Slashdot: News for Nerds


Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!



China Plans Particle Colliders That Would Dwarf CERN's LHC

Goldsmith a good thing (218 comments)

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.

4 days ago

Elite Group of Researchers Rule Scientific Publishing

Goldsmith Re:flawed methodology (123 comments)

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.

about two weeks ago

FDA: We Can't Scale To Regulate Mobile Health Apps

Goldsmith Re:Charge what it costs to certify (123 comments)

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.

about three weeks ago

Sigsense is Making Interchangeable, Modular Sensors (Video)

Goldsmith wifi in a factory setting (21 comments)

There's a big assumption here that large factories are wirelessly networked...

That's not a great assumption.

about a month ago

Who Helped Kill Patent Troll Reform In the Senate

Goldsmith Re:Supporters of the plan accuse... (157 comments)

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.

about 2 months ago

How the Emerging Science of Proteotronics Will Change Electronics

Goldsmith didn't know this had a name (29 comments)

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.

about 2 months ago

Static Electricity Defies Simple Explanation

Goldsmith Re:it's explained in the study (86 comments)

No, that's NOT mentioned in the actual study, just in the press release. Not sure why they're speculating about that at all.

about 2 months ago

Static Electricity Defies Simple Explanation

Goldsmith it's explained in the study (86 comments)

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.

about 2 months ago

Scientists Create Bacteria With Expanded DNA Code

Goldsmith Re:no ribosomes to translate into protein (85 comments)

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.

about 3 months ago

Is There a Limit To a Laser's Energy?

Goldsmith "physics" is multidisciplinary (135 comments)

"Physics" is not just one thing anymore. The guy writing TFA, Ethan Siegel, is a bonified professional physicist. Reading the comments, you can see he just didn't know this one thing as well as he thought. How does that happen?

I don't know that there's any physicist going through training today or in the last 20 years who really understands "all" of physics.

Physics PhDs learn most of physics up to about 1910 (even that is a stretch, but at least the complete fields up to that point are introduced and sketched out), and the next 100 years are based on your specialty. The limits of energy density for photons are usually in this realm of "introduced only if directly important to your specialty."

It's up to the individual to fill in the gaps after formal classes, and it can be very hard to figure out what you don't know. It's particularly hard because of the oversimplified way physics is generally taught in undergrad, even to physics majors. Your old reference books may not actually be correct. I'm sure I've got a physics textbook around which claims almost exactly what Ethan said in his blog; the "why" of pair generation is just too distracting.

about 3 months ago

Grad Student Makes Nanowires Just Three Atoms Thick

Goldsmith calling out the grad student (32 comments)

I will reserve my general snark regarding nanotechnology to highlight the fact these guys are putting the grad student up front and acknowledging that he really did all the work.

Could it be? An ethical professor? Professor Pantelides, Vanderbilt and Oak Ridge deserve a ton of credit for breaking the traditional assignment-of-credit mold here. Good job guys.

about 3 months ago

Graphene Could Be Dangerous To Humans and the Environment

Goldsmith Re:Graphene Oxide? Its May 1st , not April 1st (135 comments)

I'm a nanotechnologist who has worked on all these materials, and I've got to support your sentiment here.

Graphene is a great material, it's got a lot of cool properties and it won the Nobel Prize. People discovered that you could make something like graphene, but it had a lot of oxygen incorporated into it. They called it "graphene oxide," with a shorthand of "graphene." Then, other people found that you get more interesting stuff if you replace the oxygen with hydrogen in graphene oxide, leading to "reduced graphene oxide" with a shorthand of... "graphene."

These are all different materials with very different properties. It is very confusing trying to explain this all to people who are not immersed in the field, particularly because everyone seems to default to calling all these materials "graphene." It would be like using the same words to describe electronics grade silicon, glass and sand. Yes, they're all types of silicon, but all of these different materials should have distinct names.

about 3 months ago

Making Graphene Work For Real-World Devices

Goldsmith nanotechnologists (18 comments)

The problem many nanotechnologists have (and I'm one of them) is that they believe if they can only show the right lab measurement, then the rest of the world will come calling and "they" will solve the commercialization problems related to their technology.

The real truth is that no number of studies like this will get graphene any closer to "real world devices." No one is going to solve the fundamental problems of manufacturing process development and material reproducibility for us. Neat lab tricks on "hero devices" aren't going to do it.

about 3 months ago

Phil Shapiro says 20,000 Teachers Should Unite to Spread Chromebooks (Video)

Goldsmith why? (101 comments)

We already load up teachers with tech they have no idea how to use.

Teachers are not engineers or programmers.

