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Bill Nye To Debate Creationist Museum Founder Ken Ham

siwelwerd Re:Is Bill Nye qualified? (611 comments)

I've never thought of him as a scientist, but as a science educator. Two very different things.

about 8 months ago
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Elsevier Going After Authors Sharing Their Own Papers

siwelwerd Re:Article is flame bait (259 comments)

I don't think so--it appears the problem there was that he posted the paper to a Google website, not his own or his institution's.

about 9 months ago
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Elsevier Going After Authors Sharing Their Own Papers

siwelwerd Article is flame bait (259 comments)

This is complete flame bait. Here is a link to what Elsevier allows authors to do with their articles: http://www.elsevier.com/journal-authors/author-rights-and-responsibilities#author-posting . The article asserts that posting to your own website is a violation of the agreement; note that Elsevier explicitly states that this is allowed. Posting the submitted version to preprint servers (e.g. arxiv.org) is explicitly allowed. What you can't do is post to some third party for-profit website, which is apparently how they view this academia.edu place. Given that they have an "about" page bragging about their investors, and they have a CEO, it does not seem far fetched to conclude that this academia.edu is gaining commercially from your posting the article, which is an explicit violation of the agreement with the publisher.

So to me, this is a non-story. Disclosure: I have no love for Elsevier, but I have published with them in the past and will again in the future (we junior faculty don't have the luxury of taking principled stands).

about 9 months ago
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Why Competing For Tenure Is Like Trying To Become a Drug Lord

siwelwerd Not a great analogy (168 comments)

I'm not really sure this is an apt analogy. Yes, you forgo higher wages while in graduate school, but if you don't make drug lord^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H a tenure track position, you can head to industry and make a good wage. I don't think street dealers have this option. Yes, most of us want to go into academia, but having a fallback option with 50-100% higher salary doesn't seem so bad (speaking as a mathematician here--maybe humanities Ph.D.'s really are like drug dealers).

Another thing they downplay in the reward side of academia is the time flexibility. There are absolutely zero vacation days, but for the most part, outside of hours physically spent in the classroom (usually less than 10 a week, less than 40 weeks a year), you get to arrange your schedule. I've known professors who worked from home in the morning and the office in the afternoon, and one who showed up at 4:00 PM and stayed until 12 or 1 (I was always amused when he joined us for a beer "after" work on occasion). To a lot of us, this is a huge perk

about 9 months ago
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LinkedIn Accused of Hacking Customers' E-Mails To Slurp Up Contacts

siwelwerd Re:Something Odd (210 comments)

There is no possible way they could have accessed my email

The thought just occurred to me, that they don't need to access your email. Suppose you send an email to 10 people, and one of those 10 people lets Linked In access their email. Now they can pair off you with each of those 10 people, and suggest that each of these 10 people should connect with you, and that you should connect with them.

about a year ago
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Banker Offers $1M To Solve Beal Conjecture

siwelwerd Re:What's in it for him? (216 comments)

He apparently does mathematics in his spare time and has spent a good amount of time working on this question (that's why it's named after him). The prize has been offered for several years actually, the news is that it has increased to $1M. The origin of the prize, along with some more details, here: http://www.ams.org/notices/199711/beal.pdf

about a year ago
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German Brewers Warn Fracking Could Hurt Beer

siwelwerd Re:RO Water (325 comments)

You're saying the Reinhistegbot specifies that they use a minimum number of ingredients, and then just handwaves over the fact that one of those ingredients ("water") is actually highly variable ingredient containing a variety of unspecified impurities which are vitally necessary to the process. But you aren't allowed to start with actual pure water, and add those necessary impurities back in.

Yes. I didn't make the law, nor do I follow it in my brewing, but that's what the law says. Keep in mind it was written 400 years ago when water chemistry was not understood at all.

about a year ago
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German Brewers Warn Fracking Could Hurt Beer

siwelwerd Re:RO Water (325 comments)

RO water is unsuitable for brewing as it lacks necessary ions (e.g. calcium for yeast health) and will result in an improper mash pH usually. It's not uncommon for (non-German) brewers to "build" their water by starting with RO and adding ions back. But this is not permissible under the Reinheistegbot, at best they could dilute their water with RO or DI, which dilutes any pollutants but does not remove them.

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: When Is the User Experience Too Good?

siwelwerd Re:Depends ... (397 comments)

If it's for system admins and the like who neither need nor want training wheels, not so much.

It sounds like he thinks his audience needs but does not want the training wheels (probably because they don't think they need them).

about a year ago
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New 'Academic Redshirt' For Engineering Undergrads at UW

siwelwerd Re:Good idea (147 comments)

I tend to agree with you. But as a faculty member, I don't get any say in what goes on in K-12, or which students are admitted to college. All I get a say in is what to do with the students that do show up on campus. And this kind of program seems like something faculty members can do to better educate those students we do get.

I do agree, we need to bring the K-12 standards up, but that's a political game that has to be solved in a way approved by the teachers' unions and the state legislatures. At least at universities, we are more (but not completely) immune to the whims of politicians.

about a year ago
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New 'Academic Redshirt' For Engineering Undergrads at UW

siwelwerd Re:So... they get eaten by the salt vampire? (147 comments)

Why should they? Engineers are on the application side of things....they use the existing tools (equations) to build other things. They don't need to know exactly how the tools work as long as they can be trusted to work.

