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They Build Spacecraft and Fight Epidemics; Shutdown May Scare Them Away (nytimes.com)
41 points by JumpCrisscross 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments

Since there has been a couple of comment already about how the people in the pictures are clearly not PhDs but cleaners (because they're not caucasian, I suppose), I took 15 seconds to look up "NASA Gustavo Costa", first name mentioned in the article: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gustavo_Costa16

Which is really quite a baffling perspective. A stereotype/joke I was told while young: if you see a scruffy, probably homeless, person near a good university you should first check to see if they are part of the Math faculty before making any further assumptions.

It is not possible to gauge intelligence or academic credential by visual inspection, unless someone is wearing an academic gown. Some very accomplished people positively seem to enjoy looking disheveled.

It may be a little evil... but your comment reminded me of this online quiz that makes you try to classify pictures in two categories, prof or hobo... It turns out I'm not really good at it. https://www.proforhobo.com/

>> Some very accomplished people positively seem to enjoy looking disheveled.

Can confirm. A friend of mine has been consulting now for over 15 years. He's an excellent engineer with some valuable specialization. Met him after work for dinner and he shows up in crappy jeans and sandals. "Why are you dressed like that, didn't you just come from a client site?" "It's part of the uniform." Apparently IDGAF is a signal in more ways than I thought. In this case it shows that you are good enough not to need to conform - and he's right. I do wonder weather dressing better but finding another way to signal value might take him up a notch, but I honestly couldn't say.

Some very broke people borrow money so they can look well dressed. Appearances can be deceiving.

It shouldn't baffling if you consider the politics at play, particularly as regards the status and value of non-white ethnicities in the US among the alt-right (and its intersection with mainstream conservatism and the politics of the wall) and the oft-repeated conspiracy theories about "leftist" media outlets fabricating stories and content to advance some progressive multicultural agenda.

And the aforementioned (and appropriately flagged) comment isn't about people looking shabby, it's about people looking Hispanic or South Asian. No one questions whether a white person in casual dress might be an engineer, scientist or something other than a janitor.

It’s one of the remaining interesting parts of “signaling theory” that the super-elite now commonly uses shabby looks to prove that they have nothing left to prove. Only mediocrity needs a suit to be taken seriously.

Suits are basically uniforms. Sometimes literally.

Having a strict dress code isn't a sign of status in my book.

One data point: it makes me think first of all about salespeople.

Some very accomplished people positively seem to enjoy looking disheveled.

When I was in college there was a direct correlation between brilliance and how disheveled one looked.

I find it a bit interesting that people only see the non-caucasians. If I load the full picture it looks like a typical "diversity arranged" image with representatives of each demographic. It is exactly 50/50 women and men, with what look like one or two from every continent.

I'm not sure that it's the visual appearance (loved the prof-or-hobo page!), I think it's the behavior.

Do you think standing around holding signs is an effective tactic? Is that what you would do if you were directly impacted by the shutdown?

Note that Gustavo Costa was interviewed "on a cold morning in his quiet living room" and the unnamed scientist spoke "by phone on the way to a job interview." I didn't see the article claiming they spoke to anyone pictured, and yes, those were very well-balanced race/gender/age diversity photos. Even had a couple of grey-haired white guys.

Thank you. It’s terrible to see how little it takes to expose the seedy underbelly of even this community.

It’s even more discouraging to think how far we have come from the times where, among the favorite lore, was the story of JFK asking someone sweeping the floor at NASA “and what do you do?”, with him replying “I send men to the moon”.

(Edit: you probably need to change your settings if you want to see what we’re reacting to.)

The seedy underbelly of the perma banned accounts. They are nor more part of this community than bots are.

The tech community appears to be experiencing a political and intellectual shift towards the embrace of anti-progressive and so-called "racial realist" ideology. To dismiss all such comments as trolls or to pretend that banning comments and accounts somehow excises intolerant and prejudiced views from the culture would be a mistake.

> NASA, a government agency as well-known as Coca-Cola back in his little Brazilian hometown.

I've noticed this when I travel--all over the world, I see people wearing NASA t-shirts, everywhere I've been: Europe, Asia, South America. It seems like the NASA meatball is globally popular.

Whatever the Americans are paying for NASA, it must be an absolute bargain in terms of the good press and soft power it wins them worldwide. Can you imagine any other foreign government agency that people would be eager to have on their shirt? Was Roscosmos similarly popular during the Space Race?

>I see people wearing NASA t-shirts, everywhere I've been: Europe, Asia, South America.

I for one have never seen anyone in Europe wearing a NASA t-shirt, and that includes American tourists.

You're not looking hard enough. I see NASA shirts at least once a week here in Germany

Well I haven't noticed any of those either, ever. Its true I didn't look for it specifically, but anywhere outside US this would stick out at least a bit, especially for a space nut like me. And I also include all the travelling I ever done, on 6 continents, sometimes for months in a row when you mean tons of folks including US citizens.

