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
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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)

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Back Off Government!
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Debunkers Discussion Forum
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Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.
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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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Real Case of a Juggling Scientist

In case anybody was dubious about PhD Comics' use of a juggling scientist, there was a real one, Claude Shannon:

While I was at MIT, I heard stories that Shannon had unicycled down the Infinite Corridor, juggling as he went. I have yet to find anyone who actually saw this event, but I’m still asking.
Unlike most brilliant theoretical mathematicians, Claude was also wonderfully adept with tools and machines, and frequently built little gadgets and inventions, usually with the goal of being whimsical rather than practical. "I've always pursued my interests without much regard to financial value or value to the world. I've spent lots of time on totally useless things," Shannon said in 1983. These useless things would include his juggling robot, a mechanical mouse that could navigate a maze, and a computing machine that did all its calculations in roman numerals.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Explanation: I was planning to post something on that and somehow never got around to it. Meanwhile I also pushed the wrong button and a stub intended as a reminder to myself to write about it got published. I'd delete it except someone already commented.

On the other hand, I'd already posted on the same topic.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I Read Too Fast

At first I thought this headline read:

Students Campaign For Alternative Humans
Now, where did I put my “Mutants for Nuclear Power” button?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Great Minds Training the Next Generation

A hoplophobic teacher tried to ban pencils (seen via View from the Porch):

The memo explained that students would be issued a pencil that would be collected at the end of the school day, for use in class. It asked parents to discuss the rules with students over the weekend and to be sure they did not bring contraband writing implements into class.


The teachers’ memo explained that the change was being made because of behavior problems and indicated that any student found in possession of a pen or mechanical pencil after Nov. 15 would be “assumed” to have the implement “to build weapons,” or to have “stolen” it from the classroom art supply basket.

The really astounding part is that the school administration actually showed some sense:

A letter banning the possession of anything but a school-issued No. 2 yellow pencil in sixth-grade classes at North Brookfield Elementary School “went over the line,” the school superintendent said yesterday. The letter that was sent home indicated teachers were dealing with a discipline problem and believed the ban would address the issue.

In a related story…

Some years ago, a teacher broke new ground in the treatment of antonyms:

Pink's story reminds me of a tale that made the rounds of the Mensa
newsletters back when, concerning a kid who brought home a paper marked
wrong by the teacher. The question was "What is the opposite of frog?"
The incensed parent challenged the teacher, claiming that there is no such
thing as the opposite of frog, whereupon the teacher in the haughtiest
possible manner informed the parent that the opposite of frog is tadpole.
Most people I've asked say the opposite of “frog” is “gorf,” but a few say it's “anti-frog.”

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Suggestion

The TSA irradiation policy can continue … as long as the officials looking are nude and visible to the public.

What sauce for the goose …

Search My Bag But Not My Butt

I wasn't planning to say much more about the TSA nonsense (I rarely fly) but the news that Janet Napoleonic complex wants to extend the same system to trains and buses is forcing me to reconsider.

I'll say more after the steam has stopped pouring out of my ears.

Maybe I can look on the bright side: It will be an opportunity to recruit libertarians…

My earlier comments on bag searches can be found here, there, and yonder.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It Just Might Work

Yohogania Energy Resources has found a way to fight global warming that might be even better than nukes:

Sustainable Coal Mining
For every 200 pounds of coal we extract, we bury a tree.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

They Exist!

There are actually some people willing to defend the Tit-Squeezing Authority. For example, Orin Judd regards the following as an adequate refutation of Bruce Schneier's criticism of the TSA policies:

Put two planes at the airport gate and offer Mr. Schneier a flight on the one where passengers have been thoroughly searched or on the one where it is assumed that's a waste of time and money and which one is he getting on? 'Nuff said.
The plane where the passengers haven't been searched is more likely to have a passenger with the weaponry that might help fight back against terrorists.

As for the other side of the defenses of Totally Screwing Americans … To any leftists who might be reading this, the numerous accusations that the Tea-Party protests are astroturf are based on the same amount of evidence as this heaping pile of horsebleep.

