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  • The value of basic research

    ParticleNews at 2017-01-17T18:28:18Z

    "The value of basic research"

    How can we measure the worth of scientific knowledge? Economic analysts give it a shot.

    Header Image: Economic Impact

    Before building any large piece of infrastructure, potential investors or representatives from funding agencies or governments have to decide whether it’s worth it. Teams of economists perform a cost-benefit analysis to help them determine how a project will affect a region and whether it makes sense to back and build it. 

    But when it comes to building infrastructure for basic science, the process gets a little more complicated. It’s not so easy to pin an exact value on the benefits of something like the Large Hadron Collider.

    “The main goal is priceless and therefore has no price attached,” says Stefano Forte, a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Milan and part of a team that developed a new method of economic analysis for fundamental science. “We give no value to discovering the Higgs boson in the past or supersymmetry or extra dimensions in the future, because we wouldn’t be able to say what the value of the discovery of extra dimensions is.”

    Forte’s team was co-led by two economists, academic Massimo Florio, also of the University of Milan, and private business consultant Silvia Vignetti. They answered a 2012 call by the European Investment Bank’s University Sponsorship Program, which provides grants to university research centers, for assistance with this issue. The bank funded their research into a new way to evaluate proposed investments in science.

    Before anyone can start evaluating any sort of impact, they have to define what they’re measuring. Generally, economic impact analyses are highly local, measuring exclusively money flowing in and out of a particular area. 

    Because of the complicated nature of financing any project, the biggest difficulty for economists performing an analysis is usually coming up with an appropriate counterfactual: If the project isn’t built, what will happen? As Forte asks, “If you hadn’t spent the money there, where else would you have spent it, and are you sure that by spending it there rather than somewhere else you actually gain something?” 

    Based on detailed information about where a scientific collaboration intends to spend their money, economists can take the first step in painting a picture of how that funding will affect the region. The next step is accounting for the secondary spending that this brings.

    Companies are paid to do construction work for a scientific project, “and then it sort of cascades throughout the region,” says Jason Horwitz of Anderson Economic Group, which regularly performs economic analyses for universities and physics collaborations. “As they hire more people, the employees themselves are probably going to local grocery stores, going to local restaurants, they might go to a movie now and then—there’s just more local spending.”  

    These first parts of the analysis account only for the tangible, concrete-and-steel process of building and maintaining an experiment, though. 

    “If you build a bridge, the main benefit is from people who use the build—transportation of goods over the bridge and whatnot,” Forte says. But the benefit of constructing a telescope array or a huge laser interferometer is knowledge-formation, “which is measured in papers and publications, references and so on,” he says. 

    One way researchers like Horwitz and Forte have begun to assign value to such projects is by measuring the effect of the project on the people who run it. Like attending university, working on a scientific collaboration gives you an education—and an education changes your earning capabilities. 

    “Fundamental research has a huge added value in terms of human capital formation, even if you work there for two years and then you go and work in a company on Wall Street,” Forte says. Using the same methods used by universities, they found doing research at the LHC would raise students’ earning potential by about 11 percent over a 40-year career.

    This method of measuring the value of scientific projects still has limitations. In it, the immeasurable, grander purpose of a fundamental science experiment is still assigned no value at all. When it comes down to it, Forte says, if all we cared about were a big construction project, technology spinoffs and the earning potential of students, we wouldn’t have fundamental physics research. 

    “The actual purpose of this is not a big construction project,” Horwitz says. “It’s to do this great research which obviously has other benefits of its own, and we really don’t capture any of that.” Instead, his group appends qualitative explanations of the knowledge to be gained to their economic reports. 

    Forte explains, “The fact that this kind of enterprise exists is comparable and evaluated in the same way as, say, the value of the panda not being extinct. If the panda is extinct, there is no one who’s actually going to lose money or make money—but many taxpayers would be willing to pay money for the panda not to be extinct.” 

    Forte and his colleagues found a 90 percent chance of the LHC’s benefits exceeding its costs (by 2.9 billion euros, they estimate). But even in the 10 percent chance that its economics aren’t quite so Earth-shaking, its discoveries could change the way we understand our universe.


