Lockheed Claims Breakthrough On Fusion Energy Project
In four years of work, they've managed to break the "bigger is better" scaling law common to most fusion reactor designs as well as solve the wall material problems common to ALL fusion reactor designs?
Well, that would be something. If only this article told us anything actually useful.
No Nobel For Nick Holonyak Jr, Father of the LED
The materials physics of creating a visible light LED was mirrored by what was going on in solid state transistor development. It was a great feat, but followed the work being done in electronics.
Before actual demonstration of a stable blue LED, theorists in the materials physics community thought it was impossible. The process to engineer the bandgaps for blue/UV LEDs was new and unique. It was an example of the optics guys being ahead of the electronics guys in bandgap engineering.
All that said, inclusion of Holonyak could be justified. His work was good. But... James Baird (who is also still alive) has a much better claim to the general LED discovery (including the first patent) and would be a much, much better inclusion. For IEEE to do an extensive article on Holonyak, but leave out Baird shows that this complaint is a farce.
This award is not about how great LEDs are in general, it's about the quality of physics the blue LED folks did. Appreciate that the award went to guys who did truly great experimental physics.
As a materials physicist, I am very happy with this prize. This is a very important recent discovery to my area of physics. Nobels as "lifetime achievement" awards are disappointing. It's much better to see an award go to someone who can leverage that prestige into new projects.
Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science
Good points there. Channeling people into high school education is something I hadn't considered, but would be helpful.
I tend to be more positive about industry than most scientists. I am biased, but I don't mean we should all work for bean counting businessmen. That's just horrible. I mean that those companies that do help lead science and tech development could have a bigger role in the training process (think Intel, SpaceX or JCVI... ok, maybe biotech has an industrial culture problem).
Hubble is a great example. It was built by a coalition of government labs, Lockheed, and Perkin-Elmer as the leading contractors. Universities were in charge of some small systems, got to help set the specifications, review the design and use the tool. That's what I meant by an industry led project (granted Perkin-Elmer really screwed up on Hubble, so there is that).
Ultimately, you're right, more funding and fewer PhDs are necessary. It doesn't all have to be grants. We used to require all defense contractors spend 15% of their budget on basic R&D. That went away with the Cold War, and it was a mistake to get rid of it.
Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science
I am a scientist and I have been a postdoc (and government grant manager and industrial scientist). This is not new, but is more new to biology than it is to other fields.
This problem is real. Our best researchers can't find a job and are "sitting on the sidelines." The investment in those folks by the government (i.e. your taxes) is going down the drain the longer they're unable to do meaningful work.
My feeling is that the underlying problem is the insulation of academics from the commercial world. Most science professors don't know what is involved in commercial work, don't know the relevant skills for commercial work, and don't have a network for landing jobs for students in industry. There are far too many professors who don't know how to train their students for anything other than academic work, and some who are adamantly against training their students for jobs outside of academia.
The result is that industry jobs that many PhDs expect to get go instead to people who left school with a BS or MS and received more relevant on-the-job training in industry. The truth is that there are very few jobs where the experience of a modern PhD is more meaningful than 6 years of industrial bench work. The government and academia still hire preferentially by degree, but those folks can't hire enough people to put a dent in the supply.
To fix this problem we need radical changes to the way we pursue science. Some possibilities for the future:
1) getting a PhD is "for fun." This is the current reality. If we all accept and understand this, that PhDs have no competitive advantage over MS students in the marketplace, there is no problem. If we do nothing, this will continue and will eventually make the PhD system obsolete.
2) Control of research direction shifts toward industry (i.e. professors become subcontractors on grants to people like Merk and IBM). I doubt many academics would like this, and there would absolutely be problems, but it would generate students with broader skillsets and networks.
