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

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Twenty Celsius

I started breathing 68 years ago.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

More Comments on the Current Thing

People didn't acquiesce to leftist demands because they agree that the Left was on the right side of history; they acquiesced to leftists demands because they figured the Left was a bunch of pathetic losers not worth resisting. That has changed.

As far as I can tell, the pro-Hamas demonstrations are much smaller and less violent than the BLM and Antifa demonstrations of 2020.

In other words, the fact that the enemy is inside the gates has nothing to do with open borders. It's simply the same old bulshytt we've seen for decades.

If the US had open borders in the 1940s, the Palestinians would be long since assimilated by now.

The first nationalist immigration restriction was of a model minority. Conservatives may say they only want the best immigrants but revealed preference…

According to immigration restrictionists, the pro-Hamas demonstrations are due to open borders.

On the other hand, when we finally got a look at some of the protestors, they did not look like recent immigrants.

I suspect many of the people at the demonstrations were simply professional leftists.

The problem isn't immigration; the problem is that enemy is already inside the gates and was created by public-school teachers. It has been building ever since 1913.

Does Israel have a right to exist? No. Only persons can have rights. In a related story, Palestine has no right to exist.

Israelis (or settlers in general) have the right to exist.

There'a a common claim that Palestinians are semites, so they cannot be anti-semitic.

I still can't figure out what antiquarians have against quarians.

Israel had a saner reaction to the Current Unpleasantness than we did to the 911 attack.

We should have armed all airline passengers. We did the opposite.

Israel reacted by letting people get to their guns.

I haven't heard much about suicide bombs in the current war.

Maybe it's just too hard to recruit experienced suicide bombers.

Should Hamas supporters be deplatformed? A possibly relevant quote from a science-fiction novel:

“Indeed, since it is always valuable to know what your opponents are doing, the League is a very useful institution. Should it ever get into financial difficulties I might even have to subsidize it.”–Karellen in "Childhood's End" by Arthur C. Clarke

An Assortment of Comments on the Latest Israel–Hamas War

One possible way to fight global warming is the increased use of desert solar energy. So… If the Gaza Strip were replaced by solar panels and the population deported to Iran, they could use the solar energy to power Iran and they wouldn't need a nuclear reactor.

Otherwise, Iran would need the nuclear reactor to be independent of OPEC.

I doubt if the students signing pro-Hamas petitions at Ivy-League universities will be running the Fortune 500 a few decades from now. By that time, the corporations will be run by the Asian kids kept out of the Ivy League.

I believe that, in general, people have the right to:

  1. cross borders;
  2. carry weapons;
  3. gather in large groups.
Doing all 3 at once, on the other hand, might be worth banning.

If “The Camp of the Saints” had taken place in the real world, Muslim immigration would be less worrisome with a few million more Hindus around.

The standard defenses of free speech (the solution to bad speech is more speech) and the right to keep and bear arms also apply to open borders.

Is Israel an example of apartheid? Of course it is. Just look at how Middle-Eastern Jews are confined to just one Bantustan!

Colonialism is immigration that self-congratulatory people dislike.

They were expelled from their land and forced into a small remnant by adherents of a European ideology foreign to the area. Some them still dream of regaining the whole.

Even despite all that, Taiwan still shouldn't kidnap hostages from the mainland.

I suspect many of the people who got in trouble for supporting Hamas thought they would get in trouble for not doing so.

I recall hearing Rush Limbaugh say: “Every university should have two communists on its staff so we never forget what those people were like.”

This may apply to other cases of academic freedom.

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”–-Michael Corleone

Friday, January 13, 2023

I Confess!

I voted for George Santos.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Yes. The Covid Vaccines Save Lives

In case anyone was wondering what the actual data was on vaccines and death rates, I checked the British data.

Age groupDeaths per 1000 person years
for the unvaccinatedfor the vaccinated

As you can see, the death rate is slightly higher for vaccinated people under 20 and much lower for vaccinated people over 20.

Paranoid speculation: Many of the absurd policies backed by the Left are in order to provoke opposition … which is then used to tag conservatives as slime. In particular, opposition to covid vaccines has not been unanimous on the Right, so during the current election campaign they're recommending vaccinating children even though the same data that shows the vaccines save lives for people over 20 shows they don't for people under 20. That way, they get to tag reasonable people as anti-vaccine. Some people may even fall for it.

It's bad on purpose to make you sick.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

More SF Stories That Need Sequels

“Breeds There a Man…?” by Isaac Asimov

In the original, extraterrestrials (or whatever) are treating humanity as bacteria that must be contained and have surrounded human minds with “penicillin” that keeps us from thinking in the wrong directions. In particular, they're trying to keep us from devising defenses against nuclear weapons.

