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Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

tylikcat Re:Volunteers are Usually Welcome (234 comments)

Well, let's see. I volunteered in a computational biochemistry / bioengineering lab, a mycology lab (though rather casually), and a genetics lab (though I was a registered student for the whole time I was in the genetics lab). Those were all at my previous institution. I currently am getting my PhD in neurobiology, and we have volunteers, some of whom are not students (I just sent a really wonderful high school student off to Northwestern for her first year of college, and had another who was hoping to get research experience before applying to medical school). I know the biologically inspired robotics lab here is open to volunteers - there's been some talk of my nephew spending a summer there. Really, it's quite common. Some institutions have age restrictions, and often there is some kind of required safety training (depending on what work you're doing) - and here it's a complete pain for someone who isn't student staff or faculty to get key access, though they can come and work as long as there's someone else to let them in.

about a week ago
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How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

tylikcat What Drivel. (794 comments)

"What distinguishes modern science from other forms of knowledge such as philosophy is that it explicitly forsakes abstract reasoning about the ultimate causes of things and instead tests empirical theories through controlled investigation."

This is utter drivel. (Unless, perhaps, ones narrows the definitions of ultimate causes in a ridiculous way.) Scientists reason about ultimate causes, and proximate causes, and causes that just happened to be wandering down the street at that time all the time. This is a major part of hypothesis generation. Science isn't about randomly going around doing a bunch of experiments - well, okay, it's somewhat about that too, if you count high throughput techniques as random, but even then its random inside of controlled parameters. It's about taking all the understanding you think you've gleaned from your observation and your high minded reasoning and what you talked about at the pub and that thing that occurred to you in the shower - all of it - and turning it into a testable hypothesis. Y'know, one that can actually be wrong.

And then testing it.

It's not about foresaking abstract reasoning in the least. It's just about checking in with reality from time to time, as well.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

tylikcat Re:Volunteers are Usually Welcome (234 comments)

There is definitely a lack of people who are a serious about their computer science as they are their science area of interest. (I will spare you the rants, other than to mention that my doctoral work is evenly split between experimental and computational work.) "Programmer" is a bit of a gloss. I mean, technically, yeah, I'm a decent programmer, but I'm a much better designer, auditor and analyst - perhaps "engineer"? I build things and make things work. As a matter of preference, I don't actually like to spend much than a third to a half at the outside of my working time on code, and I actually enjoy managing small teams. And I left my original lab for a number of reasons*, as much as I loved it, but partially because I really wanted to be in a situation where I could be doing bench work. (And I really had to fight to do bench work, because most PIs really wanted to chain me to a computer. Though by the time I was applying to grad school I'd gotten decent bench skills.**) Or at least have research students working for me who were doing bench work. A lot of my current research is possible because of surgical techniques I developed early on this lab.

Relatively little of what I've done in research has directly used my skills from tech. It's much more been a generally confidence that I can jump into a situation, and learn about it, and be smart and stubborn at it and beat my head against it until it works. I don't think that's about having a particular job title***, or skill set per se. Which isn't to say that I think it's easy for everyone.

* Partially because I didn't want to have people asking me to support the dratted database for the rest of my life.
** Though, word to the wise, never work in two labs at the same time. Especially if you are trying to get a paper out at the same time. Particularly if you value your car.
*** Admittedly, I go way out of my way to encourage my research students to learn to code, and to do so in a practical fashion that helps them with their research.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

tylikcat Re:Volunteers are Usually Welcome (234 comments)

A lot of it is going to depend on the particular project and what skills and qualities the individual can bring to the table. I did have a background in high performance distributed network computing*, and a lot of general systems design work, but nothing beyond that to suggest that I could walk into a computational biochemistry lab and be managing a major project in under a year. I had no biology, very little chemistry, no biochem, certainly not enough physics, and there I am doing MD protein dynamics work (and a lot of multidimensional database work, but that part almost makes sense). (Yes, I also took quite a few classes.) I'm certainly bright, and I couldn't have pulled it off otherwise. And certainly my interests have always been pretty broad, and my background wasn't "IT" per se in the first place - but then, I figure anyone who has the gumption to be interested in research while having a career in IT probably knows more than the minimum required for their job. Seriously, though, a lot of it was having the guts to start asking around. I was surprised how many PIs offered me positions on the programming background alone.

