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
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Peter Watts Newscrawl
Physics Geek
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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

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Speculation on the First Chapter of Genesis

The creation story makes more sense if we assume it is something occurring outside both space and time. Each ‘day’ God added something else to all of space and time.

  1. He created light, which requires electromagnetism and relativity.
  2. He created surface tension (“Let there be a meniscus in the midst of the fluids and let it divide the liquids from the gases.”), which requires atoms and molecules and quantum mechanics. (He was not entirely satisfied with that.)
  3. He created solid land. This implies gravity.
  4. He created luminous bodies. This requires nuclear physics.
  5. He created evolvable life. This requires fine tuning earlier laws in such a way as to permit DNA, etc.
  6. He created humanity. If this includes human history, it implies more fine tuning to allow technology. (For example, a minor increase in the mass of the neutron will cause uranium 235 to decay to nonfissionable neptunium 235. God wants us to have nukes.)
Then God took a break for the weekend.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

What Happened to the Republican Party This Year

They ate the Wub.

Explanation: In “Beyond lies the Wub” by Philip K. Dick, anybody who ate the Wub would be possessed by the Wub. The Republicans chased, caught, and ate the anti-foreign vote and wound up getting possessed by it.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

What I've Been Reading

  • Unsong by Scott Alexander, in which an archangel installed a system (known to mundanes as “physics”) in order to control malware, only to find it's vulnerable to a buffer-overflow bug.
  • A news item, in which Symantec installed systems in order to control malware, only to find they're vulnerable to a buffer-overflow bug.
This is not a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence.

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Theory about the Trump Movement

I suspect the basis of the Trump movement is the belief that success should only be based on prowess instead of diligence. All else is commentary. The Trumpkins resent foreign competition and immigration because they think of it as based on the unfair use of diligence by foreigners. They don't trust the Establishment because they think of it as a fraudulent establishment by diligent people who have usurped the role of people of prowess. They especially dislike Ted Cruz for his use of diligence and lack of prowess.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Is an “Earl Warren” on Donald Trump's List of Potential Supreme Court Justices?

Donald Trump has released a list of potential Supreme Court Justices. How do we know this list doesn't include a version of Earl Warren? You may recall that Earl Warren was also noted for sending Japanese-Americans to concentration camps. A willingness to crack down on foreigners is not enough.

It may even be a bad sign. The leftward drift of formerly-conservative Supreme Court Justices might have the following explanation: Much of the time, conservative is a synonym for “willing to crack down on people who are Not Like Us.” When such a conservative becomes a Supreme Court Justice, the people who are Like Us changes from the middle classes to the political activist class.

Never forget: The archetypal liberal Supreme Court Justice appointed by a Republican was a blood conservative.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Every Food Fad Is More Idiotic Than the Last

First, there was organic food.

Then there was locally-sourced food.

Next came non-GMO food.

Now there's biodynamic food … from a farm fertilized by the very finest bulshytt. Every food fad manages to be dumber than the one before. How is this mathematically possible?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Why Were Leftists Able to Describe the Trump Movement Accurately?

My theory is that leftists were able to describe the Trump movement accurately because their description was an accurate description of right-wing Democrats. It had little to do with conservatives in general, partly because right-wing Democrats are conservative on only a handful of issues.

Over the past generation or two, right-wing Democrats have been joining the Republicans. That accelerated over the past eight years. As a result, they formed a critical mass this year, which exploded and was able to take over the Republicans. They were helped by the fact they were united behind one candidate while traditional conservatives were debating the relative merits of Senators and Governors or the relative importance of electability vs. purity.

If Hillary is elected but Trump comes close, she might take steps to bring them back. If Trump is elected and ignores his base, they may get discouraged next time. In either case, in 2020 or 2024, we will probably see more than one would-be Trump. That may keep them from taking over again.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

On the Other Hand …

… if you want to make sure your group doesn't take over, you may want to recruit @ssholes. Just make sure they're @ssholes who do too little instead of too much. You don't want someone who sends the IRS after his enemies. You do want someone who tries shutting down the government by refusing to cooperate.

Addendum: Typo in title fixed.

Friday, May 13, 2016

“He's Our @sshole”

Some people (including people who should know better) are pro-Trump on the grounds that we need “our @sshole” to counteract the Other Side (typical example here). The best response to that came from Slate Star Codex:

Long before a group can take over society, it reaches a size where it needs to develop internal structure and rules about interaction between group members. If you collect a bunch of people and tell them to abandon all the social norms like honesty, politeness, respect, charity, and reason in favor of a cause then the most likely result is that when your cause tries to develop some internal structure, it will be overrun by a swarm of people who have abandoned honesty, politeness, respect, charity, and reason.
For example, when we look at occasions when the Other Side tried adopting “our @sshole” tactics, we see purges and persecutions aimed their former allies. I'm reminded of a well-known Ludwig von Mises quote:
I have pointed out that the worst thing that can happen to a socialist is to have his country ruled by socialists who are not his friends.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Nice Doggie

On the one hand, Donald Trump has a history of contributing to liberal causes. On the other hand, Trump supporters claim that was only because he needed to for business purposes.

I'm reminded of the saying “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.” Trump was clearly saying “Nice doggie.”

On the other hand, we don't know who he's saying it to or where the rock will be aimed.

If Trump wins, he might govern from the Left. If so, we'll see a repeat of the “even Nixon” argument, familiar to anybody old enough to read newspapers in the 1970s. It went approximately as follows:

Even Nixon, the most conservative President in living memory with the biggest electoral victory found it necessary to impose price controls and bargain with Communists. That shows how Republican ideologues are hopelessly obsolete.
Brace yourselves.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Anti-Math Prejudice

In a recent incident, a professor was taken off a plane because he was writing … math.

This is nothing new. During the Franco–Prussian War, the mathematician Sophus Lie was arrested on suspicion of being a Prussian spy because his notebooks were full of incomprehensible symbols.

Friday, May 06, 2016

What's after the “Age of Em”?

According Robin Hanson, there's a strong possibility that the next exponential mode will be dominated by robots emulating human personalities. This includes the following speculation:

This era may only last for a year or two, after which something even stranger may follow.
My guess is that the age after that will resemble “Slow Tuesday Night” by R. A. Lafferty and the one after that will be the long-awaited “AI Foom.”
“That may be an end or a beginning, but from here it is out of sight.”—J. D. Bernal in The World, The Flesh, and The Devil

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.

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