In the sequel, SDI was the result of “gain of function” on the part of the extraterrestrials. They eventually see that humanity is now penicillin resistant. They mix up a stronger batch of their older disinfectants: irrationality and authoritarianism.

“Judgment Day” by L. Sprague de Camp

In the original, Wade Ormont, a Mad (positively furious) Scientist plots to destroy the planet in revenge against the rest of the human race.

In the sequel, he went over his calculations the next day and found the error. While trying to distract himself from the failure, he overhears a conversation between AI researchers and realizes that it will be easier to replace the human race than destroy it. Now that he has something to live for, he switches fields to AI, with a few side forays into trying to make sure civilization can survive a nuclear war long enough for an AI takeover.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

SF Stories That Need Sequels

“Details” by Poul Anderson

In the original story, human history has been guided by benign humanoid extraterrestrials. At the beginning of the 20th century, a new guy takes over … a credentialed idiot with powerful relatives. He's recalled back to headquarters and kicked upstairs when they hear that Earth has both nationalism and nuclear weapons.

In the sequel, the replacement pulled off a near miracle and kept a nuclear war from breaking out. He was given a medal … and also a court martial. Apparently, assassinations, epidemics, nuclear meltdowns amd taking over the mind of Stanislaw Petrov were not approved methods ….

“The New Prime” by Jack Vance (also published as “The Brain of the Galaxy”)

In the original story, the reader saw a variety of exciting scenes in quick succession, each of which demonstrated a virtue on the part of the protagonist. At the end, it turns out that they were all art of a civil-service test for Galactic Prime. The Old Galactic Prime had written the test and, for some reason, turned out to be the most qualified candidate. He was the most decisive, forceful, quick-thinking, imaginative, and self-controlled candidate. The Council, however, pick someone else. The Galactic Prime is also the Brain of the Galaxy. His personality influenced the personality of everybody else in the galaxy. As a result, we saw totalitarianism (and also college fraternities) on Earth and even worse results elsewhere. They pick another candidate, a paragon of gentleness, kindness, and generosity. The only problem is that their candidate was driven insane by the test.

In the sequel, the New Prime took over in 1963. A regent was appointed in 1980. The regent waddled into headquarters (an explanation for the obesity epidemic) and was able to restore order. The New Prime had apparently recovered by 2001 and resumed control. There were enough problems for the Old Prime to launch an attempted coup in 2016…

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Stories, Part II

Ever since The 1619 Project was published, Story 3 has become oddly popular on the Left. They apparently think (if that it the correct word) that slavery was something invented in 1619. On the contrary:

  • Enslaving foreigners goes back at least to the Egyptian Empire.
  • Kidnapping foreigners to enslave goes back at least to the Assyrian Empire.
  • Western Europeans joined the party in the 15th century or earlier.
On July 4th 1776, a group of statesmen (including a few representatives of slavers) signed a paper that said that was wrong.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Do Face Masks Obscure Faces?

Of course not! Those masks are transparent!

We keep hearing about how masks cannot stop viruses because the gaps in the mask are larger than viruses. Since those gaps are also larger than wavelengths of light, the masks also cannot stop light.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

A Suggestion on Changing Rhetoric

Instead of talking about freedom of speech or freedom of the press, talk about freedom of seeing and freedom of listening.

The difference between content moderation and censorship is simple: Content moderation is keeping people from seeing or hearing things they do not want to see or hear (false fire alarms, death threats, pointless insults, porn, etc.) and censorship is keeping people from seeing or hearing things they want to see or hear.

That way, a famous XKCD cartoon becomes a defense of content moderation istead of a defense of “cancel culture.”

The program Bleep appears to be a start at taking content moderation out of the hands of the forum and putting it into the hands of the users, where it belongs.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

At Last!

Monday, February 01, 2021

Are Close “Stolen” Elections Important?

If an election should have gone 51% for Candidate X and 49% for Candidate Y and instead went 51% for Candidate Y and 49% for Candidate X, that should not be very distressing. The Will of the People wasn't stolen; it was only the Will of 2% of the People that was stolen. It was close to a coin toss in either case.

