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

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Small Sample Watch No. 1

After complaining about pathetically-small samples recently, I'm starting a new feature: Every time I see a news report of a social-“science” study with a pathetically-small sample that mainly serves to confirm standard prejudices, I'll post a link and sometimes a quote. The first example:

According to a new study at the University of St. Gallen seen by SPIEGEL, one contributing factor may be that stockbrokers' behavior is more reckless and manipulative than that of psychopaths. Researchers at the Swiss research university measured the readiness to cooperate and the egotism of 28 professional traders who took part in computer simulations and intelligence tests. The results, compared with the behavior of psychopaths, exceeded the expectations of the study's co-authors, forensic expert Pascal Scherrer, and Thomas Noll, a lead administrator at the Pöschwies prison north of Zürich.

Addendum: I have decided that Small Sample Watch is worthy of its own blog.

Monday, September 26, 2011

All the Cool Nations Are Doing This …

One of the commonest arguments in favor of a wide variety of industrial policies is the “all the cool nations are doing this” argument. This argument is one of the best reasons for not imitating the allegedly-cool nations.

If nobody is doing X, it might make sense to try doing X just to see if it can be done (Example: the Manhattan project). If just one nation is doing X, it might make sense to follow them to prevent a monopoly. (Example: the space race). If everybody is doing X, then we can buy X (if it really is worthwhile) from a variety of sources. What's more, we'll be competing with lots of subsidized industries, which is a good way to lose money. (Example: solar panels.)

It's not a coincidence that Solyndra, a company in one of the coolest fields around, went bankrupt.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Debate Wanted

When the topic is free will, it is common to claim that minor influences show that free will doesn't exist.

When the topic is regulation, it is common to claim that “nudges” are a way to improve society without coercion.

Question: Are these “nudges” coercive or not?

Question 2: Do the investigators have free will or are they merely responding to unconscious nudges? (On the other hand, it may be dangerous to investigate that.)

Question 3: Is it my imagination or do the anti-free-will studies all seem to have pathetically-small sample sizes?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

They Made Shark Tale about the Wrong Species

It looks like porpoises are the real sea thugs. (ObSF: Startide Rising by David Brin.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Have Tachyons Been Observed?

If tachyons have been observed, can we use them to build an antitelephone and send a message to 2008 Obama voters?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Squeegee Government

There used to be a common scam in Manhattan done by the squeegee men:

The usual procedure would involve groups of squeegee men surrounding cars stopped in traffic. Although some were merely providing a service, in other cases the windshield-washing would be carried out without asking, often perfunctory in nature, and then make demands for payment, sometimes with added threats of smashing the car's windshield if their demands were not.
In other words, someone does an unasked-for favor (sometimes even a useful one) and then charges for it.

In related news, Elizabeth Warren has been quoted as saying:

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there -- good for you.

But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory.

Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea -- God bless! Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

I was reminded somehow.

On the other hand, there is a simple way to test if the Elizabeth Warren story is correct. Let state governments make the investments that Ms. Warren regards as essential to wealth. (Most of their benefits won't cross state lines.) If expansive government is so important, we can expect that states with more government services will grow faster.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Violation of the Second and Tenth Amendments

The label on my bottle of Lysol Power Toilet Bowl Cleaner says “It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” Isn't such a law a violation of the Tenth Amendment? If I brought it across state lines, there might be a case for such a regulation to be constitutional but I didn't.

On the other hand, maybe they didn't want anybody performing the experiments in The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments. (“Okay kids. Now we'll learn how to make poison gas out of ordinary household cleaning supplies…”) Of course, that would also make this law a violation of the Second Amendment as well.

On the gripping hand, that still wouldn't be a Federal matter (even ignoring that pesky Second Amendment) unless said gas crossed a state line in toxic quantities. It doesn't make sense to ban a potentially-poisonous gas in nontoxic amounts or otherwise it would be illegal to break wind.

