All sides in politics these days seem to think that it is a good idea to include and endorse any argument or “evidence” that appears to support their own cause, no matter how stupidly outlandish or unreliable the purported argument or evidence may be. Such overreach should be counterproductive by virtue of undermining the credibility of the presenter among potential supporters, but sadly it seems too often to actually get taken up by them (while rightly bringing ridicule from the other side) and so just ends up further entrenching both sides in ever more ridiculous positions.

A recent example occurs in this WaPo article about far-right anti-LGBTQ2S+++ activist Chaya Raichikcle, where it is alleged that she “pushed the false accusation that schools were installing litter boxes in bathrooms for children who identify as cats”. If that allegation is true, then of course the accusation (which I think we can all agree is certainly false) would indeed be an example of overreach by Ms Raichikcle. But I strongly suspect that it is in fact the reverse, and that the overreach is by WaPo author Taylor Lorenz in that the purported accusation was merely a joke.

Source: Libs of TikTok has become a major presence in Oklahoma’s schools – The Washington Post

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Another run at the Twin “Paradox”

What’s with the “if” in this question? And what do you mean by the word “co-moving” other than perhaps stationary with respect to one another?
The standard version of the Twin “Paradox” starts with two twins, who are obviously “co-moving” in that sense at birth, and a distant star which is also “co-moving” (ie stationary with respect to the twins). Then at some point one of the twins travels to the star and back (usually with unspecified periods of acceleration and mostly constant speed in both directions).
Any correct application of Special Relativity predicts that when they re-unite the traveller is younger. The age difference can be calculated in terms of any frame of reference and (for any specified acceleration history – including that of instantaneous speed jumps) the answer is always the same so there is no real paradox.
The alleged “paradox” arises only in the mind of someone who notices that the traveller perceives the homie to have been ageing more slowly during the constant-speed legs of the trip and then just ignores the fact that the traveller also perceives a sudden rapid ageing of the homie during the turn-around. (During that turn-around the traveller feels the force of acceleration and so is aware of being in a non-inertial frame, whereas the homie feels no such forces. So the situation is definitely NOT symmetrical.)

Source: (1001) Alan Cooper’s answer to How do you solve the Twin Paradox if everyone (including the waypoint) is co-moving at the get-go? – Quora

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Genes are Blueprints

This essay suggesting that “it’s time to replace the genetic blueprint idea” seems to be confounding the genome itself with its expression. For while the genome as a whole only implicitly and incompletely specifies the overall structure and behaviour of an organism, it does basically comprise a library of what are almost literally (and certainly much more than figuratively) actual blueprints for component proteins which fit together like a jig-saw puzzle (though perhaps one with more than one “solution”) to create parts including organelles and ribosomes which open successive volumes in the library and continue the process of expression to construct ever more complex parts which eventually culminate in the entire organism.

So, although I empathize to some extent with the political motivation here, I think that, as often happens, the desire to correct an overly simplistic interpretation has through its own overreach led to a less than credible attack on the basic validity of the metaphor.

Source: Why it’s time to replace the genetic blueprint idea | Aeon Essays

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Godel’s Gibbs Lecture


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Gödel, God, and the Afterlife

In addition to his amusing “proof” of the existence of God, Kurt Gödel also argued for belief in an afterlife in letters written to his mother. But I don’t share the view, expressed by Alexander T Englert in this Aeon Essay, that “because the correspondence was private, he did not feel the need to hide his true views, which he might have done in more formal academic settings and among his colleagues at the IAS”.  On the contrary I suspect that he knew well that the arguments were not valid and just used them as a comfort for his mother to alleviate her distress – probably not at death itself but at the fact that they lived far apart and he was unwilling to travel to see her.

Source: Kurt Gödel, his mother and the argument for life after death | Aeon Essays

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A Terrible Mistake in the Making?

While there needs to be a broad campaign emphasizing that Trump is a threat to the rule of law it should be something that Joe Biden actually refrains from making any comment on so that he can remain above the perceptions of mere name-calling and muckracking. Rather he should continue to focus on policy differences and economic performance.

Source: Joe Biden Makes Saving Democracy the Center of His Campaign | The New Yorker

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Why do people say race isn’t real? 

