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Caltech glassblower's retirement has scientists sighing (2016) (latimes.com)
299 points by Tomte on June 5, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 216 comments

As was commented when this last came up, CalTech had years to find or train a replacement. They were unwilling to spend the money to maintain their human capital. Neither were the nearby universities. They suffer as a result of their hubris. Many companies do too when they don't realize their human assets are actually part of a bus factor of 1 and let them quit or fire them, then wonder why they lost critical tribal knowledge. I'm sure CalTech has hired plenty of non-technical administrative staff and dedicated multiples of the glass blower's salary in the meantime.

I graduated from Caltech in 99, and I worked in Emlyn Hughes's physics lab, doing some programming for his experiments with Rubidium spin coupling with He3. The apparatus for the experiment was custom made by Gerhart, and even then, 20 years ago now, the faculty was trying to find and train a replacement. Their standards were very high, to be sure, but the main problem wasn't so much compensation, but finding a skilled apprentice who was willing to put in years with no guarantees that they would be the successor, or even become master glassblowers in their own right, and master scientfic glassblowers who have gone through their apprenticeship are rare beasts indeed.

We see this scarcity in other industries that require traditional master/journeyman/apprentice systems, like master machinists, masons, or plasterers. That there is are no baseline jobs, like light bulb manufacturing in glassblowing, that allow a sufficient pool of talent to acrue so that the very best, the "10x" artisans, can be found. That pool also gives a fallback so that people who are trained but do not possess the talent or dedication to become masters can still be gainfully employed.

On the other hand, there seems to be no shortage of those willing to apprentice, with no guarantees, as "minor league baseball player" without a realistic fallback if they happen to not quite make it into the 750-1000 best baseball players in the world. The compensation at the end in the unlikely case of success sure seems to make a difference there.

Unfortunately I don't think the compensation at the end for a master glassblower is $42,000 per month, minimum.

Well, I guess future will tell us if America is better off by paying baseball players rather than glassblower these ridiculous amounts.

Come on.... this argument that athletes should make less is ridiculous.

I took this to mean that glassblowers should be paid more, especially the best ones in the world.

If it was known 10+ years ago that Caltechs glassblower made 300-500k a year, you can bet they wouldn't be in this situation now.

The million dollar salaries for baseball players entice entire generations of kids and teens to at least "try" the sport. It keeps the good ones motivated and the few elite athletes a payout for a lifetime of work.

We could argue whether this is all worth it for entertainment, but you can't argue with the compensation model, it flat out works. It attracts and retains the absolute best people in the world at that specific job.

You are underestimating the value of fun. Team sports are more fun that blowing glass.

You clearly haven't spent much time in a glass blower's shop. The torches alone are freaking awesome and it's a pleasure to watch the tradesperson at work.

Maybe, but hobbyist glassblowers exist.

Explain please? It seems rather backwards to me, and with some unpleasant societal implications, that a pro sports player (so a subset of entertainment) is more highly compensated than someone who holds an even rarer skill set (in a subset of science).

An argument I've heard made is that professional athletes have compressed careers: for example, the median major league baseball salary is 1.5 million per year, and the average baseball career is ~5-6 years. This is actually on the high end, as Googling indicates that NFL numbers are much lower ($900k median over three years). It also doesn't factor in time spent in the minor leagues, which has a much lower payout.

So if you spread the contract out over ~30 years or so, the numbers look far different.

[1]: http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/15126571/study-mlb-averag... [2]: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070709131254.h...

Yeah, but the professional athletes can have other job while their baseball career is over. It's not like they need to make enough money in baseball, because after they're done they'll starve. I'd happily compress my software engineering career to 5-6 years to make $1.5M/y, where do I sign up?

It is unfortunate, but that's how the market works. What alternative is there besides the government imposing salary floors and ceilings?

> It is unfortunate, but that's how the market works.

And we as humans control "the market". It's not some abstract impossible-to-reason-with force. The better that we understand this, the better our economies will work.

Markets in whole are irrational and very difficult, if not impossible, to reason with. They also tend to react poorly and in unforseen ways to direct interference.

> that's how the market works

I'd say instead "that's how the market DOESN'T work" since clearly there are a lot of market failures - master glass blowers being just an example.

Why do you need an alternative to these perfectly viable solutions?

Because sports are entertainment, and people have expressed a willingness to part with more money to watch athletes than universities have expressed to pay glassblowers...

Yeah, ridiculous. How could we live without them? They are the basis of a decent society, unlike scientific research.

While the 99th percentile is certainly more attractive, the mean and probably even the average are much lower.

It's funny how people are willing to bet against the lottery on their whole career.

Then again... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusory_superiority

I sit in a very visible and mission critical seat at my company and I support basically all departments with a technical component, from CRM and marketing to IT and operations. And my compensation is less than half what other organizations pay for similar positions. Hence why I’m shopping around very heavily. It’s not even really about the money for me. My family and I are comfortable. But if the org isn’t willing to invest in its people then to me that is a bad sign.

There's nothing wrong with trying a moon shot or two throughout your career, but yeah there's no point in wasting your entire career on it.

All of that indicates lack of compensation sufficient to offset the risk of not becoming a master and opportunity costs of other employment options for those who can qualify. Put compensation at $1m+ cash and see if the position stays vacant.

That was my immediate thought: not the $1m, obviously, but:

1) It's a career with extremely limited options for progression, and you might work in the same place your entire life, or perhaps have a small handful of jobs (an increasingly alien concept in today's job market, and one that might make you feel imprisoned if you're not that ambitious).

2) (I suspect) The compensation is not likely to be terribly impressive, particularly early on, as compared with other viable options. Differences in compensation tend to compound over the years, so you'll always feel like you're behind the curve.

Factor in cost of living in California and I imagine it starts to look incredibly unappealing.

Yup they are asking the potential apprentices to shoulder all the risk of wasting their time in a dead end errand rather than compensating them.

I see two options to pull in candidates.

One is what you say: Lottery style. Provide huuuuuugae outcomes for some lucky people.

The other one is reduce the risk for everyone.

The universe does not care which one you choose, so I cannot argue using reason for one or the other, it's a choice. Still, I very much prefer society would adopt the second option. I think we made life choices way riskier than they need to be. Perceived risk still is as high as if we lived in scarcity of long ago times.

Okay, contrary to what I just said that I cannot argue with reason because it's the same outcomes, I actually question that the outcomes of the "luck based" system are as good as one where riskiness of some life choices is lowered. I'm not sure though, it can't be an all-or-nothing approach, if it means a lot more people doing ever more useless things that would be something I don't want to see either, on the other hand, we already have plenty of that (see Dilbert or recently discussion of "The rise of the bullshit job").

I think the guidance of resources of the current system leaves something to be desired, too many undesirable outcomes that are then rationalized using the very tool that created them (i.e. explaining them using the existing system while pretending that this system is the (same as the) goal).

Or society could just choose to not bother having any glassblowers. Does society really need them? Let some other society which values such things have them instead.

Did you even read the article? Or my comment, for that matter?

I see a lot of discussion about "fairness" of these salairies herez, but I think it doesn't make sense without first finding out: what are the alternatives to training an apprentice?

Can universities order custom glassworks from commercial companies? Ship them from China, where labour is much cheaper? 3d print them? Make do without them?

