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

Monday, November 23, 2015

Two Types of People Control

One side of the political spectrum reacted to the recent Paris attack by saying it's time for common-sense gun control. They would be more believable if they hadn't reacted to nearly any news by saying that it's time for common-sense gun control.

The other side of the political spectrum reacted to the recent Paris attack by saying it's time for common-sense border control. They would be more believable if they hadn't reacted to nearly any news by saying that it's time for common-sense border control.

Both sides are ignoring the fact that they're advocating people control. They're pretending that they just want to control something abstract or inanimate.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

More on Terrorists and the Refugee “Crisis”

As far as I can tell, the people behind ISIS are attempting to become so broadly hated that they will eventually be fighting everybody on Earth. They plan to put themselves in such a position that they can only be saved by a miracle. Maybe they're trying to force God's hand. (ObSF: Jamethon Black in Soldier, Ask Not by Gordon Dickson)

Of course, Syrian refugees aren't analogous to 1930s Jews; they're analogous to 1870s Catholics.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Few Questions about the Recent Terrorist Attack

In view of the fact that the recent attack was staged from Molenbeek, Belgium, a town with a very high unemployment rate and recently run by a left-wing nutcase mayor for a couple of decades, we should ask the following questions:

  1. Did any of the attackers have jobs? Preparing for such an attack must be rather time consuming. This won't be the first case of a connection between unemployment and terrorism.
  2. Was there any involvement on the part of traditional leftists? A generation ago, such attacks were usually carried out by Communists. (The rest of the time, they were committed by Irish nationalists.)
  3. We can continue with other questions: Could the attacks have taken place in an area where even a small fraction of the people were armed?
  4. Were the suicide vests a necessarily-temporary tactic? As I've said before, “Suicide bombing is an essential part of the Enemy's strategy. It's needed to convince us that deterrence won't work. (Deterrence played an important role in defeating the Soviet Union and they don't want a repeat.)” On the other hand, when Israel was faced with a plague of suicide bombers, they did not give in and eventually the Other Side ran out of people willing to exercise their right to self-detonation. It is, after all, very hard to recruit experienced suicide bombers.
  5. Was the apparent involvement of refugees a red herring? Carrying out such an attack requires an in-depth knowledge of the area and a refugee just off the proverbial boat would not have that.
In other words, counteracting such attacks might just be a matter of free the guns, cut the dole, and keep an eye on the anti-capitalist nutjobs.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Climate Change and Terrorism and Search and Replace

At Ed Driscoll at Instapundit is comparing the response to climate change and the response to terrorism and speculating that the responses of the mainstream media were produced by search and replace.

I'd be more inclined to take the people advocating emergency action to stop the climate-change crisis seriously if it weren't for the fact that most of the proposed actions (e.g, prohibiting “wasteful” devices) were advocated by the same people for years.

It's also a bit odd that people who usually congratulate themselves on opposing the Establishment are so much in favor of more regulations.

I'd be more inclined to take the people advocating emergency action to stop the terrorism crisis seriously if it weren't for the fact that most of the proposed actions (e.g, prohibiting “dangerous” immigration) were advocated by the same people for years.

It's also a bit odd that people who usually congratulate themselves on opposing the Establishment are so much in favor of more regulations.

Yes. There is much to be said in favor of writing using search and replace.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Rule of Thumb on Immigration

Nativists occasionally assert that a high rate of immigration is an unprecedented experiment. On the other hand, the US immigration in 1907 was 1.5% of the population. So … maybe we can admit up to 1.5% of the population each year. That's more than the current rate of immigration to Europe during this refugee “crisis.”

A potential problem: The above rule of thumb implies that the 2003 Iraq invasion was the 2003 Iraq immigration. This is oddly low for a successful invasion.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Brooklyn—the City of Light

In the early days of New York City, one of the proposed city plans included a plan that resembled what was eventually done with Paris:

Mangin laid out a pastiche of grids, of varying densities, at acute angles to each other, sensitive to natural contours.
That's what happened in Brooklyn. As far as I know, nobody has seriously called Brooklyn “the City of Light.”

