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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Explaining the Ferguson Riots

There's only one explanation of why the reaction to a slightly-dubious grand-jury decision was to loot stores and burn down neighborhoods:

This story is emblematic of something I've noticed seems increasingly common in the 21st century---political movements that appear exceedingly stupid.
On the other hand, it appears that this was stupidity imported from outside Ferguson.

Come to think of it, this might explain why the prosecutors waited until nightfall to announce the decision instead of announcing it in narrow daylight. (In November, daylight isn't broad.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Two Bulshytt Claims

  • That “white people” will never riot. Wrong.
  • That law enforcement would never shoot a “white” person for no good reason. Wrong.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Time to Buy Google?

If it was time to sell Google a few years ago, was it time to buy Google more recently?

On the other hand, I noticed they were much quieter about this than the initial announcement. (I only heard of it quite recently.) Maybe they're embarrassed at being sensible.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

An IQ Speculation

What if looking down on others raises IQ? That might explain the odd swings in measured IQs for different groups.

If we could just get everybody to look down at everybody else, then that would raise everybody's IQ! Except then we would be smart enough to realize how silly that method is and then become dim again.

Maybe that's why the Flynn effect might have leveled off…

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dance, Puppets, Dance …

It should be obvious to the meanest intelligence, that the purpose of the proposed amnesty is to ensure that people in the Republican base say things that can be spun as racist. Dance, puppets, dance …

Meanwhile, one possible way to defuse this (besides charging admission) is to give the “green light” to immigration from areas with people who are particularly supportive of capitalism. The top three are Vietnam, Bangladesh, and South Korea. Promoting immigration from Vietnam will also help make Democrats look like idiots.

Monday, November 17, 2014

How to Avoid Being Too Partisan

  1. Pick a couple of issues you feel strongly about, one on each side. When you're too close to being a partisan, remind yourself “There are the people who are wrong about X.” Picking two issues will prevent you from being partisan on the other side, in case you switch. It might even be helpful to pick four issues, one where each side is wrong about the facts and one where it's wrong about the morals.
  2. Make sure you read something on the Other Side regularly, preferably from people you have something in common with.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Immigration Amnesty and the Contraception Mandate

The contraception mandate may have been inserted into the "Affordable" Care Act in order to provoke opposition. The game plan was quite simple:

  1. Tell low-information voters that Republicans hate s*x.
  2. Add a preposterous mandate for something used while doing you-know-what.
  3. Wait for Republicans to oppose it.
  4. Claim that opposition is evidence for Step 1.
  5. Get re-elected.
Alternative possibility:
  1. Tell low-information voters that Republicans hate s*x.
  2. Add a preposterous mandate for something used while doing you-know-what.
  3. Wait for Republicans to go along with it.
  4. Let the Republican base get disgusted enough to stay home.
  5. Get re-elected.
Both of these were avoided when Republicans backed over-the-counter birth control. It was in accordance with current Republican principles and disproved the initial claim.

The immigration amnesty might be an attempt at the same strategy:

  1. Tell low-information voters that Republicans are racists.
  2. Issue an executive decree of dubious constitutionality.
  3. Wait for Republicans to oppose it.
  4. Claim that opposition is evidence for Step 1.
  5. Get re-elected.
Alternative possibility:
  1. Tell low-information voters that Republicans are racists.
  2. Issue an executive decree of dubious constitutionality.
  3. Wait for Republicans to go along with it.
  4. Let the Republican base get disgusted enough to stay home.
  5. Get re-elected.
The Republicans will have to come up with a plan that is in accordance with current Republican principles and disproves the initial claim. One suggestion: Charge admission to the US. Hand over $1000 (is that a reasonable amount?) and you're on the way to citizenship.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Few Thoughts on Net Neutrality

At first, I thought the net-neutrality controversy was about the standard left-wing line that we can bring the millennium by passing the right regulations. That turned out not to be what it was about. They're saying it's a matter of stopping a horrible situation.

My second thought was they were talking about real problems. Leftists sometime identify real problems (e.g., stagflation in the 1970s) and propose absurd solutions. I thought that was the matter here. That turned out not to be what it was about either. They're saying they want to keep the current system.

As far as I can tell, they're assuming that all good things come from regulations and if the present unregulated system is good it must be due to the regulations yet to be passed. The future regulations will be so beneficial that their good effects extended back in time.

