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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jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com

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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
Slate Star Codex
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

Monday, May 02, 2016

I Meant to Do That!

Yet another excuse for determinism comes from the observation that some people (around 10%) will say “I meant to do that!” about things they had no control over.

Are they scraping the bottom of the barrel yet? Do they think the observation that some people tend to say “I meant to do that!” has never been noticed before? By the way, what was the sample size? (It's frequently pathetically small for this type of study.)

Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Yudkowsky–Moore Law Is Firing Warning Shots

According to Eliezer Yudkowsky:

Moore's Law of Mad Science: Every eighteen months, the minimum IQ necessary to destroy the world drops by one point.
You can think of the Trump and Sanders campaigns as the political equivalent:
Moore's Law of Mad Politics: Every eighteen months, the minimum IQ necessary to destroy the political system drops by one point.
People aren't getting dumber but now idiots can get behind political movements they would never have heard of a decade or two ago.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Light and Conception

Back in the 1970s, the Daedalus column in New Scientist speculated that a flash of light was emitted when the soul entered the fetus (the highlighted passages are those that I used to find the articles). More recently, it turns out that a flash of light is emitted at conception.

On the other hand, it's not a single photon.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Comparison between Coal and Nukes

I understand there are people defending coal on the grounds that nuclear waste (or maybe unclear waste) is so terrible. Let's run some numbers.

A typical coal reactor will use 53.8 Tons/hour for 100 MWe. That's 538 T/hr for 1000 MWe. Since there are 8760 hours/year, that's 4,712,880 T/yr.

Coal contains 1–4 ppm of uranium. At the low end, that means a 1000 MWe coal-burning power releases around 5 tons of nuclear waste per year.

On the other hand, the fission products are temporarily more radioactive than uranium. On the gripping hand, in the long run, they are less radioactive. A natural uranium or thorium atom will release 50 MeV of radiation by the time it decays. The fission products will release less than half of that.

I'll Probably Vote Libertarian for President This Year

My main quarrel with the Libertarians is with their foreign policy. In view of the persistently lame trickle of terrorist acts (a decade ago, it looked like the terrorists would pose an increasing danger to the US but that hasn't materialized) and the increasing irrationality of the complaints about foreigners (that they're both overcharging and underselling? that they're taking over uninhabited islands?), a Libertarian foreign policy doesn't look so bad.

Some people warn me that a Libertarian vote is a vote for Clinton. Others warn me that a Libertarian vote is a vote for Trump.

As for the claim that closed borders are necessary to have a nation, that would imply that the US was not a nation before 1881.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A What-If Scenario for President Trump

A what-if scenario: Donald Trump is elected and takes all steps necessary to expel illegal aliens. In 2024, the Democrats have their chance and finally elect their dream candidate: President Melissa Click.

What will she do with the agencies and programs that Trump established?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

It Begins …

Left-wing nonsense is starting to invade Passover seders. This time, it's treating “Fair Trade” as though it were the same as opposing slavery. It's not.

There was, of course, also an orange on the seder plate. It should have been a navel orange.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Brief Note on the New York Primary


Speaking as a New Yorker, I'd like to apologize for my neighbors.

On the other hand, Trump didn't get a majority everywhere. I'm considering moving to the 10th or 12th CDs.

On the gripping hand, maybe this was simply a matter of “Our hometown boy made good!“ If so, this also means New York has finally become part of ‘flyover country.’

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Few Notes on the Facebook Flap

There is some reason to suspect Facebook might try to swing the election. On the other hand, if Facebook were able to swing elections, we would have already elected a cat.

More seriously, I looked up the recipients of contributions from Facebook employees in the last election cycle at OpenSecrets. 45% of the donations were to Republicans. In other words, politics at Facebook is balanced enough for any shenanigans to leak.

On the other hand, although Silicon-Valley companies cannot do something under the proverbial table, they appear to be currently leaning left on some issues openly. That may be an effect of the Trump campaign. Last year, much of the Right claims pro-immigration means Left. This year, immigrant-heavy industries actually turn Left. Are you surprised?

