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

Thursday, December 31, 2015

When Guns Aren't Outlawed, Non-Outlaws Will Have Guns

The assertion that the Second Amendment is needed to defend against a potentially-repressive government is frequently greeted with incredulity. We have an actual case now. Dallas passed a law outlawing feeding the homeless without a license. A libertarian organization fed the homeless without a license but while armed. The police decided not to bother enforcing the law. It's a plausible guess the police would have been more stringent with an unarmed group.

Please note this is not a way to change people's minds; it is a way to intensify already-present opinions. If the activists had tried distributing heroin instead of food, there would have been arrests. An attempt to enforce an anti-homeless law would have been blamed on the police since anti-homeless laws are already regarded as dubious. An attempt to enforce an anti-opiate law would have been blamed on the activists since anti-opiate laws have widespread support.

I don't know if they could get away with hiding illegal aliens this way.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Anti-Gentrification Activists vs. Logic

The “reasoning” of anti-gentrification activists who support growth controls is the following sillygism (a reasoning process that yields a delusion):

  • Landlords want to build more.
  • Landlords want to raise rents.
  • Therefore building more will raise rents.
This is a classic example of the fallacy of the undistributed middle. “What landlords want” is the middle term that isn't distributed.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Taking Global-Warming Hysteria as a How-to Guide

Heather MacDonald has apparently been reading the global-warming hysterics and taking their rhetoric as a how-to guide.

  • Cherry picking data? Check.
  • Claiming that complaints about cherry-picking data are motivated by The Establishment? Check.
  • Reporting upticks and ignoring downticks? Check.
  • Claiming that attempts to put data in context are a distraction? Check.
  • Reporting outliers as though they were a trend? Check.
  • Reporting on a statistic as that sounds like a different (and more important) statistic? Check. (“25 of the nation's largest cities ” is not the same thing as “the nation's 25 largest cities.”)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

An Atheist Cliche Surfaces

A few years ago, I criticized the common atheist cliche that monotheists are disbelievers in all Gods but one:

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.

The atheist cliche is a classic example of circular reasoning. First, atheists assume that theists are narrow-minded fools and then point out how ridiculous the beliefs of their straw men are.

More recently, the narrow-minded fools in question have been turning up in the Instapundit comments. It's amazing how many people there agree with the atheists.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Replicating Experiments Is Not Wasteful!

I disagree with Senator Flake. The Flake list of wasteful government spending includes:

On the list, we find $1 million that went to the National Institutes of Health to study a dozen monkeys running in hamster balls on a treadmill. That's right. But as strange as the spending may seem to us taxpayers, it's not unique. The report states, "In a case of monkey-see, monkey-do, the National Institute on Aging is already spending more than $600,000 to conduct its own monkey on a treadmill study."

Replicating studies is not a waste of money. Maybe it should be privatized (we cannot trust the government to check its own results), but it is not a waste.

If scientists had paid more attention to the need to replicate studies, the stem-cell bubble of a decade ago could not have happened.

On Cultural Appropriation

On the one hand, this complaint about “cultural appropriation” is the epitome of a tempest in a teapot.

On the other hand, I’m still a bit perturbed when kosher salt is used to cure bacon.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Control Group Missing

Malcolm Gladwell's article asserting that successful entrepreneurs are not really risk takers because they structure their investments in such a way that they cannot lose lacks a control group. He needs a similar study of people who thought they could not lose but lost their proverbial shirts anyway.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Notable and Quotable

Jeff Jacoby said the following better than I could:

Human beings, by virtue of being human, are entitled to worship as they choose, to own property, to emigrate from their country, and to form peaceable associations. Those are fundamental rights, not dependent on the government's political preferences or utilitarian considerations. The freedom to engage in mutual and honest commerce is just as fundamental, and it should be just as immaterial whether lawmakers approve of the bargain struck between seller and buyer. Jones shouldn't have to lobby public officials for the right to hire Smith or teach Smith or pray with Smith, or seek Smith's opinion. Nor should he have to win government approval for the right to sell his goods and services to Smith. Not even if Smith lives in another neighborhood, or another state, or another country.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Another Recommendation to My Fellow Mathematicians

Another reason not to use Word: Not every system uses the same typefaces. You may think your article uses Brush Script, but after it's been sent from one computer to another several times, the Brush Script characters might have turned into a substitute at least once (and they're not going back). If you had used \(\rm\LaTeX\), they would have been \mathcal with no problems.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Foreign Policy and Fictional Nations

According to a recent opinion poll:

To put some of these findings about real modern day issues and Trump voters in context, 41% of his voters think Japanese internment was a good thing, to 37% who don't. And 41% of his supporters would favor bombing Agrabah to only 9% who are opposed to doing that. Agrabah is the country from Aladdin. Overall 30% of Republican primary voters say they support bombing it to 13% who are opposed. We asked the same question of Democrats, and 36% of them opposed bombing Agrabah to 19% in support.
In other words, 55% of Democrats, 50% of Trump supporters, and 43% of Republicans in general think we should have a foreign policy towards a fictional nation (just down the road from Bulungi). The refugees from the Agrabah civil war will probably turn up in the Thursday Next series.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Collatz Statistics, Part II

Part I can be found here.

