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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Someone Who's Been Listening to Crackpots

Apparently Igor Panarin has been listening to the crackpots who have been claiming that “Jesusland” should be separate from “The United States of Canada” as well as the apparently-different crackpots complaining about the alleged un-Americanism of recent immigrants.

On the other hand, maybe he figures that it's our turn to break up.

On the gripping hand, the breakup of the Soviet Union was a matter of reversing part of the Russian conquests of a few centuries ago. Reversing the American Civil War is unlikely, considering that much of the former confederacy has been taken over by the Yankee race. (George W. Bush, for example, is a Texan of Yankee descent.) Reversing the Mexican War is marginally more likely, until we notice that Mexican politics has been upended in the past decade or so by the increasing influence of the areas close to the United States. It may be that the United States is taking over Mexico rather than the other way around.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Not Necessarily a Paradox

In an attempt at showing how religious beliefs can be paradoxical, Kip at Overcoming Bias wrote:

While most people believe in an “afterlife,” people don't believe that parts of a crazy person's mind go to Heaven when he loses them; by extrapolation, all of a person's mind doesn't go to Heaven when you lose all of it.
A resurrection at the End of Days (or on the Riverworld) avoids this apparent problem.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Did I Predict Something Like the Madoff Scandal?

Last year, I wrote:

By the way, do they know better than the market? There are reasons to be skeptical. As I've mentioned before, violations of the Efficient-Market Hypothesis tend to be temporary and may be no more reliable than the data-mining results that appeared to indicate astrological signs could be medically relevant. The fact that the hedge-fund people tend to be Democrats might be no more relevant than the political opinions of lottery winners.

We might have to brace ourselves for a scandal. If potential investors suddenly realize the hedge funds are simply a type of gambling, they will look around for people to blame. Since everybody knows “the rich” are on the right side of the political spectrum, they will blame the activities of these Democrats on free market capitalism. Could this be the next Enron?

On the other hand, I also expected the scandal would involve somebody socially liberal who think he knows better than religious traditions. That turned out not to be the case.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Defense of Political Correctness?

There's a rumor (seen via NRO), that Canada's PC commissars are defending Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Speaking as who thinks Rudolph got a raw deal and that the other reindeer should be turned into venison, this might be a defense of PC … until we recall that such government machinery can easily be captured by the mundanes and turned in the opposite direction.

The Other Side of the “War on Christmas”

Instead of complaining about occasional opposition to public celebrations of Christmas, wouldn't it make more sense for Christians to complain about the fact that religion is nearly absent from popular culture the rest of the year?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Brief Note on the Weather

Right now I'm in favor of global warming.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Another Consequence of the Conscience Clause

According to a commenter at Dark Christianity (commenting on the Conscience Clause that ensures that the cliche that “abortion is between a woman and her doctor” actually means something):

I wonder what would happen if a Pagan, agnostic, or atheist doctor refused to offer artificial insemination to a Christian couple on the grounds that they don't feel it's right to help put a child into a psychologically hostile, cult-like Christian household.

It sound cruel, but I'd really like to see this law backfire on the wingnuts.

I will defend such a doctor, even if he or she applies such reasoning to Jews.

By the way, where did the commenters on that thread get the idea that opposition to abortion was limited to Dominionist Christians?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Consequence of the Conscience Clause

Allegedly Jewish groups are criticizing the conscience clause (seen via Brothers Judd) that extends religious freedom to doctors and pharmacists. I must remind them that one of the effects of the conscience clause is that Orthodox Jewish pharmacists have the right to refuse to sell calendars.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Meaning of “Madoff”

The “Mad-off” is, of course, the contest between Bernard Madoff's victims to see who can be angriest …

Meanwhile, the old saying “If you would have peace, prepare for war.” has a corollary: “If you would have honesty, prepare for fraud.”

Addendum: I have been informed that Madoff is pronounced “made off,” ruining a perfectly-good pun.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Razib Answers My Question

I recently asked (with more comments here):

The normal operation of the financial markets should confine problematic debt in a small part of the system where people who specialize in risky investments can deal with it. In other words, what were those financiers smoking?
Razib has some reasons to conclude it was speed:
So here's my explanation of the present Collapse of Western Civilization: amphetamines. The world of finance is a rather small one, populated entirely by supersmart, extremely aggressive and competitive men (mostly) who have to go at top speed twelve or more hours a day, day after day. How do they do it? Performance-enhancing drugs, that's how: legally-prescribed amphetamines. (Cocaine is uncool, and so Eighties.)

