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Education Security

China Dominates In NSA-Backed Coding Contest 316

The Narrative Fallacy writes "With about 4,200 people participating in a US National Security Agency-supported international competition on everything from writing algorithms to designing components, 20 of the 70 finalists were from China, 10 from Russia, and 2 from the US. China's showing in the finals was helped by its large number of entrants, 894. India followed at 705, but none of its programmers was a finalist. Russia had 380 participants; the United States, 234; Poland, 214; Egypt, 145; and Ukraine, 128. Participants in the TopCoder Open was open to anyone, from student to professional; the contest proceeded through rounds of elimination that finished this month in Las Vegas. Rob Hughes, president and COO of TopCoder, says the strong finish by programmers from China, Russia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere is indicative of the importance those countries put on mathematics and science education. 'We do the same thing with athletics here that they do with mathematics and science there.'"
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China Dominates In NSA-Backed Coding Contest

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  • Damn (Score:5, Funny)

    by Xs1t0ry ( 1247414 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:27PM (#28271837)
    "We do the same thing with athletics here that they do with mathematics and science there...."

    Apparently I was born on the wrong continent.

    • Re:Damn (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pluther ( 647209 ) <pluther@usa.ERDOSnet minus math_god> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:53PM (#28272211) Homepage

      What's worse, the quote isn't even true.

      We don't do the same thing with athletics here as they do with math and science over there. In fact, they do the same thing with athletics as they do with math and science.

      That is, they consider athletics to be important and encourage every child to participate in at least one sport.

      We, on the other hand, idolize a very small number of top achievers and encourage every child to watch them on TV.

      • Re:Damn (Score:5, Informative)

        by emkyooess ( 1551693 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:58PM (#28272263)
        You must not be too familiar with schools. Time and time again the schools around where I grew up, real educational funds were slashed in favor of building a new gymnasium, funding an entirely new sport, sending the teams to beach trips, and all other sorts of athletics pandering. Meanwhile, it took decades of tooth-and-nail fighting to get a renovation (not even new) auditorium and stage for music and drama, the arts were always scrounging for supplies, science events were always short-changed and trips cut, and math texts were so ragged they were useless.
        • Re:Damn (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:33PM (#28272561)

          This was true at my college in the late 1980's to early 1990's.

          We built a new spiffy apartment complex for students-- and then filled it with atheletes.

          They cut library publication subscriptions-- and gave more money to the athletic program.

          They were desperate to break into the national scene and failed.

          • Re:Damn (Score:5, Informative)

            by cortesoft ( 1150075 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @07:39PM (#28273181)

            They spend money on Athletics because Athletics makes money... at least football and basketball do, and at least at big sport schools. I went to UCLA, and while they spend millions on coaches and facilities, they make back WAY more than that in ticket sales, paraphernalia, and broadcast rights. Those profits add millions to the general school budget.

            Of course, many schools (and it sounds like yours was one) see these huge profits and want a part of it... so they spend money to build up an athletics program, but fail to realize it is nearly impossible to break into the elite ranks these days.

            Another sad but true fact is that a successful sports program brings in a LOT of money from alumni donors... the better a sports team does, the more the alumni will donate to the school.

            • Re:Damn (Score:5, Insightful)

              by ojustgiveitup ( 869923 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @08:21PM (#28273523)
              Maybe we should stop running schools like businesses and start running them like schools.
              • Re:Damn (Score:4, Insightful)

                by cortesoft ( 1150075 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @08:35PM (#28273633)

                That would work if we started funding them like schools... it's not as if the money they make from athletics goes into the chancellor's pocket... it goes to fund the school.. whether better facilities, more classes, or what not. Universities (especially public ones) are underfunded a huge amount... and they have requirements that they MUST accept a certain percentage of students (at least for the University of California and the California State Universities).. so they have to find funding somewhere... I would rather they have a school football team than an increased tuition...

