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:
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Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
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The Mad Revisionist
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Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
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Yet another weird SF fan

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Prayer for Rain Update

In case anybody was wondering, we said that prayer for rain. Right after that, it started pouring.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Another Self-Induced Lobotomy

A larval journalist is whining about having to learn something (seen via Orac):

I remember complaining about how I'd never use knowledge I gained in the classroom in real life. I regretted all the time I devoted to school because, in the end, I didn't remember the algebraic equations, historical dates, or the periodic table.

A problem exists within the high-school education system: It doesn't prepare students for their careers. When I decided in high school that my major was going to be journalism, I took the only class offered by my school in hopes of learning the journalistic writing style. I didn't learn anything from that class. My teacher was not a journalism teacher; she was an English teacher. We spent every class silent reading instead of learning about the inverted pyramid.

What kind of journalism will she write? Will she try to pick up the information needed from people equally ignorant? If there is a danger from an asteroid strike, will she figure that it's a steroid strike and write about the dangers of steroid use? If there's a terrorist attack in Tbilisi, Georgia, will she realize that it's not near Atlanta? If it's compared to the Gunpowder Plot, will she think the NRA was involved?

Friday, October 21, 2005

It's All Isaac Newton's Fault!

After reading one too many claims that the Holocaust was caused by Charles Darwin, I realized that the 911 attack was caused by Isaac Newton. After all, if you can go from “the unfit won't survive” to “we must make sure the unfit won't survive” (without analyzing what is meant by unfit), you can go from “things fall down” to “we must make sure things fall down” (without analyzing which things fall down).

Addendum: I just realized that the above is an obvious consequence of the Intelligent Falling theory.

One Reason for High Oil Prices

Earth First! has been opposing alternative energy sources (seen via Instapundit):

Mountaintop removal is a new form of coal mining in which companies dynamite the tops of mountains to collect the coal underneath. Multiple peaks are blown off and dumped onto highland watersheds, destroying entire mountain ranges. More than 1,000 miles of streams have been destroyed by this practice in West Virginia alone. Mountain top removal endangers and destroys entire communities with massive sediment dams and non-stop explosions.

I noticed they're suing in Federal court:

Four federal agencies that review applications for coal mines have entered an agreement that would give state governments an option that could speed up the process. The Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service and Office of Surface Mining said that the agreement was intended to streamline the procedures companies go through when applying for permits to start surface coal mines, including those that remove entire mountaintops to unearth coal.1

Environmental groups are beginning to challenge these policies in federal district court. The current program allows the Army Corps of Engineers to issue a general permit for a category of activities under the Clean Water Act if they “will cause only minimal adverse environmental effects” according to federal regulation. Coal companies then also must seek individual “authorizations” from the Corps for the projects for which they have received a general permit.2

Apparently the people in coal country aren't bothered.

I also noticed that I scooped Project Censored on an issue:

There are 15,000 industrial plants in the United States that produce toxic chemicals. According to the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), about 100 of these plants could endanger up to a million lives with poisonous clouds of ammonia, chlorine, or carbon disulfide that could be released into the atmosphere over densely populated areas by a terror attack. Unprotected chemical plants are possible candidates for future attacks by terrorists. These are some of the most vulnerable pieces of infrastructure in America.

I reported on this years ago:

Chemical weapons are often analyzed in terms of numbers of lethal doses. We can apply that to other substances. One possible weapon along those lines is the nicotine bomb. The LD50 for nicotine is 35 mg/kg of body weight. If we take a typical American body weight as 100 kg (a round figure but one which might be typical of Americans), we can see that a lethal dose is a mere 3.5 g. There are roughly 8,000,000 people in NYC. Eight million lethal doses of nicotine is a mere 28 tons—which can fit in a truck.

If nicotine is turned into a controlled substance (as seems increasingly likely), they might try using an aspirin bomb instead. Since the LD50 of aspirin is 1800 mg/kg, the necessary amount is 1440 tons. This is too large for a truck so the “militants” will have to take over an entire aspirin factory. This is an exceptionally humane weapon since the victims will feel no pain.

Of course, this implies that Clinton was completely correct in ordering the bombing of that aspirin factory in Sudan.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Are Republicans or Conservatives Pro-Roe?

Richard Bennett is dubious about whether Dubya wants Roe vs. Wade overturned on the grounds that there might be a backlash against pro-lifers. Well … the fact that Dubya signed the McCain–Feingold campaign finance restriction bill might be an argument that he regards the short-term benefit of the Republican Party as more important than following principle. On the other hand, it is dubious as to whether there will be a backlash.