Maybe the drugs being used by financiers should be included in annual reports.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Problem with the Shoe Incident

If the United States doesn't retaliate for the recent shoe-throwing incident, some clowns in the Middle East might take that as a “sign of weakness” and use that to recruit wannabee terrorists. To prevent that, we must find the home town of the shoe thrower and … DUMP A THOUSAND SHOES ON IT!

Stiletto heels if we want to be nasty about it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

How to Deal with Anti-Nuclear Protesters

A crocodile-filled moat sounds like a good start.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Which States Have Been the Swing States?

I've been wondering which states have been the swing states. If you list the states in order from most Democratic to most Republican in a Presidential election, which states have been the ones to put the victor over the top? For example, in the last three Presidential elections, Florida was famously the swing state of 2000, Ohio was the swing state of 2004, and Iowa was the swing state of 2008.

I've made a list of the swing states from 1824 to 2008 (the data at Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections only go back to 1824) and, when I sorted the states in order of most likely to swing, I got the following results:
10New York
3New Jersey
1North Carolina
1South Carolina
1West Virginia
New York has been the swing state surprisingly often. On the other hand, it hasn't been a swing state since 1944.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Problems with an Academic Scientist Heading the Department of Energy

It looks like the President-elect is planning to pick a real scientist, Steven Chu of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, to head the Department of Energy. I can see two potential problems:

  • One of the biggest scams of the anti-nuclear movement is to convince the experts that the people are anti-nuclear and the people that the experts are anti-nuclear. Someone from Berkeley might be more likely to think anti-nukes represent the people. As a result, he might not push nuclear energy enough.
  • Scientists have an incentive to support more research. When combined with the first problem, this leads them to think that the alleged opposition can be overcome by perfecting nuclear technology with more research when, in the real world, it's sometimes time to stop researching and ship.
I suspect that someone from a computer hardware or software business might have been a better choice. Their motto is frequently “Get it first the right time.”

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Speculation on What If Japan Hadn't Been Nuked

On this 67th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I've been considering that the Japanese were mobilizing school children and also considering the effects of fighting wars in the Middle East against an enemy determined to mobilize emotions. As a result, I can think of three nasty possible effects of using an invasion of Japan as an alternative to nukes:

  1. We might have had a Vietnam War Syndrome twenty years earlier. The returning veterans would have been greeted as “baby killers” (at least those who survived attacks by ten-year old kids with machine guns). We might have seen a general turn toward pacifism and distrust of the “establishment.” On the other hand, we might have seen a cold civil war between the generations. (By the way, I suspect we might see such a cold civil war in the generation after abortion becomes obsolete.)
  2. We might have had reinforced racism. The returning veterans would have been as influential as in our time-line but they would be used to the idea of shooting at people just because they were a different race. Civil rights or relaxed immigration laws might not have gotten off the ground. (There is little danger of that in the aftermath of the Current Unpleasantness. We're not fighting brown people over there; we're fighting white people with suntans.)
  3. Our troops might have been reluctant to shoot back and gotten bogged down. After a few years, the Russians would be ready to launch a successful brutal invasion of what would eventually become the Japanese SSR.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The '70s Are Back

In my previous post on the return of 1970s economics, I forgot to mention one of the most irritating phenomena of the era: the propensity of liberals to blame opposition to “economic stimulus” on a desire for either inequality or mass unemployment.

As a result of that, I am unable to claim the credit of predicting the revival of that theory.

On the other hand, I still have time to predict that when interest rates rise again, some people will claim that that aggravates inflation.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I Detect a Pattern

Some recent search terms:

Maybe they should stop beating around the bush and tell us what they really think.

My term, in case you were wondering, was “disinformation.”

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

This Rarely Happens

Johan Baez, in the latest This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics, talked about a part of mathematics I'm familiar with.

Discussions of topological measure theory seem to be rare in mathematical physics. Maybe the Banach–Tarski paradox scared them away.

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