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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Yet another weird SF fan

Monday, June 30, 2008

Speaking of “Not Bothering to Resist” …

It looks like Google didn't bother resisting clowns who tried flagging anything they don't like as spam.

Addendum: On the other hand, Google has claimed that the alleged spam was flagged by buggy software:

On Monday, Google would not explicitly rebut the idea that it had been tricked but said that the cause of the temporary blockage appeared to be elsewhere. “It appears that our anti-spam filters caused some Blogger accounts to be blocked from creating new posts,” Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich said in a statement. “While we are still investigating, we believe this may have been caused by mass spam e-mails mentioning the ‘Just Say No Deal’ network of blogs, which in turn caused our system to classify the blog addresses mentioned in the e-mails as spam. We have restored posting rights to the affected blogs, and it is very important to us that Blogger remain a tool for political debate and free expression.”
The political opinions of Google employees might have had something to do with this, not in the sense that they're trying to suppress anything but in the sense that they think their mental models of political partisans reflect reality. It makes sense for the automatic spam-detection programs to include a “this stuff doesn't belong together” detector and such a detector might have been set off by blogs from anti-Obama Democrats.

In related news, my PageRank has gone to zero. Apparently, the “this stuff doesn't belong together” detector (a conservative who's in favor of open borders? an anti-Luddite who's against embryonic stem-cell research?) gave enough of an alarm for this blog to be flagged as resembling spam but not enough to be blocked. (Technoptimist also has a PageRank of zero, probably for similar reasons.)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Immigration Laws as Suppressing Competition

According to George Will (when did he turn into a libertarian?):

The semiconductor industry's problem is entangled with a subject about which the loquacious presidential candidates are reluctant to talk -- immigration, specifically that of highly educated people. Concerning whom, U.S. policy should be: A nation cannot have too many such people, so send us your PhDs yearning to be free.

Instead, U.S. policy is: As soon as U.S. institutions of higher education have awarded you a PhD, equipping you to add vast value to the economy, get out. Go home. Or to Europe, which is responding to America's folly with "blue cards" to expedite acceptance of the immigrants America is spurning.

Two-thirds of doctoral candidates in science and engineering in U.S. universities are foreign-born. But only 140,000 employment-based green cards are available annually, and 1 million educated professionals are waiting -- often five or more years -- for cards. Congress could quickly add a zero to the number available, thereby boosting the U.S. economy and complicating matters for America's competitors.

You can think of our de facto immigration policy as a matter of suppressing competition. On the one hand, we have laws on the books that limit immigration. On the other hand, we don't keep people out. On the gripping hand, we punish people who can be shown to have hired illegal aliens. That adds up to a policy of allowing in manual workers but keeping out anybody who needs documentation to get a job, e.g., educated workers. In other words, New York Times readers get to hire low-wage nannies and gardeners but suppress anybody who might compete with them.

This is not done deliberately. I doubt if many people set out to suppress competition. (There are exceptions.) I suspect it's a matter of not bothering to resist the nominal opposition. In other words, when conservatives try enforcing blue-collar immigration laws, they are resisted, but not when they try enforcing white-collar immigration laws.

In related news

Another case of suppressing competition

The recent freeze on solar projects (discussed here) might be another example of the same thing. When environmental laws seem to indicate that solar projects should be delayed, it's possible that the current administration could resist it but won't bother.

Query: Is the same thing true for nuclear energy? Could nuclear energy be stalled simply because the people we might trust to push through nuclear project aren't bothering to resist?

I'm in Trouble

The next pollution crisis is toxic bad breath. Considering that I ate food with garlic and onions during supper …

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Nuclear and Solar Proponents Should Bury the Hatchet …

… in the environmentalist wackos in the Bureau of Land Management.

You know, if the “Sagebrush Rebellion” had succeeded in privatizing all that land, we wouldn't have to deal with this bullbleep.

More Than Two Years Ago

From a Usenet post:

From: "Philip Kirschner" 
Newsgroups: ny.politics
References: <9h3s2f$8o1$>
Subject: Re: If New York is facing an energy shortage...
Lines: 11
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-Newsreader: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2462.0000
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2462.0000
Date: Sun, 24 Jun 2001 15:24:25 GMT
X-Trace: 993396265 (Sun, 24 Jun 2001 11:24:25 EDT)
NNTP-Posting-Date: Sun, 24 Jun 2001 11:24:25 EDT
Organization: Optimum Online

Shoreham is not a ready to use plant. It will take two years to prepare to
fire up the reactor. Its a bad design also with a terrible evacuation plan.
That is why it was placed in mothballs to begin with.

"Joseph Hertzlinger"  wrote in message
> ... then it's time to start up Shoreham!
That was more than two years ago (I might say through clenched teeth.)