                • Re:Damn (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by ojustgiveitup ( 869923 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @08:53PM (#28273761)
                  I would rather we start funding them like schools. I would also suggest that we suffer from a quantity vs. quality problem that the quotas in places like California, while good-intentioned, are worsening. Higher education needs to be cheap and available, but highly selective. While I'm being idealistic, I might as well also mention that we need to stop requiring college degrees for basically any middle class job. We've saturated the job market with highly educated people, while simultaneously diminishing the quality of that education. So now, as a society, we're paying inordinate sums for lowest common denominator education, that a large proportion of people don't need and won't ever use.
              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by ahabswhale ( 1189519 )

                Maybe we should stop running schools like businesses and start running them like schools.

                But that would be un-American!

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by dr_dank ( 472072 )

              Beer and Circus [] details this phenomenon quite well. The sports program is a fundraising avenue, recruitment tool, and publicity machine all rolled up into one. Trouble is, the quality of the education suffers for the sake of the almighty sports program. The portion of Beer & Circus detailing the veto power that Bobby Knight had over the university president at Indiana is especially telling of this fact of life at Division I schools.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              Ticket sales? Broadcast rights? Paraphernalia?

              I'm from Melbourne, Australia - and that just sound *nuts*.

              Most schools here just have some Maths teacher or something coaching the teams after school (even the Firsts/top teams of the school)...the only people who come and spectate are parents, maybe a girlfriend or mate. In higher schools, you may see more specific coaches brought in - almost always school alumni - and usually just amateur coaches nonetheless.

              I dunno, is it just me, or is it only America where

      • Either that or they look the other way when their crackers attack US based computers.

        As far as math and science goes, their education system sucks in most ways compared to that of the US, with the exception of there being an identifiable relationship between effort and outcome. We could do the same thing if we fired the sophists currently working in education and replaced them with actual competent educators. If their education system were better than ours, then they wouldn't be coming here in droves to
        • Our higher education system rocks the world over, but our primary and secondary education blows donkey balls. We focus too much on silly things like yearly high stakes testing and not enough on education.... there is also a severe lack of the idea that repetition of certain things (like basic facts in mathematics) leads to better performance.

          Oh... and the idea that every child should be in the exact same room setting, and the lack of parents who give a shit, and the lack of motivation from most students....

          • Re:Damn (Score:4, Insightful)

            by ishobo ( 160209 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:44PM (#28274103)

            Our higher education system rocks the world over

            Based on what data do make that conclusion?

            Also, why doesn't the U.S. fully fund tertiary education? Why is it not seen as a right?

            Frankly, I think the U.S. tertiary system is a piss poor excuse for higher learning. I would rather stay in the EU and not worry about how I am going to send my children to college. We have many fine institutions here in the EU, including the top tier Oxford and Cambridge, which are funded around 90% for all EU residents. Saying the U.S. has the best universities is like saying the U.S. has the best healthcare. True, if you are rich.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by story645 ( 1278106 )

              Also, why doesn't the U.S. fully fund tertiary education? Why is it not seen as a right?

              Because it would be prohibitively expensive? I go to a dirt cheap uni (~4000 a year, 5000 after next years tuition hikes, and it's a public school so it's only that low 'cause of the massive tax funding the school gets, though it's getting hit with budget cuts right and left) and even that kind of tuition would be a massive funding issue for everyone who wanted to go to college here in the states, mostly because it's so standard/expected that a person gets a degree. (though there's tons of financial aid ava

          • Teachers... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by uncqual ( 836337 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:52PM (#28274153)
            I think that teachers are a significant part of the problem (somewhere after parents).

            The teacher's unions have for many years rejected almost all attempts to reward the objectively successful (rather than the most senior and/or most willing to collect various paper credentials) practitioners of the art while pushing out those that are not successful. They are historically opposed to all standardized student testing - esp. if they are fearful that these results may be used in teacher evaluation. If students testing at the X percentile on a standardized Algebra test at the end of Algebra I end up at the end of Geometry testing at 1.1X in one teacher's class and at 0.9X in another teacher's class in the next classroom, it seems we have a pretty good hint which teacher is better.

