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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jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com

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Small Sample Watch
XBM Graphics

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!
Bad Science
Boing Boing
Debunkers Discussion Forum
Deep Space Bombardment
Depleted Cranium
Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.
Foreign Dispatches
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Greenie Watch
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Howard Lovy's NanoBot
Liberty's Torch
The Long View
My sister's blog
Neo Warmonger
Next Big Future
Out of Step Jew
Overcoming Bias
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Peter Watts Newscrawl
Physics Geek
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Poor Medical Student
Prolifeguy's take
The Raving Theist
Respectful Insolence
Seriously Science
Slate Star Codex
The Speculist
The Technoptimist
Tools of Renewal
XBM Graphics
Zoe Brain

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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

If You Are an Asian-American in New Jersey …

… you're living in the future as measured by “Human Development Index” (seen via EconLog). According to the Human Development Project, you're living in 2060.

Save a seat for me on the next flight to Mars, okay?

Now I'm beginning to wonder what year we New York Jews are living in.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Maybe I Should Avoid Arizona

My non-driver's ID has expired and I've misplaced my Social Security card.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Color the Error Bars Black

This comparison between climate predictions and the data reminds me of the high energy physics coloring book:

This is an experimental curve. It is in complete disagreement with theory. Color the error bars Black. Make them BIGGER, BIGGER!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Do You Have Any Idea How Much That Stings?

British scientists have identified one of the genes that make it possible for worms to regrow body parts. (The bad news is that this was reported by British reporters, which makes it a bit dubious.) If your head is chopped off and split in half and each half regrows a new body, which one is you?

The subject line came from here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Chemistry of Flames

The science hierarchy isn't that rigid. It's possible to find a scientific principle on one level and apply it to a different level. For example, take the Berthelot–Thomsen principle:

The principle that of all chemical reactions possible, the one developing the greatest amount of heat will take place, with certain obvious exceptions such as changes of state.
This can easily be applied to flame wars.

The Science Hierarchy

The science hierarchy (discussed here) actually has some empirical backing (seen via a comment on Overcoming Bias):

Controlling for observed differences between pure and applied disciplines, and between papers testing one or several hypotheses, the odds of reporting a positive result were around 5 times higher among papers in the disciplines of Psychology and Psychiatry and Economics and Business compared to Space Science, 2.3 times higher in the domain of social sciences compared to the physical sciences, and 3.4 times higher in studies applying behavioural and social methodologies on people compared to physical and chemical studies on non-biological material. In all comparisons, biological studies had intermediate values.
On the other hand, that empirical backing is low on the science hierarchy.

I wonder where climate research fits.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why Is the Ivy League Taken Seriously?

According to TaxProfBlog:

My wife and I scrimped and saved to send our two kids to an exceptionally strong private school in Cincinnati, and we are thrilled by the great college choices our kids have had.  But we have been surprised by the college admissions results over the past two years at their high school -- not by the thumb on the scale in favor of racial minorities, athletes, and legacies, but by the extent of the admissions bump enjoyed by students from wealthy families. Such students have fared better in the admissions process than non-wealthy students with higher test scores, higher grades, and richer extracurricular and leadership activities.  Indeed, for upper-middle class (not "rich") families, a key decision point in the process is whether to apply for financial aid -- as the New York Times and others have reported, a dirty secret in the admissions game is that many (most? all?) colleges apply looser admissions standards if a student's parents are able to pay the tuition "rack rate," particularly in the case of elite colleges that promise loan-free financial assistance to all needy admitted students.  Such families are in a quandary given the opaqueness of the financial aid process -- don't apply, and run the risk of missing out on financial aid; apply, and run the risk of losing out in the admissions lottery.  The problem is exacerbated at elite schools outside the Top 10 or so which offer merit scholarships -- these schools typically require interested students to apply for financial aid in order to be eligible for academic scholarships.
On the other hand, in some quarters criticism of an Ivy League monopoly is regarded as a defense of mediocrity.

Run this by me again. Why is the Ivy League taken seriously at all?

Meanwhile, if you really are elite, please don't go to an Ivy League school. You're only going to raise the prestige of the undeserving.

ObSF: Pehanron College.

