Yet another weird SF fan


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

Go to first entry


 

Archives

<< current
 
E-mail address:
jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com


My Earthlink/Netcom Site

My Tweets

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

Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
Crank Dot Net
Day By Day
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
Fourmilab
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, July 28, 2015

Two Notes on Donald Trump

I've been disappointed by Donald Trump. When he first became well known, I thought “That's the man who will take the human race into space!” After all, his ego is too large for one planet. It turned out that it doesn't matter if the ego is large if the man is small.

One way the Republican establishment can fight Trump: Get him talking about guns. He's bound to reveal a belief that guns are only for licensed bodyguards. The Republican base is even more solidly pro-gun than anti-immigrant.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

What If It's All False Flags?

What if the large number of people arguing on the Internet who appear to fulfilling all of the stereotypes of their nominal opponents are all false flags? What if the “Check your privilege” Social Justice Warriors are actually conservatives trying to discredit liberalism and the people whining about #cuckservatives are actually liberals trying to discredit conservatism? That would explain so much.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Uber and NASA

There's worry about whether Uber can contribute to killing the planet. On the other hand, according to NASA, we've got spares.

One disadvantage of the new planet: It's 1.5 billion years older than the Earth, which means it has \(\frac{1}{4}\) as much uranium 235 (assuming it started out with the same amount). That might make it harder to jump start a nuclear industry. On the other hand, it means fewer worries about nations run by maniacs.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Are You Sure This Is the Analogy You Want?

Some of the commenters on an Instapundit post on the GMO controversy are comparing it to the global warming and cholesterol controversies. The odd thing is that these people are critical about the claims that both Anthropogenic Global Warming and saturated fat are dangers but they regard GMO foods as a danger. The reasoning appears to be as follows: If the fear mongers were wrong about X and wrong about Y, they must be right about Z. Is it their turn to be right?

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and Its Implications for Current Controversies

Background here for those of you who were stoned in high-school history classes.

Nullification

The use of nullification (a declaration that state and local governments will not assist the Federal government to enforce some laws) by slave states has given nullification a bad name. On the contrary, nullification was also used by the free states of Wisconsin and Vermont to hinder enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act.

The use or endorsement of nullification by liberals or libertarians (with respect to immigration law, for example) is not necessarily hypocritical.

We Won't Let You Stay Uninvolved

In the early stages, one common excuse given by supporters of shady activities (sometimes those activities have real victims and sometimes they don't) is: “If you don't like it, don't do it.” This is followed by “We won't let you stay uninvolved.” This happened in the case of slavery (the Fugitive Slave Act), the case of of selling possible abortifacients (the Affordable Care Act), and in the case of gay marriage.

Shooting the Wounded

Slavery was legal in much of the U.S. The Fugitive Slave Act was a matter of starting to eliminate the resistance. You can think of it as “shooting the wounded.”

The Confederate Flag

One excuse for flying the Confederate flag is that it's a symbol of resisting centralization. On the other hand, when it comes to centralization, Dixie fired the first shot.

Drapetomania

Drapetomania was a supposed neurosis that caused slaves to run away. The belief that refusal to submit is a sign of mental illness continues today.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Two Possible Effect of the Confederate Flag Controversy

  1. People might be unwilling to get involved in moral controversies lest they be on the losing side and labeled as scum a century later.
  2. People already involved in a moral controversy will be unwilling to give an inch lest they lose and be labeled as scum a century later.
Applying the above to other controversies will be left as an exercise for the reader.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Theory about Left vs. Right

One possible description of Left vs. Right:

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.

The “phrase barriers between times” might be hard to decipher. You can think of destroying or denouncing traditions as putting a barrier between the present and the past. You can also think of birth control or abortion as putting a barrier between the present and the future. Leftists claim to be loyal to the future but on the condition that it's like the present but only more so.

One consequence: The reaction of the Right to suggestions that judges should take the laws of other places into account resembles the reaction of the Left to suggestions that judges should take the laws of other times into account.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

To Paraphrase Keith Laumer …

Iran has been a sponsor of terrorism for the past few decades. Now, perhaps, we shall see them breaking that precedent and entering into peaceful relations with their neighbors.

