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

werepants As far as employment in physics goes... (219 comments)

There are physics jobs out there, but most of the jobs that are specifically about physics require a PHd. I work as a Radiation Effects Engineer, which involves a fair bit of physics (we test electronics for radiation susceptibility at particle accelerators) but almost certainly requires a degree in either physics or electrical engineering. Many people in the field have a master's or PHd.

So, honestly, if you want "physicist" to be somewhere in your job title, you will need a PHd, no way around it. If you just want a job that involves some science-related aspects, that might be doable just with some self teaching. As a previous poster suggested, the shortest path from here to there might be to look for IT jobs supporting researchers, or something like that.

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

werepants Astronomy is a good pick (219 comments)

There are a number of projects out there that have far more data than they can parse. I know Kepler's exoplanet search, for instance, requires confirmation from ground-based telescopes, and there are some student/amateur based astronomy projects that are available for anybody to help with.

As far as physics goes, Khan Academy is a fantastic resource - you can get through advanced high school/basic undergraduate physics with those videos, and all of the math you will need for that level is also available. They have a great tool available on their site that also provides you with practice problems so you can work through any math that you are rusty on.

yesterday
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Apple Edits iPhone 6's Protruding Camera Out of Official Photos

werepants Re:Parallax. (422 comments)

Actually, the telephoto thing is for more formal shots and currently looks kind of dated. It tends to compress perspective and represent things more true to actual physical proportions, but it often looks kind of flat and doesn't represent an in-person viewing of the vehicle very well. If you want to accentuate certain features and make the car appear more dramatic and dynamic, you use a wide angle lens, which is what I see in most auto ads currently. Grandparent poster must be posting from the 90's, or referring to the shots used for technical brochures rather than marketing.

2 days ago
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NASA's Manned Rocket Contract: $4.2 Billion To Boeing, $2.6 Billion To SpaceX

werepants Re:And the speculation was completely off (186 comments)

The best possible outcome IMO would have been SpaceX and Sierra Nevada (who doesn't get mentioned in the summary). I think Boeing's design is almost entirely inferior to both - more expensive, less capable, less developed, less tested. Also has been experiencing some serious problems in wind tunnel testing. However, as someone else pointed out, they've been around much longer, and know how to play the game.

2 days ago
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NASA's Manned Rocket Contract: $4.2 Billion To Boeing, $2.6 Billion To SpaceX

werepants Re:Could have been worse (186 comments)

If you insist, substitute "has a system that merits" for "deserves". Also, if money or capability was what mattered, SNC would've gotten an award instead of Boeing, because they've got a more developed vehicle while receiving significantly less cash. There are also some huge technical problems with the CST100 - it has apparently been having big issues with wind tunnel testing.

I don't think the right choice was made here, but I'm not privy to all the information used to make the decision. I hope SNC stays in the game long enough to get some business after the inevitable cost overruns and schedule slips with Boeing.

2 days ago
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NASA's Manned Rocket Contract: $4.2 Billion To Boeing, $2.6 Billion To SpaceX

werepants Re:Could have been worse (186 comments)

I hope they can get some NASA work in the future. SNC has gotten a vehicle farther developed than Boeing while receiving significantly less funding, and the vehicle has unique capabilities to boot. I wonder if the recent change to a liquid engine did them in.

2 days ago
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WSJ Reports Boeing To Beat SpaceX For Manned Taxi To ISS

werepants Re:Real results announced here (198 comments)

Can't complain too much. Bummed about the Dreamchaser though.

3 days ago
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NASA's Manned Rocket Contract: $4.2 Billion To Boeing, $2.6 Billion To SpaceX

werepants Could have been worse (186 comments)

This is a reasonable move, I'm not sure that Boeing deserves more cash than SpaceX though. I'm also bummed for Sierra Nevada, the Dreamchaser is awesome. To be fair, there have been rumors of troubles with their hybrid engine recently. Hopefully the ESA will pick them up for some flights.

3 days ago
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WSJ Reports Boeing To Beat SpaceX For Manned Taxi To ISS

werepants Gah... (198 comments)

First of all, the rumor has been that there will be multiple awards, and the 3 big players are Boeing, SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada. So there are some inaccuracies here.

