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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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:
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Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
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Yet another weird SF fan

Saturday, January 21, 2017


In my calculation of the EmDrive acceleration, I skipped a decimal point. The acceleration should be \(5.16\times10^{-3}~\text{m}/\text{s}^2\). That will get you from Earth to Mars in 2–3 months

If it works, it might be worth doing.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Have Some Good News and Some Bad News

The good news: The right wing is getting saner, at least for now. They're blaming everything on liberals instead of on foreigners.

The bad news: The left wing is not getting any more skeptical of government. Instead of uncritically trusting politicians, they uncritically trust bureaucrats.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What a Claim Sounds Like vs. What It Is

It's common for people to make a claim, and back it up with evidence, that sounds like something else with much less evidence. For example:

  1. For example, that claim that loose gun laws are correlated with “gun-related deaths“ sounds like a claim that loose gun laws are correlated with gun crime but also it includes suicides by gun.
  2. There's reason to believe social conservatism is correlated with “teenage pregnancy.” This might refer to unwed 13-year-olds but it also includes married 19-year-olds.
  3. “Renewable-energy capacity” is growing rapidly. That's the peak generation when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing at the right speed. The actual energy generated is much less.
  4. “Climate change” might refer to global warming … or global cooling … or droughts … or floods or …
When you see claims like the above, please do not respond to them with anecdotes that might point in the other direction; there are much better replies.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Brief Note on Melinda Byerley's Rant

According Melinda Byerley:

She is completely correct. Job shortages usually are the fault of people in the area. We can start with the people who raise minimum wages to absurd heights, continue with people who protest any business that involves chemicals with scary names, and finish with people who close down a business simply because it specializes in wedding cakes for heterosexuals.

She is completely correct. We should celebrate diversity. We should celebrate a diversity of paychecks and of products.

As for the reaction … She waved a red flag and the bull charged.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Thoughts and Prayers and Tactical Assault Ballads

There's a common sequence of events:

  • A domestic mass shooting occurs.
  • People respond to it by saying “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims.”
  • Other people respond to that with ridicule.
There's another common sequence of events:
  • A terrorist action occurs committed by least one person who has crossed a border.
  • People respond to it with a Tactical Assault Ballad.
  • Other people respond to that with ridicule.
Both of them follow this template:
  • A horrible crime occurs.
  • People might possibly respond to it by advocating one form or another of people control. (Both gun control and border control are people control disguised by a euphemism.) What's worse, those who oppose that form of people control might look hard-hearted.
  • In order to forestall that, those opposed to that form of people control respond with a purely symbolic action.
  • Other people respond to that with ridicule.
To make matters worse, nearly everybody will ignore the resemblance of the sequences.

Is there a version of category theory for politics?

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Explaining Theories about Population-Control Conspiracies

A few years ago, I realized:

… that explaining away opinions one disagrees with by attributing them to Malthusians can be used for a wide variety of opinions, many of them on opposite sides of a question. For example, are pesticides intended to kill off the excess population or are pesticide bans intended to allow population-stabilizing diseases? You can make similar arguments for both sides of vaccines, GMO foods, or nuclear energy. We must also recall that a policy can be intended to have an effect without actually having that effect and vice versa.
My current meta-theory about why the theories point in all different directions is that the theorizers differ on the question of where population-control ideas come from: Do they come from rich people or from loud people?

Loud people who are worried about alleged over-population tend to be overwhelmingly anti-pesticide, anti-nuke, anti-GMO, and anti-vaccine. As far as I know, rich people who are worried about alleged over-population tend to be pro-pesticide, pro-nuke, pro-GMO, and pro-vaccine. In other words, if you're opposed to Malthusian policies and you believe that the capitalists are the bosses, you're more likely to believe in one set of conspiracy theories and if you believe consumer sovereignty is only violated by brainwashing by the activist class, you're more likely to believe in the opposite set.

Needless to say, some people are both rich and loud.

Come to think of it, this might also explain the “You're a leftist!” “No, you're a leftist!” debates we've been seeing recently between conservative factions.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Do They Sell Lemonade?

I'd like to order Zorn's lemonade.

