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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Small Sample Watch
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The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
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Someone who used to be serious (formerly Plague)
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Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
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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

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Brief Note on the New Hampshire Results

There's a simple explanation for the results. The right-wing of the Democrats left the party and joined the Republicans, causing both parties to become more leftist. (In case, you were wondering, I think of immigration restrictions as a left-wing idea.)

This also explains why the turnout was up on the Republican side and down on the Democratic side.

Friday, February 05, 2016

H1B Visas and Nuclear Energy

We see a similar pattern in online debates about H1B visas and nuclear energy. A laissez-faire policy is rejected for reasons that many people find plausible. An alternative policy is proposed that includes a small amount of government involvement. This policy is backed by many people who usually support laissez-faire policies. The opponents of the alternative policy then criticize the supporters for being hypocrites and complain that we cannot trust the government. That may sound reasonable except they continue to reject the laissez-faire policy and advocate a policy with far more government involvement. Let's put this in tabular form:
Laissez-faire policyOpen bordersCoal and natural gas
Policy with minimal governmentH1B visasNuclear energy
Specific complaintIt's indentured servitudeIt requires loan guarantees
Policy with more governmentClosed bordersAlternative energy mandates

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

It's Groundhog Day

If the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.

If the groundhog doesn't sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.

It's almost like elections.

Monday, February 01, 2016

How Would President Trump Deal with the Devil?

The latest episode of UNSoNG includes the following: “I remember seeing a video … of the President's summit with the Devil.” I then wondered what possible future President Trump (I'm not counting him out yet) might say about such a deal:

I was talking to Satan the other day… Great guy but a complete loser. He had the cushiest job in Heaven but talked back to God and BAM! got evicted.

So I went to Hell. People keep telling me to go there. Complete dump. Most of it too hot and the rest waaay to too cold. I made an offer to Satan. Make me President and I'll open a really classy casino with better ventilation and also a Cadillac dealership. The Niven–Pournelle guidebook says Cadillacs belong in Hell. I'll even make God pay for it. Satan was so grateful, he promised to invent three more deadly sins in my honor!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

How Much Will It Cost to Melt a Snowfall?

Let's take New York as an example.

The land area of New York City is 790 km2. It is 30% roads. Fluffy snow is approximately 10% of the density of water. The recent snowfall was 26.8 in. It takes 333.55 J/g to melt snow. Putting this all together, we need a little over \(5\times10^{15}\) J of energy to melt all the snow on the streets of New York City.

At a price of 27¢ per kilowatt-hour (“New York values” are a matter of overpaying for everything), that would cost $400 million (more than the usual budget) and the winter isn't over yet.

But wait, there's more. That amount of energy would be a little over a megaton. In other words, we would be nuking the snow.

On the other hand, maybe I skipped a decimal point somewhere.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Past Posts with Some Relevance to a President Trump

Wednesday, January 23, 2008:

I'm leaning toward McCain on the grounds he's “conservative enough” but more deniable than Romney. If Romney wins, we'll spend the next 4 or 8 years explaining him away but if McCain wins we won't be held accountable for anything liberal he does. (I suspect that the greatest damage to conservatism is done by moderate Republicans who are not acknowledged as moderate, such as Nixon or George W. Bush. Moderate republicans who are acknowledged as moderate, such as Eisenhower or George H. W. Bush, are more harmless.)

Thursday, October 09, 2008:

If Obama is elected and doesn't govern from the center, the Republicans will almost certainly regain the House and probably the Senate in 2010 and possibly the White House in 2012. The problem is that the Wall Street faction of the Republican Party has taken itself out of consideration in the course of the past few weeks. In other words, we are likely to see nativists (and possibly protectionists) running the government in a few years.

We right-wing open-borders people might start looking at the theocratic wing of the Republican Party. (I promise that if I endorse Mike Huckabee for President on the blog, I'll throw up first.)

Saturday, October 06, 2007:
The fact that today's Republicans are more open to the lower classes has a disadvantage. Some of the new recruits are ot-nay oo-tay ight-bray.
Sunday, February 03, 2008:

One problem is that the usual climb to the top in politics requires a personality who believes in political power. The best way around that is to have a candidate who climbed high in the business, academic, or entertainment worlds before switching to politics. I suspect much of “political correctness” is for the purpose of ensuring that few future Reagans will come from the academic or entertainment worlds. On the other hand, there might be an adequate supply of conservatives from economics departments.

About the last one: Even some people outside of government can be statists.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Two Borders

The look of the border of North Korea is a well-known illustration of the problems with collectivism:

We can see clearly the difference between development and suppression of development.

