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

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Question about the “Obamacons”

Is it possible that the Obama campaign has a highly effective blackmailing operation going on behind the scenes? That would explain so much …

Addendum: I just remembered that a few months ago Overcoming Bias predicted that this sort of phenomenon might be common:

Before becoming a pundit someone may spend a long career as a trustworthy academic or journalist, giving careful measured evaluations of the small issues before them.  As a pundit they may even usually give thoughtful reasoned commentary on issues of moderate importance.

But every four years, when a major election is at stake, or when a big crisis appears, styles change.  In their world folks mutter, "pull out all the stops, this is really important."  They may retain the outward appearance of keeping to their previous standards, but in fact they start to say whatever it takes to push "their side."

Come to think of it, that might explain why some alleged defenders of capitalism support the bleeping bailout.

A Prediction

If Sarah Palin is elected President in 2012 or 2016, in the following election the Democratic candidate will bear a striking resemblance to Amy Poehler.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Alternate Physics in Stephenson's Baroque Cycle

A few years ago, I speculated that a minor change in physics would make nuclear bombs nearly impossible to make. If the neutron mass were a little bit higher, all the uranium 235 on Earth would have decayed to non-fissionable neptunium 235. (At least, I don't think it's fissionable. Part of the energy that makes uranium 235 nuclei fission comes from the fact that there's an odd number of neutrons in a U-235 nucleus and there's a larger energy yield when such nuclei absorb a neutron. Neptunium 235 has an even number of neutrons.)

More recently, I've been reading Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. Among other differences between the Baroque Cycle universe and our universe is that gold has more than one stable isotope. In the hypothetical universe I mentioned above, gold 199 will be be stable as well as gold 197. The 20th-century discovery of the Theory of Relativity may have less spectacular effects there than here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why Many Voters Are Ignoring Ayers

In view of the incompetence of the Weathermen when it comes to blowing up people, the voters have the attitude described in an article in the April 1979 issue of Analog, “Build Your Own A-Bomb And Wake Up The Neighborhood” by George W. Harper:

Terrorists who blow up only themselves are merely amusing and not at all terrible.
Stupidity apparently excuses everything.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

News I Didn't Know

According to Lewis Diuguid, Kansas City Star Editorial Page columnist, “socialist” is a code word for “black.” I didn't know Bernard Sanders was black. (He looks pink … in more ways than one.)

If we include possible socialists who don't admit to being socialists, I didn't know either Hillary Clinton or Henry Paulson were black.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Good Side of Protectionism

It looks like the governments of wealthy nations are getting together to shaft capitalism. We could use politicians who will be offensive as possible over the next year or two. Protectionism is one of the most effective ways to be obnoxious.

We'll just have to remember to turn them out of office soon after.

I just realized I'm starting to sound like Dr. Pangloss…

Switzerland's Next Step

Switzerland has recently passed a law protecting the dignity of plants. The next step, of course, is dirt rights. There's a theory that life started as a type of clay (see Genetic Takeover by A. G. Cairns-Smith). When we protect the dignity of dirt, that will include the right to not be humiliated, so the phrase “dumb as dirt” will have to go…

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Obama Might Not Be a Complete Disaster

Merely a half disaster. He's apparently been bought by a nuclear utility called Exelon:

A prominent supporter of Yucca Mountain, though, is Exelon Corp., an electric utility based in Chicago.

Exelon operates the largest nuclear fleet (17 reactors) in the United States and the third-largest commercial nuclear fleet in the world, according to Exelon's Web site.

In a speech to nuclear energy executives in May 2007, Exelon CEO John Rowe said permanent disposal at Yucca Mountain or a similar facility remains "a long-term imperative" for the industry, even while he acknowledged it would not happen soon.


Meanwhile, campaign finance records confirm Exelon is one of Obama's top contributors. The Center for Responsive Politics found that Exelon employees were his sixth-largest corporate donor group. (No. 1 was Goldman Sachs.)

In other words, Obama might be corrupt enough to be tolerable.

Addendum: I just noticed the line about Goldman Sachs. That might explain why Henry Paulson has acted as an Obama mole.

Addendum II: I just realized that Exelon might be trying to suppress other people's nukes.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Proof Intelligence Tests Are Culturally Biased …

… in animals. In particular, intelligence tests at first appeared to show that dogs are smarter than wolves:

Dr Hare’s experiments involved showing his animals two upside-down cups, one of which covered food. A human would then gesture in some way at the cup covering the food. In theory, if the animal being tested was properly interpreting the gestures, it should have been lured to the object that the experimenter was indicating. And that is what Dr Hare found. Dogs selected the cup hiding the food far more than half the time, whereas the wolves he used for comparison got it right no more frequently than chance.

