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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Yet another weird SF fan

Saturday, July 19, 2014

“I Sent You a Rowboat”

Let's see… The US government is going bankrupt due to a lack of children. A horde of children arrive on our doorstep and we're supposed to expel them?

It looks like God sent us a rowboat but we're refusing to get in.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Stuff Political Activists Say

You can find examples of the following bulshytt on both sides of nearly any political debate:

  • Our side isn't ruthless enough but their side plays hardball.
  • We can't trust the government and therefore need more of it.
  • All hail the experts! What? They disagree with us? Then … QUESTION AUTHORITY!
  • If you want to defend someone's rights you must be prepared to take care of them for life.
  • The social or economic groups currently associated with their side are parasitic on the social or economic groups currently associated with our side.
  • The other side is deliberately pursuing unhealthy policies in order to kill off the surplus population.
  • Yes, we have a crackpot or two on our side but we have them under control. Their crackpots are running the show.
  • The other side is full of ignorant morons who refuse to find out anything about contrary opinions. We are thereby relieved of any responsibility to find out anything about the other side's opinions.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why Judges Sometimes Make Sense

Most government people get their names in headlines by doing things. Judges get their names in headlines by stopping the government from doing things. This gives egomaniac judges (and the top people in any field will be egomaniacs) an incentive to restrain government. You can think of the judicial branch as BuSab.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Jonah Goldberg Asks a Nasty Question

Jonah Goldberg asks a nasty question:

What would the debate look like if the trends went in the opposite direction? What if most of these immigrants (legal and illegal) were likely to be Republicans in the near and middle term? Would the libertarian arguments for treating labor like any other economic good gain more traction on the right? I think so. Would liberals suddenly realize that they are undermining the economic standing of many African-American and working class Democrats? Almost surely.
If an emergency evacuation of Israel becomes necessary, the current administration will suddenly make an about face on immigration law enforcement. (It's already starting.) It will be the Elian Gonzalez case on a large scale.

I've noticed it's us libertarians who call for repealing immigration laws. Liberals want them on the books but unenforced right now. I think they're holding them in reserve in case potential conservatives want to immigrate.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Mexican Border and Future Thrillers

Since Modesty Blaise was based on an 8-year-old refugee traveling by herself, will the children at the Mexican border star in thrillers written in 2034?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Reining in Bureaucrats

Controlling the Obama appointees (behavior described in The Wall Street Journal) in the Rubbio/Christie/Ryan/Paul presidency may be a problem. We had better start the “battlespace preparation” now. We will need our version of WikiLeaks (we can use the results of the mainstream WikiLeaks but we might need more). We will have explain that letting the public know what unelected bureaucrats are doing is not “snitching.” We will also have to think of other cliches the Other Side might come up with.

One thing we must beware of is encouraging our politicians to be verbose. The more they say, the more chances they will have to say something absurd.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Of Course There's a Resemblance

I'm sure that nearly everybody online has seen the image comparing Holly Fisher to a jihadi mom (discussed here).

The woman on the left is an ally in the present fight against mandatory contraception coverage. (I don't think I would agree with the political opinions of her great-grandparents.)

The woman on the right is the great-grandmother of people who will fight to keep circumcision legal. (I don't think I would agree with her political opinions.)

The difference is time.

BTW, does this mean the anti-Hobby Lobby people are racists?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fermat's Last Theorem and Set Theory, Part III

After noticing that the incomprehensibility of the results of expressing Fermat's Last Theorem in set theory rivals that of machine code, I wondered if it's possible to write a compiler in \(\mathrm{\TeX}\). It's possible to write a Basic interpreter in \(\mathrm{\TeX}\).

