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
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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

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

A Few Notes on Masks

One possible explanation for the slowdown in COVID-19 outbreaks is that masks are unusually effective with this disease. When the pandemic started, masks were discouraged and the doubling time was measure in days. Now the doubling time is measured in weeks.

We see an interesting phenomenon: When the COVID-19 death rate gets higher than 3 per million per day, it tends to come down. The most plausible explanation is higher death rates cause people to wear masks.

There appears to be an anti-mask campaign going on. It's giving me a strange, new respect for the anti-lockdown conspiracy theories of a month or two earlier. After all, if this were a plandemic to ruin the US economy, the people behind that would not want public-health measures that are harmless to the economy.

One of the claims of the anti-mask movement (that they interfere with oxygen) can be easily disproved. I put a mask on and measured my blood O2 with a pulse oximeter. It read 95%. I took the mask off and it still read 95%. I repeated the test a month or two later. My blood O2 with the mask on was 96%. With the mask off the oximeter flickered between 96% and 97%. For some reason, not many of the people retweeting the anti-mask claim tried that. You can try it yourself. You can easily order an oximeter. Don't just take my word for it. Nullius in verba!

Monday, August 31, 2020

Pascal Was Right!

According to Blaise Pascal:

All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room.
One of the effects of the lockdowns and the social distancing is that when people are sufficiently bored, they'll join pointless demonstrations and some will even do recreational looting.

Another effect is that people are using enough drugs for collectivism to make sense to them.

Yet another possible effect is that social distancing guidelines are simply ignored on the re-opening campuses.

Annoying COVID Takes

The most annoying COVID takes found on the Right:

  1. The belief that the hysteria is being driven by the Left.
  2. The belief that “nuking the curve” is a matter of “moving the goalposts.“
  3. The belief that this is unprecedented.
  4. The belief that wearing masks is an intolerable imposition.
  5. The belief that masks both promote panic and give a false sense of security.
  6. The belief that masks both obstruct oxygen and allow viruses.
  7. The belief that dense neighborhoods are the problem.
  8. The belief that this crisis is an argument for autarky.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Explaining the Two Sides in the Coronavirus Controversy

You can think of the coronavirus crisis as a drill.

One faction thinks of it as a drill for bubonic plague, coronal mass ejection, or an asteroid strike.

The other faction thinks of it as a drill for a possible future international conflict in which the Enemy releases a moderately-bad virus to interfere with the economy of any nation that's reluctant to sacrifice its citizens. It's similar to the reaction to Kavanaugh's accusers: “If we react the wrong way, we'll see more of this in the future.”

Friday, May 01, 2020

What Does and Doesn't Make the Coronavirus Problem Worse

Things we have reason to believe can spread COVID-19:

  1. Airlines.
  2. Subways.
  3. Cool weather (5–11°C).
  4. Lack of UV.
  5. Large institutions (schools, prisons, nursing homes).
  6. Large celebrations allowed by stupid mayors.
  7. Lack of masks.
  8. Languages with lots of vowels.

Things we have reason to believe that do not increase COVID-19 deaths:

  1. Parks.
  2. Beaches.
  3. Walkable neighborhoods.
  4. Ventilator shortages.
  5. Global trade.

We still don't know if mandatory lockdowns are needed. We have reason to believe people were social-distancing themselves anyway. (This also implies that ending such lockdowns won't revive the economy.)

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Since It's April 1

How long before there's a coronavirus comedy?

Let's see… A gang of lovable misfits is thrown together to take care of coronavirus patients… They're all trained medical professionals: a dentist, a psychoanalyst, and a veterinarian. At least one of the characters comes from a backwoods area and is preparing moonshine hand sanitizer.

The People Who Are Really behind the Coronavirus Epidemic

A conspiracy theory I haven't seen yet:
The coronavirus crisis was engineered by a gang of philosophers eager to see real-life examples of trolley problems. They infiltrated the FDA, Chinese government, and the city governments of NYC and New Orleans in order to bring it off.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Do Media People Really Believe in Exponential Growth?

The coverage of the coronavirus crisis includes an annoying phenomenon: On the one hand, the mainstream media ignored this in February and sometimes ridiculed the people worried even despite the fact that the danger could be easily predicted by anybody thinking about exponential growth. On the other hand, many people in the same group were concerned about exponential growth in the context of overpopulation.