Make do without them seems like the obvious answer. Let China make that stuff, and then let China do the scientific work that makes use of it. This should work out just fine for America as it instead concentrates on sports and reality TV...

All of those suggestions have big downsides. I'm friends with the scientific glassblower that works at the university I attended and I'm somewhat familiar with the work he does.

A large part of his job is constructing custom equipment for specific tasks. A big part of this is figuring out what the user really needs or is trying to do. The glassblower has more experience than most of the people asking for equipment to be made. He'll often work with them to improve their initial design. You wouldn't get this if you were just sending off an order to a company to have custom glass made.

Another important part of his job is repairing equipment when it breaks. If you break an important piece of equipment in your lab are you willing to wait for it to be packed, shipped to China, fixed, and shipped back? Broken equipment may have been used to hold hazardous chemicals and there is often chemical residue on the glass. Most people in a lab wouldn't be able to clean the glass well enough to make it shippable without the equipment in the glassblower's office.

I don't think anyone has done any work on 3d printing glass. Even if you could 3d print glass that doesn't address the problems with poor design and repairing broken equipment.

It's possible to do without a glassblower but not a good idea for a top tier research university. If you can't get custom glass made then you can't do certain experiments. Not being able to do those experiments could lead to problems recruiting faculty and students that want to do them.

How about if they pay 10X average wage for the position? Sure the the person will make more than professors but would there still be no one willing to train and committee?

I and several colleagues retired over the last few years from a major electrical engineering company. One of my colleagues retired exactly at retirement age but no effort had been put into finding a replacement so the management suddenly scrambled to find someone with a fraction of the expertise who he could train over a period of about six months. Of course they failed to find a suitable candidate and six months was too short.

My situation was similar, I spent six months trying to transfer half a lifetime of domain and software development expertise to a very keen and competent young engineer, but of course this had to be done in between all his other nearly full time responsibilities.

This is what happens when organizations don't believe in the long term future, just next year's balance sheet.

It's not any different in government or non profit organizations, at least in my experience.

Because it's not any different to any other group of people. You can find evidence that we're bad at long-term investment or planning all around.

Caltech actually hires very little extra administrative staff, much less than other universities. They actually frame it as, IIRC, "we're resisting the temptation to hire more administrators."

Despair.com has a poster for this.

Mediocrity: it takes a lot less time and most people won’t notice the difference until it’s too late.

That site is absolutely brilliant.

Of all the things that didn’t survive the dotcom bubble bursting, I would have been pretty sad if despair had gone under. Maybe not fuckedcompany level sad but really close.

I have been in a closely related field for about 20 years, borosilicate flame working of glass for artistic purposes. There is a huge amount of interest in this type of glassblowing right now, but it is centered around artistic cannabis accessories.

There will be no problem finding people with glass skill and a desire to do flameworked glass. It is the other skills mentioned in the article, such as familiarity with chemistry, higher math and lab work, plus the desire to have a 9-to-5 job with an institution that is difficult to come by. Many people who choose to become artistic glassblowers do not have any sort of higher technical education, or would not mesh well with a university job in some other way, such as, being enthusiastic about tattoos and vaping cannabis extracts all day.

Besides that, many glassblowers can imagine the benefits of a regular job that involves glassblowing, especially as they get older and the healthcare benefits grow more useful. The volatility of the artistic/functional glass market plays a role, too. Currently it's experiencing a downturn, despite the cannabis market booming, and many people are seeking other incomes. It would be interesting to hear whether Salem has seen an increase in applications or inquiries.

What I didn't see an article is a mention of one reason this is happening. Mass production, primarily in China, and outsourcing, primarily to India, has removed the need to have an in-house glassblower and made it not a good choice financially, because a lot of the items they used to make can now be replaced more cheaply then they can be produced by hand.

I have a cousin who worked for a petroleum company for over 40 years as a scientific glassblower. He recently scaled down his business from hundreds of items and now only makes one especially profitable item.

My impression is that university work would mesh well with artistic types, all the people I know there are easy going, rarely work a full day, and unless they’re looking for advancement are happy to be reasonably well paid with a lot of job security and low stress.

Lab work and higher math may be a problem, but I’ve read many times today’s best botanists and agricultural students go into cannabis so the worlds may not be as incompatible as one would think.

Agreed. Most universities are also much less restrictive in their drug policy enforcement (as compared to corporations). As long as you get shit done and don't get into serious trouble, a University job is as stable and easygoing as one can get.

Depends on who your supervisor is. Some labs suck.

>... being enthusiastic about tattoos and vaping cannabis extracts all day.


Since obviously such behaviour is totally unheard of in universities.

For students, definitely not going to stand out. For full time faculty, I'm not sure. I mean, I'm honestly not sure since most of my experience there is observing my father work at a business school as I grew up and I didn't attend college myself.

you're thinking of yester-decade's university...today's university is about profits and increases in tuition fees and beaurocracy and administration and conformism.

> would not mesh well with a university job in some other way, such as, being enthusiastic about tattoos and vaping cannabis extracts all day.

My experience from dating someone at Caltech is that this would not, in any possible way, be an issue.

I think it varies with region. Cannabis use is much more accepted in California and the PNW than the East Coast, Midwest or South.

From the article, it sounds like this guy was creating custom glassware. Can you just call up a manufacturer in China or India and get them to create a handful of specialised glassware?

That's exactly the problem they're facing. Since the market for low end work has been removed, new glassblowers are not able to build careers, businesses, experience, or skills needed to start doing advanced work, and positions have been eliminated. Without entry-level work, you don't get a new generation of medium and advanced workers.

Repair of specialized equipment is a big deal, too. In many cases it takes as much skill as fabricating an apparatus in the first place.

Like the article says, it helps a lot if the glassblower understands the scientific process and works closely with the researcher. I think researchers work around this by finding ways to use or combine standard equipment. A scientist doing truly novel work, though, will benefit from or require customized glassware.

My belief is that this will be solved by 3-D printing or automation in some way.

3D printing? Have you even seen a glassblower? If you are in the NE US the Corning Museum in Elmira is recommended. Otherwise one can just look at the Chemglass or Ace Glass catalog and consider that everything in there was made from glass tubing with the aid of nothing more than a torch and a lathe. No pressed glass, no forms are involved.

I have 20 years of professional experience fabricating borosilicate with a torch in the exact fashion of scientific glass, and I have taken several classes at Corning and am familiar with the museum. I am quite familiar with precisely how all of that apparatus is constructed.

The most recent 3-D printing with glass I have read about creates a piece of fused silica, which is even harder to fabricate and more useful in lab work. They print it from a silica infused polymer, and then each section is fused with the laser, and the polymer burns away, leaving quartz. Seems quite workable to me. This was covered in an article published recently.

edit: one article that gives a good overview: https://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=15114

a more consumery article: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/you-can-now-3d-pri...

Do you know if anyone has gotten that or a similar process to a commercialy viable level? Truly 3d customizable glassware is something I'd definitely be wanting to order at some point in the future.

If it's the necessary precision for requiring only minimal grinding to get norm fittings and the glass part of vacuum tubes, that would indeed be great.

There are still things best done with tubes, and in some ways tubes are much better than transistors if it comes to reliability, mostly related to the sheer physical size preventing as-trivial cases of ESD/EMP fried LNAs in radios. Or the HF switch selecting between antennas and RX/TX. But this is probably a minor concern in practice.

