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Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science

rritterson avoiding doing a postdoc isn't possible (283 comments)

I am a recent Ph.D. graduate in the biological sciences. A few things missing that are important to point out, I think:

Postdocs have the worst salary to education ratio of just about any position anywhere. You are paid, in some cases, 0-1% more than a first year graduate student, except you have 7 years experience and a terminal degree. Where I live, postdocs are paid a salary so low that they qualify for section 8 housing and a number of low-income welfare benefits. Raising a child is impossible, but by the time your postdoc is finished you may be 35 or older.

Unfortunately, refusing to do a postdoc is not a tenable position for many because becoming a faculty member absolutely requires at least one postdoc run, often two. Now, industry is recognizing the glut of postdocs available and are requiring years of postdoc experience for even entry-level industry positions.

about 4 months ago

Major Delays, Revamped Beta For Credit-Card Consolidating Gadget Coin

rritterson Re:I'm missing something about this product, I thi (78 comments)

Merchants will have to take responsibility for fraud committed on mag stripe transactions only if they don't offer the ability to use EMV. If they offer EMV but the customer still swipes, fraud is still on the issuer/processor. Swipe is going to be around for a while still.

about 5 months ago

Big Telecom: Terms Set For Sprint To Buy T-Mobile For $32B

rritterson Re:Two different tech (158 comments)

Why spend all the effort to migrate to GSM off CDMA when they can just migrate both networks to LTE and VoLTE?

about 8 months ago

Science Moneyball: The Secret to a Successful Academic Career

rritterson Re:correlation vs causation? (42 comments)

I see your point, but unlike your tournament analogy, where their is direct competition between players to determine who is the best, academic publishing is only pseudo-competitive--more like figure skating.

There are far more great papers that could be in top tier journals than get published there. Whether your paper ends up there is a combination of which reviewers you happen to land, how your editor at the journal feels that morning, and how many papers you had published there previously. Thus, the majority of the determining factors in the number of top tier papers are not directly related to the scientific skill of the authors.

Certainly scientists who publish many top tier papers are great, but not all great scientists publish many top tier papers. For the number to correlate so strongly with academic success is a bit sad.

Extraordinarily famous and wildly successful scientists are publicly saying they never would have been successful if they had started in today's academic publishing world: http://kingsreview.co.uk/magaz...

about 8 months ago

White House Pressures Legislators Into Gutting USA FREEDOM Act

rritterson What does Obama know that we don't? (284 comments)

There is an apparent and obvious change between pre-Presidential Obama's and Presidential Obama's actions and opinions on surveillance. What's the cause? Is it:

1. Lobbying money from parties that gain from the intelligence industry?

2. Access to top secret data that still hasn't been released showing a compelling need for this information gathering?

3. Some sort of extortion/blackmail information on Obama possessed by someone in intelligence?

4. A realization that most Americans don't actually care about the scope of surveillance, so he wants to appear "tough on terror"?

5. Something else (fill in your own blank)

Recall that he stated strongly that he thought AT&T should pay a legal penalty for the NSA/San Francisco wiretapping mess, then reversed his position and supported immunity for AT&T almost immediately after taking office. That suggests he either learned whatever it was very quickly, or was deceiving us as a candidate.

about 8 months ago

Bug In the GnuTLS Library Leaves Many OSs and Apps At Risk

rritterson Re:Severe, and yet not severe. (231 comments)

Your reasoning is a bit circular. This bug allows governments to do MitM attacks. Governments have already been doing MitM attacks, perhaps by exploiting this bug. Therefore, this bug is no big deal?

SSL/TLS communications are just as secure as they always where, which is to say broken in a widely used library under an implementation/trust model is that is very widely used.

about a year ago

Adjusting GPAs: A Statistician's Effort To Tackle Grade Inflation

rritterson Re:Use Class Rank (264 comments)

The essence of class rank is to compare the student to his/her peers instead of against a fixed measure whose bar can be raised/lowered.

Class rank is problematic though, for a couple of reasons:
-It doesn't make sense to compare GPAs across majors. The article points out that natural science professors already grade more stringently. Class rank across the entire university would only ensure natural science students looked poorly. (And vice versa for humanities students)
-If your GPA is going to be directly compared against others as a measure of your talent, you have an extra incentive to find a way to take the classes offered by the professors who grade most easily, boosting your GPA and thus your class rank.

