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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Someone who used to be serious (formerly Plague)
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Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
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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

Friday, January 31, 2014

A Terrible Idea

I think Roger L. Simon's proposal to grant amnesty to illegal aliens but forbid them to vote until they've left the country and reapplied is a terrible idea.

According to the Constitution, voting strength in the House of Representatives is proportional to population. That means areas that attract immigrants will see increased voting strength per voter. Since the jobs that immigrants do were those done by adolescents a generation or two ago, that means areas with low birth rates (i.e., “blue” states) will become more powerful. We can expect Democrats to go along with this enthusiastically.

By the am I the only open-borders proponent among Pajamas Media commenters?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Difference between the Late Pete Seeger and Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden spoke truth to power. Pete Seeger refused to do so.

Monday, January 27, 2014

I Know You Are But What Am I?

I'd be more inclined to take the possible Global-Warming Crisis seriously if the loudest proponents didn't have a propensity to cite The Consensus of Climate Science and then reject it as soon as it doesn't fit their hysteria. For example:

Things are much worse and much more desperate than most people realize. What the general public does not realize is that climate Sciene comes from peer-reviewed journals which are deeply conservative. Climate scientists know what they don't put in print because you can't prove it scientifically, but all human life and then all life on Earth could end if we do not transition to renewable energy in the next few decades, and to accomplish that we need to start now. We are 20 years behind already.
All Hail the Experts … until They Disagree with Us

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Second Look at The Man with a Hoe

I sometimes use The Man with a Hoe as an example of what work was like before capitalism. On the other hand, by the mid-19th century capitalism had started, but had not yet gotten far. So… what benefits did capitalism bring him?

First, let's consider what we don't see. We don't see chains. We don't see an iron collar. We don't see an overseer making sure he didn't escape. He was neither a slave nor a serf.

Second, let's consider what we do see. We see clothes instead of rags. We see shoes on his feet. He might still have to shovel manure but at least he didn't have to wade through it.

In the course of the next century, the back-breaking labor and routine use of horse manure also disappeared.

In other news, this XKCD cartoon can easily be applied to anecdotes of the alleged problems of capitalism.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Brief Note on Global Warming

Looking back at the weather for the past few days, my current attitude toward global warming is: Faster, please.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Brief Note on Autodidacts

Everybody is an autodidact (at least after the first few grades of elementary school).

Students teach themselves. At most, the teacher saves a little time and provides occasionally-useful advice on what topics might be important.

This explains why Transfer of Learning (one of those topics that apparently require capitals) is so rarely observed. There is no good control group. Students who didn't take course X aren't a good control group because, if needed, they can find out the same things themselves.

There are two important things that are usually done in school. 1) Finding out if the students actually learned anything. 2) Correcting common mistakes. I suspect the left-wing bias among schoolteachers is more a matter of not correcting left-wing bulshytt than in proclaiming left-wing ideas.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

In Defense of the Presumptuous Philosopher

I don't think the presumptuous philosopher (seen via Less Wrong) is that presumptuous. The Self-Indication Assumption fits the evidence that is usually part of the Copernican Litany and fits it better.

The evidence for the Copernican Litany is in three categories:

  • Evidence that is both solidly established and fits the Copernican Litany well. This is limited to the fact that Solar System is but one of many stellar systems and the Holocene is but one of many eras.
  • Evidence that is not solidly established at all. Marxism (that supposedly dethroned the Bourgeoisie) and Freudianism (that supposedly dethroned the conscious mind) are the best examples.
  • Evidence that is solidly established and made to fit the Copernican Litany only by distortion. Examples include the fact that the Solar System is in the outskirts of the Galaxy or that there are many galaxies.
The evidence that is supposed to fit the Copernican Litany also fits the following scenario: What we thought was the universe is but a small part of the universe. The parts of the Copernican Litany that don't work usually say that something already known to exist is far more important than realized. This only applied to Copernicus's original theory that said the Sun is far more important than realized.

The Expanding Universe pattern fits Copernicus and Bruno. It fits evolution, once you regard the universe as consisting of space and time instead of merely space. It fits the development of astronomy. It does not fit Marxism, Freudianism, or animal rights.

Meanwhile, given a choice between two theories, it makes sense to bet on the one with a larger universe.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Note to Cryonicists

In a single-payer health program, this guy or one of his mental clones might decide what to do about “corpsicles.”

Two Questions about The Big Bang Theory TV Show

  1. Do autotrophs drool?
  2. What are the effects of the replacement of Cliff Clavin with Sheldon Cooper as the ANSI standard nerd?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Deja Moo, Part III

According to Rachel Burger a knowledge-based economy calls for more “emotional intelligence.” As far as I know, that's because both real knowledge and touchy-feely bulshytt both result in what are known as college degrees.

