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

Saturday, January 30, 2016

How Much Will It Cost to Melt a Snowfall?

Let's take New York as an example.

The land area of New York City is 790 km2. It is 30% roads. Fluffy snow is approximately 10% of the density of water. The recent snowfall was 26.8 in. It takes 333.55 J/g to melt snow. Putting this all together, we need a little over \(5\times10^{15}\) J of energy to melt all the snow on the streets of New York City.

At a price of 27¢ per kilowatt-hour (“New York values” are a matter of overpaying for everything), that would cost $400 million (more than the usual budget) and the winter isn't over yet.

But wait, there's more. That amount of energy would be a little over a megaton. In other words, we would be nuking the snow.

On the other hand, maybe I skipped a decimal point somewhere.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Past Posts with Some Relevance to a President Trump

Wednesday, January 23, 2008:

I'm leaning toward McCain on the grounds he's “conservative enough” but more deniable than Romney. If Romney wins, we'll spend the next 4 or 8 years explaining him away but if McCain wins we won't be held accountable for anything liberal he does. (I suspect that the greatest damage to conservatism is done by moderate Republicans who are not acknowledged as moderate, such as Nixon or George W. Bush. Moderate republicans who are acknowledged as moderate, such as Eisenhower or George H. W. Bush, are more harmless.)

Thursday, October 09, 2008:

If Obama is elected and doesn't govern from the center, the Republicans will almost certainly regain the House and probably the Senate in 2010 and possibly the White House in 2012. The problem is that the Wall Street faction of the Republican Party has taken itself out of consideration in the course of the past few weeks. In other words, we are likely to see nativists (and possibly protectionists) running the government in a few years.

We right-wing open-borders people might start looking at the theocratic wing of the Republican Party. (I promise that if I endorse Mike Huckabee for President on the blog, I'll throw up first.)

Saturday, October 06, 2007:
The fact that today's Republicans are more open to the lower classes has a disadvantage. Some of the new recruits are ot-nay oo-tay ight-bray.
Sunday, February 03, 2008:

One problem is that the usual climb to the top in politics requires a personality who believes in political power. The best way around that is to have a candidate who climbed high in the business, academic, or entertainment worlds before switching to politics. I suspect much of “political correctness” is for the purpose of ensuring that few future Reagans will come from the academic or entertainment worlds. On the other hand, there might be an adequate supply of conservatives from economics departments.

About the last one: Even some people outside of government can be statists.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Two Borders

The look of the border of North Korea is a well-known illustration of the problems with collectivism:

We can see clearly the difference between development and suppression of development.

The following is part of the border between the US and Mexico:

This also looks like a contrast between development and suppression of development … except that it's the developed country on the left.

If we continue to suppress human activity in the US, we might be in danger of turning into a bad example similar to North Korea.

But wait, there's more. Immigration restrictionists, while arguing with libertarians, frequently claim that letting in “Third-World people” will cause a takeover by statists. It looks like the Third-World invasion may help get rid of the regulatory state instead.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Few Notes on UNSoNG

UNSoNG, a novel by Scott Alexander is currently being serialized. It starts with the Apollo 8 astronauts reading from Genesis (which, if I recall correctly, was criticized at the time for introducing “Babylonian cosmology” into what should have been a scientific endeavor), followed by them running into the crystal sphere surrounding the world.

One way to look at it is that it takes the straw-man argument of the preceding paragraph and made it real: that the world really does have a Babylonian cosmology.

Another way to look at it is that it's what happens when there's a buffer-overflow bug (assuming the Simulation Hypothesis). The data (in the form of a space capsule) overwrote part of the symbol table.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Does Donald Trump Represent “New York Values”?

I'm sure nearly all of my dozen or so readers have heard of Ted Cruz's claim that Donald Trump represents “New York values.” My initial reaction was that the only “New York value” that Donald Trump represents is that of being a braggart and that, according to stereotype, it also appears to be a Texas value.

More recently, Senator Cruz issued an apology, explaining that he only wanted to criticize the policies of Andrew Cuomo or Bill de Blasio instead of New York in general. My reaction: Apology accepted.

On the other hand, at first it's unclear what Donald Trump has in common with Andrew Cuomo or Bill de Blasio. After all, Donald Trump is regarded as being on the Right whereas Cuomo and de Blasio are the Left.