On the other hand, the fact that momentous decisions can be affected by a coin toss is a sign that something is wrong. That something will not be affected by whining about an election or by getting hysterical when Moe, Larry, and Curly invade the Capitol to overturn it.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

A Brief Note on Coronavirus Vaccines

So… They finally approved a vaccine. A vaccine that had been invented in two days last January. A few reactions:

  • I had figured the delay was due to investigating the usual blind alleys found in scientific research. I was wrong.
  • The anti-vaccine fanatics pretending to be libertarians rolled out their usual complaint that the vaccine approval was a “rush job.”
  • To make matter worse, many of the same people are complaining about masks, social distancing, and people staying home. All of those were due to the delay, a delay caused by bureaucrats trying to avoid blame by anti-vaccine people.
  • In a libertarian paradise, the vaccines would have been sold openly in March. By April, the fake vaccine sellers would be out of business. By May, the vaccines would be affordable to anybody.
  • Of course, the anti-vaccine people would blame Big Pharma for the deaths caused by the frauds. Meanwhile, the standard caution caused 400,000 deaths.
  • The Left, of course, would weep about the deaths caused by people being unable to afford vaccines last spring. In Leftworld, a few thousand poor people dying is more horrible than 400,000 people of all social classes dying. The latter is, of course, equitable.
  • We must, of course, remember that every person vaccinated protect the surrounding people as well. Slogan: Save the butlers! Let billionaires buy vaccines.
  • The fact much of the US has a downturn might possibly mean that much of the spread is due to health professionals (who are at the front of the line).
  • When vaccines really do have problems, Big Pharma will admit it. Big Pharma, nuclear energy, and airlines appear to be the three most honest parts of the the Establishment.
  • Much of the opposition to vaccines is due to contrarianism in general. “If THEY lied about X, THEY might be lying about coronavirus.” This is accompanied by exhortations to look into the contrarian claims. Well…
    • I looked into the claim that masks block oxygen. They don't.
    • I looked into the claim that US government data shows a normal death rate this year. It doesn't.
    • I looked into the claim that polio death rates plummeted before the polio vaccine. They didn't.
    • I looked into the claim there is a cancer epidemic. There isn't.
    • I looked into the claim that Fukushima poisoned the Earth. It didn't.
    • I looked into the claim that depleted uranium is a weapon of mass destruction. It isn't.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Since It's a Blue Moon…

…I must say something positive about Trump.

He hasn't been nearly as bad as I had feared. The borders haven't slammed shut; there's no trade war with China; and birthright citizenship is still the law.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

A Few Notes on Masks

One possible explanation for the slowdown in COVID-19 outbreaks is that masks are unusually effective with this disease. When the pandemic started, masks were discouraged and the doubling time was measure in days. Now the doubling time is measured in weeks.

We see an interesting phenomenon: When the COVID-19 death rate gets higher than 3 per million per day, it tends to come down. The most plausible explanation is higher death rates cause people to wear masks.

There appears to be an anti-mask campaign going on. It's giving me a strange, new respect for the anti-lockdown conspiracy theories of a month or two earlier. After all, if this were a plandemic to ruin the US economy, the people behind that would not want public-health measures that are harmless to the economy.

One of the claims of the anti-mask movement (that they interfere with oxygen) can be easily disproved. I put a mask on and measured my blood O2 with a pulse oximeter. It read 95%. I took the mask off and it still read 95%. I repeated the test a month or two later. My blood O2 with the mask on was 96%. With the mask off the oximeter flickered between 96% and 97%. For some reason, not many of the people retweeting the anti-mask claim tried that. You can try it yourself. You can easily order an oximeter. Don't just take my word for it. Nullius in verba!

Monday, August 31, 2020

Pascal Was Right!

According to Blaise Pascal:

All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room.
One of the effects of the lockdowns and the social distancing is that when people are sufficiently bored, they'll join pointless demonstrations and some will even do recreational looting.

Another effect is that people are using enough drugs for collectivism to make sense to them.

Yet another possible effect is that social distancing guidelines are simply ignored on the re-opening campuses.

Annoying COVID Takes

The most annoying COVID takes found on the Right:

  1. The belief that the hysteria is being driven by the Left.
  2. The belief that “nuking the curve” is a matter of “moving the goalposts.“
  3. The belief that this is unprecedented.
  4. The belief that wearing masks is an intolerable imposition.
  5. The belief that masks both promote panic and give a false sense of security.
  6. The belief that masks both obstruct oxygen and allow viruses.
  7. The belief that dense neighborhoods are the problem.
  8. The belief that this crisis is an argument for autarky.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Explaining the Two Sides in the Coronavirus Controversy

You can think of the coronavirus crisis as a drill.

One faction thinks of it as a drill for bubonic plague, coronal mass ejection, or an asteroid strike.

The other faction thinks of it as a drill for a possible future international conflict in which the Enemy releases a moderately-bad virus to interfere with the economy of any nation that's reluctant to sacrifice its citizens. It's similar to the reaction to Kavanaugh's accusers: “If we react the wrong way, we'll see more of this in the future.”

