2024-02-13

The parable of the Antheap and the Anteater

escher In Godel Escher Bach there is a story about an Ant Heap. I think it's a conversation between Achilles and the Anteater, but I could be misremembering. Anyway, the Anteater tells Achilles about his friend the Antheap, called - if I recall correctly - Hillary. And explains that whilst ants are individually stupid, as a hive entity they are collectively worth talking to. And, in response to Achilles being surprised that the Antheap wasn't afraid of him, an anteater, he notes that Hillary would often offer him juicy ants to eat. The death of a few ants was of no consequence to Hillary, who was the heap, not the individual ants.

But alas one day a disaster occurred: a rainstorm washed the heap away, destroying all the order. Not a single ant died, but the Heap aka Hillary was no more.

In GEB the analogy is to processes of conciousness. But I think it works as a loose analogy between individual human beings and cultures1. We might save all the individual people from a given culture - for example, by moving them, or allowing them to move, from a war zone to some place of safety; but in the process so dilute them amongst others that their culture is lost. Or we might kill any number of people, whilst preserving the overall culture2. And so attached to their culture - mistakenly, in my opinion - are some people that they might even prefer the latter option. In our liberal-democratic way we'd like to pick both options, and save all the culture and all the people; but we've not very good when both aren't possible. In theory, I think, we would and should prioritise the individuals, preferring to treat people as individuals rather than members of tribes. But of course, what do I mean "we", White Man?

Notes

1. Spare me the tedious outrage of comparing people to ants. No, I'm not.

2. In fact this option is illusory; culture is not preserved in this circumstance, only tatters of it.

Refs

Torture and Terrorism (2006).

Ban it harder! An unwelcome new trend in British politics - Economist.

The Welfare State as Extended Warranty - Bryan Caplan.

Linda the Bank Teller Versus Freedom - Bryan again.

* The New Hereditarian Man: You Cannot Eliminate Envy by Brian Chau. 

2024-02-12

AMOC tipping points of no return

DJI_0112 I remember - vaguely - the good ol' dayes when I used to talk about climate. So let's consider The Conversation's Atlantic Ocean is headed for a tipping point − once melting glaciers shut down the Gulf Stream, we would see extreme climate change within decades, study shows. Not all of it of course, and don't let me fool you into thinking that I've read it. And, as ever, you should prefer RealClimate's take.

Briefly, while this is a time-dependent (~300 year) simulation, the time is not intended to represent any real set of calendar years; instead we start from pre-industrial and increment freshwater, until it "tips" at ~0.6 Sv. The main novelty then is the slow-running time; previous goes at this have tended to dump in the freshwater rather more suddenly, which may have its own effects.

But what's not at all clear from The Conversation, and which only appears rather belatedly in the RC piece, is from the discussion in the paper itself: "In the CESM simulation here, AMOC tipping occurs at relatively large values of the freshwater forcing. This is due to biases in precipitation elsewhere in the models and mainly over the Indian Ocean (37). Hence, we needed to integrate the CESM to rather large values of the freshwater forcing [∼0.6 Sv, about a factor 80 times larger than the present-day melt rate of the Greenland Ice Sheet (55)] to find the AMOC tipping event" to which SR is obliged to reply "in this model, like in most models, you need to add an unrealistic amount of freshwater, because they are in the wrong part of the stability diagram compared to what observational data imply". That doesn't fill me with confidence. What, you wanted more analysis?

Refs

Hothouse tipping elements of no return.

* Nurture: Climatologist Michael Mann wins defamation case: what it means for scientists. But "Jury awards Mann more than US$1 million — raising hopes for scientists who are attacked politically because of their work" is optimistic: the bar, at least in the States, is very high for defamation.

Tipping Is Optional - arch of WUWT post by WE

* Eating Animals and the Virtues of Honesty - Lab-grown meat as a way out of our greatest ethical dilemma - RH

2024-02-11

History is bunk

PXL_20240210_121912854 Or so said Ford. Or somewhat more exactly, "History is more or less bunk. It is tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s dam is the history we make today. That’s the trouble with the world. We’re living in books and history and tradition. We want to get away from that and take care of today. We’ve done too much looking back. What we want to do and do it quick is to make just history right now". One wouldn't want to push that interpretation too hard; some of my best friends are historians; there is nothing wrong with knowing history. But there is a lot wrong with obsessing over it; gathering round the fire and beating stones together and beating antique grievances into your children's heads.

And so on to Putin, who apparently - I haven't read it - answered "why did you invade Ukraine" with a half hour history essay. The usual silly people have done the usual silly things - fact checking it - which is to miss the point: that simply thinking this way is wrong. It is the sort of thinking that leads to The Troubles; or the wars in the Balkans - take your pick as to exactly which ones - or the Palestinians deciding it would be an excellent idea to kill as many Israelis as they could. This is no great original insight; others have said much the same.

2024-01-30

Move to sustainable food systems could bring $10tn benefits a year, study finds?

PXL_20240129_203143816 Sez the Graun; h/t Timmy. With subhead "Existing production destroys more value than it creates due to medical and environmental costs, researchers say". The Graun, being idiots, don't link to the study in question; it is from new bois on the bloc foodsystemeconomics.org but has familiar PIK-type fingerprints on it. And no the Graun are not making up their subheads, the report contains "The costs of current food systems are far larger than their contribution to global prosperity".

But how is it possible for the food system to destroy more value than it creates, given that without it we would all literally starve to death? I'm assuming they're using "value" in the human context here. No humans - or only a few residual hunter-gather-peasant-ag folk - means that value has gone to zero.

The report doesn't actually say. Indeed, as far as I can tell it doesn't count the benefits, only the costs, so I can't see they have any basis for their claim. They assert $15T in costs, of which $11T are from health; and they further say that "A large share of this burden is born by people living with obesity" so this is all bollocks1, because they've failed to event attempt to back up their claim, and because the solution to obesity is to eat less, not to rebuild the world food system.

Notes

1. Also I hate the phrase "living with obesity" which is pathetic.

Refs

Is the ECS very high? - ATTP on SH. Hint: no.

Where did your genetic ancestors come from?

* You asked me what's my pleasure "A movie or a measure?" I'll have a cup of tea And tell you of my Dreamin'... People stop and stare at me We just walk on by We just keep on dreamin'... Imagine something of your very own Something you can have and hold I'd build a road in gold just to have some Dreamin'

NEVER BRING A STICK TO A KNIFE FIGHT

You Don't Hate Polyamory, You Hate People Who Write Books - ACX. "You live in a world choked with ideas, where anything that rises to your consideration has necessarily won a Darwinian battle among hyper-specialized memetic replicators competing for your attention".

Which side believes in more misinformation? - RH.

2024-01-26

A Muslim faith leader calls for stronger moral leadership in the Middle East?

IMG_20240126_091739_213 Shamelessly and I think unironically posted in the Economist (arch). It is the usual lazy unthinking tripe that such people can spew out by the yard, largely recycled from other people's tripe.

What is actually needed in the Middle East, and arguably lots of other places as well, is for most people to stop caring so much about other people's problems1. I've kinda said this already so I suppose I should expand a little. Our Writer writes We need moral leadership from religious figures on all sides: a determination to condemn not just the violence against “our own”, but also by those who claim to act on our behalf and this isn't true; what instead all these people should do is Fuck Off and remove the beams from their own eyes. The Middle East is notable for dictatorships and corruption (errm, with at least one obvious exception), expecting it to provide moral leadership is absurd.

