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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Small Sample Watch
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The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
Someone who used to be sane (formerly War)
Someone who used to be serious (formerly Plague)
Rally 'round the President (formerly Famine)
Dr. Yes (formerly Death)

Interesting weblogs:
Back Off Government!
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Debunkers Discussion Forum
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Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.
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Slate Star Codex
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Tools of Renewal
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Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
Crank Dot Net
Day By Day
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
Libertarians for Life
The Mad Revisionist
Piled Higher and Deeper
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
Sustainability of Human Progress

Yet another weird SF fan

Friday, May 30, 2008

Why Liberals Think the Economy Is Terrible

Thomas Frank's bullbleep on “coolness” (discussed here) reminded me of why liberals think nobody can afford anything and have thought so for years or decades: It's because they insist on overpriced “cool” merchandise. If you insist on paying more than you can afford for pointlessly-upscale stuff, you will run out of cash.

The hayseeds and wonks didn't think the economy was going downhill until real stuff (e.g., gasoline) became expensive.

Query: What percentage of people who want to withdraw from Iraq think that the withdrawal will make gasoline cheaper?

If Progressive Politics Are a Religion …

I am an atheist and Mencius Moldbug is a Satanist. I was trying to figure out why I agreed with him some of the time and wondered what color the sky is on his planet the rest of the time.

For example, he appears to think politics always moves left:

If there is any constant phenomenon in the last few hundred years of Western history, it's that - with occasional reversals - reactionaries tend to lose and progressives tend to win. Whether you call them progressives, liberals, Radicals, Jacobins, republicans, or even revolutionaries, socialists or communists, the left is your winning team.

What's interesting about this effect is the number of theories that have been proposed to explain it.


Since all these theories are mutually inconsistent, let's reserve our judgment by calling this mysterious left-favoring force the W-force - W, for Whig.

What explains the W-force? One easy explanation is that it's just the interaction of hindsight and a random walk. Everything changes over time - including opinions. Since by definition we consider ourselves enlightened, history appears as a progress from darkness to light.


While this theory is amusing, it is pretty clearly wrong. It depends on the fact that we don't yet have a good definition of what it means to be "progressive." But it clearly does mean something. We don't see these kinds of reversals. We see consistent movement in a single direction. Furthermore, we know that progress is the opposite of reaction, and we have a very good definition of reaction. And we know that reaction tends to lose. That isn't random.

I disagree.

One reason the left appears to win is that failed left-wing movements are no longer considered Left. Another reason is that victorious right-wing movements are frequently reclassified as Left.

You can see these phenomena most clearly in the case of the aftermath of the American Civil War. The losing side engaged in a “long march through the institutions” which first caused a Yankee withdrawal from the occupation of Dixie. It was followed by the growing respectability of eugenics and it then culminated in the capture of the Presidency in 1912.

Come to think of it, the standard left-wing rhetoric about indigenous movements might have been injected into liberalism by Wilson, who might have been looking for an excuse for Confederate independence.

On the other hand, after eugenics failed racism was re-re-classified as right-wing. (Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia comrade!)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Didn't Italy and Canada Elect Right-Wing Governments?

Susan Sarandon is planning:

Always busy, Sarandon is about to start work on the romantic period drama The Colossus, but with the presidential election campaign being heatedly contested, she also has bigger things to consider.

"If McCain gets in, it's going to be very, very dangerous," she says.

"It's a critical time, but I have faith in the American people. If they prove me wrong, I'll be checking out a move to Italy. Maybe Canada, I don't know. We're at an abyss."

Some people aren't up to date.

This sounds familiar.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

If IQ Tests Measure Something Important

If IQ tests measure something important, it's less likely that IQ is mostly genetic. According to Inductivist:

Only 2.8% of Americans with graduate degrees agree with the genetic idea, while 20.2% of high school dropouts do.
Since amount of education is strongly correlated to IQ …

On the other hand, speaking as someone with a graduate degree, I suspect that many people with low measured IQs are pretending to be dumb. (If something is easy for us, it might be easy for everybody else.)