            The standardized testing should be a significant factor in students' grades to discourage students from "punishing" a teacher they don't like by doing poorly on the standardized tests.

            I don't find the arguments about how "teaching to tests" is bad very compelling - esp. in Math and Science. If "teaching to the tests" results in different teaching than "teaching to excel in the material", obviously the tests need to be fixed -- they are testing for something other than that which competence is desired in. Sure, there are some subject areas that don't lend themselves to standardized testing (for example, various performing arts), but these don't seem to be the areas that are resulting in American High School graduates being non-competitive.

            Annecdotally, in my personal experience most smart and competent people who flee from the teaching field (usually after having entered it somewhat idealistically) would be excellent teachers but end up being frustrated by not being rewarded for their performance, frustrated by lack of support from parents ("My little Susie would never talk back"), and lack of support from administrators ("If there's a problem with classroom discipline it must be the teacher's problem as Susie's mother has assured me she's an angel").
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              Or, they go to private schools.

              That's the real solution here, in my opinion. This way you can vote with your dollars whether or not the athletic program gets funding. We never had a football team, never needed it.

          • Damn-Testing. (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Ostracus ( 1354233 )
    • Re:Damn (Score:5, Funny)

      by JeanBaptiste ( 537955 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:57PM (#28272249)

      Yes, the Chinese Professional Math League (YDVF) is quite a sight to watch. Arenas filled with cheering fans watching a bunch of guys doing math and science. I still don't like the free agency rule implemented last year, but it has provided more parity between teams. The 'player' salaries are quite a bit higher actually than some of the top athletes in sports like football in other places around the globe. They truly treat mathematics like we treat athletics.

      • Not only do they not treat mathematicians like we treat athletes, they also treat athletes like we treat them! I was reading through the profiles of the workers in our China branch, and several of them mentioned they like AI. That's not Artificial Intelligence, folks, that's Allen Iverson!
    • Re:Damn (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Knave75 ( 894961 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:02PM (#28272295)

      "We do the same thing with athletics here that they do with mathematics and science there....

      The problem is that we are overpaying our teachers.

      (but, seriously, we give math and science teachers a starvation wage and provide them with little respect. Meanwhile, we pay football coaches 6 figure salaries and revere them as Gods. Are we really that surprised that we fail at math?)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hedwards ( 940851 )
        Yes, but even a change of policy to make it less anti-education would be a step in the right direction. Expecting people to work for peanuts, fighting the school district's typically laughable curriculum hoping for a few students to win out over incompetent testing standards, isn't something that's likely to draw in the best possible teachers.

        High stress, low relation between success and effort low wages; gee I wonder why it's so hard to get men into education. If only there were similar fields that paid
        • if High school coached had to get their players ready for a standardized test every season to compare their athletes ability to do something completely unrelated to their ability to play better ball, how soon do you think it will be before people bitch and moan about the crapy athletics in this country?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Wingman 5 ( 551897 )

        Not that I support coaches getting 6 figure salaries. But the reason they get it is because they made a good team, and that good team generates 7-8 figure income for the school in ticket sales. so if you reword it as a coach gets 1-10% of ticket sales in salaries it does not sound so bad.

        All you need to do is ask yourself how much income does the art department generate in grant money per year to see why there is a disparity.

    • Wait... you mean that in Russia and China, the mathmeticians and scientists get all the hot chicks, and they constantly tease the jocks for having "little girly minds"??? I am SO there!
  • Excellent (Score:3, Informative)

    by Seriousity ( 1441391 ) <> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:27PM (#28271841)
    Given the percentage of Chinese coders in comparison to US, they still did roughly twice as good. (Cue the math pedants)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jgtg32a ( 1173373 )
      I think you need to be more concerned with the grammar pedants
    • Given the percentage of Chinese coders in comparison to US, they still did roughly twice as good.

      That might be true, if the coders participating in the competition were a representative sampling of the whole population of coders from each country. But, I don't think there's any reason to think that is the case.

      It's like arguing that South Korea, as a nation, is better at baseball than the US, just because they won the gold in Beijing.

