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



<< current
E-mail address:
jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com

My Earthlink/Netcom Site

My Tweets

My other blogs
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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

One Problem with Lawsuits over Inherited Art

The lawsuits over inherited art stolen by the Nazis might be used as a precedent by Palestinians claiming their land was stolen in 1948 or even by people claiming reparations for slavery. I have criticized such claims on Usenet (whatever happened to that?) on the grounds that

In the United States, events that occurred for than 40 years ago are regarded as part of the "dead past" and relegated to museums.
That might also apply here.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Should We Push Government Activity to Higher or Lower Levels?

Well… It depends. Government spending should usually be pushed to lower levels (when possible). The advantages or disadvantages of a new bridge, etc. can be seen more easily nearby, especially when it's paid for by the local people.

Government regulation, on the other hand, should sometimes be pushed to higher levels. It has very large externalities. For example, zoning laws in suburbs frequently increase rents in the inner city. In the other direction, anti-gentrification regulations push the upper middle class out of cities and increases commutation times. This even applies to national governments. The US ethanol mandate increases prices all over the world. If a UN resolution called for the US to stop the ethanol mandate I might even have a strange new respect for the UN.

I was reminded of this by the controversy over the attempt to have the Colorado state government rein in regulation of fracking by local governments.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Screening Immigrants

Screening immigrants might sound like a good idea (it's even part of American traditions too) but it can be easily abused. For example, the Page Act of 1875 was based on screening immigrants but, in practice, it was used to exclude Chinese women. (It was succeeded by the frankly bigoted Chinese Exclusion Act.)

If you're any type of conservative (whether paleocon, neocon, theocon, tea partier, 1% person), do you really want to bet that today's civil servants won't be prejudiced against people you want to admit?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Another Thought about Cultural Marxism

The Trump movement is causing me to take Cultural Marxism more seriously. I had earlier dismissed concerns about Cultural Marxism on the grounds that most of it was already present in the US. The Trumpkins are making me take Cultural Marxism seriously, not because of their arguments but because the are an example of the same phenomenon.

The earlier band of Cultural Marxists took ideas already present and gave them a slant that benefited the Soviet Union. For example, both “perople have the right to cross borders” and “people have the right to reject foreign influence” were already present in the US. The Cultural Marxists reconciled them by encouraging the idea that if you get to a place by land, you are thought to have a right to stay there and possibly even take it over. If you get to a place by water, you don't. (I've mentioned this before.) This makes Russian imperialism look more legitimate than imperialism from the rest of Europe.

Another effect of Soviet influence: The Soviet Union was an oil exporter, so they gained from anything that helped suppress energy production in the US. For example, suppressing nuclear energy would fit. Price controls on oil and natural gas would fit. Concern about the greenhouse effect would fit in the days before international agreements on climate change.

This influence went on hold for a decade while the Russians were unable to keep much secret. It has recently revived but they had to switch sides because, now that we have international agreements on climate change, they had to drop concern about the greenhouse effect. The Trump movement, in addition to being effectively allied with the Russians on other issues, includes a surprising number of people, judging by the comments here, who are willing to suppress fracking. I doubt if that's true of home-grown American conservatives. I didn't believe the Trump movement was backed by an oil exporting nation until I read those comments.

On the other hand, maybe I'm getting too suspicious.

Monday, August 08, 2016

A Note on New York's Clean Energy Standard

New York state's Clean Energy Standard actually includes support for nuclear energy (in a related story, Hell froze over).

On the other hand, it also includes s*bs!dies (of $17.48 per MW-hour). On the gripping hand, this might be justified if anthropogenic global warming really is a major problem. So… let's see how much this costs per ton of carbon. Natural gas (the major current competitor) emits 1.22 pounds of CO2 per kW-hour, there are 2204.62 pounds per metric ton, and 12 grams of carbon will produce 44 grams of CO2. Putting all that together, we get $115.82 per ton of carbon. This is more than the average estimate according to IPCC but is within the range. (You can tell the IPCC is doing actual science, unlike the IPCC worshipers with “science curiosity,” because they include error estimates.) The subsidies for “renewable” energy, on the other hand, are $45 per MW-hour. That's $298.17 per ton of carbon. This is pushing the upper envelope.

The implication for the intellectual honesty of anybody who complains about the $17.48 and ignores or applauds the $45 will be left as an exercise for the reader.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

My Party Nominated Samuel Burchard

In the current election, the best hope for Libertarians would be a right-leaning group that strongly distrusts the current Republican nominee, for example Mormons. So Gary Johnson said:

"I mean under the guise of religious freedom, anybody can do anything," Johnson said. "Back to Mormonism. Why shouldn't somebody be able to shoot somebody else because their freedom of religion says that God has spoken to them and that they can shoot somebody dead?"

