Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! ×

Comment Better question is what to DO with the language (Score 1) 525

When I want to get something done, I pick up a language and make it happen. When I want to learn a language for no particular reason, I pick up a tutorial, poke around, and forget about it within a few days. My first language was POV-Ray. Computer graphics. Raytracing. Kinda outdated now, but at the time it was something interesting to focus my energy on. I like the idea of one of those BASIC Stamps or Lego MindStorms. I think the best approach it to choose a goal rather than a language.

Comment Re:Accepted norms (Score 1) 279

Interesting. I've read plenty of sketchy papers, but didn't make it far enough that I was ever asked to peer-review. Without attempting to put any magnitude it, I'd agree that omission with just enough sloppiness for plausible deniability is a big problem. For me the fear of even approaching any sort of gray area was much stronger than the necessity to publish, and I like to imagine most people feel the same way.

On your main point, another commenter said, "Being a good researcher is about doing something no one else has done, no matter how small, and being rigorous about reporting the results," and I was inclined to agree, but this seems to be in conflict with your opinion that, "drive and hard work is mistaken for aptitude to do science." Maybe the distinction lies in the difference between good science and great science. I see good scientists around me succeeding because they work incredibly hard, many of them sacrificing health and relationships to get there. I've only known a few great scientists, and they worked very hard but also had great insight and, interestingly enough, led incredibly well-rounded lives. An accomplished pianist, a runner and devoted husband, etc. All delightful people I feel privileged to have met. I tried very hard to be the second type, and to make a long story short, I'm no longer a scientist at all. It's looking like web development with an option to pull a Chris McCandless and disappear entirely. I think I had a lot to offer and wish things had worked out differently. Always nice to know someone else is at least as bitter as I am though! Good luck to you!

Comment Re:Accepted norms (Score 1) 279

I'm not sure I'd agree, but it could just reflect different experiences. I haven't personally seen pressure to produce results so great that people started lying or cheating out of fear just to get ahead. My experience—and I think I failed in grad school because I couldn't conform to this— is that the pressure to produce an acceptable quantity of publications results in a vast majority of poor-quality, insignificant papers. Not necessarily anything dishonest, just garbage. I think there will always be the possibility to succeed based on the merits of your work alone, but I'd agree that it becomes increasingly unlikely when the incentives pull you in completely different directions.

Comment Re:Physics? (Score 1) 279

Good God, that's pessimistic! Sorry for that. It's more of a warning than anything. It's really not all bad. There's lots of interesting research going on and lots of truly wonderful people in academia, but there are also a lot of dead ends that are only obvious in hindsight. Just be aware of what you're getting into and it could save you a lot of grief.

Comment Re:Physics? (Score 1) 279

I think there's some irony there, but he's not too far off. Appears there's a place for physics/engineers in the financial sector. Not sure how big the market is, but the student whose fluid dynamics code we used went to work on Wall Street. Your mileage may vary, but it also looks to me like there are more satisfying lives than the life of an academic.

Crap. Here we go...

So I spent the last five years in two different grad programs and will soon be leaving with... an M.S... They were decent/very good programs and I was plenty smart, but spent most of ages 22-27 almost completely miserable for it. In short, I went because I was smart, capable, and loved the material, and I payed a pretty big price for it. It's a great thing if you can find a field that piques your curiosity like that, but I'd call it a necessary rather than sufficient condition for success in grad school. I like to get lost in equations and algorithms, and it just didn't dawn on me that I'd have to make such a desperate attempt to flaunt it and establish a name for myself. I don't have a big enough ego to think that the world revolves around my research topic much less me, and as silly as it sounds, I found myself sitting through presentations much more interested in the personality of the presenter than the content. Grown men (yes, usually men) spending their whole lives analyzing a particular wave mode? Are they passionate about it because it's interesting or because they're desperately clinging to something they can get funding for? It's a mind trip if you really sit there and analyze it. And the isolation. Hell. When I was most productive, it wasn't at all unusual for me to go three or four days without speaking to anyone. Probably wouldn't be so bad if you're of the female type. In the end, I decided that although nothing would technically prevent me from being a scientist and a good person, as stressed out, overworked, and miserable as I already was, and with no end in sight, the risk was just too great.

Sorry for the pessimism. I'll cut myself off there and refer you to a few sources I've found helpful:
Former classics professor, now web developer/writer. Pretty awesome person. No longer an academic. You read that correctly. Not an academic. Awesome person. They're not incompatible, despite what some professors would like you to believe.

Demetri Martin On Puzzles And 'Important Things'
Because who doesn't love Demetri Martin? He made it most of the way through law school before dropping out and doing something that made him happy. I like his explanation around 10 minutes in. Winning the Games Scientists Play
I can't recommend this book enough. It's basically a book about how to advance your scientific career in the most efficient way possible. I picked it up randomly and got through half of it standing in the library stacks before I found myself too nauseous to continue. He starts off insisting he's only the messenger, but it's really pretty sickening that someone would attempt to codify and advocate everything that makes academia such a miserable place. Thing is, it's pretty much true. I love where he says that fake scientists with outside hobbies or interests that occupy too much of their minds should be identified and exposed with great pleasure. Wow.

Richard Hamming: You and Your Research
Yes, Richard Hamming of the eponymous window function! Advice on how to be a good researcher. "I don't like to say it in front of my wife, but I did sort of neglect her sometimes; I needed to study. You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done. There's no question about this."

Anyway, after all this, I figure someone who's not deterred in the least might actually be a good fit for academia. You really have to want it. It's all about focus and persistence. Some people seem happy. Putting food on the table is easy no matter what you do.

Comment PCMag? WTF? (Score 1) 97

Why in the name of all things holy does this link to pcmag? For godsake just go to It doesn't make too much of a difference on this topic, but it's getting really bad. Just look at the Fukushima stories. I know it sounds silly to complain so much, but people seriously need to learn the difference—and more importantly how to find—primary sources. Intentional or not, there's a huge amount of misinformation out there and there's just no reason every article on /. needs to be routed through a blog post or two before you give up and go looking for the source material on your own. /. is clearly not the place for me. Will paste unknown garbage into password field and block site shortly...

Comment Missing Option: Safer than houses and buildings (Score 2) 1148

It's not just hype, it's a big deal. But next to the humanitarian crisis in Japan, it'll probably amount to small potatoes. At least a 2,414 killed and 3,118 missing.. It's never a bad time to donate to the American Red Cross. Or UNICEF. Or whichever charitiy you prefer based on your locale.

Slashdot Top Deals

But it does move! -- Galileo Galilei