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  • Twinkle, twinkle, little supernova

    ParticleNews at 2017-01-12T20:28:08Z

    "Twinkle, twinkle, little supernova"

    Using Twinkles, the new simulation of images of our night sky, scientists get ready for a gigantic cosmological survey unlike any before.

    A simulation of stars against a black background

    Almost every worthwhile performance is preceded by a rehearsal, and scientific performances are no exception. Engineers test a car’s airbag deployment using crash test dummies before incorporating them into the newest model. Space scientists fire a rocket booster in a test environment before attaching it to a spacecraft in flight.

    One of the newest “training grounds” for astrophysicists is called Twinkles. The Twinkles dataset, which has not yet been released, consists of thousands of simulated, highly realistic images of the night sky, full of supernovae and quasars. The simulated-image database will help scientists rehearse a future giant cosmological survey called LSST.

    LSST, short for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, is under construction in Chile and will conduct a 10-year survey of our universe, covering the entire southern sky once a year. Scientists will use LSST images to explore our galaxy to learn more about supernovae and to shine a light on the mysterious dark energy that is responsible for the expansion of our universe.

    It’s a tall order, and it needs a well prepared team. Scientists designed LSST using simulations and predictions for its scientific capabilities. But Twinkles’ thousands of images will give them an even better chance to see how accurately their LSST analysis tools can measure the changing brightness of supernovae and quasars. That’s the advantage of using simulated data. Scientists don’t know about all the objects in the sky above our heads, but they do know their simulated sky— there, they already know the answers. If the analysis tools make a calculation error, they’ll see it.

    The findings will be a critical addition to LSST’s measurements of certain cosmological parameters, where a small deviation can have a huge impact on the outcome.

    “We want to understand the whole path of the light: From other galaxies through space to our solar system and our planet, then through our atmosphere to the telescope – and from there through our data-taking system and image processing,” says Phil Marshall, a scientist at the US Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory who leads the Twinkles project. “Twinkles is our way to go all the way back and study the whole picture instead of one single aspect.”

    Scientists simulate the images as realistically as possible to figure out if some systematic errors add up or intertwine with each other. If they do, it could create unforeseen problems, and scientists of course want to deal with them before LSST starts.

    Twinkles also lets scientists practice sorting out a different kind of problem: A large collaboration spread across the whole globe that will perform numerous scientific searches simultaneously on the same massive amounts of data.

    Richard Dubois, senior scientist at SLAC and co-leader of the software infrastructure team, works with his team of computing experts to create methods and plans to deal with the data coherently across the whole collaboration and advise the scientists to choose specific tools to make their life easier.

    “Chaos is a real danger; so we need to keep it in check,” Dubois says. “So with Twinkles, we test software solutions and databases that help us to keep our heads above water.”

    The first test analysis using Twinkles images will start toward the end of the year. During the first go, scientists extract type 1a supernovae and quasars and learn how to interpret the automated LSST measurements.

    “We hid both types of objects in the Twinkles data,” Marshall says. “Now we can see whether they look the way they’re supposed to.”

    LSST will start up in 2022, and the first LSST data will be released at the end of 2023.

    “High accuracy cosmology will be hard,” Marshall says. “So we want to be ready to start learning more about our universe right away!”


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  • Michele Montagna at 2016-12-08T23:20:15Z

    Hola a todos, tiempo sin entrar, como estan compañeros!!

    FLWNQWUD likes this.

    no entro tan a menudo como antes. Todo bien!

    FLWNQWUD at 2016-12-10T20:51:53Z

  • at 2016-12-10T02:12:07Z

    So thoughtful of the Solos. That kid's a winner. He's gonna grow up to be something someday. Definitely not gonna c⦠https://twitter.com/i/web/status/807404520963719168

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠), FLWNQWUD likes this.

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠), Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) shared this.

    What did NS do there with the "cling" -> "câ¦"? I would have understood what went on if a byte of a UTF-8 message got truncated, but your text was all ASCII.

