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:
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)

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Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
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Day By Day
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
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Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
Libertarians for Life
The Mad Revisionist
Piled Higher and Deeper
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Summers vs. Chua

According to Larry Summers:

“In a world where things that require discipline and steadiness can be done increasingly by computers, is the traditional educational emphasis on discipline, accuracy and successful performance and regularity really what we want?” he asked. Creativity, he said, might be an even more valuable asset that educators and parents should emphasize. At Harvard, he quipped, the A students tend to become professors and the C students become wealthy donors.

“It is not entirely clear that your veneration of traditional academic achievement is exactly well placed,” he said to Ms. Chua. “Which two freshmen at Harvard have arguably been most transformative of the world in the last 25 years?” he asked. “You can make a reasonable case for Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, neither of whom graduated.” Demanding tiger moms, he said, might not be very supportive of their kids dropping out of school.

As a general rule, when I see somebody more successful than I, it's somebody with more discipline and steadiness. (People who claim to be more “creative” than I usually apply that creativity to impressing an echo chamber.)

By the way, aren't real self-made billionaires noted for working almost continuously? Weren't Gates and Zuckerberg A students before they dropped out? Aren't the C students on the fund-raising committee legacy students of inherited wealth?

I suspect that we see here an example of credentialed vs. educated. Larry Summers is explaining that, once you get a Harvard credential, it doesn't matter if you actually learn anything.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Another Attempt at Discrediting a Right-Wing “Leader”

According to BoingBoing:

Noted speed freak, serial-killer fangirl, and Tea Party hero Ayn Rand was also a kleptoparasite, sneakily gobbling up taxpayer funds under an assumed name to pay for her medical treatments after she got lung cancer.
Other than that, she's okay?

As I've said before, when leftists look at typical conservatives, they almost always see people who are mindlessly following leaders—who were presumably chosen for their sterling characters.

As a result of this erroneous opinion, they repeatedly try the tactic of pointing to hypocrisy (ObSF: The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson) on the part of the alleged leaders of the right wing in the hope that we wingnuts will change our minds. This has never worked.

We don't follow people because of their sterling character; we follow people who we think make sense. Bad character on the part of supposed idols is interesting but ultimately irrelevant gossip.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I Am Not a Right-Wing Crank

According to sophia8, a commenter at Respectful Insolence:

It's sad and strange how all these right-wing cranks always, but always, regard the 1950s as some sort of Golden Age.
Does this mean I'm not a right-wing crank?

I don't have much good to say about a decade of 90% top tax rates, industrial unions dominating the economy, Freud still taken seriously, and—most important of all—conservatism relegated to “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Today's Weather

I think we've had quite enough sky dandruff this year.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Contrary to the Book of Job

I disagree with Hugo de Garis's definition of theism:

Let me state my views on theism vs. deism at this point. Deism, as just mentioned, is the belief that there is a “deity,” i.e., a creator of the universe, a grand designer, a cosmic architect, that conceived and built our universe. Theism is the belief in a deity that also cares about the welfare of individual humans. Deism I am open to, whereas I find theism ridiculous. The evidence against it is enormous. For example, last century, about 200-300 million people were killed for “political reasons,” e.g., wars, genocides, purges, ethnic cleansings, etc. It was the bloodiest century in history.

I suppose that means Jonathan Edwards was not a theist and that the Book of Job must be removed from Bibles.

He also went on to say:

If this theity was so concerned with human beings, why did our species come on the cosmic scene so late? Our universe has existed for the order of 1010 years. We humans have existed for about 105 years, i.e., only a thousandth of 1% of the age of the universe – “a mere afterthought of an afterthought.” Every primitive tribe has dreamt up its own gods, and those gods have properties familiar to their human creators. For example, New Guinea gods have a lot of pigs, Chinese gods have slitty eyes, etc. Cultural anthropologists of religion have estimated that humanity has invented more than 100,000 different gods over the planet and over the broad sweep of human history, most of which are no longer believed in. They have become “extinct religions.”

What counts as late? The odds are the human clade will persist for far longer than 1010 years. As for the “variety of gods” argument, as I've said before:

For the record, I believe in God and Allah and Brahman and the First Cause and that Existence exists … and I also believe they are the same entity.

Maybe I'm making too much of this. I have no objection to his arguments for deism and I even agree that there is a distinction between deism and theism, although I put the boundary elsewhere.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Peter Singer Should Win an Oscar

For his performance as a visitor from another world in his recent essay in The Wall Street Journal. If I didn't know any better, I might actually think he's a being from a completely-different universe. For example, take the following brief quote

Perhaps a technological miracle is just around the corner, one that will enable everyone in the world to consume energy at something like the levels at which we consume it, without bringing about disaster for everyone. It isn't ethically defensible, however, to do nothing while hoping for a miracle, given that it will be others, not us, who suffer the gravest consequences if that miracle never arrives.
He sure sounds like someone from a world with no U 235 in it.

