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Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science

golden age villain Re:nothing was 'such an issue decades ago' Huh? (283 comments)

Anyway, the real problem as explained in this series of Nature articles (http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110420/full/472276a.html), is that the number of faculty positions has remained relatively constant in comparison to the vast increase in the number of PhDs awarded. As mentioned by another poster above, this system was created and nurtured by the people who got their faculty jobs in the 1970s and 1980s when they faced very little competition. To paint a slightly caricatural picture, when research budgets expanded, the people in charge used most of the money to expand their own labs rather than to create more tenured jobs.

Because of that, expectations in terms of published research and obtained funding have kept going up to a point where it is very difficult for young people to become independent. Senior established investigators have the better toys, they can take more risks, they have more money, they populate grant panels and can easily stifle competition and control a good part of the review process in top tier journals.

about two weeks ago
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Former Department of Defense Chief Expects "30 Year War"

golden age villain Plague (425 comments)

The bubonic plague was an important factor in the Thirty Years' War. Not exactly a good omen these days...

about three weeks ago
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Peer Review Ring Broken - 60 Articles Retracted

golden age villain Re:Wish I could say I was surprised (178 comments)

For example... maybe one scientist pays another scientist to reproduce his work. Maybe you have big collections of graduate students that as part of their process of getting a degree get assigned some random papers submitted by scientists in their field and they have to reproduce the work.

You don't work in science do you? Being paid for reproducing someone else's work means you are not producing anything original of your own. It doesn't advance your career. Then with respect to your second point, being a graduate student means to perform original research. If your PhD is about reproducing someone else's work, you won't be able to publish anything of significance.

The problem is the system globally: journals, which push for high impact sexy stories; promotion committees, which only look at how many high impact papers scientists have published and at how much funding they have attracted; and finally funding bodies, which only look at publications. If you are not lucky enough to get into a big lab which automatically publishes in high impact journals based on the labhead's reputation, the incentive to game the system is high. You just need to look at all the scandals that have come to light in the last years. You can even buy authorship on papers to which you have contributed nothing (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6162/1035.summary).

about 3 months ago
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Human Language Is Biased Towards Happiness, Say Computational Linguists

golden age villain Re:"Chinese" was at the bottom? (86 comments)

Maybe you should travel to Berlin over the summer.

about 3 months ago
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Citizen Science: Who Makes the Rules?

golden age villain Re:It never stopped (189 comments)

Not in medicine or human/animal biology. It is impossible because of the limitations on animal research. In most countries, you have to have a licence to perform animal experiments and said licence is usually tied in some way to a project and/or to a specific location within which you can perform the experiments. As an amateur you could still probably work with cell cultures but that means having access to an incubator and a sterile lab. Plus I don't know where you would get your cells in the first place. Insects would be possible though but everything beyond that is a no go without a state-approved licence. And unlike what the summary seems to suggest, legislations regulating animal experiments have been in place for a really long time. For instance in the UK, the Cruelty to Animals Act that originally regulated animal experiments was passed in 1876 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruelty_to_Animals_Act_1876.

about 10 months ago
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Citizen Science: Who Makes the Rules?

golden age villain Re:Question and answer (189 comments)

no it can't because amateurs can't do things rigorously enough to meet the 5 sigma thresholds.

Most professional scientists never meet the 5 sigma threshold either.

about 10 months ago
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The Quietest Place On Earth Will Cause You To Hallucinate In 45 Minutes

golden age villain Brain (332 comments)

It is really interesting that in absence of auditory and visual sensory input, the brain quickly fills the void with false experiences. It could just go into quiet mode instead. I like the idea that all of what our brain does is building a representation of our environment and trying to anticipate inputs based on this "simulation".

about a year ago
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Physicists Plan to Build a Bigger LHC

golden age villain Re:Dallas? (263 comments)

On a more serious note, I though the next big project was going to be a linear accelerator. Anybody know why they picked the round one over the straight one?

Isn't that simply because in a circular one you can accelerate the particles continuously through several rotations?

about a year ago
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Physicists Plan to Build a Bigger LHC

golden age villain Money? (263 comments)

I am sure that they like it but the question really is where to find the money. A 80-100 km tunnel surely cannot be cheap. Various sources on the internet indicate a cost of 0.04 to 4 billion dollars per kilometer. And that is for the tunnel alone... Maybe someone from the field could enlighten us?

about a year ago
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Bill Gates's Plan To Improve Our World

golden age villain Re:Most of the problems listed have a single cause (445 comments)

Religion is a convenient wrapping paper when you need to move the crowds, that's it. As the masses are by definition uneducated and uninterested morons, it's simpler to pitch geopolitical issues in terms easily understood by many rather than telling the truth. Leaving aside natural events, the only two (human) driving factors for history are influence and wealth. These are the things that trigger wars, civil wars, revolutions, migrations, etc... And this will never stop because if you can't compete for resources and influence in a civilised manner, it might be that your best rational option is to use violence. As Emil Cioran wrote "L'heure du crime ne sonne pas en même temps pour tous les peuples. Ainsi s'explique la permanence de l'histoire." which roughly translates to "Murder time does not come at the same time for all nations. This explains the continuity of history."

about a year ago
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German Report: Obama Aware of Merkel Spying Since 2010

golden age villain Re:Germany sells nuclear tech to Iran (280 comments)

Or, now that the cat is out of the bag, different fractions within the intelligence community are fighting for its future by leaking information to the press and steering the narrative in the direction they want.