On the other hand, maybe breaking and entering is what we can expect.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders

Donald Trump is an alleged Republican who doesn't believe in the common Republican talking point: When X is outlawed, only outlaws will X.

Bernie Sanders is a Democrat who does believe that.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Suggestion for Arkansas

For the benefit of those who haven't been keeping track of people who give dorks a bad name, the Satanic Temple is attempting to place a statue of Baphomet outside the Arkansas statehouse. After all, there is a Ten Commandments monument there and the state is not supposed to discriminate on religious grounds. The official reason for the Ten Commandments monument is that it's about the history of the Law. There is a simple way for the Arkansas state government to make that point. They should also include monuments to the code of Hammurabi, Solon's law code, and the Law of the Twelve Tables.

On the other hand, maybe they should allow it because it's beneficial if government becomes a laughingstock.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Is Instapundit Supporting Gun Control?

The first reaction to this should be to examine more complete statistics, notice that shootings are up but crime is down, and recall “More guns, less crime.”

The first reaction to this should be to say “When immigration is outlawed, only outlaws will immigrate.”

The right-wing stance on the Second Amendment is starting to look like the left-wing stance on the First Amendment. Left-wing motto: It's not censorship when we do it. Right-wing motto: It's not gun grabbing when we do it.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Both Sides Lost

According to Chanda Chisala:

The fact that black immigrants to the United States have shown achievements that are superior to native black Americans has been a phenomenon studied since at least the 1970′s. … What most of these theories failed to predict was that the children of these immigrants would also show exceptional achievements, especially academically. It is only in recent years, as the immigrants have stayed long enough to produce a sufficiently high number of offspring, that it has been observed that they are over-represented among high academic achievers, especially when compared to native blacks, particularly at very elite institutions.
This disproves the favorite theories of both the Left (that the black–white academic gap is due to the effects of prejudice) and the hereditarian wing of the Right (that the black–white academic gap is due to the effects of genes). The children of African immigrants have the same genes and face the same prejudices as the descendants of 18th-century kidnap victims. In other words, both sides have lost.

As for what is causing the black–white academic gap … stereotype threat might be part of the explanation. I suspect the affirmative action is aggravating that.

Uh Oh

According to Matthew L. Wald:

On the micro level, last weekend I watched a young cashier at the hardware store scan purchases and heard the customer complain that the total was wrong. I was terrified by the cashier's response. It wasn't, “No, the computer is right.” It wasn't, “let me double check.” It was, “How did you know?” When it comes to adding numbers in our heads, we've not only forgotten some skills, we've forgotten we ever had them.
ObSF: “A Feeling of Power” by Isaac Asimov.

Friday, July 03, 2015

A Visit to an Evil Room

I was at … the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing. After all, Everybody Knows that anything one of the Koch brother has ever touched is tainted with Evil.

Other also object to Dinosaur Halls.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Best Comment on the Supreme Court's Reasoning in the Gay-Marriage Decision

… came from Dave Munger years before the decision. One of the possible replies to “Should Congress have intervened in -mumble mumble-?” at the top is:

No, that is specifically proscribed by Amendment Pi of the Constitution, in magic invisible ink that only special people can see.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Two Annoying Reactions on the Right to the Gay-Marriage Decision

Soon they will be forcing religious organizations to perform gay marriages!

The question of whether the fact that something is legal means someone can be compelled to get involved with it against his/her religion has already been brought up. Remember the Hobby Lobby case of last year? The same court responsible for the gay-marriage decision ruled in favor of the rights of people called bigots. Please note that contraception has even wider and deeper backing from the Left than gay marriage.

We will never be able to get rid of this!

Just a few days before the gay-marriage decision, the court overturned raisin-control. This was part of the left-wing agenda of a couple of decades ago, defended with the same amount of condescension we see today in the gay-marriage debate. Not every left-wing victory is permanent.

