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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Explaining “Anarchists”

It might seem a bit strange that “anarchists” are opposing voluntary cooperation (seen via Twitter) until we recall the saying that “‘government’ is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.” Some of the people who believe that are opposed to government and therefore opposed to choosing to do things together.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Politicization of SF Fandom Is Nothing New

The politicization of SF fandom (discussed by Instapundit) is nothing new. Back in 1971 (and if you don't believe me, I'll hit you with my slide rule), Donald A. Wollheim said of Campbell-era Analog:

For mighty few are the Hugos and Nebulas won by Analog entries. The highest awards of science fiction in literature and popular reader appeal go fairly consistently to novels and short stories from the pages of Galaxy, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the publishers of original novels in book form.
This was despite the large circulation of Analog.

In other words, maybe this merely means the 1970s are back … like a horrible recurring nightmare.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Another Fence Post Proposal

The problem with Senator Markey's proposal isn't that it's a violation of anybody's rights; the problem is that provides a foundation for future violation of rights. It's another fence-post proposal, earlier discussed here, here, here, here, and the original inspiration for this metaphor here. In the absence of such a bureaucracy, censorship is unlikely to be effective and its ineffectiveness might act as a discouragement. In the presence of such a bureaucracy, we're one constitutional amendment away from a tyranny.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

I Just Violated French Law

In France, it's illegal to send send or read work-related emails outside of working hours. I now have something in common with Bob Dylan.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Brief Note on the latest XKCD

Earl Bullard can use the latest XKCD as an excuse.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Is Capitalism Working?

Next Big Future has a summary of the theories of Thomas Piketty, who claims that unfettered capitalism causes highly unequal societies as well as a graph to demonstrate his theories. I am dubious.

According to Piketty's theories (and he apparently has data to back this up), a system in which investment returns exceed growth rates produces more inequality. The data in the graph also show that growth rates exceeded investment returns for the past century. Piketty then combined this actual data with assumptions that growth rates would decline and investment returns rise. Both of these assumptions are uncertain.

The really weird part is this is completely opposed to Karl Marx's assumption that competition would drive investment returns to zero.

A Heartbleed Speculation

Could the heartbleed bug be exploited to plant disinformation? If the disinformation were inserted into the memory of an apparently-vulnerable server, that could sabotage a crooked plan or two.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Less Insane Lynch Mob

I'm sure my fellow wingnuts have heard of the anti-Condi-Rice movement (pro-Rice here and anti-Rice here). Unlike the anti-Brendan-Eich campaign, this is not entirely nuts.

You may recall that Condi Rice is a member of the national-security establishment. There's a strong possibility she has NSA contacts. This appointment might give the NSA the inside scoop on Dropbox's customers. On the other hand, this might be part of an agreement for the NSA to only spy on the customers of Dropbox's rivals. (The latter seems more likely since the Dropbox board went along with it.)

Question: Was the Eich controversy was arranged by the NSA to discredit such movements?

Monday, April 07, 2014

Out of What Bodily Orifice Did They Pull That Figure?

The latest protest by the left-wing division of Nuts R Us features the following:

To this end, we now make our first clear demand of Google. We demand that Google give three billion dollars to an anarchist organization of our choosing. This money will then be used to create autonomous, anti-capitalist, and anti-racist communities throughout the Bay Area and Northern California. In these communities, whether in San Francisco or in the woods, no one will ever have to pay rent and housing will be free. With this three billion from Google, we will solve the housing crisis in the Bay Area and prove to the world that an anarchist world is not only possible but in fact irrepressible.
Why three billion dollars? Why not Skewe's number or Graham's number? Why not ∞? Why not \(\sqrt{-1}\)? It's just as imaginary.

By the way, what's stopping them from creating their own communities without subsidies? I understand there's plenty of vacant land in Detroit. Detroit is what happens when ‘parasites’ leave.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Snitching on Government?

According to Cry Dctorw at BngBng:

Australia's far-right crybaby government is so terrified of civil servants criticizing its policies that it has ordered government employees to snitch on any colleagues who breathe an unhappy word about the politicians of the day online, even if the criticism is anonymous, because it is "unprofessional." Civil servants are also banned from editing Wikipedia in ways that make politicians and their policies look bad.
Taxpayers have the right to know what their government is up to … including the unelected civil service. (Yes, I also think Edward Snowden should be pardoned for the same reason.)

Saturday, April 05, 2014

When Is McCarthyism Acceptable?

I recommend that blacklisting someone for political opinions requires both of the following two criteria:

  1. It must be serious. To use Thomas Jefferson's phrase, the political opinion should either pick your pocket or break your leg.
  2. It should be obviously wrong. In particular, we must assume that an opinion with the support of at least one major party at the time is not obviously wrong. (There are quite a few opinions whose wrongnesses should be obvious but aren't.)
If we apply the above criteria to the gay marriage controversy, we see that neither side is serious. At most the denial of gay marriage causes gays to feel dissed. We also see that opposing gay marriage is not obviously wrong and was even less obviously wrong in 2008.

On the other hand, blacklisting Communists in the 1950s was allowed by the first criterion but might not be by the second criterion. (Is it possible for something to be non-obvious but not obviously non-obvious?)

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Explaining the Anti-Compliance Confounding Factor

One of the biggest problems in trying to determine what is or is not a healthy lifestyle is the existence of confounding factors. One of biggest confounding factors is the tendency for people who lead healthy lifestyles in general to also follow lifestyles that are widely considered to be healthy. On the other hand, it's common for an observational study to show that X is healthy only to reverse course a decade later. For example, the Framingham study showed lower death rates among people who were close to anorexic. More recent data shows that the lowest death rates are among people that the Framingham study classified as mildly overweight. It's as though the supposedly-healthy users are actually following an unhealthy lifestyle in general.

We see a possible clue in a recent study from Austria which found that vegetarians tended to be in ill health:

Moreover, vegetarians are vaccinated less often than all other dietary habit groups (p=.005)
Hmmmm… Maybe the ‘healthy users’ are less vaccinated. If that is the case, we can expect headlines a decade from now showing ill health among people eschewing GMOs, trans-fatty acids, or high-fructose corn syrup.

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