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

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Light and Conception

Back in the 1970s, the Daedalus column in New Scientist speculated that a flash of light was emitted when the soul entered the fetus (the highlighted passages are those that I used to find the articles). More recently, it turns out that a flash of light is emitted at conception.

On the other hand, it's not a single photon.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Comparison between Coal and Nukes

I understand there are people defending coal on the grounds that nuclear waste (or maybe unclear waste) is so terrible. Let's run some numbers.

A typical coal reactor will use 53.8 Tons/hour for 100 MWe. That's 538 T/hr for 1000 MWe. Since there are 8760 hours/year, that's 4,712,880 T/yr.

Coal contains 1–4 ppm of uranium. At the low end, that means a 1000 MWe coal-burning power releases around 5 tons of nuclear waste per year.

On the other hand, the fission products are temporarily more radioactive than uranium. On the gripping hand, in the long run, they are less radioactive. A natural uranium or thorium atom will release 50 MeV of radiation by the time it decays. The fission products will release less than half of that.

I'll Probably Vote Libertarian for President This Year

My main quarrel with the Libertarians is with their foreign policy. In view of the persistently lame trickle of terrorist acts (a decade ago, it looked like the terrorists would pose an increasing danger to the US but that hasn't materialized) and the increasing irrationality of the complaints about foreigners (that they're both overcharging and underselling? that they're taking over uninhabited islands?), a Libertarian foreign policy doesn't look so bad.

Some people warn me that a Libertarian vote is a vote for Clinton. Others warn me that a Libertarian vote is a vote for Trump.

As for the claim that closed borders are necessary to have a nation, that would imply that the US was not a nation before 1881.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A What-If Scenario for President Trump

A what-if scenario: Donald Trump is elected and takes all steps necessary to expel illegal aliens. In 2024, the Democrats have their chance and finally elect their dream candidate: President Melissa Click.

What will she do with the agencies and programs that Trump established?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

It Begins …

Left-wing nonsense is starting to invade Passover seders. This time, it's treating “Fair Trade” as though it were the same as opposing slavery. It's not.

There was, of course, also an orange on the seder plate. It should have been a navel orange.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Brief Note on the New York Primary


Speaking as a New Yorker, I'd like to apologize for my neighbors.

On the other hand, Trump didn't get a majority everywhere. I'm considering moving to the 10th or 12th CDs.

On the gripping hand, maybe this was simply a matter of “Our hometown boy made good!“ If so, this also means New York has finally become part of ‘flyover country.’

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Few Notes on the Facebook Flap

There is some reason to suspect Facebook might try to swing the election. On the other hand, if Facebook were able to swing elections, we would have already elected a cat.

More seriously, I looked up the recipients of contributions from Facebook employees in the last election cycle at OpenSecrets. 45% of the donations were to Republicans. In other words, politics at Facebook is balanced enough for any shenanigans to leak.

On the other hand, although Silicon-Valley companies cannot do something under the proverbial table, they appear to be currently leaning left on some issues openly. That may be an effect of the Trump campaign. Last year, much of the Right claims pro-immigration means Left. This year, immigrant-heavy industries actually turn Left. Are you surprised?

On the gripping hand, a year ago this would have seemed more worrisome. Since then I've seen George Will called a liberal, a move to central planning of toilets described as religious liberty, a simultaneous claim that a demographic is both essential to the economy and being replaced, and a Chinese creation of artificial islands described as a threat to international order. I now take stuff from the right wing with the proverbial grain of salt.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

It Made More Sense Decades Ago

Blake Stacey's variation on Atlas Shrugged makes more sense in the Atlas Shrugged universe (in which most technical progress stopped as soon as John Galt called his strike) than in ours. In our universe, it's hard to get good goons these days.

On the other hand, a few minor changes could rescue it. First, most of the remaining “good-goon” industries in the US are in union-hostile areas, so the mechanic would have to be from such an area. Second, in those areas, anti-foreign prejudice takes precedence over anti-business prejudice. Francisco d'Anconia (or possibly Ragnar Danneskjöld) would have to be in the torture seat. The mechanic would blame the problems on foreign influence.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hang in There!

Will the development of brain implants that enable paralyzed people to move cause people considering euthanasia for that reason to have second thoughts?

How will this affect the Right to Die movement?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Another Suggestion for the American Mathematical Society

In addition to ensuring that the {subequations} environment works the way many authors think it works, it can be made more customizable by replacing the definition of {subequations} with the following:

If authors want the {subequations} to be numbered (1-i), (1-ii), etc., they can simply add:

Friday, April 08, 2016

A Few Notes on the “Magic Dirt” Claim

It is common for people on the wrong side of the Right to claim immigration deregulation is based on the theory that the US is made of “Magic Dirt.” On the other hand, the Magic Dirt theory does explain why there's more support for gun control among Europeans than among European Americans. It would explain why Eisenhower wasn't a Nazi.

There have also been studies of what terrains produce free societies. To quote from Not to Mention Camels by R. A. Lafferty:

… just a silly idea except that I have some good samples of that silly idea on the slide now.

For that matter, the theory that the same people in a different situation can be more productive has a very strong piece of evidence in its favor: the existence of economic growth. That's not because the human race is improving. Would you deny the existence of economic growth on the grounds that it requires a belief in “Magic Times”?

I won't more than mention that “turning the US into Mexico” has benefits.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

There Goes the Neighborhood!

There was a Trump rally not far away.

Couldn't it be a Grump rally instead? Make America Irate Again!

In a related story, this Trump supporter is wrong about nearly everything.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

A Question for the Anti-Pesticide, Anti-Vaccine, Anti-GMO People

What is your explanation for the decline in the age-adjusted cancer mortality rate even for cancers other than lung cancer? What are we doing right?

If it's astounding improvements in cancer treatment, would that imply that maybe Big Pharma might actually be helpful?

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Two Consequences of Absurd State-Level Minimum-Wage Laws

  • Poor people leave areas with higher minimum wages. A few years later, left-wing sites carry articles showing high increases in per-capita incomes in “blue” states.
  • The increasing unemployment rates in some areas cause the election of demagogues blaming perfidious foreigners.
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