to do work that other people find useful.

Comment Re:Work Experience (Score 1) 834

The EdD qualifies you for a different range of employment options than other non-PhD doctoral degrees in my experience.

In some contexts it is considered a doctoral-equivalent, but many *teaching* jobs at post-secondary academic institutions I have seen explicitly DO NOT consider an EdD to be a PhD equivalent.

The pedagogical structure of EdD programs is similar to other doctoral degrees, but what academic employers are often looking for is subject area expertise *and* some training in effective education.

There is a program called the Doctor of Arts that used to be more common. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_of_Arts It combines a research component with a decent amount (~25% of credit hours) of educational preparation. The NSF considers both the EdD and DA to be PhD equivalent, officially.

In practice, the EdD is looked down upon in the science and science-education realm. The parent is clearly aware of that prejudice. The lack of subject area knowledge outside of education is a real problem. In my experience, this prejudice is not unwarranted although it does get a bit unfair sometimes.

I did a PhD in a biology department that offered a DA option and was located next door to an education department. I got to see the job searches, the seminars and interact with the students in both programs. DA degree seekers got multiple academic job offers in universities, colleges and elite private high schools. The EdD grads I know struggled to get noticed. Most found jobs as corporate trainers or high school teachers.

I've personally seen lessons on introductory biology produced by EdDs and those produced by DAs. This is a personal assessment, but the DAs did better jobs.

Even though both teachers understood the basic subject matter, the actual experience of the DA student with research *in the subject area* came through during student interactions. Both lectures were similar in didactic quality.

A curious student can ask very insightful questions that only subject matter experience will prepare a teacher to answer. If a student asks a probing question that reveals the shallowness of the instructors knowledge, you have lost them for the year.

An EdD imparts useful skills, don't get me wrong. EdD's get jobs, good ones where they make real contributions. It's a matter of context. We need a few specialists in education as a subject in our universities. A few. Fewer than we have, to be more pointed.

We need more people in our universities who understand some of what education specialists know. This is an optimization problem, not structural problem.

Outside of post-secondary ed? I'm out of my element there. YMMV, but that's the view from where I sit.

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