3) Control of research shifts back toward government labs. This used to be the way things were. Government labs sat between industry and academia and facilitated movement of people, ideas and funding. Entire funding agencies that supported these labs are gone. Grant managers and review committees used to mostly be active scientists at government labs, that's no longer the case. This would be expensive to get back to and would really be unfair to the foreign scientists making up the majority of our young scientific workforce.
4) Set everyone on the GSA scale. Right now you can get a recent grad in his 3nd year of work funded at $60k/year on a grant to a commercial grantee, but it's almost impossible to get more than $25k for that same work done by a "graduate researcher" in academia. (Even if professors want to do right by their employees, they often can't.) So, don't allow any more $20k/year graduate students on grants. Everyone gets paid based on a combination of local cost of living and experience (years & degrees). That's the GSA scale (ok, it kind-of is). Removing the discount for students would remove free grad school for scientists, but would immediately fix the problem that the best bench scientists can't find jobs.
Whatever happens, the solution is not going to come from inside science. Scientific leaders range from completely disgusted with the human trafficking which is the modern research economy to openly hostile to the idea that this problem needs to be solved. Most people just don't know what to think. There will be no consensus amongst us in science on what, if anything, needs to be done.
Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?
Figure out what you really want to do with this. Do you want to understand everything very broadly? Do you want to become a specialist in a particular niche?
If the answer is broad understanding, lookup dogvomit's post and take the traditional coursework in the traditional order at your pace. There are sets of problems honed over the last 100 years to train people to think like physicists. Then you can go read Einstein and dense particle physics books; that's a lot of fun but probably won't go anywhere. Very, very few physicists contribute generally any more.
If you want to be a specialist, find a very well defined project you could really dig in to and enjoy. Something like one particular measurement you think you could do on your own. Pick something recent that you like. It's all out there on Google Scholar. Fill in the general physics you need as you go, but you'll probably need more engineering, software (and money) than anything else. Above all, please do get in touch with the people who inspired your work!
If you're able to successfully repeat a set of observations, or just do something that looks at all like what some grad student did 5 years ago, you will make their year by sharing it with them. If you can do that even once, you will be well on your way to contributing meaningfully to their field.
To put the time commitment in perspective, this is the kind of thing a new "generalist" physicist will do for 2-3 years full time while learning their specialty. Unless you really like this and find more than 10 hours a week to do it, it could easily take you 10+ years. That's ok. I'd be thrilled to find out someone outside traditional physics replicated my results from 10 years ago.
Journal Published Flawed Stem Cell Papers Despite Serious Misgivings About Work
I think the majority of the scientific publishing culture and industry is bad for science. That said, this is not a fair criticism. It's entirely reasonable to tell someone you expect to see more data in order to publish and to start a conversation among the editor, reviewers and PI as to what is necessary to prove a point. Research is not a perfect process and does not progress in an orderly, predictable manner. There are going to be typos and blind spots in any paper.
In this case, obviously Nature should not have published in the end. We can't know how that decision was reached unless we see all the correspondence between the editor, reviewers and PI. It would be much more useful to the scientific community to see how the PI managed to convince the reviewers to allow publication, rather than to debate what is really a standard rejection response.
How to Maintain Lab Safety While Making Viruses Deadlier
Tissue culture is definitely a thing.
Does that mean it's the only way to gather that information? Would it be possible to develop alternate tools?
Look. Whether you like it or not, we are developing the measurement techniques and hardware that are going to make this antiquated approach to biology obsolete. Feel free to yell and scream while the field passes you by.
How to Maintain Lab Safety While Making Viruses Deadlier
It's not fair at all to link opposition to gain in function research to an "anti-science" mindset. You should be ashamed that you're resorting to that argument.
This is something which is seriously debated in the pages of serious journals, at scientific conferences and by government program managers. To link valid concerns to an "anti-science" crowd is political bullshit maneuvering.