It's amazing how he can ignore the fact that this “technological miracle” has already taken place. Yes, it can end global warming for less than the sacrifices Peter Singer is calling for.

I won't more than mention the fact that economic growth is the best anti-poverty program.

Addendum: There's a word for Peter Singer.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

An Effect of Immigration

Crazy Jews recently asked:

I need to know what the negative effects of immigration is in the politics of our government in any way, as long as it was from a reliable source and not an opinion. I’ve been trying to find information, but it seems scarce.
One place where it might have a negative effect (if you think of the effect as negative) is on the Judeo-Christian compromise on public schools: accommodate the top two religions. With continued immigration, the top two religions might turn out to be Christianity and Hinduism/Buddhism/Islam/whatever. (I don't think accommodating every religion is an option since there would be no school year left.)

In other words, my fellow Red-Sea pedestrians should either vote for closed borders (a violation of Exodus 23:9) or for school vouchers. I recommend the latter.

A Brief Note on the Silencing of TJIC

I'm sure my fellow wingnuts have heard that Travis Corcoran (also known as TJIC) got in trouble for a blog post:

In the wake of the recent shooting in Tuscon, Travis put up a post on his blog about how he didn't particularly feel like shedding any tears over the shooting of a politician, entitled "1 down, 534 to go!" Provocative? Inflammatory? Even tacky? Sure. But it was just speech. Political speech. The kind that's protected under the 1st Amendment, even when it's about politicians further up the food chain than congresscritters.

………

Some people were so butthurt, however, that they went to the authorities, and Travis received a knock on the door: It was the Arlington, MA po-po, there to relieve Mr. Corcoran of his guns, his ammunition, his firearms license, and his 2nd Amendment rights, all for having the temerity to use his 1st Amendment rights in the former Cradle of Liberty, now its grave.

Meanwhile, TJIC has taken down his blog, possibly on the advice of his attorney. I hope this is straightened out soon. The courts have been getting more supportive of formerly-untrendy civili liberties lately.

As for precedents… I recall the acquittal of Angela Davis being described at the time as an example of the reluctance of Americans to convict somebody on the basis of a bull session. Apparently, the Arlington police have other ideas.

Another possible precedent is that nobody (as far as I recall) called for the confiscation of Stephen Sondheim's poetic license as a result of musical glorifying assassins.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fourth Trimester Abortions?

Kermit Gosnell has been charged with what amounts to fourth-trimester abortions. The usual suspects blame this on abortion being inaccessible. If only it were legalized… Wait a moment…

What is the color of the sky on their planet? As far as I can tell, the only way abortion could be more accessible is if there were abortion trucks going down each street every day.

While I'm at it

One common excuse for very late-term abortions is that the fetus might be deformed. (I think of this as “destroying the fetus in order to save it.”) Apparently, the “yuck factor” isn't limited to conservatives. An apparently-horrible scenario occasionally mentioned is that of a baby born with organs outside the body. Please note that this can be survived.

Friday, January 21, 2011

I'm Qualified for This Job

According to Megan McArdle:

I confess, I have wondered how the corn growers settled on "the supercilious know-it-alls of the world" as their spokesmen for the wonders of corn syrup.
Speaking as a “supercilious know-it-all,” I'm qualified for the job … but the corn growers haven't contacted me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What Will Slime Molds Do Next?

First, it turns out that these brainless creatures can think.

Next, it turns out that they make the same type of logical errors that have been attributed to the need to win debates.

The slime molds are also able to get hired by governments as consultants.

The latest news is that they run farms.

The future course of events is clear. The slim molds will use their debating skills and government contacts to get price-support bills passed. If we see an apparently brainless blog start to argue persuasively but fallaciously in favor of farm price supports, we'll know what happened.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An Annoying Possibility

After the next congressional redistricting, I might be faced with a choice between Peter King and Carolyn McCarthy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Told You So

A few years ago, I predicted that eventually environmentalists would turn against solar:

There is a strong possibility that solar energy may render other forms of nuclear energy unnecessary. In that case we anti-environmentalist wackos should advocate nuclear energy anyway. When we advocate nukes, the Greens talk about solar. When we advocate solar, the Greens advocate abandoning industrial civilization.
For some reason, an environmentalist objected to that:
Spoken like a true anti-environmental loonie. There is no logic to your vitriol, you are driven strictly by hate.
More recently, environmentalists have sued to stop solar projects:

A U.S. conversation group has sued the federal government over its approval of a major solar power plant in the California desert, the latest in a string of challenges to the nation's renewable energy goals from the environmental community.