In particular the idea that <people of religion X> should care deeply about <other people of religion X> is stupid tribalism that the world would be better without. But alas that kind of idea is not one that a "faith leader" is going to put forward. Even phrasing it as "messages which explicitly seek to acknowledge the “other”" is wrong. He is in favour of "diplomacy of the heart" but this is dumb; it is what leads to the "ambassador recalls, trade suspensions" which he condems; what is actually needed is heads, not hearts.

The poster children for this nonsense are the Houthi clowns, who despite being dirt poor and indeed only propped up by aid, nonetheless use their valuable resources to fire missiles into the sea. The West is, tiredly, knocking them back a bit; eventually we will get bored and knock them back further.

Speaking of corruption, South Africa comes to mind, and the recent ICJ case; wherein I find "The Court considers that, with regard to the situation described above, Israel must, in accordance with its obligations under the Genocide Convention, in relation to Palestinians in Gaza, take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article II of this Convention, in particular: (a) killing members of the group;...". This is obvious nonesense too; Isreal, as everyone agrees, will inevitably kill some civilians if operations continue; the only way to satisfy this would be to stop, which the court didn't order. If we read the judgement less literally to only mean "act in accordance with the convention" then that's just meaningless, because that obligation already exists.

Aid to Gaza and beyond at risk of collapse due to funding cuts, says UNRWA

Sez the Graun. And you'll find simimilar elsewhere no doubt. What's entirely missing is a thought that they are trying very hard to avoid thinking, and so blinkered are they that they have succeeded. The thought is "hmm, I wonder, just possibly, are there any other nations other than the West, just possibly some geographically close, who might have large amounts of dosh sloshing around that they could give? Nations that have, nominally at least, expressed great concern for the plight of the Palestinians". Another thought that is not being thought: though much of this goes to buy aid, much of it goes to salaries. But the Gazans receiving those salaries don't have a lot of other career options at the moment, so may as well continue working for nowt, or for promises - the Graun expresses concern about schoolteaching, for example.


Notes

1. You may perhaps think that I'm being hypocritical here. Not so! While I'm "happy" to spectate, I don't-if-I'm-honest really care much about these people's problems.

Refs

Hamas attack: US pauses UNRWA funding over claims of staff involvement.

"We could seat her on the block," I told the alcalde. I could not resist adding, "It's more suited to that anyway."

2024-01-17

Priests and cannibals

PXL_20240106_164326486 Priests and cannibals, prehistoric animals / Everybody happy as the dead come home, as Shriekback put it. However once again I am going to disappoint you, because other than some vague flavour that has little to do with the topic of this post.

Which is Why American cities are squalid, a subject on which everyone has an opinion. The piece, while wrong in its conclusions, isn't too bad, given its progressive-type biases (e.g. "A removal of resources for the majority, because of concerns over “misuse” by less than 1% of residents. I’m not saying those concerns aren’t well-founded" but if those concerns are well founded, you shouldn't have reflexively put scare quotes around misuse, you should have been honest enough to simply use the word). So after long revelling in the problems of having the homeless around, he notices that the system has no great trouble enforcing regulations at other times: "My favourite taco place was closed down twice during my short stint in LA, for bureaucratic reasons". And yet he fails to see the answer: the system, the police, are really bad at enforcing the law for people that won't obey, that have nothing to lose. Which in turn is part of the endless need for oversight; the failure to trust people on the spot. Which in turn is part of the awful modern reluctance of people to live with their choices. See-also Ban it harder! An unwelcome new trend in British politics in the Economist.

Refs 

Good, Bad, and Terrible Options - EconLib

The number one driver of 21st century “populism” in the West is...

How I Learned to Love the American Empire

The Reactionary Case for Democracy - worth a read, but the Nietzschean part is speculative and doesn't seem to be necessary for what follows

Why the Technocapital Machine is Stronger than DEI

The Republican Party is Doomed

Populism Makes Worse People

Making a Difference and Serving the Public

* Some Unintuitive Properties Of Polygenic Disorders - ACX

2024-01-03

Sandel: Liberalism and the Limits of Justice

PXL_20240103_204600160~2Welcome to 2024. We start with a light post, on the topic of Michael "Meritocratic" Sandel's early work, indeed his first book, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. The book is misnamed; it should be called "A commentary on Rawl's A Theory of Justice". The introduction claims "This is an essay about liberalism" but this is a lie, too. I have the first edition, from 1982. Sandel got his doctorate from Oxford in 1985, so technically we overlapped. 

I wasn't happy with Rawls (see here and following) finding it a mixture of wrong and incoherent. Sandel doesn't make me any happier, though he does illuminate one key incoherence, for which I'm grateful.

There's some initial discussion about the "Primacy of Justice". What it doesn't discuss, and I was expecting at least a nod in this direction, was whether we can a priori know that some system of justice is going to feature as an organising principle of society. It is hard to see how it couldn't, but that doesn't usually stop people from talking about things. So, we start off assuming that some principles of justice are required, and there's some discussion - which I'll skip - about whether justice is "prior" or not.

Chapter 2 hastens to make the same mistake that Sandel repeats in his Tyranny of Merit. We start by quoting Rawls:
Even if it works to perfection in eliminating the influence of social contin gencies, it still permits the distribution of wealth and income to be determined by the natural distribution of abilities and talents. Within the limits allowed by the background arrangements, distributive shares are decided by the outcome of the natural lottery; and this outcome is arbitrary from a moral perspective. There is no more reason to permit the distribution of income and wealth to be settled by the distribution of natural assets than by historical and social fortune (73-4).
But this isn't true. There is such a reason, and Sandel knows it full well, since footnote 1 on p 72 is "I leave aside those versions of meritocracy that would allocate distributive share in sake of creating incentives and attracting the relevant talents alone, without referm the moral worthiness of the recipients". Sandel is embarassed by this and follows up on his promise of leaving this aside; but it does make all his discussion, which is based on "desert" or "worth", worthless. But I guess I know now why he did the same, but less honestly, in TToM: having tried this trick early on and found it worked, why not do the same again?

I'm not pretending to a full review, so I don't have much more to say. I should pull out the one item wherein Sandel clarifies Rawls views, which is helpful, but at the cost of making me think much worse of Rawls (the first two paras are quotes from Rawls, with section numbers; the third is Sandel):
The difference principle represents, in effect, an agreement to regard the distribution of natural talents as a common asset and to share in the benefits of this distribution whatever it turns out to be (101).

The two principles are equivalent, as I have remarked, to an undertaking to regard the distribution of natural abilities as a collective asset so that the more fortunate are to benefit only in ways that help those who have lost out (179).

Rawls believes the notion of common assets as embodied in the difference principle expresses the ideal of mutual respect deontological liberalism seeks to affirm.
As Gimli put it, The words of this wizard stand on their heads. In the language of Rawls help means ruin, and saving means slaying, that is plain. But Rawls needs this, to justify his idea that things-shall-be-distributed. "You" don't own your talents; you only "own" yourself, and in the magic realism world Rawls inhabits (it isn't quite clear if Sandel lives there too, he seems uneasy) your talents are separable from you and can be regarded as common assets. Talking about that as "mutual respect" is Orwellian; these ideas would be disastrous if implemented. Note also that bastard Rawls doesn't put this stuff up front where it should be. Instead, he talks us through the veil-of-ignorance without mentioning it. I reiterate my previous criticism of Rawls: that he endlessly reworks stuff, and never tells you when he is finished.