People who say “race isn’t real” do so because they are so unbelievably lazy that they are prepared to just spout a manifestly silly slogan rather than do the work of explaining what racists get wrong. They do this even though that silly slogan flies in the face of what their intended audience sees as “common sense”, and so is less rather than more likely to change anyone’s mind; and in fact it just serves to reinforce their previous ideas and to extend their rejection of “wokeism” in any progressive position.

The attempt to dress this laziness up in “scientific” clothes by an appeal to authority based on the fact that modern biologists and population geneticists rarely use the term (mainly due to its socio-political baggage rather than due to any problem in giving it a “scientific” definition) just adds to the harm done because it undermines the credibility of science in general.

Source: (1001) Alan Cooper’s answer to Why do people say race isn’t real when there are clearly physical differences between one race to another? – Quora

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The ‘precolonial’ histories of all continents are richly varied and at least partly colonial

I agree that the idea of ‘precolonial Africa’ is Eurocentric, and that in versions which imply that pre-Eurocolonial Africa was simple and homogeneous it is insultingly vacuous and wrong. But Africa is not alone in being so insulted, and on the other hand many students of ‘precolonial Africa’ as well as the similarly misnamed ‘precolonial America’ and (to a lesser extent) ‘precolonial Australia’ and (to a greater extent) ‘precolonial Asia’ do indeed recognize the diversity of those cultures and histories.

Also, I find it a bit ironic that the other side of that Eurocentric misnaming is the implication that colonialism is a uniquely European invention; as in fact all those pre-Eurocolonial histories are replete with instances of colonial and other imperialism – many of which give Eurocolonialism a substantial run for its money as being the most offensive.

Source: The idea of ‘precolonial Africa’ is vacuous and wrong |  Essays

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J D Vance may be Trump’s Successor

Cruz and even deSantis have too much of an “elite” manner to take over the mantle but Vance has more of the people touch.

His autobiography (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillbilly_Elegy), which has already been made into a movie, takes a more nuanced view than he now seems to be espousing, so it’s not clear where he really stands. But I think he has the capacity to appeal to Trump’s base – and then to take it God knows where.

Source: Opinion | How a senator’s stunt proved the Trump dictatorship theory – The Washington Post

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Keep the Pickton Evidence

The possibility of looking at this evidence in new ways or in conjunction with new information should never be abandoned so long as there is any chance that some surviving collaborator or negligent investigator is still around to have at least the fear that it may someday be used against them.

Source: Western Canada: Family, advocates strongly opposed to RCMP’s move to destroy evidence in Pickton case – The Globe and Mail

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Do You See What I See?

I think the author of this article doesn’t really make his case with the dress example as immediately after saying “none of this explains why the visual systems of different people would automatically infer different ambient light” he adds that “one predictive factor seems to be a person’s typical wake-up time: night owls have more exposure to warmer, indoor light” which I would take as a perfectly good possible explanation of why different people make different inferences without any need for attributing that to innate differences in their visual systems per se.

Another point in the article that interests me is the reference to ‘aphantasia’. I’ve seen quite a few references to this recently, but am not convinced that it is real as opposed to being just a difference in how different people interpret the difference between an imagined scene and one that is actually seen. I have never had the experience of an imagined object being anything near so vivid as to be indistinguishable from reality, and so could perhaps think of myself as aphantastic; but on the other hand I have no reason to assume that others see their imaginings as more real than I do. Does anyone really “see” what they imagine with anything like the intensity of what they actually see in the real world? And if so, how would one quantify the difference so as to decide whether or not I am relatively aphantastic?

Source: The moral imperative to learn from diverse phenomenal experiences | Aeon Essays

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Tesla Autopilot safety

I don’t understand why they could not just have the autopilot disabled by default and only enabled when gps indicate that the vehicle is on a road which has been approved as safe for its operation.