On the gripping hand, a year ago this would have seemed more worrisome. Since then I've seen George Will called a liberal, a move to central planning of toilets described as religious liberty, a simultaneous claim that a demographic is both essential to the economy and being replaced, and a Chinese creation of artificial islands described as a threat to international order. I now take stuff from the right wing with the proverbial grain of salt.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

It Made More Sense Decades Ago

Blake Stacey's variation on Atlas Shrugged makes more sense in the Atlas Shrugged universe (in which most technical progress stopped as soon as John Galt called his strike) than in ours. In our universe, it's hard to get good goons these days.

On the other hand, a few minor changes could rescue it. First, most of the remaining “good-goon” industries in the US are in union-hostile areas, so the mechanic would have to be from such an area. Second, in those areas, anti-foreign prejudice takes precedence over anti-business prejudice. Francisco d'Anconia (or possibly Ragnar Danneskjöld) would have to be in the torture seat. The mechanic would blame the problems on foreign influence.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hang in There!

Will the development of brain implants that enable paralyzed people to move cause people considering euthanasia for that reason to have second thoughts?

How will this affect the Right to Die movement?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Another Suggestion for the American Mathematical Society

In addition to ensuring that the {subequations} environment works the way many authors think it works, it can be made more customizable by replacing the definition of {subequations} with the following:

If authors want the {subequations} to be numbered (1-i), (1-ii), etc., they can simply add:

Friday, April 08, 2016

A Few Notes on the “Magic Dirt” Claim

It is common for people on the wrong side of the Right to claim immigration deregulation is based on the theory that the US is made of “Magic Dirt.” On the other hand, the Magic Dirt theory does explain why there's more support for gun control among Europeans than among European Americans. It would explain why Eisenhower wasn't a Nazi.

There have also been studies of what terrains produce free societies. To quote from Not to Mention Camels by R. A. Lafferty:

… just a silly idea except that I have some good samples of that silly idea on the slide now.

For that matter, the theory that the same people in a different situation can be more productive has a very strong piece of evidence in its favor: the existence of economic growth. That's not because the human race is improving. Would you deny the existence of economic growth on the grounds that it requires a belief in “Magic Times”?

I won't more than mention that “turning the US into Mexico” has benefits.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

There Goes the Neighborhood!

There was a Trump rally not far away.

Couldn't it be a Grump rally instead? Make America Irate Again!

In a related story, this Trump supporter is wrong about nearly everything.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

A Question for the Anti-Pesticide, Anti-Vaccine, Anti-GMO People

What is your explanation for the decline in the age-adjusted cancer mortality rate even for cancers other than lung cancer? What are we doing right?

If it's astounding improvements in cancer treatment, would that imply that maybe Big Pharma might actually be helpful?

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Two Consequences of Absurd State-Level Minimum-Wage Laws

  • Poor people leave areas with higher minimum wages. A few years later, left-wing sites carry articles showing high increases in per-capita incomes in “blue” states.
  • The increasing unemployment rates in some areas cause the election of demagogues blaming perfidious foreigners.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Commonly-Accepted Premises I Don't Share, Right-Wing Division

A few years ago, I made a list of premises that are commonly accepted as sufficiently obvious that they don't need defending or even explicit statements. That list leaned left. I'm starting to compile a similar list for right-wing premises I don't share:

  • Capitalism is a matter of the arbitrary will of businessmen. The best way to support capitalism is therefore to elect a businessman and give him absolute power.
  • As far as groups are concerned, economic activity is zero-sum. If one group is becoming richer than another, that can only be because they are stealing it.
  • At some point in the recent past Life Was Fair. Any change in the relative standing of different groups since then is therefore Unfair.
  • Being willing to work for less is Unfair.
  • Being willing to work harder is Unfair.
  • True Success is a matter of prowess, not diligence.
  • Open borders is part of the ideological superstructure of the bourgeoise.
  • When goods cross borders, armies will as well. (This is a rejection of a common libertarian slogan.)
There's probably more to come.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Read These Together

On the one hand:

Instead of reaching out to Donald Trump's supporters, this man insults them, thereby ensuring that they will never again support an establishment candidate. Good job, asshole!

On the other hand:

Lib: "Alienating Muslims will turn good ones against us!"

Shiv: "If they're turned against us so easily, maybe they shouldn't be here."

If a group over-reacts to insults, is that a reason to treat them more gently or less gently? I don't know what the answer is to that, but the answer should be uniform.

