Yet another weird SF fan
 I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?Go to first entry

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 Yet another weird SF fan

### A Few Notes on the Latest Flag-Burning Controversy

President Hillary would have the flag burners arrested for the unauthorized emission of greenhouse gases.

Question: If burning the flag is an exercise of free speech, is destroying currency also free speech?

Flag burners should be sentenced to act like idiots in public. In other words, nothing need be done.

### What Would a Settlement near Sirius Look Like?

The Sirius system is likely to have a very high ratio of available power to planetary mass. What would a civilization in the Sirius system look like?

First, there would not be very many settlements and those settlements would have to be far from the star and, probably, from each other.

Second, they must be very sparing of mass. Instead of having heavy farms, it might make sense for the colonists to genetically engineer some photosynthetic ability so they might have some green body parts.

In addition, body parts in general should be as light as possible. One way to save mass is to avoid having unused muscles. That can be done by putting most of the muscles in the trunk and using tendons to move the limbs. They would need some means of switching the muscles from one tendon to another but I'm sure the genetic engineers will be up to it. The limbs would not need much of a blood supply and might even have a bluish color.

Their ships would also have to spare mass (but could waste energy). They can spare mass by not having a pressurized hull but instead keep the passengers in space suits. This might be uncomfortable but if they go fast enough the voyages would be brief.

In other words:

Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

Coming up with an excuse for the Quangle-Wangle or Pobbles will be left as an exercise for the reader.

### The Victims Resemble the Oppressors

Restricting competition isn't always a matter of social class X squeezing social class Y. The victims of restricting competition are frequently in the same class as the winners.

Restricting competition in academia (i.e., tenure) might be responsible for the exploitation of adjunct professors. Restricting competition in the blue-collar realm (i.e., unions) is associated with collapsed cities such as Detroit. The spread of professions with restricting competition into the small-business realm (i.e., occupational licensing) is correlated with the declining rate of business formation.

In other words, you can't blame restricting competition or even resistance to restricting competition on class prejudice.

### Building a Silmaril

The news of the development of a crystal that can extract useful energy from radioactivity might be the first step in creating a Silmaril in our universe.

If a crystal is radioactive and can use that radioactivity to pump a laser in the same crystal it would act much like a Silmaril. It would give back any light that it's exposed to amplified. If it were hidden away in Morgoth's horde, the heat from the radioactivity would accumulate and burn anything it touches.

### A Third Schrödinger Population

In addition to Schrödinger's immigrants and Schrödinger's conservatives, we see Schrödinger's liberals, in a quantum superposition of neighborhoods in lily-white/inner-city states.

### What Were They Thinking?

#### What were the MSM people thinking?

On the one hand, accusations that conservatives are racists have been common for decades in the less-mainstream media outlets on the Left. On the other hand, such accusations have been more restrained in MSM outlets until this year. Maybe what happened is that the MSM people balance the non-mainstream leftists with NRO-type conservatives. On other occasions, the following exchange might happen:

Fringe leftists: Romney is a racist!
MSM people: Is Romney really a racist?
NRO conservatives: There's no way Romney is a racist.
This year, the following happened:
Fringe leftists: Trump is a racist!
MSM people: Is Trump really a racist?
NRO conservatives: We'd rather not defend a protectionist.
MSM people: Okay, Trump is a racist.

#### What were the Trump primary voters thinking?

My best guess is that they regarded his business success as a matter of prowess instead of diligence and figured that diligence doesn't seem to be working. They apparently think that this “alpha-male” will fix the American economy by shear force of will and get back everything they imagine foreigners have stolen.

#### What were the Trump general-election voters thinking?

My best guess is that they figure that we elected and re-elected Obama and that proves the US is no longer racist and that they can go back to voting Republican.

### Another Schrödinger Population

In addition to Schrödinger's immigrants, there's also Schrödinger's conservatives, they're both over-privileged and too poor to buy tickets to Hamilton. They're in a quantum superposition of poor/privileged states.

It's amazing how much the supposedly opposite sides sound alike.

### If the EmDrive Works…

… it still might not be that useful.

At 1.2 mN/kW and 4300 W/kg, that's an acceleration of $$5.16\times10^{-4}~\text{m/s}^2$$.