The plan that didn't happen in NYC (but did happen in Paris) was an instance of a common phenomenon: A centrally-planned system that tries disguising itself by imitating the superficial aspects of an unplanned system. (ObSF: The Rediscovery of Man in Cordwainer Smith's SF)

Sunday, November 08, 2015

One Reason We Need Government-Free Science

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article by Matt Ridley (also see comments by Derek Lowe and ORAC) on the advantages of avoiding government-subsidized science.

One very important reason is that there is a suspicion that government-funded scientists are toeing a “Party Line“ and shading their research in politically-acceptable directions. For example, when the Koch brothers paid for the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study of global warming, the fact that it showed there has been global warming over the past few decades was far more believable than a similar study from the EPA.

The global warming fanatics have not been that eager to quote the Berkeley Earth study. Apparently, they would rather not give any credit to right-wing zillionaires. Their revealed preference is that class warfare has priority over “saving the planet.”

Thursday, November 05, 2015

A Possible Downside to Legalizing “Drugs”

According to Tom Trinko, leftists tend to be occasionally anti-authoritarian as a result of the illegality of some of their favorite substances. Does that mean legalizing said substances will make them even more authoritarian? On the other hand, legalizing drugs might make them less likely to vote.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Is Jumping to Conclusions an Olympic Event?

For some reason, a recent interview with Bill Gates has conservatives outraged.

If you read the actual article, you should notice that he's mainly recommending a combination of subsidies for increased energy research, longer patent protection for energy technology, and a carbon tax. If the carbon tax is based on the IPCC's average of peer-reviewed studies, it's $43/tC. That's 12¢ per gallon of gasoline.

In other words, the actual recommendations are compatible with capitalism. I'm dubious about the need for subsidized energy research on the grounds that such subsidies frequently increase costs and it's unnecessary if the other two steps are taken but that's a quibble.

Conservatives can identify nine out of five actual examples of socialism.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

How Much Kinetic Energy Is There in Continental Drift?

The Earth's mass is 5.972 × 1024 kg. The speed of continental drift is 2.5 cm/year. If we put that together and assume that the motions that lead to continental drift extend through the entire Earth, we get a value of the total kinetic energy of continental drift of 1.9 × 106 J (using \(E=\frac{mv^2}{2}\)). That's around ½ kilowatt hour or 450 kCal. That last is about the calorie count of a McDonald's Quarter Pounder Burger with Cheese.

Wait a moment… That doesn't sound right…

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Ninth Amendment Test Case

According to the Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
At first this looks like a conclusive argument against the complaints that the Supreme Court is following Amendment Pi of the Constitution, in magic invisible ink that only special people can see … until we consider the word “retained.”

A right to gay marriage, for example, was not retained; it was invented recently. On the other hand, a right to wear a hat (according to Theodore Sedgwick) was retained:

if the committee were governed by that general principle, they might have gone into a very lengthy enumeration of rights; they might have declared that a man should have the right to wear his hat if he pleased; that he might get up when he pleased, and go to bed when he thought proper.
Even despite the fact that a member of the First Congress described the right to wear a hat as a right that should not have to be enumerated, many states violate that right when it comes to issuing driver's licenses. This might be a suitable test case for the 9th Amendment.

I won't more than mention that driver's licenses also look problematic.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Tepid Equations

There's an attempt at applying the “Trolley Problem” at Technology Review. Should self-driving cars be programmed to swerve out of the way of a crowd even it it would mean running over an individual?

I'm not sure why that would be a problem in the real world. The forces needed to swerve are the same order of magnitude as the forces needed to stop. I won't more than mention that humans can survive a deceleration of 40g, which would bring a 55-mph car to a halt in 2.5 ft. Maybe instead of paying ethical philosophers, we should pay for better brakes.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Note on Brainworms

Tapeworms don't only infect intestines; sometimes they're found in brains:

The closer scientists look at the epidemiology of the disease, the worse it becomes. Nash and other neurocysticercosis experts have been traveling through Latin America with CT scanners and blood tests to survey populations. In one study in Peru, researchers found 37 percent of people showed signs of having been infected at some point. Earlier this spring, Nash and colleagues published a review of the scientific literature and concluded that somewhere between 11 million and 29 million people have neurocysticercosis in Latin America alone. Tapeworms are also common in other regions of the world, such as Africa and Asia. “Neurocysticercosis is a very important disease worldwide,” Nash says.

