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, September 29, 2007

A Mistake by My Fellow Wingnuts

Many of my fellow reactionaries will look at the left side of the political spectrum and figure they are in favor of letting every civilization develop in its own way but will make an exception for Western Civilization. After reading enough of their stuff, I disagree. They are in favor of letting every civilization develop in its own way including Western Civilization … but they believe they are the True Western Civilization and people they believe to be corporate shills are trying to hijack it.

This explains why they are convinced that the military is filled with closet leftists. This explains why they are convinced that any election they lose must have been stolen. This especially explains their belief that they represent the Wave of the Future. They can buttress that by pointing to the support of the media and academia (which are of growing importance in society) and the tendency of many immigrant groups to vote Democratic.

This also explains their opposition to any attempt to judge their version of Western Civilization by external standards, whether those standards derive from either God's commandments or from human nature.

Most leftists (except for the very worst idiotarians) are aware of the possibility that another society might be hijacked the way the “corporate shills” are trying to hijack Western Civilization. On the other hand, they are reluctant to ally with our “corporate shills” for very long.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

They Did the Math

Contrary to what some people think (earlier discussed here), the relatively-poor branch of the Republican Party did the math. A liberal-backed program in New Jersey (a currently-Democratic state), has been acting as an inverse Robin Hood:

The usual liberal precincts claim to be enraged. Governor Corzine declared that New Jersey would unilaterally disregard the HHS rules and "vigorously continue" to enroll at 350% of poverty -- the highest ceiling in the country. And he'd do so even though about 119,000 New Jersey children under 200% of the poverty line remain uninsured -- and although the state spends 43% of its yearly Schip grant insuring adults.

For several years the number of uninsured New Jersey children under 200% has held steady, while New Jersey's Schip rolls have grown by about 10% a year. One major reason is that the state continues to enroll families with incomes up to $72,275.

I think they did the math and object to their money going to people richer than they are.

I'm reminded of Dennis Moore on Monty Python: “This distribution of wealth thing is harder than I thought…”

This Sounds Like It's Part of the Academic Study of the Blogosphere

A phrase I came across in the course of my day job: “loopy belief propagation.”

Monday, September 24, 2007

Is Bundling Good or Bad?

On the one hand, there's a movement (actual example here) to eliminate “bundling” in the cable industry (selling access to all of some medium instead of dividing it into pieces).

On the other hand, other people are worried about the possible lack of bundling if net neutrality isn't mandatory.

Is a debate called for? Or is it a matter of “anything capitalists do is wrong”?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Doing the Math?

According to Ramesh Ponnuru:

As the Republican Party has gotten more socially conservative, its voter base has become lower in income.
According to Brilliant at Breakfast:
You'd think its voter base would do the math already.
Let's see … I assume that means they would vote against environmental regulations that raise the cost of living, vote for school vouchers, vote against the exclusionary zoning designed to keep the riffraff out, and boycott overpriced organic vegetables. Nowadays, that does not mean voting for Democrats.

On the other hand, lower does not mean low. The fact that today's Republicans are more open to lower classes does not mean they kicked out the rich.

The Next Few States

Thomas P.M. Barnett is considering possible future states that might be admitted to the United States. I'd like to suggest Taiwan, Israel, and the Moon as candidates.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Left Reinvents Conservatism Again

I've discussed this before.

According to Think Progress, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert ridiculed Hollywood hypocrites last night at the Emmy Awards:

STEWART: Perhaps even the very act of gathering tonight for an awards show, no matter how green, is wasteful. Maybe we shouldn’t even have award shows.

COLBERT: WHAT? Jon. If entertainers stop publicly congratulating each other, then the earth wins.

STEWART: You’re right, you’re right. You’re absolutely right. We can’t give in to that bastard. But what if winners were notified by e-mail or phone? And we didn’t have to —

COLBERT: Like common MacArthur Genius Grant winners, or Nobel Prize winners? No, no, not on my watch, Jon.

We reactionaries have been criticizing Hollywood hypocrites for years. You can see a typical example at The Reference Frame:
Hundreds of musicians have demonstrated that there is much stronger consensus about global warming among rock musicians than among scientists: all of them want to look like saviors of the world while all of them want to live in the most expensive hotels and mansions and to fly in private jets. All of them may be used as textbook examples of hypocrites.
I'm slightly dubious about criticizing hypocrisy because it's sometimes a virtue but fans of Stewart and Colbert shouldn't pretend they're the first to notice the hypocrisy.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I Want That Job!

At The Democratic Daily, they apparently believe that the only people defending nuclear energy MUST be corporate shills:

Propaganda invariably reveals its purposes by its very practice. I have noticed a low-key PR campaign that’s been going on for the past few months, to sell the nuclear industry to a new generation of voters too young to remember Three Mile Island or Chernobyl.
How do you get a job as a corporate shill? How can arrange for a charge what I now give for free?

