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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jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com

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Small Sample Watch
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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)

Interesting weblogs:
Back Off Government!
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Debunkers Discussion Forum
Deep Space Bombardment
Depleted Cranium
Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.
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Greenie Watch
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Out of Step Jew
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The Raving Theist
Respectful Insolence
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Slate Star Codex
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Tools of Renewal
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Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
Crank Dot Net
Day By Day
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
Libertarians for Life
The Mad Revisionist
Piled Higher and Deeper
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
Sustainability of Human Progress

Yet another weird SF fan

Monday, June 30, 2014

Commonly-Accepted Premises I Don't Share and Hobby Lobby

One reason for the pointless arguments over the recent Hobby Lobby decision is that many of the arguers assume premises that the rest of us don't share. Let's see which of the premises I mentioned a few weeks ago apply:

  • Any behavior that is caused is incompatible with free will. In other words, if you do something for a reason, you are not free.
    If you decide not to get contraception because you have to pay for it, you are therefore not free.
  • History moves one way.
    This decision means history is moving in an anti-contraception direction. Soon birth control will become illegal.
  • ‘Government’ is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.
    Hobby Lobby can get people to do things together and is therefore a government. This means a government has banned birth control.
  • If a sufficiently-large number of people do something, they cannot be blamed. Either they are right or they have no choice.
    If some women aren't using birth control even when they need it, it must because they had no choice.
  • The amount of government is approximately constant. Regulating X means deregulating Y. Adding regulations will not strengthen the government.
    When something is no longer compulsory, it will soon be forbidden.
All this nonsense fits together.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fermat's Last Theorem and Set Theory

It's well known (at least to mathematicians) that mathematics can be expressed using only the concepts of set theory. So… I was wondering how to express Fermat's Last Theorem using set theory. It shouldn't be that hard. After all, \(a^b\) is the cardinality of the set of possible functions with a domain of cardinality \(b\) and range inside a set of cardinality \(a\). Functions can be expressed in relations, which can be expressed in terms of sets of ordered pairs, which can be expressed in terms of set theory. Expanding all those definitions may get a bit complicated. I then remembered that I'm an expert on \(\mathrm{\TeX}\), which is based on expanding definitions. In other words, it should be relatively simple to express Fermat's Last Theorem using set theory in a \(\mathrm{\TeX}\) file.

As soon as I have something, I'll let you know.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I Have a “Strange New Respect” for the Supreme Court

In unanimous decisions, the Supreme Court struck down attempts by the EPA, the President, and the States of Massachusetts and California to exceed their legitimate authority. Please note these decisions include the four liberal Justices.

I'm not sure why liberals on the Supreme Court (at least this decade) are so much more honest that liberals in the media.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Debate Wanted

A debate between Thomas Piketty (who thinks that the rate of return on investment will stay above the growth rate of the economy) and A. K. Dewdney (who thinks that that rate of return on investment is close to zero over the long term) might be of interest.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why “Lose” Evidence?

The latest twist in the IRS saga is that the IRS may have deliberately destroyed evidence. I'd like to know why they would do that. What were they afraid of? The IRS apparently came up with their substitute for laws declared unconstitutional in the Citizens United decision but those laws had the support of the Democratic base and even some moderates. Coming clean might increase Republican turnout but it would also increase Democratic turnout. They didn't have to worry about about the Justice Department. Even if the Democrats lost an election, the President could have arranged last-minute pardons. Impeachment and conviction was unlikely as the Democrats controlled the Senate. The IRS might lose a court case or two but the Democrats had a history of ignoring courts. (This is being revived.)

The only possibility that makes sense is that they're covering up activities that even leftists find sleazy. I am not imaginative enough to know what that is. Even the theory that the President's re-election campaign used IRS data seems inadequate.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What Natural Resource Is Easier to Get on Earth Than Nearly Anywhere Else?

In the course of a book review, Eric S. Raymond pointed out that there isn't much need for extraterrestrials to grab natural resources:

Yet another is that Mays has managed to invent a reason for aliens to go to the colossal expense of invading Earth with sub-lightspeed starships that is both novel and plausible-seeming.

This is harder than it sounds. Want metals? Mine your own asteroid belt. Want volatiles? Scoop ‘em off comets or an ice moon or somewhere without a deep gravity well and obstreperous natives. Want energy? You have easy access to your home sun. Want slaves? Build robots. You can’t want our women, the orifices won’t fit and the pheromones are all wrong.

A natural resource that's easier to get on Earth than nearly anywhere else? Chlorine. As far as I know, it's more concentrated in Earth's oceans than anywhere else in the Solar System.

On the other hand, they probably can get to Earth-like worlds without natives and, if they're passing by and have to tank up, they can probably buy the trace amounts needed. “Send us 1 million tons of salt, and we'll give you the blueprints for a working nuclear fusion reactor.”

Friday, June 20, 2014

It's only \(\aleph_0\) Bytes

Infinitely-large zip files are possible.

I'm reminded of the time I created a WordPerfect 5.1 file called “A” consisting of sub-documents “B” and “C”. File “B” consisted of sub-documents “C” and “A” and file “C” consisted of sub-documents “A” and “B”. I then set file “A” to expand.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What Did the Invertebrates Know and When Did They Know It?

The National Zoo is closing its invertebrate exhibit. It's obvious to the online paranoid community that this must be tied into the dense pack of recent Washington scandals. The leeches, for example, are long-time IRS employees and know the exact location of the missing emails. The octopus works for the State Department and has the inside scoop on Benghazi. The sponges are clients of the student loan program, the bugs are controlled by the NSA, etc.