According to court papers, the non-profit Western Watersheds Project alleged U.S. regulators approved Brightsource Energy's 370-megawatt Ivanpah solar energy plant without conducting adequate environmental reviews, and asked the court to order the defendants to withdraw their approvals.

A solar project could turn the desert into a desert!

As for environmentalists claiming we must abandon industrial civilization, they are not hard to find.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A PDF or DALY Might Be Negative

John Brockman asked another World Question: What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit? As is usually the case, some of the responses are bulshytt. For example, according to Daniel Goleman:

Do you know the PDF of your shampoo? A 'PDF' refers to a "partially diminished fraction of an ecosystem," and if your shampoo contains palm oil cultivated on clearcut jungle in Borneo, say, that value will be high. How about your shampoo's DALY? This measure comes from public health: "disability adjusted life years," the amount of one's life that will be lost to a disabling disease because of, say, a liftetime's cumulative exposure to a given industrial chemical. So if your favorite shampoo contains two common ingredients, the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane, or BHA , an endocrine disrupter, its DALY will be higher.

If a product comes from a fertilized plantation with lots of runoff, the ecosystems of nearby marine algae are enhanced. If BHA turns out to prevent cancer (it's an antioxidant), its DALY might be negative.

Even if you can prove something causes change, the change need not be malign. Remember the slogan “Hope and Change”? We can use it too.

Daniel Goleman was clearly wrong when he also said:

To be sure, we have methods for assessing CO2 buildups or blood levels of BHA. But for the vast majority of people those numbers have little to no emotional impact. Our amygdala shrugs.
I don't think Daniel Goleman's amygdala is shrugging although the rest of his brain might be. Aubrey de Grey, another respondent to the same survery, said:

One particular aspect of this problem stands out in its potential for public self-harm, however: risk-aversion. When uncertainty revolves around such areas as ethics (as with nuclear transfer) or economic policy (as with flu vaccination), the issues are potentially avoidable by appropriate forward planning. This is not the case when it comes to the public attitude to risk. The immense fall in uptake of vaccinations for major childhood diseases following a single, contentious study lining them to autism is a prime example. Another is the suspension of essentially all clinical trials of gene therapy for at least a year in response to the death of one person in a trial: a decision taken by regulatory bodies, yes, but one that was in line with public opinion.

It looks like humans not only can react to invisible dangers but also over-react. Maybe we should pay less attention to PDF or DALY … except that the self-congratulation-based community probably won't let us.

By the way, what the bleep is meant by “disability adjusted”? It looks like the self-congratulation-based community has decided for us what the trade-offs should be between survival and survival without being “differently abled.”

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Why Are There Chinese Immigrants?

From a comment on Ann Althouse's blog:

Gosh it's enough to make you wonder why people of color would want to emigrate to such a lousy, racist place and why Asians would want to emigrate here and subject their children to the influence of such a bunch of white morons.
Chine is worth emigrating from because the Chinese decided to stop paying attention to other civilizations between the fifteenth and the nineteenth centuries. (They have only partly caught up since.) Judging from some of the responses to Amy Chua's article on Chinese parenting, many Americans have made a similar decision. Let's hope we come to our senses in less than four centuries.

Postscript: I just remembered that Amy Chua is also notable for writing a book on why closing off a society is a bad idea.

Addendum on the Debate Wanted

According to social scientists studying WEIRD people:

If you're reading this, there's a pretty good chance that you're one of the weirdest people on Earth. Don't be insulted, though -- most of your friends and acquaintances probably are too. Recent psychological research suggests that people from Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic societies -- WEIRD, for short -- not only live differently from the vast majority of the world's population, but think differently too.

………

Does this really matter? Aren't we all the same, after all? Not really, it turns out. WEIRDos tend to be more individualistic and more competitive than people from non-industrialized Asian and African societies. In tests measuring how groups of people work together, Westerners -- and Americans in particular -- are far more likely to look out for themselves.

Needless to say this disagrees with Shannon Love's claim.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I Disagree with the NRA for Once

The Florida branch of the NRA is apparently backing a proposed law that would ban a type of free speech:

Sponsored by state Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, the bill (HB 155) would make it a felony for a physician or staff member to ask patients or family members of patients if they own guns or store guns at home.
But wait, it get's worse:
Gun rights groups say the measure was prompted by complaints from gun owners following an incident last summer in which an Ocala-area physician told a couple to find a new pediatrician after they refused to answer questions about whether they had guns in their home and how they were stored.
FIW!