Friday, April 23, 2010

This Can Be Updated

The following sounds like it could be written today with minor updating:

Dear Sir:

We have the distinct honor of being members of a committee to raise $50,000,000.00 to be used to construct and place a statue of Lyndon B. Johnson in the Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C.

The committee was in quite a quandary as to selecting a proper site for the statue. It was thought that unwise to place it beside that of George Washington, who never told a lie, nor beside that of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who never told the truth, as Lyndon Johnson could never tell the difference.

After careful consideration, we think that it should be placed next to the statue of Christopher Columbus, the greatest “New Dealer” of them all, in that he started out not knowing where he was going, and in arriving, did not know where he was, and in returning did not know where he had been, and managed to do it all on borrowed money.

The inscription on the statue will read: “I pledge allegiance to Lyndon B. Johnson and to the national debt for which he stands, one man, expendable, with graft and corruption for all.”

Five thousand years ago Moses said to the Children of Israel, “Pick up your shovels, mount your asses and camels, and I will lead you to the Promised Land.” Nearly 5,000 years later Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Lay down your shovels, sit on your asses, and light up a Camel, this is the Promised Land.” Now Lyndon B. Johnson is stealing the shovels, kicking your asses, raising the price of camels, and taking over the Promised Land.

If you are one of the few who has any money left after paying taxes, we will expect a generous contribution from you for this noteworthy project.


       National Committee
       on the Johnson Bust

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More on Lenin's Birthday

I've been looking at some of posts on the left side of the blogosphere Heaping Great Scorn on us wingnuts for thinking there was any connection between the date selected for the first Earth Day and Lenin's 100th birthday. After seeing an accusation of insanity, I thought I'd quote Billy Joel:

You may be right
I may be crazy
But it just may be a lunatic you're looking for
I'd be more likely to take that accusation seriously if the preceding post on the same blog weren't a celebration of International Pot Smoking Day. (In case, anybody is wondering about my libertarian credentials, my reaction to the slogan “Legalize it don't criticize it” is to say “Let's do both!”)

On the other hand, there is a big reason it's just a coincidence. The theory that it isn't assumes that leftists pay some attention to history. As far as I can tell, they don't.

Speaking of Lenin…

How are you celebrating Lenin's birthday?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Leftists Don't Always Read Their Own Classics

At AlterNet, there's a horrified accusation that Koch Industries, the supposed puppet master behind the Tea Party demonstrations, got money from Communists. In related news, there are leftists who haven't read Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw.

By the way, if Tea Parties getting money from Koch Industries means they're puppets of Koch and if Koch Industries got money from Communists, does that mean the Tea parties are actually left-wing?

Addendum: There's additional evidence that Tea Parties are left-wing. Apparently, one of the people involved is a bald guy with a beard, just like Lenin!

Wait a moment… I'm a bald guy with a beard…

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Why the Sky Has Green and Purple Stripes

That was my initial reaction to the paper “Why Liberals and Atheists are More Intelligent” by Satoshi Kanazawa.

While reading Satoshi Kanazawa's summaries of his alleged research, I noticed the following passages:

Analyses of large representative samples, from both the United States and the United Kingdom, confirm this prediction. In both countries, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to be liberals than less intelligent children. For example, among the American sample, those who identify themselves as “very liberal” in early adulthood have a mean childhood IQ of 106.4, whereas those who identify themselves as “very conservative” in early adulthood have a mean childhood IQ of 94.8.
Once again, analyses of large representative samples from both the United States and the United Kingdom support this prediction of the Hypothesis. Net of a large number of social and demographic factors, including education, more intelligent individuals are more likely to be atheistic than less intelligent individuals. For example, among the American sample, those who identify themselves as “not at all religious” in early adulthood have a mean childhood IQ of 103.09, whereas those who identify themselves as “very religious” in early adulthood have a mean childhood IQ of 97.14.
Childhood IQ? The most obvious and most easily checked measurement would be of adult IQ. The obvious conclusion is that he did check the correlation with adult IQ but it didn't support his conclusion. (I won't more than mention the theory that all this means is that us wingnuts scored worse on a culturally-biased, meaningless test.)

