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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Yet another weird SF fan

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Bakers vs. Bureaucrats

The latest battle in the gay marriage war is over whether a a county clerk must issue gay marriage licenses. Such a requirement makes far more sense than requiring bakers to bake cakes for gay weddings. Engaging in business is a God-given right. Being a bureaucrat isn't. If the job violates your beliefs, you should resign in protest.

One possible effect of the controversy: An opponent of capital punishment might try to become an executioner and then refuse to serve.

A question that must be asked: What if this is a deliberate attempt by a Democrat to get a test case that can be spun as a precedent for denying the rights of bakers or pharmacists?

On the other hand, if the gay-marriage movement is for the purpose of discrediting traditional religious believers, then that would mean it is a violation of the First Amendment. This claim is not completely absurd. On the gripping hand, it's unlikely the Supreme Court will rule that it did that.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Suggestion for Nativists, Part II

Immigration is the Global Warming of the Right.

We see the same pattern of asserting the existence of large amounts of damage while giving minimal thought to measuring either the social cost of carbon or the social cost of immigration.

I'll give a specific example of that minimal thought: Donald Trump has recently criticized the IRS for sending $4 billion in income tax refunds per year to illegal aliens. On the other hand, illegal aliens pay $11.8 billion per year in income taxes.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Few Questions for New-Age People Who Imagine They're Scientific

  • What do you mean by “linear”?
  • What do you mean by “vibrations”? Can you measure the frequency in kilohertz?
  • What do you mean by “energy”? Can you measure the frequency in kilowatt-hours?
  • Since energy and matter are the same thing, can we measure your type of energy in kilograms?
  • If you're post-modern, post which modern? As far as I can tell, modernism has gone through several phases: the modernism of Descartes, the modernism of Jefferson, the modernism of Marx, the modernism of Taylor, the modernism of Toffler, …
  • Did the chicken really cross the road? Or is that what THEY want you to think?
  • What's your opinion of dihydrogen monoxide? Should it be banned?
  • If you experimented with drugs, where was the control group?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

“Hide the Decline” from Someone I Agree With

Bryan Caplan expressed approval of hiding information that might interfere with a libertarian narrative:

I've long scorned mainstream media for their relentless, misleading negativity.  Now the NYT publishes a gloriously positive story - and I wish it hadn't.
Hide the decline?


Now any fact I might cite while arguing with a nativist will not only be taken as propaganda (they were doing that anyway) but will also look like propaganda to formerly-neutral third parties.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Category 5 Hurricane in a Teapot

The latest news from what passes for organized science-fiction fandom is that two groups of SF fans, the “Sad Puppies” and the “Rabid Puppies,” tried to seize/regain control of the Hugo Awards. According to the Puppies, the Hugos have come under control of a clique using block voting. (There are additional accusations that the clique consists of politically-correct people, which would be more believable if I hadn't also read accusations that George Will or Victor Davis Hanson are PC people.) In reaction to that, the two groups of Puppies encouraged their friends to join WorldCon and vote for their type of SF, followed by the Puppy brand of fiction getting more of the nominations. The earlier clique didn't take that lying down and encouraged their friends to join and vote for “No Award.” The “No Award” votes won in many categories.

In other words, we now have a group of people who appear to be left leaning who have endorsed the ethic of “Freedom, I Won't!” (Required reading: “And then there were none” by Eric Frank Russell.) We can use that as a precedent to defend the rights of pharmacists or bakers to refuse to fill prescriptions or bake cakes.

Being able to vote for “No Award” might also come in handy if the Presidential election comes down to Trump vs. Sanders.

Another speculation: What if some zillionaire (David Koch, Elon Musk, Donald Trump, or George Soros) bought up and distributed a bleepload of WorldCon memberships?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Distributed Denial of Sanity

In Blindsight by Peter Watts, extraterrestrials intercept transmissions from Earth, are unable to figure out what they mean, and come to the conclusion the transmissions are a deliberate attempt to waste their time:

There are no meaningful translations for these terms. They are needlessly recursive. They contain no usable intelligence, yet they are structured intelligently; there is no chance they could have arisen by chance.

The only explanation is that something has coded nonsense in a way that poses as a useful message; only after wasting time and effort does the deception becomes apparent. The signal functions to consume the resources of a recipient for zero payoff and reduced fitness. The signal is a virus.

Viruses do not arise from kin, symbionts, or other allies.

The signal is an attack.

And it's coming from right about there.

I was somehow reminded of this by the way Donald Trump debates have taken over large parts of the dextrosphere. Is the Trump run an attempt to keep conservatives occupied? Is it a distributed denial of sanity?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wordy People with a Large Vocabulary Are Telling the Truth!