There is a very real and valid cost/benefit analysis to be done on pursuing this work. As biology catches up to the physical sciences in scope and function, you're going to deal with the same issues we have dealt with (I am a physicist). One of those lessons is that scientists don't get to decide the purpose of our work. It doesn't matter what you write in your paper, or what the program manager tells you the purpose of the work is. It doesn't matter WHY someone does the work, all that matters is WHAT the work is. It's extremely naÃve to think an abstract in a research paper can properly define the purpose of a piece of research.
There are experiments and research paths we do not follow because the intellectual benefit does not outweigh the very real possibilities for misuse. You asked how you expect people to validate these hypothesis without the work? Take a page from physical science and learn to use computer modeling and limited experimental work in lieu of full studies. Do some tool development. Don't just throw up your hands and insist this is the only way. It's not.
This will require a cultural change, and there will be lots of hand-wringing over whether new results are valid, but biology will be a more mature field for it.
Getting IT Talent In Government Will Take Culture Change, Says Google Engineer
I've worked for the government in a scientific job, with a lot of IT folks. It was probably the most relaxed atmosphere I've worked in. No expectation to dress better than business casual. No expectation to work overtime. No expectation to really get anything done.
It's that last one that's really the killer. If you're not focused on getting projects done, first and foremost, then you're not going to attract good people.
A good engineer isn't necessary when the jobs at a government office survive only by making the right political and budgetary statements at precisely the right times. With very few exceptions, technical success or failure just doesn't have much influence on your career in the government.
Lastly, 140 engineers will make no difference. The federal government is huge. The office I worked in was a backwater, nearly forgotten location. We had a staff of 5000 people, about half of them engineers and scientists. There are thousands of engineers in the government right now who would love to work on meaningful projects. It's not a lack of talent or manpower that keeps those projects from happening.
Do Dark Matter and Dark Energy Cast Doubt On the Big Bang?
The answer is no.
TFA says this in about 10 pages, with all the gory details.
Can we try no to have clickbait headlines? TFA is a blog called "Ask Ethan" so it makes sense for the title to be a question. A more appropriate headline here would have been "Dark Matter and Dark Energy don't Impact the Big Bang."
New Findings On Graphene As a Conductor With IC Components
Well, that's a terrible summary. At least they linked to the actual paper.
Good on Charlie for getting all this press out of the paper. This is continuation of work started when I worked in his lab (thin graphene transistors can be made with e-beam lithography, that gets you a bandgap and you can actually think about making a digital transistor, this paper has better measurements and better e-beam lithography - there now you don't have to read either of the papers).
It's not clear that any of this stuff will ever be used as actual digital logic. I think it's more likely to see commercialization as an analog transistor in a sensor (reason #1 - no e-beam litho required). Someone from Charlie's group will likely be part of making active graphene electronics work out. He's got former students or postdocs at Intel and IBM, and there are at least two of us with graphene based startup companies. So, we're working on making graphene electronics something other than an academic curiosity.
China Plans Particle Colliders That Would Dwarf CERN's LHC
I think we'd all rather see a world where China competes with the west in science and technology.
I am a scientist and I complain a lot about corruption in funding, publishing, and public representation of science; but as a whole it's a very honest and productive enterprise. This is much better than competing to see who can maintain the lowest cost labor pool or the biggest weapons.
Elite Group of Researchers Rule Scientific Publishing
There's a concept in your post that doesn't quite come across as clearly as it should:
People who are very successful academic scientists are only publishing for a few years, because they're able to go get significantly better jobs outside of academia.
The 1% of folks who are publishing for 16 years strait are very good at getting grants and publishing papers, but have failed during that 16 years to do anything sufficiently interesting or important to distract them from the academic grind for even one year. Most of the great professors I know have spent at least a year starting a company, working for the government, launching a spacecraft or some other very useful, but non-publishable work.
FDA: We Can't Scale To Regulate Mobile Health Apps
With medical devices efficacy and safety are very closely linked. If you're providing a product that monitors blood glucose and you do a poor job of it, your customer makes incorrect medical decisions that are potentially life threatening. The closer an app gets to providing such "actionable" information, the more likely it is that it requires FDA approval.
