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

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

To a Large Fraction of Right Wingers

Please note that the Left lost the latest election, probably due to blowback from their overreach. Please also note that the candidate who imitated them ran behind his party.

Do you sincerely want to lose?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Donald Trump and Cleon II

From Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov:

But, what keeps the Emperor strong? What kept Cleon strong? It's obvious. He is strong, because he permits no strong subjects. A courtier who becomes too rich, or a general who becomes too popular is dangerous.
I was reminded, somehow.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Few Notes on Trump's Recent Actions on Immigration

The current restrictions on entry from seven nations were based on an Obama-era policy (or would that be a Nyarlathotep-era policy?). You can think of this as Trump's Tariff of Abominations.

The Tariff of Abominations episode was when a populist President enforced a blatant example of overreach by his predecessor. It lead to the Nullification Crisis, when South Carolina declared itself a sanctuary state for smugglers. (The use of nullification by a slave state gave nullification a bad name. On the other hand, nullification was also used by free statea.)

Speaking of sanctuaries … One of Trump's executive orders is for the Federal government to, “on a weekly basis, make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens.” Will there also be a weekly report of crimes committed by citizens? (It's not science unless there's a control group.)

The same order will also cut off funds to sanctuary cities. I have a better idea: Let's stop subsidies to state and local governments in general. Such subsidies are a matter of taking money out of local economies, sending it for a wild night on the town, and giving some of it back.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Is Lying a Signaling Mechanism?

According to Tyler Cowen:

By requiring subordinates to speak untruths, a leader can undercut their independent standing, including their standing with the public, with the media and with other members of the administration. That makes those individuals grow more dependent on the leader and less likely to mount independent rebellions against the structure of command. Promoting such chains of lies is a classic tactic when a leader distrusts his subordinates and expects to continue to distrust them in the future.

Another reason for promoting lying is what economists sometimes call loyalty filters. If you want to ascertain if someone is truly loyal to you, ask them to do something outrageous or stupid. If they balk, then you know right away they aren’t fully with you. That too is a sign of incipient mistrust within the ruling clique, and it is part of the same worldview that leads Trump to rely so heavily on family members.

This works in more than one direction. If telling obvious lies on behalf of someone else is a loyalty signal, Trump is signalling his loyalty to his voters.

But wait, there's more:

Imagine, for instance, that mistruths come in different forms: higher-status mistruths and lower-status mistruths. The high-status mistruths are like those we associate with ambassadors and diplomats. The ambassador is reluctant to tell a refutable, flat-out lie of the sort that could cause embarrassment, but if all you ever heard were the proclamations of the ambassador, you wouldn’t have a good grasp of the realities of the situation. … Trump specializes in lower-status lies, typically more of the bald-faced sort, namely stating “x” when obviously “not x” is the case. They are proclamations of power, and signals that the opinions of mainstream media and political opponents will be disregarded.
In terms science types might find familiar: High-status lies are not even wrong; low-status lies are wrong.

There's another advantage of lying: You can tell the truth and not be believed, thereby discrediting critics when the truth becomes obvious. You might get the Other Side to force middle-of-the-road people saying things opposed to the dogma of the Other Side into your coalition. You might even be able to get critics to refuse to believe their own allies, when those allies think for themselves.

On the other hand, this might turn into the new Dunning–Kruger effect. It's an all-purpose way to explain away anybody who disagrees with you without having to actually engage their with their arguments. The Dunning–Kruger effect (that unskilled people are often unaware of it) is commonly cited in debates between two groups of arrogant fools each claiming that the other side is unskilled and unaware of it. We might see a variety of ideologues claiming that the Other Side is lying to signal loyalty. (Devising examples will the left as an exercise for the reader.)