A bit slow. It can go 80 million km (the distance between the orbits of Earth and Mars) in about 9 months.

### A What-If Speculation

Neither the United States, nor any subdivision of it, shall ever be construed to support, endorse, or be founded upon any religion or religious principle; nor shall the government intrude upon the free exercise of religion so long as such exercise is injurious to no one; nor shall any religious institution participate in any election campaign or public vote. The United States shall be a secular nation with separation of church and state. No religious test or affirmation of any sort shall be required of any employee or official of the United States government, nor of any state or other part, nor by any entity receiving federal funding.
On the other hand …
• What would “nor shall any religious institution participate in any election campaign or public vote” have done to the Abolitionist movement?
• The phrase “…nor by any entity receiving federal funding” might produce problems for organizations that pay taxes and have to compete with other organizations that are allowed to accept federal funding that helps balance the taxes.
• The phrase “…so long as such exercise is injurious to no one” might be interpreted as allowing lawsuits by unemployed Real Americans against people sheltering illegal aliens.

### A Few More Election Notes

Trump did about the same as Romney as a percentage of the white vote and slightly better as a percentage of the non-white vote. Maybe identity politics is not the wave of the future after all.

In a related story, the sane Republicans in Congress did better than Trump. It looks like the Republican Party in general lifted Trump. The GOP Establishment had the coattails and the Trump supporters should thank them.

### We Told You So, Part I

So… Trump is willing to keep the ban on discrimination on health-insurance applicants with pre-existing conditions. It is, after all, a “settled value in this country” (along with not voting for Trump and not having the Chicago Cubs win the World Series). It's been settled for time immemorial, which, if you're a “policy wonk,” means the past six years. Such discrimination is almost as bad as discrimination in real-estate deals.

#### A Clarification

When I said:

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

I meant that such reprimand should not be made in more than one post per week in any given network. In other words, only one post per week on Blogspot, only one post per week on Disqus, only one post per week on Twitter, …

### Did the Get-out-the-Vote Effort Backfire?

The get-out-the-vote effort by Democrats might have might have backfired. The numerous calls I received warning me that a Republican victory meant an end to “choice” nearly made me vote for Trump. Then I recalled that Trump also disregards the rights of potential Americans.

### One Nasty Effect of the Trump Triumph

It's causing some people on the Right to have a strange new respect for an omnipotent Federal government.

When discussing nullification, please note that nullification was also used by Wisconsin and Vermont to resist the Fugitive Slave Act. In addition, the Tariff of Abominations was an instance of blatant federal overreach and well worth resisting.

### Which Trump Did We Elect?

We still don't know if we elected the Good Trump (who's tolerant of the “bitter clingers” in flyover country) or the Bad Trump (who's intolerant of people based on birth).

A test case: A religious organization could harbor an illegal alien and claim it's required by Exodus 22:21. The Good Trump (who was elected by evangelicals trying to defend the RFRA) will go one way and the Bad Trump the other.

### What Will President Trump Do?

Some of presumed President-elect Trump's positions will be applauded by libertarians and conservatives but others won't. For example:

• Applauded by Conservatives and Libertarians:
• Applauded by Libertarians and not Conservatives:
• Bring soldiers home (until he has a hissy fit)
• Critical of compulsory vaccines
• Legalize drugs (Some people think he will.)
• Applauded by Conservatives and not Libertarians:
• Border wall
• Applauded by neither:
• Tariffs
• Supporting a local option on fracking
• Critical of vaccines (The claim that vaccines cause autism can be used as a reason to ban vaccines.)

I have no idea on what he will do about health care and I suspect neither does he.

Please recall that last time we had a President who tried appealing to white identity politics, we got the EPA and wage–price controls.

### A Few Notes before the Election

Whichever side wins the election will be the wrong one. The fact that it won means it's big enough to be dangerous.

If all of your hopes and dreams can be derailed by a chance event such as a close election, something is wrong.

The worst effect of President Trump is likely to be a tendency to think of the Democrats as the anti-racist party. I plan to deal with it by trying to locate the oldest edition of The Age of Jackson by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. I can find. It's an ode to the founder of the Democratic Party, one of our most racist Presidents.

