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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E-mail address:
jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com

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My other blogs
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
Good Math, Bad Math
Greenie Watch
The Hand Of Munger
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
The Passing Parade
Peter Watts Newscrawl
Physics Geek
Pictures of Math
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

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm in Trouble

It's possible to be arrested for lack of common sense.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Apocalypse Irene


My power went out Sunday morning and hasn't been back since. It's a bit hard to check on Instapundit by cell phone and I have to post this at work just before leaving.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Saaaay What????

According to The New Republic:

Liberals revere high SAT scores.
That's this week. Next week, the SAT and IQ tests will return to being culturally-biased meaningless tests.

As far as I can tell, liberals revere unverifiable claims of intellect. Adhering to verifiable standards increases the risk of allowing wingnuts into conservative-free zones.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Do Liberals Believe Scientific Data?

According to Jonathan Chait:

That does not mean liberalism is right. It just means, as Williamson says, that liberals are naturally more concerned with a belief in science. They want leaders will accept the scientific method and are amenable to data.
I am dubious about whether Jonathan Chait is an expert on judging scientific evidence.

By the way, I would like to ask politicians the following question: “There is evidence for the existence of a natural nuclear fission reactor on Earth two billion years ago based on the nuclear waste found in rocks of that age. Do you accept such evidence and what do you think of the implications of the fact that the waste did not move with respect to the surrounding rock (in particular, the implications for nuclear waste disposal)?”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brave Muammar Ran Away

Bravely ran away, away.
When danger reared its ugly head,
he bravely turned his tail and fled.
Yes, brave Muammar turned about
and gallantly, he chickened out.
Bravely taking to his feet,
he beat a very brave retreat,
bravest of the brave, brave Muammar.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I Play Chess Like a Genius!

According to Henri Poincaré:

In the same way I should be but a poor chess-player; I would perceive that by a certain play I should expose myself to a certain danger; I would pass in review several other plays, rejecting them for other reasons, and then finally I should make the move first examined, having meantime forgotten the danger I had foreseen.
Yes, I play chess that well.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

If Extraterrestrials Are Environmentalists…

… is it possible that environmentalism is due to extraterrestrial infiltrators? In “Occam's Razor” by Theodore Sturgeon, it was suggested that polluting industries were due to extraterrestrial infiltrators. The other way around makes at least as much sense.

This theory might even explain the drug culture. It would especially explain the connection between drugs and environmentalism.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What If It's the Other Way Around?

According to the Guardian, someone with too much free time at NASA has been warning us that aliens might be ready to DESTROY OUR PLANET if we don't stop emitting greenhouse gases:

It may not rank as the most compelling reason to curb greenhouse gases, but reducing our emissions might just save humanity from a pre-emptive alien attack, scientists claim.

Watching from afar, extraterrestrial beings might view changes in Earth's atmosphere as symptomatic of a civilisation growing out of control – and take drastic action to keep us from becoming a more serious threat, the researchers explain.

Even if we assume that these ETs just happen to have the same environmentalist ethical standards that we have acquired in the past 1/100 of 1% of human existence, they might regard greenhouse emitters as a rare ecological niche that must be preserved. The usual type of wildlife can be observed anywhere but this might be the only place in the Galaxy where soft coal or plutonium are used outside museums.

They might get really p---ed off if we stop.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Decision Fatigue

If decision fatigue is a problem:

Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price.
then decisions should be made by people who don't have to make that many decisions, i.e., consumers deciding for themselves or their families instead of bureaucrats or politicians who decide for everybody. This might explain why the EPA standard for radioactive iodine in drinking water is less radioactive (by a factor of several hundred) than orange juice.

I suspect the people who came up the the concept of decision fatigue would regard that as an undesirable conclusion.

But wait, there's more. We also see in the same article:

The results of the experiment were announced in January, during Heatherton’s speech accepting the leadership of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, the world’s largest group of social psychologists. In his presidential address at the annual meeting in San Antonio, Heatherton reported that administering glucose completely reversed the brain changes wrought by depletion — a finding, he said, that thoroughly surprised him. Heatherton’s results did much more than provide additional confirmation that glucose is a vital part of willpower; they helped solve the puzzle over how glucose could work without global changes in the brain’s total energy use. Apparently ego depletion causes activity to rise in some parts of the brain and to decline in others. Your brain does not stop working when glucose is low. It stops doing some things and starts doing others. It responds more strongly to immediate rewards and pays less attention to long-term prospects.
Does that mean today's evil food (carbohydrates) can actually help you stay on a diet? I'll have the glazed sweet potatoes, please.

