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

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Failure of Assimilation?

According to Steve Sailer, the recent riots in France represent the failure of assimilation. I disagree; they represent the success of assimilation. After all, riots are a French tradition …

On the other hand, there's more than one type of assimilation.

Internet vs. Aliens

Is it true that the Internet Killed the Alien Star? On the one hand:

The Internet showed this particular emperor to be lacking in clothes. If UFOs and alien visitations were genuine, tangible, objective realities, the Internet would be an unstoppable force for detecting them. How long could the vast government conspiracy last, when intrepid UFO investigators could post their prized pictures on the Internet seconds after taking them? How could the Men in Black shut down every website devoted to scans of secret government UFO documents? How could marauding alien kidnappers remain hidden in a nation with millions of webcams?

On the other hand:

Paul Hellyer was Deputy Minister of Defence from 1963-67, and later, Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister under PM Pierre Trudeau, so he's an important member of Canada's ruling Liberal Party.

He's also convinced that the Bush Administration is embarking on a war that threatens all civilization -- no, not the one in Iraq, Hellyer is talking about the war with the aliens on the moon and Mars and in outer space.

I wonder if High Commander Dick Solomon has anything to say.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

More about Godwin's Law …

The sheer variety of people using the Holocaust as a metaphor has had one good effect: It eliminates the ability of Holocaust deniers to plausibly claim that Holocaust histories are a conspiracy on the part of Communist Jews. They have to explain how Jews and Catholics and evangelical Protestants and Moslems are all using the same metaphor. They also have to explain how communists and liberals and conservatives and libertarians are also using the metaphor.

… and its Creationist Analogue

If we try applying this to using Creationism as a metaphor, we can see the same tendency, but it is much less developed. Until a few years ago, there were only two main Creationism metaphors (one of which was divided into two submetaphors):

  1. Belief in central planning is similar to Creationism. (I'm inclined to take this metaphor seriouly, so I'll let others criticize it.)

  2. Belief in human uniqueness is similar to Creationism. This usually means that we should apply standard zoological concepts such as the importance of genetics and that animal species are in danger of overpopulation. There are two ways interpreting this:

    1. When interpreted by classical “Social Darwinists,” the importance of genetics meant that we need a society of people with the best genes possible. The danger of overpopulation meant that we had to keep the inferiors from reproducing.

    2. When interpreted by modern liberals, the importance of genetics meant that we don't have to make an enormous effort to pass traditions down to the next generation. Crime rates, drug abuse, etc. are independent of nurture. The danger of overpopulation means that we have to keep people in general from reproducing.

In recent years (probably owing to an administration that has no objection to central planning, is not trying keep the inferior races out, and is not supportive of family planning), Creationism metaphors have become a way of all-purpose Bush bashing. I suspect Creationism metaphors will be used for an increasing variety of ever more ludicrous purposes in the future.

On the other hand, at least we'll be able to ignore the real Creationists.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Another Place to Get Fetal Cells

They can be found in the bloodsteam of pregnant women.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More Self-Administered Lobotomies

In California, parents are pulling their children out of schools that are “too academically driven” (or possibly “too Asian”). Don't those Asians know it is positively Un-American to do any actual studying? How dastardly!

On a serious note, it looks like some Asians are preparing their own self-administered lobotomies. I wonder if American school systems fail, not because students can't learn in them, but because they train students to be the parents of bad students. As long as that is the case, the United States will need immigrants to raise an educated second generation. Given the birth rates in the rest of the world, eventually we're going to run out of immigrants.

On another serious note, the article in question The New White Flight was linked as one of “Today's Headlines” at the Dan Stein Report (an anti-immigration blog) as though it were a reason to oppose immigration.

Monday, November 21, 2005

What Would Be the Equivalent of Godwin's Law?

There's an article on the History News Network comparing Holocaust Denial and Creationism (seen via Orac). I wonder what would be the equivalent of Godwin's Law. Would it be the propensity (of some people) to compare any idea they don't like to Creationism?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Which Conspiracy Is It?

Are The Evil Capitalists conspiring to keep oil expensive (seen via Asymmetrical Information):

"In the four years since the secret Cheney task force met, we have seen gas prices double and oil company profits skyrocket. What went on at these secret White House meetings that may be motivating oil company executives to deny their participation?" Lautenberg said. "Now it appears that some Big Oil CEOs might have lied to Congress to cover up their involvement with the White House task force. What are they trying to hide from the American people?"
or are they conspiring to keep oil cheap (according to a commenter/troll at Armed and Dangerous):

Don’t worry, capitalism will save us from depleted energy supplies! Ignoring the fact that the capitalist system currently prevents any serious public discussion about the problem.

