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Math and Science Popular With Students Until They Realize They're Hard

RedEaredSlider My own path through science (580 comments)

OK, I started out as a Physics/ Astronomy major, and even got through three semesters of intro (all the way to elementary QM) and three semesters of math (thru diffy Q) as an undergrad. My problem, and why I became an English major: I was in the 3rd semester phys class and the math breaks out, and I am fine until they started using bra-ket notation. (If you don't know what I mean it's stuff like and used a lot in QM) I had no idea what it was. I hadn't seen it in a math class yet. the math and physics departments evidently never spoke to one another so there wasn't ay "matching" of the curricula, so if you got to the right notation in math you were ok but god help you if it was unfamiliar. I was too embarrassed to ask about it, probably. I didn't give up a sci major for *just* that reason. Originally I wanted to do both a liberal arts and a science degree. Yeah, I bit off more than I could chew. And I got interested in a lot of other things, like language learning (which I was more naturally talented at no question). But I did feel that I was falling behind in physics and was getting a bit frustrated I think. Even with pretty OK grades. But all that said, math builds up from one step to the other. I think it's like bicycle riding -- a lot of things stay once burned in. Anyhow, I did OK in my physics classes, and even the math. I was a B student and probably could have stuck it out. Interestingly, 20 years down the line I am back in math again. And I did Vector Calc and loved the class. My prof gave a take-home exam and I loved the fact that me and other students could argue over solutions. In one interesting instance I had the answer to a problem and I had to convince 2 other people I was right. I really learned that one! I think, even though I got a B-, (I glitched on the final, blanking on L'Hopital's rule for more than one variable, for christ's sake, I was so anxious) but my teacher was so good I felt like I learned a lot. And I still remembered, with a little prodding, the calc I took 20 years ago. Funny how it stays with you. Then this summer I was in Linear Algebra. And it was the most frustrating math class ever, for me. Lots of memorization of proofs. Abstractions way more than Vector Calc. I found it VERY hard. Much more so than vector calc even. A totally different skill set. I find that kind of abstract math more challenging for some reason. (Though I finally learned what the hell bra-ket notation meant. If someone had told me that in 1989... ) I think it's a combination of difficulty, preparedness, and the hit-or-miss setup of curricula at various colleges. And you have to have - as others here have said -- instructors who can help students with the things they struggle with. That's an art and there are no hard and fast answers or easy methods. I'll be taking partial diffs at some point soon I think. Will have to break out my old calc book and study ahead tho. (Finishing that physics BA. I really kind of dug intermediate E&M this time around).

about a year and a half ago
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Fish Evolve Immunity To Toxic Sludge

RedEaredSlider Re:copy and paste to humans (2 comments)

Not as easy as all that. Mammals have the same AFR proteins but the atual function of those proteins isn't entirely clear. What scientists DO know is that if you mess with them you get developmental problems.

more than 3 years ago
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New Fed Agency Proposed to Tax Cars by the Mile

RedEaredSlider They do this already (6 comments)

They already do this. The Mass Pike, NY Thruway, NJ Pike, all "tax" you by how far you go. Simple enough. Seems to work well enough. (The EZ pass is a great little invention, at least insofar as it speeds things up a bit). Now, could you do this on every city street? Probably not worth it. As to whether one should charge usage fees for things like roads, well, that's another debate, but you're going to pay for it one way or the other. Since the private sector has demonstrated that it won't build such things then the government has to do it. A more salient question is why ther eis no choice in many American cities. That is, I live in NYC where I can drive -- but that would be an insane thing to do. I can do without a car here (even in Queens, until you get rather far from Queens Boulevard). In LA, driving is still an insane thing to do -- I've been on the I-5. But there is no real choice. Basically, you have to drive (or take the bus which is just a step removed, though a slight improvement in a few respects). For people in NJ, who commute, there are many instances where it is cheaper to take NJ Transit into the city five days a week rather than pay the tolls on the road (plus gas). If NJ transit could get its act together they might one day be able to balance the road load a bit better -- the old corridor where 287 is now would be a good start.

more than 3 years ago
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Tech That Failed To Fail

RedEaredSlider Well, they were half right (1 comments)

