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Comment what is a CEO's job? (Score 1) 180

There is a lot of misunderstanding out there about what a CEO's job is (among CEOs, even).

Done properly, a CEO is not "the boss," but simply the primary interface between investors (board of directors) and management (the people actually running the company). Often, a CEO will take on more of an investor or manager role depending on the size of the company and the quirks of the individuals involved. This can lead to trouble though. Knowing who to support and when in the perennial struggle between management and investors is the key to being a good CEO.

I think the idea of the individual CEO as successful benevolent dictator is a myth. You may know some famous CEOs who seem like supermen (i.e. Musk, Gates, Jobs), but there are always teams of people with more power and authority in their companies that provide vision, execution, discipline, financing... whatever is lacking.

The company from TFA is employee owned and focused on providing consulting services. In that situation, not having a CEO makes sense. All of the employees are manager/investors and have very similar goals for the company. They're not growth oriented or VC backed. Why have a CEO?

Comment Re:Good on him (Score 2) 225

Almost agree with you here. Basic research funding is very high compared to the funding for commercializing that research. Government run basic research funding in USA is larger than the combined amount of Angel and VC funding, despite commercialization being more expensive per project.

I'm a scientist, and there is a huge backlog of great ideas across many disciplines. Per capita, we start fewer businesses now than at any point in the last 30+ years.

The larger investment community is addicted to easy wins based solely on scale and low technical risk development (i.e. software). Musk is showing that there's still profit for new hardware plays, even with difficult development.

Comment Re:Well, IMHO... (Score 1) 69

Generally, this is the first argument I make with universities patenting inventions developed while grant funded (grants almost always include a clause for government ownership of IP, and it is almost always ignored).

However, Broad is largely privately funded. While they do get a lot of government money, they also have received over $700 Million in donations. It's that private money that allowed this (the expedited, well written patent filing) to happen.

We all may grind our teeth at granting a valuable patent to a place where 12 very well connected people control a billion dollar research budget heavily subsidized by the government, but, a well written patent with clear ownership will greatly help this technology actually make it out of the twisted halls of academia and into some form the rest of us can use. Most academic patents are garbage that just make commercialization more difficult.

Comment Re:I'm a lawyer (Score 1) 351

You picked three professions (law, medicine, and accounting) that are at root about recognizing patterns and comparing those patterns to copious amounts of regulation and established data.

You don't think we're on the verge of automating this?! There are software packages for law, medicine, and accounting that already claim to automate most of these job functions.

I agree that there are parts of law practice (trust, leveraging a social network, intimidation, client control) that robots will not easily replace. When robot lawyers become available, we will have an explosion of frivolous lawsuits. There are plenty of jokes and grumbling about lawyers, but generally your job is to prevent lawsuits, even if your client doesn't understand that.

I'm a scientist. I try to find places where established knowledge and understanding is wrong, despite the existing data. When computers replace me, then we're pretty much obsolete as a species.

Comment Re:Could be worse (Score 5, Informative) 626

Back when airport screeners were contractors they had the right to make that mistake and get a funny story out of it, but government employees can't legally ask you to turn that laptop on in public. The question itself was enough to get that guy arrested. When I was in civil service with DoD, I would travel without any government electronics if possible, because despite the laws, the TSA was a liability. Traveling internationally, forget about it, I don't think I was allowed to bring anything that had ever been in my lab with me. This NASA guy was on a personal trip to Chile with a phone with sensitive info on it... that's just stupid on his part. Get another phone for the trip.

I used to do development and testing for explosives detectors. Nitro-toluenes are very, very hard to get off your skin and clothes. I was pulled aside for random searching and swabbed for explosives. So I come up positive for DNT residue. I thought this was great, because I wasn't sure the machines they were using at the time would pick up the very small amount of residue from somone who used appropriate lab attire (in-field positive test!). I then told them that the reading wasn't likely a false positive and that I worked with explosives. Maybe I should have led with my Navy ID and an explanation that I was a scientist in the civil service, but they did NOT like that I admitted to having explosives residue on me.