I can think of two plausible reasons why liberalism etc. might be correlated with childhood IQ but not with adult IQ:

  • Liberals might grow up faster. Anecdotal evidence indicates they stop being virgins earlier. On the other hand, similar evidence says they reproduce later.
  • People who think that more of society should be run by civil service might be briefed earlier on the civil-service way of looking at the world.

Since there are reasons for high-IQ people to at least pretend to be liberals (and vice versa), it's possible that us wingnuts have higher IQs. According to that same theory, we would expect that us high-IQ wingnuts are more likely to be complete nerds. (I am, of course, speaking for myself.) There is some unreliable, anecdotal evidence to back up that claim.

There are other criticisms of the hypothesis.

A Digression

The above reasoning is based on the following heuristic:

  1. Figure out what Joe Bloggs (an average reader) would conclude from the report. If the report was strongly stated, it was probably either written by an activist who was trying to get people to believe that conclusion or by someone who based it on the activists' press releases. (In this case, Joe Bloggs would conclude that atheist liberals are the real intellectuals.)
  2. Determine the strongest potential piece of evidence that would point in the same direction. If that evidence were true, the report would have mentioned it. (In this case, it would be reports of a correlation with adult IQ.)
  3. In the absence of such evidence being mentioned, conclude that it doesn't exist.
(The above heuristic will also enable you to conclude that if a food is labeled “cholesterol-free,” it is probably high in fat unless the label says otherwise.)

Michael Medved vs. Cassius

Michael Medved is dubious about nearly everybody in government having “a lean and hungry look.”

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bake Sale Wanted

A bake sale might be enough.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Recognition of the Problem Is the First Step to a Cure

At PhD Comics, it's time to get in touch with your inner parasite.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Paging Charles Dexter Ward …

Strange phenomenon in Croatia:

The girl, from the southern town of Knin, had only just started studying German at school and had been reading German books and watching German TV to become better, but was by no means fluent, according to her parents.

Since waking up from her 24 hourcoma however, she has been unable to speak Croatian, but is able to communicate perfectly in German.

I think I've seen this story before … unless it's bullbleep. (I'm betting on bullbleep.)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Whatever Happened to …

brainwashing? Whatever happened to brain probes? Whatever happened to the psychological techniques that would supposedly enable totalitarian governments to compel voluntary obedience?

It looks like the phenomena that supposedly showed yesterday's social scientists that free will does not exist vanished with little trace. Why should we take similar stuff today seriously?

Maybe the the commonest type of “predictable irrationality” is the belief among social scientists (or, to be more exact, journalists covering psychological research) that they know better than the rest of us.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Maybe They Can Arrive as “Undocumented Persons”

The Obama administration has denied visas for Israeli nuclear scientists. If they arrived as “undocumented persons,” would it be against liberal principles to deport them?

Wait a moment, I forgot the Exception Clause.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

One Reaction to Government Takeovers

One of the worst parts of government takeovers of parts of the economy is the fear that such takeovers are permanent. To add the proverbial insult to injury, some leftists use that as part of the “let's scare conservatives” tactic. Maybe we can combat that by advocating the reversal of some of the dumber takeovers of the past. For example:

  • Bring back Rent-a-Cop. The TSA has mainly served to annoy travelers while the “root cause” of the 911 attacks (passengers trained to be passive) has been eliminated. (I won't more than mention the uselessness of air marshals.)
  • Repeal Sarbanes–Oxley. For some reason, the reaction to the nonsense on Wall Street has been to increase regulations without checking if similar regulations in the past actually worked. If the regulations didn't work, maybe we should repeal them.
  • Legalize toilets that work. In order to conserve the commonest compound in the universe, we passed laws mandating toilets that have to be flushed several times. In the unlikely event that water use must be restricted, it makes more sense to raise the price.
  • Apply the student-loan subsidies to primary and secondary schools. Why should college students get all the breaks? This might help lessen the government near-monopoly on primary and secondary education.
  • Abolish mandatory recycling, especially of paper products. We should have carbon burial instead.
  • Start phasing out concealed-carry laws. Oh wait, we're doing that. Okay, let's continue dumping those laws but do a little gloating while we're at it.
I can probably think of others.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A Star Wars Comedy?

A Star Wars comedy is no stranger than a H. P. Lovecraft comedy.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

What Would a Society Run by Vampires Look Like?

