Yet another weird SF fan


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

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The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
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Other interesting web sites:
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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Thursday, April 28, 2005

If You're Visiting from Blog Reload

You may be interested in other bloggers on the libertarian–theocon boundary.

As for one of the reasons for disagreement … In the particular case of abortion, it sure looks like abortionists are imposing their will on fetuses.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Brain-Dead vs. “Brain-Dead”

Orac is discussing the case of Taran Francis, a patient diagnosed as brain-dead whose family wants kept on life support. Recently, the family has been getting support from some of us tubists.

On the one hand, this is apparently completely different from the Terris Schindler Schiavo case. Brain death is not the same as a Persistent Vegetative State. According to the reported diagnosis, the brain of Taran Francis is entirely gone, not merely shrunken.

On the other hand, in a world where apparently sane people would refer to Terri Schindler Schiavo as brain dead and in which a CAT scan showing a shrunken cerebral cortex would be offered as evidence that the cortex was entirely gone, are such reports believable? It may take a while for the medical profession to rebuild trust.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Eye for Eye and Tooth for Tooth …

… and eye for tooth.

He's Back!

Trolling in Shallow Water is back!

Monday, April 25, 2005

On the Other Hand …

The usual type of controlled nuclear fusion might be several decades away, but there's a substitute we could probably build today if we were sufficiently nuts: Nuclear-powered piston engines.

Imagine a piston engine in which the cylinders are the size of the Vehicle Assembly Building and the spark plugs are replaced by nuclear bombs.

The best part about it is that it will keep environmentalists occupied protesting it and away from anything important.

Hints of the Singularity

It looks like self-replicating machines may be closer than the time horizon of a venture capitalist.

It's now possible to put mice into suspended animation. If the patient has expired, maybe someday we can renew him.

It's also possible to send e-mail using just your brain without getting your fingers involved.

Controlled nuclear fusion is still several decades away.

About that Last Pope

Just a few weeks after I blogged about it, Rand Simberg also speculated about the last Pope. Is there some way my priority can be recognized?

By the way, I recently came across a really odd claim related to the last Pope. The Prophecy of the Popes according to Saint Malachy gave a list of future Popes with a brief characterization of each. The present Pope is the next to last.

Twilight Zone theme …

Friday, April 22, 2005

It's Earth Day

EARTH FIRST!

We'll strip mine the other planets later.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I Should Lose Some Weight

Rachel Lucas posted a helpful reminder. I'm think about printing it out and taping it to my refigerator. There is the minor problem that it contains words that are not in my vocabulary …

Rite-Aid Shrugged

After reading The Accidental Jedi's comments and, especially, both of the Balloon-Juice rants on the bill to draft pharmacists into the War on the Unborn, I decided to take anarchocapitalism more seriously.

I was already starting to take anarchocapitalism more seriously, partly because of abortion. After all, many of the arguments for legalized abortion will, if taken seriously, lead to repealing all government-enforced laws. For example:

if the state can mandate that you give birth, it can also mandate that you do not.
Couldn't similar reasoning apply to any other law?

I suspect that allowing “Plan B” to be sold over the counter will not cause that many people suddenly start using it. Today, it requires a prescription. That enables the fiction that abortion is a medical procedure. The doctor's authority absolves patients of any responsibility. If patients aren't given permission by a man in a white coat, they may become more reluctant.

The need for permission may explain why we see very little anti-abortion terrorism and no anti-abortion suicide bombings. Nobody is giving permission.

To return to the topic of anarchism, there is a little problem with anarchy: How do you run a War on Terror in an anarchist society that doesn't involve George Soros with The Bomb?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Classical Liberalism Is Currently Known as Conservatism

I just thought I'd mention that. (Self-congratulations seen via Fark.)

On the other hand, if you want a serious look at political categories, the following quote from R. A. Lafferty might be relevant:

[T]he opposite of radical is superficial, the opposite of liberal is stingy; the opposite of conservative is destructive.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Victorian Infanticide Rates?

Megan McArdle has some criticisms of a paper (seen via Crooked Timber) alleging that Victorian theocracy was responsible for the relatively-high rate of post-natal infanticide in 19th-century England. I have a few additional criticisms:

  • Some of the usual complaints about the Victorian era (children working in “dark Satanic mills”) were due to a drop in the infanticide rate.

