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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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, June 30, 2011

People with Sweet Tooths Tend to Gain Weight

According to the latest research:

For one study, researchers at the center followed 474 diet soda drinkers, 65 to 74 years of age, for almost 10 years. They found that diet soda drinkers' waists grew 70 percent more than non-drinkers. Specifically, drinking two or more diet sodas a day busted belt sizes five times more than people who avoided the stuff entirely.
In related news:
Isn't this a little like observing that where there are epidemics, one tends to find more doctors?
I was reminded somehow.

I would like to commend the authors of the study in question for actually using a decent sample size. This doesn't always happen in this line of research.

More Geeky JavaScript News

I have uploaded a Mandelbrot set program to my Netcom/Earthlink site.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nukes Turn out to Be Unexpectedly Durable

Needless to say, this is taken to PROVE the perfidy of the nuclear industry.

Aren't you glad to see the word “unexpectedly” used in a context that had nothing to do with the economy?

Life in JavaScript, II

I have just uploaded another Life program to my Netcom/Earthlink site. It is supposed to produce a Life display using JavaScript to produce high-resolution bitmaps (instead of low-resolution arrays). This time it works with all major web browsers.

The bad news is: It will always start with a random pattern. I have not yet implemented a method of inputting your own pattern.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Question about Those “Low-Sloping Foreheads”

If the “low-sloping foreheads” of people in flyover country mean they have low IQs, does that mean they scored badly on a culturally-biased, meaningless test?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Another Program for the MIU Puzzle

I have ported the Perl program for the MIU puzzle (from Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter)—earlier discussed here—to JavaScript.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Unbelievable News

A state legislature has done something sensible even without a popular outcry: The Nevada state legislature is starting to legalize driverless cars, something economists were dubious would ever be done.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Principle Formerly Known as Determinism

… is now known as the holographic principle.

According to the holographic principle, a complete description of a volume of space–time is entirely determined by conditions on its boundary. According to classical determinism, a complete description of the future (which is a volume of space–time) is entirely determined by conditions on its boundary (also known as the present). You can think of the holographic principle as classical determinism plus future–past equivalence (also present in classical physics) and space–time equivalence. (I was reminded of this by an article in the latest Scientific American.)

In other words, attempts to link the holographic principle to mysticism make less than no sense.

Monday, June 20, 2011

“Alpha Males” and Alpha Males

Roissy celebrated Father's Day by writing about men pretending to be alpha males. Meanwhile, The New York Post celebrated Father's Day by writing about real alpha males.

Question: Are sperm donors responsible for the Flynn effect?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Latest in Paranoia

The latest paranoid theory is:

A shocking report prepared by Russia’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency (FAAE) on information provided to them by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) states that the Obama regime has ordered a “total and complete” news blackout relating to any information regarding the near catastrophic meltdown of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant located in Nebraska.
There are two problems. One, the IAEA doesn't seem to know about this. Two, according to Wikipedia, it was trivial:
On June 7, 2011, an electrical component in a switcher room caused a small fire with poisonous gases and Halon extinguisher activation which forced a partial evacuation.[12] The fire was no longer active when firefighters arrived and according to officials, the public was never in any danger, however in response, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission declared an alert, which is a level 2 incident.[13] The fire impacted a pump which is used to recirculate coolant water through the spent fuel pool. The pump was offline for an hour but backup equipment was not needed as estimated time to boiling temperature was over 88 hours.[14] The evacuation was the first at the facility since 1992, when 20,000 US gallons (76,000 l; 17,000 imp gal) (ca. 76 t) of coolant leaked into a containment building from the reactor.[15][16]
It's also worth noting that, unlike Fukushima, there really is an official denial. It's also worth noting that such a denial would be pointless if false since you can't hide radioactivity.

