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Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

Beck_Neard Re:You "mind isn't as sharp"? (228 comments)

Sadly, various studies support the fact that one mentally 'peaks' at around the mid-20's and then gradually drops after that. Now it's true that lost 'sharpness' can, to some degree, be replaced by gained wisdom. Maybe that's what you're talking about. But could you pick up a new subject as fast as your 20 year old self could? Unlikely.

2 days ago
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Astronomers Find Star-Within-a-Star, 40 Years After First Theorized

Beck_Neard Re:Wait, these are for real? (72 comments)

No star is stable, if you look at long enough timescales :)

But you're right, this isn't a stable configuration at all. It only lasts thousands of years, compared to millions or billions for other star types. That's partly why it was so hard to find one.

Red giants are huuuuge, we're talking a hundred million kilometers in diameter at least. Neutron stars, on the other hand, are only about 20 km in diameter. So you'd have to go really deep - basically to the exact center - to actually find the neutron star. But once you did, you would definitely notice an abrupt phase change.

4 days ago
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Technological Solution For Texting While Driving Struggles For Traction

Beck_Neard Re:A solution in search of a problem... (326 comments)

No they can't, and it's that attitude that causes all the problems. Everyone thinks they are the exception who is capable of texting while driving. But as it turns out, the magnitude of the effect of texting while driving is actually similar to driving while being drunk.

about a week ago
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Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

Beck_Neard Re:Great idea! Let's alienate Science even more! (905 comments)

'Doing good' is nothing more than an expression of empathic feelings which all human beings have. We evolved empathy because it enhanced our survival.

The problem with this credo is that some human beings are - for reasons not known - severely lacking or absent in empathy. They are only a small proportion of the population (1%) but commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime (10%). How are you going to make these people do good? The only tool we have is threat of punishment, but that only means that they try harder to not get caught.

'Doing good' might work on 99% of people but that's still not enough.

about a week ago
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Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

Beck_Neard Re:Great idea! Let's alienate Science even more! (905 comments)

People have already thought about this. A lot. If you take this idea to the extreme, it means that everyone should be an ideal Bayesian agent. But that's impossible since it would require more computing power than available in the Universe. There is a very good reason we think irrationally and we often take irrational leaps of faith. These things are necessary for us to get by with just 1.4 kg of brain matter.

The best you can do is try to approximate rational behavior. But there is absolutely no guarantee that in doing that, you won't wind up taking less rational actions than what you would have just done unconsciously.

about a week ago
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Congress Can't Make Asteroid Mining Legal (But It's Trying, Anyway)

Beck_Neard Re:Possession is nine-tenths of the law... (213 comments)

It's true that mining asteroids is of little use for us here on Earth. But when you consider raw materials for space industry, then it suddenly becomes an extremely attractive idea. But the problem is that without cheap materials and a cheap way of accessing space, no space industry is ever likely to develop. So it's kind of a chicken-egg problem.

about a week ago
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Congress Can't Make Asteroid Mining Legal (But It's Trying, Anyway)

Beck_Neard Re:LOL (213 comments)

> when those that have actually done the colonizing or the progeny thereof decides that they don't really need the mother-country anymore.

I'd be alright with that, but the problem is that space isn't like the surface of the Earth where you have neatly demarcated areas that you can lay claim to and you have to actually travel to in order to use. You could have companies pushing around asteroids and bumping them into Earth orbit, extracting resources, without sending even a single person over to the actual asteroid (all done with a bunch of robotic probes). You will inevitably get two companies (or countries) fighting over who gets the right to push which asteroid around. Neither of them are even near the asteroid, and no colony will be set up on the asteroid since it's probably far too small to support an independent human population by itself.

I guess a good analogy would be the Pacific islands and not the 13 colonies. The pacific islands changed hands so many times and many still have debatable levels of 'belonging' to another country. Now imagine if the pacific islands were free to roam around...

about a week ago
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Harvard's CompSci Intro Course Boasts Record-Breaking Enrollment

Beck_Neard Re:Linux, cryptography, HTML and JavaScript. (143 comments)

If you teach kids theory, people object that they're not being taught 'practical things'. If you teach them how to use popular software (like JavaScript), people object that they're not being taught enough theory.

You can't win.

about a week ago
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Kickstarter's Problem: You Have To Make the Game Before You Ask For Money

Beck_Neard Re:Bummer (215 comments)

There is a very small proportion of ideas for which crowdfunding is a good thing. These are ideas that are really great but have not been able to attract funding because investors (mistakenly) didn't see their potential.