This reaction may be common.

On the gripping hand, a belief in inborn explanations of intelligence might make people easily discouraged by the inevitable setbacks in any effort as sustained as post-graduate education.

Cool == Pointless?

According to Thomas Frank (The Wall Street Journal's way of reminding plutocrats that leftists have no good arguments):

Yes, this culture is elitist. Just walk down the aisles of your local, union-free organic grocery, unutterably cool but way beyond your price range.
Beyond the price range of readers of The Wall Street Journal? Does he think that they're either Kansas hicks or think-tank interns? Is he trying to lead a revolution of hayseeds and wonks by promising that if they overthrow corporate power they too will be able to shop at Whole Foods?
Or stroll through the most upscale shopping district of your city, where you might notice the fake-shattered windows favored by one national retailer, evidently trying for that '60s look while not losing any stock to actual looters.
There is a difference between the “organic” people and the trendy artists. The organic people pass regulations that mean everybody has to live in the “no nukes, no ANWR drilling” society. The trendy artists might get a trivial grant or two but most of their money (the fortunes of fervently left-wing businesses, for example) comes from other trendy people. It's similar to baseball player salaries, which come from other sports-minded people.

In other words (to paraphrase Will Rogers), the trendy artists are 100% funny and the organic people are 100% sad.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Long Overdue

There's been a long-standing complaint on the right side of the political spectrum about Hollywood: that Hollywood hasn't made that many anti-Communist movies. (I discussed the phenomenon a few years ago.) It looks like Steven Spielberg finally made one.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Shorter Thomas Frank

Libertarians are hypocrites because, while everybody knows libertarianism is all about greed, some of them aren't that greedy.

There is clearly a difference between what libertarians do and Our Opinion of what they should do. Since Our Opinions are never wrong, their actions must be wrong.

The Next Step after Gay Marriage

According to The Telegraph:

A man who claims to have had sex with 1,000 cars has defended his "romantic" feelings towards vehicles.

Edward Smith, who lives with his current "girlfriend" – a white Volkswagen Beetle named Vanilla, insisted that he was not "sick" and had no desire to change his ways.

"I appreciate beauty and I go a little bit beyond appreciating the beauty of a car only to the point of what I feel is an expression of love," he said.

The jokes write themselves:
  • They can have their fun now but when the children arrive, they'll fight over whether to raise the kids as animal, vegetable, or mineral …
  • His girlfriend is a car because trains insist on waiting for marriage …
  • This gives autoeroticism a whole new meaning …
  • So that's what's meant by “machine screw” …

Addendum: Apparently, the story “Machine Screw” by John Sladek included a similar incident:

What kind of decent American would go and -- and rape a Cadillac convertible?
Along similar lines, I recall reading of an incident in the 1970s in which somebody married a fifty-pound pet rock, which provoked the comment asking what the kids would be raised as …


According to The International Herald Tribune:

Depending on weather conditions, Fournier, a 64-year-old retired French Army officer, will attempt what he has dubbed Le Grand Saut (The Great Leap) on Sunday over the plains of northern Saskatchewan, Canada. He will climb into the gondola of a helium balloon that when inflated resembles a giant jellyfish. A two-hour journey will take him to 130,000 feet - higher than any balloonist has been before.

At that altitude he will see the blackness of space on the horizon and the curvature of Earth below, and experience weightlessness.

We already knew that some journalists think they don't have to know anything. On the other hand, aren't newspapers supposed to have editors?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Defense of Rationality Offsets?

A few months ago I posted that “progressives” treat their progressive opinions as “rationality offsets” which relieve them of the need to supply evidence. Currently, Eliezer Yudkowsky at Overcoming Bias has a series of posts defending the use of Bayesian reasoning as superior to the standard scientific method of making experimental predictions and waiting for evidence. I just realized this is a defense of those rationality offsets. After all, Einstein was able to get away with it … once. (Twice if you count Special and General Relativity as separate theories.)