Johnson concluded by saying he saw "religious freedom, as a category, of being a black hole."

This rivals Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

On Naming Institutions after Nasty People

At Yale, they're considering renaming buildings named after people who are currently considered nasty. On the one hand, we might not want to honor them. On the other hand, we should not simply erase them from history. My recommendation is to name nasty things after nasty people. For example:

  • The Pete Seeger Sewage Treatment Plant. (If idealists who defended slavery don't get a free ride, I see no reason idealists who defended Stalinism should get a free ride.)
  • The Karl Marx Toxic Waste Dump.
  • The LBJ postage due stamp.
An alternative possibility is to wait a century, look for things considered nasty in 2116 that the leaders of the renaming movement of 2016 were involved with and name the nasty stuff of 2116 after them.

We should vote on that now. If we wait until 2116, we might find the potential organizers in 2116 are unwilling to organize.

Friday, August 05, 2016

“Science Curiosity” Moves the Goalposts

Social scientists embarrassed at the fact that the most numerate people were unwilling to believe what they were told (which counts as irrationality in SocialScienceWorld) moved the goalposts from numeracy to science curiosity. People with more actual knowledge of science tended to be polarized about such issues as global warming or fracking. On the other hand, people with more “science curiosity” tended to be less polarized, i.e., they were more likely to agree with left-wing propaganda.

The important part is how science curiosity is measured. It's based on “whether people had read books about science, attended science events, or were inclined to read science news over other types of news.” That's a bit ambiguous. The books might include Nuclear Power Killed my Poodle (cited in Science Made Stupid) or Space–Time and Beyond and similarly for the events and the news items. We might be speaking of people who “f*cking love science” but don't know anything about it. Some of the other measures of science curiosity are even worse. People with science curiosity are more likely to watch TV shows about science and read news stories with “Surprising” in the title, i.e., they were more likely to read clickbait.

The clincher is that the article did not mention nuclear energy or GMOs.

I suspect this research simply means there is a correlation between gullibility and television watching.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016


The Republicans aren't the only party to nominate a caricature. The Libertarians have also done so. Apparently, Johnson took “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” as a dogma instead of a dumbed-down version of libertarianism. I hope he's not pro-gun control.

Some Republicans are holding their noses and voting for the Party. Some Democrats are holding their noses and voting for the Party. I'm a Libertarian and I will be holding my nose and voting for the Party.

On the other hand, Johnson has gone off drugs for the campaign. After he's been off drugs for a few more months, he might change his mind. (In case you were wondering, my response to “legalize it, don't criticize it” is “Let's do both!”)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

An Argument against the Bloggs Test

I frequently use the Bloggs test (the term “Bloggs test” comes from Princeton Review) to analyze studies:

  1. Figure out what Joe Bloggs (an average reader) would conclude from the report. If the report was strongly stated, it was probably either written by an activist who was trying to get people to believe that conclusion or by someone who based it on the activists' press releases.
  2. Determine the strongest potential piece of evidence that would point in the same direction. If that evidence were true, the report would have mentioned it.
  3. In the absence of such evidence being mentioned, conclude that it doesn't exist.
The problem with that is not everybody uses the strongest piece of evidence. For example, the commonest evidence cited that women can be great scientists (the career of Marie Curie) isn't the strongest evidence in that direction. Emmy Noether is a much better example.

I was inspired by the noted crackpot Jim Donald, who called the Bloggs test “the poster-girl principle.”

Friday, July 29, 2016

Trump vs. Agreements

Let's look at how Trump treats agreements. Trump:

  1. Pays little attention to the Constitution.
  2. Is willing to ignore treaties.
  3. Regards defaulting on bonds as an option.
  4. Has gone bankrupt several times.
  5. Is now on his third wife.
In other words, he regards agreements as simply irrelevant. Other politicians occasionally break their word. In Trump's case, it is a rule.

The only question is whether a State of the Union address from President Trump will include “How could you believe me when I said ‘I love you’ when you know I've been a liar all my life?” On the other hand, it might include “And, dear friends, if I'm elected, I'm all right, Jack—screw you all!”

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Downside of DNA Memory Storage

DNA memory storage has a potential downside. It might escape into the wild and recombine with bacterial genes. I'd hate to come down with a bad case of SQL.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

“Punch Back Twice as Hard”

Apparently if you tell people to punch back twice as hard, the different factions of your followers will start punching each other.

Maybe that isn't something to imitate.