At the end of Blindsight by Peter Watts (earlier comments here and a summary of vampire biology here), it looks like the solar system has been taken over by vampires. I've been trying to figure out what a vampire-dominated society would look like.

Let's see … Each vampire (or vampire family) would have a herd of humans to provide blood and possibly be servants as well. They would be well armed and insist that that their herds be defenseless (unless they bred some of their pet humans to be guard dogs). They would have well-marked territories to minimize conflict (highly dangerous in predatory species). Under normal circumstances, a vampire would get a territory by inheriting it. Since vampires might be loyal to close relatives, they might have elaborate kin exchange customs to minimize conflicts. In other words, they would act just like royalty did in the age of absolute monarchies. There are even legends of undead kings

This would explain why the oldest civilizations were frequently absolute monarchies. I recently celebrated a holiday commemorating the escape from such a regime. Were the first few Pharaohs vampires? (There are other speculations for the monarchies of the period.) It would even explain the long life spans of the pre-Abraham patriarchs in Genesis.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Rip That Godd@mn Hook out of My Mouth!

I've been reading about the development of transgenic fish with extra muscles (seen via Next Big Future):

A University of Rhode Island scientist has developed transgenic rainbow trout with enhanced muscle growth, which has yielded fish with what have been described as six-pack abs and muscular shoulders that could revolutionise the commercial aquaculture industry.


Of the eggs that hatched, 300 carried the gene that led to increased muscle growth. After two years, most fish had the "six-pack ab" effect, even though fish lack standard abdominal muscles. They also have increased musculature throughout.

I was somehow reminded of a Robert Klein routine (quoted here):
Ever see a guy fishing at 125th Street and the Hudson River [in New York]? That is patience. Suppose that he did catch something... do you have any idea what kind of bulliock monster fish that's gotta be? What a tough New York fish... he'll come outta the water and go "RIP THAT GODDAMN HOOK OUT OF MY MOUTH YOU IDIOT! WHAT, DO YOU THINK THAT TICKLES YOU MORON?!"
On the other hand, a fish like that wouldn't be caught in the first place.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

A Suggestion for Bibi's Revenge

If Benjamin Netanyahu wants to undermine the Obama administration, one way would be to start privatizing medical care in Israel.

Or, in other words, let my doctors go.

Why Would ETs Come to Earth?

One of the reasons to be skeptical of the claim that extraterrestrials are visiting out planet is, as pointed out by Orac and many others:

First, if there really are extraterrestrials of such awesome intelligence and possessing such incredibly advanced technology, why, of all the places they could go in the galaxies, would they spend all that time, energy, and technology to travel to earth?
Maybe they're here to study a mass extinction caused by primitive technology. Complex ecosystems can be studied elsewhere. Mass extinctions caused by comets or volcanoes can be studied elsewhere. Mass extinctions caused by advanced technology can be studied elsewhere. But this is the only place in the galaxy where DDT producers can be studied in their native habitat.

It makes at least as much sense as “they want to protect biodiversity” and it hasn't been overdone yet.

Obama's Nuclear Policy Summarized

According to Charles Martin:

This followed the administration’s previous flashy energy trick, which included announcements that they were looking to nuclear energy as another source for future energy.

Watch the other hand. This followed the administration canceling consideration of the Yucca Mountain waste repository last year. Administratively, not through legislation, of course. Part of the approach to new nuclear energy included a new study on dealing with nuclear waste, but Energy Secretary Chu admitted quietly on March 31 that the one possibility for waste storage that wouldn’t be considered was the existing Yucca Mountain project.

Nuclear power: in. Unless you want to store the waste produced.

This administration's nuclear policy is like a discount for a vacation at a luxury hotel … with the toilets out of order.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Iain M. Banks Should Have Gotten the Job

In my humble opinion, Iain M. Banks should gotten the job of writing the Atlas Shrugged sequel, as reported yesterday. Let's see … The Culture Minds decide they're insufficiently appreciated and go out on strike …

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Time to Buy Google?

Google is going nuclear after all, contrary to my earlier worries.

I greet this with mixed feelings … of joy and relief.

Wait a moment … I just remembered what day it is …

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