Comment this is a whole field (Score 4, Interesting) 39

Using gas from exhaled breath to detect disease is a whole medical field that the people running this study are evidently unaware of (none of them have a medical background). If diagnosing influenza was as easy as detecting nitric oxide and ammonia in breath, we would already have this. The problem is that almost anything wrong with you causes you to exhale nitric oxide and ammonia. The real state of the art in this field looks at dozens of markers simultaneously to correct for common background effects (i.e. air pollution, your metabolism, what you had for lunch...). Handheld detectors for this stuff are all over the place.

There's a wikipedia article for "Exhaled Nitric Oxide" that goes over some of these things. This study was funded by NSF? Why? If you can Google your research question and find the answer dozens of times over, you don't need to waste some poor grad student's time for 2-3 years to get the answer yet again.

Comment Re:HB-1 abuse (Score 2) 477

Well, that's an interesting system you're suggesting. It's very similar to what we have now in science. Anyone who can pass a background check can be employed on a student visa (even if they're not a student) at a university. (For scale, universities in the US raise and spend slightly more money on research annually than the total annual funding for startup companies in the US.) So the research labor market is very much an open, worldwide competition, with a lot of people and a lot of opportunity. Allowing universities to do this also builds in the "train your replacement" approach, which is done enthusiastically in this context. This also means the average salaries are very low for positions that can be filled this way ( anything under a tenure track professor position). While I worked at a university, we had a number of homeless scientists working on campus (I was one for a few months). It was interesting and very bohemian, but not what I would call economically fair.

Comment Re:Sure, when you keep doing them poorly (Score 5, Interesting) 334

If anything we step back and debate problems more than necessary. You can easily spend a career in physics identifying a single "difficulty" and putting together a plan for the next generation to tackle it.

I'm a third generation nanotechnologist. The guys 40+ years ago mapped out what they thought could be done (they were horribly wrong, but they were good guesses), and they developed the laboratory tools we needed just to look at the stuff (that didn't exist yet). This was hard, some of them won Nobel prizes for their work. The guys 20-30 years ago got some of the proof of concept work done by inventing new materials (in the end, not the right materials, but very close). This was also hard; some of them won Nobel prizes. I got to work on the very first applications with the right tools and the right materials. This was a lot easier; none of my generation is going to win anything. The people I trained get to do engineering and work on products. They can do in a day what took me a year, and what my mentor could just write about theoretically.

Still, we're very far away from the end of the road.

Comment Re:Can someone explain in laymans terms how.... (Score 5, Interesting) 334

I am a condensed matter physicist.

There are no practical applications of metallic hydrogen in the foreseeable future. There is an "always be selling" philosophy in science for the last few decades which is really unfortunate and has not been healthy for public trust of science. Many people have been sold on applications for metallic hydrogen that are not realistic.

Was this a waste of time? No. The fundamental theories of how metals are structured and how conductivity works say that hydrogen should be a great metal. The historic difficulty in creating metallic hydrogen may have meant that we were missing something important about how metals form, or missing something important about hydrogen (we discovered we were missing a lot of the necessary physics over the course of 80 years). The observation of metallic hydrogen now is an important verification of the level of completeness of our understanding of matter.

Spending 80 years to work something out is not so unusual in physics. Difficult projects take a few generations.

Comment Regulatory Approach (Score 2) 44

Reading an article like this, I can just hear my regulatory affairs officer having a heart attack in my head.

I realize that very few people here have ever had dealings with the FDA. The FDA regulates the interstate marketing of medical tools (including software) and drugs, everything they do comes from that core mission and authority. Press releases and statements are pretty central to that mission. You should try to limit press on your product to what the FDA agrees you've proven. Depending on your views of the government, medical ethics, and your risk tolerance, "should try to" in that statement might be "must" or "should pretend to."

Software focusing on "health" isn't really regulated, but "diagnostic" means this is medical. If you think they made a diagnostic tool for skin cancer, then they may have a problem when it comes time to talk with the FDA. They haven't shown that they have a diagnostic yet, that's the point of the last quote in the article, but that quote is in FDA-speak while the rest of the article is less formal sounding. (They've done what's called a retrospective study, which is at most half of what is necessary.)

Generally, the authors on the paper are smarter than this. Here's an example of an article a Stanford Dermatologist usually contributes to. Note that the Dermatologist quoted in that article is also quoted in TFA. Note the difference in tone of the publication, the whole thing is in FDA-speak. Yes, it's super boring. It's also not going to give anyone at the FDA a reason to hold up an application for marketing prior to approval.