On the other hand, Einstein apparently used the following method:

Rather than observe the planets, and infer what laws might cover their gravitation, Einstein was observing the other laws of physics, and inferring what new law might follow the same pattern.  Einstein wasn't finding an equation that covered the motion of gravitational bodies.  Einstein was finding a character-of-physical-law that covered previously observed equations, and that he could crank to predict the next equation that would be observed.


If you didn't have the concept of a "character of physical law", what Einstein did would look like magic - plucking the correct model of gravitation out of the space of all possible equations, with vastly insufficient evidence.  But Einstein, by looking at other laws, cut down the space of possibilities for the next law.  He learned the alphabet in which physics was written, constraints to govern his answer.  Not magic, but reasoning on a higher level, across a wider domain, than what a naive reasoner might conceive to be the "model space" of only this one law.

This reasoning style has had failures elsewhere. Aristotle tried the same thing and didn't quite succeed. Similar reasoning is also responsible for the Copernican litany, which is responsible for people tying Marx's and Freud's theories to Darwin's, which in turn gave Creationists an excuse.

If we go by past experience with theories of what scientific laws were supposed to be, we see a record of failure. I see a pattern running through science that says that previous patterns have pointed people in the wrong direction. The pattern of Aristotle said that science is simply organized common sense. That turned out to be wrong. The pattern of positivism said that science is based only on verifiable sense data and that meant we could never find out if atoms exist or what stars are made of. Since then we have. The pattern of skepticism said that ideals must be dethroned so the march of history would eliminate the dogmas of the bourgeoise or the conscious mind. The march of history has turned the dictatorship of the proletariat into just another Chinese regime and psychoanalysis into an obsolete joke. The pattern of determinism said that science was moving in the direction of predicting everything. Then quantum mechanics and chaos theory came along.

On the other hand, my pattern might run out someday.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wired's Inconvenient Truths

The latest issue of Wired (which some people think should be called Weird), has a series of articles that actually take cutting carbon emissions seriously. Their recommendations:

  • Live in Cities:
    Urban Living Is Kinder to the Planet Than the Suburban Lifestyle

  • A/C Is OK:
    Air-Conditioning Actually Emits Less CO2 Than Heating

  • Organics Are Not the Answer:
    Surprise! Conventional Agriculture Can Be Easier on the Planet

  • Farm the Forests:
    Old-Growth Forests Can Actually Contribute to Global Warming

  • China Is the Solution:
    The People's Republic Leads the Way in Alternative-Energy Hardware

  • Accept Genetic Engineering:
    Superefficient Frankencrops Could Put a Real Dent in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • Carbon Trading Doesn't Work:
    Carbon Credits Were a Great Idea, But the Benefits Are Illusory

  • Embrace Nuclear Power:
    Face It. Nukes Are the Most Climate-Friendly Industrial-Scale Form of Energy

  • Used Cars — Not Hybrids:
    Don't Buy That New Prius! Test-Drive a Used Car Instead

  • Prepare for the Worst:
    Climate Change Is Inevitable. Get Used to It

In short, these are the sort of suggestions that will make the Greens summarize that issue of Wired in the phrase “We have to destroy the Earth in order to save it.”

I have no great objection to most of the platform — it avoids the usual objection that cutting carbon is an excuse to suppress capitalism — but I'd like to nitpick one of the planks:

But even organic fruits and veggies are a mixed bushel: Organic fertilizers deliver lower-than-average yields, so those crops require more land per unit of food. And then there's the misplaced romanticism. Organic isn't just Farmer John; it's Big Ag. Plenty of pesticide-free foods are produced by industrial-scale farms and then shipped thousands of miles to their final destination. The result: refrigerator trucks belching carbon dioxide.