One more point: chapter 3 wurbles about the fairness of contract. It isn't enough for him that contracts should be freely entered into on both sides, they must also be "fair". This, too, is a terrible idea, though one increasingly popular in practice in our debased society. Sandel of course has no clear definition of "fair" to give, and so in practice this means unpicking voluntary agreements if you feel like it. Which is part of the awful modern reluctance of people to live with their choices; to always want to find a way to back out, if their choices turn out to have been poor.

Refs


the left wins culture war battles because they care more. Conservatives have their families and religion, centrists are mostly apathetic, but, for leftists, winning these battles is their religion (and often their “family”) - i/o.
Unfettered: Fishback 25 Years Later - Bryan Caplan, 1900's labour markets in the USA.

2024-01-01

Year of the Stoat

Caius M2 Per 2022, blogging in general and this blog in particular continue the long slow slide into obsolescence. Following long established convention, I pick the post of each month with the most comments.

* January: Rahmstorf joins the Dork Side (25).

* February: Bad beliefs: Misinformation is factually wrong – but is it ethically wrong, too? (15).

* March: Guns are now the leading cause of death for children in the US? (27).

* April: The alternative to Atlas Shrugged (7).

* May: What’s behind the dangerous new notion that democracy should be left to the well-educated? (9).

* June: Bandit Hoekstra (2). A thin month; there were three two's.

* July: Abuse of non-linear (7).

* August: Walkabout.

* September: A summer away (6).

* October: Gray the sinner (8).

* November: Reporting of yer conflict (26).

* December: Introducing Justapedia? (3).

I'm afraid that despite the lack of encouragement, I'm likely to continue into 2024.

Refs

Are Men Smarter than Women? - Richard Hanania.

* Bill Ackman on Claudine Gay and Harvard and DEI in general. If you prefer to read an alternative viewpoint, there's "Claudine Gay Had to Resign, But She Was Right About the Big Things", which is wrong.

SMASH Handheld - this is getting very close to "smart guns". It needs to add a "pull the trigger and it will fire when on target" mode, plus perhaps a "jiggle" to allow it to get on target even if the human is hopeless.

2023-12-29

Kant's Dialectic

PXL_20231229_211535558~2 Before going off for Christmas I made a doomed attempt to buy second-hand books as presents, and succeeded only in buying myself a few slim tomes (although one of those, In Defence of War by Nigel Biggar, did turn out to be a present for my wife).

One of which was the said Kant's Dialectic by Jonathan Bennett, 1974. I'm mostly interested in this via Popper (see Kant’s cats) who believed the Antimonies were designed to demonstrate how reason goes astray when unconstrained by reality. I think that's a good interpretation though (as I said there) I'm doubtful whether that was actually Kant's intent; certainly, IMO, if you're going to do something like that you should clearly state it, which Kant never does.

Sadly that doesn't get addressed in KD1. Instead, despite a refreshing beginning summarising the contents and some well-turned flings against Kant, we degenerate too much into philosopher-ese. My doubt now is to how far I bother go in discussing this.

Substance


In antient philosophy, people were interested - amongst a great many other things - in what the world is made of. Recall that they didn't know if matter is fundamentally "atomic" or continuous, and so the question of what is a fundamental "substance" arises. Section 19 offers "The concept of substance, dropped in §14, must now be picked up again. We have met the idea of a substance as something indestructible, but our considerations of the Dialectic will involve the stronger thesis that a substance cannot come into or go out of existence, or, as I shall say, cannot be originated or annihilated. By this criterion, a must be sempiternal, i.e. must exist at all times". That would have made reasonable sense all through classical antiquity and to Kant, but makes no sense by 1974, when we have had mass-energy equivalence and the creation and destruction of particles for more than fifty years. The section continues onwards, wurbling happily about philosophical things, totally unmoored by reality, almost as though determined to demonstrate Popper's version of Kant's point. Similar problem occur elsewhere.

As a slight aside, one can consider "the soul" under this rubric; if feeling religious, you consider "the soul" in it's usual "woo" fashion; if not, you consider consciousness instead. But either way the question arises: is it a "substance", i.e. indivisible? This, then has some eery echoes of the "splitting brains" discussions that Parfit was so fond of. There I've argued, effectively, that consciousness is indivisible; but I don't think it is meaningful to call it a substance.

Extension and divisibility


Kant presents arguments why extended things cannot be indivisible, largely following Descartes. But he is wrong, because, as we now know, matter is fundamentally "atomic"2, which I'll put in quotes, because as-we-all-know somewhat confusingly for conversations like this, the things we call atoms are not "atomic". But nevermind, electrons are "atomic", i.e. indivisible, and are extended in space, although in a slightly confusing way. Now we know that, we of course re-examine his argument for the crucial and illuminating error. But unfortunately it is simply and uninterestingly "if a thing is extended in space (and space is divisible) then we can consider the thing to have parts and so be divisible". All of the fascinating bits of QM that this has (inevitably, for its time) failed to take account of are the bits of interest. Sadly, KD fails to go that route, instead preferring to merrily emit a long string of words. See-also Ye workes of ye Francis Bacone.

As a sort-of ironic post-script, part of that stream-of-words is a discussion of Our Author's pet idea that compositeness, i.e. divisibility, might be nicely discussed in terms of breakability. But this fails, or at least is complexified, unbeknownst to him, due to quark confinement in protons.

Infinite time


Having been nothing but critical I should leave you with the one where I do feel sympathy, which is the discussion of the finiteness, or otherwise, of past time. Kant's actual discussion of this is often uninteresting, because he doesn't know about infinity, Cantor being fairly new at that point and not something Kant has studied. But in place of his argument against the past being infinite, I'd put the rather handwavy "as we know, it takes about 13 b yr to get from formlessness to us, really there can't have been infinite time".

Kant's argument against "the world" having begun at some point is that there would be empty time before this. That makes sense in a Newtonian universe; but (I think; don't push me on this I'm weak on GR) doesn't in a GR universe with big bang: instead, time starts. Again, one doesn't blame Kant for missing this; I do blame Our Author for not mentioning it; because really it is the only interesting point in an otherwise long dreary stream of words.

Notes


1. From the head of chapter 7 will probably do: "In Kant's usage, an "antinomy' is a pair of good-looking arguments for apparently conflicting conclusions. In the chapter on the Dialectic to which I now turn, he offers four antinomies, each purporting to exhibit a conflict which can be resolved only with help from Kantian philo- sophy. Sometimes Kant suggests that his principles discredit the ques- tions to which the antinomal arguments offer answers, but he also suggests that in the first two antinomies each of the opposing conclusions may be false, while in the third and fourth both conclusions may be true. Indeed, no one account will do. The chapter is in fact a medley, and the several sorts of unity claimed for it are all spurious".

2. I know: we have no final theory. QM might get overthrown. But I'm betting on it to this extent, at least. Ditto on electrons being the bottom. If absolutely necessary I recast my argument into the form "there is a model of reality in which...", which suffices.

