Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com

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Small Sample Watch
XBM Graphics

The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
Someone who used to be sane (formerly War)
Someone who used to be serious (formerly Plague)
Rally 'round the President (formerly Famine)
Dr. Yes (formerly Death)

Interesting weblogs:
Back Off Government!
Bad Science
Boing Boing
Debunkers Discussion Forum
Deep Space Bombardment
Depleted Cranium
Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.
Foreign Dispatches
Good Math, Bad Math
Greenie Watch
The Hand Of Munger
Howard Lovy's NanoBot
Liberty's Torch
The Long View
My sister's blog
Neo Warmonger
Next Big Future
Out of Step Jew
Overcoming Bias
The Passing Parade
Peter Watts Newscrawl
Physics Geek
Pictures of Math
Poor Medical Student
Prolifeguy's take
The Raving Theist
Respectful Insolence
Seriously Science
Slate Star Codex
The Speculist
The Technoptimist
Tools of Renewal
XBM Graphics
Zoe Brain

Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
Crank Dot Net
Day By Day
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
Libertarians for Life
The Mad Revisionist
Piled Higher and Deeper
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
Sustainability of Human Progress

Yet another weird SF fan

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Why Use Negotiated Agreements Instead of Unilateral Free Trade?

Any democratic nation that tries unilateral free trade will find it's opposed by people who think of trade as a giveaway to foreigners. In order to prevent that, we use negotiated agreements instead. Most voters are willing to accept the possibility of gaining from exports to the other side (until they stop trusting governments).

In other words, when Donald Trump and allies criticize NAFTA or TPP on the grounds that the treaties involved are a bureaucratic boondoggle, they are offering to rescue us from a problem they caused.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Few Comments on Brexit

Judging by the effect of Brexit on the pound, Britain has just voted itself the low-cost producer of nearly everything.

“Which is better—to be ruled by one tyrant three thousand miles away or by three thousand tyrants one mile away?“—Mather Byles

Question: Is the Brexit vote for or against free trade? The Brexit supporters seem to disagree.

Addendum: I forgot to add that a year ago, I would have applauded this. Now …

Thursday, June 23, 2016

What Kind of World Are We Going to Have When These People Graduate?

What kind of world are we going to have when students who have been protected from American traditions graduate?

In view of the fact that Trump did better in “blue” states and in view of the fact that Trump supporters are very well informed on the latest antics of Social Justice Warriors but have only a superficial grasp of free-market economics, maybe what we'll get is President Trump.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

R-Selection, k-Selection, and Politics

There's a common theory that left-wing ideologies are correlated with r-selected genes and right-wing ideologies are correlated with K-selected genes. This is rather dubious, at least as far as the present line-up of American politics is concerned.

The current home of left-wing ideologies appears to be among descendants of Puritans whereas the current home of right-wing ideologies appears to be among descendants of Borderers. The conflict may seem strange considering that both groups started out as Calvinist. On the other hand, the Puritans were obviously K-selected and the Borderers were obviously r-selected. Maybe the theory made sense back in the days of Andrew Jackson or William Jennings Bryan.

My earlier comments on this can be found here.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Labels I Would Like to See

This product is bottled water. If you can't figure out if it's gluten-free, maybe you could ask someone on the staff of the group home.

This product contains ingredients obtained from genetically-modified organisms. If you demand an explanation, we will send a team of experts with the IQ, common sense, and social skills of Sheldon Cooper to explain it. For a small consideration, we could arrange for a Cliff Clavin analog to meet you at the bar of your choice.

This product is vegan cat food. This is NOT a cruelty-free product because an attempt to serve this to a cat will be painful to at least one animal, probably you.

Friday, June 17, 2016

What Species Would Become Dominant on Earth If Humans Died Out?

Raw Story is asking the above question. There are many possibilities. What if they all became sophonts?

You could have beavers and otters running seaports. The dolphins might try to have a selective breeding program to develop hands (if it works, the dolphins could join the beaver–otter partnership). Increased competitive pressure from the cetaceans might require cephalopods to develop intelligence. Inland, you might find squirrels and raccoons. Fithp-like elephants might form the military class. Parrots could become the radio announcers (if they haven't done so already).