I must admit they have a dangling shred of evidence for potential exploitation: the Comcast vs. Netflix controversy. OTOH, it would be more believable if the same people hadn't been recommending the same policy for years. OTGH, it sure looks like Netflix was a much bigger violator of the Internet spirit (one content provider hogging 30% of the bandwidth?).

Query: If net-neutrality regulations are passed, how long will it take for them to be repealed?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


GMO potatoes might prevent cancer. This is almost as good as the news that beets have more anti-oxidants after being microwaved.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Evidence for the KOK Hypothesis

There appears to be more infrared light in the universe than can be accounted for by current theories:

Prof Jamie Bock from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, one of the report's authors, described the extragalactic background light (EBL) as "kind of a cosmic glow".

"It's very faint - but basically the spaces between the stars and galaxies aren't dark. And this is the total light made by stars and galaxies during cosmic history," Prof Bock told the BBC.

Earlier measurements from rockets and satellites had shown that there was more fluctuation in this background than the sum total of known galaxies could explain.

At least two proposals were made to account for the extra light: it might come from very early, distant galaxies that formed when the universe was much younger, or it might come from stray stars outside galactic boundaries.

There's also the possibility the light might come from civilizations in apparently-empty parts of the universe.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Bug Facts

A gamergate is a type of ant

It's a reproductively viable female worker ant.

Gamergate ants have an odd habit

Even feminists don't do this:

Or consider the gamergate ants, whose females capture a male and snip off his genitals during copulation. They discard the male's body, but his severed genitals continue to fertilize for an hour.

Parents of infants might prefer this

In some species of hymenoptera, the larvae have a lack of a habit:

[The larvae] are also unable to defecate until they reach adulthood due to having an incomplete digestive tract, presumably to avoid contaminating their environment.

Spiders can apparently build webs in six dimensions

According to a British newspaper:

Experts estimated there were around 35,176 spiders per cubic square metre of space.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Whatever Happened to …

… the “big data” that was supposed to ensure Democratic dominance? Did “gamergate” alienate the programming community? Did the programmers spend the last few months sabotaging the effort? Did they try to arrange for the get-out-the-vote people to call conservatives? That would explain many of the phone calls I received …

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


The Mickey Kaus explanation of the recent election reminds me of how the Village Voice covered a conservative victory in a Swedish election. I had thought it was a rejection of absurdly-high taxes but the Village Voice attributed it to the Socialist support for nuclear energy.

The lesson of the comments at the Instapundit thread on the above is that statists never accept that Big Government has been rejected. Any attempt to reject Big Government is interpreted to mean a rejection of the isolated attempts at limiting government by the losing side.

As for whether this election means Republicans must turn nativist: In 2008, the Republicans nominated a pro-immigration candidate. The resulting loss was attributed to that. In 2012, the Republicans nominated someone more neutral. It didn't work.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Not THAT Nuts!

Okay. Libertarians are supposed to be eccentric but the Libertarian Party candidate for State Senate in my district is just plain nuts.

Does this mean I have to vote for that hack Marcellino?

Sunday, November 02, 2014

I'm Considering a Boycott

I'm considering a boycott of Lightlife and Smart Balance for bowing to modern superstitions about GMOs. There are other candidates that I'm looking at.

It's possible to make a case that GMOs “aren't necessary.” If a business rejects GMOs on that ground, it's as though they had a mouse infestation problem and controlled it by acquiring brown cats, yellow cats, and gray cats. (Black cats aren't necessary.) Black cats might not be necessary to control mice, but if they're excluded, one might wonder what other superstitions are being taken seriously.

Besides, such a rejection implies they're selling to idiots.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

What If Math Is Politicized?

After reading about the politicization of absolutely everything, I've wondered what might happen if mathematics is politicized. Is the Axiom of Choice libertarian? Is the Axiom of Determinacy part of the regulatory state? Is the Power Set Axiom fascist? (It's a collectivist axiom that treats the individual points on a line as part of an amorphous blob that is given without regard to the points that make it up.)

On the other hand

Meanwhile, it looks like Ezra Klein ended the essay with an attempt to inspire fear on the Right. Please recall the Left tried to get Phil Robertson fired. They failed. They had earlier tried to get Rugh Limbaugh fired. They failed.

