Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

Go to first entry



<< current
E-mail address:
jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com

My Earthlink/Netcom Site

My Tweets

My other blogs
Small Sample Watch
XBM Graphics

The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
Someone who used to be sane (formerly War)
Someone who used to be serious (formerly Plague)
Rally 'round the President (formerly Famine)
Dr. Yes (formerly Death)

Interesting weblogs:
Back Off Government!
Bad Science
Boing Boing
Debunkers Discussion Forum
Deep Space Bombardment
Depleted Cranium
Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.
Foreign Dispatches
Good Math, Bad Math
Greenie Watch
The Hand Of Munger
Howard Lovy's NanoBot
Liberty's Torch
The Long View
My sister's blog
Neo Warmonger
Next Big Future
Out of Step Jew
Overcoming Bias
The Passing Parade
Peter Watts Newscrawl
Physics Geek
Pictures of Math
Poor Medical Student
Prolifeguy's take
The Raving Theist
Respectful Insolence
Seriously Science
The Speculist
The Technoptimist
Tools of Renewal
XBM Graphics
Zoe Brain

Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
Crank Dot Net
Day By Day
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
Libertarians for Life
The Mad Revisionist
Piled Higher and Deeper
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
Sustainability of Human Progress

Yet another weird SF fan

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.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Question about ICANN

Isn't this type of central control opposed to the spirit of the Internet?

While I'm at it, the following quote from a few years ago may be of interest:

It might have been better had ICANN never have been created.  But the
alternative would have been to permit a much more uncertain process to go
forward--involving not just competing registrars, but competing registries
or some entity truly evolving from the bottom up--not of the type we are
presently able to imagine.  Whatever happens with this current agreement
between NSI, ICANN, and Commerce, we should be on guard that privately
evolving alternatives--entirely new keyword or name-based methods of finding
Net content, or alternative root servers--are not foreclosed.
It might be necessary to start forming them now.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Philosophy is Settled?

We have heard plenty of debates online on whether “the science is settled.” At IO9 we see that some people are claiming “the philosophy is settled”:

"I honestly don't find any inspiration in the three laws of robotics," said Helm. "The consensus in machine ethics is that they're an unsatisfactory basis for machine ethics." The Three Laws may be widely known, he says, but they're not really being used to guide or inform actual AI safety researchers or even machine ethicists.

"One reason is that rule-abiding systems of ethics — referred to as 'deontology' — are known to be a broken foundation for ethics. There are still a few philosophers trying to fix systems of deontology — but these are mostly the same people trying to shore up 'intelligent design' and 'divine command theory'," says Helm. "No one takes them seriously."

I didn't know philosophy could be settled to such an extent. For one thing, it's hard to check philosophy against the real world.

But wait, there's more. We see a few paragraphs later from the same source:

"I think it would be unwise to design artificial intelligence systems or robots to be self-aware or conscious," says Helm. "And unlike movies or books where AI developers 'accidentally' get conscious machines by magic, I don't expect that could happen in real life. People won't just bungle into consciousness by accident — it would take lots of effort and knowledge to hit that target. And most AI developers are ethical people, so they will avoid creating what philosophers would refer to as a 'beings of moral significance.' Especially when they could just as easily create advanced thinking machines that don't have that inherent ethical liability."

So… He disbelieves in ‘intelligent design’ except in one field? Maybe he should recall that biological intelligence happened by the process he doesn't believe can work with machine intelligence.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Shorter Mark Bittman

If you believe Mark Bittman (seen via Instapundit, who should really know better), yesterday's food hysterics were all wrong (in a complex field with lots of confounding factors) but this time it's different.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Few Comments on the Possible Wage-Fixing Scandal

I'm sure most of my dozen or so readers have heard of the possible wage-fixing scandal. I have a few comments:

  • This might encourage even more Silicon-Valley engineers to start their own businesses.
  • Are the alleged victims the same people in the buses that Northern Californian idiots are throwing rocks at?
  • Was the article written by this Mark Ames?
  • This resembles immigration restrictions … except that immigration restrictions are a matter of fixing wages in the other direction.
  • This might even be a reaction to immigration restrictions.
  • You cannot keep something like this hidden nowadays. It will leak out.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Did Monarchy Cause Social Technologies?

I disagree with Nyan Sandwich's claim that Western Civilization is “running entirely on pre-democratic momentum.” It might look like that if we're only looking at the Anglosphere but Anglospheric democracy was preceded by Middle Francia. The most progressive parts of Europe in the Middle Ages and early modern times were in and near Middle Francia, where the central government disintegrated early. Even England's representative government needed a boost by the Netherlands takeover in 1688.