This may explain Third-World politics. Hookworm infections were common in the southeastern US back when they always voted for Democrats. Come to think of it, I'd like to know what infection swept Europe in the first half of the 20th century.

One implication: If Third-World politics are due to brainworms, then immigration from the Third World to places with flush toilets and sewage treatment plants will help get rid of Third-World politics.

The really bizarre reaction comes from nativists, for example the commenters at Instapundit:

Geez...good thing we are letting all of those illegal aliens potentially harboring such parasites into the country.

What could go wrong?

If such worms were likely to spread in this country, they would have done so long ago.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Star Wars Speculation

The historical model for the Star Wars series is obviously the French Revolution and its aftermath.

It starts with a revolution backed by the “money power” (i.e., the middle classes) followed by a megalomaniac seizing power temporarily. The Emperor Palpatine is clearly an analog of Napoleon. (That means, of course, that Darth Vader is an analog of Talleyrand.)

The next step will be a restoration of the Ancien Regime. There may be more revolutions later.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Solar Energy Is Not Always Associated with Hipsters

There is some evidence that the Kepler Space Telescope has found a star surrounded by solar-energy collectors (or, more likely, lots of asteroids). Some of my fellow wingnuts saw the word “solar” and figured the researchers must be hipsters trying to ignore nuclear energy. Well … Let's do some arithmetic.

The mass of the ocean is 1.4 × 1024 g. This is 1/9 hydrogen. Deuterium is 1 part in 104 of the hydrogen. Deuterium fusion can yield 3.4 × 1011 J/g. Multiplying them all out, we get 5 × 1030 J. The Sun emits 3.8 × 1026 J/s. Dividing that we see that the Sun puts out as much energy as fusing all the deuterium in Earth's oceans in 13,000 seconds.

Even if we assume we can fuse all the hydrogen in Earth's oceans (using imaginary technology), that would still only bring us to four years.

Compared to space-based solar, Earth-based nuclear energy is a wet firecracker.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Occupation and Immigration

As is well known, the occupation of Germany and Japan after World War II is generally considered a success. The German and Japanese populations didn't change but having American authority made the difference.

Putting previously violent peoples under American authority? Isn't that part of immigration? The example of the post-World-War-II occupation shows that sometimes institutions matter more than people. In other words, bringing THEM over here need not turn here into there.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Seveneves Calculation

In the novel Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, the Moon explodes, causing the surface of the Earth to become uninhabitable for 5000 years. There is a colony or two of humans who survive in deep mines. Let's calculate how deep the human hole goes.

The thermal diffusivity of rocks appears to be around 1 mm2/s. 5000 years is around 1.6 × 1011 seconds. You can expect the heat from the “hard rain” to diffuse to a depth of \(\sqrt{1.6\times 10^{11}}\) millimeters or 400 meters. Three times that distance should be safe, so the colony would only have to be \(\frac{3}{4}\) miles down. It might be doable.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Will the Chinese “Credit Scores” Backfire?

The Chinese “credit scores” might backfire. They might let dissidents know they aren't alone.

On the other hand, people with low credit scores will include both dissidents and real deadbeats. On the gripping hand, people sent to prison in the Soviet Union included both dissidents and real criminals. Even despite that, being sent to prison was sometimes considered a badge of honor in the Soviet Union.

Set paranoia bit to ON: What if this is being released by China for the purpose of encouraging the United States to crack down on “Big Data”? Such a crackdown might sabotage part of the US economy.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Why Are People Getting Fatter?

One theory is that it's due to changes in exposure to pesticides:

First, people are exposed to more chemicals that might be weight-gain inducing. Pesticides, flame retardants, and the substances in food packaging might all be altering our hormonal processes and tweaking the way our bodies put on and maintain weight.
If pesticide changes are the cause, does that mean that DDT prevents obesity? Or is it due to the cyclamate ban? There's even a possibility it's due to the absence of leaded gasoline. All of these might explain why humans are getting fatter and also why lab animals are getting fatter.