On the gripping hand, the policies of Cuomo and de Blasio that Ted Cruz criticized are based on the idea that we can provide prosperity by suppressing the “wrong” economic activities (fracking, low-wage work, or non-government schools) or even the “wrong” people (unwanted fetuses, gun owners, or people trying to avoid having anything to do with gay marriage) and Donald Trump represents the same idea, although the “wrong” economic activities involve foreign imports and the “wrong” people are immigrants.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Explaining Leonardo DiCaprio's Apparent Hypocrisy

At first sight, Leonardo DiCaprio's disapproval of greenhouse-gas emissions might look hypocritical considering his lifestyle. We must recall that leftists do not believe in consumer sovereignty. They believe that “businessmen” call the shots in all economic interactions. In other words, the oil and industries are forcing him to fly.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

An Effect of “Ems”

One obvious effect of human brain emulations (also discussed here) is a large increase in population. That will have several effects.

A large population might need a far smaller proportion of scholars. Present day scholar recruitment (including the idea that the most prestigious job is that of training more scholars) might have been more appropriate to smaller populations.

Very-large populations should erase the obscurity trap, in which nobody uses a potentially-important technology because you can't find experts in it and nobody tries to learn it because you can't get a job in it. In a very large society, hobbyists can jump start nearly anything.

Increases in population size can affect moral standards. At present, in a world of a few billion humans, there are plausible-sounding calls for the currently most-powerful nation to right every wrong (e.g., “We can stop the Darfur famine.”) and plausible-sounding claims that picking and choosing between wrongs to right is hypocritical. I suspect that with a very large population, similar ideas would be regarded as obvious nonsense.

Human interactions can be classified into four types: communal sharing, equality matching, authority ranking, and market pricing. The first three have limits: Communal sharing fall apart over 150 (the Dunbar number); equality matching falls apart over a few thousand (the size of an ancient Greek city-state); and authority ranking fall apart over a few million (the size of a large hierarchical organization). Does market pricing also have a limit? If it does, we might find out in the Age of Em.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

One Advantage of the Left

One advantage of the Left: They have organized a coalition of people with more free time than average.

Look at the components: The unemployed, tenured professors, college students, welfare recipients, artists on government grants, and childless people.

The Left can go protest something at a moment's notice. People on the Right can't. The Left can spend hours “reporting” on people they disagree with. People on the Right can't.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Who Supports “Muscle”?

I'm sure my fellow right-wing nutjobs have heard of the case of Melissa Click, the University of Missouri professor who called for “muscle” to eject a reporter. More recently, many University of Missouri professors have signed a petition defending her (seen via EconLog). I made a list of which departments included people who signed and how many from each department:
38Department of English
10Department of German & Russian Studies
10Department of Religious Studies
9Department of Romance Languages & Literatures
8Department of Women's & Gender Studies
7Department of History
7Department of Sociology
4Department of Art History & Archaeology
3Department of Black Studies
3Department of Classical Studies
3Department of Communication
2School of Music
2School of Journalism
2Department of Art
2Department of Psychological Sciences
2Department of Health Sciences
2School of Information Science & Learning Technologies
2Department of Theater
1Department of Rural Sociology
1Center for English Language Learning
1Department of Chemistry
1School of Law
1Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis
1Department of Physics & Astronomy
1Department of Biomedical Sciences
1Department of Geography
1Department of Philosophy
Only seven STEM and no mathematicians… Hmmmmm…

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Would White-Collar Immigration Be a “Crisis”?

According to a Ted Cruz ad, if bankers, lawyers, and journalists were crossing the Rio Grande, immigration would be called a crisis.

On the other hand, speaking as a mathematician, when mathematicians “crossed the border” after the Soviet Union collapsed, I did not regard it as a crisis.

On the gripping hand, many mathematicians inside the United States did regard an earlier wave of refugee mathematicians as a crisis. In particular, Harvard kept out mathematicians fleeing the National Socialists. (Harvard's motto: We're Harvard; we can get away with anything.)

The real question: Does Ted Cruz have the decency to be embarrassed at this pandering?

Monday, January 04, 2016

A Suggestion for the American Mathematical Society

As I've said before:

Please note that the {subequations} environment in \(\rm\LaTeX\) will increment the main equation counter even when there are no equation numbers displayed. If you forget that, you might write an article in which the equation numbers skip from (17) to (20), causing the copy editors to wonder if you've discovered a new method of counting.
In view of the fact that authors frequently expect the {subequations} environment in \(\rm\LaTeX\) to not increment the main equation counter when there are no equation numbers displayed, it might make sense to redefine {subequations} to fit their expectations. This can be done as follows:
On the other hand, it may interfere with someone's workflow.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

It's Perihelion Day!

How are you celebrating Perihelion Day?

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