    • they still did roughly twice as well . (Cue the math pedants)
      and grammar Nazis.

  • by 0racle ( 667029 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:27PM (#28271847)
    'We do the same thing with athletics here that they do with mathematics and science there.'

    Thats nice, and I believe it's disgusting how athletics are held here, but the public has made it abundantly clear that's they way they want it. I, for one, would like to welcome our new Chinese overlords.
    • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:42PM (#28272073) Homepage

      IMHO it's not that we (yeah, I'm from so called "Eastern Europe") focus on mathematics and hard science, it's just that, from what I see, athletes/etc. are put on a smaller pedestal

      (perhaps partly because of economic considerations...celebrities here simply aren't worth that much as a product; means also that for larger percentage of "would-be celebrities" the only future is as a bouncer or whore, etc.)

      But they are still put on a pedestal...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by siddesu ( 698447 )

      Also, spooks could be more motivated to win a competition run by NSA compared to the people who have the citizenship and background to compete for a job instead.

    • by JCSoRocks ( 1142053 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:49PM (#28272157)
      Oh, sure, like drunken sports fans and tubby couch coaches aren't going to be important in the digital age. Those other countries just don't know what they're doing. Just wait, in a post-apocalyptic world we Americans will be ready to drink and fight with the best of them!
    • by Ogi_UnixNut ( 916982 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:40PM (#28272647) Homepage

      IMO (having spent about half my life the "West" and the other half in "Eastern Europe") the primary difference seems to be one of respect for knowledge.

      In the West while I was at school it was "cool" to be stupid. Kids who smoked, did drugs, didn't do any work, rejected knowledge/lessons, skipped school etc... were by far the most popular, with many followers. The hard working kids that did well on the other hand, were mocked as "teachers pets", "dorks" etc... and were generally social outcasts.

      On the other hand when I was in Eastern Europe, if you were knowledgeable in a subject (especially something seen as hard, like Maths/physics etc...) you ended up being popular, while those that smoked/did drugs/skipped school etc... as above were seen as troublemakers to be avoided. People there seemed to appreciate your knowledge. I guess it's because it's seen as a reliably useful skill (i.e. employable), as opposed to just looking pretty, which only works for the top 1% that manage to become celebrities, the rest usually ending up as whores/gold diggers or thugs/bouncers.

      That's not to say athletics was discouraged, on the contrary you were expected to take part in at least one physical activity, but it wasn't a case of athletics being the be-all-end-all of life

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I, for one, would like to welcome our new Chinese overlords.

      So as to not welcome them as your overlords tomorrow, you should rather welcome them as citizens and well-paid, highly skilled professionals today, and make sure their children speak English first and Chinese second (but still get education of the same standard as their parents).

  • by kbob88 ( 951258 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:28PM (#28271853)

    Maybe programmers in China, Russia, and Eastern Europe have more time on their hands, less money, and would derive more benefit from participating in the contest (prestige and recognition for instance). I'm sure there are a great many US coders who would do very well in this contest, but are too busy.

    • by Seakip18 ( 1106315 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:33PM (#28271937) Journal

      Better yet, was the opening of said contest even announced on US top tech sites?

      Second, did US employers, who hire our best programmers, tell them to give it a go with time off?

      • by Vexorian ( 959249 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:37AM (#28275279)
        It is always by this time of the year that the results of programming contests like the ICPC and the TCO get announced and the lame US excuses parade begins...

        Russia, Poland and China are better at programming contests, live with it. Really, it is sort of annoying to see Americans making up all sorts of excuses when the results are announced. During the ICPC one guy in slashdot was actually saying that as Russians and Chinese guys are obviously inherently corrupt, they probably stole the answers. Last year, a christian nationalist site said that Russia always wins because the Russian students practice and the US ones obviously don't... What's worse is that Americans assume they are the only country making software, and that they are full of greatly competent programmers that all happen to be busy during these contests.