The worst effect of President Clinton is likely to be a tendency to think that cover-ups work. This will encourage both cover-ups and conspiracy theories.

### The Conservative Case for Hillary?

The conservative case for President Hillary: What if at her inauguration she takes off her mask and says “You just elected a Goldwater girl! For years, I watched liberals infiltrate one conservative institution after another and vowed to do the same thing to them. I spent decades infiltrating the Democrats and told nobody but my pals on Wall Street. Now it's payback time!”

On the other hand, the likelihood of this being true is around zilch.

Disclaimer: The above post was written while under the influence of caffeine. Is that why Mormons think of it as a dangerous drug?

### Cubs Technologies

A few years ago, Arnold Kling wrote Red Sox Technologies about electronic technologies that have proponents perpetually saying “Wait 'til next year!” Since then the Red Sox have won World Series and two of the technologies (E-book readers and social networking) have come into common use.

It's clearly time for Cubs technologies, industrial technologies that have proponents perpetually saying “Wait 'til next year!” So… Rev up your fusion-powered air cars!

### Not from the Usual Suspects

The historical ignorance among college students cannot come from the Usual Suspects:

For 11 years, Professor Duke Pesta gave quizzes to his students at the beginning of the school year to test their knowledge on basic facts about American history and Western culture.

The most surprising result from his 11-year experiment? Students’ overwhelming belief that slavery began in the United States and was almost exclusively an American phenomenon, he said.

“Most of my students could not tell me anything meaningful about slavery outside of America,” Pesta told The College Fix. “They are convinced that slavery was an American problem that more or less ended with the Civil War, and they are very fuzzy about the history of slavery prior to the Colonial era. Their entire education about slavery was confined to America.”

This is not due to college professors; the students had that miseducation when they entered college. It was also not due to “Fundamentalists”; Any Fundamentalist would know about Egyptian slavery.

A possible effect: Someone who believes that slavery was something distinctively American and who is also determined to be patriotic might be proud of being a bigot. Maybe that's where the “deplorables” came from…

### Deplorable Arithmetic

If half of the US population is Republican leaning …

And if 40% of those are Trump supporters (in contrast to Trump tolerators) …

And if half of those are deplorable …

Then only 10% of the US population are that type of deplorable. Sounds okay.

### The Front Label and the Back Label

On the front label it says “No GMOs.”

On the back label it says “25% JUICE.” The first two ingredients are water and sugar. The pomegranate juice that's supposed to be a superfood (this week) is the sixth ingredient.

Throw away the wheat and keep the chaff.

### The Russians Are Coming!

It's harder to make threats when you're regarded as a has-been.

For that matter, the hacked e-mails are pretty much a nothingburger. At best, they reveal stuff that's already known (Hillary and Co. are obnoxiously arrogant) and are one of the reasons she's not 50 points ahead. If anything, they make me slightly more likely to vote Democratic since it looks like no major secrets were put at risk … unless the Russians are still holding out.

I'm still trying to figure out what the Russians get out of this. Do they have a mole in the Trump organization ready to shut down oil and gas exports? Do they think the Trump administration is about to stop nukes and fracking? Or do they hope for a war between the US and China that makes them Number One?

### Outer Space Settlement Killer Apps

The most obvious reasons for space colonization (to deal with resource shortages and to take care of satellites) are technically obsolete.

Another possible use is regulatory arbitrage, i.e., escaping obnoxious laws. This comes in two varieties:

1. Escaping laws against activities that people do not want nearby. Problem: competition from places on Earth (Las Vegas, Switzerland, or even seasteading or Antarctica)
2. Escaping laws against activities that people do not want anywhere. Problem 1: Colonies in deep space are sitting ducks and planetary surfaces are almost as easy to bomb as Earth's surface. Problem 2: Do you really want to help Roko's basilisk?

The best guess for a killer app is zero-gravity tourism. (We might even have zero-gravity residence as in “Abercrombie Station” by Jack Vance.) It's something unavailable on the Earth. Once we have a demand for large amounts of mass in orbit, it will make sense to have asteroid colonies as well to supply them. The asteroid colonies in turn might also be used to regulatory arbitrage since they are more defendable than either deep-space colonies or planetary surfaces.