I next tried plotting the lengths of the Collatz sequences against the initial values and got the following graph:

This looks like a moiré pattern.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

In 1913 (see a discussion here), the US school system was apparently redesigned to slowly destroy any tendency to value learning.

The immigrant generation regards learning as objectively good.

The second generation regards learning as subjectively good.

The establishment generation has a taste for learning (when they're not getting stoned).

The legacy generation wants the easiest possible meal ticket.

You can see the effects here.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Two Seveneves Speculations

In the novel Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, the Moon explodes, causing the surface of the Earth to become uninhabitable for 5000 years. The Pingers, one of the surviving groups, are descended from people who survived in submarines in deep ocean trenches.

In view of the fact that novels about the potential uninhabitability of the surface of the Earth, such as On the Beach by Nevil Shute have been around for decades, is it possible that various navies already have plans to do something similar? Let's see… It might make sense to have an all-female crew with a gallon of frozen sperm… They would need a hydroponics and a nuclear reactor…

Speaking of On the Beach, what would Rufus MacQuarie do in that situation?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Not a Case of “Name That Party”

In a discussion of high-end shoplifting, we see:

Goldshine says confrontations do happen, like the time he had to face down a regular, well-liked customer — then also a well-known adviser to the Democratic Party — who always concluded his visits by slipping a pint of Häagen-Dazs under his sport coat. “I had to take him to the side and say, ‘First of all, if it comes out, it will ruin your career.’” And second of all? “I said, 'You’re my friend, and I love you. But you can’t come in here anymore.'”
Also see this.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Strange New Respect

Nativists and protectionists are giving me a strange new respect for the crybullies insisting on “safe spaces.” When you can't even discuss the Chipotle E. coli problem without nativists etc. blaming it on either illegal aliens or Mexican imports, it's easy to understand the temptation to censor.

To the would-be censors: You cannot use the Ring!

To the nativists: You might try taking this little fact into account.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Enough to Kill X People

2,500 rounds of ammunition might sound like “enough bullets to kill 2,500 people.” There have been lots of other instances of the “enough to kill X people.” rhetoric. For example:

  • On April 1, 2003, I pointed out the lethal doses of aspirin present in an aspirin factory.
  • During World War II, the US manufactured 47 billion rounds of small-arms ammunition, enough to kill everybody on Earth at the time 20 times.
  • In the 1980s Nature published a letter claiming that even if SDI worked, the destroyed missiles would spread millions of lethal doses of plutonium across the globe. I then wrote a letter (on my trusty Commodore 64) pointing out that the plutonium in question would be no more radioactive than the radon naturally present in the air. They not only printed it; I even received requests for reprints!
  • The original version of this was, of course, the claim “We have enough nuclear weapons to kill everybody on Earth!”

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Collatz Statistics

I've been wondering about the statistics of the length of Collatz sequences so I wrote a program to print a chart of the distribution. (It's a Python program that produces a pbm file. You'll need netpbm to get something useful out of it.) Since the length of the Collatz sequence for \(2^n\) is \(n\), it makes sense to scale the lengths by dividing them by \(\log_2 n\). The results are as follows:

I didn't expect to see an interference pattern.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

A Question That Must Be Asked about the San Bernardino Shooters

One of the them was born in the USA. Was he radicalized in American schools? As I've said before:

I suspect that anti-American ideology in public school is more dangerous than anywhere else because, at least as far as youngsters are concerned, school is the Voice of the Establishment. If the Establishment says the Establishment is wrong…
Maybe we should look at schools before looking at borders or guns.

How to React to the San Bernardino Shooting and Similar Events

When among liberals say: “Conservatives are advocating border control in response to this. Don't they realize that X control is people control disguised by a euphemism? That goes for more than one value of X.”

When among conservatives say: “Liberals are advocating gun control in response to this. Don't they realize that X control is people control disguised by a euphemism? That goes for more than one value of X.”

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The Purpose of College

One possible purpose of college education is to enable the elites to communicate with each other using “dog whistles” that will not be understood by the common people. Along similar lines, the purpose of graduate education is to enable people in each field to communicate without being understood by outsiders.

It is, after all, well known that college teaches cryptical thinking. (I was inspired by a recent post at Slate Star Codex.)

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