3. Since I have space, I'll include this here (from Critique of Pure Reason): It is not so extraordinary as it at first sight appears, that a science should demand and expect satisfactory answers to all the questions that may arise within its own sphere (questiones domesticae), although, up to a certain time, these answers may not have been discovered. There are, in addition to transcendental philosophy, only two pure sciences of reason; the one with a speculative, the other with a practical content-pure mathematics and pure ethics. Has any one ever heard it alleged that, from our complete and necessary ignorance of the conditions, it is uncertain what exact relation the diameter of a circle bears to the circle in rational or irrational numbers? By the former the sum cannot be given exactly, by the latter only approximately; and therefore we decide that the impossibility of a solution of the question is evident. Lambert presented us with a demonstration of this. The Lambert he refers to is Johann Heinrich Lambert, who proved in 1761 that pi is irrational. But WTF is Kant trying to say here? If he is trying to say that pi is irrational, he is choosing a wilfuly obscure method of doing so. Even "the question" at hand in "the impossibility of a solution of the question is evident" is obscure; the only question he has actually asked is "Has any one ever heard...", but he can't mean that. But the ratio of circumference to diameter is known exactly; it is pi; that pi doesn't have a finite decimal expansion doesn't mean we don't know its exact value. I think that just as he doesn't understand infinity, he isn't really comfortable with irrationals, which is like weird because sqrt 2 has been known to be irrational for a loong time.

Refs


* What's the difference between a mathematician and a philosopher? All a mathematician needs: pencil, paper, and a trash can. All a philosopher needs: pencil and paper. Source.

2023-12-27

Happy Christmas

PXL_20231224_185434455.NIGHT Happy Christmas, world, and any remaining readers I may have. I encourage you to leave festive greetings in the comments so that you may be, as is traditional, enumerated in this season. This year, unlike last, we are unstruck by Covid or similar and so are at my Mother's. I have done my Christmas Morning Half, beating my nephew (he blew up in Churchill) and retaining my smugness for another year. The end-of-year review will follow in a day or so.

For those unfortunate enough not to be English: my picture, taken on the way back from the carols-on-the-village-green, is a knitted scene on top of a post box.

2023-12-13

Introducing Justapedia?

PXL_20231203_144123066 Well, that's what Quillette says. I suppose they hope to do better than the failed Conservapedia. They have five fundamental principles and core content policies but I didn't even bother skim them1, because without editors, they're doomed. As a quick test, 500 changes in JP gets you back 3 or 4 days. 500 changes on Wiki gets you back... 4 minutes.

If I look at their current "Selected Contents" I find Outline of the American Civil War, Underwater diving, Poetry, Polar regions of Earth, Machine learning, Mormons, Philosophy and Adoption. Only one of those has had any updates since their import from Wiki, and that is a trivial update of a date in a flagging. That's powerfully unimpressive.

I haven't quite worked out when the import was done, but it looks to be around November 2022. Quillette gives the impression that JP is recent.

Why would you even bother doing this? Q talks about "Recent Wikipedia Controversies" but it is rather telling that issue number one for them is where the funding went, not anything to do with content. Next up is Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/World War II and the history of Jews in Poland, which was a thing but not that exciting (I didn't follow it). They then come to what I think is rather closer to their hearts, Race and intelligence and how it is controlled on Wiki. They may have a point; I would whinge about a variety of other articles and topics, if I felt like it. But... it all seems too thin to sustain what they want.

Notes

1. Well that sounded nice and dismissive, which is what I intended, but then I decided on a quick skim. The core content policy doesn't seem to significantly differ from what they imported; and the 5 pillars also seem eerily similar to Wiki's version.

Refs

Grasping at straw - Light Blue Touchpaper on plod and kiddy pron.

2023-12-09

YAME: 3:01:58.4

Screenshot_20231208-191731 Every now and again I do a marathon on the erg, though I don't usually blog it. In fact I think I've done four over the years; the first was Ergathon in 2009, 3:20:58 (others: in early 2020, just before lockdown, on the Saturday of Lents was Wattmaggedon in 3:04:39; and also in 2020 I did one at home during lockdown, 3:16:45).

But the urge came upon me again, perhaps in order to dstract myself from my uncompetitiveness at 2k. And I noticed that the C2 ranking were a little soft this year. So with 1:28, 1:27 and 1:26 in the half-bag, and an abortive 2h a few days ago when my spirit broke in the yawning voids of about 1:45, I set off on Friday knowing I didn't quite need to hit 3 hours to get the coveted spot amongst the 55-59 lightweights.

Strava is interesting for my HR trace; mostly I was in the low 140's, with a bit of a peak just before half way; and then a spike at the end as I went down to 1:50 to get under :02 minutes. Compare that with a half, where I'm at 157 for much of the second half; though my split there is significantly lower. My peak HR, which I can only hit by really hurting and so generally don't, is in the low 170's.

Compared to what I said in 2009, I think I survived better this time. With my trusty gel seat-pad backed up by the cut-to-shape carrymat I have taped to the erg, my bum was fine. For most of the second half I backed off the arms / finish and tried to drive from the legs, since experience tells me that the arms, and whatever muscles drive the shoulder blades together, don't survive the distance if fully used. My calluses are bedded in and didn't suffer. I drank a small glass of orange juice at 1h and half way, and would have liked one at 2h and 2:30 too, though they eat up 30 seconds.

Having done a few halves, getting to half way was not too bad. From there to two hours is pretty grim, there's still so far to go, and there aren't any good markers. Past two hours I start to believe, partly by lying to myself about how my splits aren't going to decline too badly. Once the counter drops below 10k into four digits it's just a matter of grinding it out; again I lied to myself that my target was 3h, so I could pretend to be 2 mins closer than I really was. To get under 3h, apart from bringing myself to do it all again, I need to not decay so much in the second half; more bravery required.

Here's a link to the C2 rankings (arch). If I was a heavyweight (I'm 68 kg) I'd be #8. Next year I'll be 60, and the ranks are even less competitive. If it was the 2023 season, I'd be 7th (curiously, there's a huge gap from 2:58 to 3:09). If I was female... I'd have more than four minutes margin, irrespective of age and weight, in 2024. I'd be 4th in 2023. I'm currently 8th for the half; last year I was 14th.

Update: 2024/01: well, I'm no longer #1, I'm #3, behind a Kraut and a Frog. I might pull back #2 if I try again but I don't see any way to get to 2:54 so #1 is out of reach. At least, until I'm 60 in a few months time.

Refs


* 2024/01: new world record by Joel Naukkarinen @rowingfinn is a 1:39.6 split. I can't get close to that for 2k; or, indeed, 500m.

Playlist


Spotify like fuckwits make you jump through hoops to get a copy of your playlists. Mine was:

* Highway to Hell / AC/DC
* World Shut Your Mouth / Julian Cope
* Unbelievable / EMF
* Geno - 2000 Remaster / Dexys Midnight Runners
* Monster / The Automatic
* Rocks / Primal Scream
* Girls & Boys / Blur
* Relax / Frankie Goes To Hollywood
* Nemesis / Shriekback
* Temptation / Heaven 17
* Gay Bar / Electric Six
* Antmusic - Remastered / Adam & The Ants
* Sheriff Fatman / Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine
* Mama Said Knock You Out / LL COOL J
* Bat Out of Hell / Meat Loaf
* Down At McDonaldz / Electric Six
* Street Fighting Man - 50th Anniversary Edition / The Rolling Stones
* Girls on Film - 2010 Remaster / Duran Duran
* From a Buick 6 / Bob Dylan
* Virginia Plain / Roxy Music
* Our Lips Are Sealed - Single Version / The Go-Go's
* Livin' On A Prayer / Bon Jovi
* Born to Run / Bruce Springsteen
* Rio - 2009 Remaster / Duran Duran
* I Have The Touch / Peter Gabriel
* Like A Rolling Stone - Live / Remastered 2009 / The Rolling Stones
* Seven Seas Of Rhye - Remastered 2011 / Queen
* Start Me Up - Remastered 2009 / The Rolling Stones
* The Struggle / Scroobius Pip
* When Love Comes To Town / U2
* Walk This Way / Aerosmith
* Slippery People - Live / Talking Heads
* 2-4-6-8 Motorway / Tom Robinson Band
* Thou Shalt Always Kill / Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip
* Everything Is AWESOME!!! (feat. The Lonely Island) / Tegan and Sara
* Eye of the Tiger / Survivor
* Don't Push Your Foot on the Heartbrake - 2018 Remaster / Kate Bush
* Life During Wartime - Live / Talking Heads
* Born in the U.S.A. / Bruce Springsteen
* Joan Crawford / Blue Ö?yster Cult
* New Moon on Monday - 2010 Remaster / Duran Duran
* Mr. Blue Sky / Electric Light Orchestra
* Pretty in Pink / The Psychedelic Furs

2023-11-20

Richest 1% account for more carbon emissions than poorest 66%, report says?

bones More of the usual from the Graun. Let's quote:

‘Polluter elite’ are plundering the planet to point of destruction, says Oxfam after comprehensive study of climate inequality...

The richest 1% of humanity is responsible for more carbon emissions than the poorest 66%, with dire consequences for vulnerable communities and global efforts to tackle the climate emergency, a report says.

The most comprehensive study of global climate inequality ever undertaken shows that this elite group, made up of 77 million people including billionaires, millionaires and those paid more than US$140,000 (£112,500) a year, accounted for 16% of all CO2 emissions in 2019 – enough to cause more than a million excess deaths due to heat, according to the report.

The problem - apart from any quibbles with the doubtful quality of their analysis, which I suspect but am not very interested in - is that although they do their level best to present this as the 1% versus the 66%, they can't help notice that the 1% only emit 16%. So even after they've all been the first up against the wall after the revolution came, we've barely dented the problem. 84% of emissions remain - or at least they would, in the sort of static thinking that Oxfam do. Who is producing those emissions? You. Me. Our friends and colleagues. Everyone in the West. Well, everyone who isn't too dirt poor to do otherwise, really. Of course, different people emit differently, but it would need a much more careful analysis by less clearly biased people to produce something useful.

The Graun, which has the memory of a goldfish and the need to present things as though they were news, fails to point out that they've said all this before. Oh, duh, I've just realised: COP28 is coming up, hence the spam.

Refs

Clauser-ology: Cloudy with a chance of meatballs - RC - the long tradition of idiot physicists continues.

* "When Idiot Savants Do Climate Economics; How an elite clique of math-addled economists hijacked climate policy" - FFS - or, "A powerfully argued article on Nordhaus‘ climate economics" if you're SR.

2023-11-16

Lancet report: Heat stress wiped out equivalent of 4% of Africa’s GDP in 2022

Or so CarbonBrief tells me. And it seems entirely plausible, so I won't quibble their numbers.

But looking at some of their other pictures, you immeadiately see the problem: they're poor.

And so we immeadiately see that there are several possible solutions: reduce GW - but this isn't much of a solution, as the pic shows, even winding back three decades doesn't get you close to losing 0%; or stop being poor, which reduces the problem to negligible levels.

As a bonus, not being poor has other virtues, too. Perhaps you can think of some.

Oddly, CB doesn't much consider that option, instead perferring to whinge about "unjust transition". The reason they are poor is, of course, that their govt is shite; which is a consequence of the state of society, alas. But addressing the real problem is difficult, and entails saying things that people don't like saying nowadays.

Screenshot_2023-11-14_at_14.30.05

BTW, somewhere - but I doubt I can find it now1 - was talking about ye traditionale "GDP declines with increasing T" stuff, and quibbling its stats. But never mind the details, the interesting bit was that even if you took the stats unquibbled, as well as the strong "hot countries" T-up-GDP-down correlation, there's a weak T-up-GDP-up correlation in cold countries. But because cold countries dominate global GDP, the overall effect of T up is GDP up (possibily not-stat-sigly). I'm reminded of that by the "* as percent" qualifier in the pic above.

Notes

1. Temperature Shocks and Economic Growth: Comment on Dell, Jones, and Olken by David Barker.

Refs

* WHO SPIKED THE CLUB OF ROME REPORT?

2023-11-09

Reporting of yer conflict

PXL_20231108_205142378~3 I've noticed that the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt is often described as "closed", rather than "closed by", as though it had a mysterious mind of its own. Which of course it doesn't. For example yer Beeb sayeth: "the Rafah border crossing (from Gaza into Egypt) is today closed" but doesn't say whodunnit. A bit later they say "Rafah border crossing is still closed this morning. Hamas say they want more injured people to be allowed out of Gaza through the crossing before more foreign citizens are allowed to leave" which would imply that it is Hamas that is keeping people prisonner in Gaza; if so, it isn't clear why yer Beeb wouldn't just say so. Instead of endless flows of repetitious "news" I'd kinda like it if they could get their reporters to actually find out who is keeping it shut; it would appear quite important.

While we're on this, yer Beeb also say War crime claims: Volker Türk, the UN commissioner for human rights... Some context: The rules for war, which are spelt out in the Geneva Conventions, prohibit hostage taking, and say countries engaged in conflict "may not deport or forcibly transfer the civilian population of an occupied territory". But this isn't right. The actual text is Parties to an international armed conflict may not deport or forcibly transfer the civilian population of an occupied territory, in whole or in part, unless the security of the civilians involved or imperative military reasons so demand (my bold). Omitting the final qualifier is dishonest. By contrast, taking of hostages is unequivocally a crime. 

I also have a hard time taking displacing people quite as seriously as the "war crime" people do. I'm sure these people don't want to be displaced, and neither would I, but it is a far less serious matter than deliberately killing civilians. I'd rather be displaced a hundred times than killed once.

Since I've been tasteless enough to use the image I have: I think the recent habit of prolonging wars is bad, and it is better to let one side win. Hence calls for ceasefires or pauses1 in the Israel-Hamas war don't make sense and will likely lead to greater suffering. Also, per Hobbes, you're only allowed to rebel if you have a realistic chance of succeeding.


Update: What is happening at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital and why?

The Graun is fairly typical of the abysmal state of reporting. Hamas, and carefully selected doctors at the hospital, swear blind that there are no Hamas in there. Oooohhh no indeed not. And yet mysteriously the Israelis are finding it hard to get in. Why don't they just walk in by the front door? For the obvious reason: the Hamas folk inside would shoot at them. Why isn't this obvious to the Graun and a great many other people? Because the bias of their world view is so strong.

2023/11/15: the stupidity of some of the old fat white dead men is... well, I'd like to say astonishing, but in fact I'll say entirely predictable. For example, from the FT: International aid agencies expressed alarm at the Israeli incursion into al-Shifa. “Hospitals are not battlegrounds,” said Martin Griffiths, the UN aid chief. “The protection of newborns, patients, medical staff and all civilians must override all other concerns.” FFS you clown: it is definitely not true that "The protection of all civilians must override all other concerns", you know this very well, its part of the "rulez" of war. But more importantly, once the Israelis are in there, the patients and staff and evacuees are all safe, as long as Hamas doesn't shoot them. 