        Guess what? Programmers in other countries are also very busy. There are also companies in other countries that hire their best programmers, and no, they wouldn't let them go with time off... US participation was not low, in fact it was one of the highest, as this is an American company hosted contest...

        At least you are not down the bottom in these things, US is probably 5th or something, there are hundreds of countries that do much worse, but at least they don't keep making up these lame excuses...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Seakip18 ( 1106315 )

          Umm....These weren't excuses. They were questions. I think what you want is this "These contest are biased against Americans anyway. The other countries can simply out compete us cause they cheat..waaaaaah!" I'm not buying any excuses like that, I assure you. America by and far lost, plain and simple.

          Every year, as GSOC rolls around, Slashdot throws a few articles up. One of these is always about a week before the deadline, highlighting the main projects for the summer and reminding students to participate.

    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )

      Its not as funny as it sounds, i know personally when i had more free time to waste, i was a better coder.

    • I'm sure there are a great many US coders who would do very well in this contest, but are too busy.

      There is some truth in that I think. I know that when I get home at the end of a day of programming the last thing I want to do is sit down in front of an editor and work on a personal project. I would say that another difference between the United States and other countries is more direct state sponsorship of research and development activities so that qualified people have the time and resources to continue their studies and R&D activities after they have completed their degrees instead of diving righ

    • Fixed prizes are certainly worth more in countries with a lower cost of living. US $5,000 doesn't go very far in the US, but is almost the average yearly income for some of the countries listed. One would have to pay on an adjusted curve to make the incentives roughly equal.

      And as you hinted, one may be more likely to "get the pretty girl" for winning such in those countries. Not so much in the US.

      These kinds of factors should be checked before labeling US participants.

  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:29PM (#28271863)
    Which reminds me -- how is the USA doing in the World Cup?
  • The next war (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    'We do the same thing with athletics here that they do with mathematics and science there.'

    So long as the next war is fought with rubber balls on a carefully leveled surface, the US will do fine.

  • by mordors9 ( 665662 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:33PM (#28271927)
    Who knew that teaching kids that 1+1 can equal 3 as long as they feel good about themselves would turn out bad for us...
    • Red ink and being told you're wrong are very traumatizing events in a child's life.
      Will someone PLEASE just think of the children!
      • OMG, please, no, don't remind me. I remember someone told me I was wrong once. It was dreadful. We should outlaw that sort of hate speech in America before it gets out of hand.
      • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:48PM (#28272707)
        Spoken as somebody who has clearly never worked in education.

        Classroom related anxieties are a genuine problem and this sort of blame the victim ideology has no place in schools. Trivializing this sort of thing just makes it more difficult on the students and teachers and unnecessarily drains talent which could otherwise be out looking for the cure to cancer or fixing other pressing concerns.
        • by The Master Control P ( 655590 ) <[ejkeever] [at] []> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @07:19PM (#28273017)
          If you're serious: You're right, we should never tell children when they're wrong. That would never create preening, self-entitled idiots that never learned any actual hard facts and have no idea how to cope with a real world that doesn't care how "traumatic" being told "you're wrong" is.

          If you're joking: God, don't scare me like that!
        • by Omestes ( 471991 ) <> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:53PM (#28274577) Homepage Journal

          Your trolling, right?

          Please tell me your trolling.

          I'm dating a person working on their major in education (its free, and mostly for giggles),who has to interact with actual k-12 teachers. Reading some of the pop-psych drivel that teachers cough up, I sadly wouldn't doubt it you were serious.

          Primary and secondary educations exists to make kids LEARN, not to make them feel good about themselves. When it comes to schooling, I actually don't care how they feel about it, as long as they leave being able to read at a 12th grade level, and know at least some math. Actually, I would like it if they knew something about history as well. If they leave feeling good about themselves, that is great, IF (and only if) they earned it through achievement.

          People who do mediocre work should feel mediocre about it. Feeling bad about it forces them to do something about it. Telling them that being a moron is fine, isn't making them want to stop being a moron. Kids should be under some pressure to... you know... better themselves.