If Boeing DOES end up being the sole award recipient, though, it will destroy what little faith I still have in NASA's ability as a technical organization - it will be the final sign that they are just another hose funneling cash dollars to big aerospace. Here's why:

SpaceX is offering a more capable system, that is more developed, has more flight heritage thanks to Dragon, cheaper, and possibly safer (with both propulsive and parachute-based landing, there's an extra piece of redundancy). It also has a completely domestic, guaranteed launch vehicle to use.
Boeing is still married to ULA's expensive vehicles, one of which is about to be given a new engine. Once they abandon the RD180 and start using this new engine, Atlas V will essentially be a different, unproven launch vehicle. Of course, they can use the Delta IV, but that is more expensive still than the Atlas V, which already dwarfs the cost of a SpaceX launch. Now, that isn't necessarily a deal breaker, but to exclusively depend on Boeing, who isn't likely to pursue compatibility with SpaceX's launch vehicles, means marrying ourselves to a single launch provider, with all the problems that entails (think of the current RD180 fiasco, the shuttle fleet being grounded after various disasters, the cost problems with a de facto monopoly)

If this is solely awarded to Boeing, I think that tells us that science and exploration are officially secondary objectives at NASA. Their primary purpose will be keeping the coffers full for big aerospace, and anything of value that happens to be accomplished will be in spite of their culture, not because of it.

3 days ago
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Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

werepants Re:No, no. Let's not go there. Please. (902 comments)

To be fair, some atheists are actively antagonistic to religious groups and do try to oppose them in every way possible. I agree that that sort of relationship helps no one.

4 days ago
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Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

werepants Re:No, no. Let's not go there. Please. (902 comments)

Here's the thing - religion provides a lot for people. A moral code, a purpose in life, community, and identity. So I think when people are asking that, they mean "What, then, are the guiding principles of your life?" Which is a fair question. Everybody has some things that they hold to be true, for a deeply religious person they might be genuinely curious how that works for you.

Of course, some might ask that question not out of curiosity but to suggest that your life is lacking all of those things without religion. Those cases aren't worth a response, both in the sense that the person in question is an asshole and also because there is no talking sense with those folks.

4 days ago
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Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

werepants Re: illogical captain (902 comments)

It never ceases to amaze me how many people suffer under the insanely moronic misconception that ethical values spring from somewhere authoritative.

FTFY. Ethics are ultimately arbitrary and subjective, wherever you get them from. Some people choose to get them from a religious tradition, some people choose to define them for themselves, and still others falsely believe that their ethics are a logical consequence of reality.

4 days ago
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Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

werepants Re:illogical captain (902 comments)

I've never encountered someone who argues against God and against physicalism simultaneously, especially while using science as their justification.

Science inherently assumes physicalism. Only things that can be tested by a conceivable physical apparatus really fall within the domain of science - if anything that exists that cannot, even in principle, be evaluated this way then it is meaningless to science. So you seem to assert that consciousness and intelligence are nonphysical (which is certainly a claim that falls outside of the bounds of science) while claiming that another nonphysical assertion (God exists) is totally unjustified.

I don't have a problem with you rejecting physicalism, but it certainly seems as though you aren't applying the same level of scrutiny to your belief about consciousness as you apply to the concept of a god. What "rather strong evidence" are you aware of that consciousness is nonphysical? Certainly consciousness and intelligence exist, but both are extremely difficult to define. And the fact that physical or chemical changes to the brain can impact both of these suggests that they are indeed physical. The scientific answer is that we don't yet understand either of these things very well, that they are extremely complex emergent properties of a complicated biological system, and that they are yet another entirely physical phenomena.

The existence of unexplained things does not contradict physicalism. You're basically using a "god-of-the-gaps" argument, but you aren't arguing for god.

4 days ago
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Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

werepants Re:illogical captain (902 comments)

That Sam Harris talk is terrible. He doesn't make any arguments, he presents some extreme cases that his audience members will react against predictably, and then claims that we can all agree on things. This has next to nothing to do with science.