Look, the landscape of teaching is shifting enough already. We're seriously going to drive these folks crazy if we continue to change major parts of their job on a yearly basis. The least we could do is give them a little time to catch up with the regulatory changes in teaching before starting on another technology refresh.

about 4 months ago

Evidence Aside, FBI Says Russians Out To Steal Ideas From US Tech Firms

Goldsmith Re:so encourage domestic investors (132 comments)

You have to disclose any foreign investors in an application for government funding; usually you have to disclose all VC firms invested in your company. If the government doesn't like your investors, they're allowed to disqualify you from receiving a contract even if the work has no security implications at all.

If these guys are trying to invest and hide where they're from, that's different, but that's not what the FBI says is happening.

about 4 months ago

Evidence Aside, FBI Says Russians Out To Steal Ideas From US Tech Firms

Goldsmith so encourage domestic investors (132 comments)

Investing in companies is hardly what I would call stealing.

Foreign companies can come in and poach talent and taxpayer funded research from Universities and the startups that come out of them. There's nothing illegal or even remotely unethical there. This is what we wanted! Russian capitalists investing in US companies, US students and US schools. Even if their goal is to move the company to Russia, that's part of how capitalism and globalization work. If we want to encourage researchers to stay in the US, we should do more to encourage direct domestic investment in startups rather than secondary investments like hedge funds.

If we want to completely protect our basic R&D, we have to classify it. That would be sure to drive researchers out of the country.

about 4 months ago

Scientists Publish Letter Saying, "We Need More Scientific Mavericks"

Goldsmith Re:Not so easy to do (126 comments)

What you describe is very close one of my first jobs when I worked for the government (100 proposals, one week, pick 4 winners, summary comments for all). It's not so hard to pick out the "good, but risky" proposals. (Another way to split up your proposal list is to point out that 80 of the proposals will be a re-hash of the same stuff, 30 of the proposals will be nonsense and 10 proposals will actually be about something unique and relevant.)

The most common reason for a creative proposal failing is simply that the program manager wasn't ready for it. You don't want to surprise a program manager because they have to properly prepare the bureaucracy around them to support your project *before* they get your proposal.

When a review committee makes a decision, there are still several government people who have to sign off on that decision before the money flows. There will always be at least one lawyer and one accountant with veto power over a committee selected proposal.

The last thing a program manager wants to do is end the fiscal year with money in their accounts. That can get them demoted or fired. They meet with their support staff sometimes for a year ahead of reviewing proposals to make sure everyone knows what's coming. Slowing things down, or failing to execute a grant, because of administrative surprises is very, very risky for a program manager. There's strong pressure to select institutions who have already worked with the office, and projects that fit well with the briefings given to everyone before proposals were solicited. For unusual ideas, it's better to convene a workshop and spend the next year developing a program around it (by which point all the usual suspects are involved).

Now it used to be that universities themselves funded research, and government scientists used to have broad authority to assign funding, and defense contractors had to spend 15% of their budgets on exploratory research, and we didn't have postdocs... To change things back requires a lot.

about 4 months ago

Lit Motors, Danny Kim, and Changing How Americans Drive

Goldsmith out of touch with reality (144 comments)

People may "commute" alone, but the primary reason for a car purchase is not the commute. We'd all be in smart cars and fiats if all that mattered was getting to work efficiently and staying out of the rain. I think they need to think a bit more about why people (ok, specifically americans) buy cars.

Maybe it's only 20% of the time I need cargo space, passenger space or the ability to mount a child's car seat. The reality is, it's that 20% of the time (moving kids around, weekend trips, runs to the hardware store) that determines what kind of car I drive.

Maybe there is an economic argument to be made for maintaining a second, extremely cheap to operate vehicle. That cost based argument fails here when you consider competing low cost options like a bicycle, electric scooter, bus or a carpool.

about 4 months ago

'Obnoxious' RSA Protests, RSA Remains Mum

Goldsmith Re:On what basis can you make this demand? (99 comments)

I worked as a government employee overseeing R&D contracts. It wasn't that long ago. We were required to post the contracts publically. They're on the websites I mentioned...

about 5 months ago

'Obnoxious' RSA Protests, RSA Remains Mum

Goldsmith Re:On what basis can you make this demand? (99 comments)

Sure, they can release the details of that contract. Government contracts are supposed to be public. Go take a look at and There are plenty of security contracts posted there, just not any between RSA and NSA. It's not the easiest system in the world to navigate, you have to know a lot about government contracting to make sense of it.

But, you'll see military hardware contracts, homeland security database contracts, all of them are published on federal websites as a matter of course (you have to get special approval to not post a contract publically). The government mandates this so that competing companies and the public can see that they're getting a "fair deal". Never mind that a lot of these show they weren't competed, no one actually takes advantage of government transparency when it's available.

about 5 months ago


Goldsmith hasn't submitted any stories.


Goldsmith has no journal entries.

Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account