Satellites have been primarily for International communications, so Craven was right -- partly -- about that. The big use for them was international phone calls and ship to shore (it's why Inmarsat is in business). Of course there's the military, but that kind of falls into the same category. The companies that have tried to do sat communications within the US only have been financial failures, though technically sweet. (TerreStar, anyone?) Many technologies do better than predicted because people find a way to commercialize them. You have to remember that the trend of something becoming cheaper and easier to produce doesn't always hold true, even for electronics. Sometimes there are physical limits, sometimes social ones. (Housing, for instance, has gotten far more expensive relative to income, despite many technological advances since 1940, including the pre-fab house and wallboard. Computers have done the reverse). Television was pretty expensive to do in 1940 and there probably didn't seem to be many reasons to have one. Many times the predicted use of a technology is rather different fro what it actually gets used for. Techies are just as guilty of this as anyone else. How many slashdot readers are old enough to remember the old IBM PC platforms, and what we all thought we'd be doing with them in the 1980s? And how many of us were completely, utterly wrong? Look at computers in sci-fi movies from that period and look at what was in the popular consciousness.

more than 3 years ago
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FCC Approves Changes To Cable Box Rules

RedEaredSlider help me out (439 comments)

I think we forget sometimes that most people want to just turn the TV on and go to a channel and have it work. I don't want to mess with hooking up an Xbox. (I don't own one). As a non-technical person I find Apple TV and Google TV or whatever to be completely opaque and frustrating to use at best. I like streaming on Netflix but it doesn't work well on my TV if I try to hook up the computer to it. And I never had a card in my cable box-- there's a slot for one (it's a Scientific Atlanta model) but I never got one from Time Warner. I just want to watch the freaking television. That is what it is for. For those of us who just want to watch TV, is there any real benefit to cable box competition? Will it matter? I know many people here are more technically-minded. But I am not. And also, I suspect, are 90 percent of TV viewers. I don't want to mess with a zillion different devices trying to figure out how to connect, you know? I like the on demand service, but again, i just want to point the remote and have it work. No fuss no muss. So, will some more technically sophisticated person out there help explain to me why this is going to matter? I'm not being just flippant. I really want to know what this will do for me.

more than 4 years ago

Submissions

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New Cyanide Antidote Could Save Lives In Terror Attacks

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  about 2 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "If you plan on terrorizing the world with cyanide poison, you may have to think up another way. Steve Patterson, at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Drug Design, and his team have made an antidote that can be given with a simple injection. It's based on a sulfanegen triethanolamine (TEA). The sulfanogen allows the body to convert the cyanide to a much less toxic chemical called thiocyanate. It works fast, in minutes rather than hours, and is less involved than current antidotes to administer. It could also be a big help in industrial accidents, in which a few people get injured or killed by cyanide every year."
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Dry Run Brings Fusion Closer?

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 2 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Fusion is often derided as "the energy source of the future — and it always will be." But now at Sandia they've done the first in a series of experiments that could lead to a working reactor, and one that doesn't require developing new technologies or a tokamak. Using a cylinder of berylium, they showed that you can crush it with a magnetic field, which would in turn crush any (pre-heated) deuterium-tritium mix inside it. That would result in a fusion reaction. The next step is to try the same experiment with real fuel inside. There's still some way to go, but this experiment does show what concrete steps can be taken (assuming each experiment works) on the way to building real fusion power plants."
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Flash Memory Slashes Power Use At Data Centers

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 2 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Researchers from Princeton's School of Engineering and Applied Science have written a program called SSDAlloc, which tells a computer running to pretend that it's running using RAM, even though it's actually accessing the storage (flash) memory.

Most computers are designed to look in the RAM first for the data they need. Only after that does the operating look elsewhere, such as on the hard drive or a flash drive. That kind of hierarchical searching around can really slow things down.

SSDAlloc changes that, basically making a computer pretend the flash is the RAM. That cuts power consumption by up to 90 percent, the researchers say, because flash doesn't need power to run nor does it use the power that hard drives do."

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New Glass Gets No Grit, Repels Water

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 2 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Researchers at MIT have developed a new kind of glass for displays — one that repels water and grit. The bonus: it can be made with exiting technology and equipment. The glass surface is made up of nanometer-scale cones (they actually can stand up to quite a lot of force) that prevent dirt and water from sticking to the surface."
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'Cyberplasm' Robot Could Detect Disease

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 2 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Scientists are looking at the lowly lamprey for inspiration on building a robot that would swim around the insides of people and check for various disorders. The idea is to combine microelectronics with advances in glucose-powered artificial muscles, and use living cells as parts of the sensor. The lamprey-like bot is called a 'Cyberplasm' and would react to the environment the way an animal does."
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Biplane Could Go Supersonic Without the Boom

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 2 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes ""Supersonic passenger jet service ended with the Concorde's retirement in October, 2003, but that hasn't stopped people from trying to build a successor. At MIT an aeronautics professor turned to a design that dates to the 1950s to design a biplane that can travel faster than sound.

