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

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Both Sides Can Cite This

According to The Wall Street Journal's review of The Half Has Never Been Told by Edward E. Baptist:

For example, the Consolidated Association of the Planters of Louisiana—a local bank chartered in 1827—enjoyed a lucrative relationship with Baring Brothers of London, a firm that lobbied successfully to persuade the Louisiana legislature to back the association's bonds with public credit. Thus if the association failed to pay off its bonds, Louisiana's taxpayers would be liable for the debt. Baring would eventually handle some $2.5 million in bond sales for the association, marketing to clients in Britain as well as the European continent.
Both sides in the debate on whether slavery is capitalist or not can cite the above.
  • Liberals: See? I told you so. Governments bail out businesses just like capitalism.
  • Conservatives: See? I told you so. Governments bail out businesses just like liberalism.
These are all reasons to believe if you already believe

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Amazing News about Philosophy

Philosophy turns out to be useful for something after all.

Now all philosophers need is rigor and sense ….

Friday, September 12, 2014

It's Programmer's Day

The 0x100th day of the year.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Meta-Analysis Needed

It looks like the most problematic social science papers in recent years have been on the topic of priming effects (example here and sarcasm there and my earlier comments yonder). This research is commonly cited by people claiming free will doesn't exist.

There's another problem field in social science: neuropsychology. It is noted for small sample sizes and being used as an excuse to disbelieve free will.

We need a meta-analysis. Is there a correlation between whether the media reports of a social-science study emphasize its supposed challenge to free will and the shoddiness of the study? Shoddiness might be measured by either the smallness of the samples or the lack of replication.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

One Way to Identify a Racist

Someone who wants to “reinforce the border” is not necessarily a racist. He/she might be excessively paranoid about rest of the world and excessively trusting of the US government (please note that a border fence, for example, can be used to keep people in and that the border controls are likely to be run by possemaniacs or sadists) but that might not be racism. It's racism when someone only wants to fortify the southern border and ignores the northern border.

Monday, September 08, 2014

A Few Thoughts on Possible Scottish Independence

Who will have control over North Sea oil and gas? Could Scotland be tempted to go down the Venezuela route?

Will Scotland retain the British monarchy? Or will they insist on the heir of Bonnie Prince Charlie? Who is that, anyway?

Will this inspire similar movements in the rest of the British Isles? Will the Heptarchy return? Will East Anglia rise again? Will the same people cheering this also cheer Ulster independence? What about independence for Connacht, Leinster, and Munster?

Sunday, September 07, 2014

An Old Complaint about Reagan

Back in the 1980s, one common complaint about Reagan (typical example here) was that he was less than enthusiastic about enforcing laws that he wanted Congress to repeal. We see an echo of that today in conservative complaints about Obama's lack of enthusiasm for enforcing immigration laws.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

How to Be Beheaded

If you're about to be beheaded, please don't be meek about it; that's unlikely to save you. Margaret Pole can be a role model:

She was dragged to the block and, as she refused to lay her head on it, was forced down. As she struggled, the inexperienced executioner's first blow made a gash in her shoulder rather than her neck. Ten additional blows were required to complete the execution. A probably apocryphal account states that she leapt from the block after the first clumsy blow and ran, pursued by the executioner, being struck several times before she died.
Alternative possibility: Have a bomb in your belly (ObSF: “If This Goes On…” by Robert Heinlein) set to go off if you're decapitated and your heart stops.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Radical Immigrants to Minnesota Raise Their Children to Overthrow the US

It's time to deport the Finns.

On the other hand, many of them went to their idea of a Promised Land.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Douglas Adams, Enormous Integers, and Infinity

John Baez's discussion of enormous integers and infinity:

Here’s a puzzle due to the logician Harvey Friedman. It too has an unexpected answer.

Say you have a finite alphabet to write with. How long can a word be if no block of letters in this word, from the nth letter to the 2nth, is allowed to appear as a subsequence of a bigger block from the mth letter to the 2mth?

If you have just one letter, this is the longest it can be:


If you have two, this is the longest it can be:


Puzzle: How long can the word be if you have three letters in your alphabet?

Friedman showed there’s still a finite upper bound on how long it can be. But, he showed it’s incomprehensibly huge!

Now Friedman is one of the world’s experts on large cardinals—large infinite numbers. So when he says a finite number is incomprehensibly huge, you sit up and listen. It’s like seeing a seasoned tiger hunter running through the jungle with his shotgun, yelling “Help! It’s a giant ant!”

reminded me of the following Douglas Adams quote:

The car shot forward into the circle of light, and suddenly Arthur had a fairly clear idea of what infinity looked like.

It wasn't infinity in fact. Infinity itself looks flat and uninteresting. Looking up into the night sky is looking into infinity—distance is incomprehensible and therefore meaningless. The chamber into which the aircar emerged was anything but infinite, but it was just very very big, so big that it gave the impression of infinity far better than infinity itself.

I'm reminded of the saying “This is not mathematics. This is theology.” (about the more abstract parts of mathematics).