Addendum: Yes, they have lemonade.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Jumblies, Part II

Part I is here.

The map of Clintonesia brings the following to mind:

Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Pointing out that their top people are environmentalists, their staffers are depressed, and they went to a a political campaign with argument that had holes is just icing on the cake.
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

Sunday, December 25, 2016


According to Zoltan Istvan (earlier discussed here) on AI:

Regardless what happens in the future, it’s safe to say AI will not be an entity speaking to us in hackneyed parables, or telling us to pluck out our eyes and cut off our hands if we sin. It probably also won’t threaten us with a hopeless fiery hell of eternal punishment for our lack of faith.
He knows that … how? For one thing, if an AI is sufficiently influential, whatever it says will become so well known that it will sound hackneyed.
It’s far more likely the greatest tool our species has ever created will tell us how to end world poverty with inventive technologies, how to best fix the Earth of the environmental degradation we’ve caused, and how to heal ourselves of all disease and live indefinitely via radical science.
Speaking of hackneyed… It will tell us how to solve the problems that seemed most pressing back when Zoltan Istvan was doing laps in amniotic fluid?
  • Isn't fixing little things like poverty or environmental “degradation” much easier than AI?
  • Is there environmental degradation? Isn't the air a lot cleaner than it was in 1973?
  • Hasn't absolute poverty gone way down steadily in the past generation?
  • The health question may also have been solved by the time we invent AI.
  • The best reason for believing in fast technical progress in AI, Moore's Law, appears to be slowing down.

Maybe Zoltan Istvan believes that technical progress in a field will be fast or slow depending on whether the speed justifies his personal prejudices.

Friday, December 23, 2016

It Took Over Six Decades

… but we finally have a replacement for the the Third-Avenue El. According to Isaac Asimov shortly after the el was removed:

When they tore down the el, our mayor did say
That soon in its place there would be a subway.
 ’Twould be new, ’twould be clean,
 ’Twould be painted white and green,
So give three cheers for our bright new subway.
 No el, No el,
 No el, No el,
So give three cheers for our bright new subway.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Snarky Comment Comes to Sad End

They're tearing down the Nanotech Furniture building.

Now where will we get cyclohexane?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

It's about Euphemism Time!

Years after I recommended multiple mirrors, scientists have finally realized the danger of putting scientific data under centralized control and are doing something constructive about it.

The danger is potentially real. First, it is possible to claim that restricting such data is not censorship on the grounds that censorship is only a matter of the government restricting private parties. (If the government had not tried monopolizing the data, such an argument would even be valid.) That argument might confuse the voters enough for the powers that be to get away with it, at least in an otherwise-popular administration. Second, the centerpiece of the nativist argument (at least when nativists are talking to libertarians) is that foreigner immigrants might affect the average opinion in this country in a non-libertarian direction. If government action is acceptable for the purpose of changing public opinion, that might be used as an excuse for censorship. Third, Trump will have a “pen and a phone.” It might be possible to delete large amounts of data before being restrained. Even if it is technically illegal, punitive measures can also be tied up in bureaucracy. If Hillary Clinton got away with it, Trump can get away with it.

We should applaud this privatization. It might protect data from President Melissa Click someday. The only problem is that this hadn't occurred years ago.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Common Phenomenon

Last year, I mentioned:

The experiment might be an example of a common phenomenon: Leftists attempting to devise an objective test that they imagine will prove conservatives are scum. This is then followed by dropping it when the test gives answers they don't like.
More recently, social scientists have been looking for the Magic Test that proves all open-minded people agree with the Left. They have one (science curiosity) but it's easily criticized so they're looking for more … with a certain lack of success.

On the other hand, maybe conservatives have taken enough of those tests to be able to fake open mindedness. On the gripping hand, how would we tell if liberals are faking?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Is “Organic” a Synonym for Good?

According to a Fark contributor:

Australian term of the year is "Democracy Sausage", a traditional snack served at polling places. In the US a Democracy Hot Dog is when you vote for organic beef but get one made from lips and rectums
The problem with pointing out the many fallacies involved here is that one does not know how to begin.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Who Is Winning the Culture Wars?