Qiqi Wang, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, used Busemann's Biplane, named for Adolf Busemann, as the basis for his idea. Sixty years ago, Busemann proposed that a plane moving at supersonic speeds that had two pairs of wings, almost joined at the tips to form a hollow space, would create an airflow that eliminated sonic booms.""

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Digital Dictionaries Save Vanishing Languages

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 2 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "There are some 7,000 languages spoken in the world, and half of them could be gone by 2100. To rescue these languages, two linguists decided to use a combination of digital recording technology and the Internet.

K. David Harrison and Gregory Anderson are compiling what they call "talking dictionaries." Some of the languages they recorded have never been documented before. In 2010, they made the first recordings of Koro, for example, a language spoken by only a few hundred people in northeastern India.
Some of the work is available online. In one case, a community in Papua New Guinea that speaks a language called Matukar Panau, with only 600 speakers, asked that the language be put on the Internet even though it was only in the last two years that their village received electricity."

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Avoiding Red Lights by Booking Ahead

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 2 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Peter Stone, associate professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, has presented an idea at the AAAS meeting today for managing intersections: a computer in a car calls ahead to the nearest intersection it is headed towards, and says it will arrive at a given time. The intersection checks to see if anyone else is arriving then, and if the slot is open, it tells the car to proceed. If it isn't, it tells the car that and the car is responsible for slowing down or stopping.

He says that even with only a few connected cars, the system still works, even if the benefits are still only to those who have the connected vehicles."

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A Cloak In Time Can Secure Networks

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 2 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Cloaks in time as well as space have been studied as a way to hide things — but they can also reveal. Some work on the time cloaking at Cornell has led some scientists to the idea that you can use the cloaking effect to show whether a signal has been tampered with. Stitching together two pieces of a pulse of light masks any events that take place in the gap between the parts of the pulse, but if you tamper with the signal the gap shows up again."
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An End To Removing Shoes In Airports?

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 3 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "The ritual of shoe removal has become familiar to air travelers flying inside and out of the United States, but most people still don’t like it. It takes time to do and slows down the security line.

Matthew Staymates of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, thinks he and his colleagues might have developed a way around having every passenger remove shoes for screening. The trick is to pick up trace amounts of explosives. Staymates came up with a device that blows particles off surfaces and analyze them.

The air jets to blow the particles off the passenger’s shoe would be located in some strategic locations. One version of the device might be a kiosk-style contraption the passengers would step into (similar to the body scanners in use at many airports). The sampling system can collect particles in a few seconds."

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The Robot With a Smart Phone Brain

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 3 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "One of the limitations of robot kits is that they can be complicated to use and build, and even the simplest ones require some hardware expertise. But now any smart phone can be a robot, thanks to the folks at Romotive.

The concept is quite simple: put a wheeled chassis on a smart phone or iPod Touch that allows for using the device as the “brain.” But that simplicity is what makes the robot, called Romo, powerful. Since the controls are contained entirely within the phone, they can be downloaded as apps. One can add new physical capabilities to Romo -– a claw, or a scoop -– but that doesn’t require any new additions to the phone.
Also, the controls are through the headphone jack. That simplifies the design and means that the robot doesn’t need to be linked with only one brand of smart phone."

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New Telescopes Might See Alien City Lights

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 3 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Forget radio signals. Two scientists, Abraham Loeb, of Harvard University and Edwin Turner, from Princeton University, have said it may be possible with the next generation of telescopes to pick up the lights from cities on alien planets. On Earth, city lights are so bright they can be seen from space — and their spectral signature differs from that of the gases in the atmosphere and the sun. If one were looking at an alien civilization, one would expect to see the same thing.

The reason they proposed this is that aliens may not generate as much radio energy as their technology improves, given that on Earth we bleed less radio energy into space as we have moved to fiber optics."