Organic produce can be good for the climate, but not if it's grown in energy-dependent hothouses and travels long distances to get to your fridge. What matters is eating food that's locally grown and in season. So skip the prewashed bag of organic greens trucked from two time zones away ߞ the real virtue may come from that conventionally farmed head of lettuce grown in the next county.

Local agriculture means farms in urban or suburban areas. That in turn means lower population densities and thus more sprawl.

In any case, there's a simple way to tell if lots of fuel is being used for your food: Look at the price. If enormous amounts of land or fuel really are used for your dinner, the price will be enormous as well.

By the way, is there any actual evidence that organic food is healthier on the whole? The claim is regarded as so obvious that the proponents are relieved of any need for evidence. There are isolated results for one or two types of food but there are isolated results in the other direction.

It is a bit amusing to read the comments. Many of them sound like “Stone the heretics!”

Addendum: I just remembered I came up with another anti-green solution to a possible global-warming problem: styrofoam.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Two Cents Plain

According to Joseph Romm (him again):

A stunning new report just issued by the Bush administration finds that for under 2 cents a day per household, Americans could get 300 gigawatts of wind by 2030.
Of course, the allegedly-unaffordable subsidies for nukes amount to 3 cents a day per household. There is a quite a difference between the two figures (2 and 3). For one thing the 2 cents is what they promise they will spend, whereas the 3 cents is what they are spending.

There's also the little matter of why we should believe that the output per subsidy dollar will mysteriously increase for wind and the even bigger problem of why we should trust a report that lists the jobs created by a technology as a benefit instead of a cost.

Another Kind of Macrobiotic Diet

According to a Newsweek article on legally-forbidden foods (the concept was earlier discussed here):

1. Casu Marzu Maggot Cheese Yes, you read that right: maggot cheese. This is one delicacy that's both an acquired and a forbidden taste. Casu marzu is a runny white cheese made by injecting Pecorino Sardo cheese with cheese-eating larvae. The cheese can pose various health hazards, such as an intestinal larval infection or even the risk of larvae jumping into your eye. Because of these threats, casu marzu can't legally be sold in Italy, though farmers on Sardinia and in northern Italy's Piedmont and Bergamo areas still produce it for their own clandestine consumption. United States regulations don't even address this particular type of cheese—perhaps because no one has been brave enough to put it on an American menu.
Most types of cheese are produced by microbiotic organisms. This is clearly a macrobiotic cheese.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

It's Starting …

A few months ago, I predicted:

After considering the recent deemphasis of abortion rights by the left, the insistence that “true conservatives” must be pro-choice, the existence of a few conservatives who are pro-choice, and the leftist campaign to shove any memory of left-wing fascism down the memory hole … we must be prepared to see the left try to grab credit for the pro-life movement. It's no more preposterous than blaming early 20th-century eugenics on conservatives.
More recently, Patrick Deneen, an apparently deep-Green blogger, wrote:
Lest "conservatives" think this philosophy can be limited to the realm of the earth's exploitation (the one area in which it appears acceptable to celebrate the dominion of the human will), we need only look around and see dominion of the will extends necessarily throughout the culture. Embryos, biotechnical "enhancement," abortion on demand, a pornographic popular culture - more evidence that because we can, we will. We do not govern our technology; our appetites govern us, and ultimately our employment of that technology. Our so-called conservatives had best wake up to this fact. Or at least stop calling themselves conservative.
Yep. They're trying to blame abortion on capitalism and, in the context of the post, tie it to “technical fixes” for fossil-fuel problems.

But wait, there's more. In another post, he wrote:

The tired Left-Right consensus - one essentially designed to obscure that there is no real disagreement about whether a growth economy premised on an itinerant and rootless workforce is desirable - is going to collapse and something else will take its place. The great fear is that a new consensus will form that someone is to blame, and we have plenty of weapons to get what we want, or at least to distract us from our penury. The great possibility is that we will realize that a future of less driving, stable neighborhoods, greater localism, the reinvigoration of diverse local cultures isn't as bad as our kneejerk panic about impending change would lead us to believe. Surely this is something a "conservative" would not object to?
In other words, the alleged problems of peak oil or global warming are merely an excuse to impose the style of society he wants.