While I'm at it …

The following claim (about the Trump base) is common among Trump sympathizers:

Wow. Smearing an entire class of people. Fix your own car. Install your own plumbing. Transport your own food.
On the other hand, the claim that the same people are being replaced by immigrants is even commoner. So … we have extremely essential people who can be replaced at will …

Sunday, March 27, 2016

This Came from Either a Dolt or a Fraud

The recent disturbing rumors that Ted Cruz, contrary to all evidence, actually has social skills is supposedly buttressed by the claim people have been trying to get the media interested for months but was met by refusals until the National Enquirer got involved.

Their only choices were “send this to a major publication” and “remain silent”?

They couldn't use Twitter?

They couldn't use Facebook?

They couldn't post comments at PJmedia?

The only way this would be believable is if it came from a small number of people (possibly one) each of whom was dumb enough to forget to use social media.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Update on Not THAT Nuts!

In 2014, I did not vote for Gigi Bowman. I was right.

In a related story, Walter Block (who's used to defending the undefendable) announced the formation of Libertarians for Trump. This might be helped by single-issue voters. (The same single-issue voters can also explain the quality of pro-Trump discourse on the Web.)

A Trump “Kill Shot”?

According to Scott Adams:

The best Trump kill shots have the following qualities.

1. Fresh word that is not generally used in politics

2. Relates to the physicality of the subject (so you are always reminded)

Donald Grump.

He could fight this by smiling more often (unlike Ted Cruz, he actually knows how to smile) but that would cut into his exploitation of pessimistic bias among the voters.

Addendum: The ideal slogan is, of course, “Make America Irate Again!”

Attributing Troubles to Newcomers

On the one hand, attributing Trump to an invasion of the Republican Party by Democrats sounds plausible to me.

On the other hand, blaming problems on newcomers appears to be one of the commonest failure modes in human thinking. This applies to opponents of immigration, opponents of gentrification, and opponents of colonialism. Maybe it also applies here.

Since I'm a human being (last time I checked), maybe I should not be confident in attributing Trump to Democrats.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ace Has a Point

Ace of Spades recommends not being vindictive towards Trump supporters. I'm not sure if that applies to Trump supporters in the Instapundit comments who didn't bother reading his article but insisted on commenting on it anyway.

He has a point. If Trump is nominated and loses, I promise not to say “We Told You So” more than once a month.

If Trump wins and governs on the Left, I promise not to say “We Told You So” more than once a week.

If Trump wins, does what he says, shuts down exports, and I'm unemployed, I'm not making promises.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Why Clinton Beats Sanders among Non-White Democrats

A possible explanation: Non-white voters who believe in capitalism might be avoiding the Republican Party owing to the perception of Republicans as racist. Such Democrats would vote for the the most conservative Democrat running.

The tendency of the Trump supporters to alienate potential conservatives might be protecting us from President Sanders.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Explaining the Serious Stupidity

There's a meme going around the left side of Cliches R Us: “Capitalism without socialism is fascism” (discussed at BookwormRoom). There's a very simple explanation for it. It is a consequence of the premise “‘Government’ is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.” In a system of capitalism without socialism, there are organizations that are able to get people to do things together but are not under democratic control. In other words, such a system is based on undemocratic governments, i.e., it is fascism.

On the other hand, there is little reason to to believe that organizations that are governments in the sense of being able to get people to do things together are the same as the organizations that are governments in the sense of being able to jail or kill people.

On the gripping hand, in Major Barbara, George Bernard Shaw had Andrew Undershaft say:

Nothing is ever done in this world until men are prepared to kill each other if it is not done.
Some people, e.g., Vladimir Putin, still believe that:

President Vladimir Putin said he wants to identify an official who can be hanged if a road leading to a new bridge that will link Crimea to Russia isn't built, as he complained that nobody wants to take charge of the project.

“There should be a specific person who can be hanged if it's not done,” Putin said during a visit to Crimea to view construction work on Friday, the second anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine. Officials keep passing responsibility for the work to colleagues in different ministries, he said.

He can't understand why nobody wants the job.

Three Wishes

A year ago, a conservative found a magic lantern and a genie appeared ready to grant him three wishes.