Politics in this world would be even more tribal than in ours. To take just one example: Would beavers seek an alliance with squirrels or an alliance with dolphins? Is rodent solidarity more important than aquatic solidarity?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Two Notes on the Orlando Terrorist Attack

  • Some massive terrorist gun attacks are by Muslims and some aren't by Muslims. Every last one of them is in a “gun-free” zone.
  • Judging by their choice of targets, Islamic terrorists really really hate unarmed Westerners. Maybe we should stop provoking them.

Friday, June 10, 2016

A Note on Elon Musk's Obsessions

On the one hand, Elon Musk wants to put a colony on Mars. On the other hand, Elon Musk also believes we live in a simulation.

What if sending human beings too far away triggers a buffer-overflow bug?

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

I No Longer Care

After years of being called bigots many conservatives don't care.

I must have a fast reaction time. After just months of being called a “cuckservative,” I no longer care.

PS: We're used to being called names.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Who Are the Rioters?

There have been riots at Trump rallies. I have an important question: Who are the rioters? The most plausible groups don't overlap much:

  1. Illegal aliens and their relatives.
  2. Sanders supporters.
  3. Black Lives Matter.
  4. Trade unions trying to elect Trump.
The rioters are burning American flags and chanting “America was never great.” This sounds like any of the first three groups and may be even be done by the fourth group as part of a literally false-flag operation. In particular, this protester doesn't look Mexican.

Friday, June 03, 2016

In Defense of Climate Modelling

In a recent article, Megan McArdle points out that there are uncertainties in climate modelling and compares it to economic modelling. In defense of the climate modellers, there is a difference between the climate models and the economic models. The climate does not read papers studying it. The people composing the economic system do.

In other words, improved understanding of the climate might make it more predictable. Improved understanding of economics will be used by human beings to make the economy even more complex. This is a consequence of the fact that markets are anti-inductive. (The consequences of more phenomena becoming anti-inductive is explored in “The Law” by Robert Coates.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

A Clarification

When I said that I want Ted Cruz to imitate Libertarians, I did NOT mean that he should strip at the 2020 Republican Convention.

Monday, May 30, 2016

A Few Notes about the Libertarians

Not every Libertarian has smoked dope. I haven't. I believe in drug experimentation but I was in the control group. Before I was a libertarian, I thought it might make sense for the government to increase the size of the control group. I no longer trust it to do that.

The Libertarian Party has run pro-life candidates on occasion (1988 and 2004). It's important to recall that so we can argue with future statists who try blaming abortion on capitalism.

I must admit the Libertarian Party includes some nutcases. One of them has provided me with an incentive to lose weight. I don't want to look like that.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

So… It's Johnson

The Libertarians have nominated Gary Johnson. I can now vote for someone pro-open-borders and pro-deregulation. The bad news is we now have three candidates unwilling to apply FIW (Freedom I Won't) principles to gay marriage.

Could this be the Libertarian breakout year? If the Free State Project has had enough of an effect, could Johnson carry New Hampshire? According to Dante, the Ninth Circle is already frozen over.

More realistically, can the Libertarians do well enough to cause future President Cruz to adopt parts of our program?

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Speculation on the First Chapter of Genesis

The creation story makes more sense if we assume it is something occurring outside both space and time. Each ‘day’ God added something else to all of space and time.

  1. He created light, which requires electromagnetism and relativity.
  2. He created surface tension (“Let there be a meniscus in the midst of the fluids and let it divide the liquids from the gases.”), which requires atoms and molecules and quantum mechanics. (He was not entirely satisfied with that.)
  3. He created solid land. This implies gravity.
  4. He created luminous bodies. This requires nuclear physics.
  5. He created evolvable life. This requires fine tuning earlier laws in such a way as to permit DNA, etc.
  6. He created humanity. If this includes human history, it implies more fine tuning to allow technology. (For example, a minor increase in the mass of the neutron will cause uranium 235 to decay to nonfissionable neptunium 235. God wants us to have nukes.)
Then God took a break for the weekend.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

What Happened to the Republican Party This Year

They ate the Wub.

