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, April 23, 2017

The Lesson of That United Airlines Incident

The usual claim is that United Airlines incident proves Big Business can get away with anything. I thought the large drop in its stock price in the immediate aftermath proved that it could not actually get away with anything.

As for “What were they thinking?” … The people who set limits on payments to passengers to encourage them to leave voluntarily may have been influenced by the belief that such payments are somehow dishonorable and selecting people by lot is the fairest system. That, in turn, may have been based on the plausible theory that poor people would be more likely to let themselves be bumped as a result of payments.

In other words, this incident may have been due to the anti-market mentality.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Fearless Girl or Impatient Girl?

The Fearless Girl looks like she's saying “You're late! What took you so long?” This is obviously a protest against the fact that capitalism was rather slow to arrive and set humanity free. It might even be a protest against the fact that capitalism has not yet penetrated to every nook and cranny on Earth.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

When Your Conscience Is in Thrall to Government Policy

According to bio“ethics” experts (seen via National Review):

Objection to providing patients interventions that are at the core of medical practice – interventions that the profession deems to be effective, ethical, and standard treatments – is unjustifiable (AMA Code of Medical Ethics [Opinion 11.2.2]10).28″31

Making the patient paramount means offering and providing accepted medical interventions in accordance with patients’ reasoned decisions. Thus, a health care professional cannot deny patients access to medications for mental health conditions, sexual dysfunction, or contraception on the basis of their conscience, since these drugs are professionally accepted as appropriate medical interventions.

In other words, it would be regarded as unethical for a doctor opposed to capital punishment to refuse to cooperate with the organ banks. If this becomes accepted, we might be an election away from compelling physicians to offer acupuncture. I won't more than mention this is a violation of the First, Ninth, Tenth, and Thirteenth Amendments.

By the way, if enough ethics experts disagree with this, would we be justified in censoring it?

I'm reminded of the anti-circumcision activists who appeal to “Society” while ignoring the fact that “Society” deems them crackpots.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

A Note on Science March Slogans

I've been looking at poster ideas for the “March for Science” (for example, here) and I noticed a lack of assertions about science facts. Most of them are either irrelevant to science, expressing loyalty to “science,” or presumably witty slogans using science vocabulary.

The only issue where there is even an attempt at actual content is global warming. I didn't even see the anti-Creationist slogans I was expecting. Maybe those go together. It's hard to get really upset about CO2 levels when such levels were higher millions of years ago.

Meanwhile, I've come up a few more factual slogans (earlier slogans are here):

  • THE ENTROPY OF THE UNIVERSE TENDS TO A MAXIMUM!
  • THE EARTH IS NOT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE!
  • ANGULAR MOMENTUM MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND!
  • THE EARTH IS BILLIONS OF YEARS OLD!

Mike Pence and William Shakespeare

The Mike Pence tempest in a teapot reminded me of the following quote from The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare:

I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following, but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.
Leftists, at least this week, regard that as “creepy.”

Saturday, April 01, 2017

A Suggestion for President Trump

It's time for voting rights for chickens.

  • Being a chicken is socially conditioned and is clearly the fault of either capitalism or neoliberalism (depending on what you're against this week).
  • Even if you disagree, feathered people cannot help being chickens and should not be kept from the voting booth.
  • On the other hand, if they can help being chickens, that means being a chicken is a voluntarily-chosen lifestyle that should not be penalized.
  • You can even make the case that chickens have superior political skills.
Besides, this will help the Republicans. According to the latest research, conservative politicians are more attractive and chickens prefer more attractive humans. If you put those together, it is easy to see that voting rights for chickens will make the Republicans win in a landslide.

It's something that should be done today.

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

Cool!

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:

  • WE WANT ERROR BARS AND CONTROL GROUPS!
  • FOR EVERY ACTION THERE IS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE REACTION!
  • A SYSTEM UNDER STRESS WILL CHANGE IN A WAY THAT LESSENS THE STRESS!
  • THE REACTION MOST LIKELY TO OCCUR IS THE ONE THAT RELEASES THE MOST HEAT!
  • YES NUKES!
  • GMOS FOR EVERYONE!