There are computer aided processes that can manufacture items such as that - things that can be made an a lathe. Such machines are very expensive at this point, however, such as the equipment made by Herbert Arnold of Germany which runs well over 100k. I would love to see some lightweight, less specialized automation in this niche, as what currently exists are heavy duty CNC class machines. They are impractically expensive and overqualified for projects like 20g tubes of glass with one end closed and a ridge.

Not yet, but with the intensity of research and progress on 3-4 different techniques, I think it's just a matter of time.

MIT developed a molten glass extruder recently although I'm not sure it can do borosilicate: http://matter.media.mit.edu/environments/details/glass-ii

I am interested in the amount of specialized glasswork required by the institution. I also doubt that the glassware of tomorrow's science is even remotely like the glassware of today's. The next glassworker is more of a materials scientist, with glassware as a skill, probably; in much the same way as a programmer may know both Java and Python.

Fused deposited glass is not the same as glassware.

FDM glass: https://static.dezeen.com/uploads/2015/08/Glass-Printing_Med... (and sadly this counts as a pretty complex example)

Glassware, not complex at all: http://www.raystoreylighting.com/wpimages/wp71af747e_05_06.j...

Somewhat complex glassware: http://www.adamschittenden.com/laboratoryglasswarecondenser....

You can see the clear differences. Assuming you can get the printer at all, 3d printed glass has layers (and therefore isn't going to contain gases or hold vacuums very well), it's easily 10x heavier, far more expensive, ...

Presumably they will be making progress with this. There are several different techniques under development now, ranging from the one you mention to working with regular molten glass.

One thing that will be super hard with 3D printed glass is to get a smooth inside surface. You can't rework it because you can't get at it.

You could leave hollow parts open and go inside there with a torch or laser. It's common to reach into tubes or vessels with tools in many techniques, from modern 'inside out' to ancient painting methods. This would be difficult for sections with hidden inner parts or curves, so perhaps it could all be prepared and then assembled in stages (which is what we do anyway when making these things by hand).

Also there are several alternate methods under development that won't leave a rough surface, like hot glass methods.

Glass can be smoothed by heating to temperatures below that which cause sagging and deformity. If the smoothness is fine, on the order of a frosty surface (>200 grit or so) that would polish it (this is called kiln polishing). Of course, you risk basically melting the piece so this is a delicate operation with anything other than a plate of glass.

If 3d printing doesn't work, we can create robots that do what glassblowers do. I could easily script what I do for the right machinery (a series of computer controlled lathes and torches).

neon glass-blowing may also be a path into scientific glassblowing, it is a bit more science-y than the art stuff as it involves sensitive vacuum equipment and very high voltages.

There is a huge difference between walking down the hall and saying "hey, I need another one of those retorts but we need to increase the helium flow 20%. Please charge to account 0123.", vs having to find a reputable manufacturer in another country, writing a precise and concrete specification that doesn't depend on domain knowledge or knowledge of institutional history, obtaining quotes that your finance department will accept, getting all the international payments sorted, and having your research delayed 2 months while waiting for all that to get sorted out.

More likely the University will outsource to a local company that in turn handles the communication with an overseas factory.

Completely off topic... but are you the same 2mcm from another orange coloured forum back in the day?

>being enthusiastic about tattoos and vaping cannabis extracts all day

How ableist! Some people can’t choose whether they smoke cannabis or not. They need it like diabetics need insulin.

I agree. I've been severely ill with celiac for a very long time and at this point, cannabis is the only medication that helps me feel decent enough to get out of bed and be functional at all.

In the functional glass industry, we don't discriminate against cannabis usage... somewhat the opposite. If you don't smoke and especially dab, you will have a hard time fitting in, and more limited social and business opportunities. At the same time, many people in the community look down on excessive alcohol usage. Smoking throughout the day is considered perfectly normal, or beneficial, and nobody would consider looking down on it or encouraging less consumption of cannabis.

> If you don't smoke and especially dab, you will have a hard time fitting in, and more limited social and business opportunities.

FWIW, this strikes me as quite distasteful. It sounds like cannabis is helpful to you, and that's great. But other folks should be able to make their own decisions.

I'm not dictating this, just describing it. It's the same situation as with most business groups and alcohol, or golf and so forth. Social conformity and activities common build bonds between people, which helps in business. It's just notable that cannabis is beyond accepted in this subculture, in contrast to many other professional environments (and we are professionals - this is an intense job that requires much dedication).

Just because there is a small minority that depends on it doesn't remove the fact there's a huge market for recreational use (which is what the glassblowers sell the most products to).

The medicinal market is likely to explode though, given how it's not covered by patents and legalization is happening left and right.

The University of Washington made the same mistake pushing our glass blower Bob Morley out for early retirement, partly out of spite to "reduce costs" that didn't need reducing.


> Our glass blower, Bob Morley, has retired. He made essential contributions to many of the experiments over the years, and the Department will miss him and his skills.


Pushed out. And with him a lifetime of hard won skills. They asked for him back after they learned their mistake but he had moved on.

Sounds like standard UW behavior, they sure do know how to make poor decisions! Their satellite campuses don't do much better in making rational decisions afaik.

Some decades ago, my first year college chemistry course included a lab that exercised a simple example of this. Make your own, much finer dropper, and then properly calibrate it.

I mention this, because the calibration was an essential aspect. Each result, of itself, was to some degree a one-off. You weren't getting production replication to set high degree of precision; there was variability. You then measured/calibrated how your individual unit performed.

I've seen that a lot, in subsequent life. There may be variability in whatever device or process; if you learn what it is and understand it, you can then use the device or process precisely in light of that knowledge.

But, a lot of people don't know how to do this.

Not just with glassware. With accounting. Tools. Programming. Scientific formulae (simplest example of this: people who could never generalize, but instead tried to memorize all the "plug-and-chug" instances for all the specific test problems they would be presented). Etc.

So, aside from having the resulting glassware, I think making it -- and calibrating it -- is a useful lesson, in itself.

I knew this guy when I was a graduate student there in the 90s. I never went to him for anything elaborate, just some stuck ground glass joints or a box full of round bottom flasks with star cracks in them. The star cracks are bad news, they can implode when you pull vacuum on them. We all heard stories of major injuries that way, so we were careful to get them repaired when we found them.

Rick always had something amazing and elaborate under construction when I went and saw him. Definitely not the things that you could find in a chem glassware catalog.

Machinists are somewhat similar. But in academic settings there are many students and postdocs who need to make their own hardware, and there needs to be someone to train them and to manage the workshop.

>But in academic settings there are many students and postdocs who need to make their own hardware, and there needs to be someone to train them and to manage the workshop.

Walk into the MET machine shop (not the ME machine shop, those guys will be hacks, it's just the nature of the different priorities of the different programs) during any given weekday evening and ask the TA to recommenced someone.

You can repair cracked / starred (?) glassware and still use it in labs?

Yes you can use a torch to fix cracks. The tricky part is knowing how to heat the work without causing the cracks to start running. But you get it hot and work the seam it'll disappear.

Probably easier with borosilicate than leaded glass.

the uni doesn't reward people that aren't on the tenure track. In the long term this limits what the Uni can do, but if there is one thing about the Uni it is that it doesn't have enough self-regard to pursue it's own interests.

Pretty much this. Universities would greatly benefit from having more staff scientists with deep xp, more core labs, more personnel such as these glass blowers, and dedicated IT and development teams made available to researchers.