Explanation: In “Beyond lies the Wub” by Philip K. Dick, anybody who ate the Wub would be possessed by the Wub. The Republicans chased, caught, and ate the anti-foreign vote and wound up getting possessed by it.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

What I've Been Reading

  • Unsong by Scott Alexander, in which an archangel installed a system (known to mundanes as “physics”) in order to control malware, only to find it's vulnerable to a buffer-overflow bug.
  • A news item, in which Symantec installed systems in order to control malware, only to find they're vulnerable to a buffer-overflow bug.
This is not a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence.

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Theory about the Trump Movement

I suspect the basis of the Trump movement is the belief that success should only be based on prowess instead of diligence. All else is commentary. The Trumpkins resent foreign competition and immigration because they think of it as based on the unfair use of diligence by foreigners. They don't trust the Establishment because they think of it as a fraudulent establishment by diligent people who have usurped the role of people of prowess. They especially dislike Ted Cruz for his use of diligence and lack of prowess.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Is an “Earl Warren” on Donald Trump's List of Potential Supreme Court Justices?

Donald Trump has released a list of potential Supreme Court Justices. How do we know this list doesn't include a version of Earl Warren? You may recall that Earl Warren was also noted for sending Japanese-Americans to concentration camps. A willingness to crack down on foreigners is not enough.

It may even be a bad sign. The leftward drift of formerly-conservative Supreme Court Justices might have the following explanation: Much of the time, conservative is a synonym for “willing to crack down on people who are Not Like Us.” When such a conservative becomes a Supreme Court Justice, the people who are Like Us changes from the middle classes to the political activist class.

Never forget: The archetypal liberal Supreme Court Justice appointed by a Republican was a blood conservative.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Every Food Fad Is More Idiotic Than the Last

First, there was organic food.

Then there was locally-sourced food.

Next came non-GMO food.

Now there's biodynamic food … from a farm fertilized by the very finest bulshytt. Every food fad manages to be dumber than the one before. How is this mathematically possible?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Why Were Leftists Able to Describe the Trump Movement Accurately?

My theory is that leftists were able to describe the Trump movement accurately because their description was an accurate description of right-wing Democrats. It had little to do with conservatives in general, partly because right-wing Democrats are conservative on only a handful of issues.

Over the past generation or two, right-wing Democrats have been joining the Republicans. That accelerated over the past eight years. As a result, they formed a critical mass this year, which exploded and was able to take over the Republicans. They were helped by the fact they were united behind one candidate while traditional conservatives were debating the relative merits of Senators and Governors or the relative importance of electability vs. purity.

If Hillary is elected but Trump comes close, she might take steps to bring them back. If Trump is elected and ignores his base, they may get discouraged next time. In either case, in 2020 or 2024, we will probably see more than one would-be Trump. That may keep them from taking over again.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

On the Other Hand …

… if you want to make sure your group doesn't take over, you may want to recruit @ssholes. Just make sure they're @ssholes who do too little instead of too much. You don't want someone who sends the IRS after his enemies. You do want someone who tries shutting down the government by refusing to cooperate.

Addendum: Typo in title fixed.

Friday, May 13, 2016

“He's Our @sshole”

Some people (including people who should know better) are pro-Trump on the grounds that we need “our @sshole” to counteract the Other Side (typical example here). The best response to that came from Slate Star Codex:

Long before a group can take over society, it reaches a size where it needs to develop internal structure and rules about interaction between group members. If you collect a bunch of people and tell them to abandon all the social norms like honesty, politeness, respect, charity, and reason in favor of a cause then the most likely result is that when your cause tries to develop some internal structure, it will be overrun by a swarm of people who have abandoned honesty, politeness, respect, charity, and reason.
For example, when we look at occasions when the Other Side tried adopting “our @sshole” tactics, we see purges and persecutions aimed their former allies. I'm reminded of a well-known Ludwig von Mises quote:
I have pointed out that the worst thing that can happen to a socialist is to have his country ruled by socialists who are not his friends.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Nice Doggie

On the one hand, Donald Trump has a history of contributing to liberal causes. On the other hand, Trump supporters claim that was only because he needed to for business purposes.