By the way, if we have “diverse local cultures,” and those diverse local cultures each decide to send alleged foreigners back where they came from, what happens to cross breeds? Is he willing to say “Divide the living child in two…”?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Einstein on Religion

The following from Albert Einstein has been going around the blogosphere:

The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.
Childish? The proper term is “neotenic.”

In any case, Einstein's belief that religion is a crutch is consistent with his apparently pro-religion statement:

The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
Come to think of it, the more irreligious parts of the world (e.g., Europe or Japan) are noteworthy for not getting much done … especially in the area of producing more secularists. In other words, secularist civilization is indeed lame and could use a crutch.

It's Ba-ack!

I recently predicted:

Price increases will be attributed to greed. (I didn't know businessmen were so generous in the 1980s and 1990s.)
Meanwhile Ed Wallace offers The Reason for High Oil Prices:
It's not a supply crisis that explains the sharp spike in oil prices. It's unregulated commodities markets and greed
Isn't it amazing how strictly regulated markets were in the 1980s and 1990s? Isn't it even more amazing how generous businessmen were?
Commodities have often been the refuge for investors who have lost money on equities or fixed-income investments. Moreover, the commodities rush today is not limited to oil; now we also have runaway food and feed prices. Could it be that all the financial losses on subprime mortgages, plus the anticipation that the option ARM mortgages about to reset could be an even bigger problem, combined with the huge losses in securities last year, are why investment money today is flooding into often unregulated commodities, where the demand pricing of the final goods is inelastic?
In other words, it's not an increase in commodities; it's a decrease in the dollar.

I'm reminded of two classical quotes on high prices:

Thomas Marshall - “What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar.”

Franklin Pierce Adams - “There are plenty of good five-cent cigars in the country. The trouble is they cost a quarter. What this country needs is a good five-cent nickel.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Speaking as a Probable McCain Voter, All I Have to Say Is …

Where did I put my slide rule?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Adam Smith, Stalinist?

The same reasoning that blames Charles Darwin for the Nazis could blame Adam Smith for the Communists. The analogy goes as follows:

  Economics Evolution
Observation of unplanned process Adam Smith Charles Darwin
Observing that the unplanned process can have the same effects as a political process David Ricardo Herbert Spencer
Calling for a coercive political program to fix the faults of the unplanned process Karl Marx Eugenicists
Implementing said program in a totalitarian system Communists Nazis

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Say This in a Dr. Evil Voice

According to Joseph Romm (he did it again):

Total subsidies to nuclear approaching $100 billion
Of course, if that's divided by 50 years, you get $2 billion per year. Considering that nukes generate over 600 billion kWh per year in the United States (last time I checked), the allegedly-unaffordable subsidies amount to ⅓ of a cent per kilowatt-hour.

Upon examining the list of subsidies, we see:

  • Academic pork:

    Authorization of $149.7 million over 3 years for DOE to invest in human resources and infrastructure in the nuclear sciences and engineering fields through fellowships and visiting scientist programs; student training programs; collaborative research with industry, national laboratories, and universities; upgrading and sharing of research reactors; and technical assistance. This program would further subsidize the nuclear industry and entrench nuclear power research within the university system. [Sec. 941 and 944]
    Calling the above a nuclear subsidy is a bit like calling student loans to English majors a subsidy of the publishing industry.

  • Subsidies that aren't exactly nuclear:

    Authorization of $250,000 for research and development to use radiation to refine oil [Sec. 1406]
    In related news, the existence of windows in government buildings is a solar subsidy.

  • Protection against being mugged by environmentalists:

    Authorization of $2 billion in “risk insurance” to pay the industry for any delays in construction and operation licensing for 6 new reactors, including delays due to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or litigation.  The payments would include interest on loans and the difference between the market price and the contractual price of power [Sec. 638]
    In other words, police departments are a subsidy to people who live in high-crime areas.

