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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Diseases Need Reservoirs

According to the latest issue of Wired, Greg Bear has suggested that the Department of Health and Human Services might want to commission a novel with the following premise:

McCann apparently found an actual mental illness, communicated by upbringing — but also by a virus.

Bigotry, it turns out, is a social disease.

If we're looking for a contagious mental disease spread by microbes, we must recall that diseases need reservoirs. A disease needs a large population to maintain itself. If it is unique to humans, it's more likely in a crowded city. If if spread by more than one species, it's more like in a richer ecosystem. In other words, you might expect to find a contagious mental disease in big cities and the Global South.

It sure looks like leftism is a contagious mental disease.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

If We Apply the Supreme Court's Reasoning Elsewhere

If we apply the reasoning the Supreme Court used to uphold health-insurance compulsion elsewhere … then you can't force people to do things but you can tax them as much as you want. If we apply this to military conscription then the 20th-century draft is unconstitutional (it was the individual mandate applied to the military) but the 19th-century draft is constitutional (it was a matter of taxing those men who don't join the army).

The example of the military draft shows that the basic idea behind statism has been part of the U.S. government for decades. What we have here is a glitch in the process of rolling back the fascist era of the mid-20th century. The current tax isn't nearly as bad as 90%+ tax rates on an unpopular minority in the 1950s (earlier discussed here).

On the other hand, whatever happened to “The power to tax is the power to destroy.”?

Bryan Caplan and Don Colacho

Bryan Caplan was scooped by Don Colacho:

  • Bryan Caplan: Question for mind-readers: How many angry activists are neurotics who want to pretend their internal suffering has external origins?
  • Don Colacho: The left is a collection of those who blame society for nature’s shabby treatment of them.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Is There Too Much Muslim Immigration to Europe?

There's reason to believe there isn't enough (seen via Warren Russell Mead):

Circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to grievous bodily harm, a German court ruled Tuesday in a landmark decision that the Jewish community said trampled on parents' religious rights.

The regional court in Cologne, western Germany, ruled that the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents", a judgement that is expected to set a legal precedent.

This might be based on the theory that bodily rights are identical with rights in general (discussed yesterday).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Robot's Rights Movement Is Starting

The movement to defend the rights of robots against what passes for liberalism is gaining steam. Several months after I noticed that the common leftist meme that property rights are more important than human rights can be used as an excuse for future race prejudice against robots, Mr. Archenemy also noticed it.

If a person's body is limited to a human body, future robots can have no bodies (or the consequent rights) at all. This can be used to comment on people who are pro-choice on abortion and nothing else in addition to anti-corporate activists. (I've been discussing this for years.)

After robot rights are established, of course, the leftists of that era will find some way to blame robot oppression on conservatives.

Monday, June 25, 2012

If Baboons Can Detect Gibberish

According to a reporter's opinion of what scientific research shows:

Baboons can distinguish between written words and gibberish.
Can we use them to grade papers? Can we use baboons to ensure peer review is impartial? Can we even use them to determine if journalist's account of scientific research makes sense?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Crossover Fanfic Suggestion

If a crossover fanfic story is ever written to combine The Compleat Enchanter by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt and The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, would one of the characters shout “Ingwë is a louse!”? (I can imagine Fëanor doing that.)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Problems with the Four-Word Summaries

My suggestions for Liberalism in four words and Conservatism in four words have a couple of counterexamples:

  • Liberalism in four words: History Moves One Way. Counterexample: Mencius Moldbug believes this but is not a liberal.
  • Conservatism in four words: Human Nature Changes Not. Counterexample: Noam Chomsky believes this but is not a conservative.

Friday, June 22, 2012


If I recall correctly “Lipidleggin'” by F. Paul Wilson was intended to be far-fetched satire.

It isn't any more (seen via View from the Porch).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Results of Plutonium Experiments

A recent Wired article reminded me of the infamous plutonium experiments. There was a notable lack of actual dead bodies from the experiments. Hmmm… If I weren't allergic to drawing conclusions from small samples, I would regard that as definitive proof low-dose radiation is harmless.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

This Sounds Familiar

The following quote (from A Budget of Paradoxes by Augustus De Morgan sounds familiar:

The Satanic doctrine that a church may employ force in aid of its dogma is supposed to be obsolete in England, except as an individual paradox; but this is difficult to settle. Opinions are much divided as to what the Roman Church would do in England, if she could: any one who doubts that she claims the right does not deserve an answer. When the hopes of the Tractarian section of the High Church were in bloom, before the most conspicuous intellects among them had transgressed their ministry, that they might go to their own place, I had the curiosity to see how far it could be ascertained whether they held the only doctrine which makes me the personal enemy of a sect. I found in one of their tracts the assumption of a right to persecute, modified by an asserted conviction that force was not efficient. I cannot now say that this tract was one of the celebrated ninety; and on looking at the collection I find it so poorly furnished with contents, etc., that nothing but searching through three thick volumes would decide. In these volumes I find, augmenting as we go on, declarations about the character and power of "the Church" which have a suspicious appearance. The suspicion is increased by that curious piece of sophistry, No. 87, on religious reserve. The queer paradoxes of that tract leave us in doubt as to everything but this, that the church(man) is not bound to give his whole counsel in all things, and not bound to say what the things are in which he does not give it. It is likely enough that some of the "rights and liberties" are but scantily described. There is now no fear; but the time was when, if not fear, there might be a looking for of fear to come; nobody could then be so sure as we now are that the lion was only asleep. There was every appearance of a harder fight at hand than was really found needful.