Monday, September 01, 2014

“Can” vs. “May”: The Difference is Important

Leftists are opposed to Uber, etc. because of the following simple syllogism:

  1. Under laissez-faire capitalism, businesses can do anything they want.
  2. Businesses want to suppress competition.
  3. Laissez-faire capitalism will thus lead to monopoly.
They went wrong at just one word: They think laissez faire means “businesses can do anything they want” instead of “businesses may do anything they want.” I suspect some of them simply do not know there is a difference.

On the other hand, according to stereotype, English majors are more likely to be leftists. Shouldn't they, of all people, know the difference?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Few Questions about Integrative Complexity

According to social scientists (slight pause for laughter) investigating “Integrative Complexity,” lack of Integrative Complexity can cause violent conflict. I have a few questions:

  1. Has this been checked by people who were not already fans of Integrative Complexity?
  2. Has anybody predicted a future conflict by this technique? Or has it only been used to “predict” the past?
  3. Is my earlier post on Integrative Complexity correct?
  4. Does the Moral Foundations theory mean conservatives have more Integrative Complexity than liberals? Or do liberals hold a copyright on Integrative Complexity?
  5. Do the supposed contradictions of the Bible (e.g, between Proverbs 26:4 and 26:5) actually mean it is Integratively Complex?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Are Immigrants Government Agents?

I recently realized that conservatives seem to be more accepting of a relaxed policy on immigration when there's a Republican President. In my humble opinion, this makes absolutely no sense. Wouldn't it make more sense to support government activity when one of yours in charge of the government? The only way this even comes close to making sense is if you either assume that immigrants are government agents or if you assume that immigration is a matter of people being forced into the US at gunpoint. (The latter was public policy prior to 1808, so it's only 99% absurd instead of 100% absurd.) Can anybody else explain this?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

An Odd Thought about ISIS and Hamas

They don't have a well-known charismatic leader on top. I suppose the deaths of Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and Muammar Gaddafi had an effect. The people in charge are keeping a low profile.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Does Kennewick Man Disrupt the “Narrative”?

Contrary to many of Instapundit's commenters, I doubt if Kennewick Man will disrupt the “Narrative.” Even if the ancestors of Native Americans pushed Kennewick Man's relatives “into the sea,” the Enlightened Ones will still think the Native Americans are the proper owners of America. If you get to a place by land, you are thought to have a right to stay there and possibly even take it over. If you get to a place by water, you don't. (I've mentioned this before.)

For example, Mexicans get to the United States by land so they must be defended; Cuban refugees get to the United States by water so they must get sent back. Israelis of European descent, Protestant Ulstermen, or white Rhodesians got to Israel, Ulster, or Rhodesia by water so they're regarded as illegitimate. Arabs invaded Palestine/Israel by land so that it is regarded as legitimate. Most Europeans colonial empires were established by naval conquest and are regarded as illegitimate but Russia's colonial empire in Siberia was established by land is thus legitimate. (Trying to identify who came up with this distinction will be left as an exercise for the reader.)

In the present controversy, the ancestors of Native Americans arrived by walking across Beringia, which means they have a right to be here whether or not they were first. Kennewick Man's relatives arrived by water so they don't. It's as simple as that.

Addendum: Atlantean/Hyperborean?

Monday, August 25, 2014

I Told You So

A few years ago, I said:

If a powerful nation gets a reputation of supporting any dictator who might be likely to be overthrown by a totalitarian movement (for the purposes of this discussion it doesn't matter if said movement is communist, religious, or racist), then dictators have an incentive to prop up such movements.
This weekend we see:

Earlier in the three-year-old Syrian uprising, Mr. Assad decided to mostly avoid fighting the Islamic State to enable it to cannibalize the more secular rebel group supported by the West, the Free Syrian Army, said Izzat Shahbandar, an Assad ally and former Iraqi lawmaker who was Baghdad's liaison to Damascus. The goal, he said, was to force the world to choose between the regime and extremists.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Killing Machine and the News

In the last few days, there have been two news items that reminded me of The Killing Machine by Jack Vance.

First, there was the Foley kidnapping and attempted ransom extortion. If Jack Vance were writing that story, the ransom would have been paid in counterfeit money printed in disappearing ink.

Second, the news that Alzheimer's patients can be treated by transfusions of young blood. If Jack Vance were writing that story, the only person to know about the treatment would be one of the five Demon Princes and his henchmen …

Saturday, August 23, 2014

An Odd Correlation

Is it my imagination or is there a correlation between anti-Zionism and opposition to GMOs? I tried checking this using the GSS (the relevant variables are EATGMO and ISRAEL) but they didn't have enough data.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

We've Done This Before

I just realized that a transhumanist Malthusian (discussed here) is an example of someone with an ideology that disagrees with conservatism trying to infiltrate another ideology that disagrees with conservatism even despite the fact that the first ideology (Malthusianism) is even further from the second ideology (transhumanism) than conservatism is.

In other words, it's a repeat of liberal (in the classical sense) socialism.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Three Years Ago …

… we were debating the propriety of police wielding pepper spray.