The following is part of the border between the US and Mexico:

This also looks like a contrast between development and suppression of development … except that it's the developed country on the left.

If we continue to suppress human activity in the US, we might be in danger of turning into a bad example similar to North Korea.

But wait, there's more. Immigration restrictionists, while arguing with libertarians, frequently claim that letting in “Third-World people” will cause a takeover by statists. It looks like the Third-World invasion may help get rid of the regulatory state instead.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Few Notes on UNSoNG

UNSoNG, a novel by Scott Alexander is currently being serialized. It starts with the Apollo 8 astronauts reading from Genesis (which, if I recall correctly, was criticized at the time for introducing “Babylonian cosmology” into what should have been a scientific endeavor), followed by them running into the crystal sphere surrounding the world.

One way to look at it is that it takes the straw-man argument of the preceding paragraph and made it real: that the world really does have a Babylonian cosmology.

Another way to look at it is that it's what happens when there's a buffer-overflow bug (assuming the Simulation Hypothesis). The data (in the form of a space capsule) overwrote part of the symbol table.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Does Donald Trump Represent “New York Values”?

I'm sure nearly all of my dozen or so readers have heard of Ted Cruz's claim that Donald Trump represents “New York values.” My initial reaction was that the only “New York value” that Donald Trump represents is that of being a braggart and that, according to stereotype, it also appears to be a Texas value.

More recently, Senator Cruz issued an apology, explaining that he only wanted to criticize the policies of Andrew Cuomo or Bill de Blasio instead of New York in general. My reaction: Apology accepted.

On the other hand, at first it's unclear what Donald Trump has in common with Andrew Cuomo or Bill de Blasio. After all, Donald Trump is regarded as being on the Right whereas Cuomo and de Blasio are the Left.

On the gripping hand, the policies of Cuomo and de Blasio that Ted Cruz criticized are based on the idea that we can provide prosperity by suppressing the “wrong” economic activities (fracking, low-wage work, or non-government schools) or even the “wrong” people (unwanted fetuses, gun owners, or people trying to avoid having anything to do with gay marriage) and Donald Trump represents the same idea, although the “wrong” economic activities involve foreign imports and the “wrong” people are immigrants.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Explaining Leonardo DiCaprio's Apparent Hypocrisy

At first sight, Leonardo DiCaprio's disapproval of greenhouse-gas emissions might look hypocritical considering his lifestyle. We must recall that leftists do not believe in consumer sovereignty. They believe that “businessmen” call the shots in all economic interactions. In other words, the oil and industries are forcing him to fly.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

An Effect of “Ems”

One obvious effect of human brain emulations (also discussed here) is a large increase in population. That will have several effects.

A large population might need a far smaller proportion of scholars. Present day scholar recruitment (including the idea that the most prestigious job is that of training more scholars) might have been more appropriate to smaller populations.

Very-large populations should erase the obscurity trap, in which nobody uses a potentially-important technology because you can't find experts in it and nobody tries to learn it because you can't get a job in it. In a very large society, hobbyists can jump start nearly anything.

Increases in population size can affect moral standards. At present, in a world of a few billion humans, there are plausible-sounding calls for the currently most-powerful nation to right every wrong (e.g., “We can stop the Darfur famine.”) and plausible-sounding claims that picking and choosing between wrongs to right is hypocritical. I suspect that with a very large population, similar ideas would be regarded as obvious nonsense.

Human interactions can be classified into four types: communal sharing, equality matching, authority ranking, and market pricing. The first three have limits: Communal sharing fall apart over 150 (the Dunbar number); equality matching falls apart over a few thousand (the size of an ancient Greek city-state); and authority ranking fall apart over a few million (the size of a large hierarchical organization). Does market pricing also have a limit? If it does, we might find out in the Age of Em.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

One Advantage of the Left

One advantage of the Left: They have organized a coalition of people with more free time than average.

Look at the components: The unemployed, tenured professors, college students, welfare recipients, artists on government grants, and childless people.

The Left can go protest something at a moment's notice. People on the Right can't. The Left can spend hours “reporting” on people they disagree with. People on the Right can't.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Who Supports “Muscle”?