According to a Mark Tushnet, a left-wing law professor:

The culture wars are over; they lost, we won.
That might be true of gay rights. On the other hand, on abortion and guns, we right-wing ideologues are the wave of the future. The only way to oppose RFRA laws and not look bad in 2053 is to come up with some way they don't apply to abortion. The left may have trouble getting that past their current base.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Schrödinger IV

Apparently pro-Trump areas are in a quantum superposition of having great job growth and being full of failures despairing over their unemployment.

Also see Schrödinger I, Schrödinger II, and Schrödinger III.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Why “Blue” Cities Have More Government

I disagree with the usual left-wing take (“Big cities need more government.”) and the usual right-wing reaction to that (“If big cities need more government, they must be parasitic on the rest of us.”). If big cities need better policies, I think that means less government.

The reason blue states have more government is that they are better able to get away with counterproductive policies. For example, NYC can have a gun-control law that would cause a gang takeover of any other city. Since NYC is too big for one gang to take over, it can get away with it.

California can have environmental regulations that would mean the fast bankruptcy of any state that didn't have Silicon Valley in it. Since California has Silicon Valley, it's undergoing a slow bankruptcy instead.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

What, If Anything, Were They Thinking?

I've you ever wondered why refugees from “blue” areas sometimes vote for policies similar to the place they fled, you can see a typical example of their beliefs here:

Saturday, December 03, 2016

A Few Notes on the Latest Flag-Burning Controversy

President Hillary would have the flag burners arrested for the unauthorized emission of greenhouse gases.

Question: If burning the flag is an exercise of free speech, is destroying currency also free speech?

Flag burners should be sentenced to act like idiots in public. In other words, nothing need be done.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What Would a Settlement near Sirius Look Like?

The Sirius system is likely to have a very high ratio of available power to planetary mass. What would a civilization in the Sirius system look like?

First, there would not be very many settlements and those settlements would have to be far from the star and, probably, from each other.

Second, they must be very sparing of mass. Instead of having heavy farms, it might make sense for the colonists to genetically engineer some photosynthetic ability so they might have some green body parts.

In addition, body parts in general should be as light as possible. One way to save mass is to avoid having unused muscles. That can be done by putting most of the muscles in the trunk and using tendons to move the limbs. They would need some means of switching the muscles from one tendon to another but I'm sure the genetic engineers will be up to it. The limbs would not need much of a blood supply and might even have a bluish color.

Their ships would also have to spare mass (but could waste energy). They can spare mass by not having a pressurized hull but instead keep the passengers in space suits. This might be uncomfortable but if they go fast enough the voyages would be brief.

In other words:

Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

Coming up with an excuse for the Quangle-Wangle or Pobbles will be left as an exercise for the reader.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Victims Resemble the Oppressors

Restricting competition isn't always a matter of social class X squeezing social class Y. The victims of restricting competition are frequently in the same class as the winners.

Restricting competition in academia (i.e., tenure) might be responsible for the exploitation of adjunct professors. Restricting competition in the blue-collar realm (i.e., unions) is associated with collapsed cities such as Detroit. The spread of professions with restricting competition into the small-business realm (i.e., occupational licensing) is correlated with the declining rate of business formation.

In other words, you can't blame restricting competition or even resistance to restricting competition on class prejudice.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Building a Silmaril

The news of the development of a crystal that can extract useful energy from radioactivity might be the first step in creating a Silmaril in our universe.

If a crystal is radioactive and can use that radioactivity to pump a laser in the same crystal it would act much like a Silmaril. It would give back any light that it's exposed to amplified. If it were hidden away in Morgoth's horde, the heat from the radioactivity would accumulate and burn anything it touches.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Third Schrödinger Population

In addition to Schrödinger's immigrants and Schrödinger's conservatives, we see Schrödinger's liberals, in a quantum superposition of neighborhoods in lily-white/inner-city states.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

What Were They Thinking?

What were the MSM people thinking?