Ideas like that only comprise 1%, at most, of all kickstarter projects. The vast majority are either incredibly dumb or the creators have not made the effort to find funding and just went straight to kickstarter.

As for OP, though, it doesn't matter to me whether 50% or 100% or 0% of the project has already been done. What I want to see is the potential for it to get done. I want to see credentials and a plausible story for why they're on kickstarter, not a feel-good video with shots of the creator's kids ('give me money, I have to support my children!') set to strumming guitar music.

about a week ago
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When Scientists Give Up

Beck_Neard Re:Easy solution (348 comments)

That's completely wrong. The search for and discovery of the Higgs Boson, aside from the eventual applications it could have, has had a bunch of immediate ones as well. Advances in mathematics and particle accelerator tech (better magnets, refrigeration, plasma containment, etc.) to name just a few.

about two weeks ago
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When Scientists Give Up

Beck_Neard Re:Doesn't surprise me (348 comments)

Let's consider science during the dark ages. A good portion of the nobility would have private 'labs' where they'd fund scientists (alchemists/philosophers/geometers/astronomers) and give them virtually unlimited freedom to research what they want. Of course it's true that the number of scientists was much smaller back then.

Is the current age of anti-intellectualism so much better than that environment? We seem to take for granted that it is, but it doesn't seem obviously so, at least to me.

about two weeks ago
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When Scientists Give Up

Beck_Neard Re:If you think research is bad (348 comments)

That's actually an interesting observation. I wonder if there is a common cause, beyond global economic hardship.

about two weeks ago
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When Scientists Give Up

Beck_Neard Re:Easy solution (348 comments)

When an experiment can't be reproduced, it's not fraud. It's a very common occurrence for experiments to be non-reproducible. Non-scientists seem to be of the opinion that science requires meticulous back-and-forth checking in order for stuff to be published. It doesn't. A published paper just means, "Hey everyone, we did this experiment and got these results, and we can't figure out if we're wrong. Would you guys mind double-checking our work?"

Fraud, on the other hand, is deliberate manipulation (or fabrication) of results. This is not a common occurrence at all. When it happens it usually makes the news and you get a bunch of people fired.

about two weeks ago
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When Scientists Give Up

Beck_Neard Re:Easy solution (348 comments)

Science is hard and requires years of experience. Virtually no PhD students produce ground-breaking discoveries, simply because they aren't at the level of expertise yet where they can do that. A PhD is a way of obtaining the expertise required to carry out research.

However, whenever you hear about a lab that discovered something amazing, it's almost certain that the grunt work of carrying out experiments and collecting data was done by grad students. You're right that most scientists are stuck doing boring, repetitive, non-creative work, because guess what, that's exactly what most of science is.

about two weeks ago
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When Scientists Give Up

Beck_Neard Re:Easy solution (348 comments)

Companies will not fund anything that falls outside their extremely narrow idea of what's "useful." Basically, anything that cannot be turned into a profitable product within 5 years is off the table. This means basically 99% of science. True, places like Microsoft Research exist, but they are relics of the past and most of them are in the process of winding down and shutting down.

about two weeks ago
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When Scientists Give Up

Beck_Neard Re:Easy solution (348 comments)

As much as republicans like to pretend they are shit-kicking retards, the reality is that science funding has tended to fare better under republicans.

about two weeks ago
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When Scientists Give Up

Beck_Neard Re:Easy solution (348 comments)

The debt is just a number that various groups start throwing at each other when they don't get their way. It means almost nothing in the real world, as no one is ever going to pay it. We have plenty of money to fund science. We just don't want to, apparently.

about two weeks ago
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UN Study Shows Record-High Increases For Atmospheric CO2 In 2013

Beck_Neard Re:Meanwhile in the real world... (427 comments)

I don't think they can all be categorized in the same way. There are the "look at me I'm smart because I'm skeptical of everything" types that you mention, plus the crazy conspiracy nut types, the oil industry types, and also the religious types.

By the way, just for the sake of fairness, there are also a lot of nuts in the climate change camp too. But what matters is the science and evidence which firmly points to anthropogenic climate change being true.

about two weeks ago
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UN Study Shows Record-High Increases For Atmospheric CO2 In 2013

Beck_Neard Re:Meanwhile in the real world... (427 comments)

> or cutting the amount of coal plants which is the worst culprit.

Which is pretty much the exact thing that responsible policymakers have recommended doing, so I don't see your point.

about two weeks ago
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Is It Time To Split Linux Distros In Two?

Beck_Neard Re:Hogwash (280 comments)

I entirely agree.

about two weeks ago

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