In any case, I thought the target audience for nuclear propaganda are people who read The How & Why Wonder Book of Atomic Energy while young. This is the same audience who gave solid majorities to pro-nuclear candidates (I first heard of John Anderson as a defender of nukes) in the 1980 election in some of the bluest states. You know … people who actually calculated stuff like how much radiation was really being emitted at Three-Mile Island. (We do not exist in their universe. In Leftworld, anybody pro-nuclear is either ignorant or a corporate shill.)

I suspect they got the following backwards:

Which makes the demographic undeniable. It’s aimed at people who have been conditioned to hate Jane Fonda. And, her moonbat, silly, smelly hippie antinuke minions.
The object isn't to make wingnuts pro-nuke. We're already pro-nuke. The object is to take pro-nuclear people (and those who are taking another look at it as a result of possible fuel shortages or global warming) and make them right-wing or at least middle of the road.

The next step is to try to drive a wedge into the “reality-based” community. Can we split people who actually know something away from the reflexive leftists? Can we at least make it impossible to claim “reality has a liberal; bias” with a straight face?

Filling a Much-Needed Gap in the Blogosphere

There's now Holocaust denial on the left:

But evidence, based on my calculations after reading the data here and here (warning - the latter link is actually a 275 page book), indicates that Stalin saved 39 million lives (the evidence shows 35 million, but to arrive at that, we must subtract the 4 million he killed), or around 1.5 million per year during his tenure.

Hmmmm… If we look at the rest of the post, it looks like the secret of long life expectancies in Russia is censorship. Tight censorship increases life expectancies rapidly and removing censorship causes a drop.

Military Donations and Closet Military Leftists

The day after I point out that a large chunk of what passes for liberal thought requires the assumption that military is filled with closet leftists, I find that there's some evidence that purports to to show that. Apparently, military political donations have been going to Democrats and the antiwar Republican Ron Paul. On the other hand, Alenda Lux has compared the actual donations to Ron Paul and John McCain and found that more people (55) donated to McCain than to Ron Paul (23). When I examined the individual-donors list, I found 31 donations (using /^\s*(soldier|military|us\s*(af|mc|army|navy|marine|air\s+f))/i) to Ron Paul and 48 to Barak Obama. I haven't examined the John McCain list yet. On the gripping hand that's a small sample.

There's a comment at Crooks and Liars on this:

So even the troops don’t “support the troops”, …
At least as far as 79 of them are concerned …

Addendum: While googling for "military donations" and corner, I found the following:

He ignores the fact that - as Israel has shown - you can kill thousands of terrorists and not end the threat.
How's that again? Palestinian terrorism has gone way down. Apparently, there were only a finite number of suicide bomber recruits.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Brief Note on Norman Hsu Puns

They're too far-fetched to be funny.

The Amodio Study and the “Chickenhawk” Accusation

One reason to be skeptical of the Amodio study (recently discussed here) is that policemen and soldiers are generally considered to be on the right side of the spectrum and are in professions in which it is very dangerous to block new information. They are frequently under attack by people who are doing their best to be unpredictable.

On the other hand … This fits in with the common “chickenhawk” accusation. If Amodio's study turns out ot be relevant, it might mean that the military is filled with closet leftists.

That might account for a recent apparent call for a liberal military coup. After all, in Leftworld the right-wing consists of people who have cowardly given in to authority whereas the Enlightened Ones have the guts to talk back to The Man. They are convinced that even a token show of force (they are also convinced that “minorities” make up a disproportionate fraction of combat soldiers and will be on their side) will cause the “chickenhawks” to run away.

There's another consequence. If the military really were filled with closet leftists, that would mean that when General Petraeus backs the President's policy, he is betraying his troops. All this nonsense fits together …

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Two Reasons to Be Suspicious of Small Studies

First, small studies have larger random errors.

Second, small studies make “cherry picking” easier. If the resources that went into one large study were spread among twenty small studies, there's a high probability that at least one of those studies will have a nominally statistically-significant result through random chance.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Good Side of the Study by Amodio et al.

At least in this study (earlier discussed here) the researchers identified who was liberal or conservative by asking them instead of applying a psychological test that they imagine to measure political opinions (the problems with that were earlier discussed here ). According to John J. Ray, the psychological-test method is common and I think Amodio et al. should be commended for avoiding it.

That still doesn't excuse a sample size that would be considered laughable in public-opinion polling or medical research.

Addendum: There are criticisms from people who actually read the paper here and there.

Don't Reporters Know Any Physics?

An AP story on Yahoo says:

John Kanzius happened upon the discovery accidentally when he tried to desalinate seawater with a radio-frequency generator he developed to treat cancer. He discovered that as long as the salt water was exposed to the radio frequencies, it would burn.

The discovery has scientists excited by the prospect of using salt water, the most abundant resource on earth, as a fuel.

Rustum Roy, a Penn State University chemist, has held demonstrations at his State College lab to confirm his own observations.

The radio frequencies act to weaken the bonds between the elements that make up salt water, releasing the hydrogen, Roy said. Once ignited, the hydrogen will burn as long as it is exposed to the frequencies, he said.