Saturday, January 21, 2017


In my calculation of the EmDrive acceleration, I skipped a decimal point. The acceleration should be \(5.16\times10^{-3}~\text{m}/\text{s}^2\). That will get you from Earth to Mars in 2–3 months

If it works, it might be worth doing.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Have Some Good News and Some Bad News

The good news: The right wing is getting saner, at least for now. They're blaming everything on liberals instead of on foreigners.

The bad news: The left wing is not getting any more skeptical of government. Instead of uncritically trusting politicians, they uncritically trust bureaucrats.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What a Claim Sounds Like vs. What It Is

It's common for people to make a claim, and back it up with evidence, that sounds like something else with much less evidence. For example:

  1. For example, that claim that loose gun laws are correlated with “gun-related deaths“ sounds like a claim that loose gun laws are correlated with gun crime but also it includes suicides by gun.
  2. There's reason to believe social conservatism is correlated with “teenage pregnancy.” This might refer to unwed 13-year-olds but it also includes married 19-year-olds.
  3. “Renewable-energy capacity” is growing rapidly. That's the peak generation when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing at the right speed. The actual energy generated is much less.
  4. “Climate change” might refer to global warming … or global cooling … or droughts … or floods or …
When you see claims like the above, please do not respond to them with anecdotes that might point in the other direction; there are much better replies.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Brief Note on Melinda Byerley's Rant

According Melinda Byerley:

She is completely correct. Job shortages usually are the fault of people in the area. We can start with the people who raise minimum wages to absurd heights, continue with people who protest any business that involves chemicals with scary names, and finish with people who close down a business simply because it specializes in wedding cakes for heterosexuals.

She is completely correct. We should celebrate diversity. We should celebrate a diversity of paychecks and of products.

As for the reaction … She waved a red flag and the bull charged.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Thoughts and Prayers and Tactical Assault Ballads

There's a common sequence of events:

  • A domestic mass shooting occurs.
  • People respond to it by saying “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims.”
  • Other people respond to that with ridicule.
There's another common sequence of events:
  • A terrorist action occurs committed by least one person who has crossed a border.
  • People respond to it with a Tactical Assault Ballad.
  • Other people respond to that with ridicule.
Both of them follow this template:
  • A horrible crime occurs.
  • People might possibly respond to it by advocating one form or another of people control. (Both gun control and border control are people control disguised by a euphemism.) What's worse, those who oppose that form of people control might look hard-hearted.
  • In order to forestall that, those opposed to that form of people control respond with a purely symbolic action.
  • Other people respond to that with ridicule.
To make matters worse, nearly everybody will ignore the resemblance of the sequences.

Is there a version of category theory for politics?

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Explaining Theories about Population-Control Conspiracies

A few years ago, I realized:

… that explaining away opinions one disagrees with by attributing them to Malthusians can be used for a wide variety of opinions, many of them on opposite sides of a question. For example, are pesticides intended to kill off the excess population or are pesticide bans intended to allow population-stabilizing diseases? You can make similar arguments for both sides of vaccines, GMO foods, or nuclear energy. We must also recall that a policy can be intended to have an effect without actually having that effect and vice versa.
My current meta-theory about why the theories point in all different directions is that the theorizers differ on the question of where population-control ideas come from: Do they come from rich people or from loud people?

Loud people who are worried about alleged over-population tend to be overwhelmingly anti-pesticide, anti-nuke, anti-GMO, and anti-vaccine. As far as I know, rich people who are worried about alleged over-population tend to be pro-pesticide, pro-nuke, pro-GMO, and pro-vaccine. In other words, if you're opposed to Malthusian policies and you believe that the capitalists are the bosses, you're more likely to believe in one set of conspiracy theories and if you believe consumer sovereignty is only violated by brainwashing by the activist class, you're more likely to believe in the opposite set.

Needless to say, some people are both rich and loud.

Come to think of it, this might also explain the “You're a leftist!” “No, you're a leftist!” debates we've been seeing recently between conservative factions.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Do They Sell Lemonade?

I'd like to order Zorn's lemonade.

Addendum: Yes, they have lemonade.

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