It turned out that the tests in question were culturally biased towards canids who had been raised by humans. In another experiment:

Her team therefore worked with a mixture of pet dogs, dogs from animal shelters that had had minimal interaction with people, and wolves raised by humans. They exposed their animals to an experiment similar to Dr Hare’s and came up with strikingly different results.

As they report in Animal Behaviour, the wolves outperformed both shelter dogs and pets. Indeed, six of the eight wolves followed human gestures perfectly in more than eight out of ten trials. Only three of eight pets were as successful as that and, as with Dr Hare’s wolves, none of the shelter dogs performed better than chance.

If the intelligence tests had involved moose hunting …

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Both of Them

A new blog: Pro Nuclear Democrats.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Something to Worry About

No. It's not about Wall Street this time.

According to the November 2008 issue of Natural History magazine, there's a species of vampire bat that has evolved something resembling opposable thumbs.

It's not just for cute cuddly pandas any more.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Republicans' Secret Weapon in Regaining Congress in 2010

It looks like the Democrats have convinced themselves that any Republican opposition is fueled by racist prejudice against Senator Obama. That means, of course, they won't be prepared for a backlash against a mostly-white Democratic Congress. It will be 1994 all over again.

But wait … There's more … If this also produces a a Republican landslide in State Legislatures in 2010, the redistricting will be Republican influenced.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Set Paranoia Bit to ON

According to Bryan Caplan:

Last week was the most plausible example of a psychologically-driven financial panic that I've ever lived through. I have to think that most of the people who sold did so because they were scared by falling prices. Falling prices, in turn, scared people. At risk of sounding like a pop psychologist, the result was a scare spiral.

Admittedly, the fact that you're paranoid doesn't prove that "they" aren't after you. Maybe all this fear-driven selling is just bringing the market back to where it belongs. But I'm skeptical - I think last week was noise trading run amok.

In any case, suppose I'm right. What then should we think about Paulson, Bernanke, and Bush publicly freaking out in the weeks before the panic? What should we think about all the voices warning about "the end of the world"? While there's no way to know for sure, isn't it at least plausible that in the absence of this high-profile doom-saying, last week's panic would never have happened?

There's a very simple explanation for all this: Either Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke, or both are closet Democrats trying to sabotage the McCain campaign. The panic didn't go into high gear until it started to look like McCain would win.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


If Sarah Palin's verbal SAT was 425, does that mean she scored badly on a culturally-biased, meaningless test?

What was that? It's a forgery? As Bullwinkle once said:

If you can't believe what you read in the funnies, what can you believe?
But wait… They're trying to suppress Bullwinkle! It's a coverup!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Problem with an Obama Presidency

If Obama is elected and doesn't govern from the center, the Republicans will almost certainly regain the House and probably the Senate in 2010 and possibly the White House in 2012. The problem is that the Wall Street faction of the Republican Party has taken itself out of consideration in the course of the past few weeks. In other words, we are likely to see nativists (and possibly protectionists) running the government in a few years.

We right-wing open-borders people might start looking at the theocratic wing of the Republican Party. (I promise that if I endorse Mike Huckabee for President on the blog, I'll throw up first.)

Meanwhile, the Libertarians are looking like a better choice lately. A month ago, a large Libertarian vote would be taken as an endorsement of isolationism. Right now, it's likely to be taken as opposition to bailouts.

Friday, October 03, 2008

This Sounds Familiar Somehow

According to Milton Friedman:

The two chief enemies of the free society or free enterprise are intellectuals on the one hand and businessmen on the other, for opposite reasons. Every intellectual believes in freedom for himself, but he’s opposed to freedom for others.…He thinks…there ought to be a central planning board that will establish social priorities.…The businessmen are just the opposite—every businessman is in favor of freedom for everybody else, but when it comes to himself that’s a different question. He’s always the special case. He ought to get special privileges from the government, a tariff, this, that, and the other thing…
That seems apropos to current events for some strange reason.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Note on the Evidence Offered for the Claim That We're in an Economic Emergency

I noticed many of the claims that credit has been “frozen” are either from anonymous sources or based on underwhelming data, e.g., that the three-month dollar LIBOR has gone to almost four percent.

Addendum: A segment of the economy with some actual evidence of frozen credit has been identified: municipal borrowers. I'm not sure if that's a bug or a feature.

Praying for an Uptick in the Dow–Jones Average?

I noticed my synagogue was even more crowded than the usual for Rosh Hashanah on Tuesday morning.

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