First, as far as I know there has never been an election where abortion was a major issue that was unexpectedly won by a liberal Democrat. Second, abortion was illegal for over a century with no backlash. For that matter, abortion is less “necessary” than ever considering improved contraception and a richer society able to support “unwanted” children. Third, in my experience most pro-choicers are unwilling to engage in a really sustained debate. Fourth, there has been a long-term decline in the number of abortionists. The people most involved are rethinking their actions. If we make more people think, we can expect more pro-lifers. Fifth, if the attempts to tie the Schiavo case to abortion succeed, there will be recruits for the pro-life cause who are “bleeping terrified” for their own lives and thus cannot give in. (It's worth noting that there were private options in the Schiavo case.)

I suspect there have been other bluffs about abortion. For example, making abortifacients available over the counter is unlikely to have that much of an effect since it will not provide the excuse that it is a medical matter. A doctor is needed to give permission.

Monday, October 17, 2005

This Is Unlikely

According to The Guardian (seen via Reality Carnival), the annointing oil mentioned in the Bible may have included cannabis since one of the ingredients can be transliterated “kaneh bosem.” I find that hard to believe. According to Ezekiel 27:19, kaneh bosem (whatever it was) had to be imported. Cannabis, on the other hand, is a weed that will grow anywhere. In the absence of legal restrictions, there is no need to import it.

I suppose the next claim will be that the Bible commands us to listen to rags since shmata is a continuation of sh'ma …

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I Know You Are …

John Podhoretz at The Corner has gotten hate e-mail from an alleged Christian. There are atill handful of anti-Jewish loons remaining on the right. On the other hand, there was a reaction from driftglass that was even more intemperate than the quoted parts of the Christian loons e-mail. If we should avoid alliances with hate-filled people, we should stat far away from driftglass's ideology.

I put the following response to driftglass in a comment:

Speaking as a Jew (and not a Christian), I oppose any attempt to restrict human rights on the basis of membership in a group. That's why I'm anti-abortion.

Also speaking as a Jew, I oppose policies that were invented to keep down Jews. That's why I'm against affirmative action.

While I'm at it, there's a strong possibility that the Nixon-era ban on DDT was instituted for the purpose of letting malaria kill off blacks in Africa. I want DDT to be relegalized. Do you?

Come to think of it, some Jew haters on the right oppose fundamentalist Christianity on the grounds that it's too Jewish.

Another Reason for President Gingrich

As a former history Professor, he'll almost certainly repeal Executive Order 13233:

But perhaps the most egregious example occurred on Nov. 1, 2001, when President Bush signed Executive Order 13233, under which a former president's private papers can be released only with the approval of both that former president (or his heirs) and the current one.

Before that executive order, the National Archives had controlled the release of documents under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which stipulated that all papers, except those pertaining to national security, had to be made available 12 years after a president left office.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

A Poll on the Continuum Hypothesis?

John Derbyshire has suggested the next logical step after polls on evolution:

I await with interest the coming poll on public beliefs about the Continuum Hypothesis.
I'm personally dubious about the Power Set Axiom in the first place.

Dear President Harding …

A slightly-unusual last request (seen via Iain Murray at The Corner:

In lieu of flowers, please send acerbic letters to Republicans.
We should obviously only send those letters to people the deceased thought of as typical Republicans.

The Prayer for Rain

Next Tuesday, we Jews are supposed to say the prayer for rain. I think we can skip it this year.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

A Disclaimer

After reading Zoe Brain's list of the risk factors for transsexuality, I thought I'd mention that I have no plans on “transitioning” or even cross dressing.

Just in case anybody was wondering …

Addendum: A fascination with model trains is one of the risk factors for transsexuality. Along possibly-similar lines, there's a discussion of the psychosexual issues involved in trains vs. cars at Brothers Judd.

A Driverless Robot Crossed the Finish Line This Time

Unlike last year, a driverless car actually finished the course. I'll repeat my question: If there are driverless robots that can cross 130 miles of desert, how long will it be until we can buy driverless cars?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

It Didn't Say That

Boing Boing is discussing an article in EOS and says (about the supposedly-imminent melting of the Greenland ice cap):

The article also says there's nothing we can do to stop this from happening:
On the other hand, the article itself says:
The change appears to be driven largely by feedback-enhanced global climate warming, and there seem to be few, if any, processes or feedbacks within the Arctic system that are capable of altering the trajectory toward this “super interglacial” state.
In other words, it could be changed from outside … by nuclear winter, for example.

Upon looking at the article, I noticed that the diagram in Figure 2 did not show any strong links between sea ice and terrestrial ice. There is no good reason to assume that eliminating one will eliminate the other.

Lie Down with Fleas? He Wants to Run the Flea Circus

Boing Boing is critical of Microsoft's involvement in Digital Rights Management:

Gates has lain down with dogs and now he's waking up with fleas. Inviting the entertainment industry to design Windows for him was a move of such breathtaking commercial stupidity that it's hard to credit. Where's that monopolist swagger when we need it?
I suspect Gates is relying on the impossibility of effective DRM. If every system is necessarily flawed, he can look forward to selling an endless series of upgrades.