By the way, this is the flip side of the attempts to draft pharmacists into the War on the Unborn. I've criticized this type of nonsense before and I'll criticize it now.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

If Demonization of the Other Side Leads to Violence

… who are leftists planning to shoot?

Debate Wanted

According Shannon Love (while commenting on Amy Chua's article on Chinese mothers):

Noticeably excluded from her children’s activities is any kind of team activities. The secret of American’s collective success as a people is our ability to self-organize ourselves on both the small and large scale into highly effective teams The relative inability to self-organize into teams is why China and some other cultures have lagged behind in the modern world. Americans have long relied on activities like sports, theater, marching band etc to teach that one critical American cultural skill. By excluding such activities from her children’s life, Chua is depriving them of one of the most crucial skills an American must have.

On the other hand, I have seen claims that one reason for Asian-American academic success is that Asian students study together:
Their most significant finding was that while virtually all black students religiously studied, attended class and did their homework, they worked alone, in contrast to (for example) Chinese students, who most often formed informal academic networks and helped each other extensively.In response, the team developed workshop courses to assist black students to overcome patterns of isolation. Equally important, they developed a core of challenging and suitable problem sets that helped crystallize emerging understanding of calculus and fully demonstrate the beauty of the subject. They successfully demonstrated to their students that college success would require them to work with their peers and create a community based on shared intellectual interests and professional aims.
I think a debate is needed on the topic of whether Asian American students are able to form teams.

The comments on black students also apparently means success in forming teams in sports and marching bands “does not transfer” to success in forming teams in other fields.

A final snark: There isn't much of a correlation between World Cup victories and economic success.

Addendum: There's another debate that could be held on this.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This Is Embarrassing

I voted for this guy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stop Eating Plants

According to the latest Scientific American (in an article written by a non-scientist), the evil tobacco companies have allowed radioactive material in cigarettes. There is a minor problem with the article: The radioactivity was apparently due to radioactive fertilizer (uranium tends to follow phosphorus) and the same fertilizers are used for growing plants in general. If you really want to avoid radioactivity, you must stop eating plants.

Wait a moment… Aren't people who eat lots of vegetables supposed to have lower cancer mortality rates?

I have, by the way, done this before.

I Confess!

Tim Blair has found a reason I'm responsible for the recent shooting in Arizona:

Funny thing about those crosshairs. They ain’t crosshairs. These are crosshairs. The images shown on Palin’s map are crop marks, commonly used in printing.
I once devised a TeX macro that put crop marks on pages. If involvement in crop marks is suspicious …

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Somebody on the Right You Can Blame

In view of the insanity of the accused in the recent shooting in Arizona, the only person of the right side of the political spectrum who can be blamed is Thomas Szasz.

This does not apply to fans of Ken Kesey. You can't blame anybody.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

A Hereditary Aristocrat in Office

I work in a part of Queens, NY represented by Mark Weprin. It looks like he's in government by inheritance:

Mark S. Weprin was elected to the New York City Council on November 3, 2009. Prior to his election to the Council, Mark Weprin represented the 24th Assembly District in the New York State Assembly for fifteen years. He was elected to the Assembly in a special election in 1994 to fill the seat left vacant by the death of his father, Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin.
He inherited his City Council seat from his brother:
Weprin won a special election to represent New York State Assembly's district 24 on February 9, 2010. David and Mark Weprin essentially exchanged jobs; the Assembly seat David Weprin now holds was vacated by Mark Weprin when he was elected to his brother's former seat on the New York City Council.
Didn't we have a revolution to escape dynastic politics?

But wait, there's more:

As a proud father of New York City public school students, Mark Weprin deals with real issues in our public schools every day. He knows what our children need to succeed in school. Mark Weprin is an outspoken critic of the extreme emphasis on standardized test preparation in City schools. He believes that every City school should provide a supportive environment, a wide range of engaging experiences, and access to the rich cultural offerings of New York City. Mark Weprin has said that schools and teachers should not be evaluated solely on the basis of standardized test scores.
In other words, Baron Weprin is opposed to one of the most reliable ways for the commoners to get ahead.

I may be making too much of this. At least he isn't a Harvard graduate.

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Promised Land Doesn't Exist

A few years ago, I recommended that Anarchotopia be established on the garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean. I regret to say, it doesn't actually exist.