* Though for that matter, I pretty much talked and worked my way into that, too - I was a Chinese major, though my father was a CS prof and I was programming from an early age.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

tylikcat Re:Has anyone done this? (234 comments)

I have, as I mentioned above. (Software to computational biochemistry to neurobiology. Of course I did Chinese and political economics as an undergrad...) Currently finishing a doctorate.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

tylikcat Volunteers are Usually Welcome (234 comments)

It's unlikely you can make the transition to working in the field without some really major sacrifices. (And if you do, it will probably be more on the computational side.) But if you love it for it's own sake I'd suggest talking to local labs and seeing if you can get involved in any projects - especially projects where you can work remotely at least part of the time, since your time is limited. And as a volunteer, you often get to avoid some of the more tedious bits that people who are being paid have to work on. My experience is that people with solid computer skills are needed, and people who will work are needed, and there's way more cool work to be done than there are money and people to do it.

And, of course, if there are any opportunities for you to work in a paid capacity, you'll be in the perfect position to hear about them.

I made the transition from tech to computational biochemistry to neurobio - but I had a lot of stock options, and I've been willing to become a grad student, and live mostly like a grad student, which is hard to do when you have a family. And while biomed funding has been cut, there's a lot more of it out there to begin with.

(I'm not generically saying that people should work for free, BTW. I know for me, research turned out to be what I wanted to be doing when I wasn't worrying about money. Though, um, then there were a couple of stock market crashes...)

about two weeks ago
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Study Finds Link Between Artificial Sweeteners and Glucose Intolerance

tylikcat Re:Does HFCS count? (294 comments)

IIRC, the sweeteners in stevia are glycosides, which is to say that they're a sugar bound up to an alglycon. While eventually they're broken down and one of the by products is sugar, it's far enough down the digestive tract that it's not absorbed. So... it's only kind of a sugar.

about two weeks ago
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ISIS Bans Math and Social Studies For Children

tylikcat Re:Actually against Islam (977 comments)

*grin* Though I believe what we generally call arabic numerals actually originated from the Indian subcontinent... but yeah.

about two weeks ago
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ISIS Bans Math and Social Studies For Children

tylikcat Re:Actually against Islam (977 comments)

Certainly, when you look at the role of Islamic scholars in developing, say, Algebra, it seems like a pretty awful departure from some aspects of history. Of course, history is full of many things, and the Qoran is full of many things, and can be used to justify many things. (You can, for instance, make a pretty solid argument that the Qoran is a lot more progressive with regard to women's rights than other monotheistic religious texts... but certainly this hasn't been playing out in implementation this century, so much. Of course, I seem to recall some arguments that the rules regarding inheritance laid down in the Qoran necissitated the devlopment of algebra as well, though my own reading is that you can only stretch that argument so far.)

about two weeks ago
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BBC: ISPs Should Assume VPN Users Are Pirates

tylikcat Re:Contacting BBC, via VPN (363 comments)

The BBC has gotten markedly more consevative over the last year or so (after a number of scandals, though not necessarily in response to those scandals.) I wouldn't go so far as to call them right wing - if anything, I thing the stronger trend has been towards lower quality reporting and more heart warming stories of this or that (ugh). But the change in political slant has been notable, even if it's been smaller than the change in quality.

Of course, I've noticed a smaller though similar trend towards more conservative reporting with The Economist, so I wonder if there's a social shift in play? I really need to find more international internet radio news for my workout and commute, because the BBC used to be one of my standbys, and these days I spend too much time being annoyed at their interviewers. "Oh, so your home is destroyed, half your family is dead and most of the rest is missing - how do you FEEL about that?"

about three weeks ago
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Protesters Blockade Microsoft's Seattle Headquarters Over Tax Breaks

tylikcat Re:South Lake Union vs Redmond Headquarters (246 comments)

It's more visible, and culturally, trying to get someone from Seattle proper to go to the eastside has always been a bit of an uphill battle, even moreso with the general cuts to public transportation.* I moved from Wallingford to Woodinville while I worked at Microsoft**, and was always impressed by the extent to which eastsiders think little of going across the lake for a show of a class, but westsiders (at least, those who don't already work on the eastside) are loathe to head in the other direction without mounting an expedition.

* Though in fairness, while I'm still spending several weeks in Seattle each year, I'm not spending much of that commuting back and forth to the eastside, so I don't know if those systems have been hit as hard as Seattle Metro.
** My logic being that in fact I didn't really live in Wallingford, I lived on the 520 bridge.

about three weeks ago
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Combating Recent, Ugly Incidents of Misogyny In Gamer Culture

tylikcat Re:I predict (1134 comments)

Though in fact a lot of my male friends are all "What the flying fuck is with all the misogyny?"

about a month ago
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Combating Recent, Ugly Incidents of Misogyny In Gamer Culture

tylikcat Re:So, where is ... (1134 comments)

Oh, bloody hell, of course this comes in as I'm heading out the door. But this is rather in my field, so at least a short reply.