### A Suggestion for a Research Program for Social Science

It has recently been discovered that people with “science curiosity” don't always agree with people who actually know something about science, in particular the science-curious people are more likely to agree with left-wing theories than science-knowledgeable people. What other differences are there?

Are the science-curious people more likely to be atheists? Are they more likely to think of energy as something mystical? Do they have the foggiest idea of what “infinity” means? Do they think the moon disappears when you close your eyes? How stoned are they anyway?

### Explaining an Absurd Line in a Review

According to Ezra Glinter, while reviewing The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death's End by Cixin Liu:

While Liu's humanity on the whole is conservative, some characters—both heroes and antiheroes—are determined to save civilization at all costs.
(seen via NRO Corner).

As far as I can tell, here “conservative” means a disbelief in change, with a corollary that it is no necessary to react to change. That might even be true of some conservatives. On the other hand, Leftists also disbelieve in change, although on the left that usually takes the form of a belief that it's possible to change one thing and any other changes that might cause can be disregarded (e.g., that businesses won't react to minimum-wage laws).

### Million? I Thought You Said Billion!

The following factoid has been going around the Web:

• 1 in 3,408 chance of choking to death on food

• 1 in 3,640,000,000 chance of being killed by a refugee in a terror attack

Source: US National Safety Council, Cato Institute
This is a potentially misleading statistic since the more relevant fact is the chance of being murdered by a foreign-born terrorist in general, which is 1 in 3.6 million per year.

On the other hand, it doesn't matter because either figure shows the absurdity of the Skittles analogy.

PS: Trump hotels aren't so safe either.

### America and the “Splinter Cultures”

I've started reading Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer (about the fact that the British colonial settlers of North America were not a homogeneous group and could be divided into Puritans, Cavaliers, Quakers, and Borderers) and it sounded familiar. It resembles the Splinter Cultures of the Dorsai series by Gordon Dickson. The Friendlies were an analog of Puritans, the Cetans were an analog of Cavaliers, the Exotics were an analog of Quakers, and the Dorsai were an analog of Borderers.

One lesson we can learn from it is that the US was multicultural from the start.

### Specific Examples of Multiplying Maximum Extent by Maximum Intensity

If you want specific examples of the following stupidity:

There's also the belief that to determine the importance of anything, you can multiply its maximum extent by its maximum intensity.
you can consider the belief that open borders is a “dog whistle” for White genocide. If the extent of areas where white people can be found does not change but the maximum percentage goes from 100% to 90%, that means 10% of whites have been killed off, at least in StupidWorld. In addition, if another race is 100% in at least one area and can be found in all areas, that means it has taken over StupidWorld. (This also explains how the same people can claim that race X is taking over and that race Y is also taking over without seeing any contradiction.)

You can also find a similar idea in environmentalism. If at least one person has died because of pollutant X and if pollutant X can be found everywhere on Earth, that means the human race is done for … but enough about dihydrogen monoxide.

### General Political Stupidity

I've been trying identify the causes of political stupidity that are independent of sides. Two the commonest causes are: 1) the belief that there are only two sides; 2) ignoring the possibility of change.

#### If there only two sides …

If there are only two sides, politics becomes a zero-sum game. Anything done to the other side will not backfire and you will not offend potential allies. In addition, anybody dissenting from your platform must be a traitor.

#### If change won't happen…

If change won't happen, you can get away with treating human beings as chess pieces to be moved off, on, or around the board as desired and who won't actually react to that.

“High” and “increasing” are synonyms; “low” and “decreasing” are synonyms.

Today's anything can be projected into the indefinite past and future. You can assume historical controversies can be easily mapped onto today's.

Variation: Anything that does change, changes in the direction favorable to our side's argument.

#### Other causes

There are other causes. For example, there the always popular belief that pointing to the existence of a problem means the solution you're offering will work.

There's also the belief that to determine the importance of anything, you can multiply its maximum extent by its maximum intensity.

### We're Waiting

We were promised a sea-ice collapse! When will we get one?

### My Reaction to a Fark Headline

Fark recently ran the following capsule summary of a news item they were linking to:

Huge organization known for tripling and quadrupling down on mistakes, corruption, and bad policy endorses Presidential candidate who most closely emulates similar behavior
I honestly had no idea of which candidate they meant until I used the mouse-over.