The slime molds, contrary to my recent speculation, aren't actually government employees but their skill at brainless, illogical arguments makes them invaluable in the media.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Secret Weapon of Capitalism

Sarah Hoyt (seen via Instapundit) is starting to get hysterical about President Obama (“raised as a communist”) and his possible attempts to crash capitalism. She's forgetting the secret weapon of capitalism: The Other Side is trying to destroy capitalism but they don't know what it is. (ObSF: “Mr. Jester” by Fred Saberhagen) For example, they tried keeping oil prices high … only to cause a revival of the US oil industry. In the 1960's they tried overthrowing the System using anti-authoritarian memes (cf. “I remember Babylon” by Arthur C. Clarke) only to find those memes overthrew their system instead. It looks like they're currently trying to crash US currency. If they succeed, they'll turn the US into the world's low-cost producer.

A Note on Physics Envy

The well-known concept of physics envy usually involves imitating the success of physics at quantifying concepts. The trouble with that is that the results, in other fields, are similar to measuring the hotness of mustard by sticking a thermometer into it. I recently realized there is a second type of physics envy: imitating the tendency to produce theories that most people cannot understand and therefore regard as subjective bulshytt.

In recent decades, a dim, incoherent knowledge of science has become available to anyone. As a result, we see the nitwit interpretation of quantum mechanics, idiotic ideas about multiverse theories, and the belief that energy means anything you want it to mean. (At least the claim that Einstein proved everything is relative has disappeared … for now.)

This alternative physics envy might explain nonsense in humanities scholarship.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

You Don't Have to Actually Know Anything to Be a Journalist

… and it shows.

Apparently, the standards of the larval journalist I discussed here are common.

Addendum: The article I discussed appears to be here, for now. The “right to be forgotten” may come into play, though.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Brief Note on Using Scientific Evidence

A common technique among statists is to cite scientific evidence that phenomenon X is important and that phenomenon X might be affected by human activities and conclude that phenomenon X must be regulated (and regulated their way).

One example, there is clear evidence that climate change is important and some evidence it might be affected by human activities. Is the way it is important the same as the way it might be affected by human activities? It is important from the point of view of avoiding an Ice Age and human activities might make the climate warmer. Those don't seem to go together.

Another example, there is some evidence that genes affect IQ and some evidence that genes vary between human populations. Are they the same genes? There is a lack of evidence on that score.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Back-of-the-Envelope Calculation of The Social Cost of Carbon

If we 1) assume that AGW causes the ice caps to melt; 2) the resulting flood displaces 10% of the world population; 3) the cost of relocation per person is of the same order of magnitude as the per capita GDP; 4) the appropriate discount rate is about the same as the GDP growth rate (Piketty thinks it's more); 5) all this happens over the course of the next century, then total cost per ton of carbon is about the world GDP divided by the annual carbon emissions divided by 1000. The world GDP is $84.97 trillion. The annual CO2 emissions are 31,350,455 thousands of tonnes. Since 12 tonnes of carbon produces 44 tonnes of CO2, the social cost of carbon is $9.94 per tonne of carbon.

Yes. I've made several simplifying assumptions … starting with the assumption of solar or other nuclear hasn't made fossil fuels obsolete and continuing with the assumption that many places won't be improved by the absence of blizzards and assuming that increased plant growth won't absorb the excess CO2… On the other hand, this is a starting point. It shows that we can face facts without being hysterical and that the people who are getting hysterical are emitting the highly toxic pollution known as bulshytt.

On the gripping hand, a back-of-the-envelope calculation also shows you can be run over by a cupcake.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Help! Help! I Was Run Over by a Cupcake!

As is well known, physics can give counter-intuitive results. As is not so well known, that can happen even in the mundane parts of physics.

For example, let us calculate the energy of a two-ton automobile traveling at 55 mile/hr. This is 24.5 m/s. If two tons is 1800 kg, the standard formula \(\frac{mv^2}{2}\) gives 540,225 J. So far so believable. The counter-intuitive part comes in when we try translating that into Calories. At 4184 Cal/J, 540,225 J becomes 130 Calories, about as much as a large cookie or small cupcake.

No wonder overeating is so dangerous…

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Read These Together

On the one hand, we have a complaint about defunding studies in a field with a history of dubious research that has been used as excuses for government regulations.

On the other hand, we have a complaint about studies in a field with a history of dubious research that has been used as excuses for government regulations.

Friday, June 06, 2014

A Disadvantage to Being Online

After patting myself on the back for posting brilliant remarks online, I appeared to have developed a rotator-cuff injury…

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Laissez-Faire Government

The Obama administration can be explained quite simply: It's an imitation of what leftists think conservatives do.

To take but one example among many, leftist think that conservatives think that laissez-faire economics operates by magic. Just say the magic words “laissez faire” and get out of the way of business. In accordance with that, the President is saying magic words and getting out of the way of bureaucrats. It's time for decentralized central planning!

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Freedom of Information Acts and Professor Laycock

Why would the gay activists need a FOIA request? Can't they imitate James O'Keefe and infiltrate? Can't they ask WikiLeaks for help? Nowadays everything leaks. Can't they be more patient?

In other words, I'm much less offended by this than most of my fellow wingnuts. Nowadays, the expectation of privacy is close to nil for anybody even moderately well known.

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