They never make it happen because most people at a given institution don't really care about furthering the institution as a whole, and are instead focused exclusively on their own lab or personal career.

If that were a priority of universities I would likely be working at one instead of working in tech. There just wasn't room for someone who wasn't interested in pursuing tenure-track positions when I finished school, and that was not something I was willing to pursue for a number of reasons, chief among them being my desire to stay in one place.

What is 'deep xp', and what do you mean by 'core labs'?

Most labs lack the experience or equipment to efficiently do all aspects of their work, so departments will create "core facilities" which house specialized equipment and personnel with relevant experience to facilitate specific aspects of research. Examples from biology could be imaging work, cultivating cells, working with animals, working with DNA etc. A machine shop, these glass blowers, or a computational cluster would be examples from other departments. These facilities are made available to researchers for a fee (think cost center).

The reason these aren't more prevelant is that the universities typically don't pay for them directly; they are frequently funded by a department and stocked with equipment purchased by individual labs. In exchange for donating equipment, the labs get priority access and have supplies and equipment maintenance costs paid for by the department.

IN THEORY cores and other communal resources should be paid for by university overhead (basically a fee assessed on each grant or funding source brought in). In practice, overhead goes to pay for a bunch of bullshit that has nothing to do with research.

Part of the issue is that both overhead and state allocations are unreliable. Few universities can bank on things like "We'll get $10 million a year to keep the cluster updated" and the lesson learned from the many soft money institutes that spawned during the Clinton years is that overhead-dependent services are a recipe for boom and bust, and the loss of exactly that kind of experience you're talking about.

What kind of bullshit does the overhead fund? Is it more than just administration and facilities?

Overhead keeps the lights on.

It funds things like facilities, administrative support, and then is actually used for things like core facilities or shared equipment expenditures (this is often at the department or college level). It's also often where the source for new faculty startup packages and the like comes from.

xp = experience. cores are a university thing. They are like mini specialized businesses inside the university shared across the university.

for example if you are in a lab and need a single cell sequencing but the equipment is too expensive or you lack the expertise, if your university(or another university) has a "single cell sequencing core" with equipment you can use it for a small fee.

example of a core search:


Aside from the formal lab concepts, universities once were a place where a vast range of experts are on hand to help each other. If the physicist needed a marine biologist [1] or a medical doctor a statistician, they could find each other. That included trades people like glass blowers and machinists (engineers). But the narrowing of fields and the stovepiping of budgets means these links are becoming more difficult to maintain.

[1] I know of one astronomer who's work was threatened by rare/protected birds nesting near his equipment. Sometimes it is good to work in an organization with in-house ornithologists. 'That's not dark matter. It's bats flying by your telescope every night."

I'm an epidemiologist, and on my campus today I interacted with a statistician, a cell biologist, a veterinarian, two computer scientists, and send a Python programming question to our HPC group.

While I was at UBC, one day the theatre department called the animal research people. They wanted to borrow a lamb for a play. They submitted the appropriate live animal "experimentation". Someone on the committee did say something about not using animals for "entertainment purposes" but in the end they got the animal in exchange for tickets

>the uni doesn't reward people that aren't on the tenure track.

Correction: the uni don't reward tenure track people either these days.

Working 6 years for a $55K salary with a nonzero prospect of getting fired from your field forever afterwards isn't exactly a rewarding experience.

The promising career path is probably through the administration ranks (VP, Pres, etc.) Consider that revenue equals # of students times annual $ tuition then realize most large state universities are probably pulling in over $500M a year (and I'm not counting gifts, endowment, or room and board).

Universities are just glorified investment banks with no taxes these days.

Laboratory glassblowers are spectacularly valuable. Unfortunately, the funding for such work is insufficient to maintain a pipeline of trained glassblowers, leading to the now-perpetual shortage of scientific glassblowers.

I don't know what will happen in another generation.

They are also spectacularly underpaid as well.

For whatever reason I know a lot of

a) Neon workers who used to do scientific glass blowing. But left because neon paid better.

b) Glass workers that make glass pipes because it pays better than scientific glass blowing or neon work.

Note: Potheads will spend in ordinate amounts of money on paraphernalia.

Note: Potheads will spend in ordinate amounts of money on paraphernalia.

That's true but most of them spend inordinate amounts of money over a large number of pieces, which doesn't leave enough profit per piece to really support a skilled craftsman. Cannabis is already pretty expensive for a heavy smoker (1/8th of flower or 1g of concentrates a day is easily $30-40/day) and the aesthetic of cheap glass is good enough for the vast majority of people.

Out of the dozens of heavy smokers I know in Washington, I'm the only one with any glass pieces worth over $1,000 and they are all practically indestructible so they get replaced at a rate of once every 4-5 years instead of every other month.

It's been a while but glass worker I knew said a simple pipe you can turn out in a few minutes. So 50-100 a day depending on how much boredom you can stand. You get about $5-10 each. Bonus cash business. Double bonus, your Hippie GF sells them on the street for $20 ea.

Compare with a scientific glass blower at $15/hr. Then factor in payroll taxes.

Perhaps the hobbyists who are trying to make a career blowing bongs and dab rigs will decide it's a good route to go legit.

Hobbyists? Ha. I know hundreds of full time, professional people who make bongs and dab rigs.

I'll add, including myself for over 17 years. Currently for artists at the top of the field, a nice piece starts at 10k. For production work, you're looking at 10-120k a year.

The total market for cannabis accessories or something like 1 billion a year. Just for a handmade glass, we are talking at least tens of millions domestically (see Aqualab.com for instance) and also a huge amount is imported, though it is technically not legal to do so.

(Sorry, I meant aqualabtechnologies.com - aqualab.com seems to be an actual aqua lab).

That may sound cheeky, but I have seen incredibly skilled glasswork coming from today's pipe makers. I am sure there is a lot of overlap in technique at a certain level.

There's either an article or a documentary detailing how some of the modern pipe glassblowing has its roots directly in scientific glass blowing.

The one problem is they don't seem to need anywhere near the degree of precision.

That is not quite accurate. It is actually quite demanding technically to make the artistic glassware like you see out there these days, and is a different set of skills than scientific glassblowing. Most scientific glassblowers have never worked with color, at all. It's almost funny to see what they do, compared to their skill with clear, which is extreme.

Mike Gnann is admired within our artistic field and does well with both... https://www.instagram.com/merge_scientific

But if you compare that with someone like https://www.instagram.com/eusheen who is at the top of the artistic pipe niche, I think you can see that there are equal amounts of precision involved.

It matters where you're trying to fit in the market, of course. Someone can buy a torch, get rudimentary lessons and be making some sort of income from pipes within a year. You would be able to make some scientific glass items after six months, but not enough to get hired anywhere, except maybe in India (which is really the key here).

(Points to a swan neck flask) You can put your WEED in there.

"Why? Why can't we find good glassblowers? Who is telling people they shouldn't take up jobs in the trades? What vile troublemaker is spreading this harmful rumor that the only viable career path is a university degree? Oh, hey, gotta speak at a high school in twenty minutes to promote education."

How was this funded in the past?

Problem is that there was an entire industry that supplied glass blowers (for example, there was a time incandescent bulbs were hand-blown)

If most of the glasswork in your lab has to be hand-made, you need dozens of people to do the job, junior personnel can be trained on the easier pieces, and the best of them can grow into experts making unica.