But wait, there's more. The article also says:

But, with an already documented 35% increase in the infant mortality rate for American mothers living in the western coastal regions of the US caused by radiation blowing onto them from Japan being ignored by these people there doesn’t seem to be much hope for them.
This, oddly enough, is based on something:

The recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that eight cities in the northwest U.S. (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, plus the northern California cities of Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley) reported the following data on deaths among those younger than one year of age:

4 weeks ending March 19, 2011 - 37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week)
10 weeks ending May 28, 2011  - 125 deaths (avg.12.50 per week)

This amounts to an increase of 35% (the total for the entire U.S. rose about 2.3%), and is statistically significant.   Of further significance is that those dates include the four weeks before and the ten weeks after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster.  In 2001 the infant mortality was 6.834 per 1000 live births, increasing to 6.845 in 2007. All years from 2002 to 2007 were higher than the 2001 rate. 

It might indeed be significant. On the other hand, I'd like to know how many different towns and time periods were examined. For example, why was the time period four weeks before the accident and ten weeks after? Could it be that using the same amount of time led to less hysterical results? Why did they look at one town instead of the entire Pacific Northwest?

Addendum: One of the “researchers” found a 48% increase in infant mortality in Philadelphia. This is a bit strange considering the radioiodine levels in Philadelphia were higher before Fukushima.

Nuclear Power Yes Please has more detailed comments.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

How Am I Supposed to Be a Contrarian?

It's hard to oppose a consensus when the consensus changes at unpredictable intervals. For example, are all fatty foods unhealthy (in the 1980s, I worked with someone who tried convincing me that nuts were bad for my health because of the fat content)? Are just saturated fats unhealthy? Are trans-fats the main enemy? Are ω-3 fats the elixir of youth? Or were the saturated fats okay in the first place? For example:

Choose coconut oil and moderate amounts of other saturated fats such as butter and lard, and avoid fat-free milk, yogurt, and other fat free dairy products that have been over-processed within an inch of their nutritional lives. Moderate amounts of saturated fats are not your enemy.
There's similar advice in Clean Plates by Jared Koch and Alex Van Buren. That got favorable comments from Deepak Chopra, so you know it's full of … something.

Maybe I shouldn't be cooking with that coconut oil after all.

Friday, June 17, 2011

If the Purpose of Reason Is to Win Arguments…

According to scientists quoted by The New York Times:

Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments. Rationality, by this yardstick (and irrationality too, but we’ll get to that) is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena. According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another. Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth.
I have two questions:
  • If the purpose of reason is to win arguments, what was the purpose of the arguments in the first place? In other words, why pay any attention?
  • Why are these scientists bothering to argue their point?
My earlier comments on this line of research can be found here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Something I Don't Want to Know More About

The Island of Menstruating Men by Ian Hogbin. It's a book that we're either digitizing or cataloging (I'm not sure which) at work.

In parts of New Guinea, there's a belief that men, as well as women, have to shed blood from the genital region regularly.

After trying to look it up at Wikipedia and reading one of the relevant articles, I no longer regard circumcision opponents as completely insane, merely mostly insane. (Warning: The image in the Wikipedia article is NSFW and, for that matter, not safe for lunch.)

Why the Ladybug Had to Fly Away Home

Their children are cannibals:

Ladybug, ladybug fly away home
Your children have eaten each other; they're gone.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Yes. I survived having French toast for breakfast and potato pancakes with ground cashew nuts for supper.

On the other hand, it's safer than organic bean sprouts.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Are Human Beings Extinction Proof?

Science has spoken:

The theory that human beings may be extinction-proof has been put forward by a leading anthropologist.

Darren Curnoe, a senior Lecturer at University of New South Wales, made the argument in an article published on academic website on The Conversation.

He advances the theory that comparing historical extinction rates among humans and animals shows how the advent of mass farming some 8,000 years ago fundamentally altered our evolution.

Judging by some of the comments, this is apparently some kind of heresy.

In any case, world-wide clades don't go extinct that often. I think the last time a clade that had ever been world wide went extinct was when multituberculates bit the dust 35 million years ago.