I'm sure my fellow right-wing nutjobs have heard of the case of Melissa Click, the University of Missouri professor who called for “muscle” to eject a reporter. More recently, many University of Missouri professors have signed a petition defending her (seen via EconLog). I made a list of which departments included people who signed and how many from each department:
38Department of English
10Department of German & Russian Studies
10Department of Religious Studies
9Department of Romance Languages & Literatures
8Department of Women's & Gender Studies
7Department of History
7Department of Sociology
4Department of Art History & Archaeology
3Department of Black Studies
3Department of Classical Studies
3Department of Communication
2School of Music
2School of Journalism
2Department of Art
2Department of Psychological Sciences
2Department of Health Sciences
2School of Information Science & Learning Technologies
2Department of Theater
1Department of Rural Sociology
1Center for English Language Learning
1Department of Chemistry
1School of Law
1Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis
1Department of Physics & Astronomy
1Department of Biomedical Sciences
1Department of Geography
1Department of Philosophy
Only seven STEM and no mathematicians… Hmmmmm…

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Would White-Collar Immigration Be a “Crisis”?

According to a Ted Cruz ad, if bankers, lawyers, and journalists were crossing the Rio Grande, immigration would be called a crisis.

On the other hand, speaking as a mathematician, when mathematicians “crossed the border” after the Soviet Union collapsed, I did not regard it as a crisis.

On the gripping hand, many mathematicians inside the United States did regard an earlier wave of refugee mathematicians as a crisis. In particular, Harvard kept out mathematicians fleeing the National Socialists. (Harvard's motto: We're Harvard; we can get away with anything.)

The real question: Does Ted Cruz have the decency to be embarrassed at this pandering?

Monday, January 04, 2016

A Suggestion for the American Mathematical Society

As I've said before:

Please note that the {subequations} environment in \(\rm\LaTeX\) will increment the main equation counter even when there are no equation numbers displayed. If you forget that, you might write an article in which the equation numbers skip from (17) to (20), causing the copy editors to wonder if you've discovered a new method of counting.
In view of the fact that authors frequently expect the {subequations} environment in \(\rm\LaTeX\) to not increment the main equation counter when there are no equation numbers displayed, it might make sense to redefine {subequations} to fit their expectations. This can be done as follows:
On the other hand, it may interfere with someone's workflow.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

It's Perihelion Day!

How are you celebrating Perihelion Day?

Thursday, December 31, 2015

When Guns Aren't Outlawed, Non-Outlaws Will Have Guns

The assertion that the Second Amendment is needed to defend against a potentially-repressive government is frequently greeted with incredulity. We have an actual case now. Dallas passed a law outlawing feeding the homeless without a license. A libertarian organization fed the homeless without a license but while armed. The police decided not to bother enforcing the law. It's a plausible guess the police would have been more stringent with an unarmed group.

Please note this is not a way to change people's minds; it is a way to intensify already-present opinions. If the activists had tried distributing heroin instead of food, there would have been arrests. An attempt to enforce an anti-homeless law would have been blamed on the police since anti-homeless laws are already regarded as dubious. An attempt to enforce an anti-opiate law would have been blamed on the activists since anti-opiate laws have widespread support.

I don't know if they could get away with hiding illegal aliens this way.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Anti-Gentrification Activists vs. Logic

The “reasoning” of anti-gentrification activists who support growth controls is the following sillygism (a reasoning process that yields a delusion):

  • Landlords want to build more.
  • Landlords want to raise rents.
  • Therefore building more will raise rents.
This is a classic example of the fallacy of the undistributed middle. “What landlords want” is the middle term that isn't distributed.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Taking Global-Warming Hysteria as a How-to Guide

Heather MacDonald has apparently been reading the global-warming hysterics and taking their rhetoric as a how-to guide.

  • Cherry picking data? Check.
  • Claiming that complaints about cherry-picking data are motivated by The Establishment? Check.
  • Reporting upticks and ignoring downticks? Check.
  • Claiming that attempts to put data in context are a distraction? Check.
  • Reporting outliers as though they were a trend? Check.
  • Reporting on a statistic as that sounds like a different (and more important) statistic? Check. (“25 of the nation's largest cities ” is not the same thing as “the nation's 25 largest cities.”)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

An Atheist Cliche Surfaces

A few years ago, I criticized the common atheist cliche that monotheists are disbelievers in all Gods but one:

For the record, I believe in God and Allah and Brahman and the First Cause and that Existence exists … and I also believe they are the same entity.

The atheist cliche is a classic example of circular reasoning. First, atheists assume that theists are narrow-minded fools and then point out how ridiculous the beliefs of their straw men are.

More recently, the narrow-minded fools in question have been turning up in the Instapundit comments. It's amazing how many people there agree with the atheists.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Replicating Experiments Is Not Wasteful!

I disagree with Senator Flake. The Flake list of wasteful government spending includes:

On the list, we find $1 million that went to the National Institutes of Health to study a dozen monkeys running in hamster balls on a treadmill. That's right. But as strange as the spending may seem to us taxpayers, it's not unique. The report states, "In a case of monkey-see, monkey-do, the National Institute on Aging is already spending more than $600,000 to conduct its own monkey on a treadmill study."

