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Comment I think this is naive (Score 2) 540

Denying the impact of automation is like denying climate change. We can now build machines that are more efficient than humans. Soon we'll be using machines that are smarter than humans. Whenever I read modern science fiction stories I ask myself could a machine replace the main characters in their jobs. Quite often I think they can.

Submission + - Statistically identifying the most popular science fiction books.

jimharris writes: Over at SF Signal I wrote a piece “How Well-Read Are You in Science Fiction?” There are three databases that collect lists of popular science fiction books that try to statistically identify the best books of the genre. Each site offers a combined list that shows which books were cited the most. They use different sets of best-of lists, but their results are often similar. The final lists are, Classics of Science Fiction, Worlds Without End Top Listed, and Premiosylista Comparativas: Comparativas: Ciencia ficción (Spain). Is this a good methodology for identifying the classics of science fiction? What other methodologies could be designed?

Comment Get something easy to grab and use (Score 1) 187

Twice in my life I've gotten involved in astronomy and each time gave up after a while. When I was young I bought a cheap department store telescope, and when I was older, bought a 4" refractor with equatorial mount. My fancy scope wasn't that conducive to just going out and looking at the sky. It was a pain to set up an align Generally I waited to use it when I was willing to drive an hour out of town to the astronomy club's site, and even then I was always hassling with the setup. If I tried astronomy again I'd be tempted to get a small dobsonian or small refractor with a good alt-az mount, or even some good binoculars. I'd want something that I could keep near the door and would be easy to drag outside and use.

I was always disappointed with what I saw in a telescope. It's exciting to see Jupiter and the Moon, but it was always terrible frustrating and a disappointment to me to find the faint fuzzies. In the end I just loved being out in dark sky sites learning the constellations and just learning to find things in the sky. There's nothing with more sense of wonder than seeing the Milky Way at a good dark site without any equipment. I would recommend any parent with a kid interested in astronomy first start by joining a local club and going to their dark sky site. You'll be able to look through many kinds of scopes and get lots of advice. Don't buy a scope until you've gone sky gazing a few times without one.

I think getting a telescope for a young person involves a number of compromises. You want to get something good enough and easy to use for the kid with a casual interest, but also good enough for the kid that truly has the astronomy bug to grow with. I tend to think a well made small dobsonian is the best starter scope. But a quality 80-90mm refractor that's small with a solid alt-az mount might be equally good.

End in the end, the scope that's easy to grab and use often is the better one to buy first.

Comment Re:Teach CS with Math classes (Score 1) 293

I agree that everyone should learn as much math and statistics as they can. I think it turns off most kids to math when they teach pure abstract math. Adding programming might make math more appealing and less abstract. Have you ever used Mathematica? I bet grade school kids wold think math was a lot more fun if they learned math with Mathmatica. You wouldn't even have to mention that it involves programming. They should learn the basics of mathematical problems without calculators and programming first, but should be shown applied math next with real world problems, and then shown how to automate the problem solving with tools.

Comment What about rapid development in a GUI? (Score 1) 466

Python is great for quick programs if you don't need a GUI and don't plan to give your programs away or sell them. But what about a rapid development language that is inherently GUI aware? Of course this ties you to an OS, but this guy sounds like he's asking for the modern version of Visual Basic. I'm not a Mac person, but it sounds like Swift might become VB on OS X. I'm not sure Visual Express is the modern version of Visual Basic for Windows anymore - so what is? And did Unix/Linux ever have something like VB?

Without a GUI, programming is text based, and that can be cool if we don't mind writing programs that look like those of the 1980s.

Comment Teach CS with Math classes (Score 3, Insightful) 293

They should integrate programming with math classes. They should start students using Mathematica or Sage as early as possible. Programming math problems would teach both math and programming. Students would see programming as a problem solving tool, and not just another burden of something else to learn. If they integrated programming into math classes they wouldn't have to worry about adding programming classes to their curriculum. They could also integrate programming into other classes like science, or even English.

Submission + - What Happens When Humans Aren't the Smartest Beings on Earth? (

jimharris writes: What if people weren't the crown of creation? What if we had to play second banana to Humans 2.0, AI machines, visiting aliens, cyborgs or other potentially smarter beings? I think our fear is they would treat us like we have treated chimpanzees. What if intelligent machines emerge, homo sapiens superior evolve and we make SETI contact, and suddenly we’re number four on the totem pole of intelligence?

Comment Streaming is far more convenient than owning (Score 1) 164

I've switched to streaming (renting music) because it's so much more convenient than owning music. I have 1,500 CDs, hundreds of LPs, and 24,000 mp3 files, but I seldom play any of them because streaming is so damn convenient. When streaming becomes the obvious standard that will last, I'll probably get rid of my other forms of music.

I stream through the computer, through my mobile devices, and to my TV and big stereo system via the Roku. I want the streaming services to succeed, pay the artists more, and to improve their software. This is the music payment model I want for now and in the future.

There are many albums I bought as LPs, then as CDs, then as SACDs, or as re-mastered CDs. Ownership isn't that permanent. I'm tired of buying, shelving, backing up files, being a librarian, etc.

Submission + - What would be The Bible of science?

jimharris writes: Christians have their one book to explain reality, The Bible. Is there one great book to be the Bible of science? Is there one book to study how and why scientific thinking works? At my blog I propose The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch, but I'm wondering what other good titles there are to recommend. It's hard to find a single book to recommend to non-scientific thinkers to understand how science works. It needs to be more than a history of science, or a textbook. And if there is no one good book, what's the minimum number of books to read to get a grasp of science and what are they?

Comment Re:An incomplete list from my shelf (Score 1) 796

No offense, but this list seems like one an old hippie would make up. I guess the counter culture lives on in young people. This list begs for some depth and diversity even though I like the books on it. How about Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, Lady Chatterley's Lover, The Sun Also Rises, Sister Carrie, Homer, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, etc.

Comment Re:Outlook (Score 1) 287

I also use Outlook for some of my RSS feeds and it works very well. I'd use it for all my feeds except that it fills up my Unread folder with too many unread messages. It overwhelms my work email. If Outlook had Unread Email and Unread RSS folders, I'd probably use Outlook for all my RSS feeds.

Comment Try reading old fashioned books first (Score 1) 415

I have a Kindle 3 and iPad 2. The Kindle is much easier to hold than the iPad. The Kindle is easier on my eyes, especially for longer periods of reading. However, even though I have bad eyes, and both devices can enlarge the print, I've found it easier to read books instead. Lots of books I want to read aren't available yet in ebook format. Also, many ebooks are more expensive than a used hardback or paperback. Plus, now that everyone is going to digital readers, used books are cheap and plentiful.

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