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Gecko-Inspired Robot Rolls Up Walls

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 3 years ago

RedEaredSlider writes "We all love climbing robots. A group of researchers in Canada has decided to combine the mechanism geckos use to stick to walls with the simplicity of a tank tread. The result is a 'bot that can roll up smooth (and some not so smooth) surfaces. Such robots are easier to control than those that try to simulate walking directly."
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Terminator-Like 'Bot Moves LIke a Human

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 3 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Boston Dynamics, with funding from DARPA, has built a robot that simulates human movement and looks a lot like the Terminator. But it isn't designed for hunting down enemy soldiers — it's for testing out military equipment such as chemical and biohazard suits. By moving realistically it can test the suits without needing to call for volunteers."
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Robots Take Paparazzi's Jobs!

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 3 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Eddie, short for Expandable Development Discs for Innovation and Experimentation, is a robot platform developed by Microsoft that uses a Kinect, a DSLR camera as well as an array of infrared sensors to snap party pictures.

Eddie roams the room, looking for a person. Once it finds one, it gets them centered in the image and clicks the shutter. Though the potential for embarrassing shots here is pretty large, one question is what happens to the paparazzi at those big celebrity shindigs. It is a lot easier to control what a robot does and it won't care about a big payout from he tabloids — Kate Moss would have been safe from any revelations about (possible) drug use."

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Fish Evolve Immunity To Toxic Sludge

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 3 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Fish in the Hudson River and the harbor in New Bedford, Mass., have evolved resistance to PCBs. In the Hudson, a species of tomcod has evolved a way for a very specific protein to simply not bind to PCBs, nearly eliminating the toxicity. In New Bedford, the Atlantic killifish has proteins that bind to the toxin (just as the do in mammals) but the fish aren't affected despite high levels of PCBs in their cells. Why the killifish survive is a mystery."
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Pico-projected Images Can Now Touch

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 3 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "From the annals of “wouldn't it be cool if you could” comes SideBySide. It’s a projection system that allows mobile devices to put an image on a wall that can interact with another image projected by another device.

So, if two people wanted to play a version of, say, a boxing game, they could project the images onto the wall from two separate phones, without needing to hook up to a single computer or gaming system. No other equipment is needed.

The technology, invented by a team at Disney Research in Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University, works is by projecting both visible light and infrared. The devices the researchers built have a camera that monitors the projected images, a sensor that measures range and an inertial measurement unit similar to the accelerometer components in tablets and many smart phones."

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Cars Will Now Read Yor Texts To You

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 3 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "As long as people are going to text while driving, you can at least cut down the distraction, and that's what Ford has done. The latest version of the company's SYNC system reads texts to the driver, so you don't need to pull out the phone to read them. If nothing else it keeps the eyes on the road."
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Robot Builds Itself With Foam

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 3 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Combine off-the-shelf insulation foam and modular robot components and you get a self-assembling robot that could be fit to a variety of tasks.

The Modular Robotics Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, in a project led by Shai Revzen, has created a robot that can be assembled from foam that hardens and pieces that allow the robot to move. The “foambot” looks ungainly, and it is. But once you have a shape — and a task — in mind, the foam sprayer can lay down a body plan that fits.

The robot’s parts are CKBot modules, which can be taken apart and reassemble themselves, because the components can recognize where they are in relation to each other. The foam is commercially available insulation, and it turns out such foam is a great material. The foam expands up to 30 times their initial size, and is actually quite strong. That means that the apparatus building a robot can be smaller than what it is building."

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Alarm Clock Syncs With Your Brain

RedEaredSlider RedEaredSlider writes  |  more than 3 years ago

RedEaredSlider (1855926) writes "Sleep has a cycle that lasts about 90 minutes and involves four stages, two of which are lighter and easier to wake from. If you wake somebody up during the light periods they feel more refreshed, whereas doing so during deep sleep produces the urge to turn over and pull the blanket over your head. By monitoring the stages of sleep a person is in, an alarm clock could be set to only go off at times when a person is sleeping lightly.
A research team in India put electrodes on a subject’s head to monitor their brain activity with an EEG, and linked the output to the alarm clock. That isn’t so convenient, but a headband could be set up that would be worn whilst in bed. The electrodes could even be wireless.
This is more than just a comfort exercise: sleep is important to maintaining cognitive function and overall health. (In fact, depriving someone of sleep is classified as torture in many countries). Even though the precise functions of sleep are still unknown, it’s clear that a lot of adults in the industrialized world aren’t getting enough of it."

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