Sheep Must Be Smart

… and locusts must be geniuses.

According to a recent study:

The study analysed available data on the brain and body size of over 500 species of living and fossilised mammals. The brains of monkeys grew the most over time followed by horses, dolphins, camels and dogs.

It found that groups of mammals with relatively bigger brains tended to live in stable social groups. The brains of more solitary mammals such as cats, deer and rhino, grew much more slowly during the same period.

Slime molds, of course, are the most social creatures on Earth (even if they sometimes make logical errors) and must be superintelligent.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Artificial Intelligence vs. Intelligence Amplification, Part IV

My earlier speculations on AI vs. IA can be found here, there, and yonder.

In Part II, I gave as a reason to regard IA as more likely than Colossus, Skynet, or HAL 9000:

The theory that a few Great Minds can outdo a crowd of supposedly-lesser minds is one of the bases of central planning. The central planners supposedly know best. In the real world …

Along similar lines, attempts to keep undesirables out of the United States generally kept out people we can now recognize as assets.

In the Leviathan version of AI, democracies have generally been more successful than dictatorships. Similarly, attempts to regulate corporations (whether pro- or anti-corporate), have generally pushed business across the state or national boundary.

More recently, Robin Hanson in his series of posts on Overcoming Bias on “ems” has made it clear that he expects the next exponential mode to be a matter of an exponential growth in the number of emulated personalities (called “ems”). I had earlier thought he was theorizing a situation similar to that in “Slow Tuesday Night” by R. A. Lafferty.

I was a bit dubious about Hanson's theory on the grounds that I thought the surplus computing power would be more likely to go into amplifying ordinary human beings than into making more human personalities. I then realized that that was based on the theory that “a few Great Minds can outdo a crowd of supposedly-lesser minds,” which is the same theory that I rejected earlier.

Hmmmm… Maybe AI will be more important in the future than I had expected…

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An Update on Upper-Dimension Axioms

I just realized that the first upper-dimension axiom on my Netcom/Earthlink site (earlier mentioned here) also implies Euclid's axiom. In English, the axiom means that every sphere can be put inside a n-dimensional simplex. In a Lobachevskian space there's an upper limit to the size of a triangle.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

After Listening to Parts of The Girl Who Beat a Dead Horse Trilogy on Tape

After listening to parts of The Girl Who Beat a Dead Horse trilogy on tape (also known as the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson), I decided it sounds too much like a leftist revenge fantasy. Not merely leftist, but Stalinist. (If you betray the Great People's Socialist Revolution comrade, we will depict you as a sadistic pervert and anybody who comes to your aid as downright fascist.)

Does this mean I have to read it to be sure?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Color I Didn't Know Existed

According a commenter at Hot Air:

The fact is that the United States is now and always has been an overwhelmingly European and Christian nation- the so-called melting pot containing mostly by far white protestants of Anglo-Germanic descent.
“Far-white”? What color is that? Is it anything like “infra-yellow” from the Green Lantern comic books?

New You Can Use

There's a Russian holiday called Procreation Day … in case you were planning to move there.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Shorter Kenneth Brower

Freeman Dyson is a heretic! STONE HIM!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Old News

The fact that some of Gödel's undecidable statements were about natural numbers is old news. The new part is that now some of them are understandable to mathematicians who aren't specialists in the subject. Actually, that is big news to those of us who used to suspect that logicians pulled their statements out of a vulgar body aperture just to be ornery.

The news article was seen via Orin Judd, who thinks it's a defense of theology. Come to think of it, even that interpretation is old news. I'm reminded of Paul Gordan's statement:

Das ist nicht Mathematik. Das ist Theologie.
There was even a theological doctrine that inspired a mathematician or two.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Problem with an Overpopulation==Disaster Scenario

The following is a common illustration of why We Must Do Something About Imminent Overpopulation Immediately (quoted by Dan Gardner):

Imagine a test tube filled with food. That's the Earth, he says. Now introduce a single bacterium to that test tube and let it grow exponentially. In the first minute, one bacterium becomes two bacteria. In the second minute, two become four. Four become eight. Eight become 16. If it takes one hour for the bacteria to multiply until they fill the entire test tube and there's no more food -- and the bacteria all die -- when will the test tube be exactly half full of food and half full of bacteria?

