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New Mexico Levies $54M Against Energy Dept. For Violations At Nuclear Repository

Rostin Re: The real problem of nuclear is close ties to g (36 comments)

WIPP was designed, owned, and run by the government, or at least by contractors who may as well be government employees. The problematic waste was packed by employees of Los Alamos National Labs, a government facility. I don't know exactly where you intended to go with this, but I very much doubt anyone involved felt that they were somehow beyond government accountability.

about two weeks ago
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Man Caught Trying To Sell Plans For New Aircraft Carrier

Rostin Re: Standard FBI followup (388 comments)

I doubt the FBI is overly concerned about the amateur lawyers on Slashdot accusing them of entrapment. A more likely explanation is that there is some sensitivity (legal, security, law enforcement strategy, whatever) surrounding what originally made the FBI suspicious of him.

about two weeks ago
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Programmer Father Asks: What Gets Little Girls Interested In Science?

Rostin Re: Yeesh (584 comments)

I don't know. I'll get back to you after I get home from work and have some time to think about it. One possibility is, as I said in my first comment, economics. It's possible that in very competitive economies with high unemployment and not so great standard of living, women feel pressured to choose more remunerative or stable careers or careers in high demand. Since we're asking questions, why do you believe it's really just culture and not also partially an innate difference? It is uncontroversial that men have (on average) superior spatial reasoning. It seems at least plausible that this difference would lead to men and women choosing different careers, all else being equal. I'm not trying to argue that women shouldn't or can't be engineers or that there are no cultural factors at all. Sex discrimination on an individual basis is wrong, and we should all work harder to get over our prejudices. But that doesn't imply that our goal state should be equal representation. It's entirely possible that at some point along the way to achieving that, a point we've perhaps already sailed past, our encouraging of girls will become more like arm twisting. I'm rambling now, but I worry about what we're communicating to boys with all this stuff. Young children perhaps don't understand why girls are being particularly encouraged. Boys are already about a third less likely to go to college, a problem not many seem very concerned about.

about two weeks ago
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Programmer Father Asks: What Gets Little Girls Interested In Science?

Rostin Re:Yeesh (584 comments)

Several months ago I read an article about women in STEM in countries that are not known for being particularly egalitarian, like India and Iran. (I may be remembering the countries incorrectly.) The gist was, they are beating out the United States in terms of women achieving parity in STEM careers.

Some take this as a great embarrassment. Iran is beating the US! What a stunning indictment!

The author of the article had a different hypothesis. Maybe the difference is (partially) explained by the fact that women in the United States have more, not less, freedom (social and economic) to choose the careers they want, and the overall result of those freely-made choices is lots of women in health care and so forth and not so many in STEM fields.

about two weeks ago
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2014 Nobel Prize In Physics Awarded To the Inventors of the Blue LED

Rostin Re:More of an "Engineering" Nobel (243 comments)

Applied economics. Engineers usually need to find robust solutions that are constrained by or that make pareto-optimal use of scarce resources.

about 2 months ago
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High School Student Builds Gun That Unlocks With Your Fingerprint

Rostin Re:99.99%, eh? (600 comments)

Approximately 30,000 gun homicides occur per year in the US. Because they don't necessarily involve a homicide or even a shooting, the number of defensive gun uses is much harder to estimate. Wikipedia says that scholarly estimates are as low as 55,000-80,000 per year but may be as high as several million per year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D...

about 3 months ago
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Companies That Don't Understand Engineers Don't Respect Engineers

Rostin It goes both ways (371 comments)

Engineers frequently are know-it-alls who prioritize what they personally find interesting or meaningful over what's important to the business. Indeed, if business priorities are considered at all, they are thought of as an impediment rather than the reason most of us have paying jobs. Then when their manager tries to redirect their work, they retreat back to their cubes to grumble among themselves (or a few million friends on /.) about how idiotic and hopelessly out-of-touch their managers are with the nitty-gritty technical details or their work. This way of thinking about management is so in-grained and common that there's a very popular comic strip about it.