I had some earlier comments on this that I'm too tired to repeat here.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Brief Note on “Climate Change”

If the people concerned about “climate change” are planning to stop climate from changing, would their motto be “If you like your climate, you can keep your climate?”

Friday, January 10, 2014

Before and After

Before: Businesses won't react to Obamacare by restricting hours.

After: Businesses that react to Obamacare by restricting hours are slime and can only be restrained by more regulations. Of course, they won't react to the additional regulations…

It's Been Done

According to IO9:

Tom Scott imagined a scenario where everyone else in the universe was afraid of humans. It's fantastic.

The premise of the video, Danger: Humans, is simple, it's a PSA from the Interstellar Safety Council notifying alien races how terrifyingly dangerous and awful humans can be. The video is perfect because it turns basic everyday things that humans do into something much more frightening (and completely true), like eating other life forms for sustenance. The PSA video also admits some of our weak points which is our need for oxygen and comedically, our self-delusion but it does stress that if humans reach another planet that has oxygen, we will take it over.

It's fascinating to imagine the other side in a sci-fi story, like if we were the aliens who invaded somebody else's home planet and wanted to take it over and not the other way around (as it is in most movies). It's a premise—humans as the bad guys—that should be explored in more movies and stories. We don't know what's out there, we don't know where we rank, so why can't we be the people most feared in the universe?

It's been done. This was common in Campbell-era ASF, based on the theory that humans are about to take over the universe and, since any ETs out there have not taken over the universe, they must be inferior to humans in the universe-taking-over business.

It was enough of a cliche to create reactions. For example, Asimov tended to avoid including interstellar colonialism by writing about an all-human galaxy. (The reason ETs have not taken over the galaxy is that they aren't there.) Another reaction could be found in “Original Sin” by Vernor Vinge in which the ETs were more aggressive than humans but too quarrelsome to cooperate enough to build a civilization.

This type of story hasn't been that popular recently. I was about to cite Birthright: The Book of Man by Mike Resnick as a recent example but it was written over three decades ago.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

500,000 Years to Safety

There is a minor problem with the common claim (repeated here) that plutonium takes 500,000 years to become allegedly safe. The 500,000-year figure is the amount of time that will reduce the number of plutonium-239 atoms to 1/1,000,000 of their original number. On the other hand, they will have turned into uranium-235, which is only 30,000 time less radioactive than the plutonium. The uranium atoms will be 1,000,000 as radioactive as the original plutonium after 3.5 billion years.

On the gripping hand, a typical nuclear reactor will produce somewhat fewer plutonium-239 atoms than it uses up uranium-235. Even breeder reactors will eventually have a steady amount of plutonium and continue using up uranium. If we assume that half as many plutonium-239 atoms are created as uranium-235 atoms are destroyed, it will take only a third of a million years to become less radioactive than the original uranium.

The above analysis assumes that the waste is merely buried (or dumped in Death Valley … which could turn it into a desert) instead of being reprocessed and burned up in more reactors. In the latter case, the fission products will become less radioactive than the uranium in much less time.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Questions about the NSA Spyware

If information wants to be free, would that include your phone metadata?

If decent people have nothing to hide and should not object to spying, would that include the NSA?

If the NSA said they stopped spying would you trust them as long as they can still prosecute leakers?

Would national-level controls over personal data (ostensibly to stop the NSA from spying) be used to stop citizens from investigating the personal data of corrupt politicians?

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Why Are the People Most Hysterical about Climate Change Never Climate Scientists?

I've noticed the people most hysterical about climate change are almost never climate scientists. A typical scientist who takes global warming seriously will usually say something along the lines of “We have a problem here that we have to solve.” The scientist will sometimes even mention solutions that make sense. The non-scientists who are most ‘concerned’ about global warming, on the other hand, tend to say “THE SKY IS FALLING!”

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Mayor de Blasio's First Major Decision

… is to announce that he can exceed the Big-Gulp ban as far as sheer lunacy is concerned. (By the way, he's keeping that.)

Thursday, January 02, 2014

It's January 2

How are you celebrating Asimov's birthday?

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The Implications of Elsevier's Takedown Notices

The fact that Elsevier is sending out more takedown notices isn't because they've suddenly turned greedy. I'm sure they were always greedy. It's because they are no longer deterred by the downside (losing business because of trying to grab too much). That means that they don't think there will be much more business to lose. As a result they are milking their current portfolio as much as possible instead.

This might be a result of the Elsevier boycott.

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