We actually have a time-tested way of comparing students' performance to each other: grading on a curve. When I was in college (early 2000s, major American public university), all science and math courses were graded on curves, with 10-15% of the class getting As. Most professors had a minimum score that would guarantee a passing grade so that there wasn't a necessity to fail anyone, typically set to some percentage of the median Some students complained that they were doing well and learning the material, but are only getting Bs because of superstars in the course. To that, I say tough, because in the real world, no one is going to hire you to do anything just because you are good enough if another candidate is around who will do a better job than you will.

Fortunately, my university's grading policies were well known enough by employers in my field, so that the relatively lower GPA were taken into account when recruiting. The best students had A's in about 2/3s of courses. Hardly anyone had a 4.0 in even a single semester, just because it's extraordinarily difficult to be in the top 15% in every subject and have any kind of regular life.

about a year ago

Crowdsourcing the Discovery of New Antibiotics

rritterson biased sampling will cause problems. (73 comments)

This is an interesting proposal to combat the "death of antibiotic" problem. Even if it were wildly sucessful, though, I fear that big business may not take up the results that are found, though. For one, although discovering new sources does remove some of the capital hurdles to development, a substantial part of the cost of drug development is the large clinical studies that must be undertaken in order to garner FDA approval. This project would do nothing to solve that problem.

In addition, it raises some interesting IP issues that may make pharma balk--if I discover some natural substance has antibiotic properties, do I earn an inventor title on the patent and partial royalities for the development?

What is really needed, I think, is a diversion of part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget toward research that would otherwise be avoided due to the lack of profit at the end. Even as someone, who, myself is funded by NIH, I think we could make better use of some of the many billions a year by re-directing them.

That all said, if the project is not viewed with the end goal of developing new antibiotics, but instead viewed as a project designed to encourage particiaption in modern biology--an educational project that might cause a discovery, it's hard to think of it as anything but a fanstastic idea.

about a year ago

Silicon Valley Could Be Heading For a New Stock Collapse.

rritterson not to wish bad things on anyone (200 comments)

Not that I would want to wish bad things like lost of income or livelihood on anyone, but as someone who moved here long before this bubble started, I wouldn't mind what the the tech bubble popping might do to San Francisco rental prices.

about a year ago

Disney to Acquire Lucasfilm, Star Wars Episode 7 Due In 2015

rritterson Re:Pixar + ILM (816 comments)

In a little bit of irony, Pixar was originally part of ILM -- 1/3 of the Computer Graphics division. 26 years later, the two companies are back under the same umbrella.

about 2 years ago

Teen Suicide Tormentor Outed By Anonymous

rritterson this is intolerable (550 comments)

If Anonymous has material evidence that points to the guilt of a particular individual, they should turn that evidence over to the responsible law enforcement agency, not go public and taint both the investigation and public opinion. The detectives may have had the opportunity to seize evidence before the person knew he was under suspicion, or set up a sting operation. They'd also have the chance to clear the individual if he's innocent without the mess of threats of violence I presume this guy is now going to get.

Presuming this person is eventually charged and tried, Anonymous releasing this information can complicate the job of the prosecutor, having the opposite effect intended.

On the other hand, if this person is innocent, Anonymous just released a shitstorm on this poor guy that's going to be nearly impossible to get rid of until the police charge someone else.

I don't see any situations where Anonymous' action result in a more positive outcome than would have come about through other choices.

more than 2 years ago

Faculty To Grad Students: Go Work 80-Hour Weeks!

rritterson Re:Supply and Demand (454 comments)

Markets are not fully efficient.

One potential negative outcome of the system as structured is that the most talented and brilliant astronomers choose not to enter the field because of the poor job prospects, leaving nothing but a bunch of mediocre astronomers who, admittedly, are committed, but still aren't going to have the same sorts of breakthroughs.

This can happen in reverse too, where one profession becomes so attractive (due to salary, e.g.) it sucks people away from fields they'd otherwise prefer and be great at. This happened in investment banking. We need some non-zero number of them, but certainly not as many as we did. I think we can agree that sending all of the best and brightest minds to investment banking is not the most productive or beneficial outcome for the rest of society.

