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

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Suggestion for Nativists, Part II

Immigration is the Global Warming of the Right.

We see the same pattern of asserting the existence of large amounts of damage while giving minimal thought to measuring either the social cost of carbon or the social cost of immigration.

I'll give a specific example of that minimal thought: Donald Trump has recently criticized the IRS for sending $4 billion in income tax refunds per year to illegal aliens. On the other hand, illegal aliens pay $11.8 billion per year in income taxes.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Few Questions for New-Age People Who Imagine They're Scientific

  • What do you mean by “linear”?
  • What do you mean by “vibrations”? Can you measure the frequency in kilohertz?
  • What do you mean by “energy”? Can you measure the energy in kilowatt-hours?
  • Since energy and matter are the same thing, can we measure your type of energy in kilograms?
  • If you're post-modern, post which modern? As far as I can tell, modernism has gone through several phases: the modernism of Descartes, the modernism of Jefferson, the modernism of Marx, the modernism of Taylor, the modernism of Toffler, …
  • Did the chicken really cross the road? Or is that what THEY want you to think?
  • What's your opinion of dihydrogen monoxide? Should it be banned?
  • If you experimented with drugs, where was the control group?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

“Hide the Decline” from Someone I Agree With

Bryan Caplan expressed approval of hiding information that might interfere with a libertarian narrative:

I've long scorned mainstream media for their relentless, misleading negativity.  Now the NYT publishes a gloriously positive story - and I wish it hadn't.
Hide the decline?


Now any fact I might cite while arguing with a nativist will not only be taken as propaganda (they were doing that anyway) but will also look like propaganda to formerly-neutral third parties.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Category 5 Hurricane in a Teapot

The latest news from what passes for organized science-fiction fandom is that two groups of SF fans, the “Sad Puppies” and the “Rabid Puppies,” tried to seize/regain control of the Hugo Awards. According to the Puppies, the Hugos have come under control of a clique using block voting. (There are additional accusations that the clique consists of politically-correct people, which would be more believable if I hadn't also read accusations that George Will or Victor Davis Hanson are PC people.) In reaction to that, the two groups of Puppies encouraged their friends to join WorldCon and vote for their type of SF, followed by the Puppy brand of fiction getting more of the nominations. The earlier clique didn't take that lying down and encouraged their friends to join and vote for “No Award.” The “No Award” votes won in many categories.

In other words, we now have a group of people who appear to be left leaning who have endorsed the ethic of “Freedom, I Won't!” (Required reading: “And then there were none” by Eric Frank Russell.) We can use that as a precedent to defend the rights of pharmacists or bakers to refuse to fill prescriptions or bake cakes.

Being able to vote for “No Award” might also come in handy if the Presidential election comes down to Trump vs. Sanders.

Another speculation: What if some zillionaire (David Koch, Elon Musk, Donald Trump, or George Soros) bought up and distributed a bleepload of WorldCon memberships?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Distributed Denial of Sanity

In Blindsight by Peter Watts, extraterrestrials intercept transmissions from Earth, are unable to figure out what they mean, and come to the conclusion the transmissions are a deliberate attempt to waste their time:

There are no meaningful translations for these terms. They are needlessly recursive. They contain no usable intelligence, yet they are structured intelligently; there is no chance they could have arisen by chance.

The only explanation is that something has coded nonsense in a way that poses as a useful message; only after wasting time and effort does the deception becomes apparent. The signal functions to consume the resources of a recipient for zero payoff and reduced fitness. The signal is a virus.

Viruses do not arise from kin, symbionts, or other allies.

The signal is an attack.

And it's coming from right about there.

I was somehow reminded of this by the way Donald Trump debates have taken over large parts of the dextrosphere. Is the Trump run an attempt to keep conservatives occupied? Is it a distributed denial of sanity?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wordy People with a Large Vocabulary Are Telling the Truth!

According to recent research on how to get terrorists to talk (seen via BuzzFeed (seen via GeekPress)):

We hypothesized that deceptive participants would speak less and use fewer unique words than would truthful participants when interviewed about their activities.
They were able to confirm their hypothesis using a WEIRD sample of 64 people. You can be sure they were telling the truth because they used very many long words to explain it. (That's why I used the hypothetical statement above; it was much shorter than the later summaries.)