  • The first wish was that Hollywood would start telling the truth about conservatives.
  • The second wish was that liberals would regard the First and Second Amendments as equally important.
  • The third wish was for college administrators to do something about the “hook-up” culture.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Brief Note on CO2 Emissions

According to at least one environmentalist web site, only 44% of the CO2 emitted per year winds up in the atmosphere. By odd coincidence that's almost the same percentage of the CO2 that comes from coal. In other words, if we simply replace coal with nukes, that should stop the CO2 increase.

Coal and nuclear energy are near substitutes: They are both most useful for predictable base-load electricity generation. The common complaint that we can't have an all-nuclear energy system because of the alleged difficulties of running a car on nukes or because of the problems of generating peak power don't apply.

One common defense of coal that isn't that valid: that we need coal to provide jobs. If the same amount is being spent, the same number of jobs should be supplied. The biggest danger is that we might get less energy for the money, i.e., prices will rise.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Are Trump Supporters Alpha Males?

According to Scott Adams:

Trump is well on his way to owning the identities of American, Alpha Males, and Women Who Like Alpha Males. Clinton is well on her way to owning the identities of angry women, beta males, immigrants, and disenfranchised minorities.
Using the standard technique for debate in this field (pulling assertions out of the vulgar body aperture) … You're not really an Alpha Male unless you can compete against immigrants and win.

Addendum: Alpha Males don't have high-school diplomas?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Only Way to Make This Better Is to Add Vaccines and GMOs

Terrestrial Energy is planning to sell its nuclear reactors, not to government agencies and not only to regulated utilities, but to fossil-fuel companies to use for fracking.

[Mad Scientist Laugh]

Friday, March 11, 2016

On the Other Hand …

My comparison of Donald Trump to LBJ has limits. There are two types of nationalist. Donald Trump is an isolationist nationalist whereas LBJ was an imperialist nationalist.

The Tyrant Who Must Not Be Named was, of course, both. His regime was based on both taking over lots of other countries and ethnically cleansing them of the wrong groups. Usually imperialists squeeze foreigners instead of eliminating them and usually isolationists expel foreigners to places they have no plans to take over. You need both for Godwin-type analogies to be valid.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Trump's Closest American Analog

  • Standard liberal on domestic policy? Check.
  • Never saw an instance of government power he didn't like? Check.
  • Rejected by most liberals because of his nationalist policies? Check.
  • Rejected by most moderates mainly because of his sheer vulgarity? Check.
  • Competitor on the Republican side has right-wing opinions on all known issues? Check.
  • Able to get endorsements from Republicans who think said competitor is too extreme? Check.
Donald Trump is Lyndon Johnson II.

Monday, March 07, 2016

A Nightmare Scenario

Chief executives of governments have traditionally been reined in by the control of the purse and the refusal of men with guns to shoot their neighbors. What happens if President Trump authorizes a military drone program to take out people on an “enemies list” that's funded by civil forfeiture? The small number of people needed for such a program could be recruited from unemployed Trump fanatics. Judging by their resentment of foreign competition and their apparent abundance of free time, that's most of them.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

What Is Meant by “The Planet Got Destroyed”?

A cartoon showing a family of cavemen sitting around a campfire with shadowy skyscrapers in the background has been going around the left side of the self-congratulatory parts of the Internet (typical example here). The caption reads:

Yes, the planet got destroyed, but for a beautiful moment in time we created a lot of value for shareholders.
What does that mean? The planet wasn't blown up. They're sitting on something. It didn't become lifeless. They're breathing. Does it mean they ran out of fuel? Or what?

My earlier comments on a more serious example of the same bulshytt can be found here.

Aren't you glad to read something that has nothing to do with Donald Trump?

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Now That You Mention It…

The more fervent Trump supporters sometimes accuse open-borders proponents of trying to replace the current American population. I didn't think that was a good idea until now … but I just might change my mind after reading enough of their bulshytt.

In a related story, Robin Hanson tweets:

Lecturing unhappy voters that Trump is bad boy is as effective as lecturing your rebel daughter not to date bad boys…
Enjoy your "I was right" speeches while raising her bad boy son as she lives w/ you at home.
The effect of promoting Planned Parenthood in pro-Trump areas will be left as an exercise. I'm not supporting that because we cannot use the Ring …

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