… yet.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

I Must Read This

After reading a 200 kilobyte blog post on “Why Anathem Sucks,” I decided I must read it, especially after reading the following:

Those familiar with Neal Stephenson know he is a right-wing libertarian, with the usual right-wing libertarian fetishes (like the gold standard and pretending that small undemocratic tax-haven countries represent the pinnacle of freedom). This acts as a strike against all of his novels, but usually he’s able to overcome these weaknesses by talking about math.

Anathem appears at first to be about math, which should play to Stephenson’s strengths. But, it turns out it’s really about the philosophy of math, which means it’s completely dominated by Stephenson’s elitist views. On top of that we get a ginormous dose of new-age mysticism.

Besides, the definition of “bulshytt” alone is worth the price of admission.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Deductions

What can we deduce from this image? (It's from concept ships, seen via TJIC.)

First, although the scene gives the impression of being similar to an airport, we see no evidence of air travel, not even contrails in the distance. Since they have the ability to travel at high speeds, judging by the ground-based rocket-powered transport seen, this is not because of a fuel shortage. We're on a planet with either thinner air, higher gravity, or both. The lack of redness near the setting/rising sun also indicates thin air.

Second, they're using rockets instead of either locomotives or electric power. My guess is that rockets might call for less steel for a given power output than locomotives and less copper than electric power. It looks like we’re on a world with a heavy-metal shortage.

Third, they apparently use domes for routine buildings. The towers in the distance are for a display of conspicuous consumption on the part of the upper classes. There are a handful of towers nearby for middle management, but not that many of them. This might indicate frequent use of materials that are stronger in compression than tension, i.e., ceramics. This is another indication of a heavy-metal shortage.

Fourth, there is no fuel shortage. They're able to use a rockets for ground transport which probably requires lots of energy. Since it's doubtful if a world with thin air would have an abundance of fossil fuels and it's doubtful if a world lacking heavy metals would have much uranium, they're probably using nuclear fusion. They might have an abundance of deuterium and lithium.

It's amazing how much one can deduce from just one picture.

The Next Civil Rights Frontier

According to NCBI ROFL:

Some perversions, while representing formidable psychopathology, are also tributes to the complexity of the human mind and unconscious ego mechanisms. The patient, a man in his late twenties, reported a periodic desire to be injured by a woman operating an automobile. This wish, present since adolescence, he had by dint of great ingenuity and effort, gratified hundreds of times without serious injury or detection.
Are they even allowed to call this a perversion? Next year, there will be an article proving that this taste in heterosexual interaction is an inborn trait that cannot be overcome by an effort of will. The following year, there will be a law declaring that he has a right be run over by a woman.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Thucydides Was Almost Right

After reading a recent pile of organic fertilizer from Colman McCarthy, I came to the conclusion that when Thucydides said, “The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.” he was almost right. He should have added that the thinking will also be done by fools. For example,

ROTC and its warrior ethic taint the intellectual purity of a school, if by purity we mean trying to rise above the foul idea that nations can kill and destroy their way to peace.
I thought the intellectual purity of a school was tainted by professors who pretend their ideas are based on evidence or reasons when they're not. (This can actually be measured for each intellectual field.)

But wait, there's more:

When I suggested that Notre Dame's hosting of ROTC was a large negative among the school's many positives, Hesburgh disagreed. Notre Dame was a model of patriotism, he said, by training future officers who were churchgoers, who had taken courses in ethics, and who loved God and country. Notre Dame's ROTC program was a way to "Christianize the military," he stated firmly.

I asked if he actually believed there could be a Christian method of slaughtering people in combat, or a Christian way of firebombing cities, or a way to kill civilians in the name of Jesus. Did he think that if enough Notre Dame graduates became soldiers that the military would eventually embrace Christ's teaching of loving one's enemies?

The interview quickly slid downhill.

His Lord Jesus Christ said:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
This guy can't even be dogmatic right.

Addendum: The double negative in the original post has been corrected.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Do Right-Wing Intellectuals Always Obey Their “Corporate Masters”?

No:

[Roger Milliken] was one of the great philanthropists of the conservative movement–he was an early and significant supporter of National Review, back when a young Bill Buckley, a fellow Yale alumnus, was looking for donors who shared his vision. Milliken went on to back Barry Goldwater and other GOP candidates. In time, he broke with many of his friends over trade–he was strongly against free-trade agreements such as NAFTA–but he remained broadly loyal to the movement he had helped create.
In other words, they did not obey their alleged master when it came to free trade, in contrast to what some clowns seem to think.

The First Time Since 1977

This year is the first time since 1977 that the year number has only one hole in it. That makes it harder to celebrate the New Year wearing “2011” glasses.

 
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