Our current economies depend utterly on reliable supplies of cheap energy, currently oil. To be able to depend less on oil at a rate faster than it increases in price assumes we have another source of reliable cheap energy waiting in the wings. Another source of reliable cheap energy that would work with the current distribution infrastructure.

The belief that Fischer-Tropsch plants could replace oil and would somehow be sustainable is frankly delusional. And before any efforts to use other energy sources will begin, hundreds of thousands of people will die in wars in misguided attempts to protect the current ones. More will die at home in the lengthy compulsory transition.

And no mention of natural gas, the price of which has quadrupled in America since 2002 and is still going up. All this and we continue our relentless suburban sprawl.

Which is it?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Foxman's Charges Sound Familiar

According to Abe Foxman of ther Anti-Defamation League:

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaking to the group’s national leadership here last week, signaled a sharp shift in ADL policy by directly attacking several prominent religious right groups and challenging their motives, which he said include nothing less than “Christianizing America.”


Although only portions of the survey were available this week, Foxman said some of the results are alarming.

According to the survey, 70 percent of weekly churchgoers and 76 percent of self-described Evangelicals agreed that “Christianity is under attack” in this country — a conclusion that is hard to square with their growing influence in Congress, the White House and the courts, he said.

This reminds me of a news item in Common Knowledge edited by Robert E. Ornstein (a collection of weird news from the late 1960s and early 1970s):

The Criminal Council of the District Court of Zagreb has ordered the destruction of an issue of Glas Koncila published by the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Zagreb.

The district public prosecutor said that articles published in the October 22 issue of the paper called for disobedience to the constitution and laws of Yugoslavia and Croatia, and carried false statements about alleged absence of the freedom of the press in Yugoslavia.

Friday, November 18, 2005

More Brains!

Amazing. We already have ways to grow more brain cells. It's another reason to believe the Singularity is just around the corner (predicted by Isaac Newton for the year 2060).

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Suggestion on Stopping Riots

Take a car, put a beehive in the trunk, and put it in the path of the rioters.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

How Fragile Are Ecosystems?

From Letter from Gotham:

There's nothing wrong with the French model of assimilation. It's worked beautifully with a variety of previous emigrants, which included Arab Muslims and Iranians. The problem is the NUMBERS. You can't assimilate huge amounts of people who speak a different language and worship a different God, especially Allah, a very masculine warrior sky-god. Something's got to give. A society is as fragile as an ecosystem. France will survive...but it is suffering a terrible case of indigestion.
Does that mean the fragility of societies has been greatly exaggerated by would-be dictators?

Judging by Past Experience…

An attempted counterexample to pro-life reasoning comes from John Allen Paulos:

Let's ask ourselves what position opponents of abortion — say on the Supreme Court or elsewhere — might take if two biological facts about the world were to change. The first assumption we'll make is that for some unknown reason — a strange new virus, a hole in the ozone layer, some food additive or poison — women throughout the world suddenly become pregnant with 10 to 20 fetuses at a time. The second assumption is that advances in neonatal technology make it possible for doctors to easily save some or all of these fetuses a few months after conception, but if they don't intervene at this time all the fetuses will die.
The third (unstated) assumption is that technical progress comes to an end.

Judging by past experience with supposedly-intractable overpopulation problems, not long after the above scenario researchers will either find a cure or invent a method of creating basements universes with sharp negative curvatures. (In such universes, exponential growth can be accomodated.) Either assumption is less fantastic than the original.

I noticed, while looking for comments on the above quote, the following from an anonymous commenter at One Good Move:

My right wing friends wouldn't have a problem if the birth rate increased 20 or 30 times. Most of them believe the rapture will occur in their lifetime, so the population explosion would just be a laugh to them.
That's close to my opinion. The Singularity (also known as “The Rapture of the Nerds”) is only decades away.

Do We Want Juries Involved?

A flame war on the Info Theory (start at the bottom and scroll up) and Bitch PhD weblogs has been escalating. (There's a summary here.) Apparently, Paul Deignan, a grad student who writes the Info Theory weblog put some comments on the Bitch PhD weblog that were regarded as objectionable. This caused a third party to e-mail Deignan's advisor complaining about allegedly unprofessional behavior. This, in turn, caused Deignan to threaten a libel lawsuit.

I was on Paul's side up to the lawsuit threat. Can we trust juries to make sense of this? If there is a lawsuit, we can expect the Other Side to use that weapon next time (accompanied by calling anybody who objects a “hypocrite”) and there is a strong possibility we might get a jury as dumb as the first Merck jury.

Defending Defenestration?