That said, this "can't be overseen" thing is silly. The FDA doesn't have the resources to oversee ALL smartphone health apps, they don't want to, and they shouldn't. There's no debate there. If the next generation of phones include electrocardiogram electrodes or a sophisticated spectrometer, the FDA is going to regulate the health software using those tools. That's really the news coming out of that FDA statement.
Sigsense is Making Interchangeable, Modular Sensors (Video)
There's a big assumption here that large factories are wirelessly networked...
That's not a great assumption.
Who Helped Kill Patent Troll Reform In the Senate
Universities generally insist that all IP developed as part of a sponsored agreement is owned by the university (as opposed to the inventors or the funders - the two normal ways of doing things). This isn't the "classic" troll behavior, but it's not much better. It has the same result of depriving the actual inventors (small business, professors, grad students) of an opportunity to commercialize their work. It deprives the funders (US government, non profits, small and large business) of IP they should rightly own as well as discouraging people from working together.
Almost all of the research done by universities is done via such sponsored research agreements, not internal funding.
How the Emerging Science of Proteotronics Will Change Electronics
I suppose I was one of the early pioneers in this field, I didn't know it had a name. A few years ago we published a paper on attaching three different olfactory receptors to carbon nanotube transistors and exposing the resulting devices to a half dozen or so chemicals while monitoring the responses. We were trying to produce something which was more usable (i.e. real-time) than the electrochemical methods described in TFA (to be clear, TFA describes very good work, we just had a different approach).
I wouldn't say this is a field which is taking off. It is significantly difficult to combine proteins with electronics. There are very, very few people/research groups who have the combination of abilities and experience to make these devices and properly interpret the results. More often than not, researchers perform laboratory, one-off measurements they can understand, but have no relevance to modern electronics or systems usable outside of the lab they were built in. Another common issue is performing measurements you don't understand, coming to conclusions that are wrong and sending the field off in a useless direction. It is very, very difficult to both build a good experiment AND properly interpret the results. The physics/chemistry guys don't understand the biology and the biologists don't understand the physics/chemistry. It can take many years to just learn to talk to eachother and stop assuming that "standard" processes, assumptions and statistics are applicable. Getting funding for this stuff can be a challenge, because no one really has claimed this field and none of the funding agencies (in the US, at least) seem to understand it. There are a handful of senior academics who can do this stuff, and a growing number of mid-career guys like me, but we're still a very small group.
If people are interested in what's going on with this field, I would recommend looking up the work of Phil Collins at UC Irvine, Ethan Minot at Oregon State and Charlie Johnson at University of Pennsylvania. I'm sure there are other good groups out there, but I know those guys are good.
Static Electricity Defies Simple Explanation
No, that's NOT mentioned in the actual study, just in the press release. Not sure why they're speculating about that at all.
Static Electricity Defies Simple Explanation
This is a great study, really cool. The title is unfortunate (it's clickbait), saved only by the weak qualifier "simple".
The science question here is what is the charge carrier when you rub two identical materials together, electrons or ions? This study does a great job of showing that it's not electrons. At the end of the paper, they point out that small amounts of water adsorbed on the surfaces of these oxides should create H+ and OH- ions in a density that does explain the static generation effect.
This water layer ion creation effect is fairly well known in materials physics. Until now, I don't think it was well known that it played any role in static generation.
Scientists Create Bacteria With Expanded DNA Code
This is the most insightful comment here.
This work is part of the Living Foundries program at DARPA (or at least, related to it). There are collaborating labs working on developing ribosomes to interpret new types of DNA, and other groups working on new amino acids to work with those ribosomes. The whole idea is to change what bio-manufacturing (think fermenting) can do, expanding into materials (drugs, fuels...) existing biology can't work with. This whole effort is going to be going on for many more years.