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Scientific Mistake vs. Scientific Mistake

The latest spin on Hobby Lobby is that their claim that the four birth-control methods they don't cover sometimes act as abortifacients is a scientific mistake. When we look at the data that's supposed to prove it was a mistake we see that only one of the methods has sound evidence that I could locate that it is not normally an abortifacient. (On the other hand, only four pregnancies were prevented and that isn't enough to ensure that the levonorgestrel pill never acts as an abortifacient.) In the other direction, the Copper IUD looks very suspicious:

When used as emergency contraception, the Cu-IUD could also act to prevent implantation, due to copper's effect of altering molecules present in the endometrial lining. Id. However, studies show that the alteration of the endometrial lining prevents rather than disrupts implantation. Id. at 304.
In other words, at best they can show that Hobby Lobby should have refused to cover only one of the methods under dispute.

Speaking as a libertarian, I also hold they have the right to refuse to cover medications for no reason whatsoever. It is not the State's business what they cover.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Fermat's Last Theorem and Set Theory, Part II

The expression of Fermat's Last Theorem in terms of set theory is up in the form of a \(\mathrm{\TeX}\) file, a pdf file, and an html file. Warning: The html file uses MathJax and is very slow. As a bonus, I also threw in Goldbach's Conjecture.

Addendum: I found and corrected a typo in the files.

Three Quotes

From The New York Times letters page:

But the June 26 photo of the 8-year-old boy apprehended while crossing the border broke my heart. Can anyone imagine the agonizing decision his parents had to make to send their child on such a risky journey? The only thing more disturbing is the politicization of this humanitarian crisis.
From Keith Burgess-Jackson
If Alan Shapiro wants the boy to stay in the United States, he should adopt the boy. He has no right to expect the rest of us to pay for the boy's upkeep. We have enough trouble taking care of our own.
From a much-retweeted attempt at a snarky comment on Hobby Lobby:
UPDATE: you can drop off an unwanted baby at a Hobby Lobby and they'll raise it

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Activities That Even Leftists Find Sleazy

A few weeks ago, I speculated that the IRS destroyed emails as part of “covering up activities that even leftists find sleazy.” More recently it turned out that that IRS is targeting open-source organizations the same way they target Tea Party organizations. Hmmm…

Friday, July 04, 2014

Government vs. Facebook?

Esquire's recent analysis of Facebook's abuse of customer trust ends with:

But the real scandal of the Facebook experiment was that the company was doing nothing illegal. You sign away your rights to be analyzed when you agree to Facebook's terms of service. The obvious lesson of the study in PNAS is that that relationship is insufficient, that social media is now a force too powerful to be left simply to the companies that created them. It needs oversight by the only force that can possibly provide it: democratically elected governments and the laws they provide.
If it's the State vs. Facebook, I decline utterly to be impartial as between the fire and the frying pan.

You cannot wield the Ring. None of us can. Regulation answers to the State alone. It has no other master.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Trying to Impress Imaginary Conservatives Once Again

One common tactic on the left is the attempt to appeal to conservatives … except that they're appealing to the conservatives inside their minds. (I have discussed this here and there.)

The most recent example of this bulshytt can be found here:

He referred to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s blistering 35-page dissent to the decision, saying, “Think about the ramifications: As Justice Ginsberg’s stinging dissent pointed out, companies run by Scientologists could refuse to cover antidepressants, and those run by Jews or Hindus could refuse to cover medications derived from pigs (such as many anesthetics, intravenous fluids, or medications coated in gelatin).”

“(O)ne wonders,” he said, “whether the case would have come out differently if a Muslim-run chain business attempted to impose Sharia law on its employees.”

Of course, it would turn out the same. Of course, Scientologists have the right to not pay for antidepressants. Of course, Hindus have the right to not pay for medications derived from cows. Of course, Jews have the right to not serve milk and meat together. Why is this even controversial?

It looks like the Left has decided conservatives think this is a matter of Christians vs. everybody else and are pointing out that it's not. We actually agree with them on that and don't regard it as a disadvantage.