  • The increasing population growth indicates a decline in the death rate. There was an apparent increase in the birth rate, which might have been due to a decline in infanticide.

Is New York Becoming a Red State?

According to The Jewish Week (seen via Kesher Talk):

Terri Schiavo might still be alive had she been in a hospice in New York State rather than Florida.

A Queens Supreme Court justice, citing state and Orthodox Jewish law, ruled last week that a feeding tube is not medicine and must be inserted into a patient who cannot swallow unless the patient had provided explicit instructions to the contrary.
This might be the issue where we Red-Sea pedestrians finally split with the left.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Do Birds Have Feelings?

A bird doesn't have much of a neocortex.

What Is the Purpose of Socialized Medicine?

Socialized medicine was traditionally defended or opposed on the grounds that the government was making health care more abundant by spending more money on it. That is no longer the case. The chart at Crooked Timber makes it clear that the amount the government spends on health care is nearly constant. The more privatized systems are those where private citizens can spend their own resources as well.

In other words, a single-payer health plan is one designed to prevent you from spending your money the way you see fit. It might keep people away from quacks for a little while … until the quacks infiltrate the government.

One possible objection is that the increased private spending in the United States does not appear to improve outcomes. An objection to this objection is that the more open borders of the United States has the effect of improving health care for any given individual while decreasing the average health of Americans. It's also unclear how long the discrepancy will last.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Would People in Space Colonies Be Really Alive? Part II

My earlier post on the topic is being discussed at Back Off Government! and Stupidus (which sounds like it has to do with Memento Moron). According to Stupidus:

I guess another way to put it would be to ask if those people have any right to life... If the company operating the space colony found it to be too expensive to operate, would they have the right to, say, shut off life support, thereby killing the colonists? Or would they have the right to dismantle the colony, with everyone still inside, thereby killing them?
In order to make the analogy exact, the company in question would have to hire armed guards ready to stop anybody else from rescuing the colonists.

My original point, however, was to point out the inanity of the claims that insisting that a technical fix be used would mysteriously shut down technological development. (A particularly annoying example can be found at Hot Needle of Inquiry.)

By the way, which nation is more likely lead in the Intelligence Amplification sweepstakes? A nation where victims of Down's syndrome “don't get out of the delivery room”? Or a nation where yucky artificial means are routinely used to solve problems?

And now for a remark on the Other Side's trump card: I doubt if the existence of Creationists will have any effect. I haven't heard of many instances of otherwise qualified people being deflected from careers in medical research by a belief in a 6000-year-old Earth. Creationists aren't the red-state version of scientists; they're the red-state version of New Age Loons.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Why Should We Care?

At Wizbangblog, there's a discussion on the Mormon practice of baptizing people posthumously. (There was a similar discussion last year at Mery Yourish's blog.) My reaction is to quote a Roman Catholic writer, R. A. Lafferty (in the story “What's the Name of that Town?”):

What is the superlative of “so what”?

As long as I'm talking about religon …

The Norfolk County Council in the U.K. has a recommendation for religious schools:

In addition, when lecturing on Judaism, teachers are advised not to refer to the first 39 books of the bible as the Old Testament because it suggests the books are out-of-date.
The proper term, of course, is “Only Testament.”

Monday, April 11, 2005

Suspicious Behavior at Hospices?

At Hyscience, there's a discussion on whether some hospices have become euthanasia centers. I agree that it looks suspicious but there's more than one kind of suspicious behavior.

It's possible that they're looking suspicious deliberately in order to attract regulation. If there's a problem of “excessive” competition in the hospice industry, spreading a few nasty rumors could provoke regulations that would stop new entrants.

I don't know if that's so, but we should keep the possibility in mind.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Intelligence Amplification and Recovery from Severe Brain Damage

If I remember correctly, one of the characters in Marooned in Realtime by Vernor Vinge said that he knew somone who was almost decorticate but was able to lead a partly-normal life by intelligence amplification. You can think of this as a matter of artificial intelligence acting as a substitute for the natural kind.