Al-Jazmagi has a go at answering "Why is Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital so important for the Israeli army?" in a way that avoids the obvious answer: they propound the symbol-of-resistance type narrative. But this is a dubious idea, and even they are forced to answer "Hamas", although they do it right at the end in the hope you won't read that far.


Notes

1. As if to prove me wrong, The US says Israel will begin to implement four-hour military pauses in areas of northern Gaza each day to allow civilians to flee. But firstly, that text is deceptive: the "pauses" referred will not "begin", they have already begun, and had when I wrote the above. The US is saying that for its own internal political reasons, post-announcing something already happening as though it was a success of theirs. A brief apuse such as that, over a route out, does indeed make sense. Note that there isn't the least hint of a response from Hamas, who offer no corresponding pause in their own fighting.

Refs

* My comment at Jus in Bello by David Henderson. To which (2023/11/21) a belated followup here: given that innocent Palestinians and Israelis are morally equivalent (modulo slight quibbles about Hamas only being able to survive because it has popular support), then the Israeli hostages should not be the Israel's primary concern (prompted by this which suggests secondary-is-bad); just as they accept some regrettable civilian Palestinian deaths, they accept some regrettable Israeli civilian deaths.

The two-state solution is still best. Actually I think allowing the Pals to emigrate is best, but no-one seems to like that; possibly not even the Pals themselves, so trapped are they in their grievances.

* Arf: Turkish MP who collapsed after saying Israel will ‘suffer Allah’s wrath’ dies.

2023-11-03

Care less

PXL_20231026_150144283 Following my acclaimed analysis of how I came to peace with the world, I feel moved to offer advice to the world: care less.

This applies generally, but is provoked by the current Israel-Hamas war. All over the world, stupid ill-informed people wish their opinions to be heard (sample: Councillors call on Starmer to resign over Gaza). And everyone is so busy offering their SII opinions that they have no time to listen to anyone else's, let alone think. All the chanting crowds should go home, and attempt to find meaning in their own lives rather than in other people's.

This naturally spools out... SII people have been offering their SII opinions forever, the difference now is that other people who really ought to know better seem to care, in turn, about these opinions.

Naturally, this should not be interpreted as preventing anyone from commenting on this blog :-).

Notes

1. My pic shows Magdalene, winner of Uni Fours, byt five seconds over Cauis. Stroke's head-on-one-side posture is quite endearing.

Refs

* Keep your identity small - Paul Graham.

File:London anti-war protest bannersFile:Stop the war- American eagle.

*Book review: The Lions of Al-Rassan.

* ...the greater part of the population is not very intelligent, dreads responsibility, and desires nothing better than to be told what to do. Provided the rulers do not interfere with its material comforts and its cherished beliefs, it is perfectly happy to let itself be ruled. Quote from Aldoux Huxley.

* JEB: UK Covid-19 Inquiry.

* ATTP: What does net-zero actually mean?

LGB Fertility.

2023-10-27

They call her Natasha when she looks like Elsie

PXL_20230831_172105039 "The exception proves the rule" is a well-known phrase with more than one meaning; the one I take uses "prove" in the sense of "test". In maths or science of software this makes sense: edge and corner cases are useful: my software must work given any legal but unlikely input, and must fail in defined ways if given illegal input.

It isn't so obvious in whifflier domains such as morality; hence the enduring popularity of talking about The Trolley Problem, wherein we are faced with a moral dilema well out of the bounds of any experience1. Morality is custom and so things well outside experience and therefore custom aren't subject to our moral intuitions.

This smacks once again of the softer sciences thoughtlessly aping the harder ones. If there genuinely are strict laws, then testing them with edge cases makes sense. If there aren't, trying to interpret out-of-bounds information within your (admittedly unclearly-)bounded framework will only confuse you.

Even less sensible is the attempt to think about TTP in the context of Implications for autonomous vehicles. No-one is going to write their software in a way that the question comes up.

Refs

(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea.

* Philosophy of Physics Seminar: Sabine Hossenfelder (Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy): 'Superdeterminism – The Forgotten Solution'

The FTC’s Confused Case Against Amazon.

* In talking about The Ethical Case for a Siege of Gaza, Richard Hanania says that Individual morality does not transfer to geopolitical issues. This is consistent with what I'm saying here.

Notes

1. This also doesn't begin to cover what people would do in practice if faced with such problems. And in practice they can't be: the conditions are not real-world.

2023-10-22

Après ma mort, je ferai tomber une pluie de roses

IMG_20200809_133822~2
My title isn't really related to this post in any clear way; Google recently reminded me of this photo that I took in Amiens in 2020 on the way back from the Ecrins; I didn't make much of it at the time, but appreciated it more in arrears. My title is from a little quote visible at the bottom and is from Thérèse of Lisieux. I doubt I'd have got on with her, but the words are lovely. The pix I show here has been cut and de-trapezoided by Googly magic; the original is here. It's only a humble Pixel3 though.

No, my post begins with Descartes; for some reason I feel the need to rant about this poor long dead chap. But really he is just an examplar; what I'm really ranting about is philosophy, and the lamentable state of philosophical scholarship.

But first a brief interjection: the other thing I'd rant about, if I could be bothered to, would be the vast torrent of crap that pours upon us. So many people writing some many books, papers, and articles because their voices are important, at least to them. And so many people consuming this torrent of drivel because our glorious free-market capitalism has delivered to them so much free time that they don't know how to use. I am minded of the quote about Hobbes from a previous post, which I'll repeat here: He had read much, if one considers his long life; but his contemplation was much more than his reading. He was wont to say that if he had read as much as other men, he should have known no more than other men.

So ignoring my own injunction: browsing a not-very-slim-tome (second hand, Heffers) on The Rise of Modern Philosophy I come to the chapter on Descartes, which is long on his virtues, and padded with the irrelevant stuff about him being in the wars, but very short on what he actually contributed. It includes the Cogito, of course; although that in itself contributes little; but like everyone else doesn't mention at all how badly it all breaks down after that; you may read my fine analysis here. The Cambridge Companion to Descartes is somewhat better, but that only leads me to his anti-atomism. As Stanford puts itDescartes rejects any form of atomism, which is the view that there exists a smallest indivisible particle of matter. Rather, he holds that since any given spatially extended length is divisible in thought, thus God has the power to actually divide it . In fact Stanford somwhat errs in reproducing his not-desperately clear thought, to the degree that we could blame God for his errors; what he actually says is something like things can't be indivisible, but even if they were, God could make them divisible if he felt like it; see here, here)4.

And that anti-atonism on the part of big D leads me to my startlingly original and definitely worth troubling the world with take on antient Greek physics, specifically that of Aristotle (see-also my not very original notes below). Which is: none of it matters to them, which is why it is all so badly wrong. One can go through identifying errors but that's all beside the point: the unifying principle is that there tech level was so low, they were too far away from it making any difference. Was the world continuous or atomic? They didn't know, and it didn't matter. They couldn't even observe Brownian motion. The penalty for guessing wrong was zero. The penalty for writing down a stream of words that appeared to be a logical argument, and which generations of philosophers were unable to correctly identify as drivel, was zero. It turns out that getting the right answer is hard, and so if you just randomly guess you'll continuously be wrong. See-also: science is grounded in experiment, which I forgot.

Returning to my picture: at some point I'm going to make a list of all the places I want to go to in France, and then go to them. Or alternatively just go to all the places in France. I should certainly visit all the cathedrals; I've made a fair stab but there are a lot left.