Teaching students how to do proofs teaches them an abstract way of thinking that is universally applicable to solving open ended problems--problems of the form "Here's point A. Point B is over there. How do we get there?". Not every engineer needs this kind of thinking, but some do, and the best will benefit from it. Some of the greatest engineering feats came from attacking these sorts of problems: "Here we are on Earth. There's the moon. Go put a man on it."

If you just want to write iPhone apps, you can probably skip the good math classes, but if you want to really learn how to think, take as much as you can. Saying an engineer won't need these kinds of thinking skills because you don't have a specific application in mind for them is the same short-sighted thinking as saying we shouldn't fund basic research if we don't have a clear application in mind before the research is done.

about a year ago
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New 'Academic Redshirt' For Engineering Undergrads at UW

siwelwerd Re:Good idea (147 comments)

Alternately, why don't we teach the kids in high school the things they need to learn in high school so they aren't playing catch up when they go to college?

Nobody is arguing that we shouldn't try and prepare everyone well before they get to college, but the simple fact is that we (at the universities) get these underprepared students every year, and that is unlikely to change soon. Rather than just throw blame at others and tell them to fix it, this is a proactive approach: what can *we* (at the universities) do about this problem? We'll all be ecstatic when K-12 education improves to make this a moot point, but until then we shouldn't just ignore the problem.

about a year ago
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New 'Academic Redshirt' For Engineering Undergrads at UW

siwelwerd Re:So... they get eaten by the salt vampire? (147 comments)

Funny, my math department has to offer dumbed down (i.e. remove most proofs) courses for the engineers, e.g. Matrix Analysis instead of Linear Algebra. Our engineers don't hardly have to know what a proof is.

about a year ago
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New 'Academic Redshirt' For Engineering Undergrads at UW

siwelwerd Good idea (147 comments)

Sounds like a good idea to me. I work at a large flagship state school, and we see a number of underprepared students admitted. The problem is not so much that we can't teach them what they need to catch up, it's that they are given unrealistic expectations. The College of Arts and Sciences is making a big push to have everyone finish in 4 years, but this is very unrealistic for these underprepared students. A program where everyone expects them to take an extra year would reset the expectations to a realistic level and, in my opinion, probably improve performance.

By the way, "underprepared" often includes students who have, for example, passed pre-calculus, but did not learn the material and thus struggle when I see them in calculus. It's well established that the best predictor of success in calculus is algebra/pre-calculus skills, so giving them a chance to sharpen these skills with less time pressure would be beneficial to the student.

about a year ago
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Terrible Advice From a Great Scientist

siwelwerd Re:Title and summary (276 comments)

I have never understood why Calculus is mandatory (4 semesters) for most everyone but statistics is not.

Probably (no pun intended) because one really needs (some) calculus to understand things like continuous probability distributions and the Central Limit Theorem.

about a year ago
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Professors Rejecting Classroom Technology

siwelwerd Stupid Dichotomy (372 comments)

Professors don't reject technology in general. They reject any particular classroom approach that doesn't fit their needs, whether it is technological or not. The latest fad is Blackboard and other course management systems. They are largely a complete waste of time. It is easier for me to use my rudimentary HTML skills to hack up a webpage with links to syllabi, assignments, etc.

The one technology I am learning to like is the clickers. One doesn't learn mathematics by watching the professor, one learns it by doing mathematics. The clickers allow me to force my large lecture to work problems in class. It is also helpful in diagnosing their issues when they are too shy/reluctant/embarrassed to ask questions. Automated homework (e.g. WebAssign) is okay; it's kind of lousy for the students, but easy for me to assign/grade.

As far as comments above about lazy professors just wanting to research and not wanting to teach, our priorities are set by the administration. They will tell us that we are evaluated 50% teaching/50% research, but they are not being honest (with us or themselves). Essentially, if you can speak English and aren't just naturally terrible at teaching, you are better served (from a tenure/promotion perspective) minimizing time spent on teaching so you can maximize the time spent on research. When students demand more focus on teaching, administration will adjust their priorities, but it's hardly the professors who set the rules of the game.

Yes, IAAP (of mathematics) at a large research university.

about a year and a half ago
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Woz Says iPhone Features Are 'Behind'

siwelwerd Re:Sample bias... (587 comments)

On the contrary, I see no reason whatsoever to assume you and your friends are somehow a representative sample of the population as a whole. Think about your parents, and their friends, for example. Or your grandparents, etc.

about a year and a half ago
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At my current place of employ, snacks are ...

siwelwerd Re:Not snacks but plenty of coffee (172 comments)

The university where I work does not allow the departments to supply coffee. However, they have a program where you buy a reusable cup, and any dining location (even Starbucks) on campus fills it for $0.55 . By my nearest calculation, that's about how much it's costing me to buy decent coffee beans and brew at home. So while I still bring a cup from home in the morning, the cheap coffee has me heading out for another cup in the afternoon, thus doubling my daily coffee consumption. If the department instead provided coffee, it would most likely be of sufficiently poor quality that I would pass on it anyways. So I almost feel that having not-free coffee is causing me to drink more. As an added benefit, it also gets me out of the office for a short walk every afternoon.

about a year and a half ago

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