Replicating studies is not a waste of money. Maybe it should be privatized (we cannot trust the government to check its own results), but it is not a waste.

If scientists had paid more attention to the need to replicate studies, the stem-cell bubble of a decade ago could not have happened.

On Cultural Appropriation

On the one hand, this complaint about “cultural appropriation” is the epitome of a tempest in a teapot.

On the other hand, I’m still a bit perturbed when kosher salt is used to cure bacon.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Control Group Missing

Malcolm Gladwell's article asserting that successful entrepreneurs are not really risk takers because they structure their investments in such a way that they cannot lose lacks a control group. He needs a similar study of people who thought they could not lose but lost their proverbial shirts anyway.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Notable and Quotable

Jeff Jacoby said the following better than I could:

Human beings, by virtue of being human, are entitled to worship as they choose, to own property, to emigrate from their country, and to form peaceable associations. Those are fundamental rights, not dependent on the government's political preferences or utilitarian considerations. The freedom to engage in mutual and honest commerce is just as fundamental, and it should be just as immaterial whether lawmakers approve of the bargain struck between seller and buyer. Jones shouldn't have to lobby public officials for the right to hire Smith or teach Smith or pray with Smith, or seek Smith's opinion. Nor should he have to win government approval for the right to sell his goods and services to Smith. Not even if Smith lives in another neighborhood, or another state, or another country.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Another Recommendation to My Fellow Mathematicians

Another reason not to use Word: Not every system uses the same typefaces. You may think your article uses Brush Script, but after it's been sent from one computer to another several times, the Brush Script characters might have turned into a substitute at least once (and they're not going back). If you had used \(\rm\LaTeX\), they would have been \mathcal with no problems.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Foreign Policy and Fictional Nations

According to a recent opinion poll:

To put some of these findings about real modern day issues and Trump voters in context, 41% of his voters think Japanese internment was a good thing, to 37% who don't. And 41% of his supporters would favor bombing Agrabah to only 9% who are opposed to doing that. Agrabah is the country from Aladdin. Overall 30% of Republican primary voters say they support bombing it to 13% who are opposed. We asked the same question of Democrats, and 36% of them opposed bombing Agrabah to 19% in support.
In other words, 55% of Democrats, 50% of Trump supporters, and 43% of Republicans in general think we should have a foreign policy towards a fictional nation (just down the road from Bulungi). The refugees from the Agrabah civil war will probably turn up in the Thursday Next series.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Collatz Statistics, Part II

Part I can be found here.

I next tried plotting the lengths of the Collatz sequences against the initial values and got the following graph:

This looks like a moiré pattern.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

In 1913 (see a discussion here), the US school system was apparently redesigned to slowly destroy any tendency to value learning.

The immigrant generation regards learning as objectively good.

The second generation regards learning as subjectively good.

The establishment generation has a taste for learning (when they're not getting stoned).

The legacy generation wants the easiest possible meal ticket.

You can see the effects here.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Two Seveneves Speculations

In the novel Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, the Moon explodes, causing the surface of the Earth to become uninhabitable for 5000 years. The Pingers, one of the surviving groups, are descended from people who survived in submarines in deep ocean trenches.

In view of the fact that novels about the potential uninhabitability of the surface of the Earth, such as On the Beach by Nevil Shute have been around for decades, is it possible that various navies already have plans to do something similar? Let's see… It might make sense to have an all-female crew with a gallon of frozen sperm… They would need a hydroponics and a nuclear reactor…

Speaking of On the Beach, what would Rufus MacQuarie do in that situation?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Not a Case of “Name That Party”

In a discussion of high-end shoplifting, we see:

Goldshine says confrontations do happen, like the time he had to face down a regular, well-liked customer — then also a well-known adviser to the Democratic Party — who always concluded his visits by slipping a pint of Häagen-Dazs under his sport coat. “I had to take him to the side and say, ‘First of all, if it comes out, it will ruin your career.’” And second of all? “I said, 'You’re my friend, and I love you. But you can’t come in here anymore.'”
Also see this.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Strange New Respect

Nativists and protectionists are giving me a strange new respect for the crybullies insisting on “safe spaces.” When you can't even discuss the Chipotle E. coli problem without nativists etc. blaming it on either illegal aliens or Mexican imports, it's easy to understand the temptation to censor.

To the would-be censors: You cannot use the Ring!

To the nativists: You might try taking this little fact into account.

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