          As for self-esteem... its a load of new-age crap. Self respect, like all other forms of respect, must be earned. Being proud of yourself for nothing but existing is rather stupid, it motivates nothing but egotism and some idiotic sense of entitlement. Being proud of yourself for doing something, that gives incentive to continue to achieve.

          Also, no, they are not innately special. No one is. You are nothing but part of the faceless masses that will be completely forgotten within one generation of your death, this is the definition of not being special. Just because you like yourself, doesn't change this. If you feel good about this, there is something wrong. You only become special when you DO something that the vast majority of anonymous strangers in the world can't do. You don't get to the point where this is possible by sitting on your ass, staring into a mirror, and chanting a mantra about how awesome you are just because you are you.

          A quick question; should I be proud of myself for sitting at my desk eating cheetos? Or should I be proud of myself for getting off my ass and doing something interesting? Children are no different.

          Really, we need more hard-ass eduction. We should just flunk everyone who can't actually read at their grade level, or perform basic mathematical operations, no questions asked. Continue to flunk them until they pass, turn twenty-one, or realize they should just get their GED and do something that befits their temperament.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by iluvcapra ( 782887 )

      Who knew that teaching kids that 1+1 can equal 3 as long as they feel good about themselves would turn out bad for us...

      Or that two billion years is only about 5000 God-years, and that "fact" is really a question of whose parents have a bigger voting block on the school board. And that canceling the band program in order to pay for the football stadium is really quite reasonable if you think about it.

      Sputnik all over again...

      PS. I know it's funny to crack about the whole self-esteem thing, but (1) I didn't pass thru the school system yesterday, but through the 90s I never knew anyone in school get an attaboy for getting a f

    • It's a trade off.

      a) Happy and ignorant but alive.

      b) Happy and educated if you make the cut, otherwise unhappy but dead. (a lot of indians and japanese commit suicide each year ).

      I think the days of America getting away with Happy and Ignorant but Alive are coming to an end.

  • Science Backgrounds (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Niris ( 1443675 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:36PM (#28271979)
    Reminds me of an episode of Sliders where they treated the people who are good at math/science like athletic gods.

    Anywho, I was just at a university graduation a couple weeks ago, and I swear there were about 150 graduates for Social Services and Psychology, and seven engineers/computer scientists/math majors graduating. Of course we're going to get our asses handed to us when we just aren't pushing those sort of programs here in the States.
    • by Sinbios ( 852437 )

      What university do you go to that has engineering, CS, and math departments which produce a total of seven graduates a year?

  • the lesson: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:37PM (#28271995)

    Turn your back on learning and embrace anti-intellectualism? Enjoy falling behind.

    Unfortunately America is getting screwed from both sides... the Republicans actively oppose education that isn't Jesus-centered, while the Democrats and their "Oh, everyone's a winner" crap make what education we do have a joke and create a disgusting sense of entitlement. I figure once China launches a manned moon mission it'll probably be the kick in the ass America needs to get back in gear, same as when the USSR launched Sputnik. Right now America's stalled but there's still time to reignite the engines.

    Most nations don't have long once they stagnate, but America's got a hell of a lot of inertia behind it... I hope we don't throw the chance away.

    • by sznupi ( 719324 )

      In that light it would actually be worth it for China to stall its landing as long as its practical...

  • Oh really? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:38PM (#28272019) Homepage

    We do the same thing with athletics here that they do with mathematics and science there.

    Oh really? What fraction of A-rod's salary is the top coder in China being paid?

    • by caluml ( 551744 )
      I, being English, had no idea who A-rod is, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. I'd always considered an athlete to refer to people that do the sports that are played at Athletics Championships - you know, track and field, javelin, high jump, that sort of thing.

      It seems that other people in the world have a different idea of that to me - who knew? :)
  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:39PM (#28272037) Journal
    It's time for nerds to rise up yet again. Throughout modern history in the US, celebration of the nerd has resulted in unprecedented economic prosperity and global economic domination.

    From the idolization of Einstein, Feynman, and other physicists, arose the economic superpower that dominated much of the world in the 1950s and 60s.