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Language To Learn For Scientific Computing?

golden age villain Re:MATLAB? (465 comments)

All the labs I know in my field (neuroscience) do most of the data analysis and simulations with MATLAB. It is also used to control hardware for data acquisition.

1 year,8 days
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Cyborg Cockroach Sparks Ethics Debate

golden age villain Re:Cockroach rights? (512 comments)

The reason why this is allowed while it is not allowed with, say, a rat or a cat, is because insects do not have a peripheral nervous system and thus do not feel pain like we do.

1 year,17 days
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Cyborg Cockroach Sparks Ethics Debate

golden age villain Re:Cockroach rights? (512 comments)

And who are you to blame them?

1 year,17 days
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The Human Brain Project Kicks Off

golden age villain Re:But how does the brain work? Solve that first.. (251 comments)

This is the same type of arrogance that has led engineers and physicists who have entered neuroscience to contribute almost nothing of significance to the field. They might think otherwise because they live in a bubble, but people in wet labs usually don't care or just ignore them. I recommend that you read a book about your average cell's intracellular machinery before making this kind of statements. The roadblock is complexity. First, we still don't understand how a single cell works as a whole. Second, we have no theories to deal with that level of complexity. I agree with the Human Brain Project's leaders that we have to start somewhere, but knowing that we know essentially nothing about most of the cells in the brain, I think that this is a project for next century. It is the opinion of most people in the field that this is just going to be an immense waste of money. This is not physics in the early 20th century, your model is only as good as your experimental data and it cannot be compared to the Human Genome Project or to the CERN where people essentially scaled up techniques that had been around for years or decades.

1 year,18 days
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The Human Brain Project Kicks Off

golden age villain Re:This time for SURE! (251 comments)

I mean that because neuroscience has extensively focused on neurons, we know very little about glial cells experimentally. So indeed we cannot really study them in simulations because we have no experimental data to base these simulations on. I caricature a bit but that is the idea.

1 year,18 days
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The Human Brain Project Kicks Off

golden age villain Re:This time for SURE! (251 comments)

Only 20% of the cells in the cortex are neurons. We have very little idea what the other cells are doing.

1 year,18 days
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The Human Brain Project Kicks Off

golden age villain Re:Conversion? (251 comments)

It is and the project gets 1 billion euros, not 10. Actually I believe that it gets about 500 M€ in matching funds.

1 year,18 days
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Chinese Seek Greater Say In UK Nuclear Plants

golden age villain Re:Does the UK get any say? (148 comments)

As a London resident, I wish foreign companies had more of a say in the development and maintenance of UK infrastructures. Maybe then the transformer in the street below my apartment would not have spontaneously combusted and exploded some days ago. Anyway they had apparently already abandoned the control of their nuclear plants to the French. How much worse can it possibly get?

about a year ago
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Report: Britain Has a Secret Middle East Web Surveillance Base

golden age villain Re:Yes, and? (237 comments)

Gibraltar would almost for sure not be referred to as "in the Middle East".

about a year ago

Submissions

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Coffee delays brain maturation in adolescent rats

golden age villain golden age villain writes  |  about a year ago

golden age villain (1607173) writes "Slashdot readers are probably well aware of the stimulating effects of our favourite psychoactive beverage. Now, scientists at the Children's Hospital in Zurich show in rodents that consumption of coffee during the period corresponding to adolescence has profound effects on the maturation of the developing brain. From the paper: "Adolescence is a critical period for brain maturation during which a massive reorganization of cortical connectivity takes place. In humans, slow wave activity (less than 4.5 Hz) during NREM sleep was proposed to reflect cortical maturation which relies on use-dependent processes. [...] Caffeine treatment exerted short-term stimulating effects and altered the trajectory of slow wave activity. Moreover, caffeine affected behavioral and structural markers of maturation, delaying all three assessed markers of brain maturation. Thus, caffeine consumption during a critical developmental period shows long lasting effects on sleep and brain maturation.""
Link to Original Source
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Apple to become a cell phone carrier as well

golden age villain golden age villain writes  |  more than 3 years ago

golden age villain (1607173) writes "French news outlets have a story running that Apple is secretly collaborating with the French company Gemalto — developing chips — to develop a new type of SIM card which they could directly embed into their phones. With this new platform, they could act as a virtual cell phone carrier worldwide and shortcut traditional carriers. Subscriptions would be sold through the iTunes Store. Story has it that Gemalto is already threatened by traditional operators which represent 50% of its traditional customers. It seems that the big carriers had a meeting with Jobs in Cupertino where he explained them that, according to his vision, they are barely more than providers of antennas."
Link to Original Source

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