On the other hand, maybe Bernie should have said “Vote your conscience.”

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Differences between Trump Supporters and the Globalists/Neocons/Establishment/Whatever

  • Both sides are concerned about foreign menaces. The Globalists/Neocons/Establishment/Whatever (GNEW) are concerned about foreign governments. The Trump supporters are concerned about foreigners underselling Real Americans.
  • Both are concerned about invasions. The GNEW are concerned about armies with guns shooting people. The Trump supporters are concerned about invasions of nannies, landscapers, and contract programmers.
  • Both sides believe there are limits to government. The GNEW believe those limits are set by a series of agreements such as constitutions or treaties. The Trump supporters believe those limits are set by imaginary lines on a map.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Public-Opinion Poll

“We're conducting a short public-opinion poll on current events. If you are registered to vote, please press 1.” I press 1.

“Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Obama administration? Please press 1 for favorable and 2 for unfavorable.” I press 2.

“Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Hillary Clinton? Please press 1 for favorable and 2 for unfavorable.” I press 2.

“Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Donald Trump? Please press 1 for favorable and 2 for unfavorable.” I press 2.

“If the election were held today, who would you vote for? Please press 1 for Hillary Clinton and 2 for Donald Trump.” I press 3.

“I'm sorry that was not a valid response. Please try again. If the election were held today, who would you vote for? Please press 1 for Hillary Clinton and 2 for Donald Trump.” I press 3.

“I'm sorry that was not a valid response. Please try again. If the election were held today, who would you vote for? Please press 1 for Hillary Clinton and 2 for Donald Trump.” I hang up.

A Few Notes on Trump vs. Cruz

Who's doing the half-time show?

To the Trump people: Cruz spent much of his career being called a bigot or a crackpot. Did you think a boo or two would faze him?

The wicked flee when no man pursues (Proverbs 28:1). Cruz did not come out either for or against Trump. He ended by taking about conscience. The fact that Trump supporters took that as being against Trump says something about their consciences.

The claims that Cruz destroyed his political career sound familiar.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Most Annoying Part of the Trump Movement

The most annoying part of the Trump movement is the propensity of Trumpkins to accuse any critic of Trump or his presumed policies of being the sort of leftist who just wants to fit in. For example:

Looks like even Reason contributors are worried about not being invited to the right cocktail parties.
OTOH, libertarians are anti-social malcontents. Not being invited to parties is a reward.

Along similar lines, they will accuse libertarians of being stoners. Speaking as a libertarian who hasn't used drugs, I find that very annoying indeed … especially since I used to walk out of parties when they started handing out “funny cigarettes” … in the 1970s … at SUNY @ Stony Brook. Admittedly, it doesn't take much to get me to leave a party.

The worst part is when they accuse conservatives who have been called names by leftists for years of being afraid of being called names. That would indicate that the Trumpkins are not exactly people who have been following conservatism.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Social Science Done Right

File at eleven…

There's a common technique in psychological research: Researchers give the experimental subjects fabricated data. Much of the time, the subjects refuse to believe it. This is classified as irrational behavior.

There is a paper that avoids this problem. Instead of assuming that justified skepticism is irrational, they test for gullibility. As a bonus they also use a large sample size and look at more than one end of the political spectrum. Maybe this should embarrass the social scientists treat skepticism as irrational of use small sample sizes or look at just one end of the political spectrum.

In case you were wondering, they find gullibility all over.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Different X Each Time

I would take warnings that antibiotic X is last recourse and bacteria are becoming resistant to it more seriously if it weren't a different X each time.

I would take warnings that corporation X is eliminating all competition more seriously if it weren't a different X each time.

I would take warnings that nation X is overtaking capitalist America more seriously if it weren't a different X each time.

I would take warnings about the dangers of immigrant group X more seriously if it weren't a different X each time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Counterexample to the Bayesian Truth Serum

The Bayesian Truth Serum looks like one of the best possible ways to get judgments that avoid the problem of “groupthink.” There's only one minor problem: Groupthink isn't the only human failure mode.

According to the Bayesian Truth Serum, the most reliable judgments are those that are more common than people expect. (The expected common judgments are those caused by groupthink.) The most recent cases of that are the Trump movement and Brexit. I'm not sure about Brexit, but the Trump movement is an example of something recommended by the Bayesian Truth Serum that does not reflect good judgment.