Science is like a function in mathematics or code - you put something in (a testable question) and you get something out (the results of the test that was devised to explore that question). If you ask it "is murder wrong?" this is indeed a question, but it isn't testable. "Wrong" does not have a meaning in science. You could ask "do the majority of people believe murder is wrong?" and get an answer via survey, but that is a question about popular opinion, and if you think that sounds like a good approach you are advocating morality via democracy (which is basically what Harris is demonstrating) - that isn't morality by science at all. You could also ask "does murder have a negative social and economic impact on communities?" and answer that question. What remains unresolved is what we ought to do - what if I want to go against the majority opinion? Is that right or wrong? What if I want to do something that has a positive impact for me even though it has a negative impact for society? Is that right or wrong?

Ultimately, we need to invent some values to base moral systems off of. This makes sense, it's why a lot of organizations and institutions have guiding principles or visions or whatever - you need to say at some point what everything else will be based on. That first step is always subjective and arbitrary. I might hold knowledge to be the ultimate aim of life, or compassion, or justice, or happiness. I think utilitarianism's "give the best life possible to as many as possible" is pretty compelling, but it still has problems. Some people use ancient texts and traditions to fill in the blanks on the first step, which might have some problems, but ultimately isn't any more subjective (at least at that point) than what everyone else is doing.

4 days ago
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Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

werepants Re: illogical captain (902 comments)

Starting with an assumption is not an action that is compatible with science.

This isn't really true. Physics in particular is full of blatant assumptions that give mathematicians fits. In lots of cases, physicists use a model that is knowingly wrong and overly idealized, but we assume that it captures the behavior of a system well enough to be useful. The difference is, scientists are always (or should be) forthcoming and transparent about their assumptions.

Science is (just) a method of evaluating the probability of truth. That's a very powerful thing when done correctly, but it is not a source of ethics (though it can help with some ethics questions), nor is it a source of meaning (which is nothing if not subjective). To assume there is meaning to be found is already making more assumptions than science can work with. Science is not an ideology that can replace religion. Atheism is an ideology that replaces religion. The only link between science and atheism is that science is not compatible with religion. Science must start with the null hypothesis and religion cannot back up that far. If it did, it would be atheism.

With this I wholeheartedly agree.

4 days ago
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When Scientists Give Up

werepants Re:Easy solution (348 comments)

You are entirely full of shit. Look into Bell Labs sometime, which employed a ton of PHds in physics, math, and other theoretical disciplines. They did more fundamental research than almost any other institution during much of the 20th century, and you have them to thank for creating the entire fucking information age. They produced a little thing called the transistor, millions of which sit inside your computer, enabling you to bitch about physics online. Not to mention developing information theory, lasers, the first communication satellites, the cell phone network, and way back in the day the telephone lines and vacuum tubes to enable your words to be heard plain as day by somebody on the other side of the country.

If you don't believe fundamental work in physics has produced anything of value, then you must not use the internet, a modern car, watch TV or DVDs, listen to music (even much of radio is digital now, and anyway it is all amplified by transistors), or talk on a cell phone. Not to mention the constant increases in battery life, memory density, computer speed and storage capacity. Every single one of those comes down to fundamental physics, a bunch of eggheads "going to seminars and debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin".

about a week ago
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Denver Latest City Hit By Viral Respiratory Infection That Targets Kids

werepants Re:No deaths? (174 comments)

This is pretty simple. The text says, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." If we were to rewrite this in more modern and familiar language, we might say "Since a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed". The ACLU's line is that the intent of this amendment is that a militia has a right to keep and bear arms, which says nothing at all about personal individual ownership. I'm not necessarily saying I agree, but it is certainly a reasonable interpretation - otherwise, why did the founding fathers include the bit about militias at all?

The modern NRA interpretation of the second amendment infers a whole lot of stuff there that isn't obvious to me. Sometimes they speak as though it is intended that individuals could rise up and overthrow their democratically elected government, but I don't see that implied in the text. Often the argument is made that people have a right to self-defense, police times are slow, it is part of our country's heritage, etc, but none of those have anything to do with the second amendment. My point is that the NRA interprets the constitution to fit their agenda just as much as the ACLU or anybody else.

