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

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What Do They Do with the Leftovers?

The Chukchi people of Siberia still have recipes for wooly mammoth.

Explaining the Critical Thinking Results

The study that apparently claimed that critical thinking is incompatible with religion (discussed in the preceding post) can be explained quite simply. According to The Los Angeles Times:

In the final experiment, students in the control group read text in a clear, legible font, while those in the other group were forced to squint at a font that was hard to read, a chore that has been shown to trigger analytic thinking. Sure enough, those who read the less legible font rated their belief in supernatural agents at 10.40 on a 3-to-21 scale, compared with 12.16 for those who read the clear font.
It looks like analytic thinking caused the WEIRD sample to assess themselves as less religious. This might simply mean that more rigorous thinkers have higher standards. Someone who believed part but not all of a doctrine might assess their religiosity differently in different contexts.

On the other hand, maybe it reflects a belief that a just and omnipotent God would not allow Comic Sans to exist.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Critical Thinking?

According to the latest research (seen via Boing Boing), atheists are more likely to get questions that appear to be from the Cognitive Reflection Test.

I'd like to know how they tested religious belief. In apparently-similar research on political attitudes, the tests rely strongly on straw men. That may be true here as well. Did they only test for fundamentalism? Maybe the creationists made the difference or maybe it was due to the new-age loons…

The actual article is behind a pay wall.

But wait, there's more: According to the report in the Huffington Post:

In one intervention, when people are shown a visual image that suggests critical thinking (for example, Rodin's sculpture "The Thinker," seated head-in-hand, pondering) just before taking a test of analytic reasoning, their performance on the test increases measurably. Subconscious suggestion about thinking apparently gets the cognitive juices flowing and suppresses intuitive processes. The researchers confirmed this effect but also found that the self-reported religious disbelief also increased compared with subjects shown a different image before being tested that did not suggest critical thinking.
Saaay, what‽ This shifts the paper from the “possibly bulshytt” category to the “definitely bulshytt” category. Any test of religion that can be shifted by something so trivial is not a test of religious faith; it might be a test of religious non-faith. We are not dealing with Friendlies here.

Addendum: There's additional

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

All Aboard! Next Stop, Rivendell

If you ever wondered “What was Saruman thinking?” while reading Lord of the Rings, Towards a New Railway History of Middle-Earth explains all: He was planning to start up a steam-driven railway.

It is a thing little remembered – even by the Wise – that Dwarven miners had been laying or carving tracks along the floor of their tunnels to ease the movement of ore trucks and other gear since at least the end of the Second Age. Moria, in its time of glory, was completely spanned by such, and a cable-hauled gravity-assisted rack-and-pinion railway was laid in the to take mithril and gems down to Lorien, and return with such provisions as even Dwarves need.


Saruman however was obsessed with efficiency and progress. In the ruins of Isengard, near the base of Orthanc, the men of Rohan came across a detailed scale model of the Ring of Isengard as it might become after victory, and rails ran everywhere, complete with little working steam engines, stations with tiny model Orcs waiting on the platforms – some with tinier Orc babies, it was never true that Orcs were born from vats though some of the larger ones may have been grown in them – and troop trains full of Uruk-Hai in complex and colourful uniforms correct in every detail, The Horse-Lords could make nothing of this, thinking it some complex charm, and the layout was not understood for what it was till it fell into the hands of one of Peregrine Took’s grandsons almost a century later.

The Railway History continues and explains how the half-orcs of Isengard turned out to be the ideal people to build the Middle-Earth railway system.

On the other hand, what happened to Saruman after LOTR? He was a Maia and presumably had several spare bodies. Maybe he was the moving spirit behind the railway system. His earlier attempt to use a Ring of Power was a disaster, of course, similar to the current belief that only a Ring of Power (i.e., a government) can run mass transit.

As for his other post LOTR activities, nobody else knew about them until Fangorn Wood was leveled by a 50-megaton nuclear blast…

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fritz Lieber Was Right

There really is a war between snakes and spiders.

Can't both sides lose?

Two Types of Humanist

There are two types of humanist. One type has a high opinion of human accomplishments; the other has a high opinion of human feelings.

Both types will accuse the other of hating humanity.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Future Racism

The proposed People's Rights Amendment is UNFAIR TO ROBOTS! (ObSF: Valentina by Joseph H. Delaney and Marc Stiegler, in which an AI receives legally-recognized rights by being incorporated.)

Question on Sentence Diagramming

If it possible to diagram the following sentence:

What we have not done is to pass bill after bill after bill that was obviously unconstitutional just so we could all get on record one more time as casting another vote realizing that what was going to happen was someone would file suit the next day and the legislation would never take effect.
can this also be diagrammed?
Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.
Can the Text Encoding Initiativehandle either? (The Text Encoding Initiative appears to be the closest approximation to an attempt to diagram sentences, etc. using xml.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Being Middle-Aged

You can think of being middle-aged as being a Protector-stage human.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Prediction: National Lampoon Will Endorse Obama

Campaign slogan: If you don't re-elect this man, he'll eat this dog.

Yes. I know it's absurd … almost as absurd as the “he called me a slut!” scandal.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Only Two Things You Enjoy

According to a meme that's been going around, serotonin and dopamine are, technically, the only things you enjoy.

It makes at least as much sense to say that the only two things you enjoy are fermions and bosons.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Left Has That Issue Now

In a discussion of the history of eugenics, Io9 mentions:

I love how one Georgia law provided for "immunization from procreation" for convicted criminals — as if procreation were an infectious disease.
The Left has that issue now. In discussions of why it's imperative for the government to cover “reproductive health,” they never talk about infertility cures, for some reason.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We Also Walk Dogs

This reminds me of a Robert Heinlein story. (I don't know if they also supply antigravity devices.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Does Donald Knuth Know about This?

According to the latest research (with a sample size of 222, so we can't blame a minuscule sample size this time):

Study 1 found that information in hard-to-read fonts was better remembered than easier to read information in a controlled laboratory setting. Study 2 extended this finding to high school classrooms.
Does this mean Donald Knuth's work on making mathematics more readable was wasted?

On the other hand, this does explain Concrete Mathematics

Wait a moment… What are the implications of this when combined with the research that found that (a few dozen) people under a cognitive load were more likely to endorse conservative opinions?

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Correcting a Low-Carbohydrate Claim

One common claim made by advocates of low-carbohydrate diets is:

Heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and death are skyrocketing.
Actually, heart disease mortality rates have been falling. Back in the 1970s, advocates of low-carbohydrate diets would point to rising heart-disease mortality and have a real complaint. They have continued to point to the former trend even after it reversed. Maybe they should update their arguments.

Diabetes on the other hand…

Thursday, April 05, 2012

A Snowflake Curve

…in more than one way. (Seen via Reality Carnival.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Your Argument Is Invalid

One that makes sense.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A Question about Judicial Review

Is the Left for or against an unelected Supreme Court declaring the acts of elected representatives unconstitutional this week?

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