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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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)

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Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
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Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
Libertarians for Life
The Mad Revisionist
Piled Higher and Deeper
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
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Yet another weird SF fan

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Rhetoric That Can Backfire

The slogan “EVERY CHILD DESERVES A MOM & DAD!” has been used by the traditional-marriage side in the gay marriage debate. That can backfire. The same slogan might be used by the anti-anti-abortion side (motto: “If it's not pregnant, regulate it.”) next year.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Wasn't This Used in “Angerhelm”?

IIRC, Electronic Voice Projection was used in “Angerhelm” by Cordwainer Smith to receive a message from Tice Angerhelm.

Maybe the people using Electronic Voice Projection were inspired by the story.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Did This “Study” Actually Exist?

The noted crackpot Trutherbot recently tweeted:

One study of one-million students showed people who ate a lunch without preservatives or artificial dyes scored 14% higher on IQ tests.
The original source, as far as I could tell, was an article in Psychology Today. I could not find any publication details for the study cited. Maybe it was done in an era when lead was used as a food additive. Maybe the alleged study was imaginary.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Passover and Science Fiction

The message of Passover is, of course, No Truce with Kings.

By the way, I've recently noticed that the numerous right wings (earlier discussed here) include monarchists claiming to be reactionaries. This is a bit strange considering that a few centuries ago, absolute monarchy was recent and regrettable innovation. I won't more than mention that some of the faults of democracy (e.g., the Nanny State) are also present in monarchies.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

What Smells Purple?

I was reminded of the above classic SF line (from “The man with English” by H. L. Gold) by this article on synesthesia.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

It's Full of Ingredients!

I was reminded of the above Linus van Pelt quote by this exercise in Luddite bulshytt (seen via Instapundit, who should really know better).

In any case, if you don't know that “ascorbic acid” (which sounds like it has cooties) is otherwise known as “vitamin C,” you are not qualified to be taken seriously on nutrition and if you know but won't say, you are a deliberate fraud. (I won't more than mention that citric acid is part of oxygen metabolism.)

By the way, where did the common assertion that processed food is something recent come from? It isn't. The same complaints are recycled every generation with just enough cosmetic changes to make them look new.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Problems with Eugenics

Problem 1: Eugenics requires accurate genetic research. Eugenics policies will give researchers and their backers an incentive to fudge data to make their relatives look superior. For example, the eugenicists of the early 20th century fudged data in order to keep out people we can now recognize as assets.

Problem 2: In order for eugenics to work, it is not only necessary for mental abilities to be genetic, it is necessary for them to vary smoothly depending on genes. That is, if two alleles produce higher IQ, combining them must be even better. That is not necessarily the case. It's possible for the heterozygous phenotype to be superior to either homozygous phenotype.

Problem 3: There are always trade-offs. Improving long-term memory and analytic ability may come at the expense of being able to recall what color the sky is on my^H^H one's planet.

Problem 4: Why isn't everybody a genius? If evolution works faster than expected, you would expect IQs to rise until the genes get into rough territory or trade-offs start becoming important.

I was reminded by the news that the Chinese government is considering making an attempt at eugenics.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Is Extinction Forever?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What Caused the American Obesity Epidemic?

As far as I know, the obesity epidemic started in the 1970s (long after television, automobiles, Hershey bars, and fast food came into common use) and is strongest in the United States. By some coincidence, cyclamates were banned in the United States in the 1970s but not in many other industrial countries. Maybe, just maybe, the cyclamate ban played a role.

What does this imply about people who want to fight obesity by banning something? Maybe their bans won't backfire … but I wouldn't count on that.

ObSF: Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Your Day at Work …

… was probably easier than that of the man with the hoe.

Remember, a few centuries back nearly everybody's job involved back-breaking work and smelling horse manure.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Is a Crystal Computer Possible? II

I'm not the only one speculating about crystal computers. Hunter Scott is also speculating on the topic.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Toxic Oceans Are Natural

According to a recent study:

A new model suggests that inhospitable hydrodgen-sulphide rich waters could have delayed the spread of complex life forms in ancient oceans. The research, published online this week in the journal Nature Communications, considers the composition of the oceans 550-700 million years ago and shows that oxygen-poor toxic conditions, which may have delayed the establishment of complex life, were controlled by the biological availability of nitrogen.
Those toxic oceans were 100% natural. But wait, there's more:
The study shows how bacteria using nitrate in their metabolism would have displaced the less energetically efficient bacteria that produce sulphide – meaning that the presence of nitrate in the oceans prevented build-up of the toxic sulphidic state.
In other words, fertilizer runoff from inorganic farms is helping to prevent a recurrence of the toxicity.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

What Do New Agers Mean by “Energy”?

The following quote has been making its way around the web (example here):

… all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration – that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There's no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we're the imagination of ourselves.
What the [expletive deleted] do New Agers mean by “energy”? Do they think it's the same thing as subjectivity? Do they think it means “We can believe whatever we want?” Can their version of energy be measured in kilowatt hours?

Meanwhile, there's a handy rebuttal: All energy is prosaic matter that can be weighed and measured.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Eye of Newt

Scientists have been researching eye of newt (seen via Next Big Future):

Eight years ago, he and his wife Katia Del Rio-Tsonis, a biologist at Miami University, succeeded in causing tissue to regenerate where it never had before. In a newt's eye, the upper iris can regenerate a lens after injury, but the lower iris cannot. By adding the right mix of certain growth factors – sort of like a recipe – they were finally able to induce the lower iris to grow a new lens. Nature published the findings in 2005.
I'm sure toe of frog is next.

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