Monday, August 15, 2011

How to Back Date Evidence of a Resource Shortage

According to Paul Kedrosky (while discussing the well-known Simon–Ehrlich bet):

Simon famously offered to bet comers on any timeline longer than a year, and on any commodity, but the bet itself was over a decade, from 1980-1990. If you started the bet any year during the 1980s Simon won eight of the ten decadal start years. During the 1990s things changed, however, with Simon the decadal winners in four start years and Ehrlich winning six – 60% of the time. And if we extend the bet into the current decade, taking Simon at his word that he was happy to bet on any period from a year on up (we don’t have enough data to do a full 21st century decade), then Ehrlich won every start-year bet in the 2000s.
It looks like Paul Kedrosky managed to backdate a price rise that started in the mid-naughties back a decade by looking at ten-year bets, thereby making this price rise look like something long term instead of a reaction to funny money. As I predicted a few years ago:
The Malthusians will claim high commodities prices prove they were right after all. They will also claim unemployment is due to population growth outrunning job growth. (Isn't it amazing how they only seem to be right immediately after lots of funny money has been printed?)
On the other hand, maybe Simon was more willing to offer the bet because Paul Volcker had been appointed to the Federal Reserve.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Another Look at Ex Post Facto Civil Laws

A few years ago, I posted that we might need a Constitutional Amendment to ban ex post facto civil laws:

There were people who got married a few decades ago under the impression that marriage was until “death us do part” only to find their marriage vows had been changed into something temporary. The late Terri Schindler Schiavo said that she didn't want to be kept alive by extraordinary means followed by the Florida state legislature passing a law that changed the meaning of “extraordinary means.”
I just realized that the Constitutional clause banning Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts bans many ex post facto civil laws (at least on the state level).

What does this imply about no-fault divorce?

Why There Is a Drug War

At Pajamas Media, I read:

More to the point, I don’t believe that grown men and women should be ashamed of the legal things they enjoy.
Does this mean we can't criticize something until we pass a law against it?

This explains why many people think a Drug War is needed. If criticism of anything legal is read out of civil discourse, people will have to advocate bans simply in order to be heard.

A Bit Like Chicago Voters

Some cities have more Facebook users than people (seen via Next Big Future). Something isn't adding up.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Babbage Society at Work?

Diesel, a clothing brand I had never heard of, has an ad campaign with the slogan Be Stupid (seen via James Lileks). I suspect it was originally supposed to be aimed at people patting themselves on the back for being so intelligent, until the ad people realized that self-congratulation was now in disrepute, so they went with the opposite.

On the other hand, maybe it was the Babbage Society. According to Country of the Blind by Michael Flynn, the Babbage Society was trying to foment stupidity by turning “wise guy” or “smarty” into insults.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Suggestion on Stopping Riots

Take a car, put a beehive in the trunk, and put it in the path of the rioters.

Okay, I've said this before.

By the way, how did the French stop their riots of a few years ago?

Rumors of Technocracy

I suspect that “authoritarian high modernism” is based, not on engineering rationality, but on rumors of what engineering rationality is about. In the real world, engineers are unlikely to throw away precedent. They think about things that can go wrong with plans.

The other side of the rumors of technocracy, is that “They“ cover up disasters (with a lack of evidence). I suppose it's not astonishing that the same corner of the political system that insists on compelling people not to waste they own money is also suspicious of high technology.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cheese Goes with Whine


… or maybe that's just the way it smells.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Salon Miscounted

According to Salon:

In a 1994 Senate debate with Ted Kennedy, Mitt Romney revealed a startling chapter from his past: A close relative had died many years earlier in a botched illegal abortion, shaping Romney's stance in favor of safe and legal access to abortion for all women.
That should be “Two close relatives had died many years earlier in a botched illegal abortion…”

Sunday, August 07, 2011

A Brief Note on Blind Geometers

There's a simple reason there can be blind geometers. Blindness doesn’t keep geometers from seeing the figures. It keeps them from seeing the distractions.