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) at 2016-12-10T21:07:39Z

    >> Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠):

    “What did NS do there with the "cling" -> "câ¦"? I would have understood what went on if a byte of a UTF-8 message got truncated, but your text was all ASCII.”

    I think Twitter made a change in their API breaking many things. The URL returned is in quite a new style too.

    Stephen Michael Kellat at 2016-12-11T02:27:30Z

    LIkely this has to do with how "t", the program I use to CLI-access Twitter, receives and formats data. I'll hunt it down one of these days.

    Stephen Sekula at 2016-12-11T14:08:22Z

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  • Mageia 5 Support Extension and General Update

    JanKusanagi @identi.ca at 2016-11-25T09:44:16Z

    “[...] Since Mageia 6 is being delayed, Mageia 5’s support is automatically extended in order to give users 3 months to upgrade before Mageia 5 stops receiving security updates. ”


    “We will also be releasing the Mageia 5.1 ISOs very soon [...] This will allow for new systems to be installed with all the updates that Mageia 5 has received ”


    “[...] Mageia 6 has not been forgotten. We had issues with the ISO building server but now that these have been resolved and progress on 5.1 is good, the next milestone release towards Mageia 6 will shortly follow the release of Mageia 5.1. [...] and Cauldron is in a very good shape with many updates and fixes, so we hope that the next milestones (stabilisation snapshot 2, release candidate(s), final) will arrive soon and close to each other. ”

    Full post: blog.mageia.org/en/2016/11/24/mageia-5-support-extension-and-general-update

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    I recently converted one laptop from Linux Mint to Mageia 5. So far, it has been good.

    lnxwalt@microca.st at 2016-11-25T17:29:40Z

  • This is what I send to anybody who asks me about veganism

    Alberto Moshpirit at 2016-11-21T23:49:59Z

    This is an English version of this note that I made in Spanish so a few links here are not there and vice-versa.

    Going vegan was not a problem excepting for the social pressure. In fact, I think that this is the only difficulty that veganism has is confronting yourself and throw away all the excuses and myths about it. That’s why I’m writing this and offer my help.

    There’s lots of people that don’t know how to inform about this topic and that’s leading veganism to be what it is: the best or the worst depending on how we discover it. It’s not the same hearing about veganism because a few people in a supermarket or a restaurant to complain or a friend tells you or oneself research on the Internet.

    In general, the people who decided to do not support these industries anymore took this decision because we saw how harmful it is: for the animals, for our health and the environment. Based on this, We think that it’s a change we must take since the current system is absolutely unsustainable. In addiction, it’s growing very fast and there’s a lot of great content either informative content like recipes, like otherwise. Reddit has been the very best to me so I leave some info about it too ;)

    Nowadays I consider myself an Animal Rights defender since I consider myself antispeciesist; that means that I’m against the arbitrary discrimination by species. This discrimination is very common in our daily life, since the basic idea resides in that we human beings are superior to other species for having or not some kind of capacity, like if such thing existed at all and gave is any right to harm them or finishing their interest in living their lives peacefully as we do.

    For more information, please read this.

    For any doubt or suggestion, here I am (be always critic, I can be mistaken too, I’m a human as well, if you see anything to be corrected or added, please, let me know ☺)

    Videos and interesting websites that I totally recommend even when I do not agree at 100% with everything they say (specially for Gary Yourofsky):

    Leyend: «★» shows what I recommend the most and «✔» if there’s no hard images About theme: «♥» means ethics, «☕» health and «♻» environmentalism. If it has no icon, it probably treats several topics.

    Here there’s some wonderful videos of happy animals xD:

    Other videos:

    1. Adbasting - Anti-Smoking Ad (shocking!)
    2. Humane Meat: Taste the Happy!
    3. Thug Kitchen Cookbook Trailer (explicit)
    4. La mirada circular - Cortometraje (the Spanish dialog is avoidable)
    5. Blackfish [ Documentary ]
    6. The Story of a 78-Year-Old Vegan Bodybuilder - Jim Morris: Lifelong Fitness - Short Film
    7. My story
    8. Santa fiesta
    9. The Cove
    10. iAnimal: what's living as a pig | 360º interactive tour in first person
    11. PHILOSOPHY - Ethics: Killing Animals for Food

    Interesting articles, books and magazines and others:


    Kind regards!