Friday, May 01, 2020

What Does and Doesn't Make the Coronavirus Problem Worse

Things we have reason to believe can spread COVID-19:

  1. Airlines.
  2. Subways.
  3. Cool weather (5–11°C).
  4. Lack of UV.
  5. Large institutions (schools, prisons, nursing homes).
  6. Large celebrations allowed by stupid mayors.
  7. Lack of masks.
  8. Languages with lots of vowels.

Things we have reason to believe that do not increase COVID-19 deaths:

  1. Parks.
  2. Beaches.
  3. Walkable neighborhoods.
  4. Ventilator shortages.
  5. Global trade.

We still don't know if mandatory lockdowns are needed. We have reason to believe people were social-distancing themselves anyway. (This also implies that ending such lockdowns won't revive the economy.)

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Since It's April 1

How long before there's a coronavirus comedy?

Let's see… A gang of lovable misfits is thrown together to take care of coronavirus patients… They're all trained medical professionals: a dentist, a psychoanalyst, and a veterinarian. At least one of the characters comes from a backwoods area and is preparing moonshine hand sanitizer.

The People Who Are Really behind the Coronavirus Epidemic

A conspiracy theory I haven't seen yet:
The coronavirus crisis was engineered by a gang of philosophers eager to see real-life examples of trolley problems. They infiltrated the FDA, Chinese government, and the city governments of NYC and New Orleans in order to bring it off.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Do Media People Really Believe in Exponential Growth?

The coverage of the coronavirus crisis includes an annoying phenomenon: On the one hand, the mainstream media ignored this in February and sometimes ridiculed the people worried even despite the fact that the danger could be easily predicted by anybody thinking about exponential growth. On the other hand, many people in the same group were concerned about exponential growth in the context of overpopulation.

It's as though the I-Bleeping-Love-Science people don't actually understand what they're spouting. It even looks like they were only “concerned” about overpopulation because it was an excuse for legalized abortion and free birth control.

But wait, there's more. The reason exponential growth is worrisome in the case of epidemics is that the time needed to react (months or more) is far greater than the doubling time (around a week). The time needed to react to problems caused by alleged overpopulation is usually less than a doubling time. (I've mentioned this before; it's not something I made up just now.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Personal vs. Private

The Coronavirus crisis has caused me to re-evaluate one of my opinions: I used to think the left-wing distinction between “personal” and “private” was silly. I now think they have a point. They just had it backwards. The regulations that had to be repealed (e.g., selling unauthorized coronavirus tests) tend to be regulations of private property but the regulations that have to be added (e.g., against crossing borders or going out in public) are of personal behavior. The business regulations are a matter of using businesses to enforce the regulations of personal behavior.

Many people regard the Coronavirus crisis are a refutation of libertarianism (formerly known as classical liberalism). On the other hand, as I've said before:

Control of contagious disease was a traditional activity of classical liberal governments. I have seen complaints that such governments were more concerned about contagious disease than malnutrition.

As for the bailouts… the above-mentioned regulations are a taking of the value of private property for public use. Such takings must be compensated. On the other hand, in order to keep the economy going, the compensation has to be distributed faster than it can be aimed. I suppose we should figure out the proper compensation after. One way is to suspend taxes during the recovery period on those businesses that had to be shut.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Is the Coronavirus Crisis an Argument against Globalization?

I doubt it. The problem isn't globalization; the problem is single-sourcing. Getting all of your surgical masks from Wuhan is as bad as getting all of your cars from Detroit or all of your government from Washington.

Most of the time, anti-globalists are defending getting all of your cars from Detroit.

On the other hand… This particular crisis is not an argument against globalization but it is also not much of an argument for globalization. A typical crisis goes wrong in just one area, so it's possible for other areas to make up for the resulting deficiencies. When something goes wrong all over the world, you can't always do that.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Old-style Numerals in MathJax

This is a test of the effects of the \oldstyle macro in MathJax: \({\oldstyle 0123456789ABCDEF}\).

Strange… It doesn't act like that in \(\rm\TeX\)…

Saturday, February 29, 2020

It's Been an Eventful Month

We see something that caused lots of trouble in the later stages of World War I—but was thought to have been defeated—spreading from human to human. In addition to the bizarre revival of Marxism, there's also the coronavirus crisis.

I must admit that the Never-Trump Republicans may have been responsible for the Sanders candidacy:
Never-Trump Republicans: “We will vote for anyone rather than Trump!”
Democrats: “Anyone?”
Never-Trump Republicans: “Anyone!”
Democrats: “Woo hoo! We can nominate a Commie!”
Never-Trump Republicans: “That's not what we meant…”

A President Sanders will fight the coronavirus by calling people on the verge of creating a vaccine “blood-sucking parasites.” He will next put price controls on face masks and have a public listing of the names and addresses of “hoarders.”