So I think it's clear that conservatives don't have a monopoly on constitutionality and that multiple interpretations are possible. Partisan politics are almost entirely one giant straw-man - paint the other party as a bunch of lunatics, crooks, or idiots, and subtly inflame any cultural differences you can find. Then ask for donations, pay to dump more rhetoric into the machine, and hope that you've gotten more people worked up than your opponent. Things would be very different if we could recognize that there are different ways to view the same problem, and people on the right and left are working for many of the same ultimate goals but with different approaches. We should compare ideas and let them stand on their own merit rather than judging them only by their team colors.

about two weeks ago
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Denver Latest City Hit By Viral Respiratory Infection That Targets Kids

werepants Re:No deaths? (174 comments)

It is trivially easy to think of an example where the intent is the fundamental point of dispute: the ACLU vs. the NRA's interpretation of the second amendment.

Ultimately, BOTH sides choose interpretations to further their agendas. Very few people earnestly go to a document to see what it says, and in truth, the set of laws that are laid out in our founding documents are not complete without the centuries of precedent and supreme court interpretation clarifying their intent and application.

I would say you are viewing the intent in the Hobby Lobby case to suit your agenda. An absurd amount of activity has been justified under free speech, Citizens United being a prime example, where the supreme court ruled that corporations, first of all, are people, and secondly, are entitled to use money to influence political processes, which means that money is considered speech. In what universe is this the intention of "no law shall be made abridging the freedom of speech"!? Hobby Lobby was more of this (IMO) dubious first amendment interpretation, where the rights of a corporation to make religious choices for their employees overruled the rights of those individual employees to make their own religious choices.

It is easy to sit on a high horse and believe you are the one who respects the constitution while your enemies ignores it, but that world only exists in the mind of blind partisans. It is less easy to be sure of yourself when you admit that you interpret the constitution one way while others interpret it another way, but that world is the one we live in. Stop demonizing liberals, or at least if you insist on doing it, stop whining when they demonize you right back. Everybody is trying to do the best thing for the country, the only difference is the approach.

about two weeks ago
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Denver Latest City Hit By Viral Respiratory Infection That Targets Kids

werepants Re:No deaths? (174 comments)

The argument as I see it isn't whether we should follow original intent or not, it is what the original intent IS. And even then, on some level, original intent isn't (and can't be) meaningful or known. From the wiki:

In the case of US Federal Law, law is made by majority vote in two chambers, and is then signed by the President. 536 people are therefore potentially involved in this process, and not one of them needs to share the same intentions as any other of them in order to play their part in ratifying the bill. They need only vote; their vote will count the same if they share the same intent as their colleagues, if they do not share the intent of their colleagues, and indeed, if they have no particular intention, and are voting solely because their party whip handed them a note saying "be on the Senate floor at 9:36pm and say 'Aye'." Their vote will count even if they are falling-down drunk or if they have not even read the bill under consideration.[7] All of which is to say that giving effect to the intent of the legislature not only presumes that there is a singular intent – no less dubious an assertion where statutes are concerned than where the Constitution is – but, worse yet, the very diversity of these bodies may permit a judge to corrupt his inquiry by finding a floor statement or committee report which suggests an intent that the Judge thinks would be a good result.[8]

So, we have to look at what was written, figure out what it was meant to do (as best as we can) and figure out what impacts it may have, which may very well extend far beyond any effect the legislation's originators ever intended, and hopefully make a decision that optimally accounts for the technicalities of the text, the inferred meaning, and the anticipated impacts. Little wonder the founding fathers thought to dedicate an entire branch of government to this task.

Liberals disagree with you about what the original intent was. Saying that they don't care about original intent is just a flimsy strawman argument.

about two weeks ago

Submissions

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$99 iPad rival NoteSlate

werepants werepants writes  |  more than 3 years ago

werepants (1912634) writes "NoteSlate — a digital drawing pad, or at least the idea of one — is burning a hole in the blogosphere. A few weeks ago, descriptions and mockups appeared online at NoteSlate.com. Since then, hundreds of technology news and gossip sites around the globe have written about it in at least half a dozen languages, heralding the imminent arrival of a $99 e-ink digital tablet that mimics the simplicity of old-fashioned pen and paper."
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