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

Monday, July 30, 2012

Model Rocket Fans Rejoice!

At least one judge thinks rockets (albeit small ones) are covered by the Second Amendment.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Looks Like Wenlock and Mandeville

NASA has unveiled a new spacesuit.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

If Human Stem Cells Can Restore Memory in Rodents

If human stem cells can restore memory in rodents, can rodent stem cells restore memory in humans? On the other hand, maybe you recall being a squirrel…

The Phrase “Anglo-Saxon Heritage”

… is unfair to Scotsmen. The ghosts of Adam Smith, James Watt, James Clerk Maxwell, and Andrew Carnegie will haunt anybody who uses it.

If Your Religion Makes You Believe in Ridiculous Cliches

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ben Bernanke and P.D.Q. Bach

According to The New York Times:

A growing number of Federal Reserve officials have concluded that the central bank needs to expand its stimulus campaign unless the nation’s economy soon shows signs of improvement, including job growth.
“If it didn't sound right the first time, say it again louder.”—PDQ Bach

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We're Vultures

According to the latest research:

Twice, however, since human beings diverged from chimpanzees a few million years ago, the human gene called apoE has mutated, giving us distinct versions. Overall it is the strongest candidate around for a human "meat-eating gene" (though it isn't the only candidate). The first mutation—well before humans learned to control fire some 500,000 years ago—seemed to have boosted the performance of killer blood cells that attack microbes, like the deadly microbes lingering in mouthfuls of raw flesh. This mutation also protected against chronic inflammation, the collateral tissue damage that occurs when microbial infections never quite clear up.

In other words, we're descended from carrion eaters. On the other hand, fish has to be fresh to be edible. Maybe our remote ancestors lived on fresh fish and carrion. There's a salami in my refrigerator. Maybe I'll eat it next week.

ObSF: The line “human vultures, not human wolves” from one of Cordwainer Smith's stories. “The Gentle Vultures” by Isaac Asimov. Now excuse me, I have to peck out the eyes of some dying creature …

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Replying to a Headline

John Boehner Praises Colorado First Responders while Cutting Their Budget

Why do people who only affect a small locality need Federal subsidies? Wouldn't it make more sense for them to be paid by people better able to judge their necessity and effectiveness? Local government is for locals.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

If This Had Happened in the United States …

Thyroid Nodules: the Rest of the Story

The news that nearly 36% of Fukushima children have thyroid growths has been going around the panicosphere at the speed of tachyons. This has been compared to an earlier study (seen via Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire) that showed only 0.8% of Japanese children had thyroid growth. So far so bad … except that the 0.8% figure was about growths larger than 5 mm. The figure for large growths (nodules larger than 5 mm or cysts larger than 20 mm) was 0.5%. This figure isn't completely comparable to the 0.8% figure since it does not include medium-size cysts but it is consistent with the earlier figure.

I won't more than mention that it takes years for any actual effect of radiation to show up.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Register All Neuropsychology Grad Students!

It's the only way to be sure.

Addendum: Maybe I should not have posted this. Next year, Congress will pass a law mandating it. If the law should turn out to be unconstitutional, they can pass a tax on unregistered neuropsychology grad students.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Possible Long-Term Effect of Pornography

If porn and “sexbots” replace women for a large part of the male half of the human race (since porn etc. involves women far hotter than most real females) then subsequent generations will be fathered by men who are less likely to pay attention to visual stimuli. In other words … if you don't stop that you'll go blind!

Maybe Victorian prudes had a point.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

He Sounds Like He Knows How

From someone on Fark attempting to be snarky:

"I wish this President would learn how to be an American," says Cuban-born John Sununu, who is of Palestinian and Greek descent, and father grew up in Jerusalem and mother was from El Salvador

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Others != Government

The claim that “others helped you build” and therefore you owe the government something is apparently due to the theory that “others” == the government. I've discussed this before:

Shakespeare's plays are in the public domain but that doesn't mean public funding has anything to do with them. (I've made this point before.)


The theory that “the public” is identical with “the government” might be responsible for the copyright extension nonsense. You can think of copyright as a bargain between authors and the public negotiated by the government. That means copyright extension is a matter of the government giving away the public's rights, which should be a no-no. If the public were identical to the government, then the copyright extension is a matter of the government giving away its own property, which might be okay and should not be second-guessed by the courts.

Maybe this can be analyzed using Cantorian set theory. According to Cantor, “a set is a Many that can be thought of as a One.” The claim that “others” are the same as the government can be considered a claim that the government is the set of others. On the other hand, if each human being is a Proper Class, then the class of others is an Improper Class (as John Conway put it).

Applying the above reasoning to corporations will be left as an exercise for the reader.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Is the Government Responsible for Progress?

I'm sure that nearly all of my fellow wingnuts have heard of Obama's claim that the government is responsible for progress. Isn't it a bit odd that somehow things were invented even before the government got involved? (I won't more than mention that places with more government got less high technology.) In addition, many of the technologies backed by government have been failures. As I said a few years ago:

While I'm at it, I've noticed that science fiction's biggest prediction failures have tended to be in areas backed by central planning. Nuclear power, space travel, artificial intelligence, large-scale urban planning, brainwashing (this applies to dystopian predictions too), …
There's also the little matter that the Internet was an obscure niche technology until the government started getting out of the way. (Nuclear energy and space travel also look like they're starting to benefit from less government support.)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Why Civil Forfeiture Is So Dangerous

The Praetorian Class has traditionally been controlled in Western Civilization by means of the purse strings. A few centuries ago, the Praetorian Class (also known as the hereditary aristocracy) was in charge and was reined in by the need to appeal to Parliament for funds. The danger of civil forfeiture is that is provides a potential source of funds independent of politics. (If you need an example of the dangers of independent funding sources, please note that the English monarchy was at its most absolute following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, when King Henry VIII hijacked church property.)