I must admit that there's one area that less democratic governments do better: accepting new citizens. In Athens in the age of Pericles, it was impossible to become an Athenian; you had to be born one. The Roman oligarchy was more accommodating. The U.S. was least inclined to admit immigrants when it was most democratic. (The easing of immigration laws in the past half century might have been due to the takeover by that aristocratic clique that neo-reactionaries call ‘The Cathedral.’)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Real Problem with the Crimean Annexation

What if it sets a precedent? The nativist claim that Mexican immigration is a prelude to the reconquest of the southwestern U.S. by Mexico looks slightly less insane now. What if Ireland tries to claim Boston? What if China annexes Flushing? What if Sweden announces it owns Minnesota? What if a gang of stooges decides New York should secede and join the United Kingdom? (NY UK, NY UK, NY UK…) What if the people making such claims send armed vote counters to the referenda? (ObSF: The Cosmocrat vs. Nationalist election in First Lensman by E. E. Smith.)

For that matter, in this scenario, what if your ancestry is partly from one area and partly from another? Will the boundary go through a human heart?

This is particularly worrisome for United States considering that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. The takeover might have been based on the predictions of Igor Panarin (earlier discussed here and there). When they didn't come true, the Russian government tried to apply them to a place more amenable to takeovers than the U.S.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

They're Getting Better at This

Now environmentalist wackos recognize they have to cite something resembling historical evidence before making predictions outside of anybody's experience. In this case, they attempted to buttress warnings of “resource depletion” by claiming Mesopotamian civilizations or the Roman Empire collapsed due to resource depletion.

On the other hand, it's still bulshytt. If the Mesopotamian civilizations collapsed due to resource depletion, it's amazing how the resources undepleted themselves in time for the Caliphate. If the Roman Empire collapsed due to resource depletion, it's amazing how the resources undepleted themselves in time for the Renaissance.

As far as I can tell, the major cause of civilization collapses is contagious disease. That might include the contagious mental disease called collectivism.

I suppose I should also include a word or two on why resource depletion is unlikely to be a crisis. Resources, in the sense they are finite, consist of atoms and energy. Atoms aren't usually used up at all, and the two hundred quadrillion watts of solar energy hitting the Earth is vastly greater than that consumed by humans. The only resources that can be depleted are fossil fuels and wild fish. Both of those should be obsolete soon.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Will the Rich Grab All the Power in the “Age of the Drone”?

Contrary to Noah Smith, I doubt it. If you look at it as one poor person with a handful of drones vs. one rich person with an abundance, then it's clear the rich person will win. If you look at as the poor as a class vs. the rich as a class, then it's more balanced. In particular, it's unlikely the “1%” will be able to confiscate the property of the “99%” on a large scale. If the top 20% have half the income, we can expect them to have half the drones if a civil war between the classes breaks out. At $1 one vote, the relatively well off will be more powerful than today but not all powerful. I'm more worried about oppression by the 20% (zoning laws, eminent domain, and occupational licenses) than by the 1%.

One last point, nearly everybody in the U.S. is in the top 20% by world standards.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Borders vs. Labels

A few years ago, I recommended that we open-borders people change our rhetoric from criticizing national borders to criticizing national labels. We see a consequence of the belief in national labels in today's news. The excuse for the Russian takeover of Crimea is that it should be labelled Russian instead of Ukrainian.

In other news, today is Open Borders Day.

Friday, March 14, 2014


3/14 1:59.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Brief Note on Qualifications

According to Senator Paul, a promise to use US troops can be best made by people whose lives were on the line on similar occasions. I assume that includes anybody who ever visited the World Trade Center.

Monday, March 10, 2014

It's the 21st Century!

One of the commonest progressive cliches is to claim that an advanced society will have characteristic X, point to the calendar, and say anybody opposed to X is on the “wrong side of history.” Let us assume, for the moment, that the first claim is right. Why should our present primitive society—far less advanced than the 22nd century—be considered advanced? Maybe getting rid of rigid gender roles or banning the settlement of international disputes by force of arms would be as counterproductive as banning child labor in the 18th century or banning arsenic bronze 7000 years ago. To quote from Calvin, as reported by Bill Watterson:

We still have weather?

Sunday, March 09, 2014

A Brief Note on “Eurasianist” vs. “Atlantic” Values

This discussion of the “Eurasianist” ideology reminded me of the World Values Map. It looks like the Eurasianist values are in the upper-left corner and the Atlantic values in the lower-right corner. If this is correct, then the traditional (bottom of the map) vs. self-expression (right side of the map) fight is internal to Atlantic civilization, which also means Atlantic conservatives should not regard Eurasianists as allies even if they sound traditional.