I'd continue except I don't see any way to do so politely.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

When Are We Prosecuting Anti-Nuclear Activists?

James Hansen wants to prosecute people who have hindered the fight against global warming:

James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.
So … what should we do about anti-nuclear activists? There's a minor problem with the most appropriate punishment. At the present costs of natural resources, such a punishment might put a strain on the nation's dwindling tar and feather supplies.

Query: If I accused James Hansen of acting like a showman, would he accuse me of shouting “theater” in a raging fire?

Addendum: On the other hand, prosecuting anti-nuclear activists sounds like a crackpot idea, almost as nuts as prosecuting energy executives. It resembles number 36 on the Crackpot Index:

40 points for claiming that when your theory is finally appreciated, present-day science will be seen for the sham it truly is. (30 more points for fantasizing about show trials in which scientists who mocked your theories will be forced to recant.)
On the gripping hand, I suspect that anti-nuclear activists have been planning their own show trials.

Is the AP's Ability to Stop Bloggers from Quoting Its Articles Spinning out of Control?

Was a recent hysterical AP headline caused by its inability to rein in bloggers?

By the way, am I allowed to use the phrase “spinning out of control” without the express written consent of AP?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The John McCain Googlebomb

News of an attempted anti-McCain googlebomb has been going around the blogosphere. What if it backfires? After all, the bigest problem facing Republicans is the fact that much of the Republican base has gotten tired and might not care for an openly-moderate Republican. News items such as McCain says overturn the law that legalized abortion might help with the turnout. It might also help with the votes of people young enough to have been legally aborted. (Slogan: “The Democrats don't care if you were never born!”)

Other items such as McCain blasts Obama's and Clinton's attacks on NAFTA might help with the Hispanic vote and also help get the votes of those liberals who really are intellectuals. By supplying a respectable reason to vote Republican it might encourage us wingnuts to come out of the closet, which could affect long-term politics.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Case of the Missing Facts

There's a curious omission in Thomas Frank's latest column: He somehow neglected to provide any evidence at all that the people he was talking about are or were conservatives. He cited no right-wing policies that they pushed through or even tried to push through.

If he had said “Presidents who build up the military are more likely to hire people who sell arms to theocrats” he might have had a point, but he didn't. If he had said “Speakers of the House who limit welfare payments are more likely to abandon their wives” he might have had a point, but he didn't.

Maybe he's countersignaling. On the other hand, maybe citation of no facts is preferable to citation of lame facts. (ObSF: The absence of an alibi in “The Singing Bell” by Isaac Asimov.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I Hate to Admit This

I'll have to whisper it: there's actually something to be said in favor of socialism. According to The Wall Street Journal:

I have another theory. And mine fits the pattern of resource development – or lack thereof – all over the Western Hemisphere. It comes down to this: Where government has the property right, restrictions on development tend to be low. But when the private sector is the owner, environmental concerns blossom.
Does this mean the only way to get offshore oil drilling outside the Gulf of Mexico is to set up municipal oil companies?

On the other hand, maybe the investors could be the real rulers of American society: the universities. They're nearly immune to criticism nowadays and they're greedy enough to be attracted by $130 oil.

On the gripping hand, university investors might make more sense for nuclear power plants and nuclear waste recycling. Anybody protesting nukes inside the universities would have to deal with the secession of the physics and engineering departments and the potential erasure of the “Republican war on science” meme. There are openly pro-nuclear people inside the universities with no fear of being sent to re-education camps. The noted pro-nuclear nutcase Lyndon LaRouche received much of his campaign contributions from universities. The protestors would have to back down and would have no more effect than the animal-rights protestors. (Animal rights has been the next stage of “progressive” politics for over a century.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What's Happening?

Apparently, in the movie M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening, plants are fighting back against the supposed ecological sins of humans. If that really were occuring, I'd call it blatant ingratitude considering all we've done for plants such as providing them with CO2 fertilizer and suppressing insect pests. I would also call it a violation of toxic-waste emitter solidarity. Then I'd start considering how to fight back.

First, we identify the ring leader: Osama bin Ragweed. After we go after ObR's allies, we'll have to keep other terrorist plants from stepping into the resulting power vacuum so we'll have to overthrow Saddam Poison Ivy as well. That should keep the rest from making trouble.

An Obama Poster

There's a site where you can create your own Obama poster (seen via Classical Values):


Extreme Politics and Education

The report mentioned in yesterday's post might show there's a difference between anthropogenic global warming and other controversies. Increasing education might increase divisions in the controversy over AGW but it might not do so elsewhere. I suspect that us better-educated wingnuts are less likely to be Creationists [CITATION NEEDED] and that better-educated moonbats are less likely blame capitalist speculators for high oil prices [CITATION NEEDED]. The increasing divisions about alleged global warming might reflect something that is genuinely uncertain.

