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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jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com

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Small Sample Watch
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The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
Someone who used to be sane (formerly War)
Someone who used to be serious (formerly Plague)
Rally 'round the President (formerly Famine)
Dr. Yes (formerly Death)

Interesting weblogs:
Back Off Government!
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Debunkers Discussion Forum
Deep Space Bombardment
Depleted Cranium
Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.
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Out of Step Jew
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The Raving Theist
Respectful Insolence
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Slate Star Codex
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Tools of Renewal
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Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
Crank Dot Net
Day By Day
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
Libertarians for Life
The Mad Revisionist
Piled Higher and Deeper
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
Sustainability of Human Progress

Yet another weird SF fan

Thursday, January 31, 2013

It's Obvious That Vegetables in Their Natural State Are Healthier Than Cooked

… but that doesn't make it true. According to at least one study:

“Most meals are safe,” said Dr. Patricia Griffin, a government researcher and one of the study’s authors who said the finding shouldn’t discourage people from eating produce. Experts repeated often-heard advice: Be sure to wash those foods or cook them thoroughly.


About 1 in 5 illnesses were linked to leafy green vegetables — more than any other type of food. And nearly half of all food poisonings were attributed to produce in general, when illnesses from other fruits and vegetables were added in.

Should the brussels sprouts be microwaved or stir fried? I recommend doing both. Take no chances.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Where Did President Obama Get His Ideas?

Where did President Obama get the idea that the only alternative to government was acting alone? He might have gotten the idea from apocalyptic fiction. Megan McArdle pointed out an omission in apocalyptic fiction:

Even more irritating is the absence of something that Parker didn't mention: gains from trade.  People have to scavenge or make everything, either by themselves or as part of a cooperative community.  Where are the traveling peddlers, the trade caravans?  Why isn't anyone buying protection with goods--or at least, exploiting the manufacturers efficiently, rather than killing or imprisoning them to get their stuff? And how about social dynamics? Why do none of the groups, good guy or bad, have any internal politics beyond the crude desire of the number two guy to become the number one?   

It's the same idea: In the absence of government, there is no order.

It's possible to make the case that the property rights that make trade possible require government … except that theory that property rights do not precede government makes more sense when there's gun control.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Is the Pro-Life Movement Erasing Racism?

It's hard to March for Life and support policies that result in more brown/black/whatever babies being born and also be a racist. This has been noticed by racists, much to their disgust.

Addendum: This has also been noticed by leftists. On the other hand, they have not noticed that both racist and non-racist right-wingers have noticed.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I Don't Think This Will Make a Difference

According to Gizmodo (normally the sane part of Gawker):

Hands On With Kim Dotcom’s New Mega: This Service Could Dismantle Copyright Forever
I doubt if it will make much of a difference. Wasn't it already possible to encrypt files locally and then share them with a public-key system?

Even if it makes such techniques more popular, there are other ways to enforce copyright. We might have a state-mandated operating system with built-in spyware. If that falls through, there might be a free (gratis but not liber) operating system (subsidized through some lofty-sounding government program) that will include spyware. It might not be mandatory, but if it becomes popular among idiots, the rest of us might have to go along. If there are PhDs in hard sciences who insist on Word …

This style of rhetoric might also explain the Aaron Swartz case. It was yet another case of telling people “You can't achieve your goals unless you create a totalitarian regime!” and having that backfire.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Why the Other Side Is More Consistent Than They Look

There are two reasons why partisans on nearly any political viewpoint scream that the opposition is being inconsistent:

  • First and most obviously, many partisans haven't bothered to understand the Other Side. For example, many of my fellow wingnuts think the Other Side is in favor of letting every civilization develop in its own way but will make an exception for Western Civilization. I don't think that is the case. They are in favor of letting every civilization develop in its own way including Western Civilization … but they believe they are the True Western Civilization and others are trying to hijack it. (There is further evidence here.)
  • Second, nearly any political viewpoint has an Establishment wing. This Establishment wing will nearly always defend power grabs when the “right” people are in charge even when the base is dubious. The Establishment wing is usually far more visible than the base and is easier to see at a distance.
I was inspired by Popehat.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Talent I Didn't Know I Had

At a recent office party, we held a bowling contest including a round of bowling with mittens on. I somehow managed to win that round (with a score of 101) even despite a less than stellar performance at normal bowling. I'm not sure what I can do with this hitherto untapped skill…

I also found bowling more slowly appeared to help. This can be overdone. At one point, I sent the ball rolling so slowly that it got stuck and a lane maintainer had to fetch it.

I don't know what Walter Sobchak would have to say but it would probably include words that are not in my vocabulary.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Is This an Argument in the Other Direction?

According to Gizmodo:

The fact that the US—perhaps the world's leading technological and scientific power—chooses to make life more difficult for itself by using an archaic set of measures is mind-boggling.
Maybe that means the relative absence of the metric system isn't much a drag after all.

Besides, in the Computer Age, binary measurements are obviously more advanced than decimal. There are 2 tablespoons in an ounce, 4 ounces in a gill, 2 gills in a cup, 2 cups in a pint, 2 pints in a quart, 4 quarts in a gallon, 2 gallons in a peck, 4 pecks in a bushel … In other news, I think the metric people got something right (for once) when they devised paper sizes.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I Thought Creationism Was Bulshytt …

… but now I'm not so sure.