Addendum: Since the context of “amorphous blob” was not present in the Google search, I'll include it below:

… set theory with \(\mathsf{V}=\mathsf{L}\) does not take the continuum as an amorphous blob whose existence is provided by the power set axiom. … What is emphasized here is that the abstract power set axiom is the basis of Zermelo set theory, while the notion of transfinite ordinal number is the basis of constructible set theory. … It is in questions concerning the axiom of choice that these two approaches begin to differ. If one is to put his faith in an amorphous blob, why should it be well-ordered. Alternatively, if the real line is something which arises from faith in transfinite iteration, there had better be a definable well-ordering.
Points just want to be free!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Wilson–Patterson Inventory?

One of the recent studies purporting to show a difference between liberal and conservative brains judged political opinions in accordance with the Wilson–Patterson inventory, in which the experimental subjects are asked if they agree with the liberal or conservative view on items in a list. In my humble opinion, many of the item in the Wilson–Patterson inventory are ambiguous. For example:

  • School prayer
    Do they mean “Are you in favor of prayer in public schools?” or “Are you in favor of prayer in more schools?”
  • Pornography
    Do they mean “Are you in favor of state suppression of pornography?” or “Are you in favor of private citizens criticizing it?”
  • Women's equality
    Do they mean “Are you in favor of allowing women to work?” (at one time leftists didn't) or “Are you in favor of forcing businesses to pay wages based on someone's fantasy of discrimination?”
  • abortion rights
    Do they mean “Are you in favor of the right to an abortion?” or “Are you in favor of the right not to be aborted?”
  • warrantless searches
    This isn't right-wing vs. left-wing; this is in-power vs. out-of-power.
  • globalization
    Is the Left for or against globalization this week?
  • school standards
    Lately, it's been the right-wing who are opposed to Common Core.
  • free trade
    Is the Left for or against free trade this week?
  • obedience
    My stereotype detector just buzzed.
  • compromise
    Give me three quarters of the cake?
The “obedience” item is particularly annoying. If this was invented by leftists (and social scientists tend to lean left), they probably thought “Of course, the wingnuts believe in obedience!” On the other hand, the inventory also includes “Tax cuts” and “small government.” So, we wingnuts believe in tax cuts, small government, and … obedience? Obedience to whom?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pro-Government Yet Disengaged?

On the one hand, President Obama is clearly on the side of more government. On the other hand, he seems to be disengaged from the actual process of government. I had some trouble trying to figure that out until I realized that he's acting as the laissez-faire leader of that colonialist power known as the Federal bureaucracy that has somehow taken over the United States. He doesn't believe in letting citizens do what they want; he believes in letting bureaucrats do what they want.

Question: What if a future President trying to rein in bureaucrats tries a mass firing similar to Reagan vs. PATCO and the bureaucrats refuse to leave? What if they send SWAT teams after their replacements?

Monday, October 27, 2014

What the Other Side Was Saying about Ebola Not That Long Ago

From CompuServe forums in the 1990s:

>>Uncontrolled population growth increases rates of sickness. If 400 Billion people ever were to live on this tiny planet, they wouldn't live for very long before Ebola or something else would kill everyone. <<

>>There are some ideas floating around out there that AIDS, Ebola, and related horrors may be produced by the rain forest ecology in response to stresses. Sort of a self-defense mechanism against the likes of us encroaching on them.<<

>>WM: Not "spewing venomous endictments," just making accurate observations. If these guys accurately represent the Libertarian "political philosophy" on environmental issues, then mother nature may be just in time in kicking her immune system into high gear by unveiling the Ebola and other super-viruses to protect herself from the HUMAN infestation.<<

From 1996 Usenet:
> Ever heard of Ebola?? There are plenty more where that came from, all we have
> to do is build more roads through rainforests to let feral animals get the
> nasties there and then take them out and infect the rest of us.
> This is not a fairy tale folks! It has been documented and proved
From 2003 Usenet:
> Increase the killing or we risk becoming extremely overpopulated. I'd
> spray un- infected areas with ebola and aids. The world cannot
> support this population. It's madness! We need to save lives in
> Africa. We need to help the homeless. The answer to homelessness is
> to give the death penalty to anyone caught eating out of a dumpster.
> Lethal injection is humane. It's not an issue.
In other words, a decade or two ago, Malthusians and environmentalists used Ebola as an excuse to impose the policies they wanted anyway. For some reason, nowadays this is done by nativists.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Debate Wanted

Does alcohol raise IQ or lower IQ?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I Have Trouble Taking Ebola Hysteria Seriously

Back in the 1990s, most of the hysteria (or maybe it was gloating) about Ebola came from environmentalist wackos. A claim was that such outbreaks were due to human beings moving into “new lands.” I'm not sure where the people saying that thought human beings evolved in the first place. Another common claim is that the Ebola outbreak was due to high population densities, even despite the fact in the real world, Ebola originated in a rainforest on a thinly-populated continent.