The above sounds almost exactly like current worries about Sharia and classic anti-semitic rants.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Is There a DLO?

At the end of World War II, there was a large-scale displacement of Germans from what became parts of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Poland. This is similar to the displacement of Palestinian Arabs from what became Israel a few years later. Is there a Deutschland Liberation Organization similar to the Palestine Liberation Organization? It makes at least as much sense (none) as most other anti-colonial movements.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Are Regulations Responsible for Making Nuclear Power More Expensive?


Here’s an example: In a recent column for Bloomberg, Wolfram described what happened in the 1990s after some U.S. states began deregulating their electricity sectors. Utilities sold off their nuclear reactors to private operators. And, Wolfram found in a recent paper with Lucas Davis, electricity output at these newly privatized reactors increased 10 percent compared with those that stayed in the hands of tightly regulated utilities. That small boost in carbon-free power, she notes, “helped offset more greenhouse gas emissions in the 2000s than all of the wind and solar generation in the country combined.”

Please note that this time, a pro-business regulation was responsible for the increased cost.

In general, subsidies can have a deterrent effect. If we look at nuclear energy, the first man-made nuclear reactor was developed by “pointy-headed intellectuals” and cost $8000; the second man-made nuclear reactor was developed by the same people who now realized they were government employees and cost millions.

Evolution's Sweet Tooth and Evolution's Power Tooth

According to Professor Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard:

The final option is to collectively restore our diets to a more natural state through regulations. Until recently, all humans had no choice but to eat a healthy diet with modest portions of food that were low in sugar, saturated fat and salt, but high in fiber. They also had no choice but to walk and sometimes run an average of 5 to 10 miles a day. Mr. Bloomberg’s paternalistic plan is not an aberrant form of coercion but a very small step toward restoring a natural part of our environment.
Until recently, all humans had no choice but to not dominate others on a large scale. The libertarian plan of stopping regulations is not an aberrant rejection of science but a very small step toward restoring a natural part of our environment.

Just as evolution provided humans with a formerly-harmless appetite for sweets, evolution provided humans with a formerly-harmless appetite for power, which is far more dangerous than the appetite for sweets.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Procrastination Pays

According to the very latest research:

Delaying fatherhood may offer survival advantages, say US scientists who have found children with older fathers and grandfathers appear to be "genetically programmed" to live longer.
In other words, it might make sense for men to delay looking for a wife.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Self Congratulation in Four Words

After looking at the results of the Twitter hashtags #LiberalismIn4Words and #ConservatismIn4Words, I realized that the same four words could be used for both:

  • We Always Congratulate Ourselves
I will now make a serious attempt at summarizing the basic principles behind liberalism and conservatism (without intended snarkiness):
  • Liberalism in four words: History Moves One Way
  • Conservatism in four words: Human Nature Changes Not
The big problem with both is that “it ain't over till it's over.” We don't know which events are part of the true movement of history and which are temporary fads until long after. We also don't know which characteristics are part of human nature and which are accidental.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Communal Drug Use?

According to Noahpinion (seen via EconLog):

This is where college comes in. College is an intense incubator where smart people meet other smart people. The large number of leisure activities and the close quarters in which people live facilitate the formation of friendships and romantic relationships, while the exclusiveness of college makes sure that the people you're meeting are pre-screened to be the type of people with whom you are most likely to click. In the U.S., the "college experience" includes parties, trips, clubs, athletic events, religious fellowships, communal drug use, study groups, endless late-night conversations, and more esoteric events like the one pictured above. In Japan, it includes "go-kon" (group blind date) parties, "nomikai" (pub nights), and clubs. American college works better, but it's much the same sort of thing.
Communal drug use? Doesn't that subtract from human capital? For one thing, when everybody is using the same mind-altering chemicals, everybody will be making the same mistakes. (I have mentioned this before.)

Yes. This even applies to caffeine. This fall I intend to vote for someone who doesn't use caffeine. I figure somebody has to avoid caffeine—just in case it has some bad effects—and I'm glad the Mormons have volunteered so I don't have to. (ObSF: Distress by Greg Egan)

I'm mostly opposed to the War on Some Drugs (please note that also means I disapprove of the “only legalize ‘soft’ drugs” faction) but maybe we should make an exception for college students.