    In the 80s, we were captivated by the message of Revenge of the Nerds, and on the shoulders of this movie we came to dominate the new era of Information.

    Ladies, gentlemen: Now is the time. Now is the time to rise up from our comfy chairs, to rise up from our futons, to rise up from the depths of our basements! We must rise up as one united voice of nerd-dom, and speak to the mouthbreathers who have ground us beneath their bootheels since time immemorial. We must tell them:

    ENOUGH! Take your stupid sports and shove them. Take your stupid pop music TV shows and shove them. Take your idolization of stupidity and sacrifice it on the altar of curiosity, the altar of edification, and the altar of neckbeards and cheetos!


    What's that mom? Yeah... OK... I'll be up for dinner as soon as I finish this level. Did you get some Mountain Dew?

    Sorry, gotta go AFK.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shooter28 ( 1564631 )
      Yes, and until that image of nerds/geeks is changed, we will continue to lag behind.

      It's not "cool" to be smart, and so each generation grows up caring more about popularity than tackling the hard subjects and learning something worthwhile.

      Far too many people cannot even function in society with the education they receive in high school, and we still give them diplomas.
      • by jdgeorge ( 18767 )

        Yes, and until that image of nerds/geeks is changed, we will continue to lag behind.

        It's not "cool" to be smart, and so each generation grows up caring more about popularity than tackling the hard subjects and learning something worthwhile.

        Mmmm... I don't think the perception of "coolness" has anything to do with it. I think we're simply getting what we pay for. If the incentives of our schools are primarily based on producing high-quality athletes, then we will continue to get great athletes. If the incentives for our schools were to produce high quality mathematicians, engineers, and scientists, then we would get great mathematicians, engineers, and scientists.

        What kind of compensation does a high school's football coach receive compared to []

  • Question 1 (Score:5, Funny)

    by InsertWittyNameHere ( 1438813 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:43PM (#28272095)

    Outline one method to gain access to NSA networks and provide code implementing the method. Bonus points for commented code.


  • ... steroids and "performance enhancing" supplements. So by that line of logic, mathematics education outside of America = ???

    Lots of meth and piracetium?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      ... steroids and "performance enhancing" supplements. So by that line of logic, mathematics education outside of America = Lots of meth and piracetium?

      Caffeine and artificial cheese flavoring.

  • by nEoN nOoDlE ( 27594 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:56PM (#28272239) Homepage

    Saying 'We do the same thing with athletics here that they do with mathematics and science there.' is trying to put it all on a somewhat equal footing - "well, they're good at math, but we're as good at sports as they are at math!" Given that the Olympics were just a few months ago, it seems they also do the same thing with athletics as we do with athletics, but they also treat math and science with that highly competitive regard as well. It's all about competition, and we just don't treat math and science as competitively as we treat sports. Just look at what happens when we do treat education competitively - we get spelling bees with 5th and 6th graders who can out-spell 99% of English speakers of any age.

  • by Twillerror ( 536681 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:58PM (#28272261) Homepage Journal

    I often find that the applications coming from China and India to be poor. They are often ugly and hard to use.

    I think we need to differentiate between being able to write an Algorithm and being able to produce something like ITunes.

    Part of this is actually having talented designers and people who can come up with good specifications and use cases and everything else that goes into it.

    These code tests rarely talk about coming up with a good application architecture or good design. Sure we need people writing device drivers, but we also need the higher level tasks done as well. I don't think they are represented well.

    I often try the Google code challenge only to feel bored. I guess I don't really like solving "shortest path" type problems. I'm more about creating a data model, interface, and ultimately a tool with a good user expeirence. Something that solves a day to day task.

    Maybe we should have application challenges where we say "write the easiest to use calculator" :)

    • of course that's the case!

      I feel so much better now. Do you feel better? Let's all feel good!

      Who cares if we need quad-core CPU with 16 Gb just to watch movie, just give me a big shiny button to click on! Yeah, I just want one button, I don't care if all those stupid choices and selection and boxes to click. JUST ONE BIG BUTTON!

      oohh... pretty button... don't you think it's so pretty? It makes me feel happy!