This decision was based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The RFRA was passed because of a court case that held that standard drug laws applied to Native Americans who use peyote in religious ceremonies. (In other words, the third and fourth items here are not unforeseen consequences.) The RFRA was passed with bipartisan support. In other words, we wingnuts were willing to defend the rights of religious minorities.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

How Is the Anti-Hobby Lobby Side Stupid?

Let me count the ways:

  1. The court's decision won't prevent anybody from getting birth control. The employees can buy it on their own.
  2. It won't even stop birth-control coverage. It will only produce a cosmetic change in who signs the forms.
  3. The bosses are not holding guns to the employees heads. Nothing is stopping them from quitting.
  4. The religious freedom doctrine in question has been around for two decades. The weird counterexamples have already been thought of.
  5. It was regarded as part of constitutional law even before the RFRA. The RFRA was only needed because court had an off day.
  6. Those weird counterexamples that make a little bit of sense are matters of religious people violating laws forbidding behavior. The contraception mandate commanded behavior instead.
  7. Some of the criticism is based on the theory that religion is only done in churches, etc. Does that mean church-backed civil rights protests were fraudulent?
  8. Other parts of the criticism are based on the theory that religious people are not permitted to be religious unless they're perfect. On the contrary, large parts of traditional religion include the recognition that even some of the best people can be sinners.
  9. The claim that corporations aren't human is particularly idiotic here. This was a closely held corporation backed by humans with faces. You can think of it as a corporation in name only.
  10. Insurance coverage for routine items makes no sense in general. It's a matter of the insurance company taking your money out for a wild night on the town before giving it back.
  11. And finally, pregnancy is not a disease.
This is a dense pack of stupid arguments. It's hard to pick out one fallacy.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Commonly-Accepted Premises I Don't Share and Hobby Lobby

One reason for the pointless arguments over the recent Hobby Lobby decision is that many of the arguers assume premises that the rest of us don't share. Let's see which of the premises I mentioned a few weeks ago apply:

  • Any behavior that is caused is incompatible with free will. In other words, if you do something for a reason, you are not free.
    If you decide not to get contraception because you have to pay for it, you are therefore not free.
  • History moves one way.
    This decision means history is moving in an anti-contraception direction. Soon birth control will become illegal.
  • ‘Government’ is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.
    Hobby Lobby can get people to do things together and is therefore a government. This means a government has banned birth control.
  • If a sufficiently-large number of people do something, they cannot be blamed. Either they are right or they have no choice.
    If some women aren't using birth control even when they need it, it must because they had no choice.
  • The amount of government is approximately constant. Regulating X means deregulating Y. Adding regulations will not strengthen the government.
    When something is no longer compulsory, it will soon be forbidden.
All this nonsense fits together.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fermat's Last Theorem and Set Theory

It's well known (at least to mathematicians) that mathematics can be expressed using only the concepts of set theory. So… I was wondering how to express Fermat's Last Theorem using set theory. It shouldn't be that hard. After all, \(a^b\) is the cardinality of the set of possible functions with a domain of cardinality \(b\) and range inside a set of cardinality \(a\). Functions can be expressed in relations, which can be expressed in terms of sets of ordered pairs, which can be expressed in terms of set theory. Expanding all those definitions may get a bit complicated. I then remembered that I'm an expert on \(\mathrm{\TeX}\), which is based on expanding definitions. In other words, it should be relatively simple to express Fermat's Last Theorem using set theory in a \(\mathrm{\TeX}\) file.

As soon as I have something, I'll let you know.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I Have a “Strange New Respect” for the Supreme Court

In unanimous decisions, the Supreme Court struck down attempts by the EPA, the President, and the States of Massachusetts and California to exceed their legitimate authority. Please note these decisions include the four liberal Justices.

I'm not sure why liberals on the Supreme Court (at least this decade) are so much more honest that liberals in the media.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Debate Wanted

A debate between Thomas Piketty (who thinks that the rate of return on investment will stay above the growth rate of the economy) and A. K. Dewdney (who thinks that that rate of return on investment is close to zero over the long term) might be of interest.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why “Lose” Evidence?

The latest twist in the IRS saga is that the IRS may have deliberately destroyed evidence. I'd like to know why they would do that. What were they afraid of? The IRS apparently came up with their substitute for laws declared unconstitutional in the Citizens United decision but those laws had the support of the Democratic base and even some moderates. Coming clean might increase Republican turnout but it would also increase Democratic turnout. They didn't have to worry about about the Justice Department. Even if the Democrats lost an election, the President could have arranged last-minute pardons. Impeachment and conviction was unlikely as the Democrats controlled the Senate. The IRS might lose a court case or two but the Democrats had a history of ignoring courts. (This is being revived.)

The only possibility that makes sense is that they're covering up activities that even leftists find sleazy. I am not imaginative enough to know what that is. Even the theory that the President's re-election campaign used IRS data seems inadequate.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What Natural Resource Is Easier to Get on Earth Than Nearly Anywhere Else?

In the course of a book review, Eric S. Raymond pointed out that there isn't much need for extraterrestrials to grab natural resources:

Yet another is that Mays has managed to invent a reason for aliens to go to the colossal expense of invading Earth with sub-lightspeed starships that is both novel and plausible-seeming.

This is harder than it sounds. Want metals? Mine your own asteroid belt. Want volatiles? Scoop ‘em off comets or an ice moon or somewhere without a deep gravity well and obstreperous natives. Want energy? You have easy access to your home sun. Want slaves? Build robots. You can’t want our women, the orifices won’t fit and the pheromones are all wrong.

A natural resource that's easier to get on Earth than nearly anywhere else? Chlorine. As far as I know, it's more concentrated in Earth's oceans than anywhere else in the Solar System.

On the other hand, they probably can get to Earth-like worlds without natives and, if they're passing by and have to tank up, they can probably buy the trace amounts needed. “Send us 1 million tons of salt, and we'll give you the blueprints for a working nuclear fusion reactor.”

Friday, June 20, 2014

It's only \(\aleph_0\) Bytes

Infinitely-large zip files are possible.

I'm reminded of the time I created a WordPerfect 5.1 file called “A” consisting of sub-documents “B” and “C”. File “B” consisted of sub-documents “C” and “A” and file “C” consisted of sub-documents “A” and “B”. I then set file “A” to expand.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What Did the Invertebrates Know and When Did They Know It?

The National Zoo is closing its invertebrate exhibit. It's obvious to the online paranoid community that this must be tied into the dense pack of recent Washington scandals. The leeches, for example, are long-time IRS employees and know the exact location of the missing emails. The octopus works for the State Department and has the inside scoop on Benghazi. The sponges are clients of the student loan program, the bugs are controlled by the NSA, etc.

The slime molds, contrary to my recent speculation, aren't actually government employees but their skill at brainless, illogical arguments makes them invaluable in the media.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Secret Weapon of Capitalism

Sarah Hoyt (seen via Instapundit) is starting to get hysterical about President Obama (“raised as a communist”) and his possible attempts to crash capitalism. She's forgetting the secret weapon of capitalism: The Other Side is trying to destroy capitalism but they don't know what it is. (ObSF: “Mr. Jester” by Fred Saberhagen) For example, they tried keeping oil prices high … only to cause a revival of the US oil industry. In the 1960's they tried overthrowing the System using anti-authoritarian memes (cf. “I remember Babylon” by Arthur C. Clarke) only to find those memes overthrew their system instead. It looks like they're currently trying to crash US currency. If they succeed, they'll turn the US into the world's low-cost producer.

A Note on Physics Envy

The well-known concept of physics envy usually involves imitating the success of physics at quantifying concepts. The trouble with that is that the results, in other fields, are similar to measuring the hotness of mustard by sticking a thermometer into it. I recently realized there is a second type of physics envy: imitating the tendency to produce theories that most people cannot understand and therefore regard as subjective bulshytt.

In recent decades, a dim, incoherent knowledge of science has become available to anyone. As a result, we see the nitwit interpretation of quantum mechanics, idiotic ideas about multiverse theories, and the belief that energy means anything you want it to mean. (At least the claim that Einstein proved everything is relative has disappeared … for now.)

This alternative physics envy might explain nonsense in humanities scholarship.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

You Don't Have to Actually Know Anything to Be a Journalist

… and it shows.

Apparently, the standards of the larval journalist I discussed here are common.

Addendum: The article I discussed appears to be here, for now. The “right to be forgotten” may come into play, though.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Brief Note on Using Scientific Evidence

A common technique among statists is to cite scientific evidence that phenomenon X is important and that phenomenon X might be affected by human activities and conclude that phenomenon X must be regulated (and regulated their way).

One example, there is clear evidence that climate change is important and some evidence it might be affected by human activities. Is the way it is important the same as the way it might be affected by human activities? It is important from the point of view of avoiding an Ice Age and human activities might make the climate warmer. Those don't seem to go together.

Another example, there is some evidence that genes affect IQ and some evidence that genes vary between human populations. Are they the same genes? There is a lack of evidence on that score.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Back-of-the-Envelope Calculation of The Social Cost of Carbon

If we 1) assume that AGW causes the ice caps to melt; 2) the resulting flood displaces 10% of the world population; 3) the cost of relocation per person is of the same order of magnitude as the per capita GDP; 4) the appropriate discount rate is about the same as the GDP growth rate (Piketty thinks it's more); 5) all this happens over the course of the next century, then total cost per ton of carbon is about the world GDP divided by the annual carbon emissions divided by 1000. The world GDP is $84.97 trillion. The annual CO2 emissions are 31,350,455 thousands of tonnes. Since 12 tonnes of carbon produces 44 tonnes of CO2, the social cost of carbon is $9.94 per tonne of carbon.

Yes. I've made several simplifying assumptions … starting with the assumption of solar or other nuclear hasn't made fossil fuels obsolete and continuing with the assumption that many places won't be improved by the absence of blizzards and assuming that increased plant growth won't absorb the excess CO2… On the other hand, this is a starting point. It shows that we can face facts without being hysterical and that the people who are getting hysterical are emitting the highly toxic pollution known as bulshytt.

On the gripping hand, a back-of-the-envelope calculation also shows you can be run over by a cupcake.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Help! Help! I Was Run Over by a Cupcake!

As is well known, physics can give counter-intuitive results. As is not so well known, that can happen even in the mundane parts of physics.

For example, let us calculate the energy of a two-ton automobile traveling at 55 mile/hr. This is 24.5 m/s. If two tons is 1800 kg, the standard formula \(\frac{mv^2}{2}\) gives 540,225 J. So far so believable. The counter-intuitive part comes in when we try translating that into Calories. At 4184 Cal/J, 540,225 J becomes 130 Calories, about as much as a large cookie or small cupcake.

No wonder overeating is so dangerous…

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Read These Together

On the one hand, we have a complaint about defunding studies in a field with a history of dubious research that has been used as excuses for government regulations.

On the other hand, we have a complaint about studies in a field with a history of dubious research that has been used as excuses for government regulations.

Friday, June 06, 2014

A Disadvantage to Being Online

After patting myself on the back for posting brilliant remarks online, I appeared to have developed a rotator-cuff injury…

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Laissez-Faire Government

The Obama administration can be explained quite simply: It's an imitation of what leftists think conservatives do.

To take but one example among many, leftist think that conservatives think that laissez-faire economics operates by magic. Just say the magic words “laissez faire” and get out of the way of business. In accordance with that, the President is saying magic words and getting out of the way of bureaucrats. It's time for decentralized central planning!

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