One potential problem with using intelligence amplification as a means of recovery from severe brain damage is that the patient might not be the same person as before the injury. (For example, putting a robot head on a beheaded corpse would not count as recovery.) On the other hand, it looks like the lower parts of the brain have enough ability to learn (seen via Winds of Change) to retain parts of the original personality.

Another potential objection is that some people might object to being kept alive by such artificial means. (You can think of this as the other “yuck” factor.) This is far more general than objecting to a one particular technology such as, for example, embryonic stem cells. The only answer I have is: I am not responsible for those people. As Ann Coulter put it:

On the bright side, after two weeks of TV coverage of the Terri Schiavo case, I think we have almost all liberals in America on record saying we can pull the plug on them.

Addendum: The exact quote (from the end of Chapter 18) was:

"You know, we had a mascot: a poor, sweet girl, close to anencephalic. Even with prosthesis she was scarcely brighter than you or I. Most of the time she was happy." The expression on his face was wistful, puzzled. "And most of the time, I am happy, too."
A review with the quote can be found here.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Paleocon Says Something Reasonable about Immigration

Film at eleven …

Michael Savage recently suggested:

Illegal immigration: "I envision an Oil for Illegals program. . .The president should demand one barrel of oil from Mexico for every illegal alien that sneaks into our country."
This resembles my suggestion that we could charge admission to the United States. I was a bit uncertain about the suggestion on the grounds that the anti-immigration side might try to charge an excessive amount but this sounds almost reasonable.

This might even act as a safety-valve that could keep present citizens from resenting aliens.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

A Leftist Stereotype?

At Blog Reload, there's a discussion of why marijuana makes people leftist. It's an example of left-wing ideology, not because it's pro-drug, but because of the assumption that there's a trade-off between greed and happiness:

The liberal-conservative divide in America, when it comes to economics at least, greatly involves our work-life balance. Liberals argue for more mandatory vacation time, better labor conditions, and higher minimum wages. Conservatives argue for less government regulation, lower taxes on the wealthy to spur growth, and against labor union influence. Within the macro-economic world, the liberal-conservative left-right divide is one between which to value more, overall wealth or individual happiness.
One of the basic principles of leftists is that they know more about what people really want than the people do. For example, conservative economic policy increases the ability to make individual choices. On the other hand, it is assumed above that the people aren't making the choices that make them happier. (In LeftWorld, nobody actually likes having a job or spending money.) Meanwhile, back in reality there's evidence that conservative economic policies increase life satisfaction.

My theory (based on no direct personal experience) is that marijuana is a conformist drug. I have noticed that it is defended as reinforcing the approved habits in the social group of the user. In Victorian times it was supposed to suppress the sex drive. Recently it was supposed to do the opposite. When it was used by peace protestors it was a “peace drug.” When it was used by soldiers it induced foolhardy bravery. When it was used in areas with high crime rates it was a “killer weed.” If we put that together we can see that marijuana induces conformity. (That might explain the thoroughness of the collapse of trendy drug use in the '80s. Once its use declined, the remaining users would start conforming to the new trend and stop.)

Monday, April 04, 2005

It Finally Happened

A Creationist (Paul of Wizbangblog, seen via Deinonychus) has finally used the existence of preposterous environmentalist opinions on the part of alleged scientists as an excuse to ignore evolution.

The common environmentalist scam (that if you disbelieve consensus opinion on the environment you're obviously a Creationist) has had an effect.

In any case, science is made by the amount of evidence, not the amount of scientists. 1360 scientists coming up with independent pieces of evidence might be worth paying attention to. Judging by past experience, the environmentalist report probably involves 1360 scientists copying each other's analyses of the same dozen or so lines of evidence.

Would People in Space Colonies Be Really Alive?

After all, all of them are going to be maintained by artificial means.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Artificial Means?

I just realized why Malthusians are so ready to reject technical fixes for environmental problems. Even if such fixes work, they are merely a matter of keeping human beings alive by “artificial means.”

We all know where that can lead …

Friday, April 01, 2005

A Few Years Ago, Weren't People Saying That Skyscrapers Were Obsolete?

In Dubai, they're starting to build a skyscraper designed to be the world's tallest.

 
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