ObSF: “In a good cause, there are no failures, only delayed successes.”—Isaac Asimov

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Don't Let This Crisis Go to Waste!

I'm talking about the OPM breach. Remember that?

There's a common libertarian argument: Government is usually incompetent. There's a common response to that argument on the left: Right-wing governments are incompetent because of deliberate sabotage. For example, according to a commenter on Facebook:

Republicans start with the premise that government doesn't work and has no solutions, then they fight tooth and nail to get in office and prove it.
In the case of the OPM breach we see a clear instance of government incompetence that cannot be blamed on right-wing sabotage.

I also heard that there were a few newsworthy Supreme-Court decisions. At least raisins are finally free!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Inceptionism and “Dog Whistles”

A theory about political idiots

The typical political idiot on the Internet takes his cues about what a controversy is Really About from other idiots on the other side of the controversy. This explains why lots of left-wing idiots are convinced that any discussion of academic excellence is a “dog whistle” to racists and, for that matter, why right-wing idiots frequently assume that open border libertarians are Cultural Marxists.

The inceptionism connection

I recently posted a mention of inceptionism. If a neural network is trained on one set of data and then interprets a different set, that different set will still resemble the training set to the network. For example, a cloud will look like an animal or a tree will look like a building or an intellectual snob will look like a racist or a libertarian will look like a Communist agent or …

In possibly-related news, inceptionist images are frequently described using Lovecraftian terminology.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Brief Note on Dixiecrats

It's common for conservatives to point out that the Republicans were the party that abolished slavery and that the Democrats defended it. The standard response from Democrats is to claim the parties have switched places.

Maybe the conservatives should criticize “the identity-politics party” or “the party opposed to the 1%” or “the party that shouts down dissent” or the “party that regards disagreement as offensive” or …

In the other direction, I doubt if the Republicans have changed much.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Conclusion Sounds Plausible …

… but I'm still skeptical of the research that purports to show that conservatives have more self control than liberals (original paper here).

In part of the research, the experimenters gave the experimental subjects fabricated data on the effects of a belief in free will. (I have criticized this style of research before.) If the researchers were willing to lie to at least one set of experimental subjects, why should we believe them now?

On the other hand, this appears to back up my theory that conservatives might do better at the Stroop test. I'd like to see this replicated by other researchers … followed by a study of the Asch test. On the gripping hand, by the reasoning in the preceding paragraph, all studies using the Asch test are dubious.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

If Leftists Are Refusing to Have Children …

why should the rest of us care?

ObSF: “What is the superlative of ‘so what’?”—R. A. Lafferty

Saturday, June 20, 2015

What Happens When Random Data Is Decompressed?

A few years ago, I asked the above question. The researchers at Google have answered it, at least as far as images are concerned. One of their stranger results has been going around the Internet.

Question: Could something similar be responsible for Charles Bonnet syndrome?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Are Some Teachers AIs?

News that a computer program did better than most humans at questions on IQ tests has been going around the blogosphere. As far as I could tell, the program worked by examining published texts to see which words usually went with which. Let's consider what happens when humans use such an algorithm.

If we search high and low for examples of antonyms in published texts, we frequently see that pairs of words identified as antonyms occur in the form of “Word_A and Word_B.” That's as plain as black and white. If we generalize from that we might decide, for example, that “cat” is the opposite of “dog” or “tadpole” is the opposite of “frog.” I think the algorithm has limitations.

ObSF: “Camels and Dromedaries, Clem” by R. A. Lafferty

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

When Is Skepticism Justified?

Consider the following scenario: There is a school of thought that makes a theoretical prediction based on what appear to be good reasons. For some reason, the evidence to back up said prediction does not seem to be forthcoming, which is cited by people disagreeing with it. Time passes … and something resembling evidence at long last shows up. On the other hand, it's much less than the people who originally issued the prediction had in mind.

How skeptical should we be about the prediction? In a related question, what is the track record of earlier predictions that fit the pattern?