    • I think we need to differentiate between being able to write an Algorithm and being able to produce something like ITunes.

      You really think the code for iTunes is good? I seriously doubt it. Their design is clean and beautiful as for the code we cannot know. And really it doesn't matter how pretty it is. It most work, and work well for what it has to do (security, performance, etc)

  • by selven ( 1556643 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:18PM (#28272423)
    At one of the major youth mathematics competitions, Tournament of Towns, the award ceremony is 80% Chinese, 80% of the non-Chinese are Russian, and 80% of the remainder are Indian. It seems like a general pattern around here - look at any math competition top score list and you see Chinese names at the top.
    • For that 80% to be strictly true, one would have to have at least 125 finalists. This is because f*(8/10)^3 = n must have f (the total number of finalists) return an integer number (n) of Indian award-winners. Technically, if there are non-Indian award-winners, then (2/10)*n must also be an integer, leading to the first number of finalists which satisfies the criteria as being 625.

          No, I'm not Chinese, Russian, or Indian. At least not *technically*. :)

  • by ozbird ( 127571 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:33PM (#28272551)
    ... fix Slashdot's stylesheets. Seriously, WTF? First it was invisible titles on comments, now it's floating blocks.
    • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

      I think this is mainly a problem for people who like to use the "old" /. layout but who still use the new, "dynamic" homepage index.

      The pages with the style sheet problems appear to be the ones with human-readable URLs. If you turn off the dynamic homepage, the links to stories will still be the old-style, numeric URLs. Those URLs still give you the non-broken style sheet.

      Alternatively, you can use the dynamic homepage, then click on a story link, then find a link on that page that uses the numeric URL for

  • Is it human nature to hate people who are smarter than you, and worship people who are more athletic than you? Or is that a US-only thing?

    You can be a total cocky a-hole and still be super popular - if you're good at sports. But if you're good at, say, chess, you're screwed no matter what your personality is like.

    At least that's how it seems to me. (born and raised in US).

  • by ZorbaTHut ( 126196 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:49PM (#28272737) Homepage

    It could just be that the US coders are no longer interested.

    I used to compete in Topcoder. I made it to #2, I was in the top ten for over a year solid. Then I got a job at Google thanks to my Topcoder ranking. I joined a team that had a bunch of other ex-Topcoders in it and, as with them, determined pretty quickly that Topcoder just wasn't worth my time anymore.

    Now, I don't know how many Chinese programmers got jobs through Topcoder, but I do know that the vast majority of the best Topcoder competitors in the US were hired by a surprisingly small set of companies. And, well, as cool as Topcoder is, if you sit down and look at dollars-per-hour . . . it's pretty crummy compared to a real job. Especially since they lowered all the prizes.

    So, US coders do Topcoder, do well, get job, quit Topcoder because we get paid well. Chinese coders do Topcoder, do well, don't get job, don't quit Topcoder. Or they do Topcoder, do well, get job, don't quit Topcoder because they're not yet being paid well enough.

    Doesn't surprise me in the least.

  • My guess is that the competition simply wasn't advertised in North America. It is no use hearing about it for the first time after the competition closed.
  • Proportions (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @07:51PM (#28273289) Journal

    20 of the 70 finalists were from China, 10 from Russia, and 2 from the US. China's showing in the finals was helped by its large number of entrants, 894. India followed at 705, but none of its programmers was a finalist. Russia had 380 participants; the United States, 234

    So let's calculate proportional representation then (since it would make more sense as a comparison point):

    Russia: 380/10 = 1 finalist per 38 participants
    China: 894/20 = 1 finalist per 45 participants
    USA: 234/2 = 1 finalist per 117 participants

    So, out of three, Russia seems to top the list. It's a pity they don't give the numbers for finalists from other countries - I would be curious to see how other Eastern European countries fared, and I have a strong suspicion that, if those numbers were included, top 3 would be entirely Eastern Europe.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun