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Comment Re:Impossible requirement (Score 4, Insightful) 382

It's not only not impossible, but it's pretty much always possible. You just have to think like someone who chases funding.

Everyone who reviews proposals knows the future is uncertain, so they don't currently expect a proposal to accurately predict, say, how someone's research would benefit math education. The key is to explain how what you're proposing could plausibly help. Doing it well comes down to having a reasonable story, having good salesmanship, and wordsmithing.

The new requirements seem very broadly applicable. For example, I could twist scientific literacy, promotion of scientific progress, and possibly national defense into justifying the grant proposal I'm currently working on. "Scientific progress" in particular would be very easy. I expect it would be similarly easy for any other academic who expects to publish at leat one paper on research that he or she intends to support by an NSF grant.

So this probably wouldn't change anything, except to require another section in every proposal, which would just waste everyone's time. It would save exacly zero dollars, and cost a few for every proposal just by a naive conversion from time to money. There are also one-time costs. The only possible way this could save money is by slowing down the overall process.

While I'm railing, I should also mention that active researchers review other people's NSF proposals. Adding another requirement takes time they could use to, I dunno, do useful research?

Everyone who chases funding knows how to play the game. Adding rules won't keep them from getting money, and it'll cost time.

Comment Re:Some people are obsessed with coffee... (Score 1) 283

Yep, it's feeding an addition.

Caffeine is physiologically addicting, and detoxification takes a long time and is unpleasant. A cup of coffee contains about 2-3 times a reasonable therapeutic dose, which makes addiction really, really easy.

If I were prescribing caffeine to an average, healthy adult male, I'd say 3 cans of Diet Coke (equiv. one cup of coffee) spaced evenly throughout the day, and expect at least two days of hangover-like symptoms after quitting.


Submission + - Speed Running Charity Marathon in Full Swing ( 1

grammar fascist writes: For the third year in a row, the Speed Demos Archive crew are putting on a seven-day, around-the-clock marathon of your favorite games done at lightning speed, streamed live at the Speed Demos Archive home page. Last year, the same "Awesome Games Done Quick" marathon raised $149,000 for the Prevent Cancer Foundation mostly through small donations and auctions for novelty gaming items. (This year, a framed Master Sword perler is up for grabs during the Ocarina of Time speed run.) The marathon runs through January 12th. Look up your favorite games on the schedule, tune in, and chip in!

Comment Pedantry (Score 1) 30

...responding to the player's own body language rather than mathematical rules.

I've done a lot of machine learning. It's very much mathematical rules. The inferred rules just happen to be so complicated that it's often hard to recognize them as such.

Maybe the submitter meant "hand-crafted decision tree".

Comment Re:Field dependent requirement (Score 1) 1086

(Hint: it is not called lambda CALCULUS because it sounds fancy)

It's because it's a calculus: a method of calculating things. In this case, the things are higher-order functions, and the method is beta-reduction.

Your other points are well-taken, however.

My problem with the question and all the answers so far is that they are focusing on generalities. It's true that most programmers won't need calculus. However, we desperately need the 2% that do, because scientists from other fields don't get taught how to program. Oh, they pick it up on the job. They have to take one programming course from the CS department. But they rarely get rigorous training in software engineering that they need to make reliable stuff.

Comment I have ADHD (Score 2) 223

If there are environmental factors, they're slight. It's as heritable as height.

Plenty of things can cause the same symptoms in the short term without the neurological condition. Examples are the death of a parent (the emotional pain is, among other things, highly distracting), lack of sleep, and malnutrition. Yes, staring at a screen all day and experiencing nothing but rapid, small rewards can cause an otherwise healthy kid to find other things less rewarding. But I've read a lot about ADHD, and I've never seen anything conclusive that says such things can give a child the actual disorder.

Comment Re:Honestly... (Score 2) 396

I'm an extrovert, and I had that same reaction to the article. Ha ha.

Um, I do understand introverts pretty well, though. I think I've boiled the essence of the difference between extroverts and introverts down to cost. For an extrovert, the cost of speaking is either negative (your "spewing drivel all the time" kind) or zero (your "thinking out loud all the time" kind). For an introvert, the cost is positive, and sometimes very high. Introverts spend a lot of time determining either 1) the best way to say something, to minimize the cost of saying it overall, or 2) whether it's worth saying anything in the first place.