  • Protection against being mugged by the rest of the government:

    Production tax credits of 1.8-cent for each kilowatt-hour of nuclear-generated electricity from new reactors during the first 8 years of operation for the nuclear industry, costing $5.7 billion in revenue losses to the U.S. Treasury through 2025. Considered one of the most important subsidies by the nuclear industry [Sec.1306]
    In an ideal world, the temporary tax credits should be replaced by permanent tax reductions. On the other hand, we can't trust the government to fulfill its side of such a bargain.

  • Regulation insurance:

    Reauthorization of the Price-Anderson Act, extending the industry’s liability cap to cover new nuclear power plants built in the next 20 years [Sec. 602]
    As I've said before, you can think of loan guarantees as regulation insurance. If a government stands to lose money (that might be used to buy votes) if it passes preposterous regulations, it has an incentive not to do so. (If any of my readers can figure out a better way to stop regulations before they start, I'd like to know what it is.)

The most important “subsidies” from a free-market point of view are the regulation-insurance and mugging-protection subsidies. I suspect that's what the environmentalists are mainly concerned about.

Addendum: The Wall Street Journal compares subsidies per unit output.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Thank You, Professor Obvious

Academic research has shown that New York is the most neurotic city in the United States.

Tell us something we didn't know.

Open Up! It's the Food Police!

One reason I watch Alton Brown's Good Eats (in addition to the factlets) is the appearances of the “food police,” men in black uniforms and sunglasses announcing inane food regulations.

For an example of a proposed inane regulation, there's the following idea from a British chef:

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay says British restaurants should be fined if they serve fruit and vegetables which are not in season.

He told the BBC that fruit and vegetables should be locally-sourced and only on menus when in season.

Mr Ramsay said he had already spoken to Prime Minister Gordon Brown about outlawing out-of-season produce.

He says it would cut carbon emissions as less food would be imported and also lead to improved standards of cooking.

Wouldn't it also lead to nutrition shortages? Lifespans are increasing partly because we're eating more produce.

If these regulations are implemented, we can expect produce prices to skyrocket … which will, of course, be blamed on capitalism.

Fundamentalism and Opposition to Profits

A few years ago, I posted that fundamentalism makes it easier to for a religious tradition to backtrack and give up mistakes. I just realized that the ideology of opposing profits fulfills a similar role in secular leftist ideologies. Any regulation or government program will make some people rich. If a government program formerly admired by the left turns out to be a mistake, opposition to profit makes it possible to blame everything on “the rich” and backtrack without admitting that yesterday's leftists were mistaken.

If the Ideas of Nazi Scientists Must Be Discredited …

… that would include the ideas of Werner von Braun.

Will Ben Stein's next movie prove that we never went to the Moon?

Addendum before posting: I just checked and a Google blog search for "werner von braun" "ben stein" produced no matches. I must be the first!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

How Much Electricity Does It Take to Make Water?

IEEE Spectrum asks:

How Much Water Does It Take to Make Electricity?

23 April 2008—Remember when you were a kid and your parents made a big fuss about turning off the light when you left a room? Who knew that, besides adding to the monthly electric bill, keeping a single 60-watt lightbulb lit for 12 hours uses as much as 60 liters of water? According to researchers at the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, in Blacksburg, Va., fossil-fuel-fired thermoelectric power plants consume more than 500 billion L of fresh water per day in the United States alone.

If we turn the question around, according to Wikipedia, it takes around 4 kWh to produce a cubic meter of water. That means it 1000 kWh can produce almost 250,000 liters of water. In the IEEE article, the only fuel sources that took more of the allegedly-scarce water than 250,000 liters per 1000 kWh were fuel ethanol (sometimes) and biodiesel (usually).

