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, December 30, 2012

A Note on Wombat Droppings

Wombats produce cubic turds. They were obviously genetically engineered by a now-extinct civilization to produce dice.

On the other hand, they might be evidence that God has a sense of humor.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Reactions to Two FDR Directives

In 1944, the Federal government effectively nationalized Montgomery Ward (seen via Megan McArdle):

However, Montgomery Ward Chairman Sewell Avery refused to comply with the terms of three different collective bargaining agreements with the United Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union hammered out between 1943 and 1944. In April 1944, after Sewell refused a second board order, Roosevelt called out the Army National Guard to seize the company's main plant in Chicago. Sewell himself had to be carried out of his office by National Guard troops.
What percentage of today's liberals applaud that takeover but regard sending Japanese Americans to concentration camps as racism? (No. This time you can't use the excuse that only corporations were being ordered around.)

On the other hand, what percentage of today's liberals have heard of ANY historical fact that occurred before they were born?

Jane's Law at Work

In accordance with Jane's law:

Jane's Law: The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.
a substantial fraction of my fellow wingnuts are going out of their minds. In any case, abuses of power by the Federal government used to be worse.

Maybe we should ask ourselves the question “What would be the reaction of someone on the fence to this rant?”

Addendum: Also see this blast from the past:

Well, let's try a little thought experiment. Let's schedule a debate, and invite a lot of voters. The first speaker stands up and makes a case for one position, laying out his explanation of why the problem happened, and then saying what he thinks needs to be done to solve it, and explaining why he thinks it will help. Then he sits down.

His opponent, on the left side of the stage, stands up, grins at the audience, and pulls his pants down and moons the first speaker. He then returns his pants to their customary position and returns to his seat. End of debate.

If the audience was not partisan ahead of time, which advocate is more likely to have convinced them?

Does This Mean I'm Poor?

The Wall Street Journal reports on a Manhattan real-estate deal:

Hotelier Ian Schrager and investors including developer Steve Witkoff last week paid about $50 million for a piece of land at 215 Chrystie St. that served for years as a garden for a neighboring building with low-income residents, the executives said.
In case, you wondered what “low-income” meant:
Much of the rent at 10 Stanton St. is covered by the federal government, which now pays up to $3,810 a month for a three-bedroom apartment for tenants who cannot afford it.
Your tax dollars at work.

I have something in common with those tenants; I couldn't afford $3810 per month either.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Another Message to My Fellow Mathematicians

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Problem with a Right-Wing Cliche

One of the commonest memes in the gun-rights community is “If guns should be banned because they're dangerous, why don't leftists want to ban cars?” There's a minor problem with this: Leftists do want to ban cars. They resent the “System” that they imagine forces them to drive.

In the near future, I expect to see a left-wing proposal to ban high-capacity gas tanks.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

No Escape

Over the past few decades, many lawyers have been promoting absurd lawsuits. Many businessmen have responded by using “boilerplate” contracts in which customer signs away the alleged right to sue for imaginary defects. The reaction at least one or two law professors has been to say “Ha Ha! We can sue after all!” This is supposedly on the grounds that hardly anybody reads the boilerplate contracts anyway so consumers don't know what they're signing away.

My first reaction is that this means there is no escape from the lawsuit-happy legal regime. For example, even if the CPSC relents and allows buckyballs, nobody will make them if idiots can sue no matter what.

My second reaction is that the principle of “We can decide what you would have agreed to had you been fully informed.” can help justify “death panels.”

My third reaction is that the principle of “Excessively-complex agreements are invalid.” has implications elsewhere. It means large parts of criminal law are invalid. It also means that Congress did not pass Obamacare.

My fourth reaction is that this is yet another case of changing the meaning of a contract after it's been signed.

My final reaction is that the dangling thread of an excuse (the consumers don't read or understand those contracts) is on the verge of obsolescence. I suspect that in another decade or so there will be legal analysis software available (possibly open source) that can warn consumers of what they're signing. The proposed anti-boilerplate doctrine might even be an attempt to delay this.

A Message to My Fellow Mathematicians

While using LATEX, do not use \nonumber inside the {array} environment. It will not stop equation numbers inside {array} (there won't be any anyway) and it might stop a wanted equation number in the surrounding equation.

We're Waiting

The latest news from the stars:

SETI Astrophysicist Craig Kasnov (not to be confused with Craig Kasnoff) has announced the approach to the Earth of 3 very large, very fast moving objects. The length of the "flying saucers" is in the range of tens of kilometers. Landing, according to calculations of scientists, should be in mid-December 2012. Date coincides with the end of the Mayan calendar.
So what's taking them so long?