On the other hand, could it be due to the decline in red-meat consumption? On the gripping hand, that would not explain the lab-animal data.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

We're Waiting

Last August 11, I received the following email:

Fellow Investor,

On October 7, 2015 a single event will change world
history and alter the course of your life.

It will take place on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean —
more than 4,000 miles away.

And it will light the fuse on the single most devastating
economic catastrophe the world has ever seen ...

A calamity that will have an explosive impact on your
income, your investments and every penny you have
socked away for retirement.

I know this is an extreme prediction — so extreme in fact,
that few who read these words will heed them.

Which is why I've published a shocking new report,
"Black October 2015: The Final Reckoning."

In this shocking free report, I document three of the
Most powerful destructive forces in the economic universe
and show you how they are now converging in one
time and one place.

These are the same forces that have triggered every
financial boom and bust of our lifetimes. Today they are
coming together in a way that is far deadlier than anything
we've seen before.

Get all the details now in "Black October 2015."

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majority of investors will suffer crippling losses. Most
will never recover.

But a select few — the handful who understand the crisis
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You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to get the facts.

There isn't a moment to lose: Click this link and judge
for yourself. Please do it now, while there's still time.


Larry Edelson
Larry Edelson,
Senior Analyst, Real Wealth Report
So what's taking so long?

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

A What If Speculation

According to Ex Urbe, Pope Julius II was able to bring peace to central Italy by being a treacherous deceiver:

Outcome if Julius II had been virtuous:

Julius seals his pact with Cesare. After his election, he continues to treat Cesare as a close ally, allows him to control the papal army, and use it to continue waging war in central and northern Italy. Thousands if not tens of thousands die in combat and more from bandits and disease as the chaos continues. Cesare secures Romagna and the papal states, then turns on Florence, probably Modena and Ferrara too, on the Venetian land empire, shoring himself up more and more at the cost of chaos. In the end either the Emperor invades to check Cesare's rise, or Cesare grows strong enough to make his bid to be Julius' successor, and bloody civil war erupts whether Cesare wins or loses as he and the rest of Italy battle to see whether or not the papacy will indeed become a hereditary monarchy. Death toll: tens if not hundreds of thousands.

Outcome if Julius II is a treacherous deceiver:

Cesare is instantly removed. The wars in central Italy cease. The suddenness of the change makes it easy for provincial forces, as well as papal forces and city forces, to bring about some degree of stability. The shock of the suddenness of Julius' betrayal makes everyone else wary of causing trouble. Peace is instantly restored, the Borgia Kingdom eliminated, exiles restored, Florence protected. Death toll: Cesare Borgia, plus, perhaps, a few of his guards and associates.

I'm not sure that the virtuous outcome would have been that bad. The obvious prediction from a man of faith would be that God would strike down Cesare Borgia. In hindsight, we can see that was quite likely. Borgia was already disfigured by syphilis and would probably die a year or two later, leaving a disgusting corpse. One effect: Machiavelli writes The Prince but includes the easily observable fact that God strikes down evil princes just when they seemed most secure.

I'm not sure what effect that episode would have on the Protestant Reformation, which was just around the corner ….

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Out of What Bodily Orifice Did He Pull That Figure?

According to the Donald Trump Reality Distortion Field:

Illegal immigration is costing us more than $200 billion dollars a year just to maintain what we have.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Plastic Rings Fight Global Warming!

According to a recent study, sharks can fight global warming:

One of the sea turtles’ main food sources is seagrass, which store vast reservoirs of carbon within sediments. With more sea turtles consuming more seagrass, the carbon is unlocked and can be released into the earth’s atmosphere, thereby accelerating climate change.


“In the case of sharks and turtles, sharks eat turtles, which in turn eat seagrasses. But when sharks disappear, the turtles have a tendency to run wild and the seagrass ecosystems cannot sustain the turtle populations.

“The turtles overgraze, and, as a consequence, we’re seeing large reductions in seagrass carbon stocks.”