Nowadays, there’s no need for junior glassblowers, so to get an expert, you’ll have to pay a candidate for years, possibly decades, without getting any benefits from it.

Worse, there’s no guarantee that the person you hire will ever become good enough to do the job.

Health and safety also may have made it more expensive. Glassblowing also isn’t the healthiest job. Burns and cuts go with the job, various fumes are toxic, there’s “glassblower’s cataract”, and it is heavy labor (e.g. when lifting a few kilograms of glass at the end of a pipe that’s meters long)

If you pay for multiple glass blowers at a University, then you can have a Master and an Apprentice. But you are paying for more blowing than you strictly need.

If you pay for the exact amount of glass blowing you need, you will only have 1 glass blower per institution and there isn't room for apprenticeship.

Seems like an easy fix would be a "Glass Blowers of Southern California" shop, where a few glass blowers could service USC, UCLA, and a couple other schools at the same time.

That way you could still easily meet with the blower locally, but it wouldn't be on campus.

Northern California wouldn't need a shop because Stanford, and Berkeley already have a bevy of glass blowing experts.

Or better yet, have apprentices at each institution, with a traveling master whose cost is shared across institutions.

Apprentices take care of day-to-day work on their own, have oversight, and universities don't have to afford their own master glassblower.

Why are several apprentices and one traveling master better than a centralized group of glassblowers?

One benefit would be the logistics of getting an apprentice's glass to an institution that needs it.

I think he meant better in terms of long term sustainability of that skill set.

More government research grants was likely a large part of it. The article mentions the heyday after WWII, referencing a flood of capital into the sciences.

Having recently purchased some glasssware, there's no way I could have afforded the American made stuff. Chinese glass is just insanely cheap.

I bought 1 1000mL RBF, 1 500mL RBF, a 300mm distillation tube, T, vaccum takeoff adapter, thermometer well and a few other bits and bobs all in 24/40 for like $40 shipped from China.

It's not beautiful, but it works. You need guys like this for the crazy complicated apparatus, or the one-offs, but for everything else, mass production is the way to go.

Sow,thing to keep in mind about top researchers at top schools: money is not usually the constrained resource — time and people are harder to come by.

Paying for a custom rig that works and does exactly what they want is easily worth the added expense, paid for by research grants. Waiting for mediocre products,that only mostly solve your problem, to be shopped internationally just isn’t worth the cost savings.

As you might guess, a cheap boro distillation rig from china isn't going to be doing cutting edge research. But, for most of the more mundane undergrad labs and routine chemistry, that kind of stuff it perfect.

That's a great deal. And yes, most universities don't need a full-time glass-blower, if they need specialized glassware they can hire services or make orders to companies.

> most universities don't need a full-time glass-blower

if a research university doesn't need a full-time glass-blower, they ain't doing enough research!

Some comments from 2 years ago when this was previously posted: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11983716

Can't check the other thread now, but just in case it wasn't there, here it is now, for your glassblowing pleasure, the great piece by Bert Haanstra called Glas (1958): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLS7--ZLCoI

Too much from the latimes today. Which is a shame as they are particularly crappy at GDPR. I know it's hard for US-ians to care, but if a large proportion of the articles are inaccessible it will damage hacker news. Better not to put these stories that want to stay local on the front page.

Agreed. GDPR is a good thing. I feel like the LA Times is just being difficult to make a point somehow.

Growing up I read every monthly edition Scientific American’s The Amateur Scientist column by C. L. Strong. In the May 1964 column there was a great “getting started” introduction to laboratory glassblowing for the complete amateur. I was only 12 years old, but it got me so interested that I tried it myself. You can see that it’s not too hard to make very simple glass accessories. Realistically, real laboratories require much more complex glassware. It doesn’t take too much equipment to get started.

Sadly, the old Amateur Scientist columns are hard to come by unless you have access to a library with Sci American going back to 1952. (The old Mathematical Games columns by the late Martin Gardner are great too. I first read about public key encryption just a few months after Rivest, Shamir and Adleman wrote the MIT memo on it because it appeared in the August 1977 column by Gardner.)

The site can't be viewed from europe "Unfortunately, our website is currently unavailable in most European countries."

Can anyone explain the purpose/advantage/necessity of custom, artisan blown glass for lab equipment, as opposed to (presumably) high quality glasswear which can be ordered from any number of laboratory equipment purveyors?

If you are experimenting with new approaches, you may need novel rather than standardized, mass produced equipment.

Heck, even if you aren't doing something new you may need glassware for which there is not a sufficiently large demand to support an industrial production line.

I don't think it necessarily matters that it's glassware, but in generally I'd always rather work with a local master who I can talk to face to face with years of experience in the industry, rather than ordering from a company in China with little input, longer wait times, and (most likely) lower quality due to less experienced workers. Of course these are two extremes, and it's possible that there are other local professionals that can bridge the cap, but the advantages of having an onsite master still seem fairly obvious

Pure curiosity, does anyone know how much this type of position pays? At his level of expertise, and at a university specifically.

Probably around $60k.

A glass blower I know at one of the UC campuses makes about $95k. He's mid-career. UC salaries are public record, so I'm sure you can find it if you want to go hunting.

But Caltech records are not. I took Caltech salaries for carpenters from Glassdoor and compared them with median salaries for carpenters in California to get an idea of the university premium/discount. Then applied that to scientific glass blower salaries in California. It's not perfect, but it's at least reasonable.

I could not find a scientific glass blower salary in the California public records system. I looked, perhaps they are titled under something else?

If scientific glassblowing is such a highly sought after skill in some of these institutes, there can well be a dedicated consulting firm. Having a university maintaining such kind of skilled workers doesn't make sense since universities haven't been the type of group that does it. I'm pretty sure this kind of firm can maintain contracts with many institutes well over next many years since this kind of mastery is not easily automated.

Things have played out this way with other technical crafts and I think you are correct that it will go that way here also. Actually, there's probably a good business opp. These folks who retire might be happy to come back to work for twice their salary - and they are already getting a pension from their years at the university. This not something you can do offshore IMHO. "Fire" it up!

It's the people who make laboratory glassware, which is the classic skilled craft taught by an apprenticeship in addition to formal classwork:

> To master scientific glass blowing, proper training and apprenticeships are key. Only one school in the nation, Salem Community College in New Jersey, offers a degree program.

> In addition to the hands-on training, which requires a knack for precision as well as coordination, students must take courses in organic chemistry, math and computer drawing.

> "You need to know enough about everything, about mechanics, about chemistry, about physics, about thermodynamics — whatever a chemist can come up with, you need to know just a little bit to get that chemist through," said Dennis Briening, instructional chair of Salem's two-year program. "And of course, you need to be very skilled, technique-wise. So it really takes a long time to get to a position like Rick's."

Sounds like a job for people who are bright, good with their hands, and like making money. Really, the whole piece is about how few people are going into this trade, and I can't see how people can't be brought into it if the demand's there.

> Really, the whole piece is about how few people are going into this trade, and I can't see how people can't be brought into it if the demand's there.

Because you may spend years getting a degree in making lab glassware, only to find yourself put out a job because someone invents a glassblowing machine... Or trains up a few thousand people in China to do it for one tenth your wages.

Not exactly motivating me to drop everything, move to Salem, and spend the next few years becoming a glassblower.