For that matter, much of what is learned in the hallways between classes isn't so. I suspect that students learn that Christopher Columbus discovered the world is round, that astronauts are weightless because they're beyond the Earth's gravity, that marijuana smoke does not contain carbon monoxide, that religion is somehow opposed to rational thought, and that plutonium is the most toxic substance on Earth (my usual list of inane ideas) in hallways and dorm rooms rather than in classrooms.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

An Error by My Fellow Wingnuts

When Michael Bloomberg proclaimed a ban on supersized sodas, my fellow wingnuts (typical example here) said that the food dictators would only ban low-class foods. That turns out not to be the case (seen via View From the Porch). They ban foods of the rich and foods of the poor. They're classless … in more than one way.

Monday, June 11, 2012

How to Tell If There's a Zombie Outbreak

According to Io9, the infectious organisms most likely to cause a zombie outbreak would have to be able to build structures inside the infected bodies. They suggest fungi. I think slime molds are more likely.

First, it turns out that these brainless creatures can think. Next, it turns out that they make the same type of logical errors that have been attributed to the need to win debates. The slime molds are also able to get hired by governments as consultants.

If a zombie outbreak actually occurs and is run by slime molds, they will first infest the government. If we see lots of brainless, illogical rhetoric coming from Washington, we'll know the outbreak has started …

Uh oh.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Go Red Sox!

If we want flying cars, we'll need a few more Red Sox victories.

Okay, maybe not this year.

The Obvious Conclusion

According to BoingBoing, the list of leaked LinkedIn passwords includes “obama2012” but not “romney2012”. The obvious conclusion is that Republicans are bright enough to avoid easily-guessed passwords.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

I Once Thought the Same Thing

According to The Onion (seen via Coyote Blog):

RALEIGH, NC—A coalition of geologists are challenging the way we look at global stone reserves, claiming that, unless smarter methods of preservation are developed, mankind will eventually run out of rocks.

"If we do not stop using them up at our current rate, rocks as we know them will be a thing of the past," renowned geologist Henry Kaiser said at a press conference Tuesday. "Igneous, metamorphic, even sedimentary: all of them could be gone in as little as 500,000 years."

I once thought the same thing … when I was eight, right after I learned that rocks take millions of years to form.

It Didn't Prove That

According to one of the authors of a paper that showed an increase in cancer rates for two or three doses that are several times greater than the dose in the Fukushima exclusion zone:

"This paper confirms that radiation, even in relatively low doses, does lead to risk" of certain cancers, said Alan Craft, emeritus chair at Newcastle University and an author of the paper. "There is no safe dose."

It didn't prove that. It merely proved the safe acute dose is somewhat less than several mSv. (That's assuming something published in The Lancet was accurate and that the radiation didn't suppress other cancers.)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

How Big Is IPv6?

3.4 × 1038

That's 2128. If there are a trillion galaxies with a trillion stars in each galaxy and a trillion people (of whatever species) in each stellar system then each person can have 340 addresses.

This system can cover the universe.

Monday, June 04, 2012

We Are Prepared for Them … and They Are Prepared for Us

According to Sarah Hoyt:

Strangely we’re in a MUCH better position than in the seventies. Look, the thing is the type of brain bug the OWSers seem to have was “mainstream” in the seventies. Now we look at them like they’re nuts. (They are.) The Reagan Revolution is permanent. That he took the commies down and exposed them for what they are, didn’t hurt either. Obama might be “purge or cure” for the remaining “soft communism”.
Well… One advantage the individualist side had in the 20th century is that the collectivists weren't prepared for us. Now they are. For example, they let Ronald Reagan become both prominent and conservative without taking him seriously. As I've said before:
One problem is that the usual climb to the top in politics requires a personality who believes in political power. The best way around that is to have a candidate who climbed high in the business, academic, or entertainment worlds before switching to politics. I suspect much of “political correctness” is for the purpose of ensuring that few future Reagans will come from the academic or entertainment worlds.
They're trying to make sure Reagan doesn't happen again. Right now we have a temporary advantage: They're doing so clumsily. They try taking people who show minor deviations from liberal dogma and insulting them back into the fold. It doesn't always work. I suspect they'll try gentler and more effective approaches in the future. (Another lesson: We should not make the same mistake.)

Saturday, June 02, 2012

More Bad News

John J. Reilly of The Long View has died.

The Enlightened Ones Have Spoken

A woman owns her own body, unless she's fat.

You can take what you want out of your uterus but not put what you want in your stomach.

You can put your genitalia where you want but you can't put your rear end on the wrong type of toilet.

Friday, June 01, 2012

A Phrase I Came across in My Day Job

Filtering and Hedging for Time-varying Anomaly recoGNition or FHTAGN.

This might be the first time a paper submitted to IEEE Transactions on Information Theory has ever had Weird Tales in the references.

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