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?

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Sanctuary Suggestion

It might make sense for a right-leaning county in a left-leaning state with harsh gun laws to declare itself to be a sanctuary county for gun owners. This will have several beneficial effects:

  1. It will help defend one of the more untrendy civil liberties.
  2. It just might give the right-wing a strange, new respect for the sanctuary concept.
  3. It will provoke the wrong side of the left to claim that criminals will move there. That, in turn, might help discredit the similar predictions on the right for the immigrant sanctuaries.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Four-Dimensional Undecidable “Elementary” Geometry

A few years ago, I realized (with another update here) that the elementary geometry of points, lines, and circles becomes undecidable when it includes screws or spirals. You can think of lines and circles as the one-dimensional connected uniform curves in a two-dimensional Euclidean space and you can think of spirals, lines, and circles as the one-dimensional connected uniform curves in a three-dimensional Euclidean space. I'm still not sure of what a complete set of such curves in a four-dimensional space would be like, but it would include some very strange objects.

For example, consider the curve parameterized by \((w,x,y,z)=(\sin t,\cos t,\sin \sqrt{2}t,\cos \sqrt{2}t)\) where \(t\in[-\infty,\infty]\). It is easy to see that this is a dense subset of the Clifford torus that's the product of two unit circles centered at the origin (in the \((w,x)\) and \((y,z)\) planes). Unlike the similar curves in two- and three-dimensional space, this isn't closed.

Question: Would it make more sense to focus on closed, uniform, connected subsets of Euclidean spaces? In two dimensions that would include the empty set, points, lines, circles, and the entire plane. In three dimensions that would include the empty set, points, lines, circles, helices, planes, spheres, cylinders, and the entire space. In four dimensions …

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Stupid Petitions Are Not Limited to the Left

According to a recent petition:

We demand that J.K. Rowling grants no less than 18 refugees shelter in her mansions for at least 8 years. She rejects safe immigration, which is why we also demand, that there will be no additional vetting process for these refugees. Her virtue-signaling stems from ignorance, and the 100% effective cure of it will be this drastic change of perspective. To make this group of refugees representative of the situation Europe, we also demand that the group consists of 14 men and 4 women, since over 75% of the millions of refugees are male.
First, if you sound like this, you are doing conservatism wrong:
UPDATE: you can drop off an unwanted baby at a Hobby Lobby and they'll raise it
Second, why are they assuming that letting refugees in means that the State must build homes for them? When someone moves from city X to city Y in the same country, we don't normally assume that the the government of city Y must build the homes.

Third, if the government insists on building homes for newcomers, there might be problems with it irrespective of whether or not there are refugees. Keeping refugees out because the government is spendthrift is like getting a hangover from scotch-and-soda and, as a result, swearing off soda.

Finally, if you believe that Americans/British/whoever have the right to rent to refugees, does that imply that you have a moral obligation to do so yourself? If you believe that Americans/British/whoever have the right to smoke dope, does that imply that you have a moral obligation to do so yourself?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Which Trump Did We Elect? An Update

The test case I mentioned here might be happening. I still don't know which Trump we elected, but it's clear that the commenters at Instapundit voted for the bad Trump.

A brief summary of the comments there:

You know everything we said about the RFRA and religious freedom? IT WAS BULSHYTT!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Reaction to Betsy DeVos Might Explain the Trump Movement

Some of the people reacting to the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education are planning to homeschool their children even despite the fact that she is a proponent of more homeschooling.

Apparently, they have been so brainwashed by standard opinion into believing that conservatives are authoritarian that they plan to get back at anti-authoritarian conservatives by doing something anti-authoritarian.

Question: What happens when someone who insists on being authoritarian believes the same thing? Would that produce someone who defends capitalism by limiting imports and defends American ideals by closing borders?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Stalin Quote and p-adic Numbers

According to Joseph Stalin:

A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.
He was, of course, using \(p\)-adic numbers. For example: \(\left\vert1\right\vert_2=1>0.015625=\left\vert1000000\right\vert_2\).

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

Oops!

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.

 
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