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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Non-Sequitur of the Year

According to PoliticusUSA:

“The days of ‘trust-me’ science are over,” said anti-science Congressman Lamar Smith, who serves as chairman of the Science Committee, according to The Hill. “In our modern information age, federal regulations should be based only on data that is available for every American to see and that can be subjected to independent review.”

In other words, if Republicans don’t like that results of scientific studies and data, they should have the freedom to ignore it and implement policy accordingly.

I don't see how you can get that from an assertion that science should be more open.

I already know what “non-sequitur” means. I do not require a concrete example.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Paranoid Theory I Haven't Seen Anywhere Yet

What if the Left deliberately created a drug “epidemic” a half century ago to produce a health crisis when the druggies got old? That way, they could blame the bad health outcomes and runaway heath-care spending on capitalism.

On the other hand, it doesn't work on everyone. Mexican Americans have longer life expectancies than either Mexicans or white Americans. Asian Americans have longer life expectancies than either Asians in Singapore or white Americans.

On the gripping hand, there was a crime epidemic that started about the same time that we got over. Maybe we'll develop antibodies to opioids. A quarter century ago, the geographic arguments for gun control (“look at how much better Europe handles crime!”) seemed as irrefutable as the geographic arguments for government-run health care do today. That has changed … which has not yet percolated down to self-congratulatory people

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Can I Get a Refund on Dilbert Books?

According to Scott Adams:

Then science ignores the models that are too far off from observed temperatures as we proceed into the future and check the predictions against reality. Sometimes scientists also “tune” the models to hindcast better, meaning tweaking assumptions. As a non-scientists, I can’t judge whether or not the tuning and tweaking are valid from a scientific perspective. But I can judge that this pattern is identical to known scams. I described the known scams in this post.

And to my skeptical mind, it sounds fishy that there are dozens or more different climate models that are getting tuned to match observations. That doesn’t sound credible, even if it is logically and scientifically sound. I am not qualified to judge the logic or science. But I am left wondering why it has to sound exactly like a hoax if it isn’t one. Was there not a credible-sounding way to make the case?

Personally, I would find it compelling if science settled on one climate model (not dozens) and reported that it was accurate (enough), based on temperature observations, for the next five years. If they pull that off, they have my attention. But they will never convince me with multiple models. That just isn’t possible.

First, the known scams are a matter of separate isolated predictions mailed separately (which may have been what happened here and here and here) instead of aggregated predictions gathered together in an easily checked (and copied) place.

Second, the climate predictions resemble hurricane predictions, which also have the results of numerous models. We don't see people picking the best hurricane prediction and saying “WE WERE RIGHT!” (We do see a pattern of selecting accurate predictions and ignoring inaccurate ones in politics.)

Third, picking one best model would not alleviate the uncertainty; it would merely hide it. Real science has error estimates. We don't see that in scams. We do see that in the climate models (but not in people whining about “climate denial.”).

Friday, March 24, 2017

“Warrior” and Folk Economics

My fellow SF fans will be familiar with the story “Warrior” by Gordon Dickson. In it, the policemen thought that a professional military strategist would be helpless when dealing with organized crime. After all, soldiers wear uniforms, carry guns, and are found in a crowd of other soldiers. Without those elements, a soldier would be helpless. That turned out not to be the case.

We see a similar illusion in folk economics. In folk economics, a capitalist is someone in an expensive suit at a desk in a corner office instead of someone with a 401(k). In folk economics, decisions aren't made by consumers, they're made by capitalists. That's why we see people flying around the world warning of the dangers of fossil fuel use without recognizing the irony. That even explains why some people treat marketing expenses for pharmaceuticals as a type of profit. (The military equivalent of that would be someone who “saluted a Good Humor man, an usher, and a nun.”)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

One Does Not Know How to Begin

According to Peter Frase:

Frase's Four Futures are:
  1. Communism ("equality and abundance")
  2. Rentism ("hierarchy and abundance")
  3. Socialism ("equality and scarcity")
  4. Exterminism ("hierarchy and scarcity")
How's that again?

There are two possible confusions here:

  • A possible confusion between effects and causes: If we have both equality and abundance, that it likely to produce the society on the label of communism.
  • A possible confusion between allowed hierarchy and permitted hierarchy. There is a difference between a “hierarchy” produced by people of differing abilities and a hierarchy produced by people of differing amounts of pull.
I specified “possible” above because I have not yet read the book in question. Maybe the author drew those distinctions.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Daylight Savings Time Might Be a Violation of the Ninth Amendment

Daylight Savings Time may be a violation of the Ninth Amendment. It was intended to ensure that people got up earlier in the Spring and Summer. On the other hand, in the debates on the Bill of Rights, Theodore Sedgwick said:

if the committee were governed by that general principle, they might have gone into a very lengthy enumeration of rights; they might have declared that a man should have the right to wear his hat if he pleased; that he might get up when he pleased, and go to bed when he thought proper.
The above reasoning, including the doctrine that personal schedules should not be a government matter, was part of the basis for the Ninth Amendment.

Government time? No thanks.

Friday, March 10, 2017


This cryonics stuff might possibly work!

On the other hand, according to Cities in Flight by James Blish, anti-agathics are supposed to be invented next year…

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Slogans for the March for Science

A few slogans that might be appropriate at the March for Science:


Sunday, March 05, 2017

Identifying Science-Curious but Science-Ignorant People

A few questions that will be answered one way by people who are science-curious but science-ignorant and the opposite way by science-knowledgeable people:

  1. If you're on a ship crossing the equator and you're watching water run down the drain, will you see the direction of swirl reversed when you cross the equator?
  2. Is plutonium the deadliest toxin on Earth?
  3. Did Christopher Columbus discover the world is round?
  4. Do human beings use only 10% of their brains?
  5. Does the Moon have a dark side?

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