> Fellow chemists are relieved Caltech will keep a glass blower on campus. For them, it's more convenient than ordering from a catalog and preserves the intimacy researchers should have with the experiments they design.

Let me get right ahead on staking my livelyhood on a university's budget indulging the 'intimacy' between its chemistry lab and their resident glassblower. Who do you think will be canned when Caltech will need to scrounge up some cash to build a swanky new dorm? "Sorry, Doctor Weinberg, you're going to have to get your glass on Amazon, like everyone else."

You can make the same argument with software development. You can get people overseas to do it at cheaper price.

If software problems were as well-defined as lab glassware specs, that argument would hold some merit.

Also, millions of engineer hours have been put into making the software equivalent of a glassblowing machine. No CS department employs an in-house 'Kernel writer' or 'TCP/IP Implementer'.

The actual OP article suggests that lab glassware specs aren't as well-defined as you imply at all.

> "You need a person who has some idea about the scientific process and how to translate what a student wants to do into a piece of apparatus that really works," said Bob Grubbs, a 2005 Nobel laureate in chemistry and professor at Caltech. "How do you get from a couple scratches on a piece of paper, to something you actually go use in a lab that you trust and is not going to blow acid in your face?"

Doesn't mean those who hold the purse strings will pay for it. (Doesn't mean they'll pay for custom software either).

The piece is about these people doing very small-batch custom runs, precisely the kind of thing you don't go to China for, and it's hard to fully automate skilled trades.

Today, you can already get small-batch custom runs of PCBs shipped straight from Shenzhen. Nobody keeps a local PCB lithographer on staff, when you can order a batch of 20 for $50.

I'd be surprised if, in a decade, you couldn't do the same for glassware.

With custom-built mechanical equipment it absolutely doesn't work that way. Doubtless, someone in China will build you your piece from drawings, and six weeks later it arrives, and you find that it needs modifications to work as intended. Wash, repeat. The slow feedback loop is the biggest problem with outsoucing. It already doesn't work particularly well with custom synthesis.

Also, when you order PCBs from China, you're doing all the CAD work yourself, and they're building those parts exactly according to the engineering drawings (called "gerbers").

With glassware, the chemist isn't using AutoCAD to create detailed engineering drawings of what he wants. The glassblower is taking on much of the design role. I suppose you could just get the university to hire a mechanical engineer to do the CAD work, and send CAD drawings to China to manufacture the glassware according to spec, but that's not going to be cheap.

The problem, according to the article, is that there are few opportunities for apprenticeship. There is demand for experienced professionals but very few job offers for young glassblowers.

See, I have a different take on this. I think that the job should be split up, it's a huge problem and a risk to try to wrap up all of these qualifications into one person.

>"How do you get from a couple scratches on a piece of paper, to something you actually go use in a lab that you trust and is not going to blow acid in your face?"

Engineering. That's how. Instead, the academic community seems to want to rely on rockstar glaziers the same way a startup relies on one or two developers to handle everything from design to implementation to release.

Have the student sit down with someone who can draw proper technical drawings and specs. Then hand those proper technical drawings off to a glazier. Then give the finished glass to a QA person who will verify it against the specs.

That's a lot of overhead when you just want one of something.

But even then someone needs to know a lot about chemistry, glass, and glass manufacturing to understand if something is both feasible to build and useful.

Over time, you could compile a book of technical drawings that could be reused and modified for future products. I'm having a hard time believing that every person who needs glass blown needs something totally unique that has never been done before; it's probably slight modifications of existing products and the occasional odd pipe/manifold.

I think the most common 98% ends up being mass produced and they just buy that. This is only really about covering edge cases so they probably all end up fairly unique.

Even knowing what is and is not slight modifications of existing products requires a fairly deep understanding when you're dealing with highly toxic substances.

Custom work is expensive--one can't just hand-wave it away and hold out for a polymath glassblower, no?

That level of engineering isn't economically feasible for a one-off piece of something, unless you're NASA and have enormous amounts of money to spend on a one-off.

If universities were willing to spend that much money on glassware, they'd just pay glassmakers $750k or so, and wouldn't have any trouble hiring them.

>Full-time university glass blowers are considered tops in their field, but few institutions still offer such positions or give young glass blowers the chance to hone their craft.

Seems like they've created the issue themselves.

This seems like a problem of their own making. Them and other universities could have been investing in younger glassblowers but they decided not to. Now that their seemingly only one is retiring they are paying the piper.

"No two pieces of scientific glassware are the same"... isn't that a problem considering science should be reproducible?

Sometimes you need just one, meaning that it's a unique piece. It means that every piece requires interacting with the customer, and then figuring out how to do it.

This is different than a production setting, where you can often afford to screw up the first few in order to get the process right. And in addition to making pieces, a scientific glassblower is also repairing them. My trips to the glassblower's shop were usually right after I broke something.

As for reproducibility, no two voltmeters are the same, or yardsticks, etc. Part of good scientific practice is figuring out how to obtain reproducible results despite known variations in materials and tools.

A recent post on FB from Salem CC, recruiting glassblowing students, that was shared with a boro glass artist group:


"Do you love working with glass? Would you like to take your passion for flameworking to another level? Would you like to pursue a career in scientific glass?

The only program of its kind in the nation, Salem Community College's Scientific Glass Technology combines classroom study and hands-on laboratory techniques, technical drawing and advanced fabrication. Students develop a solid understanding of scientific glassblowing so they are able to fabricate apparatus according to technical specifications.

Scientific glassblowers create glass apparatus for scientific research in laboratories, universities and industry; they play a vital role in diverse avenues of inquiry. Biological research, the pharmaceutical industry, medical industry, chemical engineering, the semi-conductor industry, aerospace, electro-optical systems, physics, earth sciences, food science, and mechanical engineering are just some of the fields served by this unique skill.

Graduates of Salem Community College have earned positions at a variety of employers including Proctor and Gamble, 3M, GE Global Research, Chemglass Life Sciences, Pope Scientific, Cannon Instruments, Meggitt PLC, Phillips Healthcare, L-3 Communications, the University of Notre Dame, Syracuse University, Cal Tech Institute, Temple University, the University of Botswana, the Australian National University, the Savannah River Nuclear Site, the National Institute of Health, Argonne National Laboratory…among numerous others.

Learn more about our Scientific Glass program, as well as our Glass Art programs, and other opportunities at http://www.salemcc.edu/glass/glass-education-center "

Another article about a scientific glassblower pretty far from retirement: https://wellcomecollection.org/articles/WvQF4SIAAFNX_7Uf

On a positive note, the university of Leiden, founded in 1575, was the focus of new physics in the late 19th and early 20th century. Professor Kamerlingh Onnes needed and founded the Leidsche Instrumentmakers School in 1901. Students of this school become specialists in the construction of high precision glass, metal and electronic instruments. After more than 100 years, the school still has strong ties with the university and its students are never jobless.

I just use a private shop for custom glassware. I'm in industry now but even when I was in academia I didn't have any issues using the outside shop. They did excellent work.

I've spent a decent amount on custom glass from Wilmad-LabGlass, I can recommend them.

I use Adams & Chittenden Scientific Glass in Berkeley, they happen to be down the street from my current office but I've used them before when I was out of California.

I knew the glassblower in question and he made a couple items for me. He was a great guy. I used to love going down to his workshop.