On the other hand, you don't need sharks to get rid of sea turtles, plastic rings can also do that:

Plastic marine debris affects sea turtles in numerous ways. Turtles caught in lost or abandoned plastic fishing gear may be injured or drowned. Those that mistake floating debris for food are at risk from intestinal compaction or tearing, digestive suppression, and exposure to chemical toxicants adsorbed by (accumulated on the surface of) the plastics. Leatherbacks, for example, are believed to mistakenly eat floating plastic bags instead of jellyfish, a primary food. Miscellaneous debris, such as plastic rings, can cut, maim or amputate limbs and cause severe and sometimes lethal infections. At least 100,000 marine animals are estimated to die as a result of plastic marine debris each year, a number that may increase dramatically with better estimates of mortality from marine debris affecting difficult-to-observe neonate sea turtles.

Drink a six-pack (in my case a six-pack of Diet Coke). You're doing it for Mother Earth.

Friday, October 02, 2015

This Is an OUTRAGE!

The Wall Street Journal's article on Ikea's test apartment is not illustrated with a photo of the apartment but a photo of a generic Ikea store. By the standards of the critics of the Planned parenthood videos, this clearly means that the article is fraudulent and the apartment does not exist!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Avoiding Conflict of Interest

The House of Representatives recently tried passing a bill about the composition of the Science Advisory Board (SAB), which provides scientific advice to the EPA Administrator that states:

Board members may not participate in advisory activities that directly or indirectly involve review or evaluation of their own work.
Some people have a problem with that. It might keep scientists from testifying about cutting-edge research. On the other hand, cutting-edge research tends to be unreliable. It takes a while for research to be properly checked.

This bill may help limit one of the most dangerous types of conflict of interest in scientific advice: scientists in love with their theories. It might even help limit the conflict of interest first noted in Genesis 41:33:

Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Everything Which Is Not Forbidden Is Compulsory

According to left-wing collectivists, we must take care of the refugees. According to right-wing collectivists, we must take stop anybody in our society from taking care of the refugees. (If you hire an illegal alien, you can be penalized.) Both sides agree that everything which is not forbidden is compulsory.

Maybe we should let people make their own decisions.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Refugee “Crisis” and Chesterton's Fence

A few decades from now, any laws passed in response to the Refugee “Crisis” will look like Chesterton's Fence. Maybe some fences really are pointless.

On the other hand, it's also worth checking to see if there were any identifiable protests like this post before removing them.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Is the Refugee Crisis Proof That the Nativists Are Right?

The wrong side of the Right has been treating the refugee crisis as conclusive evidence that BORDERS MUST BE CLOSED! I don't see it. The refugee situation is not ideal but it must be an improvement over staying home, otherwise they would not have come.

As for the worry about this as an invasion force, it's worth pointing out that the total number of refugees is less than 1% of the population of Europe. In the early 20th century the US absorbed over 1% of its population per year and we survived.

The usual nativist excuse for ignoring the early 20th-century precedent is that today's immigrants are different. On the other hand, we've heard that excuse before. It was used to close the gates in the 1920s. The nativists will not only have to explain that the immigrants are different, they will have to explain why they are differenter than last time.

To make matters worse, this crisis will be cited in the future as though it's evidence nativist theories cannot be challenged.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Explaining That RICO Lawsuit

As you may have heard, there's a petition for the Federal government to start a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) lawsuit against the alleged backers of alleged “climate deniers.” This may seem counterproductive, but the people in favor of the lawsuit assume that the “climate deniers” are obeying their corporate masters and if the Forces of Light can shut down those corporate masters, the “climate denier” movement will vanish.

In case you were wondering, right-wing intellectuals are not always obedient. I won't more than mention that the wider conservative movement is not a matter of following leaders.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Clocks Don't Alarm People

People alarm people.

My guess as to what happened: Ahmed built the homemade clock, took it to school, and showed it to his engineering teacher. After receiving some encouraging words, he went to his next class and said “Look at what I made!” The teacher there heard that as a threat.

As for Ahmed's reticence, I understand that is the appropriate response to police interrogation nowadays. Maybe his parents are Martha Stewart fans and he heard of what happened to her.

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