It's as though the I-Bleeping-Love-Science people don't actually understand what they're spouting. It even looks like they were only “concerned” about overpopulation because it was an excuse for legalized abortion and free birth control.

But wait, there's more. The reason exponential growth is worrisome in the case of epidemics is that the time needed to react (months or more) is far greater than the doubling time (around a week). The time needed to react to problems caused by alleged overpopulation is usually less than a doubling time. (I've mentioned this before; it's not something I made up just now.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Personal vs. Private

The Coronavirus crisis has caused me to re-evaluate one of my opinions: I used to think the left-wing distinction between “personal” and “private” was silly. I now think they have a point. They just had it backwards. The regulations that had to be repealed (e.g., selling unauthorized coronavirus tests) tend to be regulations of private property but the regulations that have to be added (e.g., against crossing borders or going out in public) are of personal behavior. The business regulations are a matter of using businesses to enforce the regulations of personal behavior.

Many people regard the Coronavirus crisis are a refutation of libertarianism (formerly known as classical liberalism). On the other hand, as I've said before:

Control of contagious disease was a traditional activity of classical liberal governments. I have seen complaints that such governments were more concerned about contagious disease than malnutrition.

As for the bailouts… the above-mentioned regulations are a taking of the value of private property for public use. Such takings must be compensated. On the other hand, in order to keep the economy going, the compensation has to be distributed faster than it can be aimed. I suppose we should figure out the proper compensation after. One way is to suspend taxes during the recovery period on those businesses that had to be shut.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Is the Coronavirus Crisis an Argument against Globalization?

I doubt it. The problem isn't globalization; the problem is single-sourcing. Getting all of your surgical masks from Wuhan is as bad as getting all of your cars from Detroit or all of your government from Washington.

Most of the time, anti-globalists are defending getting all of your cars from Detroit.

On the other hand… This particular crisis is not an argument against globalization but it is also not much of an argument for globalization. A typical crisis goes wrong in just one area, so it's possible for other areas to make up for the resulting deficiencies. When something goes wrong all over the world, you can't always do that.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Old-style Numerals in MathJax

This is a test of the effects of the \oldstyle macro in MathJax: \({\oldstyle 0123456789ABCDEF}\).

Strange… It doesn't act like that in \(\rm\TeX\)…

Saturday, February 29, 2020

It's Been an Eventful Month

We see something that caused lots of trouble in the later stages of World War I—but was thought to have been defeated—spreading from human to human. In addition to the bizarre revival of Marxism, there's also the coronavirus crisis.

I must admit that the Never-Trump Republicans may have been responsible for the Sanders candidacy:
Never-Trump Republicans: “We will vote for anyone rather than Trump!”
Democrats: “Anyone?”
Never-Trump Republicans: “Anyone!”
Democrats: “Woo hoo! We can nominate a Commie!”
Never-Trump Republicans: “That's not what we meant…”

A President Sanders will fight the coronavirus by calling people on the verge of creating a vaccine “blood-sucking parasites.” He will next put price controls on face masks and have a public listing of the names and addresses of “hoarders.”

Meanwhile, the Other Ignorant Army claims that the shutdown of much of Chinese manufacturing is an argument against importing foreign goods. On the contrary, it is an argument against getting goods from just one area whether or not it crosses an ocean. This looks like the right-wing version of “global warming proves that we MUST do everything I already was in favor of!”

On the other hand, even I'm willing to admit that maybe we should not yet have a Constitutional Amendment banning immigration restrictions. Of course, if we're ever able to create vaccines in the proverbial jiffy, we can pass such an amendment safely.

Speculation: The coronavirus was an engineered plague designed for the purpose of shutting down protest demonstrations. (The news out of China now is completely different from the news of a few months ago.) Alternative possibility: It came from an unsanitized telephone.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Analogs of Donald Trump in Science Fiction

Aslan? He’s big and predatory and has a mane of golden hair. Difficulty: He's not the Son of God.

Hober Mallow? Some people might think so but he's not rich enough.

Henry Belt? He might look lazy and irresponsible and act like he's lazy and irresponsible but don't let that fool you. He really is lazy and irresponsible.