In the course of a comment on the Info Theory blog, odanu wrote:

This is not the only valid pro-choice argument in existance, it is merely the one that is the best answer for the natural rights argument, since natural rights theory derived very heavily from the theories of John Locke and were grounded in the right to own property. In this argument, a person's own body is her property. Unless PD is willing to state baldly and openly that the uterus of a woman is the property of either a man or a fetus, in which case he has denied the natural rights of women as humans, he cannot argue against abortion on the natural rights argument.
If owning a piece of property implies the unrestricted right to expel somebody under any circumstances whatsoever, then landlords can expel tenants from upper-story windows even before a nine-month lease is up.

But wait … There's more. In further comments:

Paul, a uterus is not a disconnected entity with a purpose separate from the human being who possesses it. But you have answered my question. In your world, a woman indeed has less civil rights than a corpse. Sharing the same air does not mean I provide you life support, and frankly, that you would use that example suggests that you need to take a course in rudimentary logic.
Once most of the human race has begun inhabiting space colonies, ownership of a residence will go with supplying life support. We're in danger of handing too much power to future landlords.

Since the above violates leftist stereotypes of what us reactionaries think, I leave you with a quote from David Ricardo:

Independently of these improvements, in which the community have an immediate, and the landlords a remote interest, the interest of the landlord is always opposed to that of the consumer and manufacturer.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

French Riots and American Riots

It looks like France is having their version of the nonsense the United States went through in the 1960s. A different ethnic group is rioting and the organizers have a slightly-different ideology (but it's also based on being the instrument of the inevitable victory). Judging by the way our riots petered out in the early 1970s, the root cause of riots by people who believe in such an ideology is the belief that the Establishment will back down in response to intimidation. After the said Establishment stopped backing down, the riots declined.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Common Excuse for Tolerating Abortion

One of the most frequently-mentioned excuses for tolerating abortion is that a large percentage of early embryos are lost (an example can be seen in a comment on this post). That might be true at the present, but in the future we can expect pregnancies to be more reliable. Two thirds of the first three hundred billion hominid conceptions might have been lost but that will be an insignificant percentage once the population gets into the quintillions.

Can Nearly Anything Be Regulated as “Interstate Commerce”?

There's an interesting legal theory at Bitch Ph.D.:

2. He argued that Congress couldn't restrict concealed weapons in school zones. That's right; your kids' right to be safe from gunplay in the schoolyard is less important than the right of 12th graders to carry concealed firearms into school. He also argued that Congress doesn't have the right to regulate ownership of machine guns under the Interstate Commerce Act; apparently he believes that machine guns don't cross borders, people carrying machine guns cross borders.
Apparently, any action involving anything that has ever crossed a state border can be regulated. The Federal government might be able to regulate breathing on the grounds that the air crosses state borders. It could definitely regulate most meals since most food in the United States not only crossed state borders but was even sold across state borders. (I have other disagreements with the post in question, but the above claim struck me as the most inane part.)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Storyline Patents and Crackpots

An author is trying to patent a story line. I noticed that the excuses given resemble the rhetoric of crackpot scientists:

[0013] There is currently little motivation for artistic inventors to innovate new plots, themes, and methods of expression. The value of an innovator's copyright, if he in fact embodies his invention in a particular expression (such as a novel or movie) is far less than the value of the invention itself, because the invention umbrellas every possible embodiment. Further, and perhaps more importantly, the value of his copyright depends on his ability as a performer, not as an inventor. An artistic inventor who invents a fantastically original and compelling plot may not be a particularly skilled writer. He may, for example, have a very limited vocabulary and a poor understanding of grammar. Any book he creates will be avoided by any potential buyer who reads the first paragraph, such that the copyright value of his extremely valuable invention is nil. Any Hollywood producer who sees through the book's garbled sentence structure to the excellent and creative plot beneath the surface may steal the only value the book contained: its inventive plot. The producer may then moderately alter the expression of the plot in a subsequent movie--while keeping the plot's essence fully intact--and obtain unearned financial benefit from the inventor's unrewarded hard work and innovation. If there is any evil that the United States patent system ought to prevent, it is this.
In the above paragraph, the potential storyline patenters use two of the commonest tropes of scientific cranks (12 and 15 here):
  • I can't tell anybody the details of my marvelous ideas because the Powers That Be will steal them.

  • I don't know anything about the subject I'm revolutionizing but a True Innovator can ignore minor details.

In any case, ideas are “a dime a dozen” and some people are willing to supply the dimes.

There's also the little matter that the storyline in question isn't that original

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Does Elmer Fudd Have Anything to Do with This?


A Brief Note on Spousal Notification Laws

If information wants to be free …

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