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Comment Wang 360 programmable calculator (Score 1) 629

My high school got a Wang 360 programmable calculator. Programs were punched into IBM Port-a-punch (hanging chad fame) cards. My project was Barrowman's equations to compute the center of pressure of a model rocket. My first conventional language was FORTRAN on an IBM 1620, then machine language for that machine. 4900796 Then 1401 Autocoder, playtoy Lisp, 360 assembler, Pl

Comment Re:Fake science/sloppy science (Score 1) 331

That graph looks far too much like MY graph from MY failed attempt to reproduce a published experiment in thermal conductivity of an organic system. You are going to be hearing from your Institutional Review Board. Also, I am jealous that you got a much better curve fit than I did.

On a murkier note, a few years ago I did an online search for work in Single Event Upsets ("cosmic ray" interactions with electronics). I was a bit surprised to see a paper from a small institution in India, with a photo showing a test setup in front of a porthole in a thick shielding wall. The photo looked familiar, and the text in the paper was utter gobbledygook. I located the other paper, and sent an email to its principal investigator at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The reply arrived quickly, thanking me and noting that this was one of the most egregious examples of plagiarism that they had encountered.

Comment Re: Read some Engels (Score 1) 519

Development of TCP as evolution from NCP, was under ARPA funding. I was at a lecture at UCLA where Cerf presented related research results. This was during the Vietnam war controversies, and many were uncomfortable with DoD involvement. That does not change where the money and part of the impetus came from. Communism is an interesting theory, whose attempted application to the real world resulted in unprecedented mass murder, famine, and a residuum of lying apologists who are unwilling to acknowledge the mountain of skulls in their living room.

Comment Re: Judge Davis retired last year (Score 2) 108

Opinion: the population within that district, especially towns like Tyler, tend to be low income, not highly educated, and adhere to religious sects that emphasize personal propensity to sin, unquestioning acceptance of authority, and willingness to punish very harshly an act that has been framed as a moral wrong.

The people want to be and often are personally decent, but scientific rigor and skepticism take a distant second to authority and persuasion. Those are the jurors.

My ancestry is there, and I know the mindset.

Comment Re: Spinning (Score 1) 80

Spin is a simple method of stabilizing a rocket by gyroscopic forces (conservation of angular momentum), if the craft and payload are able to withstand and perform as intended while spinning. It works for rifle bullets, where the projectile is spun up by spiral grooves in the gun barrel. It is very simple and robust; in a model rocket you just mount the fins at a slight angle tilted off the axis of the rocket body.

Comment Re: UCLA has Materials Science? (Score 1) 70

Given that I had hands on a scanning electron microscope in that department in 1971, wondering why it would not pump down, until we discovered a hair across an O-ring seal, no surprise at all. At the time, among other things, they were investigating wear properties of materials used in prosthetic joints.

Comment Re:Why not ditch the schooling entirely? (Score 3, Interesting) 241

There is (among others) a specific reason that HR departments have come to demand a degree: labor regulations under Fair Labor Standards Act, that set the criteria for exempt vs. non-exempt positions. Regulations have evolved so that a gating criterion for an engineering or technical occupation, to qualify as exempt, is an engineering or science degree.

One division of the regulations provides an exception for computer-related occupations. One reading of this appears to exempt most programmers from the degree requirement, but I have heard of conflicting interpretations (e.g. this exemption is intended to apply to IT work, but not to more engineer-like embedded systems work).

The alternative is the learned professional exemption. The criteria here appear to allow some latitude, but the black letter statement is that a degree in one of the sciences, engineering, theology (!), etc. qualifies a person under this exemption.

As FLSA regulations evolved, a number of companies went through job reclassifications, taking non-degreed exempt engineers to non-exempt technician titles.

I was an embedded systems developer, no degree, for 30+ years. My company shut the division that I worked for. I went back to university for a degree in physics, because I wanted something intellectually disparate from my field of work. I qualify under FLSA, but perhaps an HR department would still discount my degree as not being in CS. That said, I went back into embedded systems immediately after graduating.

As a returned adult student, I had the opportunity to observe the university as well as to attend it. There are several reasons that students are taking closer to 5 years to graduate. First, uneven preparation coming from high school. Second, a more liberal policy toward retaking failed or D-grade courses than existed in in the early 1970s. Third, especially after the economic shock of 2008+, a positive surge in enrollment coinciding with a negative surge in funding. It can be difficult to get a seat in required courses. This can turn a 1-semester wait for a course, into a 3-semester delay in degree progress.

Evidence on preparation gaps: 40% of the seats in my first semester main-sequence freshman chemistry class, went to students who dropped or failed the class. The most frequent deficiency was in basic high school algebra skills. Second might have been too much attention to alcohol and modern high-THC weed. Make that third; I think second was rapt attention to text messaging rather than to the lecture. One aspect of being a returned adult student who is doing the work, is being pulled aside to hear the professors' woes; that is where I got the 40% number.

Comment Re: What is a pocket heater anyway? (Score 3, Informative) 113

It is a device that creates thin films by vacuum deposition in specific ways that work especially well for research into the superconductive material MgB2. Arxiv has a paper co-authored by Ward Ruby that describes this. There must be at least dozens of materials scientists at national labs who could have demolished this travesty in 20 minutes.

Comment Trash toys (Score 1) 206

Someone gave me a Jawbone (competitor to Fitbit) as a gift. I refuse to use it, because it an functionally opaque piece of garbage that requires that I sign up for an online service. This nearly always means that someone plans to sell my data.

These punk-ass little toys would not survive my principal physical activity, which requires seawater immersion tolerance to at least 3 meters, and occasional water impacts at upwards of 40km/hr. The other is yoga, and I am not wearing any encumbrances during that.

I also detest wearing anything on my wrists or arms. I wear a wristwatch only during travel, or if I have an appointment, or occasionally if I need to gauge time to renew sunblock. Two of my wristwatches, ripped away by impacts, are now somewhere on the bottom of San Francisco Bay or inside some bottom-feeder.

Speaking of bottom-feeders, I have something for you, Mr. Tech CEO. The only "tracking" that I support is the tying people who propose it, onto active railroad tracks.

Comment Molecularly interesting, applications not so much (Score 2) 64

It's an interesting curiosity in a molecular sense, but is it really justified for application? Why not let room lighting be done with something optimized for luminous efficiency and subjective color, and data transfer be done in the infrared where we have cheap emitters and optical filters? Why burden a bulk illumination power supply with also being a modulator in the 10^8Hz realm?

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