Zaphod Beeblebrox? Close, but he doesn't have two heads.

Lord Brodrig? Lord Brodrig had to be loyal to the Emperor because he was the most hated man in the galaxy. Trump has to be loyal to the right wing because they'll be the people keeping him out of jail, but only if he does everything they want. (Nixon forgot about that part.)


Thursday, January 02, 2020

We're Waiting


Wednesday, December 25, 2019

What if Isaac Newton Had Discovered Electrical Conductivity?

Electrical conductivity was discovered in 1729. What if Isaac Newton had discovered it six decades earlier? Could he have combined it with his researches in alchemy to discover electrochemistry? Would the development of electrical and electronic devices have been accelerated by six decades or more?

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Another Effect of the Chinese Government vs. Hong Kong

Earlier this month, the Chinese government pressured a gaming company to suspend a pro gamer who spoke out on the Hong Kong side of the recent controversy. I suspect that might have made free speech respectable again. Now, when you're pro-free-speech, you are on the side of Hong Kong and not merely on the side of seven zillion witches. That might even be responsible for Mark Zuckerberg defending free expression.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

A Problem … and a Solution

We have a problem. For some reason, younger voters tend to favor left-wing policies.

My best guess that it that's due to left-wing teachers in high school (or possibly earlier). I doubt if it's due to immigration. Immigrants just try to fit in … and their children's teachers tell them how to do it.

To make matters worse, the Left blames any resistance on “white” racism and actual “white” racists (unless they're false flags) are taking advantage of it. (I try to remember to put quotes around “white” when used in this context.) We need a way to get right-wing voters who have nothing to do with “white” racism.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, we have hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating against Communism. The Chinese Communist government will probably crack down some time. So… the US might have the opportunity to import a million voters who hate Communism.

One possible problem is that the current President might not agree to this. On the other hand, any such reluctance on his part might get Republicans to go along with the current impeachment effort.

This will also make it possible to distinguish between racists and conservatives. Real conservatives will either be in favor of this or will have reasonable objections (the Chinese Communists will almost certainly have some agents among the refugees). The racists will oppose this.

Once we have enough conservatives who are clearly not “white” racists, other groups (for example, anti-environmentalist Mexicans) may also start voting right wing.

The big problem with all of this is that it requires lots of events to go right. That tends to be unlikely.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Left Thinks the Right Struck First

One reason the Left is so eager to impose their opinions is that, in some sectors, the Right struck first, sometimes without realizing it. For example, one characterization of moderates is that they might claim:

If conservatives use the power of the state to end drag-queen story time in public libraries, what will stop progressives from using the power of the state to end prayer in public schools?
In this case, prayer in public schools was an earlier example of imposing opinions.

Similarly, the current proposals to classify those social media that censor the “alt-right” as publishers (and therefore legally responsible for anything illegal on their sites) is a matter of repealing earlier laws that made it for social media to censor pornography without being classified as publishers. Leftists believe “You said our stuff was obscene? Okay, we say your stuff is obscene!“

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

In Addition to a Pride March

If there was a Pride March, should there be marches for other sins?

A Greed March on Wall Street, a Wrath March in either Portland or Charlottesville, an Envy March through gentrifying neighborhoods, a Gluttony March past four-star restaurants…

Three decades ago, the Lust March would have been at Times Square. Today it should be held in Hollywood.

The Sloth March would be cancelled because the marchers couldn't be bothered to show up.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A Few Notes on Social-Network Regulation

Many conservatives think the answer to possible censorship by social networks is to bust them up. I disagree for the following reasons:

  1. We are winning on the two most important fronts.
    For some reason, many conservatives have actually been convinced by left-wing gloating and think they lost the “culture war.” The two most important parts of that war are abortion and guns. In the real world, poll results on approval of abortion have not budged in decades and the abortion rate has been declining. Support for gun-control laws has been declining along with the crime rate.
  2. The problem is going away.
    The problem of censorship by social networks, to the extent it exists, is made possible by their monopolistic nature. On the other hand, the Left is also convinced they face a problem of potential censorship by capitalists and they're putting together alternatives such as Mastodon. They're already faced with the fact that people they don't like can use it.
  3. Vertical integration is good.
    Breaking up the social networks and keeping them out of web browsers, etc., is a common recommendation. On the other hand, that can backfire. If different organizations control different layers, the censors only have to block one of the layers and they can pick the weakest.
  4. Net neutrality is still a bad idea.
    First, the commonest justification (that the social networks are platforms instead of publishers) only means that they're immune from lawsuits that should not exist in the first place. Second, in LeftWorld, the rights to trespass on someone else's private property and to force people to pay to propagate opinions they don't hold are First-Amendment rights. I suspect that the right to shout down opinions you don't like will soon be regarded as a right and any attempt by a social network to deal the DDOS from the Left will be a violation of net neutrality.
  5. Last, but not least: You cannot use the Ring!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Theory about Left vs. Right, Part II

A few years ago, I posted that:

The Left wants to break down barriers between places and put up barriers between times. The Right wants to break down barriers between times and put up barriers between places.
In case you were confused about what is meant by “barriers between times,” the meaning is spelled out in Martin Hägglund's philosophy.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mastodon Update

In addition to Mathstodon, I am also on Liberdon.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Dreams of Utopia

According to H. G. Wells:

Hitherto a social consciousness had been asleep and not even dreaming in human history. Before it awakened it produced nightmares.
Did you ever dream you woke up and were starting the day … and then abruptly realized you were still in bed?

Sunday, March 31, 2019

It's Not the Stone Age Any More

The latest excuse for anti-immigration hysteria is that there's genetic evidence for many examples of one population's males replacing another population's males (typical example here). I can think of several counter arguments.

  1. It's not the Stone Age any more. It's not even the Bronze Age. This sort of “kill the men and rape the women” warfare has been much rarer since the spread of iron weapons.
  2. Many of the people propounding this theory appear to be on the Right wing … but are ignoring the anti-gun control implications of their ideas.
  3. Binational states are notoriously unstable. Sometimes you can get away with bribing the leaders of the minority side but that's rare. Multinational states are more likely to be stable. Back during the invasions in question, we saw two ethnic groups interacting at a time.
  4. We also see a similar pattern in a population that was not in a position to do much slaughtering.

One final comment: This is why you must not ignore racists. If you ignore or “no-platform” them, they will spread their ideas anyway but you won't hear of them until some nutcase shoots a few dozen people. If you listen to them, they can be refuted.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Immigration Costs and Global Warming Costs

Meanwhile, in the real world (according to a conservative who's trying to beat the Left at the self-congratulation game), Non-Western immigrants consume 59% of Denmark’s tax surplus. That sounds like they're saying “OMG, the Third-World hordes are eating 59% of our taxes!” but it's actually something marginal. Some people believe the horrifying apparent implication.

The really interesting point is that the actual amount is $2 per Dane per day. (For Americans, it's around $1 per American per day. Those figures are of the same order of magnitude as the estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon.

I won't more than mention that the costs of educating the second generation are compared to the taxes paid by the first generation in these calculations instead of to the estimated taxes that will be paid by the second generation. (The second generation usually earns more and pays more taxes.)

Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Note on the Covington Controversy

Those of you who haven't forgotten about it by now may recall that many of us Never-Trump conservatives were a little too quick to jump on the bandwagon. I think I have an explanation for this.

Attending a pro-life rally wearing a MAGA hat does not make that much sense. On the one hand, the pro-life movement is based on defending the rights of Potential Americans (I believe they are real human beings, but that they are only potentially American since they have been neither born nor naturalized.) On the other hand, part of the MAGA movement is a matter of keeping Potential Americans away. The combination might be based on one of two possibilities: 1) The MAGA-hat-wearing pro-lifers were wearing the hats to annoy the Other Side; 2) they simply hadn't thought through the implications of their ideologies.

The early reports seemed to indicate the first … which is not a very good tactic. Of course, may of us criticized what it appeared to be … and apologized when a more complete video emerged.

Another reason for the early condemnations was that, even if the early reports were wrong, a condemnation could be retracted the next day and then forgotten about. A retraction may even make you look better to swing voters. For that matter, if an early condemnation makes the right-wing base angrier, that might help turnout. In the other direction, a lack of condemnation may increase left-wing turnout.