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  • I must admit...

    EricxDu at 2016-09-15T03:04:26Z

    I really like Pump.io, in concept and in execution. The client pool is rather immature, but there's a lot of potential there.

    bthall, Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠), FLWNQWUD, sazius likes this.

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) shared this.

    Yep, a lot of potential indeed. Take OpenFarmGame for instance, and imagine if people started making real, non-annoying games built on Pump.

    We just need the people =)

    JanKusanagi @identi.ca at 2016-09-15T12:00:23Z

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) likes this.

    JanKusanagi, I have some game-related ideas for integration with Pumpio. I hope for the opportunity to try them out.

    EricxDu at 2016-09-15T18:33:40Z

  • "have you no ambition"

    EricxDu at 2016-09-14T03:01:26Z

    My whole life I was taught –through a combination of parentage, teachers, and media– to follow one profitable ambition or another and “go places”. Is it just not fashionable to stay in your home-town, get a job in your community, and learn to love the place you live?

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  • at 2016-09-11T03:08:20Z

    Just a man, his beer, and a balloon model of a tetrahedral molecular bond. Totally normal Saturday. https://chirp.cooleysekula.net/attachment/15297

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  • Stephen Sekula at 2016-09-09T18:50:45Z

    From Twitter:

    RT @NASAJPL: "Jupiter might be the key to our existence." Earth vs Jupiter infographic & @NASAJuno's role https://t.co/8nuR0ruCpN https://t.co/q4ISzXFUoP

    FLWNQWUD likes this.

    Romans were right!

    FLWNQWUD at 2016-09-09T20:09:53Z

  • Stephen Michael Kellat at 2016-09-04T21:08:10Z

    >> Christopher Allan Webber:

    “[...] getting closer, by quite a lot [...]”

    So it isn't going to be a 50 state blowout by Mrs. Clinton then?

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  • Tiny troll <3

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) at 2016-09-04T15:11:39Z

    My whole life I misunderstood the expression“Explain to me like I'm four”. I thought it meant “Explain to me like I have very limited vocabulary, experience and reasoning faculties”.

    Now I have a four-year-old (almost). The expression actually means “Explain to me like I'm hiding how bright I am, because I'm a tiny attention troll who likes to test your reasoning faculties”.

    This is a very helpful excercise. I love my tiny “why why why” troll.

    der.hans, Bd Sn, Ben Sturmfels, mnd and 9 others likes this.

    der.hans, James Dearing 🐲 shared this.

    Trolling is probably human nature xD

    JanKusanagi @identi.ca at 2016-09-05T14:16:10Z

  • Renato Candido at 2016-09-03T15:23:30Z

    Voice Recognition Software Finally Beats Humans At Typing, Study Finds #ai http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/08/24/491156218/voice-recognition-software-finall...

    FLWNQWUD, Dana likes this.

    Well, depends on the human... =)

    JanKusanagi @identi.ca at 2016-09-03T15:49:03Z

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  • Christopher Allan Webber at 2016-09-02T15:14:21Z

    Through a rogue lens, all texts are adventures.

    joeyh, ghostdancer, sazius, ladykosha and 4 others likes this.

    EricxDu, EricxDu, EricxDu, Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) shared this.

    This was the main idea I was playing with in my roguelike game scroll. http://joeyh.name/code/scroll/

    Scroll can be used as a pager and the goal is to find your way to the bottom of the file.

    joeyh at 2016-09-03T15:44:09Z

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  • Apeirophobia

    joeyh at 2016-09-02T00:29:35Z

    My reasoning on living forever has long been that there are exactly two possibilities:

    • At some point your mind stops changing at all, or are stuck in some form of loop forever.
    • Your mind keeps changing forever, and so must eventually completely diverge from the person you started out as.

    Both are existentally terrifying, so I'm glad it's only a thought experient. Apparenlty this is called Apeirophobia and afflicts the reliigous more viscerally.