In other words, if we keep our heads on and don't use ridiculous energy sources, there need be no water shortage limiting the power supply.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Dental Implants and Senator Obama

While contemplating the possibility that I might need a dental implant soon, I figured there was an upside. At least, it's a sign that I'm living in a science-fiction world. Teeth bonded to the bone were only seen in Isaac Asimov's science fiction a few decades ago. (In The Currents of Space, one of the Great Squires has a metallic smile from the artificial teeth attached to his jawbones. In Pebble in the Sky, a time traveller has bridgework which was thought to be homemade in the future society because the teeth weren't attached to the bone.)

So … while I was thinking “At least this is the Glorious Future when All Things Are Possible …” I realized that much of Senator Obama's support comes from the same attitude. After all, a black President (never mind that Obama is as white as he is black and that his true ethnic group is probably Anthropologist) was also a way for SF writers to signify “This Is the Future.”

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ben Stein's Nonsense Sounds Familiar

I just realized Ben Stein's recent nonsense sounds familiar because it closely resembles the thesis of Words of Power: A Feminist Reading of the History of Logic by Andrea Nye (earlier discussed here). It is exactly what it sounds like.

It especially sounds familiar because Ms. Nye was able to find one or two logicians who could be called Nazis in the course of her research. On the other hand, I suspect that Alan Turing did more to defeat Nazis than Gottlob Frege did to support them.

If the Fire Alarm Is Making Too Much Noise …

… you can always put cotton in your ears.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Yes. I'm Voting for McCain

According to Joseph Romm in the Huffington Post:

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) made a stunning statement on the radio show of climate change denier Glenn Beck this week:

... the French are able to generate 80% of their electricity with nuclear power. There's no reason why America shouldn't.

In response, a leftist beclowns himself

In the same article, there's the following response:

Why can't we? Wrong question, Senator. The right question is -- Why would we? Let's do the math.


Bottom Line: To satisfy McCain's odd desire to be like the French and get 80% of our electricity from nuclear power in the coming decades would require building more than 700 (GW-sized) nuclear power plants by midcentury -- more than one a month.

It's ba-ack!

A few years ago, I said:

One of commonest leftist tactics during the Reagan era (I haven't seen it much lately) was to talk about the cost of a defense program per decade to produce more horrifying sums. Sometimes they would use similar tactics in dicussing the “cost” of tax cuts or the number of lives that would allegedly be saved by a proposed environmental regulation.
It's possible to make an all-nuclear power system sound unaffordable by putting together the cost over several decades instead of by the year. (Apparently, oil isn't paid for over decades.) You can make it sound less affordable in the U.S. than in France by pointing out that the U.S. will need more nukes … and ignore the fact that the large size of the American economy makes that large number affordable.

Question: Does Joseph Romm know he's making an innumerate argument or is he really an idiot?

Meanwhile, let them fight. Nukes may have won several states for the Republicans in 1980 and may do so again. It will be really hard to talk about a “Republican War on Science” in the middle of a no-nukes rally.

For example, one of the comments on the Huffington Post article read:

This is the most dangerous and reckless decision ever.

Scientists have no idea at present how dangerous this technology is - their instruments can not measure the more subtle radiations that these nuclear stations emit. It is this radiation that pollutes the environment and sickens the population. The direction to go is to disable all nuclear fission stations and develop and invest in new forms of energy such as cold fusion energy - a lot safer, creates no polluting emissions and is cheap to produce. The world trend is to reduce dependence on nuclear energy, the US should lead by example.
Subtle radiations? You mean pixy dust? You mean the rays that made an invisble pink unicorn appear on my front lawn? You mean rays that interact with cancer cells or autistic brains but magically pass by Geiger counters? By the way, how do you know your favorite forms of energy production don't emit similarly undetectable rays?

Rachel Ray? Emeril?

The researchers in this xkcd comic picked the wrong cooks:

Their biggest mistake was bringing Rachael Ray and Emeril to tour the lab and sign off on the project. That's when Spielberg caught wind of it.
The One True Cooking Show for Nerds is Alton Brown's Good Eats. Where else would you get a discussion of the Maillard process in the course of a show about toast?