Meanwhile, the Other Ignorant Army claims that the shutdown of much of Chinese manufacturing is an argument against importing foreign goods. On the contrary, it is an argument against getting goods from just one area whether or not it crosses an ocean. This looks like the right-wing version of “global warming proves that we MUST do everything I already was in favor of!”

On the other hand, even I'm willing to admit that maybe we should not yet have a Constitutional Amendment banning immigration restrictions. Of course, if we're ever able to create vaccines in the proverbial jiffy, we can pass such an amendment safely.

Speculation: The coronavirus was an engineered plague designed for the purpose of shutting down protest demonstrations. (The news out of China now is completely different from the news of a few months ago.) Alternative possibility: It came from an unsanitized telephone.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Analogs of Donald Trump in Science Fiction

Aslan? He’s big and predatory and has a mane of golden hair. Difficulty: He's not the Son of God.

Hober Mallow? Some people might think so but he's not rich enough.

Henry Belt? He might look lazy and irresponsible and act like he's lazy and irresponsible but don't let that fool you. He really is lazy and irresponsible.

Zaphod Beeblebrox? Close, but he doesn't have two heads.

Lord Brodrig? Lord Brodrig had to be loyal to the Emperor because he was the most hated man in the galaxy. Trump has to be loyal to the right wing because they'll be the people keeping him out of jail, but only if he does everything they want. (Nixon forgot about that part.)


Thursday, January 02, 2020

We're Waiting


Wednesday, December 25, 2019

What if Isaac Newton Had Discovered Electrical Conductivity?

Electrical conductivity was discovered in 1729. What if Isaac Newton had discovered it six decades earlier? Could he have combined it with his researches in alchemy to discover electrochemistry? Would the development of electrical and electronic devices have been accelerated by six decades or more?

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Another Effect of the Chinese Government vs. Hong Kong

Earlier this month, the Chinese government pressured a gaming company to suspend a pro gamer who spoke out on the Hong Kong side of the recent controversy. I suspect that might have made free speech respectable again. Now, when you're pro-free-speech, you are on the side of Hong Kong and not merely on the side of seven zillion witches. That might even be responsible for Mark Zuckerberg defending free expression.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

A Problem … and a Solution

We have a problem. For some reason, younger voters tend to favor left-wing policies.

My best guess that it that's due to left-wing teachers in high school (or possibly earlier). I doubt if it's due to immigration. Immigrants just try to fit in … and their children's teachers tell them how to do it.

To make matters worse, the Left blames any resistance on “white” racism and actual “white” racists (unless they're false flags) are taking advantage of it. (I try to remember to put quotes around “white” when used in this context.) We need a way to get right-wing voters who have nothing to do with “white” racism.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, we have hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating against Communism. The Chinese Communist government will probably crack down some time. So… the US might have the opportunity to import a million voters who hate Communism.

One possible problem is that the current President might not agree to this. On the other hand, any such reluctance on his part might get Republicans to go along with the current impeachment effort.

This will also make it possible to distinguish between racists and conservatives. Real conservatives will either be in favor of this or will have reasonable objections (the Chinese Communists will almost certainly have some agents among the refugees). The racists will oppose this.

Once we have enough conservatives who are clearly not “white” racists, other groups (for example, anti-environmentalist Mexicans) may also start voting right wing.

The big problem with all of this is that it requires lots of events to go right. That tends to be unlikely.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Left Thinks the Right Struck First

One reason the Left is so eager to impose their opinions is that, in some sectors, the Right struck first, sometimes without realizing it. For example, one characterization of moderates is that they might claim:

If conservatives use the power of the state to end drag-queen story time in public libraries, what will stop progressives from using the power of the state to end prayer in public schools?
In this case, prayer in public schools was an earlier example of imposing opinions.

Similarly, the current proposals to classify those social media that censor the “alt-right” as publishers (and therefore legally responsible for anything illegal on their sites) is a matter of repealing earlier laws that made it for social media to censor pornography without being classified as publishers. Leftists believe “You said our stuff was obscene? Okay, we say your stuff is obscene!“

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

In Addition to a Pride March

If there was a Pride March, should there be marches for other sins?

A Greed March on Wall Street, a Wrath March in either Portland or Charlottesville, an Envy March through gentrifying neighborhoods, a Gluttony March past four-star restaurants…

Three decades ago, the Lust March would have been at Times Square. Today it should be held in Hollywood.

The Sloth March would be cancelled because the marchers couldn't be bothered to show up.

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