Friday, October 07, 2005

What? No Diversity?

Most of the Supreme Court justices have LL.B. degrees from Harvard Law School (Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Breyer, and Roberts).

Is an affirmative-action program warranted?

There's a Correlation between Obesity and Expensive Produce

According to a recent study:

The study examined the weight gain of 6,918 children of varying socio-economic backgrounds from 59 U.S. metropolitan areas as they advanced from kindergarten to third grade. Researchers compared the weight gain figures with the price of different types of foods and the number of food outlets in the areas.

They did not examine what the children ate, however.

The results showed that young children who live in communities where fruits and vegetables are expensive are more likely to gain excessive amounts of weight than kids who live in areas where produce costs less. That connection was stronger than the proximity to fast-food restaurants.


On the other hand, maybe obesity causes vegetable prices to rise …

A discrepancy in the coverage

There appears to be a discrepancy in covering the other conclusions of the study in question. In the United States it is reported that:

LOS ANGELES -- A new study suggests the price of fresh fruits and vegetables has a stronger connection to weight gain among children than whether they live near fast-food outlets.

It adds more confusion to the muddy picture of what causes youngsters to gain weight.

Advocacy groups have suggested a strong link between obesity and the proximity of fast-food restaurants or the lack of supermarkets stocked with fresh food. But the new study by the Santa Monica-based Rand Corp. think tank found little support for that connection.

"You see lots of stories about the poor becoming obese because they're in neighborhoods with lots of restaurants and no access to healthy food," said Roland Sturm, a co-author of the Rand study. "We show that well, maybe those stories don't hold up."

On the other hand, In India it is reported that:

Next time when a convenience store or a fast food joint opens near your house don't feel elated, it could be the reason for your child's weight gain.

The fat filled happy meal or any such junkie may sound "convenient", but they may help explain the growing obesity epidemic among children.

A recent study by US-based RAND found a significant relationship between children's excess weight gain and the presence of many convenience stores, full service restaurants, limited service restaurants (primarily fast food restaurants), or grocery stores near their homes.


Roland Sturm, senior economist with RAND, examined the weight gain of 6,918 children from 59 metropolitan areas around the United States over the time the children advanced from kindergarten through third grade. His study found out a relationship between children's weight gain and the density of food establishments and the price of food across the nation.

I suppose they expect the Indian poor to be grateful for being protected from obesity.

I tried using Google Scholar and PubMed to locate the original paper but didn't find it.

Another Terrorist Threat in New York

There's supposed to be evidence of another terrorist plot in New York. The most obvious date for the attack would be on the holy day of Yom Kippur. That way, their propaganda machine would be able to go into action claiming that the Jews stayed home that day.

Something like this may have occurred after the 9/11 attack.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

They're Not Just Discriminating against Conservatives

A few months ago, I theorized that opposition to standardized tests was intended to discriminate against conservatives. There are other groups being kept out of Harvard (and possibly other “prestigious” universities):

And the most important category? That mysterious index of “personal” qualities. According to Harvard’s own analysis, the personal rating was a better predictor of admission than the academic rating. Those with a rank of 4 or worse on the personal scale had, in the nineteen-sixties, a rejection rate of ninety-eight per cent. Those with a personal rating of 1 had a rejection rate of 2.5 per cent. When the Office of Civil Rights at the federal education department investigated Harvard in the nineteen-eighties, they found handwritten notes scribbled in the margins of various candidates’ files. “This young woman could be one of the brightest applicants in the pool but there are several references to shyness,” read one. Another comment reads, “Seems a tad frothy.” One application—and at this point you can almost hear it going to the bottom of the pile—was notated, “Short with big ears.”
I suppose that's why H. Ross Perot attended Texarkana Junior College and the United States Naval Academy.

I'm beginning to wonder why we still take the Ivy Leage seriously.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

There Is a WikiConstitution

I'm sure the people at The Onion thought Congress Abandons WikiConstitution was far-fetched satire. On the other hand, “WikiConstitution” is an ideal description of what the courts have done with the Constitution. I'm wating for the following to happen:

Congress intends to restore the Constitution to its pre-Wiki format as soon as an unadulterated copy of the document can be found.

My Second Pro-Life Demonstration

I don't have much to add to last-years comments except:

  • I signed a petition against destructive embryonic stem-cell research … but managed to put my signature in the the wrong box. I wondered if I should register to vote in Florida …

  • Somebody with a star-and-crescent hanging fromhis rear-view mirror stopped by the give us some encouraging words. This time I wasn't the only one there who believes God is One Person.

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