The Pincer Tactic

Now that Senator Obama has made us sick of hearing self-appointed “elites” claim that they knew more about how to run people's lives than the people themselves did, Senator Clinton is taking that annoyance and using it to ignore elites who might know something.

There is a difference between elites who have facts on their side and “elites” who have their prejudices on their side.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

I Forgot All about This!

There was an anti-war labor strike on the Left Coast that I mentioned a couple of months ago and I didn't notice.

According to the comments at Little Green Footballs, there was a similar strike in 1934 and efforts to break that strike failed. That was, of course, during the immigration pause and we have lots more aliens around now to break strikes.

It may be that the union in question, the ILWU (which stands for I Live Without Underwear), has been coasting on its reputation for toughness ever since 1934. I'm reminded of the SF story “Bumberboom” by Avram Davidson, in which the owners of the last cannon on Earth use it to extract protection money while hiding the fact that none of them knew how to fire the thing.

Addendum: In view of some of the plagiarism scandals that have popped up recently, I suppose I should add a citation. The expansion of ILWU above was derived from an expansion of ILGWU (I Love Going Without Underwear) that appeared in a New York Magazine competition a decade or two ago.

That was far-fetched, wasn't it?

Will Ben Stein Move to Switzerland?

After all, if you can blame Darwinism for Hitler, you can blame vegetarianism just as well. That's clearly because of Nazi disregard of vegetable rights. So … now that vegetable rights are getting official recognition in Switzerland:

You just knew it was coming: At the request of the Swiss government, an ethics panel has weighed in on the "dignity" of plants and opined that the arbitrary killing of flora is morally wrong. This is no hoax. The concept of what could be called "plant rights" is being seriously debated.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Ben Stein's Next Step

Ben Stein is not completely nuts (at least, not yet). There were doctors (using what they thought was science) in the death-camp administrations. On the other hand, Mr. Stein should know that people claiming to speak for a system of ideas don't always represent it.

Of course, if we are going to oppose the branch of science that Nazi doctors were most likely to cite, we must oppose the germ theory of disease:

Consider this quote by Hitler:

For us, this is not a problem you can turn a blind eye to-one to be solved by small concessions. For us, it is a problem of whether our nation can ever recover its health, whether the Jewish spirit can ever really be eradicated. Don't be misled into thinking you can fight a disease without killing the carrier, without destroying the bacillus. Don't think you can fight racial tuberculosis without taking care to rid the nation of the carrier of that racial tuberculosis. This Jewish contamination will not subside, this poisoning of the nation will not end, until the carrier himself, the Jew, has been banished from our midst. Speech delivered by Hitler in Salzburg, 7 or 8 August 1920. (NSDAP meeting)

Hmmm. Here Hitler is likening the Jew to a disease, to a "racial tuberculosis" even. Who originated the germ theory of disease? Louis Pasteur! So why doesn't Stein blame the Holocaust on Louis Pasteur instead of Darwin?

By this reasoning, we must go beyond mere animal rights or even vegetable rights. It's obviously time for bacterial rights. To quote from Blood Music by Greg Bear:

Each hour, a myriad of trillions of little live things—microbes, bacteria, the peasants of nature—not counting for much except in the bulk of their numbers and the accumulation of their tiny lives. They do not perceive deeply, nor do they suffer. A hundred trillion, dying, would not begin to have the same importance as a single human death.

Within the ranks of all creatures, small as microbes or great as humans, there is an equality of “elan,” just as the branches of a tall tree, gathered together, equal the bulk of the limbs below, and all the limbs equal the bulk of the trunk.

We believe in this as firmly as the kings of France believed in their hierarchy. Which of our generations will come to disagree?

Forget about the “Holocaust on a plate.” It's time to oppose the Holocaust in abscesses.

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