In related news, I disagree with the claim that a Praetorian Class is something rare. It is distressingly common.

Boss Tweed Is Still Alive

That's the only explanation for the fact that the Freedom Tower cost $3.8 billion for 3,501,274 square feet. If we look at another supertall building, the Trump Tower in Chicago cost $847 million for 2,600,000 square feet. In other words, the Freedom Tower cost over three times as much per area.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A New Statistical Technique

According to Juan Cole (seen via Rhymes with Cars and Girls), the states with the highest teen birth rates tend to be “red” states, apparently meaning teen mothers are Republicans (or vice versa).

We find that giving birth absurdly early is correlated with living in some states and voting Republican is also correlated with living in those states. The technique is a matter of finding that A is correlated with B and B is correlated with C and deducing that there's a connection between A and C.

Let's apply this elsewhere:

  • Living in New York City is correlated with working on Wall Street and also voting for far-left loonies. Obviously Wall Street is a hotbed of Marxism.
  • Owning your own home is correlated living in Mississippi or West Virginia and also with being relatively wealthy. Obviously Mississippi and West Virginia must be very rich.
  • Buying organic food is correlated with having graduated from college which in turn is correlated with supporting nuclear energy. Obviously, organic food stores are an ideal place to collect signatures for a pro-nuclear petition.
  • Walking to work is correlated with shorter commute times which in turn are correlated with faster transportation. Cars only slow you down.
  • I'm sure there are others.

Addendum: Derek Thompson did the same thing a couple of years ago.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Starfish Prime: What the H*ll Were We Thinking?

The Bad Astronomer asks (about nuclear tests):

"What the hell were we thinking?"
This was at the end of a post on Starfish Prime, the nuclear test that established the dangers of EMP. If Starfish Prime had not taken place, we might not know how dangerous EMPs are … and the next Carrington event might destroy civilization.

Maybe that’s what they were thinking, not about the specific danger but that we should have our eyes open. What experiments should we be doing today that we aren’t because of the potential opposition of people who keep asking “What were they thinking?”?

Sunday, July 08, 2012

At Long Last

At long last, they have actually found a conservative who was dumb enough to support school vouchers (more accurately described as compensating parents for paying for their children's education twice) only because of a belief that it could be limited to Christians.

I suppose they will next find an actual teenager who, as a result of a lack of sex education, didn't know where babies come from. They might even find the mythical alcoholic who condemned pot while drunk.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

It Could Be Worse

The recent Supreme Court decision on health-car insurance taxation is not the worst possible outcome. The worst possible outcome would be stopping the individual mandate while continuing the regulations prohibiting discrimination against “pre-existing conditions.” That would be a gradual death sentence to independent health insurance. (In the final stage, it will be accompanied by rhetoric condemning crony capitalism.) To make matters worse, it might not be possible to repeal the partial law. As far as I can tell, the average voter is dumb enough to be in favor of banning the discrimination while still be dubious about the individual mandate.

It's also worth recalling that the Left has lost many potential allies by trying trying to insult people back into the fold. Let's not make the same mistake.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Tolkien and Disney

I wonder how many readers of The Silmarillion, when they read the phrase “Seven Fathers of the Dwarves,” immediately thought of the Seven Dwarfs.

Monday, July 02, 2012

The Good Side of the Recent Health-Care Decision

Before this decision, if we wanted to pass a Constitutional Amendment against the infinitely-elastic use of the commerce clause, it would have to read:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

We REALLY REALLY mean it this time! Honest!

An alternative amendment might read:
Judges are instructed to use common sense while interpreting the commerce clause.
The bad part of that is that it discriminates against those of us without common sense, which might cause science-fiction fans to object. To make matters worse, it will lead to very severe problems with judges who are mistaken in their belief they have common sense.

Now, it just has to say:

The Federal government shall not tax any lack of activity.
That might be a little more reliable … until the next lurch by the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, one possible reaction to the above comes from Satan's World by Poul Anderson:

Next funeral I attend, I want you along for doing a buck and wing while you sing Hey nonny nonny.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Updating Robert Zubrin

In 1997, Robert Zubrin wrote:

Had we been following the previous 60 years technological trajectory, we today would have videotelephones, solar powered cars, maglev trains, fusion reactors, hypersonic intercontinental travel, regular passenger transportation to orbit, undersea cities, open-sea mariculture and human settlements on the Moon and Mars.
At least we have the videotelephones. Okay, they took a few years longer than predicted.

Maybe we need a few more Red Sox World Series victories.

Sarcasm Does Not Work

A few years ago, I mentioned the following thought experiment:

In related news, a randomized test found that experimental subjects who had just walked a mile were no thinner than those who hadn't. On the other hand, people who walk regularly are thinner than those who don't.
More recently, some similar experiments are given the headline “Why Exercise Doesn't Actually Help You Lose Weight.”

I won't more than mention that the “four studies” are not given either citations or sample sizes or that the calories burned by the exercise in question are somewhat more than the alleged declines in resting metabolic rates or that they're apparently based on the theory that increasing obesity is due to Alien Space bats aiming Fat Rays at the Earth or ….

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