Aristotle's Physics


[I wrote this, but was never really happy with it, which is why I didn't publish it. But now is its time and place.]

If you want to read people being nice about A you will find no shortage out there1; so I feel no urge to join them. TL;DR The historian of philosophy, accordingly, must study them, in spite of the fact that hardly a sentence in either can be accepted in the light of modern science (that nice Bertrand Russell). But more that this, as I hope to show, it doesn't even make sense on its own terms. None of this is relevant to the problem of people being mislead by Aristotle for so many years; that was strictly their own fault, their own stupid reverence for authority and inability to think for themselves; Aristotle left any number of clues that his stuff was blatantly wrong.

There is quite a lot of words in the Physics. In a way, that's surprising: my mental image of those days is that paper3 wss in short supply, so you'd expect authors to have thought carefully before writing and to have compressed their work. Instead, A does the reverse: is discoursive and repetitive and doesn't follow a clear sequence. In this - as with the Politics - one gets the impression of a poorly edited collection of lecture notes. What it doesn't read like is ideas that have survived testing by rigourous dialectic.

Perhaps the greatest virtue of the work is as an example: that something that has survived for a long time can still be completely wrong, and yet still be defended. Consider what other ideas we see in the world today are similar. Of course, part of the problem is that anyone inclined to study this stuff deeply is going to be in sympathy with the material; no-one is going to waste much time ripping it to shreds. So why - I hear you ask - am I bothering? Well I've had these volumes on my shelves for many years now, and the time has finally come to finish reading and dispose of them.

Like say Hippolytus or Iphigenia in Tauris this comes into the "it lasted 2,000 years so there must be something worth while in it" but unlike them it is not literature; and it has not fared well. In the following I shall assume that the (English) words I'm reading have captured the original meaning of the text, despite the gulf that separates us; given the contortions that his translators and interpreters have gone through, I think it likely that I'm getting his best shot, or perhaps better than.

A discusses, let us say, motion. And he is smart enough to try to abstract; he is not interested in the motion of any individual ox-cart. Unfortunately, he abstracts all the way to abstraction; which I can best explain by comparing to, say, Galileo's experiments with rolling spheres down inclined planes. That abstracted to a concrete reality, and so was able to learn something, by observing how very simple entities behave. A abstracts out everything but movers and moving, and so is unable to learn anything.

A is interested in both the real world - or at least, in an abstract version thereof - and in the world of mathematics. Unfortunately he rarely distinguishes the two, or says which any given discussion appertains to; so much so that I doubt he has the distinction clearly in his mind. He is, however, aware that there is a distinction2.

In trying to think about how to Do Physics, A starts well Hence, in advancing to that which is intrinsically more luminous and by its nature accessible to deeper knowledge, we must needs start from what is more immediately within our cognition, though in its own nature less fully accessible to understanding. Now the things most obvious and immediately cognizable by us are concrete and particular, rather than abstract and general; whereas elements and principles are only accessible to us afterwards, as derived from the concrete data when we have analysed them. So we must advance from the concrete whole to the several constituents which it embraces; had he stuck to this, he would have fared much better. That's book I chapter I; chapter II starts off wondering how many "principle"s or "primary constituents" there are; attempting to translate this into ModernSpeak, it seems likely that he is wondering how many elements there are (rather than fundamental particles or states of matter) but - characteristically - his discussion is so unanchored by reality that one cannot really tell; he is already lost, and doesn't know it. He deduces that there must be either one, or finitely many, or infinitely many; after that he bogs down; then chapter VI concludes It is clear, then, that there must be more than one element or principle, and that there cannot be more than two or three. But, within these limits, the decision as between two and three presents great difficulties. This is based on "logic" along the lines of we need a pair of antithetical qualities; and (for the third, if needed) they need something to act on. So alas despite his declared intent to start with reality he falls at the first hurdle, and is reduced to being either Wrong, or perhaps Not Even Wrong. To the obvious rebuttal (which will come up time and again) "but in those early days it was really hard to know anything" comes the obvious answer: yes, it was. And so A, if honest, would have concluded that he simply didn't know and couldn't say anything useful on the topic. To some extent, supported by the end of book I, I believe that A was in this section merely surveying other opinions of the time, or felt himself unable to avoid opining. And sadly book II chapter I begins by stating that the elementary substances are earth, fire, air and water; see previous comments re badly edited lecture notes. Nothing else of interest appears in book II. I should perhaps note that there's quite a lot of stuff that my eyes just slide off... all the verbiage about causes for example; he does love classifying things, even if he has to make them up to do so.

Book III begins by defining motion; I took the piss out of that some years ago and don't feel much more merciful now. His problem is not realising that some things are better left undefined, as Newton did with time; we all know what it is (errm) so wrapping a pile of complicated words around a simple idea doesn't help; see-also Popper. That said, he is also covering too broad a scope; had he restricted himself to physical motion of inanimate objects he might have got along better. 

Chapter IV begins to talk about infinity; but in the context of Nature (and thus, implicitly, not Maths).

[I'm fairly sure I intended to write more, but realised that it was all drivel anyway, and badly organised at that. I did Aristotle and the continuum before.]


Refs

* Paul Graham: how to do philosophy.

Russell on Aristotle's Politics.

McTaggart on Time.

My Left Kidney - ACX.

The sleepwalkers.

Notes

1. Although to be fair, generally not about his Physics. The sort of defensive thing you can expect supporters to say about the Physics is along the lines of What, then, are we to expect from the Physics ? Something that is still of philosophical interest; very much that is of historic interest and that has entered deeply into the texture of our language; much of purely intellectual interest and bracing gymnastic; but also much that is of vital significance in relation to that borderland between physical and metaphysical thought where mathematics and philosophy meet, which I quote from the Loeb intro. Notice that they cannot even begin to mention that so much of it is wrong.

2. From book II chapter II: we have next to consider how the mathematician differs from the physicist or natural philosopher; for natural bodies have surfaces and occupy spaces, have lengths and present points, all which are subjects of mathe matical study. And then there is the connected question whether astronomy is a separate science from physics or only a special branch of it; for if the student of Nature is concerned to know what the sun and moon are, it were strange if he could avoid inquiry into their essential properties; especially as we find that writers on Nature have, as a fact, discoursed on the shape of the moon and sun and raised the question whether the earth, or the cosmos, is spherical or otherwise. Physicists, astronomers, and mathematicians, then, all have to deal with lines, figures and the rest. But the mathematician is not concerned with these concepts qua boundaries of natural bodies, nor with their properties as manifested in such bodies. Therefore he abstracts them from physical conditions; for they are capable of being considered in the mind in separation from the motions of the bodies to which they pertain, and such abstraction does not affect the validity of the reasoning or lead to any false conclusions.

3. Or equivalent.

4. Descartes is lead to this error by his idea that the "essential" property of a given object is its extension in space, which causes him to think in these terms; presumably, an indivisible object would have a property-in-itself that wouldn't fit into his schema. In turn this leads him to fail to get to momentum, despite some promising thoughts in that area. But analysing his errors individually isn't really interesting; my point rather is that there are endless ways of going wrong; you will always fall off the knife-edge of truth, unless you have something - in the case of physics, reality - to correct you.