A Possible Fusion Power System

According to Next Big Future, there are antiprotons orbiting the Earth and these could be used to catalyze fusion reactions:

A one gigawatt power system inside of an earth orbiting superconducting traps could produce 95 milligrams of antimatter per year.


One microgram of antihydrogen would be theoretically by enough to be the trigger for one kiloton antihydrogen bombs. By not having a nuclear fission trigger the amount of fallout is massively reduced.

In other words, a gigawatt could produce 95 megatons of low-fallout hydrogen bombs. Those bombs, if used in a nuclear-powered piston engine at 33% efficiency, would produce 4 gigawatts of power.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Are Sinuses Useless?

According to a discussion of apparently useless organs:

Doctors don't really know much about sinuses, only that we have a lot of them. Possibilities for their function range from insulating our eyes to changing the pitch and tone of our voice.
I say that you need a sinus like you need a hole in the head.

Friday, August 05, 2011

WordPerfect: Numenor

According to Kieran Healy, text editors can be compared to places in Lord of the Rings:

TextMate: Minas Tirith
BBEdit: The Shire
Emacs: Fangorn
vi: Moria
Microsoft Word: Barad-dur
WordPerfect is, of course, Numenor. Once the most civilized land on Middle-Earth, it has since sunk beneath the waves, leaving almost no trace.

I suppose that means WordStar can only be Beleriand…

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Spirit of the Little Red Schoolhouse

According to Freeman Dyson (seen via Engineer Poet):

The fundamental problem of the nuclear power industry is not reactor safety, not waste disposal, not the dangers of nuclear proliferation, real though all these problems are.  The fundamental problem of the industry is that nobody any longer has any fun building reactors.  It is inconceivable under present conditions that a group of enthusiasts could assemble in a schoolhouse and design, build, test, license and sell a reactor within three years.  Sometime between 1960 and 1970, the fun went out of the business.

The adventurers, the experimenters, the inventors, were driven out, and the accountants and managers took control.  Not only in the private industry but also in the government laboratories, at Los Alamos, Livermore, Oak Ridge and Argonne, the groups of bright young people who used to build and invent and experiment with a great variety of reactors were disbanded.  The accountants and managers decided that it was not cost effective to let bright people play with weird reactors. So the weird reactors disappeared and with them the chance of any radical improvement beyond our existing systems.

We are left with a very small number of reactor types in operation, each of them frozen into a huge bureaucratic organization that makes any substantial change impossible, each of them in various ways technically unsatisfactory, each of them less safe than many possible alternative designs which have been discarded.  Nobody builds reactors for fun anymore.  The spirit of the little red schoolhouse is dead.  That, in my opinion, is what went wrong with nuclear power.

The good news is: The spirit of the “little red schoolhouse” is back! You don't need “crony capitalism” to split atoms.

On a more serious note, some of the attempts to build nukes in the spirit of the little red schoolhouse might actually work.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

An Early Program

My first home computer (not counting programmable calculators) was a Timex Sinclair 1000. I was able to make it print out but not display high-resolution graphics (256 pixels across). I have uploaded such a program to my Netcom/Earthlink site.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Good News!

Voters in the former People's Republic of Nassau County voted down a proposal to throw more money at a blatant example of socialism.

The real question: Why must a government own a sports stadium in the first place? Are free riders (sports fans who don't go to see the teams) that important for sports? What about us anti-free-riders? Some of us are annoyed when we tune into a radio and find that some flippin' sports event is taking precedence over a weather report. What about us?

Monday, August 01, 2011


The Virtues of a Lack of “Imagination” reminded me of the following ad in Larry Gore's Thing:


…Imagine making a fortune as an Inventor, as a famous Explorer, etc.
…Imagine retiring before you're 35, through shrewd investments.


Dear Sir,

Yes, I'm interested in your exciting offer which can be mine for only $5.95. Please rush your booklet: “1,000 Great Subjects on Which To Day Dream.”
Name …………………………
Address ………………………

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