Maybe if more engineers figured out how to understand and appreciate decision-making on the "business side" or at least gave the same benefit of the doubt that they expect to receive from managers, they would find that their relationships with their companies would not be so adversarial.

about 4 months ago
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Berlin Bans Car Service Uber

Rostin Re:Uber is quite retarded (341 comments)

Regardless of who has to pay for the medallion, they are an artificial barrier to new competitors who wish to enter the market. They protect established companies at the expense of new ones, which stifles innovation and hurts everyone. Telling me to "get used to it" is silly. Laws can be changed, and when they are unfair or not in the public interest, they should be.

I don't know what you mean when you say "That is how things are!" Are you telling me that there are no ambulances in Berlin, and that when people are near-fatally injured and in serious danger of bleeding to death, they call a taxi to get to the nearest hospital? I admit I've never been to Germany, but I find that very difficult to believe.

about 4 months ago
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Berlin Bans Car Service Uber

Rostin Re:Uber is quite retarded (341 comments)

Bottom line the extra license for the driver is cheap, perhaps up to 1000Euros, and as it is not a real cab, they don't need the cab permit from the city (AFAIK).

Uber's and Lyft's business model relies on individuals driving their own cars, many of whom do it part time to make a little extra money. A thousand euros is a very significant hurdle to someone like that. Maybe cab drivers should be required to obtain a special, more expensive license, but it's not convincing that this license is no big deal because it costs "only" 1000 euros. I'll take your word for it that Berlin doesn't require any extra permits, but FYI cities in the US usually require cab companies to obtain a so-called "medallion" for each taxi they wish to operate. There are a fixed number of medallions, which limits the total number of taxis. In NYC, when a medallion becomes available, it can go for upwards of a million dollars. In other large cities, the cost can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's clear why both city governments and established taxi companies are fighting tooth and nail to get Uber and Lyft kicked out of their cities.

Why? Because I don't want to bleed to death when a friend flags down a 'cab' and asks to get me to the next hospital and the stupid driver takes the third best route to the second closest hospital or needs 3 minutes to pick one from his navi.

Ridiculous. Regardless of whether an Uber driver is qualified to drive a taxi, a taxi is not an ambulance.

about 4 months ago
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Berlin Bans Car Service Uber

Rostin Re:There's more to EU transport than cheapness (341 comments)

The EU has a lot of consumer protection laws designed to look after their residents (now there's a thought), a concept that is completely foreign in the US where it seems that only company profits matter.

I'm sure all of these laws exist only and exactly to protect residents rather than established companies, trade unions, professional organizations, and other political donors against upstarts like Uber.

about 4 months ago
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Berlin Bans Car Service Uber

Rostin Re:Uber is quite retarded (341 comments)

Just because a law applies to everyone equally doesn't make it a good or fair law. I think most people would agree that some regulations of this kind are for the public good, while others only serve to unfairly protect established businesses by making it difficult for new competitors to enter the market.

about 4 months ago
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Why Scientists Are Still Using FORTRAN in 2014

Rostin Re:I never thought about engineering and Fortran (634 comments)

I am not a software engineer, so my speculations here should be taken with an extra grain of salt. With that disclaimer out of the way, my understanding is that Fortran is falling out of favor mostly because scientific and engineering software is growing more complex. At the same time, we are depending more on its reliability, and it is being more widely used by people other than the researchers who developed it. Language features like classes and templates that make developing complicated, reusable, and maintainable code more tractable are baked right into C++. Fortran has some of these kinds of features, but they are almost an afterthought, and I've never actually seen an object oriented Fortran code in the wild. The main things Fortran has going for it, like native vector and matrix operations, complex numbers, and (arguably) greater speed, are no longer enough of a selling point.

about 7 months ago
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Why Scientists Are Still Using FORTRAN in 2014

Rostin Re:Fortran is NOT the language of choice (634 comments)

I don't understand what you mean, so maybe some explanation is needed. Fortran may be a "scientific" programming language, but it was also the language of choice for engineers for a long time. The advantages that Fortran had over other, lower level languages were things like native complex numbers and built-in transcendental functions, features useful to both scientists and engineers.

about 7 months ago
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Why Scientists Are Still Using FORTRAN in 2014

