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Comment Re:indolent (Score 2) 253

That's an incredibly narrow-minded view. If it is shown that some types of screening statistically make you worse off, then it is silly to continue advocating their use in the same way. I'm sorry you had to deal with a traumatic event, but that doesn't make math stop working.

Comment Re:Easy reason (Score 5, Insightful) 533

You're right, but the parent is right, too, because in some respects what you describe is niche (regardless of its objective importance). I, for instance, despite being highly educated, wouldn't have any clue where to start contributing to Chinese culture articles.

I used to edit wikipedia, but I rarely come across articles that I an improve aside from grammar and proofreading these days. The stuff that's missing requires quite a bit of expertise. The only articles I can still meaningfully contribute to are those related to my own field (astrophysics) or a hobby that I know in great depth (film).

Comment Re:Golden Age? (Score 1) 283

I didn't mean to imply that there was a "year of Linux on the Desktop," just that the gap between desktop usability is growing. I won't reiterate what all the other replies to parent said, but they're spot on. The Linux kernel has succeeded, but the desktop managers and common distros are needlessly cumbersome for everyday computer use. If you did an experiment where you got average people to try Ubuntu, Windows 7, and OS/X for everyday computer use, I bet you'd be very hardpressed to find someone that prefered Ubuntu.

Comment Re:Anachronistic much? (Score 1) 283

Seriously. Linux is still great for many applications, but I think the present is the farthest behind Microsoft's/Apple's products in terms of general appeal as a consumer desktop OS that it has ever been. And this is coming from someone who uses several Linux distros daily and depends on them deeply.

Comment Re:Look at it this way (Score 1) 503

You fail to consider that that same money could have been spent on *other* research. I work in astrophysics, so my field deals with where NASA spends its budget all the time, and I can tell you that there is almost no one in the field that wants it in the ISS.There are soooo many more interesting things NASA could do with that money. The ISS was mostly a political and PR move; science was almost secondary.

Comment Re:Astronomy! (Score 1) 398

I am an astrophysicist/astronomer, and I can vouch for that as a field in which amateurs still play a major role. Hell, my first paper on which I was the first author was something that anyone with a decent set of programming skills and a mild knowledge of astronomy could do - the trick was knowing that it needed to be done. As far as how to get involved, I have several suggestions.

1. Go back to school, formally or informally. If you have a university with an astronomy or physics department, get involved there, perhaps by taking a class or two part time. This serves a threefold purpose. The most obvious is that it is a great opportunity to learn the basics. Second, it will give you access to university resources, such as library (including journals and databases online!) access, computer access, and sometimes telescope access. Finally, it will give you access to professionals. Many professors and researchers are in need of people to do their side project. These often get done by undergrads, and if you go back to school you can get involved. All you do is ask around the department if anyone needs free help, and then find someone you want to work with. You might get a coauthorship out of it. This is how I did my first paper as an undergrad.

2. Look online for topics that amateurs with a telescope can help with. Try variable stars, asteroids, comets, supernovae, gamma ray bursts, etc. Alternatively, if you are into programming, CS, or data methods and their applications to astronomy, this is a great area to make contributions with little-to-no startup cost. Rapid time series analysis and signal processing are big these days, among many other things.

3. Don't be ignorant. Read introductory textbooks. Refresh yourself on math, physics, and programming. Read wikipedia. Read arxiv astro-ph and use ADS.

There are other non-astro things I can think of too. I'm into paleontology as a hobby - its another field that amateurs routinely make contributions in, but that's decreasing with time. Fossil collecting can be really fun while also getting you outdoors. Unfortunately, this is highly dependent on your location, local laws, and other factors out of your control. Same with amateur archaeology - but this is even harder to do. In some parts of the US, for example, amateurs have found major native american archaeological sites, which they then call in professionals to help with. Another way to get involved in these fields is to volunteer at a natural history museum or a university, similar to how I described for astronomy, but it is usually easier because they need people to help on digs and things. There is less potential for a publication, though. Computer Science, mathematics, and software engineering also seem like fields an amateur could make contributions in.

Submission + - Total Lunar Eclipse This Weekend

SeaDour writes: This Saturday night, March 3rd, a total lunar eclipse will be visible from nearly all inhabited parts of the world. A great shadow will stretch across the surface of the moon, eventually casting it in an eerie red glow as sunlight filters through our atmosphere onto the lunar surface. Viewers in Europe and Africa will have the best vantage point, able to watch the entire eclipse in action, while observers in most of the western hemisphere can see it eclipsed as it rises just after sunset.

Reflectivity Reaches a New Low 166

sporkme writes "A new nanocoating material developed by a team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has the lowest level of reflectivity ever seen ... or not seen in this case. The amount of light reflected by the composite of silica nanorods and aluminum nitride is almost the same amount reflected by air. From the article: 'Schubert and his coworkers have created a material with a refractive index of 1.05, which is extremely close to the refractive index of air and the lowest ever reported. Window glass, for comparison, has a refractive index of about 1.45. Using a technique called oblique angle deposition, the researchers deposited silica nanorods at an angle of precisely 45 degrees on top of a thin film of aluminum nitride, which is a semiconducting material used in advanced light-emitting diodes (LEDs). From the side, the films look much like the cross section of a piece of lawn turf with the blades slightly flattened.' Suggested applications include increased efficiency in solar cells, more energy-efficient lighting and advances in quantum mechanics."

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