    I'd happily take a thousand years to think it over some more. ;)

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    Show all 6 replies
    Each divergence so far has been making me a better person, according to the person I became. I don't see any reason to worry more over the 1000-year span than I do over the hopeful 100-year span.

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) at 2016-09-03T09:49:55Z

    Egan has a great discussion of this toward the end of Schild's Ladder:


    “How do you carry something from here to there, and keep it the same? You move it step by step, keeping it parallel in the only way that makes sense. You climb Schild's ladder.”

    Tchicaya didn't ask if the prescription could be extended beyond physics; as an answer to his fears, it was only a metaphor. But it was a metaphor filled with hope. Even as he changed, he could watch himself closely, and judge whether he was skewing the arrow of his self.

    Maybe. Small errors add up. But also, I never said it wasn't a phobia. ;)

    joeyh at 2016-09-03T23:04:55Z

    Christopher Allan Webber likes this.

    @joeyh@identi.ca there's also the possibility that your core self remains somewhat static while your experiential memories change

    der.hans at 2016-09-05T16:54:35Z

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  • Michael Pollan’s 64 Food Rules

    victorhck at 2016-08-29T12:36:28Z

    Somos lo que comemos

    1. Eat food

    2. Don’t eat anything your great‐grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food

    3. Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry

    4. Avoid food products that contain high‐fructose corn syrup

    5. Avoid food products that have some form of sugar (or sweetener listed among) the top three ingredients

    6. Avoid food products that have more than 5 ingredients

    7. Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third‐grader cannot pronounce

    8. Avoid food products that make health claims

    9. Avoid food products with the wordoid “lite” or the terms “low fat” or “nonfat” in their names

    10. Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they are not

    11. Avoid foods you see advertised on television

    12. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle

    13. Eat only foods that will eventually rot

    14. Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature

    15. Get out of the supermarket whenever you can

    16. Buy your snacks at the farmers market

    17. Eat only foods that have been cooked by humans

    18. Don’t ingest foods made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap

    19. If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.

    20. It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car

    21. It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language (Think Big Mac, Cheetos or Pringles)

    22. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves

    23. Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food

    24. Eating what stands on one leg [mushrooms and plant foods] is better than eating what stands on two legs [fowl], which is better than eating what stands on four legs [cows, pigs and other mammals].

    25. Eat your colors

    26. Drink the spinach water

    27. Eat animals that have themselves eaten well

    28. If you have space, buy a freezer

    29. Eat like an omnivore

    30. Eat well‐grown food from healthy soil

    31. Eat wild foods when you can

    32. Don’t overlook the oily little fishes

    33. Eat some foods that have been predigested by bacterial or fungi

    34. Sweeten and salt your food yourself

    35. Eat sweet foods as you find them in nature

    36. Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk

    37. The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead

    38. Favor the kinds of oils and grains that have traditionally been stone‐ground

    39. Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself

    40. Be the kind of person who takes supplements – then skip the supplements

    41. Eat more lie the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks.

    42. Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism

    43. Have a glass of wine with dinner

    44. Pay more, eat less

    45. Eat less

    46. Stop eating before you’re full

    47. Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored

    48. Consult your gut

    49. Eat slowly

    50. The banquet is in the first bite

    51. Spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it

    52. Buy smaller plates and glasses

    53. Serve a proper portion and don’t go back for seconds

    54. Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like pauper

    55. Eat meals

    56. Limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods

    57. Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does

    58. Do all your eating at a table

    59. Try not to eat alone

    60. Treat treats as treats

    61. Leave something on your plate

    62. Plant a vegetable garden if you have space, a window box if you don’t

    63. Cook

    64. Break the rules once in a while

    Read more about his work at www.michaelpollan.com

    FLWNQWUD likes this.

    >> victorhck:

    “24. Eating what stands on one leg [mushrooms and plant foods] is better than eating what stands on two legs [fowl], which is better than eating what stands on four legs [cows, pigs and other mammals].”

    But bacon tho :( /s

    Alberto Moshpirit at 2016-08-29T12:50:04Z

    I specially like 21, but what about pizza? ;-)

    EVAnaRkISTO at 2016-08-30T10:29:03Z