Source: Tesla recalls 2 million cars with ‘insufficient’ Autopilot safety controls – The Washington Post

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The ‘Canadian’ Solution

Two nations in one state? Yes, Biden’s proposal is not quite that, but it does suggest a path to that end. The way I would extend it is for Israel to take full control of North Gaza, quickly set up safe areas and hospitals, and after expurgating Hamas, invite those who have fled South to return to a region under Israeli control with full citizenship rights in a new state whose constitution provides for two “provinces”, one speaking Hebrew (and probably mostly of the Jewish religion), and one speaking Arabic (and probably mostly Muslim), with a polyglot ‘district’ (like the USA’s capital region) around Jerusalem which would remain forever under (and might become the new centre of) UN administration. The boundaries I would suggest are somewhere between the 1947 plan and the current reality, but some kind of local option would determine the actual boundaries.

Source: U.S. Presses Israel to Set Up Safe Areas During Coming Pause in Gaza War – The New York Times

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What might NuScale’s cancellation mean for Ghana and other nuclear aspirants?

Source: What might NuScale’s cancellation mean for Ghana and other nuclear aspirants?

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John Clauser won a Nobel Prize. Then he started denying climate change. – The Washington Post

Source: John Clauser won a Nobel Prize. Then he started denying climate change. – The Washington Post

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Can Solar and Wind Suffice? 

This update of David MacKay’s numbers suggests that it may be possible to eliminate CO2 emissions (at least in the UK) without relying on an extended period of nuclear power use.

But on the other side of the coin we have a more pessimistic view of wind power prospects.


Can solar and wind power Britain? An update of David MacKay’s numbers

BP’s renewables boss calls U.S. offshore wind industry ‘fundamentally broken’

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Secularism in Iran 

I agree that Secularism in Iran is not just a form of Western ‘imperialism’, but was surprised to see no mention in that Aeon Essay of what I would consider to be the indigenous Iranian analogues (and precursors!) of “Western” secularism.

Far from being an import from “the West”, I was under the impression that the idea of religious tolerance and substantial separation of church and state has deep roots in Iran – dating back to the Achaemenid empire of Cyrus the Great and having significant effect on the relative openness of Persian Islam at various stages in its history. Many people I met in Iran, as well as expats in North America, have expressed pride in this tradition and resentment of the current regime (without needing to quote Westerners like Locke in support of their views).

Source: Secularism in Iran is not just a form of Western ‘imperialism’ | Aeon Essays

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Those Damned Chinese!

When we get tired of complaining about their coal-fired electric plants we can always turn to the fact that China’s Spending on Green Energy Is Causing a Global Glut – WSJ

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Misunderstanding Concentration of Wealth

In How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Fame, the editors of The Economist  (of all people!) display a complete misunderstanding of the economics of wealth concentration. In particular, they allege that “. . the famous folk complaining the loudest about the new technology are the ones who stand to benefit the most. Far from diluting star power, AI will make the biggest celebrities bigger than ever . . .”

I am not taking any position on whether or not the use of AI will actually lead to this concentration of audience interest but if it does then I would say that the current crop of media stars actually do have a lot to worry about.

In fact, just as in any other case of a technological or social change leading to more concentrated ownership of limited resources (in this case attentive audience members – aka eyeballs), those who are currently at the top of the heap actually have the most to lose as only a small fraction of the current “stars” will become the next round of “superstars” – with the rest actually losing rather than gaining and falling back closer to those they just pulled ahead of in the previous round.

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What is a ‘fair’ carbon-price approach?

The principle of a universal Carbon tax should never have been violated and any weakening of its application invites others to follow.

The debacle caused by the Liberal government’s bizarre introduction of a partial exemption could have easily been avoided by thinking first about what goal it was supposed to achieve.

If the goal was to provide some relief for Canadians who have experienced higher home heating cost inflation than the rest of us, then the solution should just have been to provide such relief by direct payments on that basis directly without any reference to the Carbon tax.

The rebate could be calculated as some function of the difference between per btu home heating cost increase over the previous year and the national average for that increase.

This would have had the benefit of applying fairly to all of us on a basis other than mere geography or specific fuel type and with clarity as to why those who benefit deserve special treatment.

It may end up having the same geographically distributed effect this year but the justification for such inequality would be apparent in its method of calculation and the universality of the Carbon price would not have been compromised.

Is there any chance of persuading the government to roll back its current misguided tax exemption and replace it with such a fair and principled approach?


Source: Premiers unite to appeal for ‘fair’ carbon-price approach – The Globe and Mail

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