Article is not available in EU due to GDPR

In pointing my father to this story, he told me tales of Joe Wheeler of UW Madison's chemistry department. His retirementish (21 years and moved to Hawaii for their department) in 1976 http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/UW/UW-idx?type=turn... . Note the family business - his son (Mike) (in '76) had moved to Arizona... and there's an article on Mike's daughter from 2017: https://kjzz.org/content/535871/asu-third-generation-scienti...

One of the bits to note form the 2017 article:

> Today, she serves four campuses of research faculty and graduate students.

> ...

> Nevertheless, scientific glassblowing is a dying art.

> "It's slowly been dwindling. Like, lately, if people retire, they kind of shut down the shop and start outsourcing. But us glassblowers are trying to change that," said Roeger.

> Roeger is working to reestablish the apprenticeship program in which she learned her skills. "The apprenticeship program is a four-year, full-time, hands-on training with a master glassblower, and it really does take that much to be able to produce glassware that customers can use."

Going back to the 1976 article:

> Joe was successor to Jim Davis who doubled as glassblower for the Physics and Chemistry Departments for many years before retiring for health reasons

UW Madison still maintains its glass shop ( https://www.chem.wisc.edu/content/glass-shop ), a mechanical engineering shop ( http://chem.wisc.edu/content/instrument-shop ) and an electronics shop ( https://www.chem.wisc.edu/content/chemistry-electronics-shop ).

The UW Madison chemistry glass shop page has two videos on it - one from Wisconsin Public Television and another on YouTube ( https://youtu.be/pfeUbkU7IKQ )

(edit: another article about Scientific glass blowing https://asgs-glass.org/history-of-glassblowing-who-was-first... - note the editors note that when that article was written, Joe Wheeler was the oldest practicing glass blower at 90 years old)

We saw demos of glass blowing in the Chemistry basement. Quite impressive, especially for how nonchalant they are when doing the work.

I predict this will be a non-issue within 5 years due to 3D printing.

There's some huge roadblocks ahead. First -- joints need to be ground. That's a physical, subtractive process that I see no way of getting around.

Second, have you ever seen 3D printed glass under a microscope? It's full of voids and the surface is awful (at least the last piece I saw). For high temp usage, this will not work. This is also a very specific kind of glass -- borosilicate mostly, with some pure quartz work as well, and it's going to have very different properties than even garden variety soda lime.

In short -- maybe 50 years. But, lacking the demand, I doubt we get there at all.

What about cast from investment that is printed. Post cast polish still required.

Probably doable, but for some small features, I imagine getting sufficient flow would be difficult. Molten glass is super corrosive, and the rheological properties vary widely. It's difficult to work with and highly temperature sensitive, all features that just make it a tricky medium.

Totally doable, but not exactly easy.

This is how many custom rings are made today. Of course the material for most rings is some type of precious metal. As for it taking 50 years, I can only say I hope not!

Lets assume that we get to the point where one can 3d print pyrex glass (not other glasses - it has to be pyrex). This doesn't resolve the "this piece of glass broke, I need a replacement inline for this 5'x3' manifold."

There is also a very strong bit of "I don't know what the requirements are." A chemist will go to the glass blower and ask for something... they can describe what they're trying to do, but they've got no idea about what they need to actually accomplish it ("I'm trying to create bubbles in a fluid" or "I'm going to be putting a catalyst in an oxygen / hydrogen mixture to examine it while the reaction is taking place"). It is the glass blower that takes those requirements and makes the actual product.

Claiming that in 5 years one will be able to 3d print pyrex glass and glass blowers will go the way of the buggy whip makers is akin to saying that you see a renaissance of visual programming tools and in 5 years programmers won't be needed because you'll be able to have the application automatically generated.

I don't see it.

Considering my day job, the third paragraph is particularly ironic :D

There's a reason we aren't discussing a shortage of plastic molders, but glass blowers. The article specifically mentions the important qualities of glass to research that plastics do not solve.

Devils advocate: glass 3D printing is a thing too. I'm skeptical though that it'll be a viable alternative to blown glass soon, especially not in-house.

I find it likely that they will find a way to do this. Current technology is using a silica/polymer mix and fusing it bit by bit with a laser.

It's possible. There've been recent advances in 3-D printing with quartz, which is very difficult to work and it very important for scientific experiments due to it's lack of thermal expansion.

I have five observations of 3d printing based on experience.

1) People who don't print, think its a microwave oven, just push a button, right? People who do print see it more as a complicated craft with very slow somewhat expensive learning curve, much like a table saw or ... scientific glass blowing.

2) Very small scale mass production with 3-d printing, once you've expended considerable effort, time, and filament, to dial in the design and the machine and the technique, is almost "push a button" easy, but you can't reach that stage until maybe five prints are done and the whole point of a master glass blower is there is exactly one of this new object on the entire planet and you're in competition with dozens of labs worldwide, some of which will take a day to make a new reaction flask and win the publish or perish race, and some that will take a month to make the same new reaction flask and they'll be the ones who lose the publish or perish race.

3) The other confusion is people thinking its like buying a screwdriver from China instead of from a local machinist, or downloading an app from the app store why reinvent the wheel. But a master glass blower is of the category of work thats more like buying a rocket engine R+D component that has never been made in history much less mass produced, or is more like writing the first app in its category. In that way, having a large team that needs to coordinate between the chemist, the engineer, the CAD guy and the 3d printer operator is the usual management fallacy of nine women making a baby in a month, surely the scientific glass blower can do it alone, cheaper, more reliably, and much faster than the 3d printing team could ever hope to achieve.

4) Its not insightful that if you're doing world class competitive research requiring world class labor to remain competitive, then switching your subject matter expert labor fields isn't going to fix anything. The research that requires a tech with 20 years of experience is going to have just as hard of a time, if not harder, in finding a 3d printer tech with 20+ years of experience as it will finding a replacement for the master glass blower who retired with 40 years of experience.

5) If you know the playing field is leveled for blown glass equipment, then the only thing thats certain about switching to 3d printed glass is it'll take time and money your competitors aren't spending. The issue with #2 is there is no mass production, the specific issue with #5 is you don't get bonus points for doing things the hard way or being intentionally obscure. If in an industry that publishes in English, you publish all your papers in Klingon, thats very impressive but you'll never get tenure with that attitude, everyone will always be ahead in a terrain defined by publishing in English. Until the majority give up on glass blowing custom gear, you'll always be at the back of the research pack.

They'll probably find a way to 3D print glass ...

Someone linked an example already: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17244062. They can't do complex glassware. I'd have thought a glass-blowing robot would be doable.

I figured it would be complicated. Mostly, I guess, the need for these glass wares isn't big enough yet to solve that problem.

I would love to do this.

salary and benefits of the job?

https://www.sokanu.com/careers/glass-blower/salary/ says:

"The highest earning Glass Blowers in the United States earn $47,720 per year"

I would guess that a master scientific glass blower would earn more and have better conditions, but not an order of magnitude more.

"""Unfortunately, our website is currently unavailable in most European countries. We are engaged on the issue and committed to looking at options that support our full range of digital offerings to the EU market. We continue to identify technical compliance solutions that will provide all readers with our award-winning journalism."""

oh ....

What a passive aggressive way to say “we can’t figure out how to serve this web site to you without breaking the law.”

This is what happens in literally every regulated industry: if you can't abide by a countries regulations, you don't make your products available there.