According to recent research on how to get terrorists to talk (seen via BuzzFeed (seen via GeekPress)):

We hypothesized that deceptive participants would speak less and use fewer unique words than would truthful participants when interviewed about their activities.
They were able to confirm their hypothesis using a WEIRD sample of 64 people. You can be sure they were telling the truth because they used very many long words to explain it. (That's why I used the hypothetical statement above; it was much shorter than the later summaries.)

Cross posted to Small Sample Watch.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Few General Principles for Discussing Immigration

  1. There is no such thing as “unfair competition” in a capitalist system.
  2. Earlier immigration waves to the US didn't turn “here” into “there.” Why would it do so this time?
  3. If you find yourself saying “This time it's different.” you may be speaking nonsense.
  4. When X is outlawed, only outlaws will have X.
  5. Please don't say anything that sounds like “If you really believed in free speech, you'd let someone yell at you all night long while you try to sleep.”
  6. If an illegal alien starts his American residence by breaking the law, does that mean he has two felonies to go?
  7. Please recall there is a difference between the power of the lash and the power of the dollar.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Watson Personality Test Results

The Watson AI program is now being applied to deriving personality predictions from writing samples. I tries inputting a sample of text from this blog and got the following results:

You are shrewd and skeptical.

You are unconcerned with art: you are less concerned with artistic or creative activities than most people who participated in our surveys. You are independent: you have a strong desire to have time to yourself. And you are philosophical: you are open to and intrigued by new ideas and love to explore them.

Your choices are driven by a desire for prestige.

You are relatively unconcerned with taking pleasure in life: you prefer activities with a purpose greater than just personal enjoyment. You consider achieving success to guide a large part of what you do: you seek out opportunities to improve yourself and demonstrate that you are a capable person.

Choices driven by a desire for prestige?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Suggestion on “How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Donald?”

Appoint Donald Trump ambassador to the UN.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Lewis Carroll on Politics

Much of Lewis Carroll's mathematical analysis of politics can be applied today.

On Donald Trump: Obtuse Anger is that which is greater than Right Anger.

On Occupy Wall Street: A Surd is a radical whose meaning cannot be exactly ascertained. This class comprises a very large number of particles.

On political debates in general:

  1. Let it be granted, that a speaker may digress from any one point to any other point.
  2. That a finite argument, (i.e. one finished and disposed of,) may be produced to any extent in subsequent debates.
  3. That a controversy may be raised about any question, and at any distance from that question.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

A Note on Retirement Ages

I recently attended the MOVES conference, in the course of which I heard a lecture by Richard Guy, whose 99th birthday is next month. (I'd give a detailed report on the lecture but I lost track of what he was saying while he was in the middle of identifying 50 points on the nine-point circle.)

… and how are the years treating you?

Monday, August 03, 2015

Uniformity Is Not Always a Virtue

The bureaucratic mind at work:

The US presents particular obstacles to achieving educational improvement at a national scale, deriving from its social and economic diversity and also from an entrenched tradition of “local control,” which precludes a federal role in any primary initiatives. Yet to achieve effective reform at scale requires some national coherence. This was a principal aim of the Common Core, embodied in the word “Common.” Fractions are the same in Florida and Montana; it makes little sense in a highly mobile population for the math curriculum to change at state lines. It would be like building a national railway system with different gauge tracks in each state.
When everybody is learning the same stuff, everybody will be making the same mistakes. When there are many different education plans, even people who are miseducated can learn the truth from others after graduation. When there's just one plan, there are very few such others and those that do exist will sound like (and sometimes be) crackpots.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Now You See It and Now You Don't

I'm sure anybody following the news about nutrition research has noticed the now-you-see-it-and-now-you-don't nature of the evidence for the benefits of eating less meat. Epidemiological research seemed to indicate that people who ate less meat tended to have longer life expectancies. Then large numbers of people tried adopting the correlates of low-meat diets (e.g., low fat) and the advantages disappeared. That might mean the correlates of a low-meat diet in the ‘wild’ differ from the correlates of such a diet when deliberately adopted. One possible such correlate is that a low-meat diet in the wild tends to be a high-beans diet. In other words, it might be a high-protein, low-methionine diet. When low-meat or low-fat diets are deliberately adopted they tend to be high-grain. Grain protein is just as rich in methionine as meat protein so, if low-methionine diets are better, those diets would be ineffective. (Or maybe there's another explanation.)