Set Paranoia Bit to ON

If the apparent nativist commenters on this article were actually Democratic party operatives trying to convince wavering members of an up-and-coming minority group that their only hope was with the Democrats, would they do anything different?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Is the Best Way to Prevent Housing Bubbles …

… to turn over the housing market to people in Washington?


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Stopped Reading

I stopped reading this article on iodine deficiency when I got to the line:

But it's best if you take these higher doses only under the supervision of a holistic physician …
What is the iodine content of bulshytt?

Addendum: Something else I didn't bother to read.

Can't Bullets Be 3-D Printed?

According to Philip Bump:

In the era of 3D-printed guns, ammunition may prove a better regulatory target than the weapons themselves.
Maybe that's why environmentalists have declared war on lead.

Monday, December 17, 2012

With What?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Places Named after People That Sound Like They Weren't

Friday, December 14, 2012

Is a Recount Required?

According to a recent study, there are thousands of papers supporting the theory that the observed tropospheric warming over the past century was caused by human beings and only a handful of papers opposing it, which implies that the AGW theory is not a matter of isolated results.

On the other hand, there haven't been thousands of studies showing that last conclusion. Maybe that is an isolated result. I'm reminded of the Onion headline: “Gore Calls For Recount Of Supreme Court Vote.”

I must also mention that the Global Warming theory comes in several strengths. It ranges from claims that are solidly-established fact (that most parts of the troposphere are warmer than a century ago), through claims that have a preponderance of evidence in support (that the observed warming may be due to coal burning), claims that are unproved but possible (that most parts of the troposphere are warmer than a millennium ago), to claims that are complete bulshytt (that the best way to handle this alleged crisis is to turn large parts of the economy over to anti-nuclear activists).

Also see my earlier comments.

Math News

The Museum of Math is now open.

In other math news, The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences (discussed here) is now at a new location.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Is Santa Claus a Democrat?

Many people think Santa Claus is a Democrat, no doubt a strong supporter of labor unions. They have a point. St. Nicholas had some habits in common with union activists.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Future Libertarian Presidential Candidate?

Derek Khanna (author of the paper on copyright the reactions to which I discussed here) has been fired. That means that there is at least one libertarian activist who can expect to be taken seriously by the self-congratulatory leftists at Boing Boing.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Facepalm Moment in a Discussion of Facepalm Moments

In the course of a discussion of “facepalm moments,” We find the following:

And then there's Michelle Bachman, who wants us to understand that carbon dioxide is a natural part of Earth. Yep, just like acid, radiation, and plutonium. All natural parts of Earth. "There isn't even one study that shows carbon dioxide is a harmful gas. It is natural," she says. "It is not harmful. It is part of Earth's life cycle." Yep, it may be natural — but that doesn't mean you want to pour a lot of it into your lungs.
Sigh. I doubt if the amounts of CO2 likely to be emitted in the foreseeable future will be anywhere near a toxic amount. They would have been on firmer ground had they pointed out that a heavy coat won't poison you but you would not want to wear it in the summer.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Resemblance between Human Biodiversity Debates and Environmentalist Debates

One of the fans of human biodiversity theories has noticed the resemblance between the human biodiversity debates and environmentalist debates … but not in a good way. He starts off on the wrong foot by getting the criticism of global warming/human biodiversity wrong:

When the overwhelming body of scientific opinion believes something is true, the denialist won't admit scientists have independently studied the evidence to reach the same conclusion. Instead, they claim scientists are engaged in a complex and secretive conspiracy.
Most of us don't believe that the world's evolutionary psychologists/climate scientists are engaged in a conspiracy to Hide the Truth. Instead we believe that the world's reporters aren't covering the research right. We think it's possible that the reporters are overemphasizing some research and underemphasizing other research. This isn't even due to a conspiracy among reporters. It's more likely to be due to reporters preferentially covering the more spectacular conclusions. (Also see PhD Comics on this topic.)

One reason why a few people might reject science is the effect of scientific results propagated by rumor. Eventually a nonsensical conclusion reaches someone who knows it's bulshytt and rejects science itself instead of the communication chain. I would like to point out to these people that the activists sometimes accuse scientists of being insufficiently hysterical. That might be evidence that the actual scientists haven't sold their souls.

I have covered this before.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

We Can Match You Idiot for Idiot

The above slogan explains the bizarre committee assignments in the next Congress.

Monday, December 03, 2012


Is “knife control” next?

They're already starting.

ObSF: In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain, one of the barbaric medieval customs ridiculed was that of forbidding the common people from owning weapons.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Bravo, You Dolts—Part II

The Republican establishment managed to exceed its earlier stupidity by putting Congressbeing Lamar Smith (also noted for SOPA and other fascist proposals) in charge of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology instead of Dana Rohrabacher.

What Foods Cause Cancer?

They all do.

“… and we're having second thoughts about oxygen.” from Peeping Times.

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