You can find other people commenting on this nonsense here, there, and yonder.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Brief Note on a Palestinian State

If Palestine becomes an official state recognized by the United Nations (also known as the United Warts), then the West-Bank settlers will be illegal aliens and must therefore be defended. So if you ever wondered why I'm in favor of open borders…

Wait a moment, I forgot the Exception Clause.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Really Cool Idea

During World War II, there were plans for aircraft carriers made of ice.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Movie Wanted

If there's a pro-medical-establishment movie, when will we see a pro-nuclear movie?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tell Me Something I Didn't Know

Whole Foods shoppers are easily brainwashed. If you fall for “organic foods,” you'll fall for anything.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Maybe She Thought She Was Doing That

In response to an article on youth unemployment, Partial Objects (seen via TJIC's Twitter) suggested about the lead example:

Maybe she should have studied something marketable.
On the other hand, she had a BA in Product Design. I suspect she was trying to study something marketable and figured the best way to do that was to study marketing. She may have seen the complaint that pharmaceutical companies spend more on marketing than on research and wanted part of the gravy train. She may have read about Emotional Intelligence or the Creative Class and actually believed it. (You can find my earlier comments on examples of this bulshytt here and there.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Good Heavens

I not only live in a Congressional district represented by a Republican, I now work in one too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Spirit of the Little Red Schoolhouse, II

There's more evidence that the spirit of the little red schoolhouse is back.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Am a Liberal Airhead

I am a liberal airhead according to the F-scale.

So when psychologists find neurological correlates with conservatism, I greet the news with some skepticism.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Don Quixote Disapproves

Spain is investing in wind power:

Spain's Castille-La Mancha region is working to install 6,000 MW of wind parks by 2015 in hopes to take the lead in the country's booming wind-power market.
“La Mancha” sounds familiar somehow…

In a related story

Lawsuits Present and Future

Today's lawsuit:

NANUET, N.Y. - A 290-pound New York man is steaming mad at the White Castle fast-food chain, which he claims repeatedly broke promises to make the booths in his local eatery bigger, the New York Post reported Sunday.

Martin Kessman, 64, filed a lawsuit against the fast-food giant last week in Manhattan federal court, claiming that the uncomfortable booths violate the civil rights of fat people.

Next year, the seats will be expanded. The year after that, fast food restaurants will be forced to offer only smaller seats in order to discourage the morbidly obese from eating fattening food.

In today's society, everything not forbidden is compulsory and some things can be both.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Geoffrey Stock and Donald Rumsfeld

I've wondered if Donald Rumsfeld based his life on Geoffrey Stock (of “In a Good Cause” by Isaac Asimov). It would explain so much …

Thursday, September 08, 2011

I Was Planning to Respond

I was planning to respond to the claim that the right wing in the United States is manipulated by billionaires but the Koch brothers aren't beaming anything into my head right now.

As a result, I am unable to point out that The Fountainhead was published when Charles Koch was eight and David Koch was three or that The Road to Serfdom was published a year later.

I can't even point out that this is their standard explanation about why anybody would disagree with them … except that it's a different manipulator each time.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

It's Potatoman!

If being bitten by a radioactive spider can turn somebody into Spiderman, would eating radioactive potato chips turn somebody into Potatoman? (Superpower: the ability to mash evil-doers.)

New You Can Use

Potato chips are one of the most radioactive foods around, according to the FDA.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Fat Lot of Good That Did

I've been reading about earlier hurricanes on Long Island, for example, Hurricane Gloria of 1985:

In the immediate aftermath on Long Island, hundreds of thousands of residents were without power for nearly a week. The long duration without electricity led to a general disdain for the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO). This increased further when the company left the $40 million (1985 USD) repair bill to the ratepayers, citing the company's lack of hurricane insurance. Citizens quickly protested LILCO's decision, and within years the publicly-owned Long Island Power Authority was formed.[14]

You are not going to make a monopoly more responsive by socializing it.

3D Appolonian Net

I have just uploaded a display of a three-dimensional Appolonian net to my Netcom/Earthlink site.

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Power Is Back On

…and there is great rejoicing.

I'd like to know why land-line phone service is so much more reliable than electric power. Is it because of competition? Is it because “wasteful duplication” is permitted? Is it because some of it is by EM waves?

Addendum: One of my neighbors has stronger opinions.

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