Monday, December 31, 2018

It's the End of 2018

Weren't anti-agathics supposed to be invented this year?

Still no sign of Augustus Caesar (aka Francis X. MacHinery). President Crassus is bad enough.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?

The above question is asked in The New York Times by Todd May, a philosophy professor. His answer: “I want to suggest, at least tentatively, both that it would be a tragedy and that it might just be a good thing.”

My reactions:

  • Incredulous stare.
  • There are Ouden worshippers (cf. Past Master by R. A. Lafferty) out there.
  • Professor May's concern for animal suffering is clearly zoocentric. Don't plants get a say? Humanity has been very good for plants owing to all the CO2 fertilizer we've been adding to the air.
  • He's also for gun control. Shouldn't a philosophy professor have a need for logical consistency?
  • Philosophy isn't all pointless bulshytt; some of it is harmful bulshytt.
  • Note to philosophers: In That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis, Frost was not the hero.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Brief Note on the Election

Trump lost; Kavanaugh won.

The vote for the House of Representatives was a proxy vote for approval of Trump. Approval of Trump was, in turn, a proxy for approval of immigration. Immigration won.

The vote for the Senate was a proxy vote for approval of Kavanaugh. Approval of Kavanaugh was, in turn, a proxy for approval of abortion. Abortion lost.

In other words, Americans voted in favor of the recognition of the rights of Potential Americans.

Addendum: The reversal at the end of the third paragraph has been corrected.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

The Second Amendment and Censorship

How I came to realize the importance of the 2nd Amendment

It was very indirect. It started when I saw Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience in a bookstore. Needless to say, I bought a copy. One of the chapters was “Life (with all its problems) in space” by Alfred Crosby. I then noticed a book by Alfred Crosby Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900–1900 (it's not as nutty as it sounds) in a bookstore. (Bookstores are what we used before the Web was invented.) I bought that and noticed references to Plagues and Peoples by William McNeill. I found and read that and then noticed another book by William McNeill In Pursuit of Power in a bookstore. That was the book that made me realize the importance of free (liber) weaponry.

When only the State could afford the best weapons, we saw increasingly authoritarian governments. This happened in the Bronze Age, in the early Gunpowder Era, and the era between the invention of machine guns and the AK-47. The ability to buy weapons really is important.

The relevance to censorship

But that isn't what I'm talking about in this post. I'm talking about censorship. If we wanted to keep me away taking the Second Amendment seriously, it could be interrupted at many stages.

We could keep professors from publishing ThoughtCrime. We could keep other scholars from citing the professors who published ThoughtCrime. We could ruin the careers of other scholars who cited a professor who published ThoughtCrime and disinvite them from conferences.

This is another case in which a system with many layers is vulnerable to censorship. The Internet escaped that in the early stages because there were (for a while) fewer layers. In other words, we must be very resistant to any attempt to spread a blacklist. It's one thing to shun someone you think is a jerk. It's another thing to shun people six degrees away from him/her/whatever. It might even be worth shunning people who try that (but not shun their friends.)

On the other hand, we've see this before … in the form of secondary boycotts by labor unions. At least you can't get “good goons” any more.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

The Other Side of the Leftward Drift

A few years ago, I speculated:

The leftward drift of formerly-conservative Supreme Court Justices (discussed here) can be explained fairly easily. 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 and the people who Not Like Us changes from the lower classes to state legislatures.
We now see the flip side of that: We have just confirmed a Supreme-Court Justice who was faced with some of the same tactics used to crack down on people who are Not Like Us: multiple charges so maybe one would stick, threats of draconian penalties in case of failure to cooperate, potential charges for allegedly-false statements, and of course trusting polygraphs. That may immunize him against the leftward drift. Kavanaugh may even be surprisingly liberal on defendant's rights.

On the other hand, don't count on that last.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Conversation between 1978 Me and 2018 Me

1978 me: What's occurring in 2018?

2018 me: We might finally get enough judges on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade. They're holding hearings. There's a professor on one side and someone who spent his school years in a haze on the other.

1978 me: I hope the professor wins and that pro-abortion pothead loses!

2018 me: No, it's the guy in a haze who's backed by pro-lifers.

1978 me: What!?!?!

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