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:
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Yet another weird SF fan

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Runaround

This is how I feel while trying to track down environmentalist claims:

But every citation I found led me only to another citation. A would cite B. I'd follow up with B only to discover that B cited C, which cited D, which cited A. Books of quotations referred to other books of quotations.
Also see XKCD.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Crossover TV Shows We Need

What if Sheldon Cooper met Cliff Clavin? (There has to be some way to get Professor Emeritus Charles Emerson Winchester III into this as well.)

What if Ron Swanson met Jack Donaghy?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The New McCarthyism?

The reaction to Pax Dickinson's firing has been to compare it to the Red Scare. It does resemble the Red Scare: We have people shouting from the rooftops that they're afraid to speak above a whisper. McCarthy did not, after all, shut down political debate.

It might even resemble the Red Scare in another sense. As I've mentioned before, one reason we didn't become totalitarian during Cold War I was that early on Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy emphasized the possibility of infiltration. That meant the people most concerned about Communism tended to avoid statist solutions. (You may recall that it was Eisenhower who warned about the military–industrial complex and Nixon who abolished the draft.) It's possible that part of the reaction to the NSA scandal or the potential overreach in Syria comes from people who are worried about the possibility of racist infiltration. (We must also recall that there were some Communist infiltrators.)

Repeat after me: “I have a list in my hand of 205 racists in the National Security Agency…”

Sunday, September 15, 2013

When Dinner Is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Dinner

A Cure for Down Syndrome?

On the one hand, there might be a cure for Down syndrome soon.

On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of unborn children with a diagnosis of Down syndrome are aborted.

On the gripping hand, the following quote from our Secretary of State seems relevant somehow:

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It Seems Majors Don't Do This

The President's attempt to appeal to conservatives:

"And so to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America’s military might with the failure to act when a cause is so plainly just.

"To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain and going still on a cold hospital floor, for sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough."
reminded me of Lucian Gregory's attempt to infiltrate the military in The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton:
Then I tried being a major. Now I am a humanitarian myself, but I have, I hope, enough intellectual breadth to understand the position of those who, like Nietzsche, admire violence--the proud, mad war of Nature and all that, you know. I threw myself into the major. I drew my sword and waved it constantly. I called out 'Blood!' abstractedly, like a man calling for wine. I often said, 'Let the weak perish; it is the Law.' Well, well, it seems majors don't do this. I was nabbed again.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How to Identify an Idiot

If they take the following bulshytt seriously:

"A child born in America today will be exposed to more chemicals than any other generation in history." ~ Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator
BTW, what is the source? Google just reveals more tweets.

Addendum: Here's a source. Now for another question: How could she say something like that with a straight face?

Monday, September 09, 2013

A Way to Cut Down on Illegal Drug Consumption. Part II

My plan to cut down on mind-altering chemicals is working. According to a stoned twitter feed:

#Monsanto plans to infect all non-GMO cannabis with their shitty transgenic DNA and then sue YOU for getting infected by it. Isn't it great?
[Mad-scientist laugh]

Now for the next step: Pointing out that fertilizer used for growing dope has uranium in it and that the uranium is even more radioactive than depleted uranium.

Some people think you need a government to do this. They're wrong.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Is it Irrationality or Is It Skepticism?

Discussions of the paper Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government have been going around the blogosphere. It is an example of a common line of psychological research:

  1. Researchers give experimental subjects made-up data.
  2. The subjects recognize the data as fabricated and ignore it.
  3. The researchers cite this as evidence of irrationality.
It looks like cognitive scientists have defined rationality to mean “agrees with anything you are told.”

But wait, there's more. It turns out that the most numerate subjects were the least “rational” (or most skeptical). For some reason, the psychologists engaged in their own version of motivated reasoning in interpreting this.

Once again, I'm reminded of a Robert Heinlein quote from Methuselah's Children:

Ford slapped the report on a stack cluttering his old-fashioned control desk. The dumb fools! Not to recognize a negative report when they saw one-yet they called themselves psychographers!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Improving Education Improvements

I'm slightly dubious about some of these education improvements. I think the biggest problem with education is that people can graduate and still fall for bulshytt. Some of the suggested improvements (green construction engineering? working in groups instead of individually?) sound like “Let's deliver even more bulshytt!”

The most obvious way to judge a proposed reform is to see if the students fall for the dihydrogen monoxide gag. An even better way is to first explain that gag and then see if they agree with the following:

Dihydrogen monoxide is an essential nutrient that is frequently depleted in food processing. It is almost 90% oxygen by mass, which clearly shows its importance for oxygenating tissues. As for the depletion, for example, organic grapes have over five times the percentage of dihydrogen monoxide compared to genetically-modified raisins. The paleo diet might also reflect the importance of this nutrient. Sugar and wheat flour have almost no dihydrogen monoxide at all.
If they try to “guess the teacher's password,” based on the earlier lesson, they will fail.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

If NSA Goes Entirely over to the Dark Side

If the NSA becomes really evil instead of moderately evil, they might try burying information:

If you can tap data from the major search engines, how hard is it to insert search results into their output?

Easy, it turns out. As easy as falling off a log. Google and Facebook are both advertising businesses. Twitter's trying to become one. Amazon and Ebay both rent space at the top of their search results to vendors who pay more money or offer more profits. Advertising is the keyword. All the NSA needs, in addition to the current information gathering capability, is the ability to inject spurious search results that submerge whatever nugget the user might be hunting for in a sea of irrelevant sewage. Imagine hunting for "Snowden" on Google and, instead of finding The New York Times or The Guardian's in-depth coverage, finding page after page of links to spam blogs.

On the other hand, the above characterization of the future behavior of unscrupulous spooks is true of the “natural anything” people:
I was reminded of this by the propensity of Internet crackpots (such as trutherbot) to repeat unsourced claims about GMO foods, vaccines, chemtrails, etc. When I try using Google/Bing/Ask/Yahoo/whatever to find out where the claim came from, I mainly get links to people repeating the same unsourced claim. (I discussed a specific example of this bulshytt here.)

Could THEY be behind the “natural anything” people? Who is Mike Adams really working for? Or is this a false-flag operation?

So try this thought experiment: how do you know that (Dr. Cassandra) isn't just a plant? A false flag? Someone who's been put out there to make his beliefs look silly and under-researched (because believe me, he does)? Could someone in the pay of the Mighty Conspiracy do a better job of bringing its opposition into disrepute?

On the gripping hand, as far as I know, burying information is currently done on an amateur basis.

Why Freedom Needs Spaceflight

We need spaceflight to solve the underpopulation problem.

If organizations are growing larger and population size is limited, we can expect to be ruled by a monopoly, or at least an oligopoly. To quote “Margin of Profit” by Poul Anderson:

A race limited to one planet, possessing a high knowledge of mechanics but with all its basic machines of commerce and war requiring a large capital investment, will inevitably tend toward collectivism under one name or another. Free enterprise needs elbow room.
On the other hand, I suspect large populations are more important than large distances. Thinly-populated frontier societies frequently have an apparent labor shortage that encourages the extraction of labor by force.

If populations become very large we can have both vigorous competition and economies of scale. There might be room for only one Google on Earth but room for thousands on Ringworld. (A decade ago, I used Microsoft as the example. Times change.)

Monday, September 02, 2013

Raise the Wages of Sin!

There was a unionized strip club?

Today's “Feminism”

Step 1: Claim to be proud to be a slut.

Step 2: Act offended when someone calls someone else a slut.

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