In the 59th minute. Which is strange because at that moment things look fine. But the very next minute, catastrophe strikes.

The problem with the above scenario isn't, contrary to Dan Gardner, that an environmentalist is more certain about the catastrophe than about potential solutions. It's quite common for some parts of a field of knowledge to be known to a greater degree of certainty than other parts. To put this is terms that my fellow wingnuts can understand, it's possible to be certain that funny money will lead to inflation and also disclaim the knowledge that can enable a government to pick winners.

The problem with the scenario is that it points the reader's attention at the ratio between the time until Disaster Strikes and the total elapsed time (in this case 1/60). The important ratio is that between the time until Disaster Strikes and the reaction time of the organisms in question. That is likely to be less spectacular.

There's also the little problem that bacteria use up the nutrients but don't produce them. That's unlikely with humans.

Monday, November 08, 2010

More on Sewage

Free the Animal has a suggestion for how to obtain vitamin B12 the vegan way:

Here's what I propose: Let's encapsulate fresh, raw poop -- from ruminants or primates (intervention studies could later determine which is more effective in raising B12 levels). Can you imagine the premium you could charge if it had to be air tight, refrigerated, so the bacteria could keep doing their thing all the while?
There are precedents in stone-age beer and Kopi Luwak coffee.

In other words, it's been done.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Debate Wanted

The news that a recent study showed that alcohol is more dangerous than nearly any illegal kind of mind-shrinking chemical has been going around the blogosphere. A debate between these researchers and the other researchers (these guys?) who have been claiming marvelous benefits from drinking may be amusing … at least to those of us with some brain cells left.

While I'm at it …

This is as good a time as any to point out the most important reason to legalize marijuana: Legalization will keep stoners from voting. The only possible explanation for California's election results is that it was the result of a coalition between stoners and public-employee unions. (The unions must have voted down Proposition 19; if it were passed they would have been deprived of their allies.)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Two Different Waves of the Future

The left still regards itself as the Wave of the Future. They can buttress that by pointing to the support of the media and academia (which are of growing importance in society) and the tendency of many immigrant groups to vote Democratic. An essential part of that self image is the support of Jewish voters. Jews are disproportionately involved in media and academia and are regarded as an immigrant group (even when third generation) by mainstream leftists and allegedly right-wing loons.

On the other hand, we see the fact that people in more traditional households vote Republican and are out-reproducing the Enlightened Ones. These two tendencies collide in the Ultra-Orthodox community which is both Jewish and traditional. If the left can get the support of the Hasidim, they can continue to pat themselves on the back.

It looks like the Democrats lost Hasidic support this year.

In a possibly-related story, Congressman McMahon channeled his inner Samuel D. Burchard and was defeated.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Rare Republican Loss

I regret to say that, owing to the loss by State Senator Frank Padavan, I work in a district that will not be represented by any Republicans at all.

In previous elections, I noticed signs saying “Democrats for Padavan.” I didn't see any this year. The Democratic strategy of trying to ensure unanimity among people they regard as their base may have paid off in this case. (It might also explain the election results in southern New England.)

By the way, is it my imagination or did the Democrats win a disproportionate percentage of close races?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

After a Decade and a Half

In Willful ignorance as a campaign platform, Orac said:

It's depressing to think that after today people like this may well be running the House:
Intellectual standards in politics are definitely declining. Just a decade and half ago, we had a Speaker of the House with a PhD!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Update on Undecidable “Elementary” Geometry

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had trouble locating upper- and lower-dimensional axioms for Tarski's system. You can find examples in this presentation. On the other hand, I prefer mine.

As for devising a plausible way to express spirals, I have run into a problem. Whenever I try thinking too hard about lines, circles, and spirals, the theme song for The Thomas Crown Affair keeps going through my head and interfering…

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