Did he check to see if the amount of energy released is greater than that put in by the radio waves? For that matter shouldn't any reporter able to cover science and technology think to ask that? It looks like the radio waves are putting enough energy into the water to split the water molecules and the exact same energy then comes out when the resulting hydrogen is burned.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Psychological Study I'd Like to See

I wonder if liberals and conservatives differ in their responses to the Asch conformity test.

Of course, maybe the research has been done and remained unpublished because the results were too embarrassing.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sample Size 43?

According to a recent psychological study of liberals vs. conservatives (seen via TJIC):

Analyzing the data, Sulloway said liberals were 4.9 times as likely as conservatives to show activity in the brain circuits that deal with conflicts, and 2.2 times as likely to score in the top half of the distribution for accuracy.

Sulloway said the results could explain why President Bush demonstrated a single-minded commitment to the Iraq war and why some people perceived Sen. John F. Kerry, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat who opposed Bush in the 2004 presidential race, as a flip-flopper for changing his mind about the conflict.

Based on the results, he said, liberals could be expected to more readily accept new social, scientific or religious ideas.

Except … the actual data showed that self-described conservatives are more likely to act. That is not in accordance with the theory that liberals are more accepting.

Sulloway's claim has been criticized on the grounds that, in the real world, liberals are often resistant to change. (My theory, for whatever it's worth, is that liberals are indeed more willing to change their minds on an individual basis to the opinion of the local crowd, but only if that local crowd consists of people who believe in such “flexibility.” That doesn't mean the crowd changes its mind readily.)

On the other hand, this study is based on a sample of 43 subjects. That's not enough for any firm conclusion.

The Stroop Test

There is, by the way, an established psychological test for reflective flexible thinking known as Stroop test. If that hasn't been used to show liberals are more flexible than conservatives then, considering the leftist bias of many psychologists, then the claim probably isn't so.

On the other hand … a Google search appeared to show that more flexible minds (according to the Stroop test) are also at higher levels of the Kohlberg scale of moral development. Lawrence Kohlberg's research, often cited by liberals, appeared to show that as people develop their moral standards they become more and more like Kohlberg. (There is no truth to the the rumor that he dislocated his shoulder while patting himself on the back.) The Google-search results might mean that a real psychological test showed that genuinely-flexible minds might really be more liberal.

On the gripping hand … the most interesting-sounding of the Google-search results were links to non-open-access journals. So if you wonder why I sounded slightly-deranged on the topic of open vs. closed access …

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Another Debate Wanted

A debate between Naomi Klein and Robert Higgs (author of Crisis and Leviathan) might be interesting.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Debate Wanted

Can someone arrange a debate between Ian Ayres and Daniel H. Pink on whether the future will be ruled by logic or intuition?

I'm Almost Tempted to Become a Liberal

The proverbial liberal wimps are trying to ban bullying playgound games. This is almost enough to turn me into a liberal … except the same people are also reponsible for eviscerating chemistry sets and they're going after spelling bees and standardized tests.

We nerds shouldn't think “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Those people are the enemies of both jocks and nerds.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Will the Lunatics Be in Charge of the Asylum?

I recall another Berkeley psychology study (discussed here, there, and there) that purported to show that whiny, insecure kids in nursery school grow up to be conservatives and the confident, self-reliant kids grow up to be liberals. It's plausible that John Edwards health plan will be based on such research.

On the other hand, there is another study (mentioned at TCS) that purports to show that:

The investigators found that adults with higher psychopathy scores had marked differences as 3 year olds, being significantly less fearful/inhibited and more stimulus seeking/sociable than those adults who had lower psychopathy scores.
Hmmmmm… Does this mean the lunatics will be running the asylums?

On the gripping hand, piling correlation upon correlation can lead to absurd results. For example, richer people are more likely to own their homes and are more likely to live in richer states but the top states in home ownership rates tend to be poor.


On the one hand, John Edwards has proposed a health-care plan that includes mandatory check-ups for both physical and mental health and, on the other hand, has made a fortune based on suing doctors on the strength of quack testimony.

Will the mental check-ups be based on the theories of the Berkeley psychology department?

I'm reminded of the story “SQ” by Ursula LeGuin about a society with mandatory mental health check-ups.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

What Accurate Predictions of the Present Would Have Seemed Absurd in the Past?

The above question is being considered by Eliezer Yudkowsky at Overcoming Bias giving examples of present-day phenomena that would have seemed incredible at the beginning of the 20th century.

I came up with a list of statements about present-day society that would have seemed incredible to me at various times in the past. For example:

  • As of 1974:
    • That nobody has been to the moon since 1972.
    • That the Soviet Union no longer exists and there has been no nuclear war. (One or the other would have been plausible but not both.)
    • That we're still using fossil fuels on a large scale. (I expected that we would have run out of oil by now and relying on nuclear energy.)
    • President Ronald Reagan … who did a better job than anybody else in my lifetime.
  • As of 1982:
    • That there is a major communications network that is not run by any single organization.
    • That there would be a high-quality computer operating system based on free software.
    • That a corporate publicity campaign would walk out of the swamps of left-wing paranoia into real life.

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