Another case of now-you-see-it-and-now-you-don't evidence is that handing adolescents contraceptives lowers the abortion rate. There have been many studies that show that but areas that adopt the policy deliberately don't seem to have lower abortion rates. (The ‘blue’ states might have low adolescent birth rates but they don't have low abortion rates.) Maybe the studies are about what happens when an organization other than Planned Parenthood hands out the pills. When the policy is deliberately adopted, the people turn to Planned Parenthood and that fails. (Or maybe there's another explanation.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Update on Senator Sanders

I thought a pro-gun liberal would be the ideal person to say “When immigration is outlawed, only outlaws will have immigration.” He turned out to be a socialist who is not an international socialist instead:

Open borders? No, that's a Koch brothers proposal.


It would make everybody in America poorer—you're doing away with the concept of a nation state, and I don't think there's any country in the world that believes in that. If you believe in a nation state or in a country called the United States or UK or Denmark or any other country, you have an obligation in my view to do everything we can to help poor people. What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy. Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don't believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country, I think we have to do everything we can to create millions of jobs.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Two Notes on Donald Trump

I've been disappointed by Donald Trump. When he first became well known, I thought “That's the man who will take the human race into space!” After all, his ego is too large for one planet. It turned out that it doesn't matter if the ego is large if the man is small.

One way the Republican establishment can fight Trump: Get him talking about guns. He's bound to reveal a belief that guns are only for licensed bodyguards. The Republican base is even more solidly pro-gun than anti-immigrant.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

What If It's All False Flags?

What if the large number of people arguing on the Internet who appear to fulfilling all of the stereotypes of their nominal opponents are all false flags? What if the “Check your privilege” Social Justice Warriors are actually conservatives trying to discredit liberalism and the people whining about #cuckservatives are actually liberals trying to discredit conservatism? That would explain so much.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Uber and NASA

There's worry about whether Uber can contribute to killing the planet. On the other hand, according to NASA, we've got spares.

One disadvantage of the new planet: It's 1.5 billion years older than the Earth, which means it has \(\frac{1}{4}\) as much uranium 235 (assuming it started out with the same amount). That might make it harder to jump start a nuclear industry. On the other hand, it means fewer worries about nations run by maniacs.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Are You Sure This Is the Analogy You Want?

Some of the commenters on an Instapundit post on the GMO controversy are comparing it to the global warming and cholesterol controversies. The odd thing is that these people are critical about the claims that both Anthropogenic Global Warming and saturated fat are dangers but they regard GMO foods as a danger. The reasoning appears to be as follows: If the fear mongers were wrong about X and wrong about Y, they must be right about Z. Is it their turn to be right?

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and Its Implications for Current Controversies

Background here for those of you who were stoned in high-school history classes.


The use of nullification (a declaration that state and local governments will not assist the Federal government to enforce some laws) by slave states has given nullification a bad name. On the contrary, nullification was also used by the free states of Wisconsin and Vermont to hinder enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act.

The use or endorsement of nullification by liberals or libertarians (with respect to immigration law, for example) is not necessarily hypocritical.

We Won't Let You Stay Uninvolved

In the early stages, one common excuse given by supporters of shady activities (sometimes those activities have real victims and sometimes they don't) is: “If you don't like it, don't do it.” This is followed by “We won't let you stay uninvolved.” This happened in the case of slavery (the Fugitive Slave Act), the case of of selling possible abortifacients (the Affordable Care Act), and in the case of gay marriage.

Shooting the Wounded

Slavery was legal in much of the U.S. The Fugitive Slave Act was a matter of starting to eliminate the resistance. You can think of it as “shooting the wounded.”

The Confederate Flag

One excuse for flying the Confederate flag is that it's a symbol of resisting centralization. On the other hand, when it comes to centralization, Dixie fired the first shot.


Drapetomania was a supposed neurosis that caused slaves to run away. The belief that refusal to submit is a sign of mental illness continues today.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Two Possible Effect of the Confederate Flag Controversy

  1. People might be unwilling to get involved in moral controversies lest they be on the losing side and labeled as scum a century later.
  2. People already involved in a moral controversy will be unwilling to give an inch lest they lose and be labeled as scum a century later.
Applying the above to other controversies will be left as an exercise for the reader.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Theory about Left vs. Right

One possible description of Left vs. Right:

The Left wants to break down barriers between places and put up barriers between times. The Right wants to break down barriers between times and put up barriers between places.

The phrase “barriers between times” might be hard to decipher. You can think of destroying or denouncing traditions as putting a barrier between the present and the past. You can also think of birth control or abortion as putting a barrier between the present and the future. Leftists claim to be loyal to the future but only on the condition that it's like the present but only more so.

One consequence: The reaction of the Right to suggestions that judges should take the laws of other places into account resembles the reaction of the Left to suggestions that judges should take the laws of other times into account.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

To Paraphrase Keith Laumer …

Iran has been a sponsor of terrorism for the past few decades. Now, perhaps, we shall see them breaking that precedent and entering into peaceful relations with their neighbors.