As for my take on AGW, it might be occurring. On the other hand, the real controversy isn't AGW but rather CCGW (capitalism-caused global warming). To the extent AGW is taking place, it's either the fault of those d@mn no-nukes hippies or the fault of the corrupt alleged Communists running China.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Your Degree Is Revoked

At Crooked Timber, they have an odd definition of “ignorant”:

This study is an important contribution to our understanding of the emerging parallel universe which has almost completely absorbed the formerly Earth-based Republican party[1] and its networking of supporting thinktanks, media outlets and blogs. It helps to explain the otherwise surprising fact that higher levels of education make Republicans more, not less, ignorant and deluded. With their beliefs on scientific, economic and political issues derived from the Great Library of Tlön, every book they read, talk show they listen to and blog they browse actively reduces their knowledge of the real world. [2].

“Ignorant” is not synonymous with “disagrees with us.” If it were, they might have grounds for revoking the degrees of us educated wingnuts.

I must admit to being tempted by the thought of revoking the education credentials of antinuclear activists.

In any case, I suspect that we have probably read more of their stuff than they have read of our stuff.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thermodynamics Homework

According to Karl Schroeder (seen via Boing Boing) advanced Singularity technology can't stop Global Warming Doomsday:

Maybe. In fact, let's assume that this mythology is true and, within about 25 years, computers will exceed human intelligence and rapidly bootstrap themselves to godlike status. At that point, they will aid us (or run roughshod over us [see the debate of geoengineering here - Ed]) to transform the Earth into a paradise .

Here's the problem: 25 years is too late. The newest business-as-usual climate scenarios look increasingly dire. If we haven't solved our problems within the next decade, even these theoretical godlike AIs aren't going to be able to help us. Thermodynamics is thermodynamics, and no amount of godlike thinking can reverse the irreversible.

Picture a lonely AI popping into superconsciousness in the last research lab in the world. As the rioters are kicking in the doors it says, "I understand! I know the answer! Why, all we have to do is--" at which point some starving, flu-ravaged fundamentalist pulls the plug.

Let's set the following two thermodynamics homework problems:
  1. How deep will we have to dig to get enough uranium and thorium to produce the energy needed to split all the carbon dioxide in the air? Express your answer in microns.
  2. How long will it take for the energy in the sunlight striking the ground to exceed the energy needed to split all the carbon dioxide in the air? Express your answer in hours.
Please note that the first question is about an energy technology already here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mathematics Is Applied Logic

We can take the hierarchy in the latest xkcd (sociology is just applied psychology; psychology is just applied biology; biology is just applied chemistry; chemistry is just applied physics; physics is just applied mathematics) a bit further.

Of course, if we take the theories of Andrea Nye (earlier discussed here and here) seriously, we can reduce logic to power relations between groups of humans, which is studied by sociology …

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The United States Lacks a Sense of Humor

We just withdrew from the well-known joke the United Nations' Human Rights Council (seen via Boing Boing).

The HRC's idea of human rights is peculiar:

GENEVA: The top U.N. rights body on Thursday passed a resolution proposed by Islamic countries saying it is deeply concerned about the defamation of religions and urging governments to prohibit it.


The document, which was put forward by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, "expresses deep concern at attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human rights violations."


The resolution "urges states to take actions to prohibit the dissemination ... of racist and xenophobic ideas" and material that would incite to religious hatred. It also urges states to adopt laws that would protect against hatred and discrimination stemming from religious defamation.

Saudi Arabia said, "Maybe Islam is one of the most obvious victims of aggressions under the pretext of freedom of expression."

There is similar to a news item in Common Knowledge edited by Robert E. Ornstein (a collection of weird news from the late 1960s and early 1970s), although back then it was Communist countries that wanted to prohibit “false statements about alleged absence of the freedom of the press” and there was the even bigger difference that they didn't bother asking others to prohibit it.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Londoners and SF

Londoners have apparently read Bernie the Faust by William Tenn.

Strange … the guy in the picture doesn't look like an extraterrestrial conman …

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Von Neumann Machines

AT LAST! (Seen via Boing Boing.)

I just noticed that I have same birthday as the machine.

Addendum: You can find the wet-blanket take on this here.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Could the quality of a substantial fraction of argumentation in the “reality-based” community be explained by countersignaling? In the standard example of countersignaling, rich people who are known to be rich will regard spending money conspicuously as vulgar since only parvenus need to signal their wealth.

Similarly, if reality-based bloggers figure that everybody knows them to be rational, they might not bother with such minor things as evidence since only irrationalists need to signal rationality. It's not signaling, it's countersignaling. (I was inspired by the level of discourse in the comments here.)

This is an alternative to the theory that they have rationality offsets.

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