Comment Re:This is a surprise? (Score 4, Insightful) 483

I wouldn't be as... caustic in my critique of universities as the OP, but I can definitely understand the sentiment.

I think the problem is that many people think that universities should all act like non-profit educational institutions. In reality, the "best" universities act like (for-profit) partnerships performing professional research services, and they are very, very good at this. Certainly, this is where the majority of UC funding comes from.

If you paid for an undergrad degree at a research institution, and didn't understand that you should have been working in some famous professor's lab to actually get your education, you're going to be pretty upset when you get out.

Comment The first step (Score 5, Insightful) 99

I've been working in this field for a long time. If you look around the literature, you'll see my name on several papers on nanoelectronic detection of disease via breath. This is a great demo, and Haik is a very good guy in this field, but he's done only the easiest part. I've learned the hard way that publishing an academic paper and making something that doctors actually would buy to make treatment decisions are completely different things. This is the first step in the development process, not the last.

In this case, there are already medical breath tests, and entire clinics devoted to this kind of medical test (without the nanotech part). The tools are already cleared for use, and medical doctors have protocols and billing methods for using them. If the key part of this is really those 13 compounds, there's no need for nano wizardry; use the mass spec or whatever that the clinic already has. That's really the key here, why would anyone use his device, and not just his results? Often in sensor research, we don't understand the distinction there when the results get us such great publications and press. The grant manager paid for the nanotechnology (and the citations that come with it), but everyone else is interested in the medicine.

Comment not time yet (Score 1) 188

I got to do a rotation through the Navy lab that was working on LENR shortly before it was shut down. The folks running it were exactly the kind of scientist you want working on this: careful, self-critical, experienced, and most importantly, not part of a pro-LENR institute (they answered to skeptical Navy brass, not LENR true-believer donors and investors). Unfortunately, LENR is controversial, difficult to get funding for, and easy to tie up in regulatory red tape. They were caught in a strange Catch-22. As they were able to convince their bosses that nuclear reactions were happening, the facility and oversight requirements increased. At some point the safety and reporting requirements outpaced the resources they had access to. The Navy lab closed several years ago. As far as I know, there is no independent group like that studying LENR anymore.

Comment Re:Typical enviro extremism (Score 2) 143

I'm not sure you know how science (as a profession) works. These guys wrote the paper for a reason. They did the research for a reason. There's a grant manager and staff writing contracts, doing accounting and presenting reports to an NGO board about this work... all for a reason. This didn't just happen because of scientific curiosity, and it's absolutely insulting to scientists to remove us from policy and moral debates. I think if anything, we got into science to win those debates. (If you can't tell yet, I'm a scientist, and your comment royally pisses me off.) We do science because of our biases and because we want to change things.

So yeah. This work was ABSOLUTELY about making an argument blaming civilization for damaging the environment. There are many fields of science devoted to that purpose. The people doing this work are absolutely hoping that more people think about roads as a problem as a result of what they've written.

You're quoting the editor's blurb, not the scientists, by the way. The scientists end their abstract with

Global protection of ecologically valuable roadless areas is inadequate. International recognition and protection of roadless areas is urgently needed to halt their continued loss.

Those are not the words of someone just reporting the facts with no commentary. These guys got paid by their donors to do this because they're expected to make statements like this, and they're published in Science because they're good at making arguments like this. This is what professional scientists do.

They don't need you pretending that there is no moral message or call to action in the work they're doing.

Comment Re:What about red lights? (Score 1) 357

Wait, a minute here...

There's no counter evidence provided on Snopes, just a statement from Uber. That's not "better research." You're relying on a corporate cover-your-ass statement. What about Uber's history or corporate culture leads you to believe their statements are actually true?

Digging into the TechCrunch article, some of what's said there doesn't make any sense. This is an autonomous Volvo, custom built and owned by Uber specifically for this pilot program. There's no purpose other than this autonomous pilot program for this model Volvo with these modifications and special Uber livery. It was driven by one of their pilot project drivers. This happened during the period of time and in the location that Uber was running the pilot program. But Uber claims this specific vehicle (despite the livery, modifications, special driver, location, and timing) was not part of the pilot project.

So again, why do you think they're telling you the truth?

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