Rostin Fortran is NOT the language of choice (634 comments)

I have a PhD in engineering, and my dissertation involved writing lots of code. Now I work at a national lab in the US, and I and nearly all of my coworkers work on scientific or engineering codes of some sort. Although there is significant amounts of legacy code that was written in Fortran lying around (a project I work on uses a fortran library written in 1973), very little development is done in that language. It's all C++ or Python.

about 7 months ago
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Cadillac Unveils Pricier Alternative To Tesla Model S

Rostin Re:The $5,000 gets you... (196 comments)

I think if they'd negotiated it for themselves, even the staunchest "Randroid" would have difficult objecting. The fact is, Detroit car companies had guns to their heads in the form of the NLRB. I would never blame the poor fortunes of American automakers solely on the fleecing they've suffered at the hands of the government-backed unions, but it's nonetheless obvious why Toyota chose to build their US factories in right-to-work states.

about a year ago
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Neil deGrasse Tyson Says Private Business Will Not Open the Space Frontier

Rostin Smart Guy (580 comments)

Tyson is a smart guy, but probably out of his depth in this case. I doubt he's ever taken more than a couple of economics or business courses, let alone run a successful business on the scale of Paypal, SpaceX, or Tesla. Sadly, he's suffering from the same delusion that lots of people like him eventually contract. Being expected to comment as a kind of "public intellectual" on all things space and science related has given him the misapprehension that he can comment intelligently on anything, including things he doesn't know much about.

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Scientific Research Positions For Programmers?

Rostin If you don't have a family (237 comments)

Look into getting a PhD or at least an MS in the science you're interested in. In my (pretty limited, admittedly) experience, the developers who do the heavy lifting on scientific codes are PhDs. At the same time, very few (almost 0) freshly minted science or engineering PhDs have any experience developing software in a production environment, so as long as you aren't terrible at interviewing, I think you'd be a shoe-in at a national lab or a company that does this kind of work after you finish.

FYI, because you probably don't know this, getting a PhD in a hard science or engineering is usually free (to you). In fact, they even pay you to do it. The stipend will be a half or a third or a quarter of what you're making now, but it's enough to live on. The challenge of course is that with little or no educational background in geology or whatever, it's going to be harder, though not impossible, to get into a good PhD program. At the very least, they will expect you to take a few undergraduate courses in the beginning to give you the baseline knowledge that most of your classmates will arrive with. And I would urge you to shoot for a top 10 or 20 department. On the BS level, where you got your degree doesn't matter much (again, in my experience). Where you get your PhD matters a lot more. Of all places, academia should be a meritocracy, but in reality, people with PhDs can be really petty about these things, and your lineage matters. At the very least, many places that would hire someone like you only directly recruit at a limited number of schools, and those schools tend to be the best ones.

Another thing you might consider to help you get around this lack of science background is applying to an applied math program that has a scientific emphasis. I had a friend at The University of Texas who was in the computational science and applied math program there, and his research was about computational fluid dynamics. Maybe dig around on their website, or the websites of similar programs, to see if any of the faculty have research collaborations with geologists.

about a year and a half ago
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Hardly Anyone Is Buying 'Smart Guns'

Rostin Re:Smart guns... (814 comments)

I'm glad you asked. The answer, according to a preliminary report which was written at the request of the President and very recently released, guns are probably used for defensive purposes at least as often as they are used for criminal purposes. Here's a summary of a few interesting points made in the report. Point #7 addresses your exact question.

about a year and a half ago
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Electrical Engineering Labor Pool Shrinking

Rostin Re: Quite so! (401 comments)

Engineering coop positions and internships pay very generously in the US. On the other hand, the amount of useful knowledge and skills gained in such positions is pretty negligible, so I don't think the person you responded to was correct. They serve mostly as ways for companies to get tedious, low skill work done and to inexpensively vet potential future employees.

about a year and a half ago
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Seeing Atomic Bonds Before and After Reactions

Rostin Re: Fascinating (47 comments)

Good luck examining the structure of a single molecule using crystallographic techniques.

about a year and a half ago

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