The Trump movement avoids groupthink but it is an example of System I thinking. It follows the instinctive premises present in each human mind.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

How to Stop Homophobia

It's quote simple. According to Jay Friedman, a taste for spices is incompatible with homophobia. According to J. Klinesmith, T. Kasser, and F. T. McAndrew, touching guns causes people to use more spices. All we have to do is provide more more gun licenses.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

What Is America? Part II

Ideally, America is a place where you get to make your own decisions instead of having them made for you by either your neighbors or a bureaucracy. In particular, it's a place where you have the right to not bake cakes or take photographs for people whose lifestyles you disapprove of.

On the other hand, one political party wants regulations that say you MUST make some deals and the other wants regulations that say you MUST NOT make some deals. Everything not forbidden is compulsory.

Also see Part I.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Anti-Inductive Phenomena and Baire Category

I've mentioned on occasion that markets are anti-inductive. There is a connection between anti-inductive phenomena and one of the more apparently-useless branches of mathematics: point-set topology.

You can think of real numbers as sequences of digits. It turns out that the set of real numbers corresponding to anti-inductive sequences is a dense Gδ point set, i.e., the complement of a set of first category.

Maybe someday we'll also find a use for the Banach–Tarski paradox.

Monday, July 04, 2016

What Is America?

Ideally, America is a place where you get to make your own decisions instead of having them made for you by either your neighbors or a bureaucracy. In particular, it's a place where you have the right to hire foreigners, rent to foreigners, buy from foreigners, and sell to foreigners.

I have to mention that latter point because some people regard those rights as some kind of giveaway to the foreigners.

Addendum: Part II is up.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Neil deGrasse Tyson Has a Bit of a Point

Neil deGrasse Tyson's suggestion for the constitution of Rationalia

Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence
has come in for mostly justified criticism on the grounds that some political controversies are about values rather than beliefs.

On the other hand, some people make the opposite mistake. For example, Donald Trump and supporters think the free-trade controversy is a matter of some people being disloyal to America rather than believing free trade is better for Americans. (As for the actual merits of free trade… From a factual point of view, it has not caused a decline in American manufacturing. From a theoretical point of view, every dollar sent overseas come back eventually.)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

What Brexit is About

It is a matter of locally-sourced, artisanal government. Does this mean I have to hate it now?

On the other hand, the proposal for the UK to join the US reminds me of the following line from The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand: “If you're sick of one version, we push you into the other.”

On the gripping hand, national governments serve a very important purpose: They protect the world from each other.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Anti-Anti-Trump Rhetoric and Other Controversies

There's a common trope on the anti-anti-Trump side: that it's bad idea to call the other side “idiots.” (This was earlier discussed here.) If calling people “idiots” is a bad idea … How are we supposed to characterize opponents of nuclear energy or GMOs?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Why Use Negotiated Agreements Instead of Unilateral Free Trade?

Any democratic nation that tries unilateral free trade will find it's opposed by people who think of trade as a giveaway to foreigners. In order to prevent that, we use negotiated agreements instead. Most voters are willing to accept the possibility of gaining from exports to the other side (until they stop trusting governments).

In other words, when Donald Trump and allies criticize NAFTA or TPP on the grounds that the treaties involved are a bureaucratic boondoggle, they are offering to rescue us from a problem they caused.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Few Comments on Brexit

Judging by the effect of Brexit on the pound, Britain has just voted itself the low-cost producer of nearly everything.

“Which is better—to be ruled by one tyrant three thousand miles away or by three thousand tyrants one mile away?“—Mather Byles

Question: Is the Brexit vote for or against free trade? The Brexit supporters seem to disagree.

Addendum: I forgot to add that a year ago, I would have applauded this. Now …

Thursday, June 23, 2016

What Kind of World Are We Going to Have When These People Graduate?

What kind of world are we going to have when students who have been protected from American traditions graduate?

In view of the fact that Trump did better in “blue” states and in view of the fact that Trump supporters are very well informed on the latest antics of Social Justice Warriors but have only a superficial grasp of free-market economics, maybe what we'll get is President Trump.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

R-Selection, k-Selection, and Politics

There's a common theory that left-wing ideologies are correlated with r-selected genes and right-wing ideologies are correlated with K-selected genes. This is rather dubious, at least as far as the present line-up of American politics is concerned.

The current home of left-wing ideologies appears to be among descendants of Puritans whereas the current home of right-wing ideologies appears to be among descendants of Borderers. The conflict may seem strange considering that both groups started out as Calvinist. On the other hand, the Puritans were obviously K-selected and the Borderers were obviously r-selected. Maybe the theory made sense back in the days of Andrew Jackson or William Jennings Bryan.

My earlier comments on this can be found here.

My Blogger Profile
eXTReMe Tracker X-treme Tracker

Site Meter
The Atom Feed This page is powered by Blogger.