A 19-year-old history major from Louisiana, starting at the age of 14, with backing from a philosophy professor, has been organizing opposition to a law that allows teachers in Louisiana to bring in supplemental materials that may disagree with the approved lessons. These non-scientists have been organizing a petition signed by Nobel Prize winners. To make matters worse, they're also opposing school vouchers.

I don't trust people who oppose school vouchers. I don't trust petitions by scientists. I don't trust people who derive far-reaching conclusions from a middle-school level of understanding. I don't trust scientific controversies organized by non-scientists. The only anti-trust cue they missed was getting Peace and Literature winners on the Nobel-Prize-winner petition.

On the other hand, the Creationists have their own petitions. Lest we forget, there was also the Scope's trial, a far more blatant attempt to get State backing of an intellectual position than opposing school vouchers.

I won't more than mention that the laws in question can also be used by evolutionists against any attempt at a Creationist monopoly.

Addendum: I just remembered this very strong series of arguments against Intelligent Design (maybe they're arguments in favor of Silly Design).

Aflatoxin: Now They Notice

For years, we technomaniacs have been warning about the dangers of aflatoxin and have pointed out that fungicides could control the molds that produce aflatoxin. The Green response was to either ignore or minimize the problem. The Greens have finally noticed the aflatoxin problem (seen via Greenie Watch) without, of course, mentioning fungicides.

Apparently, the Left can only notice a problem when there's some way to blame capitalism. Since there's some reason to believe there's a connection to alleged global warming, it's now acceptable to discuss aflatoxin.

If there is a connection to global warming, that clearly means we need nuclear winter.

Friday, January 18, 2013

John Campbell on Legal Infallibility

According John W. Campbell:

A simple, clear, and yet rather subtle example of that doctrine of Legal Infallibility is the fact that if a man is tried and convicted of a crime, and it is later discovered that it was a case of mistaken identity—the wrong man was convicted—the Governor of the State signs a pardon!

How can you pardon a man for something he didn't do?

It's the only thing you can do under the hidden-postulate rule that the Law is Infallible. You can't sign a Certificate of Exoneration; that would mean that the Law had been wrong!

This sounds relevant to current events somehow…

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Geeky News

The latest Chrome now has MathML support.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Word Count Limits and Law

Texas puts a word count limit on court briefs (seen via Instapundit). Can we put a word count limit on Federal legislation? It might require a Constitutional Amendment or two…

Ideally, there should be a limit of 140 characters or fewer for each new law.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Military Uses for Substance Resembling Silly Putty

My suggestion is finally being taken seriously.

Hmmm … if it were used in wire insulation, could it keep wires from breaking during a hurricane?

In Which I Disagree with Instapundit

I disagree with this post:

I recommend banning phased plasma rifles in the 40-watt range. No one needs more than 25 watts for home defense.
On the one hand, banning nonexistent weaponry is a useful tactic for stopping idiotic legislation. On the other hand, someday there might be devices that can be legitimately called “phased plasma rifles.” Remember: Phasers don't disintegrate people, people disintegrate people.

Addendum: Banning something impossible does not always keep the Safety Nazis away.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The People at Gizmodo

haven't heard of carbon burial and how it's good for the environment.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Naming Schools after Bandits

Victor Davis Hanson is dubious about the recent decision by a school district in California to name a school after Tiburcio Vasquez, a 19th-century bandit. On the other hand, this is nothing new.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

A What-If Question

If Jupiter were in Earth's orbit, would its larger moons be able to hold an oxygen atmosphere?

Monday, January 07, 2013

Raymond Smullyan and Social Security's Actuaries

According to Raymond Smullyan:

Many years ago, I was teaching an elementary algebra course. On one exam, I had a standard-type question that involved finding the ages of a mother, father, and child. After the students read the question, I said, “On this problem, I'll give you one hint.” All eyes eagerly turned to me. I continued, “If the child should turn out to be older than either of the parents, then you've done something wrong.”
The actuaries of the Social Security administration did something wrong.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

I'm Not Saying It's Aliens but …

it's aliens.

After all, what's more likely? Extraterrestrials fooling around or the dread possibility that we haven't thought of every physical phenomenon yet?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

In Which I Disagree with XKCD

Duty calls.

The latest XKCD What-If discusses how to spin up the Earth:

If we wanted to get rid of leap seconds, we’d need to keep the Earth spinning at a more constant rate. This means speeding up the Earth and shortening each day by about 0.8 milliseconds.


In the end, there’s only one solution: Hitting the Earth with asteroids.

That isn't the only solution.

The Earth is slowing down as a result of tidal drag. As is well known, the rate at which the Earth is slowing can increase as a result of extracting energy from the tides (see The Last Judgment by J. B. S. Haldane). In the other direction, the slowing can decline or even reverse if energy is put into the tides. This will require enormous amounts of power … but far less than that present in the sunlight hitting the Earth.

The basic physics of this is simple enough. Pump enough water around the Earth's oceans to cause the tidal bulge to be ahead of the Moon instead of behind. The trivial engineering details can be left as an exercise for the reader.

In other news, I'm celebrating Isaac Asimov's birthday by posting something extremely nerdy on my blog.

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