I'm reminded of the saying “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.” Trump was clearly saying “Nice doggie.”

On the other hand, we don't know who he's saying it to or where the rock will be aimed.

If Trump wins, he might govern from the Left. If so, we'll see a repeat of the “even Nixon” argument, familiar to anybody old enough to read newspapers in the 1970s. It went approximately as follows:

Even Nixon, the most conservative President in living memory with the biggest electoral victory found it necessary to impose price controls and bargain with Communists. That shows how Republican ideologues are hopelessly obsolete.
Brace yourselves.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Anti-Math Prejudice

In a recent incident, a professor was taken off a plane because he was writing … math.

This is nothing new. During the Franco–Prussian War, the mathematician Sophus Lie was arrested on suspicion of being a Prussian spy because his notebooks were full of incomprehensible symbols.

Friday, May 06, 2016

What's after the “Age of Em”?

According Robin Hanson, there's a strong possibility that the next exponential mode will be dominated by robots emulating human personalities. This includes the following speculation:

This era may only last for a year or two, after which something even stranger may follow.
My guess is that the age after that will resemble “Slow Tuesday Night” by R. A. Lafferty and the one after that will be the long-awaited “AI Foom.”
“That may be an end or a beginning, but from here it is out of sight.”—J. D. Bernal in The World, The Flesh, and The Devil

Monday, May 02, 2016

I Meant to Do That!

Yet another excuse for determinism comes from the observation that some people (around 10%) will say “I meant to do that!” about things they had no control over.

Are they scraping the bottom of the barrel yet? Do they think the observation that some people tend to say “I meant to do that!” has never been noticed before? By the way, what was the sample size? (It's frequently pathetically small for this type of study.)

Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Yudkowsky–Moore Law Is Firing Warning Shots

According to Eliezer Yudkowsky:

Moore's Law of Mad Science: Every eighteen months, the minimum IQ necessary to destroy the world drops by one point.
You can think of the Trump and Sanders campaigns as the political equivalent:
Moore's Law of Mad Politics: Every eighteen months, the minimum IQ necessary to destroy the political system drops by one point.
People aren't getting dumber but now idiots can get behind political movements they would never have heard of a decade or two ago.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Light and Conception

Back in the 1970s, the Daedalus column in New Scientist speculated that a flash of light was emitted when the soul entered the fetus (the highlighted passages are those that I used to find the articles). More recently, it turns out that a flash of light is emitted at conception.

On the other hand, it's not a single photon.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Comparison between Coal and Nukes

I understand there are people defending coal on the grounds that nuclear waste (or maybe unclear waste) is so terrible. Let's run some numbers.

A typical coal reactor will use 53.8 Tons/hour for 100 MWe. That's 538 T/hr for 1000 MWe. Since there are 8760 hours/year, that's 4,712,880 T/yr.

Coal contains 1–4 ppm of uranium. At the low end, that means a 1000 MWe coal-burning power releases around 5 tons of nuclear waste per year.

On the other hand, the fission products are temporarily more radioactive than uranium. On the gripping hand, in the long run, they are less radioactive. A natural uranium or thorium atom will release 50 MeV of radiation by the time it decays. The fission products will release less than half of that.

I'll Probably Vote Libertarian for President This Year

My main quarrel with the Libertarians is with their foreign policy. In view of the persistently lame trickle of terrorist acts (a decade ago, it looked like the terrorists would pose an increasing danger to the US but that hasn't materialized) and the increasing irrationality of the complaints about foreigners (that they're both overcharging and underselling? that they're taking over uninhabited islands?), a Libertarian foreign policy doesn't look so bad.

Some people warn me that a Libertarian vote is a vote for Clinton. Others warn me that a Libertarian vote is a vote for Trump.

As for the claim that closed borders are necessary to have a nation, that would imply that the US was not a nation before 1881.

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