Neither I ever saw it in Geneva in Switzerland where I live, which is home to CERN folks, many UN/NGO folks, banker folks, or generally quite international folks. Maybe you keep seeing 2-3 people in your vicinity over and over?

I too have noticed this and have been very surprised as well.

I don’t know why anyone would be surprised. NASA is cool.

I’m German, and I wouldn’t mind wearing a shirt, although I’m slightly afraid it may be misunderstood as a claim to have worked there.

This is the so-called “soft power” that’s been in the news lately. Do I want my countr to be an ally with the one planting their flag on the moon and llettting it slowly turn white? Hell, yeah!

It’s also a good example of why political decisions matter: it took quite a bit of convincing to keep NASA civilian when it first came about.

Could a supporter of ‘the wall’ explain to me (after first taking a deep breath) why it is a reasonable or even effective solution for illegal immigration? To me, shutting down the government for this wall is a dangerous and destructive temper-tantrum. Why are all other proposals being rejected?

This isn't about a wall or illegal immigration. This is about politics and both sides using a government shutdown as a way of swinging popular opinion in order to gain an edge for 2020 elections.

Historically, government shutdowns have been a very effective way of swinging popular opinion against the party that is viewed as causing the shutdown.

The key, and what both parties are working really hard at, is to paint the other party as the "guilty" party for causing or not resolving the shutdown.

Historically shutdowns don’t meaningfully affect public opinion in the long-term: https://news.gallup.com/poll/164714/history-suggests-shutdow...

Even Newt Gingrich (who caused the second longest shutdown) said that, in hind-sight, it was a terrible decision on his part. So, if Republicans really believe that this is giving them a good image, they’re using the wrong PR firm.

Do you expect a real response in this insular a community?

Well, there was at least one flagged commenter with karma in the thousands. I am just a curious person, and feel compelled to understand.

This is how my SO and I ended up in Canada.

The 2013 shutdown happened smack in the middle of our post-PhD job hunt. The shutdown itself ‘only’ lasted a few weeks and directly slowed down interviews at federal labs. However, the overall environment of uncertainty affected hiring well before—-and well afterward. It also spread beyond actual federal jobs to those that somehow interact with the government (contractors, companies with federal contracts, labs that get federal grants). Nobody wants to hire a new person just to lay them off a few months later, nor do people (especially those making academic salaries) want to jump into such a precarious situation.

So....I listened pretty carefully when someone from Canada made me an offer. The salary was maybe a touch low by US standards, but it was available right now and likely to stick around. As a result, We have spent the past five years training Canadian students, building up Canadian labs, and so on.

We think about coming home: we miss our friends and families, it does get cold up here, and living abroad can be strange. At the same time though, we do need steady jobs for ourselves and our research.

FWIW, I don’t think we’re particularly special in this regard. Only two people from my PhD cohort are still doing research in the US (1 academic, 1 industry). The rest have gone abroad or left research, in part due to the crazy career uncertainty.

The point of the article is that the US Government employs people who do good things (science, medicine, etc.) and that capricious management(for example, government shutdowns or arbitrary censorship of research results) encourages them to leave government service and work elsewhere. This is not a new phenomenon but it is much more common under the Trump administration.




Except if you read the article, many of the protestors interviewed had PhDs

Wow. What a horrible comment.

It's understandable that there is a lot of attention on those affected by the shutdown, but what about all those who have lost their livelihoods due to illegal immigration? These are American citizens who rightly expect that their government that they pay taxes to will protect them. I keep hearing about "jobs Americans don't want to do", but I know several people who were driven from their trades due to this.

Enforcing that employers pay all employees proper (internationally competing, livable) wages regardless of nationality or immigration status, and fast tracking immigration tickets, would solve this pretty effectively.

The first part solves the fact that companies prefer immigrants due to the fact that they can pay them a lower wage, setting a minimum wage in law that is internationally competing would drive some businesses out of america, but those businesses are harmful anyway because they are exploitative towards their employees, and therefore they aim to exploit Americans.

The second aspect, fast-tracking immigration status so that immigrants can become legal citizens easier, solves the fact that some employers might abuse the status of immigrants to pay them less. It'd be trivial (and actually it is quite common already) for employers to tell their immigrant employees "Accept this shitty pay or I will report you to ICE". This completely removes that method of extortion from being viable.

If an illegally underpaying employer only hires illegal immigrants, will the crime be seen by anyone who won't lose out from reporting it?

Seems to me, if a gangmaster is supplying seasonal workers to a farm, the farmer won't report them, the gangmaster won't report themselves, and the workers won't report their employer. Who's left?

It’s pretty easy. Auditing 101.

You gather data on the manpower requirements for farmer Joe, look at the payroll taxes paid by farmers with similar operations, and audit the bottom standard deviations for tax compliance.

One of the reasons that conservatives traditionally have such a hard on for the IRS is that it’s the primary agency able to detect these types of frauds. In the years they control the House, they defund IRS enforcement ability.

> If an illegally underpaying employer only hires illegal immigrants, who is going to see the crime and report it to the enforcement agency?

As I already addressed with point two, fast-tracking of immigration status to legal citizen status, is vitally important to remove this method of extortion.

So if you cross the border and join an illegally-underpaying work crew, you're guaranteed legal citizen status?

I’d be in favour of that.

I can see the point in border controls for goods (laws on what can be sold vary from place to place), and an army to stop someone else taking over, but not for individual people, be they workers, tourists, students, children, pensioners, or refugees.

Sure, why not. Maybe couple it with whistleblower incentives.

If your family has been in the US for 100+ years, I assure you that’s exactly how they got started.

Pressure the employers and focus on people overstaying after legal entry. Let the rest of the country get back to work, we are going to pay them anyways so all the shutdown has accomplished is to inconvenience people and spend a lot of money with nothing to show for it.

If your friends knew people were employing illegal immigrants they should have reported it if it bothers them. Not complain about it.

Sure - blame the victims.

There you go with that wrongthink. You’re on the wrong site buddy. In general these folks don’t care that illegal immigration disproportionately impacts native born poor and miniorities. They treat it as some kind of myth. They also act as if every gov employee is some vitally important researcher or scientist. Anybody who has ever worked in a legitimately large organization knows that you can easily lose 10-15% of the workforce and barely even notice it.

Just curious, what trades were these people working that they lost due to illegals? I find it hard to believe that there is a widespread job loss for skilled trade people.

Construction is one example. Doing drywall or carpentry is a highly skilled job. There are many subs that only employ illegals, bid really low on jobs, and drive out legitimate subs.

Last time I checked there were tons of construction work, in fact, I believe there is an undersupply skilled in that field. It's the unskilled construction jobs that are at risk for legals.

Also, doing drywall isn't highly skilled, it's job you get anyone to do with a few days of training (hell you could get away with not doing the training)

Yeah, there is a lot of demand for work, and illegal labor drives down the price. You are out to lunch on doing drywall being easy. To be a pro (quality work done fast every day of the week) at hanging and finishing drywall is not something you get good at in 2 days.

> finishing drywall is not something you get good at in 2 days.

I never said get good at it within that time but you learn the skills required. Practice is how you get good. Highly skilled jobs take a long period of time just to learn the skills required. Hence drywalling is a low skill job.

I agree that if illegal immigration is causing job loss to americans it is a problem that should be addressed; I admit I don't have much education on the subject. Do you know any studies to give hard(or even a range of) numbers of the effect of illegal immigration on american job loss?

It’s important to remember that any person is possibly a worker, but certainly a consumer. In fact, those two aspects average out to perfect balance, by definition.

So even in a worst case scenario, where all immigrants happen to have one skill only, and overwhelm the market for, say, phone booth cleaning, they are also a market for any other profession of at least equal size.

In practice, the numbers of immigrants should be easily absorbed by the vastly larger population of the US, although it may be beneficial to, for example, spread out the impact among the states and invest in vocational training.

Question: are you looking for facts to support your opinion, or are you looking for enough facts to determine what’s happening with respect to illegal immigration & jobs in the U.S.? Because the story is complicated.

The latter. My opinion on the subject can be summarized as 'I dont know enough to opine, but if you have an opinion I'd like to see what you're basing that opinion on'.

I agree with this principle. Can you tell us more about the trades people you know have been driven from?

Govvies do not build spacecraft, contractors do.

Oh, and the article even starts out that way: "and it keeps him in steady demand as a contractor at NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center"... and then immediately commits some slight-of-hand to start talking about the "civil service", i.e. govvies.

Is learning to be purposefully misleading a whole class in journalism school, or does it just come naturally?

I gotta ask: what the hell are you talking about? Can you demonstrate how this is misleading?

The argument may be that contractors aren’t technically government employees. As part of the shrink-the-government-privatize-everything mania, a lot of positions are now filled by contractors from Booz Allen, Kelly Services, and a million other firms, large and small. These people work in government facilities, often side-by-side with “real” government employees whose paychecks come straight from Uncle Sam.

However, this argument totally misses the point. Some of these contractors aren’t getting paid either—and I’m not sure if contractors always get back pay. They are also limited in what they can—-and are allowed— to do without their government counterparts. Finally, the bigger picture is that these folks, along with federal employees, are part of a broader R&D ecosystem. Like a real ecosystem, if you keep destabilizing it, it’ll eventually fall apart.

Spacex has proven NASA's only purpose is military industrial. It is a money pit with poor results per dollar spent. National security has been made the only excuse for the SLS.

NASA has successfully landed eight spacecraft on the surface of Mars, millions of kilometers away.

Nobody else (not the Soviets, not the ESA, certainly not SpaceX) has done it even once.


true... and their budget for all this? timeframes?

SpaceX is able to do things cheaper and faster than NASA because NASA as a federal government agency is encumbered by insane bureaucracy that gums up everything. I imagine rules for procurement, IT and hiring specifically makes an already difficult job orders of magnitude more difficult.

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