Addendum: The misspelling in the title has been corrected.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Set Paranoia Bit to ON

The left-wing opposition to charter schools looks suspicious. It might be a deliberate attempt to keep a group on the current A list of the Hivemind ignorant. That, in turn makes it possible to use standard anti-racist rhetoric to defend ignorance … at least when they agree with the Hivemind.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

A Potential Third Amendment Violation

According to Kirsten Powers:

What if an Army sergeant in full regalia is driving through a small town and his car breaks down and it's too late to find a mechanic? There are two hotels in the town; both are owned by pacifist Christians. Do the backers of this bill really believe it should be legal for him to be refused a room and forced to sleep in his car?

The owners of said hotels might live on site. In that case, forcing them to accommodate an Army sergeant would be a violation of the Third Amendment.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

I Was Not Imaginative Enough

A few years ago, I said (with a spelling correction):

Since other forms of gay rights have attracted less opposition than expected, they invented gay marriage in an effort to make conservatives continue to look bigoted. If more conservatives back gay marriage, they'll come up with something else. (I am not imaginative enough to figure out what that will be.)
Now we know what that “something else” is.

By the way, I'd like to know what supporters of the anti-discrimination law think of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

“The Science Is Settled” vs. Texas

Texas recently passed a law that allows defendants to challenge verdicts when the science isn't settled:

In the past, Van Ee’s findings might not have been enough to delay Avila’s execution, or potentially reverse his verdict. But that same month, Texas passed a bill called SB 344, better known as the “junk science” statute. The first of its kind in the nation, it permits a defendant to bring a writ of habeas corpus on the basis of new or changed scientific evidence. In practical terms, this means that courts must grant relief in cases where new scientific evidence has come to light, or where scientific evidence used to convict has been shown to be false, misleading, or inaccurately applied. The statute keeps the court from denying relief even if the defendant had previously confessed or accepted a plea. It also, crucially for Avila, does not require anyone to recant his or her original testimony.

In other words, this is a law based on opposing claims that “the science is settled” and done in such a way that liberals are applauding.

There is the minor problem that judges and juries aren't experts on when science is unreliable. On the other hand, that was true of the judges and juries that convicted the defendants in the first place.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wind Power vs. Hurricanes

I'm sure my fellow technically-oriented wingnuts have heard of the prediction that large-scale wind power systems could lessen hurricanes I think was done in imitation of my fellow supporters of nuclear energy:

Thus, on any long time scale, nuclear power must be viewed as a method for cleansing the earth of radioactivity.
Mark Jacobson might be attempting to use the same argument for wind. On the other hand, it costs ridiculous amounts, will have only a minute effect, and that effect won't last long. It is a pale echo of the benefits of nuclear energy. He might have done better to have mentioned that the birds killed by windmills results in fewer bird droppings.

We will next hear that solar panels provide shade that prevents sunburn, tidal energy stops shark attacks, and that geothermal energy can prevent volcanoes.

In the other direction, hurricanes feed off evaporating sea water. Obviously, if the surface of the ocean were covered in oil slicks, that would prevent hurricanes. Did the 2010 BP oil spill produce the current moderation in gulf hurricanes? It makes at least as much sense. “Oil on troubled waters” is more than just a saying.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Looking for Common Ground

After reading waaaay too many articles on paleo diet vs. veganism, I thought I'd make a list of what paleo-dieters and vegans agree on:

  • Sugar is bad.
  • Green vegetables are good.
  • Anecdotes trump data.
  • Confounding factors can be ignored.
  • The Other Side is full of pseudoscientists and, on top of that, they stereotype people.
Can't both sides lose?

As for what the next food fad will be, I will quote Arthur C. Clarke:

I have no idea what it will be, and am in no great hurry to find out.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Asymmetric Warfare

Hmmm… It looks like the pro-Western side in the Ukrainian protests is using asymmetric warfare.

To other anti-Western regimes: We're onto you.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Questions about Trans Pacific Partnership Treaty

Why would they need a treaty to promote free trade? Why not just let goods in?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Hmmmm… So it seems my fellow wingnuts are more likely to regard astrology as a steaming pile of bulshytt than other groups.

On the other hand, this comes from social scientists so it's slightly dubious.

My Blogger Profile
eXTReMe Tracker X-treme Tracker

The Atom Feed This page is powered by Blogger.