They could easily serve it to us without breaking the law. The difficult thing is staying within the law while keeping as many of their data collection efforts going as possible.

Yeah, but they even managed to fuck that up. Either they forgot to block Iceland or my script blocker is preventing their euroblocker from working.

So far, the GDPR only applies to members* within the European Union, which Iceland is not. Iceland is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), to which GDPR is most likely to extend in the future. If you are posting from the future, then disregard this reply.

*businesses and organizations, if you will.

Annoyingly it's hard for me to find a citation that says "yes, obviously 'in the union' means the EEA as well", but there's no "most likely" about it. It seems it has for some time been a foregone conclusion that GDPR will be part of the EEA agreement and the relevant nations are already working to integrate it into their national code of laws.

It's hard to find out whether that process is complete in Iceland because I don't speak Icelandic and the parliament doesn't translate everything they produce, but the EU has already started telling people that GDPR protects everyone in the EEA:

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/d... (Page 15, yellow box)

More links on the subject:




It does make sense, and probably should apply on Iceland.

It was the planit.legal-link that confused me to begin with. Written so short time ago (Feb 18) while stating: "a rapid implementation procedure and the extension of GDPR to the entire EEA is expected". Rapid indeed.

After some reading, I notice a discrepancy of GDPR articles stating that EEA is affected immediately, while from an EEA/EEA state point-of-view seem more concerned with EU-EEA agreements "to be concluded" and laws to be applied, just as you also implied.

I guess the GDPR alarmists has dulled my senses and I was expecting some kind of catch in this case. Cry wolf..

Can't see it because of gdpr

Is this because they don't allow you to consent to tracking and view the content, or just because you refuse to consent to tracking?

The LA Times' owners have a blanket redirect in place. Very shoddy.

But the article is available here: http://web.archive.org/web/20180605190135/http://www.latimes...

No, you can't see it because of poor business practices at the LA Times. Huge difference.

Can't read this, GDPR walled...

But the irony that the website lacks the simple tools to comply with GDPR at least made this British person chuckle and like many articles, it is the fine comments that detail the salient points - I'm now off to search the web about scientific glass blowing and ponder ways to automate it.

The jobs that are left for him to do aren't suited for automation. All his jobs are repairs or custom one off jobs that would be nearly impossible to automate. Maybe some could be replaced with a robust 3D print to lost wax mold cast glass process but that can't do everything.

Ask your government to fix your laws, if there is anything resembling accountability in the EU legislative process.

I'm very much for accountability, although I fail to see exactly how it is relevant to this issue. Nevertheless, one could retort, without much of a stretch, or none at all, that if you need to store enough PII about your readers for GDPR to become a really hard issue to solve even with a ~2-year headstart, you either:

1) Weren't doing a very good job with your political reporting, and didn't know about it.

2) You are storing way too much information about your users for a newspaper to store.

3) You use deprivation of news to a particular group of people to try to influence them, or others to aid in your goals, whatever they might be.

4) You don't have that much money, and can't afford the changes necessary.

In my opinion, of these, only 4 is really acceptable for a newspaper, as news at its core is about trust, integrity and dialogue. Each of which none of the other answers leaves untainted.

... but I believe I don't even need to make the argument, because time and the growing distrust of how companies handle their sometimes very private and sensitive information don't care about arguments, it will simply make the things it cares about happen, given time, and the opportunity to be heard.

I'm not here to judge the LA Times' determination that they make more money blocking the EU than they do allowing it with reduced data collection; nor am I making a value judgement of the GDPR. What I'd like to say is that if you don't actively oppose the GDPR, and you are a voter in the EU, then complaining about the LA Times not bothering to service your jurisdiction is kinda weak.

Evidently the GDPR, all things considered, is preventing this person from reading the LA Times, in the same way that California's temporary ban on foie gras prevented Californians from enjoying foie gras.

Regulations on the duties of business affect the rights of individuals.

The GDPR is the fix.

An an European, GDPR is a horrible cancer.

GDPR is 90% process companies should be following anyway (industry best-practices) and 10% processes that should be trivial to implement (retrieving / deleting user data).

Calling it a cancer suggest you've not actually had to comply with it, you're just parroting all the people who are blowing it out of proportion because they don't understand the law or just don't think privacy is as important as ad revenue.

I've watched people die with cancer. I expect you have as well, or soon enough will. GDPR really isn't the same.

> The GDPR is the fix.

The fix for what? Being able to access content from the LA Times?

Having outfits like the LA Times casually throw your info at dozens/hundreds of largely unaccountable third-parties without your consent.

No, tell the LA Times to stop being shitty.

They're not, though. They're just making a value judgement, and they've concluded that they don't get enough out of serving a customized version of the LA Times online to EU persons at this moment, to justify the associated legal exposure. The EU is basically saying "if you do business here, and you screw this up, we are going to sue you before seeking other remedies", which to me seems like an excellent con to the pro of whatever revenue the LA Times can expect to extract from less-targeted advertising in the EU.

Yes, they are. You can say they're making a value judgement, but that doesn't change things.

"The EU is basically saying "if you do business here, and you screw this up, we are going to sue you before seeking other remedies""

That has never, EVER been said. Not once. In fact, the vast majority of guidance says that they will seek compliance BEFORE suing people. If you can't get the basics right, no one here can trust you to have an honest conversation.

> The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provides the Data Protection Authorities with different options in case of non-compliance with the data protection rules

> - likely infringement – a warning may be issued;

> - infringement: the possibilities include a reprimand, a temporary or definitive ban on processing and a fine of up to €20 million or 4% of the business’s total annual worldwide turnover.

> It is worth noting that in the case of an infringement, the DPA may impose a monetary fine instead of, or in addition to, the reprimand and/or ban on processing.

> The authority must ensure that fines imposed in each individual case are effective, proportionate and dissuasive.

In the official disclosure about enforcement, they state that warnings are optional ("may"), and only apply to "likely infringement", and they have more or less no standards determining what is "effective", "proportionate", or "dissuasive", and to me "proportionate" and "dissuasive" or "effective" are somewhat conflicting constraints. In some cases surely an effective fine is not proportionate, or a dissuasive fine is not effective or proportionate, or an effective fine is not dissuasive (that is, does not dissuade future infringement). I don't know what you consulted to get your information, but I would suspect europa.eu[0] is a decent source.

Heck, you even contradict yourself, first you say:

> That has never, EVER been said. Not once.

But in the next breath, you say:

> In fact, the vast majority of guidance says that they will seek compliance BEFORE suing people.

If you "get the basics right", surely you realize that it can't be simultaneously the case that it has never, "EVER" been said that a suit will be filed before compliance is sought, but also that the complement of the "vast majority", the petty minority, say that they will sue people "BEFORE" seeking compliance, by your own statement.

[0]: https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/law-topic/data-protection/refo...


I can tell this is going to take the spot of most common top comment away from “this font is too small”

Right, because a small font size is the same as not being able to access the article on grounds of geoblocking...

> Does the LA Times prefers to not be available at all in Europe at all than comply with GDPR? Amazing.

I wonder how widespread this is going to be, as more companies compute whether complying would lose them more profits than it would bring in.

I dont see how not tracking a set of people you already identified and putting a random advert is worse than blocking them out entirely.

I'm not sure if it all matters, because academia will be replaced by big companies anyway, sometime soon ...

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