On the other hand, maybe breaking and entering is what we can expect.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders

Donald Trump is an alleged Republican who doesn't believe in the common Republican talking point: When X is outlawed, only outlaws will X.

Bernie Sanders is a Democrat who does believe that.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Suggestion for Arkansas

For the benefit of those who haven't been keeping track of people who give dorks a bad name, the Satanic Temple is attempting to place a statue of Baphomet outside the Arkansas statehouse. After all, there is a Ten Commandments monument there and the state is not supposed to discriminate on religious grounds. The official reason for the Ten Commandments monument is that it's about the history of the Law. There is a simple way for the Arkansas state government to make that point. They should also include monuments to the code of Hammurabi, Solon's law code, and the Law of the Twelve Tables.

On the other hand, maybe they should allow it because it's beneficial if government becomes a laughingstock.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Is Instapundit Supporting Gun Control?

The first reaction to this should be to examine more complete statistics, notice that shootings are up but crime is down, and recall “More guns, less crime.”

The first reaction to this should be to say “When immigration is outlawed, only outlaws will immigrate.”

The right-wing stance on the Second Amendment is starting to look like the left-wing stance on the First Amendment. Left-wing motto: It's not censorship when we do it. Right-wing motto: It's not gun grabbing when we do it.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Both Sides Lost

According to Chanda Chisala:

The fact that black immigrants to the United States have shown achievements that are superior to native black Americans has been a phenomenon studied since at least the 1970′s. … What most of these theories failed to predict was that the children of these immigrants would also show exceptional achievements, especially academically. It is only in recent years, as the immigrants have stayed long enough to produce a sufficiently high number of offspring, that it has been observed that they are over-represented among high academic achievers, especially when compared to native blacks, particularly at very elite institutions.
This disproves the favorite theories of both the Left (that the black–white academic gap is due to the effects of prejudice) and the hereditarian wing of the Right (that the black–white academic gap is due to the effects of genes). The children of African immigrants have the same genes and face the same prejudices as the descendants of 18th-century kidnap victims. In other words, both sides have lost.

As for what is causing the black–white academic gap … stereotype threat might be part of the explanation. I suspect the affirmative action is aggravating that.

Uh Oh

According to Matthew L. Wald:

On the micro level, last weekend I watched a young cashier at the hardware store scan purchases and heard the customer complain that the total was wrong. I was terrified by the cashier's response. It wasn't, “No, the computer is right.” It wasn't, “let me double check.” It was, “How did you know?” When it comes to adding numbers in our heads, we've not only forgotten some skills, we've forgotten we ever had them.
ObSF: “A Feeling of Power” by Isaac Asimov.

Friday, July 03, 2015

A Visit to an Evil Room

I was at … the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing. After all, Everybody Knows that anything one of the Koch brother has ever touched is tainted with Evil.

Other also object to Dinosaur Halls.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Best Comment on the Supreme Court's Reasoning in the Gay-Marriage Decision

… came from Dave Munger years before the decision. One of the possible replies to “Should Congress have intervened in -mumble mumble-?” at the top is:

No, that is specifically proscribed by Amendment Pi of the Constitution, in magic invisible ink that only special people can see.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Two Annoying Reactions on the Right to the Gay-Marriage Decision

Soon they will be forcing religious organizations to perform gay marriages!

The question of whether the fact that something is legal means someone can be compelled to get involved with it against his/her religion has already been brought up. Remember the Hobby Lobby case of last year? The same court responsible for the gay-marriage decision ruled in favor of the rights of people called bigots. Please note that contraception has even wider and deeper backing from the Left than gay marriage.

We will never be able to get rid of this!

Just a few days before the gay-marriage decision, the court overturned raisin-control. This was part of the left-wing agenda of a couple of decades ago, defended with the same amount of condescension we see today in the gay-marriage debate. Not every left-wing victory is permanent.

ObSF: “In a good cause, there are no failures, only delayed successes.”—Isaac Asimov

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Don't Let This Crisis Go to Waste!

I'm talking about the OPM breach. Remember that?

There's a common libertarian argument: Government is usually incompetent. There's a common response to that argument on the left: Right-wing governments are incompetent because of deliberate sabotage. For example, according to a commenter on Facebook:

Republicans start with the premise that government doesn't work and has no solutions, then they fight tooth and nail to get in office and prove it.
In the case of the OPM breach we see a clear instance of government incompetence that cannot be blamed on right-wing sabotage.

I also heard that there were a few newsworthy Supreme-Court decisions. At least raisins are finally free!

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