I'm convinced we need both kinds of people. Here's an example from one context. I once taught an entire class of introverts. It was horrendous. Nobody talked. I never got in-class feedback so that I could adjust the presentation on-the-fly. (I've since learned that partitioning the class into small groups can help. It lowers the cost of speaking.) I've also taught an entire class of extroverts. It was likewise horrendous. Everybody talked. We never got anywhere in the material. I've mostly taught classes with a mix of students, and that seems to work out the best. I get immediate feedback from the extroverts, and more thoughtful feedback from the introverts when they come to me for private help.

The thing I appreciate most about introverts is that I can count on something thoughtful from them, and I've learned to wait for it.

Comment Re:NOW they develop this... (Score 1) 236

Bah. This is human nature, not just Americans.

Each of our states is as big as a country. How many Europeans could name the states surrounding the one I live in? Not many.

In this country, a Texan is as close to a foreigner as most people are likely to meet.

When I lived in Scotland, I was asked at least twice a month whether I knew Pamela Anderson. (No, by the way.) The kids there had no idea just how big this place is. Friggin' huge, is what it is. Like Sputnik.

Comment Re:This just in (Score 1) 487

Don't forget that we don't just use our space for candy. There's also Unicode, which is often done with 32-bit characters, so 4x on your strings right there. Along with that is internationalization, so your strings get duplicated 10x or whatever. Further, every 64-bit pointer takes 4x the space of a 16-bit pointer. We also use a LOT more pointers, because we have this crazy, correct idea that fixed-length data structures are evil in multiple ways. We also tend to write in imperative object-oriented or quasi-pure functional style, which are both a bit bloaty, because with those styles it's a lot easier to write extensible code. (With OO, it's easier to extend the kinds of objects on the system; with functional, easier to extend the kinds of operations.)

So yeah, it's not just candy or foregoing optimization. We've been moving toward making it easy for every programmer, regardless of skill, to write code that, if not correct, will at least not blow up your computer, and do a lot of really cool stuff.


Submission + - Speed runners raising over $28k for charity (

grammar fascist writes: The second annual Awesome Games Done Quick marathon is on! Dozens of intrepid speed runners are plowing through a hundred games in four days, streaming their impressive tricks on the Speed Demos Archive home page. They're also taking donations for the Prevent Cancer Foundation, so pitch in a few coppers after you witness the four-way Ocarina of Time race (estimated completion time is a blazing 1:30:00) or the one-star Super Mario 64 run. (If helping cure cancer isn't enough motivation, consider that your donation might score you a Katamari hat.) At over $28,000 so far, they've already surpassed their initial goal, but I'm sure they wouldn't mind taking it as far as they can.

Submission + - Guido van Rossum: Python 3.0 alpha in August (

grammar fascist writes: Guido van Rossum, BDFL (Benevolent Dictator for Life) of the Python programming language, has posted a comprehensive status report on the progress of Python's next incarnation, including a tentative release schedule. Python 3.0 alpha could be available as early as August this year, with the final release a year from then. This is probably the last chance Python has of any significant language overhaul — meaning a significant break in compatibility with earlier versions. (A fairly thorough conversion tool will be supplied.) Lists of regrets and wishes have been made into language enhancements, including Unicode strings (bytes objects will be used for binary data), class decorators, function argument annotations (no implicit type enforcement), dynamic specification of base classes, Abstract Base Classes (not strict and bondage-y as in Java), true multiple dispatch (called "generic functions"), exception reform, int/long unification, and much more. Whom to thank? Besides Guido and the core Python developers and designers, Google. They hired him to spend half his time on Python.

Submission + - Orkut goes public

jmusits writes: I don't think this is a dupe, but many may already know. orkut has now open it's doors to the general public (at least anyone w/ a google account). You no longer need to be "invited" by someone else. A a user of Facebook during my college years and not knowing anyone on orkut before, I was quite happy to be able to join. Also I like orkut's interface and philosophy much more than any other online community I have been a part of before.

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