2023-10-20

Country capture

around-v Regulatory capture is a familiar concept, but "Country capture" in the sense that I mean it doesn't seem to be. State capture exists, but as a different concept. Country capture is when the govt has acquired the people. I'm prompted by the Economist's Tuvalu plans for its own disappearance (arch), where Tuvalu is (nominally), as the headline says, planning to keep going even if it physically disappears. 

Why would you do that? Obviously, if you're the leader of a country and would like to stay in power, you might do that. And yet no (democratic) leader is likely to stay in power for long enough for it to matter. Another possibility is that this is just PR wank, as a means to draw-attention-to-your-sad-plight kinda gumpf. As TE says, part of the plan is The government is especially keen to make explicit that it would expect to retain its claim on the waters surrounding present-day Tuvalu, but this isn't obviously a good idea either: why would Tuvalu manage them any better than those who might inherit them?

Instead, think of it from the point of view of the people of the country, which the govt is at least supposed to pretend to be serving. If the country vanishes, the people will be best served by moving somewhere else. Rather obviously. "preserve cultural traditions online" as Tuvalu pretends to be considering is drivel, founded upon the idea that natioanlism is a good idea, which it isn't. Think people, not countries.

The other obvious example of this is the poor benighted Palestinians, captured by Hamas and Fatah. Who would be far better off if they were just Human Beings, whereupon they could go to some other country and lead productive and useful and fulfilling lives, instead of locking themselves into their forebears stupid conflicts.

My pic shows a few days walking around Vallouise. Full write-up to follow.

Refs

My Book List by Bryan Caplan. You'll love it. Or The Identity of Shame.

2023-10-11

The Struggle

PXL_20230926_113705658 Whilst mumbling in our beer about the failings of the world, Tom bemoaned the state of the blogging game. Which brings some thoughts to mind:

With success comes power and great success has been given me
And with great power comes great fuckability.

(The Struggle, by Scroobius Pip, as you doubtless recognise). I make no claims in that direction, indeed I am thinking of the opposite: with great lack of reach, comes great lack of responsibility.

By which I mean that I have come to terms with the world. A great many stupid, pointless, cruel, horrible things have happened, are happening, and will happen in the future1. In many cases far better outcomes could be achieved with little more that a small willingness to compromise, a slight ability to sift evidence and make accurate rather than partisan evaluations; and a whole host of other tiny trivial improvements that just won't happen.

I don't think I ever blogged with much hope of being listened to2. When I read Xitter posts of those who very much do want to be listened to it all seems rather desperate and most often doomed, and I'm certainly not going to make the attempts to shout that they do. The world has far too many competing voices searching for ears, and far too many of the people who do listen are listening for entertainment purposes only, not because they wish to have their prejudices challenged or corrected, or even wish to think.

So blogging is really only to have an interesting conversation. That doesn't always work, but at worst I'm having a conversation with my future self; and those who do comment here are always welcome, even if I don't always reply in the most temperate of terms. I write what I think is true, but I don't feel any obligation to temper my message into ear-shaped portions or strive to avoid offending fools.

Notes

1. For example, did I mention my brilliant solution to the Palestinian Problem? The Palestinians should surrender. They'd be far better off as second class citizens of Israel than they ever could be as even first class citizins of a Free Palestine, even if that were ever to come into existence. Self-determination is over-rated. Yes, I know there is no chance of this happening.

2. I've said this before, I find; see this comment on Yet more Exxonknew drivel.

Refs

* My pic: Assyrian relief from the British Museum. Still amazingly good, after all these years.

* For those interested in The Bell Curve, some interesting graphs from Cremieux on Xitter. Here is the male / female comparison: males are ~3 times as represented as females at IQ 140, but also at IQ 60 (note that these are SAT scores converted to IQ).

The Grave Evil of Unemployment / Intellectual Autobiography of Bryan Caplan.

* On the inefficient economics of US slavery. Note that while the rest is interesting, I don't endorse it all.

Conversations - ATTP. I notice, reading that, this post isn't quite what I thought it was... I was more talking about me being at peace with the world than specicially about blogging. ATTP mentions Substack, which is a thing; indeed I even have one but do nothing with it.

* Volokh: The Moral and Strategic Case for Opening Doors to Gaza Refugees.

2023-10-07

Gray the sinner

PXL_20230929_131628129~2

John Gray was tending towards despair a few years ago, but has now fallen. He not so much mourns what he considers the death of liberalism as revels in it, owning the libs or whatever. He is probably aiming at the wise-elder-statesman or -philosopher type of approach, but I think he is more an old man mumbling into his beer bemoaning the young folks and their ways.

His analysis of the death is weak; indeed he largely simply assumes it. Because to him it is so obvious; but since I'm not willing to grant him so much, most of the rest falls apart for me. At least the bits I've read; I won't claim to have got far into it; I stopped around the Russia / China analysis.

But the "frame" he has chosen is Hobbes, and I can't dislike that, though I do dislike the use he makes of Hobbes and the interpretation he uses (and he thinks too much of Malthus). As to Hobbes on international relations, the answer is clear: without the Civil Sword to hold men in awe there is no peace, no compacts, and the concept of injustice does not apply.

But towards the start there are some quotes from John Aubrey's brief live of Hobbes. I like:

He had read much, if one considers his long life; but his contemplation was much more than his reading. He was wont to say that if he had read as much as other men, he should have known no more than other men.

There is a lesson in that for all of us. And for those who favour in-person debate:

He would say that he did not care to give, neither was he adroit at, a present answer to a serious query: he had as lief they should have expected an extemporary solution to an arithmetical problem, for he turned and winded and compounded in philosophy, politics, etc, as if he had been at analytical work. He always avoided, as much as he could, to conclude hastily.

Refs

* Liberalism’s obituarist: John Gray extends his dark critique of the modern world. Note the nice JCWBC framing though I don't think he is current there.

A multitude of possibly unsatisfying answers to "why is it suddenly so hot?".

Economists are not engaged enough with the IPCC says Ilan Noy, but "Economics is a purely quantitative discipline" is Shirley bollox.

2023-09-28

A summer away

PXL_20230924_054022259 My pic shows a sunrise at Argeles-sur-Mer. I had a few days there, doing not very much, at the end of two months in France, having taken some unpaid leave.

There are an impossibly large number of pix available, but don't worry, I'll bore you with those later in detail (general: France 2023part 1: Bourg d'Oisans to Vallouise now available)

To celebrate my return, some links that I've faithfully collected during my time away.

We Can't Collect Economic InformationIndividuals do not act so as to maximize utilities, described in independently-existing functions. They confront genuine choices, and the sequence of decisions taken may be conceptualized, ex post, (after the choices), in terms of ‘as if’ functions that are maximized. But those ‘as if’ functions are, themselves, generated in the choosing process, not separately from such process.
Why so sad? I like the graph showing the alternation in sentiment when The Other Side was in power.
Age of Invention: Does History have a Replication Crisis? Some doubts about the Bulstrode / Cort slave metallurgy stuff, amongst others.
* OBEY (you may need to screw up your eyes).
Reflections on the Brook-Caplan Anarcho-Capitalism Debate. Trigger warning: uses the name "Ayn Rand".
The Supreme Court Isn’t Rogue by Ilya Somin. A bit sad that such titles are needed, but these are dark days for public sanity.
Capitalism is good. Let me explain says Sabine. And you know you trust her.
* Taxing the North Sea by Timmy, sadly as Note 44, The Global Warming Policy Foundation.
Scientifically intriguing? - ATTP; I go away and some things just don't change.