I think I prefer that to tanks and machine guns.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Possible Reactions to a Transhumanist Malthusian

Possible reactions to a transhumanist Malthusian:

  • Incredulous stare.
  • You cannot use the Ring!
  • Wouldn't potential transhumans be able to solve a trivial little problem like providing enough food?
  • Transhumanist Malthusian? Is that anything like a square circle?
  • This is the sort of thing that gives transhumanists a bad name.
  • I have suggested that transhumanists and bioconservatives bury the hatchet … in their common enemy, the Malthusians. Transhumanist Malthusians might interfere with that.
  • A transhumanist Malthusian is a technical optimist until he/she/whatever realizes that means agreeing with some conservatives.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Absurd Logo Design

The person responsible for “I♥NY” has designed a logo for global warming. I already thought the “I♥NY” symbol was inane. This one's worse.

Apparently, he trusts mainstream science when it comes to whether there has been global warming but not when mainstream science says the damage (if any) is probably minor. It's another case of “All hail the experts! … as long as they agree with us.”

Saturday, August 16, 2014

It's Starting …

The Trouble with Looking up a Phrase and Thinking You Now Know What It Means

According to The Wall Street Journal:

UP AND OVER: People gather in a park in Madrid as a perigee moon, or supermoon, rises Sunday. The phenomenon occurs when the moon is near the horizon, making it appear larger and brighter than usual.
Sigh. No.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

More Random Thoughts on SWAT Teams and Camouflage Uniforms

Unlike many of my fellow wingnuts, I think there just might be a place for heavy weaponry in riot control. Unlike the statists, I also think that heavy weaponry should be available for private citizens. A pistol might be useful in dealing with a an individual criminal but if you're suspected of being a mad scientist and the villagers are storming your castle, you might want a few cannon. Cannon are likely to be far more useful in repelling a riot than in starting a riot.

In other news for libertarians, a Congressbeing has introduced a law to ban body armor. As I've mentioned before, a common statist response to “Your government program is interfering with X” is to try to create a government program to do X. This proposed bill is the statist response to “gun control keeps criminals from being shot.” If criminals being shot is so good, they reason, we must pass a law to ensure they can be shot. Maybe the SWAT teams are simply the results of the statist interpretation of “more guns, less crime.”

I'm also starting to have second thoughts on the advisability of camouflage uniforms even for soldiers. Civilian clothing is forbidden to soldiers in combat in order to keep civilians from being targets. The custom of wearing camouflage uniforms ensures that trees become targets.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Question about SWAT Teams

Why do they wear camouflage uniforms?

Are they trying to fit in in with the inner-city? Maybe we should tell them that “It's a jungle out there” is a metaphor. A real camouflage uniform for the inner city would look like graffiti, peeling paint, and reinforced concrete leaking rust.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Quote from The Yeoman of the Guard

The recent news about Robin Williams reminded me of the following quote from the Gilbert and Sullivan opera The Yeoman of the Guard:

Cause? Have we not all cause? Is not the world a big butt of humour, into which all who will may drive a gimlet? See, I am a salaried wit; and is there aught in nature more ridiculous? A poor, dull, heart-broken man, who must needs be merry, or he will be whipped; who must rejoice, lest he starve; who must jest you, jibe you, quip you, crank you, wrack you, riddle you, from hour to hour, from day to day, from year to year, lest he dwindle, perish, starve, pine, and die! Why, when there's naught else to laugh at, I laugh at myself till I ache for it!

Saturday, August 09, 2014

A Suggestion for Nativists

If the EPA can devise a figure for the social cost of carbon (with my comments here, there, and yonder), then I'm sure nativists can devise a figure for the social cost of immigration. It might be as underwhelming as the social cost of carbon.

The closest approximations I've seen appear to be similar to “cap and trade” instead of calculating a dollar amount of damage.

Friday, August 08, 2014

They're Ba-ack!

The squeegee men are back! There is an obvious solution: Make it legal to run them over. Another possible solution: razor-sharp windshield wipers.

I suspect they were inspired by the government.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Question about “Inconstant Moon” by Larry Niven

The characters realized there had been a massive solar flare when the moon became spectacularly brighter. If the sun became hotter in “Inconstant Moon,” its light (and thus moonlight) would be bluer.

Why didn't anyone in the story recall the phrase “once in a blue moon”? They might have realized this had happened before.

On the other hand, there are other reasons for a blue moon.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Avoiding Embarrassment, Part II

As I've said before, many leftists are embarrassed by living in a nation where schools have to be partly funded by bake sales. They found a solution: They're banning bake sales, this time at a federal level.

By the way, how is this supposed to be enforced? If this law is enforced by withholding subsidies, the Enlightened Ones (at least while reacting to the Halbig decision) are now on record as saying they can't do that.

I tried reading the regulations in question and I can't figure out how it was supposed to be enforced against a state government unwilling to go along. As far as I can tell, it's a matter of “If a State government does not fulfill our requirements, we will require them again.” There's a strong possibility the people in the current administration simply don't know how to deal with people who disagree with them.

This may be connected with the leftist refusal to admit that government is a matter of force. In LeftWorld, governments issue commands and everybody obeys. (This also explains the current foreign policy or lack thereof.)

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