So, first off, please be very careful when generalizing from studies of gender differences. They are generally smaller in effect than most people understand (and this is often not well characterized in popular reporting) and there's a long history of confounding factors being ignored (for instances, differences that have to do with body size rather than gender). Even when you can say that there is a statistically significant difference between the means of different populations, that doesn't mean that there isn't a lot more overlap than difference. ...and then you go on make a number of assertions about behavior, without citation, and without talking about origin. Because, yo, culture. (And, of course, the situation in Medieval times, when there wasn't much in the way of reliable birth control also presented a very different social picture. Pregnancy and lots of kids can mess the hell out of your social options.)

So, I'll leave you with this, because I thought it was a fairly brilliant discussion of one of the more decent studies of gender differences in brain structures, which is still accessible to the layman: https://theconversation.com/ne...

about a month ago
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Combating Recent, Ugly Incidents of Misogyny In Gamer Culture

tylikcat Re:I predict (1134 comments)

I have been following this as the story has unfolded - not obsessively (I have work to do) but not that distantly, either. So, no, I don't think so.

At some meta-level, I do wonder if there are some basic subcultural differences in communication going on here. I mean, I see, for instance, the infamous screen cap, and think, gosh, I always have at least two different browsers open (sometimes more, though I realize this is somewhat idiosyncratic) I often browse privately, and if I were doing a similar screen grab, I'd almost certainly not pull it from instance in which I was logged in. (I mean, like I need more shit, this shouldn't be about my login, it should just be about what's being posted.) So I look at the so ofte cited screen cap and think "Why do you think I'll care?" I see a lot of quotes being taken pretty blatantly out of context. And, of course, I see a lot of really misogynist crap being posted. It certainly is comforting that a number of my male friends are at least as creeped out by these discussions as I am.

Then again, I'm not at all sure I'm not a social justice warrior. I mean, I'm a mild mannered* neurobiologist and martial artist, with a pretty heterogeneous (if rather inclined towards the geeky) social circle, but I'm certainly willing to speak up when I see people being treated poorly.

* Well, okay, when I asked a couple of my students if I were mild mannered, they didn't really answer, but mostly because they were laughing too hard to speak. So maybe not.

about a month ago
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Combating Recent, Ugly Incidents of Misogyny In Gamer Culture

tylikcat Re:So, where is ... (1134 comments)

So much depends on what you mean by chivalry. I mean, for all the good press it gets - and for all that it could be honestly better than many alternatives - you are talking about a system that encodes some major inequalities in class and not a hell of a lot of mobility* - and some major discrepancies in power between men and women.

For some folks, it means being a decent, honorable individual. For others, there notion is all wrapped up in ideas of having the woman be weaker, and be supported, and protected, and for the man to be in charge. ( And for the woman never to be smarter, more accomplished, or god help you stronger or a better fighter.) (Yes, I'm a tall muscular martial artist, and a lot of guys think they are attracted to that... But in fact are only attracted to that if they are stronger and can fight better. Though don't seem to want to put in the decades of training, and, seriously. Other guys? Are totally fine, and her, sex and soaring go together great.)

These are inherently different things. I have a pretty strong personal sense of decent behavior and honor, though I don't end to talk about it much, and seriously I need that in a partner. So if a guy who is that short of chivalric, hey, that might work out.

A guy whose self image is dependent on me being weaker, making less money, not as good in a fight... Yeah, not so much. (I have no problem with someone opening doors for me. I open doors for people all the time. Someone who freaks out about that... Yeah, no.)

* no serfs or peasants welcome here, this only applies to the gentlefolk

about a month ago
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Combating Recent, Ugly Incidents of Misogyny In Gamer Culture

tylikcat Re:One bad apple spoils the barrel (1134 comments)

10-20 being in a school, and one person being one of the easy marks seems pretty plausible to. I wouldn't read it as being 10-20 people picking on any one person at one time. I would suspect that there were more than that number of people in my middle school who didn't feel satisfied with their day if they hadn't hit anyone.