In short, the Ebola hysteria sounds too much like people trying to come up with reasons to believe the Earth goddess is fighting back against that crime against nature known as civilization.

The people hysterical about Ebola in the 1990s had a few things in common with the people hysterical about Ebola today. There's opposition to Julian Simon's theories, a self-congratulatory belief that they are paying some attention to basic science (unlike the Other Side), and bizarre, not completely debugged, religious rhetoric.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Something Else to Worry About

No, it's not Ebola, ISIS, or that the three branches of the Federal government are Moe, Larry, and Curly this time. Spiders are starting to learn how to use tools. When we also recall that spiders have some of the highest ratios of brain size to body size of any creature

What does this imply about Spiderman?

Addendum: Another spider nightmare.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Caplan Criterion

Bryan Caplan recently tweeted:

.@MarkSKrikorian Good rule of thumb: If you think it's wrong to punish natives for X, I I think it's wrong to punish humans for X.
The converse might be worth applying. If it is legitimate to temporarily close off houses in response to an epidemic, it is legitimate to temporarily close off borders in response to an epidemic.

It might make sense to put a time limit on any border closings. The traditional time limit was forty days (the origin of the term “quarantine”).

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Boy Who Cried “Wolf!” and Nativists

The nativist claim that Ebola proves we MUST close our borders would be more believable if they hadn't been making the same claim for years. The nativists who cry “foreigners!” sound a lot like the boy who cried “wolf!”

On the other hand, they might have a point for once. Control of contagious disease was a traditional activity of classical liberal governments. I have seen complaints that such governments were more concerned about contagious disease than malnutrition.

On the gripping hand, there is the common problem of activity creep. Once it is considered proper for governments to intervene in epidemics, they have an incentive to consider more events to be epidemics.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Two Consequences of Malthusian Theories

According to Malthusian theories, elementary science implies that unrestricted reproduction is irresponsible. In other words, the widespread dissemination of Malthusian theories will suppress the number of people raised to believe in both what is called elementary science and responsible behavior. That, in turn, has two effects: 1) People who believe in what is called elementary science will tend to be more irresponsible. 2) People who are trying to be responsible will be skeptical of science.

This might be an explanation for both environmentalist wackos and creationists.

For the record, I hold that overpopulation overshoot is a common problem in animals but we're plants.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Obama Really Is a Marxist

Good heavens. President Obama really is a Marxist. Just overthrow capitalism and the Millennium will arrive even without establishing a dictatorship. The Obama administration is what happens when a Marxist refuses to be a dictator. In other words, things could be worse.

In other unexpected news, President Obama turned not to be an affirmative-action beneficiary.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

A Controlled Experiment

The U.S. invaded Iraq and … it's a mess.

The U.S. did not invade Syria and … it's a worse mess.

Yes. I know it's a small sample … but a sample size of two is better than a sample size of one.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Non-Human Elveshams

In “The Story of the Late Mr. Elvesham” by H. G. Wells, Egbert Elvesham carried out a Grand Theft Me in which he swapped bodies with a much younger man. I've wondered about the possibility of transplanting a mind from a human body into an animal brain, preferably a large animal brain such as that of a cetacean or an elephant. That might be an interesting topic for an SF story. I don't recall if it has ever been done although the opposite took place in Beyond Humanity by Justin Lieber.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Note on the “Em” Revolution

For the past few years, Robin Hanson has been speculating on the effects of an ems, human emulating robots. One obvious possibility is that robots (who can work cheaply) will drive wages down to near zero. That might not be a problem if prices are also near zero. On the other hand, not all the components of prices come from wages; some come from land or capital. In other words, if you own a home or other large good, you had better hang on to it. Someday you might have to make ends meet renting it to the ems.

Another way to look at this is that people who are prepared need not worry.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Read These Together

The following (seen via Arnold Kling) sounded quite alarming:

In 1998, about 28 percent of American men 80 and older had a functional limitation; by 2006, that figure was nearly 42 percent.
The above would have sounded even more alarming if I hadn't read the following first:
In 1976, 8.3% of students in U.S. public schools were officially disabled.  By 2010, the disabled share was up to 13%.
Maybe we're counting disability differently nowadays among both young and old. I'd like to know if the percentage of disabled pets is increasing.

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