I can think of several predictions that fit the above pattern. One of them is believed by the Left. Another is believed by the Right. I am disinclined to take either that seriously. On the other hand, there are other predictions that I am inclined to take seriously that also fit the pattern.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Consequence of China's One-Child Policy

It's producing a non-trivial number of Chinese citizens with no close relatives. If one of them has access to classified information, he/she might be willing to defect if there's nobody who can be held hostage.

If I were Chinese, I'd be wondering if Malthusian theories are part of a deliberate disinformation plan.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

You Cannot Resist This

It's the Wave of the Fuschia!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Unified Paranoid Theory

It should be completely obvious that GMO foods were developed by H1B-visa holders working for Monsanto (bankrolled by a consortium consisting of the Elders of Zion and renegade Objectivist extraterrestrials from Zeta Reticuli) using a template developed by the Freemasons (you can find it encoded in the Washington DC street plan) in order to produce a vaccine (but only when grown using radioactive fertilizer) that would both prevent circumcisions from being reversed and produce antibodies to medical marijuana.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kindle Auto-correct

A few months ago, I turned off the auto-correct “feature” of my Kindle Fire. I recently noticed it was back and, when I tried using the settings, I saw nothing that would turn off auto-correct.

Now, when I try typing “glyphosate” on the Kindle (to comment on this thread, it turns it into “toothpaste.”

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Did Agriculture Make People Worse Off?

According to Jared Diamond (in the course of a whine about the agricultural revolution):

If one could choose between being a peasant farmer in Ethiopia or a bushman gatherer in the Kalahari, which do you think would be the better choice?
Is the choice between existence as a peasant farmer and existence as a hunter-gatherer? Or is it between existence as a peasant farmer and non-existence? There was, after all, a large in population.

As far as I can tell, the upper-class population in agricultural societies was about the same as the hunter-gatherer population. For example, in Medieval England, there were 200 men in the upper aristocracy and 1000 knights. If we assume that a typical aristocratic family included a Lord, a Lady and couple of children, the upper class would be 4800 people. According to Jared Diamond, hunter gatherers had a population density of \(\frac{1}{10}\) person per square mile, which means England's 50,000 square miles could support 5000 of them, about the same number as in the agricultural upper class. The advantages of being a hunter-gatherer also applied to the upper class. People in the upper class did not spend all day shoveling manure and had a diet with adequate protein.

In other words, the agricultural revolution did not take hunter-gatherers and turn them into peasants but added a peasant population.

Applying the above to a hypothetical society consisting largely of “ems” will be left as an exercise for the reader.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Jigsaw Politician?

From “The Jigsaw Man” by Larry Niven:

The state will prove that the said Warren Lewis Knowles did, in the space of two years, willfully drive through a total of six red traffic lights. During that same period the same Warren Knowles exceeded local speed limits no less than ten times, once by as much as fifteen miles an hour. …
From The New York Times:

According to a search of the Miami-Dade and Duval County court dockets, the Rubios have been cited for numerous infractions over the years for incidents that included speeding, driving through red lights and careless driving. A review of records dating back to 1997 shows that the couple had a combined 17 citations: Mr. Rubio with four and his wife with 13. On four separate occasions they agreed to attend remedial driving school after a violation.

Mr. Rubio’s troubles behind the wheel predate his days in politics. In 1997, when he was cited for careless driving by a Florida Highway Patrol officer, he was fined and took voluntary driving classes. A dozen years later, in 2009, he was ticketed for speeding on a highway in Duval County and found himself back in driver improvement school.

Things got more complicated in 2011 when Mr. Rubio was alerted to the fact that his license was facing suspension after a traffic camera caught him failing to stop at a red light in his beige Buick. His lawyer, Alex Hanna, paid a $16 fee to delay the suspension and eventually it was dismissed.

I was reminded somehow.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Another Note to My Fellow Mathematicians

Try not to use too many typefaces in the same article. You're writing math articles, not ransom notes. Also please remember that MathJax can't handle really weird typefaces.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

To My Fellow Mathematicians…

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.

 
Profiles
My Blogger Profile
eXTReMe Tracker X-treme Tracker

Site Meter
The Atom Feed This page is powered by Blogger.