(I believe my middle school had about 800 people. I wasn't a great target, since I was perfectly happy to fight back if faculty weren't around, but I was quite tall, part of the gifted program, did not dress to fit in, and was fairly outspoken. At least three people were suspended for attacking me while I was there. But then, the school was generally pretty fucked.*)

* So, take a school from a poor mostly black neighborhood and then put a couple of magnet programs that attract mostly more affluent white and asian kids... and then keep all the classes for the different programs separate. Yeah, that's a great idea.

about a month ago
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Combating Recent, Ugly Incidents of Misogyny In Gamer Culture

tylikcat Re:I predict (1134 comments)

The standards of evidence are particularly bad. I mean, if you're going to manufacture it, you should at least manufacture a variety of sources so people aren't all pointing to the same infographic. (I mean, really, this stuff is laughable when Fox does it. I expect geeks to at least be more competent.) And yeah, I think that whole perceived loss of privilege - why isn't someone showing up to make them into the next software billionaire, and where are all the babes the universe owes them?

I guess the one up side is that they're doing a pretty good job of making this line of thinking look really, really gross.

about a month ago
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Combating Recent, Ugly Incidents of Misogyny In Gamer Culture

tylikcat Re:Zoe Quinn, wait what? (1134 comments)

"We" is first person plural, not third person. So the implication is that the OP identifies themselves with a group that they are aware hold similar views. (Or alleges such.)

"They think..." would be third person.

about a month ago
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Combating Recent, Ugly Incidents of Misogyny In Gamer Culture

tylikcat Re:I predict (1134 comments)

Thank you for fighting the good fight.

I almost didn't even look at the comments here, especially since I'd burnt through the last of my mod points last night, and especially the first wave of really offensive shit that gets posted any time the treatment of women in geek culture comes up just depresses the hell out of me. (I'm trying to stick to the optimistic version opined by another friend, wherein there's a really grim whiny ass first wave, which mostly gets modded down over time. Over course, the friend wrote to me a couple of days back to tell me he'd decided that no, he took it back, anything involving women was getting a fair bit worse.)

The creepiest bit is that half of my social circle, roughly, are male geeks* and they generally seem like a decent bunch, individually and in groups. My students are an amiable bunch, even in those final crunch days as they're trying to wrap up an experiment or get a paper in. Is the first wave of /. comments overwhelmingly from bitter seventeen year olds? Are these some other geeks who I have managed to distance myself from over the years.** Is it possible that some of the entertaining, amiable geeks that I spar with, party with, code with and blow things up with turn feral and run in packs when I'm not around? Eesh.

* Well, okay, that assumes that the martial artists are predominantly geeks, which might get into some kind of definitional argument. *Many* clearly are.

about a month ago
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Anita Sarkeesian, Creator of "Tropes vs. Women," Driven From Home By Trolls

tylikcat Re:Stupid is as stupid does (1262 comments)

I'll grant you the not related to video game fantasy (any more than playing D&D turns folks into Satanists or whatever).*

But I do think death threats, especially death threats combined with personal information, are a lot more than immaturity. Posting things like "Your ugly and stupid" (misuse intentional) is immaturity. Death threats are a fair bit worse, even aside from the illegality. Kind of the way that writing to a stranger about how sexually attractive you find them is creepy and immature - yo, there are ways to approach the subject, but if they're still a stranger this is not one of them - but writing to them about how you want to rape them goes far beyond immature.

* Of course, I can think of at least one guy I knew back in my teens...

about a month ago

Submissions

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Satanists dramatize distribution of religious materials at schools

tylikcat tylikcat writes  |  about two weeks ago

tylikcat (1578365) writes "In response to a ruling allowing Christian groups to distribute bibles and other Christian oriented materials in schools, the Satanic Temple has decided to distributed their own The Satanic Children's Big Book of Activities. Let the games begin!

To be fair, the Satanic Temple is is forthright in stating that they would not have sought the right to distibute such materials on their own, but point out that most children will already be aware of Christianity, but this might be the first time they encounter to the practice of Satanism."
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This American Life takes on Patent Trolls

tylikcat tylikcat writes  |  about a year ago

tylikcat (1578365) writes "This American Life aired a show Friday following up on an earlier segment about patent trolls. In the original segment many of the producers' questions could not be answered. Now they can, and the story that comes out is quite different than the one originally presented by Intellectual Ventures. Fascinating listening by any measure, and it's particularly nice to see these issues discussed in a venue aimed at a broader audience."
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Alleged Romney Tax Data Thief Demands Bitcoin Ransom

tylikcat tylikcat writes  |  about 2 years ago

tylikcat (1578365) writes "It will be interesting to see if the alleged theft actually occurred — after all the fuss about Romney's secret tax data, it does seem like an obvious target. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story is that demand that a ransom for the data be paid in bitcoins. (Though the demand for ransom seems to push this from potentially interesting data activism to rather dreary conventional theft.)"
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