The latest list of foods with TOXINS in them includes potatoes and cashews and egg whites and whole-wheat bread …

I think I'll live dangerously tomorrow. I'll have French toast for breakfast (including egg whites and whole-wheat bread) and have cashews and potatoes later in the day …

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Question about Hypertension

Buenos Aires is banning restaurant salt shakers:

In an effort to combat hypertension, which affects some 3.7 million residents in the province -- nearly a quarter of the population, the health department reached an agreement with the hotel and restaurant federation to remove salt shakers from the tables at their eateries.

I have a question: Can putting up with absurd regulations aggravate hypertension?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Two Types of Disability

It's the developmentally disabled vs. the morally disabled.

By the way, if we had reacted to the World Trade Center attack by adopting Archie Bunker's advice, this wouldn't have happened.

Monday, June 06, 2011

What If There Were No Hypocrisy?

A few years ago, I pointed out that hypocrisy has its good side. It can let you act in accordance with common sense while talking about the problems with common sense:

It might be best to express what your personal analysis says while simultaneously adjusting your private opinions (which might be revealed in your actions) closer to the opinions of the majority. Of course, in that case it makes sense to give verbal support for an unpopular policy (if that's what your reasoning says) while dodging any actual involvement. There are lots of examples all across the political spectrum.

For example, it might make sense to criticize government spending and insulation from the free market while being a tenured professor at a public university … or to defend an unpopular war while dodging the draft … or to criticize racism while moving to an all-white neighborhood.

Let's consider what would happen if there were no hypocrisy.

On the one hand, if everybody who actually agreed with common sense refused to speak against common-sense conclusions … that means Thomas Jefferson could not have written the Declaration of Independence.

On the other hand, if anybody who proclaimed a crackpot opinion acted in accordance with it … that means Noam Chomsky would be a terrorist mastermind.

I don't think we want either. We might hope for only the good parts of common sense to be proclaimed, but I don't think humans are infallible enough for that.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

A Brief Comment on Three Worlds Collide

The Epilogue would make more sense if the last words of the Ship's Confessor were “Allah Akbar!”

Friday, June 03, 2011

Leftists in Full Cliche Mode

Last month leftists in full cliche mode were actually right about something. It must have been a blue moon.

This month the moon is back to gray. Sarah Palin apparently mentioned that one of the reasons for the American Revolution was George III's attempts at gun control. For some reason the reaction was “we've got her this time.

Advice for leftists: When attacking somebody for an allegedly-ignorant statement, please first check to see if the statement is actually ignorant. For example, one of the arguments for gun control has been that the Second Amendment was a reaction to George III's attempts at gun control and is now obsolete.

As I've said before:

Much of the reaction is an example of a common phenomenon: ignore a commonplace right-wing idea for decades and then, when forced to acknowledge it, treat it as though it were the product of an isolated nut. This not only applies to the claim that liberals could be fascists (as described by Nobel prize winner Friedrich von Hayek) but also the evidence showing that “primitive peoples” did not preserve their environment intact, the fact that Hannukah is a celebration of armed resistance, and even the fact that the roundness of the Earth was well known in the Middle Ages.

Addendum: Okay, now that I actually watched the video in question, I can see that they had some cause to criticize. She sounded like she was about to trip over her own tongue. (The phrase “could not be understood for comment” comes to mind.) Many of my fellow wingnuts regard Sarah Palin as the second coming of Ronald Reagan but she doesn't even come close to Reagan's rhetorical skills.

Addendum II: Legal Insurrection and The Cranky Professor have more details.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

This Will Produce a Protest Movement

The Imperialistic Competition Algorithm.

One of the steps is:

Position exchange between a colony and Imperialist. A colony with a better position than the imperialist, has the chance to take the control of empire by replacing the existing imperialist.
I think that's when the Jedi and the Sith exchange places.

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