On the one hand, accusations that conservatives are racists have been common for decades in the less-mainstream media outlets on the Left. On the other hand, such accusations have been more restrained in MSM outlets until this year. Maybe what happened is that the MSM people balance the non-mainstream leftists with NRO-type conservatives. On other occasions, the following exchange might happen:

Fringe leftists: Romney is a racist!
MSM people: Is Romney really a racist?
NRO conservatives: There's no way Romney is a racist.
MSM people: Okay, we'll talk about the 47% instead.
This year, the following happened:
Fringe leftists: Trump is a racist!
MSM people: Is Trump really a racist?
NRO conservatives: We'd rather not defend a protectionist.
MSM people: Okay, Trump is a racist.

What were the Trump primary voters thinking?

My best guess is that they regarded his business success as a matter of prowess instead of diligence and figured that diligence doesn't seem to be working. They apparently think that this “alpha-male” will fix the American economy by shear force of will and get back everything they imagine foreigners have stolen.

What were the Trump general-election voters thinking?

My best guess is that they figure that we elected and re-elected Obama and that proves the US is no longer racist and that they can go back to voting Republican.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Another Schrödinger Population

In addition to Schrödinger's immigrants, there's also Schrödinger's conservatives, they're both over-privileged and too poor to buy tickets to Hamilton. They're in a quantum superposition of poor/privileged states.

It's amazing how much the supposedly opposite sides sound alike.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

If the EmDrive Works…

… it still might not be that useful.

At 1.2 mN/kW and 4300 W/kg, that's an acceleration of \(5.16\times10^{-4}~\text{m/s}^2\).

A bit slow. It can go 80 million km (the distance between the orbits of Earth and Mars) in about 9 months.

The above needs a correction.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A What-If Speculation

A suggestion for an alternative religion clause of the First Amendment:

Neither the United States, nor any subdivision of it, shall ever be construed to support, endorse, or be founded upon any religion or religious principle; nor shall the government intrude upon the free exercise of religion so long as such exercise is injurious to no one; nor shall any religious institution participate in any election campaign or public vote. The United States shall be a secular nation with separation of church and state. No religious test or affirmation of any sort shall be required of any employee or official of the United States government, nor of any state or other part, nor by any entity receiving federal funding.
On the other hand …
  • What would “nor shall any religious institution participate in any election campaign or public vote” have done to the Abolitionist movement?
  • The phrase “…nor by any entity receiving federal funding” might produce problems for organizations that pay taxes and have to compete with other organizations that are allowed to accept federal funding that helps balance the taxes.
  • The phrase “…so long as such exercise is injurious to no one” might be interpreted as allowing lawsuits by unemployed Real Americans against people sheltering illegal aliens.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Few More Election Notes

Trump did about the same as Romney as a percentage of the white vote and slightly better as a percentage of the non-white vote. Maybe identity politics is not the wave of the future after all.

In a related story, the sane Republicans in Congress did better than Trump. It looks like the Republican Party in general lifted Trump. The GOP Establishment had the coattails and the Trump supporters should thank them.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

We Told You So, Part I

So… Trump is willing to keep the ban on discrimination on health-insurance applicants with pre-existing conditions. It is, after all, a “settled value in this country” (along with not voting for Trump and not having the Chicago Cubs win the World Series). It's been settled for time immemorial, which, if you're a “policy wonk,” means the past six years. Such discrimination is almost as bad as discrimination in real-estate deals.

A Clarification

When I said:

If Trump wins and governs on the Left, I promise not to say “We Told You So” more than once a week.

I meant that such reprimand should not be made in more than one post per week in any given network. In other words, only one post per week on Blogspot, only one post per week on Disqus, only one post per week on Twitter, …

Friday, November 11, 2016

Did the Get-out-the-Vote Effort Backfire?

The get-out-the-vote effort by Democrats might have might have backfired. The numerous calls I received warning me that a Republican victory meant an end to “choice” nearly made me vote for Trump. Then I recalled that Trump also disregards the rights of potential Americans.

One Nasty Effect of the Trump Triumph

It's causing some people on the Right to have a strange new respect for an omnipotent Federal government.

When discussing nullification, please note that nullification was also used by Wisconsin and Vermont to resist the Fugitive Slave Act. In addition, the Tariff of Abominations was an instance of blatant federal overreach and well worth resisting.

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