Cross posted to Small Sample Watch.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Few General Principles for Discussing Immigration

  1. There is no such thing as “unfair competition” in a capitalist system.
  2. Earlier immigration waves to the US didn't turn “here” into “there.” Why would it do so this time?
  3. If you find yourself saying “This time it's different.” you may be speaking nonsense.
  4. When X is outlawed, only outlaws will have X.
  5. Please don't say anything that sounds like “If you really believed in free speech, you'd let someone yell at you all night long while you try to sleep.”
  6. If an illegal alien starts his American residence by breaking the law, does that mean he has two felonies to go?
  7. Please recall there is a difference between the power of the lash and the power of the dollar.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Watson Personality Test Results

The Watson AI program is now being applied to deriving personality predictions from writing samples. I tries inputting a sample of text from this blog and got the following results:

You are shrewd and skeptical.

You are unconcerned with art: you are less concerned with artistic or creative activities than most people who participated in our surveys. You are independent: you have a strong desire to have time to yourself. And you are philosophical: you are open to and intrigued by new ideas and love to explore them.

Your choices are driven by a desire for prestige.

You are relatively unconcerned with taking pleasure in life: you prefer activities with a purpose greater than just personal enjoyment. You consider achieving success to guide a large part of what you do: you seek out opportunities to improve yourself and demonstrate that you are a capable person.

Choices driven by a desire for prestige?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Suggestion on “How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Donald?”

Appoint Donald Trump ambassador to the UN.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Lewis Carroll on Politics

Much of Lewis Carroll's mathematical analysis of politics can be applied today.

On Donald Trump: Obtuse Anger is that which is greater than Right Anger.

On Occupy Wall Street: A Surd is a radical whose meaning cannot be exactly ascertained. This class comprises a very large number of particles.

On political debates in general:

  1. Let it be granted, that a speaker may digress from any one point to any other point.
  2. That a finite argument, (i.e. one finished and disposed of,) may be produced to any extent in subsequent debates.
  3. That a controversy may be raised about any question, and at any distance from that question.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

A Note on Retirement Ages

I recently attended the MOVES conference, in the course of which I heard a lecture by Richard Guy, whose 99th birthday is next month. (I'd give a detailed report on the lecture but I lost track of what he was saying while he was in the middle of identifying 50 points on the nine-point circle.)

… and how are the years treating you?

Monday, August 03, 2015

Uniformity Is Not Always a Virtue

The bureaucratic mind at work:

The US presents particular obstacles to achieving educational improvement at a national scale, deriving from its social and economic diversity and also from an entrenched tradition of “local control,” which precludes a federal role in any primary initiatives. Yet to achieve effective reform at scale requires some national coherence. This was a principal aim of the Common Core, embodied in the word “Common.” Fractions are the same in Florida and Montana; it makes little sense in a highly mobile population for the math curriculum to change at state lines. It would be like building a national railway system with different gauge tracks in each state.
When everybody is learning the same stuff, everybody will be making the same mistakes. When there are many different education plans, even people who are miseducated can learn the truth from others after graduation. When there's just one plan, there are very few such others and those that do exist will sound like (and sometimes be) crackpots.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Now You See It and Now You Don't

I'm sure anybody following the news about nutrition research has noticed the now-you-see-it-and-now-you-don't nature of the evidence for the benefits of eating less meat. Epidemiological research seemed to indicate that people who ate less meat tended to have longer life expectancies. Then large numbers of people tried adopting the correlates of low-meat diets (e.g., low fat) and the advantages disappeared. That might mean the correlates of a low-meat diet in the ‘wild’ differ from the correlates of such a diet when deliberately adopted. One possible such correlate is that a low-meat diet in the wild tends to be a high-beans diet. In other words, it might be a high-protein, low-methionine diet. When low-meat or low-fat diets are deliberately adopted they tend to be high-grain. Grain protein is just as rich in methionine as meat protein so, if low-methionine diets are better, those diets would be ineffective. (Or maybe there's another explanation.)

Another case of now-you-see-it-and-now-you-don't evidence is that handing adolescents contraceptives lowers the abortion rate. There have been many studies that show that but areas that adopt the policy deliberately don't seem to have lower abortion rates. (The ‘blue’ states might have low adolescent birth rates but they don't have low abortion rates.) Maybe the studies are about what happens when an organization other than Planned Parenthood hands out the pills. When the policy is deliberately adopted, the people turn to Planned Parenthood and that fails. (Or maybe there's another explanation.)

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