We cannot bring about utopian outcomes by sheer force of law and regulation. But we can tilt the incentives away from unwanted metastable states and undesired positive feedback loops.

more than 2 years ago

Should We Print Guns? Cody R. Wilson Says "Yes" (Video)

rritterson Re:not a good idea (444 comments)

A bunch of Vietnamese, Iraqis, and Afghanis would like to disagree with you.

more than 2 years ago

Victory For Apple In "Patent Trial of the Century," To the Tune of $1 Billion

rritterson Re:Thank you San Jose (1184 comments)

There was a verdict in Korea today that slanted heavily toward Samsung given the relative strengths of the patents.

This is not even close to over, and has no end in sight as far as I can tell.

more than 2 years ago

Knight Trading Losses Attributed To Old, Dormant Software

rritterson Re:The NYSE shouldn't reverse trades. (223 comments)

The problem with that idea is that sometimes these high frequency traders also cause volatility spikes in the market, triggering other computer programs, and, sometimes, humans, to react as though the spurious trades were intentional.

While I also loathe HFT as a scourge on the market, I think the NYSE's overall response is a good one: when abnormal trades occur as a secondary effect of other's mistakes, abort them.

Note that the ca. $440 million loss Knight took was BECAUSE they couldn't unwind the bad positions they bought into. Goldman Sachs bought the entire block from them at a discount. Knight didn't get any kind of parachute.

more than 2 years ago

Samsung's Comparison of Galaxy S To iPhone

rritterson Re:Of course (383 comments)

My understanding is that this was entered into evidence to show a pattern and Samsung's state of mind. As in, moving a button isn't infringement, but if they were already being so blatant, it's easier to believe they also ripped off what is patented.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: What To Do With a Math Degree?

rritterson Change schools. (416 comments)

I come from a family of teachers, so I know all about internal politics. Unless she no longer wants to teach under any circumstances, change schools first before giving up. Try private if you've only done public, etc. If it is truly her passion, she'll find the school for her.

Or, do what my college roommate did and specialize in Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. Make $120,000 a year and hate yourself.

more than 2 years ago

Quantum Experiment Shows Effect Before Cause

rritterson or there is no free will (465 comments)

One explanation of the results, should they hold up is that Alice, Bob, and Victor's actions were predetermined before the photons were generated and thus had to correlate.

You could say that the actors then had no free will, or you could imagine a scenario where somehow the actions of all three were entangled via an earlier free will choice.

more than 2 years ago

Biologists Debunk the "Rotting Y Chromosome" Theory

rritterson link to the source, please (248 comments)

Not like I love the Nature Publishing Group (NPG) very much, but let's link to the source to help give the original authors credit. (Which, as far as I can tell, the medical daily article doesn't even do!)

Here is a link to the original paper

For those who aren't molecular biologists or geneticists, here is a link to the Nature news article on the scientific paper

more than 2 years ago

FBI Shuts Down Major Scareware Gang

rritterson FBI = good or FBI = bad? (84 comments)

Just yesterday, we had a story about the FBI seizing servers in virginia and most of the comments were negative. Of course, in this thread, most of the comments are positive.

One difference is we know the purpose of the seizures in this case, which makes it seem less fly-by-night, but I wonder how the hosting providers felt when the servers were first seized. Not that we should let the FBI seize whatever, whenever, but sometimes quick action to seize evidence is necessary, even if it inconveniences others.

more than 3 years ago



The most beautiful girl in the whole wide lab

rritterson rritterson writes  |  more than 4 years ago

rritterson (588983) writes "Check out this tongue-in-cheek look at what it's like to be a woman in a lab. Based on a parody of the Flight of the Conchords song "Most Beautiful Girl in the Room", this video was created for a university departmental retreat and has been making waves in geekdom the last few days."
Link to Original Source

What to do with an unwanted Tivo?

rritterson rritterson writes  |  more than 4 years ago

rritterson (588983) writes "After doing the calculation and realizing I can get all of the TV I usually watch via Hulu and iTunes for about 20% of what my cable operator charges me, I'm left with a year old Tivo HD unit that isn't worth much since it's a generation behind, yet can't be used effectively without a cable subscription (OTA HD broadcasts aren't worth recording, since I don't watch network TV much at all). It seems a shame to mothball a device that has 1.25TB of storage, and can record 2 HD streams while playing one back. It can't stream hulu, and doesn't have support for FairPlay'ed iTunes files, so I can't use it very well as a home media server as is. What would you do with it? Are there any good hacks or alternative OSes out there? It's past warranty and going to be put in the back of the closet anyway, so bring on the hard hacks of the most extreme kind."


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